Monday, 29 September 2008

The Pace That Kills: The Modern Street Traffic Problem Discussed

The great thing about being a member of the Socialist Party is not only for what we stand and strive towards, but being able to draw strength and understanding from comrades past and present in our quest. This week the party held the second of its season of free film evenings, the subject was the film ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ I will have a thing or so to say about that later. However what did come to mind was the following article that appeared in the Socialist Standard in 1913 not only is it a fascinating read but remains an eyewitness account for good or for worse of the early motor car. In 1904 The Motor Car Act became law, Rolls-Royce came into being, Henry Ford was taken to court for patent infringement and more importantly the Socialist Party (SPGB) was established.

A philosophy in a Nutshell

"Hurry on, please!" is the catch phrase of the day. It expresses the salient characteristic—with or without the please of every modern industrial centre, just as "Get on or get out!" sums up its brutal philosophy. In the roaring traffic of the highway, indeed, we have a vivid yet typical example of this "non-stop" age.

Take modern road traffic, then, as a case in point. It illustrates the rapid yet enormous changes forced upon society by economic development, and it shows unmistakably how little the hireling worker profits by the wonderful mechanical progress his physical and mental labour has made possible.

The ubiquitous motor has made the dweller in the most distant hamlet familiar with its dust and dangers, but in London's streets the "motor peril" now reaches its apotheosis. Truly the motor is everywhere, but on the crowded roads of the metropolis its presence and speed have raised a problem for which the multitudinous highway authorities seek in vain a solution.

The streets are turned into slaughter yards, and it is no crime in the eyes of those who administer the law, for the motorist to slay the harmless passer-by. It is by far the cheapest form of murder, for it is scarcely too strong a statement to say that the motorist has practically been granted the right to slaughter any who dare to cross his path.

At inquests the motorist is almost always exonerated from blame—particularly if it is pointed out that he was sober. And even in those rare cases where this does not happen the penalty is a puerile censure, or a punishment ludicrously disproportionate to that which is inflicted when the murder is done other than with the aid of a motor.

Way for the Road Hog!

Above all the conflicting and hysterical statements anent the modern highways problem one thing is clear: that high speed is the chief bugbear. "It's the pace that kills." Exceeding the speed that is safe in the particular circumstances is the cause of most of the maiming and slaughter. Indeed, the law, ass though it is, nominally establishes a speed limit. Yet motorists habitually exceed that limit. In fact, travelling at the legal limit is stigmatised as a "mere crawl". Moreover, it is not for the safety of the public that corners are rounded and roads widened and strengthened, but simply to allow greater speeds to be attained—with the inevitable consequence of a longer casualty list.

It is, further, an understood thing that the police never prosecute for exceeding the speed limit unless it is exceeded by over five miles, and very rarely even then. The car owner's most frequent boast is of the speed at which his motor travels, and the rare fine is regarded as a certificate to the quality of his engine, and is a tribute to his childish vanity.

Despite the fact that most of those killed and maimed on the highways would still be safe and sound if a rational speed in the circumstances had been adhered to, representatives of motor associations fatuously assert that not high, but "low" speeds, are the concomitants of accident! And as though to support this risible doctrine, almost every motorist in the courts, contemptuous of the law relating to perjury, states his speed to have been at the time of the smash, between five and twelve miles an hour! That is the homage that vice pays to virtue!

Motoring magistrates are ever ready to condone the recklessness of the motorist, and sometimes even lecture pedestrians and cyclists on the nuisance and danger their existence on the road presents for the man behind the "petrol gun"! They reserve the vials of their wrath, however, for the urchin on a bicycle, whose crime was in enjoying an innocent "coast" down an incline at little more than half the legal speed limit for motors!

The Hog's Grunt Translated.

To such a pass have things come that the attitude of the average motorist is practically that the roads are his property, and that all others are trespassers, to be hooted off. "Get off the earth or I'll push you off!" is the sentiment expressed in the imperious howl of the motor syren.

Besides being the capitalist's instrument of profit, the motor is now his chief toy—or at least it runs his "blonde" or his "brune" very close for pride of place in this connection—and to the arrogance engendered by the possession of the most powerful and speedy thing on the road is added the arrogance of wealth and class. The result is a growing contempt and intolerance on the part of the motorist toward the weaker users of the road, mitigated only faintly by spasmodic reprisals and agitations on the part of the latter.

But why go on? It is neither necessary nor advisable to recount at length the manifold abuses of the motor vehicle—the simplest statement of fact suffices.

Yet the petrol engine is a marvellously efficient instrument, and in its further development its possibilities are great for humanity. The simple question to be emphasised then arises—why should an undoubted mechanical advance spell greater discomfort, toil, and danger to the workers?

It would be quixotic, or worse, to attempt to stop the development of motor traffic, and it would be equally futile to drag the red-herring of the individual "reckless driver" and the exceptional "road hog" across the trail. The trouble has deeper roots. The chauffeur, for example, must obey his master or be supplanted by a more obedient servant. The taxi-driver must keep up the earnings of his cab or lose his livelihood. The employee of the motor-bus trust must keep carefully to his schedule times and maintain the earnings of his vehicle—indeed his wage depends on the number of miles he can run. Thus it is that other road users suffer who are too weak to cope with the powerful motor.

Inciting to Murder.

Among the weakest of road users is the cyclist, and, it so happens that the cycle is, above all others, the workers' vehicle; and those who employ it as a means of getting to and from their daily toil, know full well how the danger grows. But the bus driver, held by the trust to an inelastic time table, with his livelihood endangered if the takings of his vehicle and its daily mileage fall, is economically compelled to make unscrupulous use of the power his motor gives him, to the detriment of others. Self-preservation makes him regard the slowly moving cyclist and pedestrian as obstacles to his livelihood, hindrances to the keeping of his time schedule, impediments to his speed in getting first to paying points on the route.

The type of mind engendered by such an economic position may be gauged from the complaint of a motor bus-driver, at a South London inquest on a victim, with regard to cyclists, that "he frequently had to give way to them".

Not always, evidently. Indeed, when pedestrian or cyclist is killed, well, "accidents will happen", and there is an obstacle less on the road, while after all, coroners are indulgent. If a cyclist is scared off, he becomes a passenger the more for the bus, and another source of profit for the trust—a trust which, by the way, has the sublime effrontery to pose, in an official letter to the Press, as jealous of its "reputation as the guardian of the public safety". Gordelpus!

Of course, if every human being killed or injured by their agency was made to cause such a heavy monetary loss to the transport companies that it outweighed the profitableness of high speed and reckless driving, then the massacre would cease. But is anyone so simple as to believe this will be done? Can thugs be relied upon to prohibit murder? It is motor owners who legislate. What avails human life when put in the scales against dividends. Indeed, the attempt to make human life of more account than profits would be howled down as a dastardly, senseless, revolutionary attack upon the sacred rights of property.

A Profitable "Remedy".

No. Whatever "reforms" may be inaugurated will not diminish, but may increase, profits. A limitation of further bus licences is already semi-officially foreshadowed, and worked for. This would mean the granting of a permanent monopoly against the public to the existing trust, and the exclusion of fresh competition, without any guarantee for public safety or convenience.

But is this question of the killing and maiming by motors the only one, or even the most important? Obviously it is not; and it is only dealt with here because it is but a symptom. It is true that nearly 150 persons have been killed outright by the motor-bus trust in the metropolitan area alone during the past year. That is terrible enough; but have not equal numbers of workers being sacrificed at one fell swoop in preventable colliery disasters—not this year alone but every year? And should we have heard so much about the motor-bus slaughter had it not suited the purpose of a set of office-hunters to make political capital out of it, on behalf of that cheerless piece of humbug, "the people's trams"?

There is, however, no need to belittle in any way the facts relating to the motor peril. They are appalling. But the rest is more terrible still. The one is but the manifestation of the greater evil, for the sinister result of modern traffic conditions has a deeper meaning than is realised or expressed by commentators in the Press. It signifies the growing pace and intensity of industrial life, the universal acceleration of production, and the decreasing value of the life of the worker when put in the balance against the pleasure or the profit of the class that owns the country. The huge and increasing size of industrial centres, and the greater distances between the workers' home and the factory, the need for more quickly transferring labour, the greed of the rack-renter of the central districts, the knowledge that the workers' "time is money" to the capitalist, the rush for profits of a transport trust, and the all-pervading atmosphere of hustle, recklessness, and speed that is engendered by capitalist greed and the ever-increasing world-wide competition—all these are symptoms of the deep-lying social malady.

It is not very long ago that miners were entombed in a burning mine by bricking up the mouth of the pit in order to save the property! No! the sacrifice of human life on the road is not an isolated phenomenon. The drowning of seamen for the sake of a few extra tons of cargo consequent on the raising of the load-line by a Liberal Board of Trade; the killing and maiming of an enormous and increasing number of workers in mine and factory for the sake of extra output and extra profit; and the toll of life taken on the highways for the sake of the profit or pleasure of accelerated transport, are all phases of the same fact. Men are the slaves of the machines they have created.

Modern machines, in their marvellous precision, complexity, and swiftness, bring with them the possibility, the material groundwork, of greater leisure, and the provision of the good things of life in ever-increasing abundance. Yet the only reward of those who toil is more intense labour, a less secure position, greater hardships and dangers, and a shortened life. Out of good cometh evil? Why? Because those who work are hirelings, while those who toil not own. The machine supplants the hireling, makes him redundant, and starves him instead of feeding him. The new machines and higher speeds only increase the wealth of the parasitic owner, enabling him to discharge more wage-labourers, reduce wages, and intensify toil. Thus it is that instruments capable of dispensing wealth and leisure to all, impoverish and overwork the many. Thus it is that the triumphant advance of technology has only carried our class on to ever more painful labours. We are victims of the machine only because we are the hirelings of the class that owns it. The evolution of industry leads us on, and we struggle painfully to adapt ourselves to its steps. Hitherto the workers have neglected the one needful step—the democratic ownership and control of all industrial machinery.

Speed and concentration are the order of the day. But the London transport trust, while it provides the example of the disease, hints at the only remedy. Industry after industry has developed to the trust stage, and has shown us plainly that since those who produce now run the machinery and organise industry—for absentee shareholders—they are demonstrably capable of running production for themselves! Surely the time when they will do so is near at hand! The need, the possibility, and the economic foundation of Socialism are manifestly present.

Industrial advance places the means of socialised production within the workers' reach, and their daily trials and difficulties must open their eyes to the supreme need of realising that possibility, and of wresting the power to control from those who now usurp it. Then they will resume control of their means of life, becoming the masters of the tool of production instead of remaining enslaved; and will for the first time be able to utilise technical progress humanly and intelligently, to provide more leisure and a completer life for all.

But so long as class ownership remains, for just so long will the long list of killed and maimed continue to grow, and all remediable measures fail to keep pace with the break-neck speeding up of our daily tasks. Already we are becoming inured to the motor murders as to the butchery in other spheres of industry. The sudden development of the road motor "within the memory of a schoolboy" has struck the popular imagination, leaving scarce heeded other and more deadly fields. But soon this too will pall, and the great problem as a whole will only press more surely for solution.

Hustle and worry, then, will continue to be the worker's lot; danger, suffering, and want dog his footsteps ever more closely, until, in the fullness of time, the scales shall fall from his eyes and he shall see how frail his fetters are. And when he feels his mighty strength, and at long last sees its obvious use, woe betide the parasites who have battened on his sweat and blood in the long night of his blindness and ignorance!


(Socialist Standard, January 1913)

Saturday, 27 September 2008


In his eighth and final address to a largely silent hall of world leaders, the US president sounded a note that has changed remarkably little since he first spoke to the general assembly of the United Nations in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC. He said the global movement of violent extremists remained a challenge as serious as any since the foundation of the UN in 1945: "Like slavery and piracy, terrorism has no place in the modern world."

Afghanistan and Iraq had been transformed, he said, “from regimes that actively sponsor terror to democracies that fight terror”.

History will record that President George W. Bush and his accomplice Tony Blair went ahead with war without the approval of the general assembly because they serve the interests of capitalism and the big oil companies which has nothing to do with any kind of democracy as the former head of the US Federal Reserve has said; “I am sadden that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

"Fixed the roof while the sun shone"

Like many pensioners, the 82-year-old resident of London SW1 worries about keeping her home repaired. Her rooms have not been redecorated since the old king died, the wiring's 50 years old, the tiles are slipping and the lead work on the roofs is more patched than original.

There are leaky roofs at Buckingham Palace and Queenie is struggling to find the necessary cash. There are hard times for everyone – even for the royal family. The Queen is reportedly worried about Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, which are in dire need of various repairs.

One may be on £40m a year, but one still needs £16m to fix the palace roof. Well that nice Mr. Brown fixed the roof while the sun shone.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

'You Don't Say'

"I'm very much concerned when I read attacks on greed and spivs and speculation, attacks by neo-socialists on the culture of bonuses. Of course, there have been excesses and of course there has been greed . . . but this is a great British industry and the last thing we want to do now is throw the baby out with the bathwater with some form of [excessive] regulation."

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know that the modern motor cars beginnings were discovered by a French scientist some 329 years ago who recognises the potential for the mechanical alternative to animals for mobilising carriages?

To find out more why not come to the film viewing of 'Who Killed the Electric Car' see below for details.

So Who Did Kill the Electric Car?

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, the Californian government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.

The Socialist Party will be showing this film on Sunday 28 September, starting at 4.00pm followed by a discussion at 52 Clapham High Street, London.

Everyone most welcome.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Boy Wonder

Labour will lurch to the Left in opposition unless ministers act to remove Gordon Brown before the next general election, a Cabinet ally of David Miliband has warned.
In a clear signal of senior figures' determination to oust Mr Brown, the minister told the Evening Standard that only a third of the Cabinet were convinced that the Prime Minister should lead the party to polling day.
Speculation about Mr Miliband's leadership ambitions continued apace today after he let slip that he had tried to avoid a "Michael Heseltine moment" in his conference speech yesterday.
The Foreign Secretary had tried to heap praise on Mr Brown but he suffered acute embarrassment when he was later overheard in a lift confiding his worries about being compared to the former Tory minister who plotted to oust Margaret Thatcher.
Mr Miliband's allies are making clear that the work of Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair in dragging Labour to the centre is at risk if ministers allow Mr Brown to stay in post to 2010.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

"The Power of Prayer"

I could not resist this post from today’s Times.

And lead us not into Liquidation

The Church of England’s “rapid response prayer unit” issued a new spiritual invocation to shed light in the darkness that threatens to overwhelm the nation during the “disturbing days” of financial crisis.
Bishops are urging Anglicans and others affected by the credit crunch not to keep debt burdens to themselves but to confess them to family, friends or advisers who can help.
The Church posted the “prayer for the current financial situation” on the official Church of England website last night. It tells believers to focus on the certainty of God’s eternal promises to mankind, as “prices rise, debts increase, banks collapse, jobs are taken away”, and urges God to “be a tower of strength amid the shifting sands”.
The debt initiative received the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. He told The Times: “At this time of international financial turbulence, it is important that the Church should be offering the opportunity for prayer and reflection.”

Thursday, 18 September 2008

"Un Ugly Face - Of Capitalism"

HBOS Chief Executive Andy Hornby [[left] shakes
hands with Lloyds TSB Chief Executive Eric Daniels

Andy Hornby, the chief executive of crisis-hit HBOS, is to receive shares worth almost £2 million in Lloyds TSB following yesterday's emergency takeover.

The head of Britain's biggest mortgage lender will get a multi-million pound stake in the new bank despite HBOS having to be rescued from the brink of collapse.

Mr Hornby, 41, is also expected to continue to be employed by the new bank.

Staff, however, were told that it was inevitable that thousands of jobs would go at the merged company and 600 branches might close. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, insisted that the headquarters of the new group should remain in Scotland to preserve jobs there - a move that may anger thousands of English staff casualties.

Which Way ?

Saturday 20 September, 6pmWhich Way the Revolution - What are our differences?Ian Bone (Class War) and Howard Moss (Socialist Party)Forum followed by open discussion.Chair: Bill Martin (Socialist Party)52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North)

“As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”
Barack Obama

The words of Barack Obama, who may end up becoming the next President of the US after the November elections. What I find and not surprising at that, is the scramble of many on the so-called British left, (whatever that is, all things that have nothing to do what so ever with Socialism) to indorse; I have a dream kiddie Obama, he’s just an opportunistic apologist for world capitalism and in particular the greed of US capital no matter whom is elected it will be big business that call the shots and the workers will ultimately pay the price - same old - same old. What if he starts specking to god that’ll be next?

George (rima oris) Galloway

Respect MP

I think the end of capitalism will be a process, not a single event. But each event we've seen so far has gone deeper than people have predicted, and we don't know how deep this one will go. It could well be that it marks the collapse of at least a major section of the capitalist economy: the financialisation of the economy that has been powering ahead since the deregulation and neo-liberalisation of the Thatcher-Reagan years.
As far as the left is concerned, well, the Liberal Democrats have effectively moved to the right in the face of this week's events, and New Labour, with a few honourable exceptions, abandoned that territory a very long time ago. Now I would have thought - in fact, I know - that among the public in general there is a much bigger and a much wider audience for progressive ideas than there has been for some time. But what the left still has to overcome is its inability to speak in a language that ordinary people can understand. And to stop arguing about dead Russians.

Hey man that's deep man! Honourable exceptions, territory and progressive ideas - What the f--k is this man on about.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Would You - Adam And Eve It......

Prof Michael Reiss: leading scientist and clergyman whose comments on creation have stirred emotions has quit his job as director of education with the Royal Society yesterday.
Last week, Professor Reiss called for creationism - the belief that the world was created in six days - to be debated in the classroom if the subject was raised by pupils.

Meanwhile: The Vatican yesterday said the theory of evolution was compatible with the Bible but does not plan an apology for Charles Darwin.
The Roman Catholic Church said it advocates 'theistic evolution,' which sees no reason why God could not have used an evolutionary process to create humans.

Monday, 15 September 2008

'Creationism Once Again'

Creationism, I’ve noticed is receiving a grate deal of publicity in the popular press recently and I touched on it in my last post.
Creationism is the religious belief that humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created in their original form by a deity (often the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) or deities, whose existence is presupposed and in relation to the creation-evolution controversy the term creationism (or strict creationism) is commonly used to refer to religiously-motivated rejection of evolution.
US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin says creationism should be taught in schools, alongside that of evolutionary theory, has raised few eyebrows in the US. An estimated 47% of Americans reject outright Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, accepting instead the Bible's account of the creation of the universe - as laid out in the first chapter of Genesis.
Leading British scientist and author Dr Richard Dawkins has warned of creationist "brainwashing" in the UK - spurred on by an unwillingness of the authorities to offend religious sensibilities. His creationist adversaries say their ideas are beginning to gain wider acceptance within these shores as dissatisfaction grows with "materialist" evolutionary explanations of how life began. I don’t know what it is with some people who believe that the world is subject to supernatural forces and events and phenomena are the will of god? Every major step forward in science has been taken by individuals: Ernest Rutherford discovered the basic structure of the atom, Albert Einstein pioneered quantum mechanics and invented relativity, Edwin Hubble showed how the universe is expanding, Marie Curie was the great pioneer of radioactivity, and the crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin discovered the structure of penicillin and other vital compounds...... I rest my case!

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Creationism should be discussed in school science lessons, rather than excluded, says the director of education at the Royal Society.

Professor Michael Reiss says that if pupils have strongly-held beliefs about creationism these should be explored.
Rather than dismissing creationism as a "misconception", he says it should be seen as a cultural "world view".

Lack Of Respect

The following article appeared in the Socialist Standard earlier this year and I think that its worthwhile reproducing it hear.

We look at the shipwreck of yet another attempt to organise a left-of-Labour reformist party.

Respect – acronym for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, Trade unionism – was set in January 2004 by Galloway and the SWP to try to make political capital out of the widespread opposition to the Iraq War.

The SWP is a Leninist vanguard party and as such is always on the look-out for protest movements to take over with a view to recruiting more members and followers for itself. Before the Iraq War the front organisation which the SWP pushed, in a bid to create a left-of-Labour political party it could influence, was the “Socialist Alliance”. But they had been thinking about “playing the Muslim card” since the time of the first Gulf War.

According to “author and academic” Jamal Iqbal, writing in the East London Advertiser (8 November):

“Leading figures in the SWP had been advocating the alliance with religious groups for some time. In the 1994 pamphlet, Prophet and the Proletariat, Chris Harman – then as now one of the SWP’s chief ideologists – argued that the party should make common cause on the issue of ‘anti-imperialism’ with Islamists, in part as a way of recruiting their members”.

Much to the annoyance of the others who had participated in the project the SWP decided to pull the plug on the “Socialist Alliance” so that its members could concentrate on building up and controlling Respect. For a while the strategy of building up Respect as a left-wing alternative to Labour seemed to be working. In the 2004 European Parliament and London Assembly elections Respect polled over a quarter of million votes. Then, in the General Election the following year, George Galloway scored a spectacular victory in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in the East End of London over the sitting Labour MP, Oona King, becoming the first left-of-Labour MP to be elected at a General Election since 1945.

Galloway’s victory in the inner East End was followed by an equally spectacular breakthrough at local level, when 12 Respect councillor were elected to Tower Hamlets borough council where they became the official opposition to Labour ahead of the Tories and the Liberals. Some on the left saw this as the beginning of an electoral challenge to Labour from the left which could spread. But they overlooked two things. First, that all 12 Respect councillors were of Bangledeshi origin and had been elected, not as leftwingers, but on the basis of Muslim “communalism”, of playing the Muslim card to win the Muslim vote. Second, that not far away in Dagenham there was another spectacular result: the BNP with 11 councillors emerged as official opposition. Their votes had been obtained by playing the “white working class” and “anti-Muslim card” – and there are more “white workers” in Britain than “Muslims”. What Respect and the SWP were doing was splitting the working class on religious and communalist lines and in effect opening the door for the BNP.

Now the whole thing has blown up in their face. In September Galloway issued a circular denouncing the SWP’s stranglehold on Respect. He and his supporters began to organise to put the SWP in its place. The SWP responded by expelling some of its members who refused to break with Galloway and then provoking a split in Respect.

At local level, in Tower Hamlets, this took the form of four councillors breaking away from the Respect group and forming a new “Respect (Independent)” group on the council. Their leader was Councillor Oliur Rahman who, as Respect candidate in Poplar and Canning Town at the 2005 General Election, had come third, polling a respectable 6573 votes or 17 percent. According to the local paper, their press conference on 29 October to announce the breakaway “was overseen by John Rees, the main man in the Socialist Workers Party and still currently the national secretary of Respect” (East London Advertiser, 1 November).

In a letter in the local paper the following week, expelled SWP members Ken Ovenden and Rob Haveman revealed that two of the breakaway councillors were card-carrying members of the SWP. Their letter was also revealing in other respects as it was written by two people who until a month or so ago had been leading SWP “cadres” (even though, as Galloway’s parliamentary assistants, their salaries are paid out of his expenses as an MP):

“It is extremely regrettable that a fundamental division has occurred in the Respect between the leadership of a very small organisation called the Socialist Workers Party and almost everyone else in Respect. The SWP acquired a stranglehold over our organisation, which has caused a deep rift at national level. Our MP George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) raised criticisms of the direction the national organisation was heading in August. Instead of a reasoned response from senior SWP members, the criticisms were met with growing hysteria. This has finally come to a head, with the SWP leadership seeking to undermine the democratic structures of Respect and abusing many of its leading members. The SWP has also sowed the seeds of division which have seen four Tower Hamlets councillors turn their backs on Respect after trying to stage a coup against the democratically-elected group leader. Two of these councillors are SWP members and the other two are the SWP's closest allies. If they had any principles, they would stand as SWP candidates – but know they would get no votes.” (East London Advertiser, 8 November).

Respect’s annual conference was to have been held on 17 November. What happened was that two conferences were held that day, one organised and controlled by the SWP and the other by Galloway and his supporters. Respect has split into two rival organisations. It remains to be seen what the political fall-out will be.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this.

First, the dishonest tactics of Leninist groups such as the SWP which set up front organisations to attract the support of well-meaning people concerned about some issue. The honest approach would be to say “we are the SWP, this is what we stand for, join us if you agree”. But this is not how Leninist organisations operate. For them, workers are not politically intelligent enough to work things out for themselves and so need to be led - by them. They see themselves as leaders and discontented workers merely as foot soldiers to be used to further their political influence and, ultimately, to help them into power. They really are officers looking for infantry.

Second, as workers are not that stupid, they eventually get found out. This happened once before, in the 1970s, when the SWP (and its predecessor IS) managed to obtain considerable influence over the rank-and-file shop stewards movement of the time. They thought they were using the movement for their own Leninist ends. The shop stewards went along with this because they welcomed the research work done by SWP academics and students and the printing facilities the SWP provided. At some point the SWP leadership decided to tighten its control. The shop stewards demurred and eventually a whole section of the SWP was expelled for syndicalist deviationism.

Third, playing the Muslim card always was playing with fire. The Islamist groups the SWP worked with and hoped to influence were never going to be manipulated by secular Leninists. Once again it was a question of who was using who and of when those who the SWP thought they could manipulate would turn on them. The SWP must take a heavy responsibility for in the meantime having encouraged the working class in Britain to split on communalist lines. They might now try to take up a more secularist position, but the damage has been done. Not only have they burnt their own fingers, but they have left a legacy which genuine socialists will have to undo by re-asserting the need for working class to organise on class, not communal, lines.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Discipline and Sacrifice

The US government takeover of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has dealt a shattering blow to the ideology of market capitalism, which has been used for decades to justify a relentless assault on the working class and a vast transfer of wealth to the American ruling elite.

The endless invocations of the virtues of private enterprise, individual entrepreneurship and self-reliance, used to demonize socialism and defend a system that exploits the vast majority for the benefit of a financial elite, have been exposed as frauds. When it comes to big capital, losses are socialized. Only profits remain private.

The bailout has as well exposed the real relations of political power and influence behind the fa├žade of American democracy. The largest government bailout of private companies in world history—whose ultimate cost to taxpayers is likely to reach hundreds of billions—was sanctioned in advance by the Democratic Congress and given instant approval by the leadership of both parties and both of their presidential candidates.

The next administration, whether headed by McCain or Obama, may sharply intensify the assault on working class living standards was spelled out by the New York Times, “Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have both voiced support for the bailout, which shows good judgment. But what the next president will need to worry about, and both candidates need to talk about, is the depth of the country’s economic problems. It will take discipline and sacrifice to address them.”

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Brand's The Man

Russell Brand is reported to have caused outrage by calling George W Bush a "retard cowboy" specking on American TV he said; "On behalf of the world. Some people, I think they're called racists, say America is not ready for a black president. But I know America to be forward-thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retard and cowboy fella be president for eight years? We thought it was nice of you to let him have a go, because in England he wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors."

Monday, 8 September 2008

"That Time of The Year - Once Again"

It's that time of the year once more, when the brothers and sisters gather for the TUC conference held this year in Brighton so I thought this article from the Socialist Standard archives may be interesting to some.

The socialist and trade unionism. The situation reviewed


What is the Socialist attitude toward trade unions and trade unionists?

This is a question which has been agitating certain minds of late—minds which are so overwhelmed with the Socialist theories of political economy that they have lost the power (if they ever had it) of analysing the conditions prevailing, and of judging how far and how completely those conditions warrant the application of the theories.

Starting from the theory that it is inevitable that the condition of the workers will get worse while capitalism lasts—a pronouncement which, under proper and careful definition is perfectly correct—they arrive at the conclusion that trade unions are not, never have been, and never can be, of use to the working class.

These gentlemen are usually men who have given some attention to economic science, who have assimilated a multitude of worthy and irreproachable theories regarding the laws of capitalist society; but, from absence of the judicial mind, they accept these theories without sufficient thought as to their limitations, and as to the conditions which qualify them, and without which they cannot be true. Hence these right and proper theories become mere shibboleths, hobble-skirts about the ankles of those submerged and lost in verbal fashion. It is inevitable that such people will argue (I had almost said think) “in terms of contradiction”.

For instance, they will accept the theory that capitalism presupposes competition, and also the theory that competition tends to monopoly, yet they expect the laws of competition to operate in cases where the conditions of competition have given place to those of monopoly.

These critics and opponents of ours admit—nay, more than that, they are too blatant to be confined within the limits of a mere admission, they assert—the commodity nature of labour-power. They recognise that the owners of the commodity labour-power, like the owners of all other commodities, must always struggle for the best price in order that their commodity may, in the long run, realise its value. Yet, strange confusion of ideas, while admitting the necessity of this continual fight, they would deny the workers the weapons of the struggle—trade union combination and the strike. In this they are so far anti-Socialist to be in perfect accord with the capitalists themselves.

Of course, what blinds them to the true state of affairs is another half-digested theory—that the return to labour is determined by the cost of subsistence. They argue that therefore the resistance of the workers is also determined by the cost of his subsistence, and that he has no need to fashion any other forces than that of his bare, naked will not to give way before he has to; that combination, that organisation, which is so potent and vital a factor on the political field, on the economic field is utterly worthless—a snare, a delusion, a pitfall, a gin, a chimera, a mirage, an obfuscation. The workers are to have none of it. The laws which arise from free competition are quite sufficient, under all capitalist conditions, to give the workers all they can get under all the circumstances of capitalism.

Forgotten—that the cost of subsistence is not a fixed point; forgotten—that the standard of subsistence is not entirely independent of the workers’ power of resistance; forgotten—that the statement that the wage (in the long run) is the reflection of the value of the labour-power is a statement of the effect of a law which implies the highest resistance on both sides; forgotten—that competition leads to monopoly.

With the development of capitalism the conditions of the labour market undergo change. Wage-slavery remains, it is true—no changes reach down to that fundamental condition. But on the side of the purchasers of labour-power there is a tendency to restrict competition. As the smaller employers are crushed out the men find themselves haggling with fewer but more powerful antagonists; as rings and trusts and combines and masters’ associations spring up free competition conditions are upset, and the laws which arise from such, and operate only while such conditions obtain, are more or less modified, or displaced by laws which arise out of monopoly conditions.

Let us take any gigantic exploiting concern—the combined railway systems of this country, for instance. No intelligent person will claim that there is the same play of free competition among them as purchasers of labour-power that there is among the employers in many industries. True, the railways as a whole have to compete with other industries for the raw, untrained labour-power in the first place, but after that competition practically ceases. Time was when the companies did “poach” one another’s signalmen, drivers, and guards, but now, to all intents and purposes, the “skilled” railway worker has but one possible employer.

To talk of the laws of free competition in this case is a bit wide of the mark. The worker in no longer free to sell himself to the highest bidder, for there is only one bidder. Competition on one side is dead, and the laws of competition hobble along with one foot in a muddy furrow. It would be folly to expect anything else.

Now as there is but one employer that these men can sell their labour-power to, they have not the opportunity of putting themselves up to auction. The only thing they can do is to refuse or threaten to refuse to sell their labour-power upon the offered terms. This, of course, is the strike or the threat to strike.

It is perfectly clear that such a proceeding as this must be collectively engaged in. It is perfectly obvious also that this means combination, organisation. So some form of union becomes the necessary instrument to correct or counterpoise the monopoly conditions set up by the development of combination among the masters.

Combination on the workers’ part has the effect, undoubtedly, in such circumstances of considerably increasing their power of resistance, for now the very extent of the employers’ needs becomes a source of embarrassment to them. It was no difficult matter to replace a few “malcontents”, but to fill the places of a large and well-organised section is a very different matter.

With the development of capitalism there is necessarily an increased tendency toward this obliteration of competitive conditions by combination among the masters. The only answer to it at the moment is for the workers to shift their line of resistance from the individual to the collective. Who denies this is an individualist, an anarchist, to the core.

Make no mistake about it, without some form of organisation the men are helpless in face of the present combination and growing tendency to combination on the part of the masters. Yet the very law which our critics adduce against us, the law that labour-power will, like all other commodities, realise its value in the long run, presupposes that they shall continually struggle for better terms. It is only out of this contention of opposing forces that the law operates.

Now our opponents tell us that trade unions and strikes are no good because when a victory is obtained the law of wages “ . . . sharp racks to pinch and peel” and so reduce things to the old level.

This deduction can only be drawn from half-understood theories. While it is true that all their struggle in the labour-market cannot raise the workers’ remuneration above the line fluctuating about the subsistence level, while it is true that any alteration of that subsistence level must, if maintained, result in a corresponding and nullifying intensification of the exploiting system, it is true also that the struggle must be made.

With all the workers’ struggles, say our critics, the economic laws decide that their enjoyment of the wealth produced shall be determined by the necessary cost of subsistence. But they forget to say what would happen without the struggle.

If higher wages are answered by speeding-up and improved methods of production, the tendency toward this is always present. Machinery and methods develop with stationary or even falling wages. If every vestige of the workers’ power of resistance was blotted out, so that the only limit to plunder was the physical law that a given amount of food can only produce a given amount of energy, still the means of production would tend to develop, because though that given amount of food could never be made to produce more than a given amount of energy, that energy may be made, by improved methods, to create a greater amount of wealth.

To cease to struggle, therefore, is no means of escaping from the tyrant competition of machinery. On the other hand, to cease the struggle is to reduce human labour-power even below the commodity status. The labour-power of the wage-slave is no more than a commodity because of the wage-slave’s propertyless condition; it is no less than a commodity because he has a power of resistance. Why is the labour-power of a horse not a commodity? Simply because the horse has no power of resistance. The wage-slave owns his labour-power. He is free to take it into the market and fight for the best price for it. The horse does not own his labour-power, hence it is he and not his labour-power who is the commodity. In this respect the chattel slave and the horse are alike, and the fact is reflected in the remarkably similar treatment accorded to both.

These things show, then, the folly of the argument that the struggle of the workers in the economic field for better conditions under capitalism is futile and superfluous because the economic laws determine what those conditions shall be. The laws of the exchange of the commodity labour-power are the laws of free competition. To formulate them is simply to indicate what will happen under given conditions, which in this case include a continual struggle on both the buyer’s part and the seller’s part.

The struggle, then, is presupposed. Therefore every means that strengthen the workers in that struggle are good in so far as they do so. Organisation, then, becomes necessary to the workers as a foil to that organisation among the capitalists which tends to disturb free competition and set up new conditions. What form shall the organisation take?

The critics who stand so much upon their theories without troubling to make sure that all the conditions necessary to their veracity are present when they apply them, says that organisation must be founded upon a revolutionary and class-conscious basis. Good.

But the same critic will inform us, out of the plenitude of his theories, that all institutions are based on economic conditions. At any rate, the need for combinations among the workers arose long before the knowledge of the working-class position so essential to class-consciousness became general. Indeed, the basis of the trade unions to-day is evidence amounting to almost proof that such knowledge is not wide-spread even now. The material, then, for a class-conscious trade union movement did not exist when the first unions were formed—it does not exist even to-day. In face of these facts how could it be expected that the trade unions could, or can at present, be based upon class-conscious principles?

There is this essential difference between the Socialist movement and the trade union movement: the former was called into being by the need for revolution—the latter was not. It must be recognised that the need for the workers to struggle for the best conditions under capitalism is as real as the need for revolution. In this struggle for the highest price for labour-power the trade unions did and do represent the highest form of weapon which it was or is possible to fashion with the material to hand. So far, then, they are good.

The strike, of course, is the force behind all trade union organisation. A trade union is a combination for the purpose of making it possible to collectively withhold labour-power. All the union’s operations are conditioned by the progress made in that direction. Therefore if trade unions are good the strike is good also—though least good, it is possible, when it passes from a standing menace to an active hostility.

Now our critic, who is fond of throwing words into high-sounding phrases and then risking his life for them, tells us that strikes are guerrilla warfare, and therefore are useless. But strikes and the menace of strikes are not guerrilla warfare. On the contrary, in certain circumstances and for the purpose they aim at—the resistance of capitalist encroachment—they are the last resort, the only form of warfare left open.

It is true the opponent of the Socialist attitude tries to play tricks with himself, tries to detach himself from all his human qualities and make himself the mere embodiment of an idea. He claims to view the struggle in the labour-market from “the Socialist standpoint”. The view from this elevation is, according to him, that anything which does not directly forward the emancipation of the working class does not concern him.

The possessor of this strange attitude of mind prides himself ostentatiously on having reached that high scientific pinnacle where he is quite beyond the reach of every activity, mental or otherwise, but the abstract idea—Socialism. “Scientifically and logically”, he argues, “to the Socialist, as a Socialist, nothing matters but Socialism”. If a man could stand as the mere receptacle of the one idea, Socialism, the logic of this position might (or might not) be conceded—but scientifically the position is unsound. For the scientist may not stop where the logician does: he has to ask what are the essentials of Socialism. The first essential he discovers is—a human race. Without humanity there can be no Socialism. Directly he admits this he discovers that, even as the frigidly pure, passionless, scientific exponent and advocate of Socialism the every day affairs of men do matter, for assuredly if any calamity threatened to blot Man out of the scheme of things, to obliterate one of the essentials of his scientific obsession, it would concern him.

Such an admission, of course, is fatal to the position that the Socialist, as such, is concerned with Socialism alone. For if he is under the necessity of being concerned, in the last analysis, with the existence of the material for his Socialist society, then he has to find reasons for drawing a line anywhere, in matters that affect the condition of that material.

Such reasons do not exist—he is on an inclined plane.


We have seen that, in order that the ordinary laws of the competitive market shall find those presupposed conditions in the labour market without which they do not operate, in order, that is to say, that labour-power shall exchange for the cost of its production instead of the cost of its production shaping itself according to the rate of its exchange, combination becomes necessary on the part of the sellers of labour-power.

But the object of this combination, not being revolutionary, does not essentially demand that the combination shall be on a revolutionary basis.

To struggle for higher wages and better conditions is not revolutionary in any sense of the word; and the essential weapons in this struggle are not revolutionary either.

True, the real interest of the working class demands that the basis of every working-class organisation shall be revolutionary—but that is because it demands the revolutionisation of the whole system.

But first of all it demands, not the revolutionising of the basis of working-class organisations, but the revolutionising of the workers themselves.

For how can it be supposed that any mere paper-based revolutionary basis is going to help in the attainment of a revolutionary end if the only force behind it—the members constituting the organisation—have not the revolutionary consciousness?

When the Socialist Party was formed it was formed for a revolutionary purpose. The first thing to be done, therefore, was to put it on a revolutionary basis. This was defined in a declaration of principles. Only those who can accept these principles are admitted to membership, for only such are fit material for the prosecution of the revolutionary purpose.

On the other hand, trade unions are necessary, not to overthrow the present system, but to resist capitalist encroachment under the system. In this case the essential basis is that which will serve for the organisation of the fit material for the purpose in view.

To fix upon a revolutionary basis in this case and under present circumstances must be one of these two things: If it is made a condition of membership it must, because of the smallness of the number of those who have reached the revolutionary stage, render the organisation futile for the purpose which calls it into existence; on the other hand, if the revolutionary basis, having been laid down, is ignored—is not insisted upon as the indispensable condition of admittance to membership, then the organisation is not a revolutionary foundation in the first place, and the revolutionary idea is degraded, and the workers are deluded and confused in the second place.

For the principles of an organisation can only have two virtues. First, as a basis of organisation—a test of membership; secondly as a guide to action. Apart from these, principles are not worth the breath that avows them.

And if the principles are not first made the basis of organisation, if they are not accepted by the membership as pointing the way to their object, they cannot become the guide to action.

Clearly, then, the attitude of the Socialist toward trade unions is well defined. When he says that labour-power has the commodity nature he says that it must express its value through a struggle in the labour market. Both these statements force him to the conclusion that the non-revolutionary phase of the struggle between the classes is as inevitable as the revolutionary. Therefore he would not either reduce the trade unions to impotence by closing them to non-Socialists, or spread confusion by getting them to avow principles which are not necessary to their object, and which the members do not hold.

He must, therefore, accept trade unions as they are, and, realising that all their grave and undeniable faults are but the reflection of the mental shortcomings of their members, realise that it is in the latter that the revolutionary foundation is necessary, and act accordingly.

It is hardly necessary to say that those so-called Socialists who would close the economic organisation to the non-Socialist would do two other things besides. They would bar the Socialist from the non-Socialist trade union, and they would shut the doors of the Socialist political organisation to all members of such unions.

The logic of this is, first, that the non-revolutionary struggle in the economic field is not necessary, or

That the struggle against capitalist encroachments is revolutionary.

If the struggle is not necessary it is, of course, quite logical for a Socialist party to demand that its members shall have none of it. On the other hand, if the struggle is revolutionary it is perfectly logical for the Socialist to demand that the economic organisations formed to prosecute that struggle be revolutionary also.

The present scribe has never met with one of these gentlemen whose faith he is attacking, who, being asked the plain question: “Is it necessary for the workers to struggle for better wages and conditions for better wages and conditions of labour”, would dare answer no; or who, being asked if such struggle is revolutionary, dare answer yes.

So our non trade-unionist critic, in his mad endeavour to restrict the actions of the class-conscious worker to the purely revolutionary object, gets himself into a most illogical position. He starts by declaring that nothing but Socialism concerns the Socialist. He perceives that this implies that the Socialist must be able to detach himself from the world that is, since it is not a Socialist world. Well, everything must be distorted to fit his pet theories. He professes himself able to so detach himself. He declares that he can view all things “as a Socialist”, which with him means from the standpoint that nothing matters but Socialism. When he is put to the question of his attitude toward trade unions he shuts his eyes and jumps.

Of course, it is a rather awkward situation. To say that the Socialist can view all things from the standpoint that nothing matters but Socialism is an easy matter, but it wants a deal of upholding when the worker has got to view the labour market from the standpoint of the seller of labour-power. Is he, if he understands Socialist economics, and therefore all the better understands the necessity of the struggle against capitalist encroachment, to give up personal participation in the struggle? Is he, directly he becomes armed and equipped for the battle of the future, to be rendered powerless and paralytic in the equally necessary struggle of the present?

If, when a worker attains to class-consciousness, he ceases to require food, clothing and shelter, ceases to be a vendor of labour-power, ceases to be under the necessity which all commodity owners are under—of fighting for the realisation of the value of his commodity, in this case labour-power; if, in short, he ceases to be anything but a pure abstraction in whom even the charitable raven could find no want to minister to, no lodgement for a beakful of material sustenance, then it might be logical to say that no Socialist can belong to a trade union.

But if the class-conscious worker still must live by the sweat of his brow, or rather by the sale of his potential energy, then he must resort to the instrument which make the conditions of a sale, as distinct from the conditions which environ the chattel slave’s dole.

Among these instruments, for a certain number, are, under present conditions, trade unions on a non-revolutionary base. And as far as the Socialist thinks them necessary to his personal economic welfare, as far, that is, as economic pressure forces him to, he is right and justified in using them.

And when I speak of economic pressure I do not mean merely the degree of it which marks the border-line of semi-starvation. Economic pressure, it is too often forgotten, commences with the first atomic offering of economic advantage, and the degree where the individual is sensible of it and consciously influenced by it, is here or there as circumstances decide.

The critic who would “determinedly and consciously” fight the trade unions “out of existence” provides no alternative instrument for carrying on the struggle against capitalist encroachment now. When he offers us economic organisation upon a revolutionary base he tells us that the resistance on the economic field has to cease until he has made his revolutionaries! Even the advocates of “Industrial Unionism” were not so blind as this, for they, recognising that not only the revolutionaries were necessary to the present “bargaining or higgling for better conditions”, belied the “revolutionary” foundation of their organisation by leaving it open for non-revolutionaries.

The only shred of argument the anti-trade-unionist can find in support of his attitude is the plea that the trade unions are political organisations. But here again he is bereft of reason. A political organisation is an organisation composed of those who organise for the political purpose. There is no such trade union in the whole wide country. Trade unionists organise for economic reasons, not political—not even to attain economic ends by political means. If the wirepullers lead them into taking political action they do not make them political organisations, but, in the storm of dissension and disruption they arouse, prove their essentially non-political character. It takes more than a few political tricksters, battening upon the ignorance and apathy of the membership, to constitute a trade union a political organisation, just as it required more than a few reactionaries in the Socialist Party to constitute that organisation a reactionary body.

But the whole purpose of economic organisation is a mystery to the particular type of opponent whom the present writer is combating. They say that it is impossible “at the present stage of capitalist development, for trade unions to take only economic action”. How they arrive at this conclusion appears when they declare that the Socialist position “insists upon the political and economic organisation of the working class for the capture of political power”.

If economic organisation is a means to the capture of political power, then it may be argued, with some show of reason, that trade unions are political organisations and therefore can take only political action.

But it is ridiculous to talk of economic organisation for the capture of political power. Such an object at once makes the organisation political, not economic. If men organise for the purpose of “bargaining and higgling for better conditions” by combined action on the industrial field, then their organisation is an economic one. If they organise to attain the same end by political means, then it is a political organisation as well as an economic one.

But the case of our anti-trade-unionist opponent does not come within the limits of either of these descriptions. He tells us that the “bargaining or higgling for better conditions in itself is no concern of Socialism”,—though he puts it that way to obscure the fact that he means that they are no concern of Socialists.

If he does not mean this there is no sense in his remark, for Socialism has no senses, and so can have no concerns.

As the economic struggle is no concern of the Socialist, and all the members of the economic organisation are to be Socialists, the economic organisation cannot be concerned with the economic struggle, it cannot be an economic organisation.

As the economic organisation that isn’t economic has for its purpose the capture of political power, it is a political organisation. A pretty picture our opponent’s tangle makes when it is straightened out.

But stay, there is one frail thread’s end not yet taken up. It will be claimed, perhaps, that the organisation exists to use economic means to capture political power, and is economic. This is the only argument left.

But then what are these means? There are but two possible replies. One is the reply of the Anarchist—the General Strike. The other is the reply of the Industrial Unionist; it is that they must “SEIZE AND HOLD THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION, in defiance of the armed forces”, in defiance, necessarily, of the political power they desire to capture.

The Socialist position does not “insist upon the political and economic organisation of the working class for the capture of political power”. The Socialist position is that the capture of political power must be the work of a political party, the fruit of political action. The capture of political power is necessary to enable the economic action of taking over the means of production to be proceeded with. Therefore it is madness to say the Socialist position “insists upon the . . . economic organisation of the working class for the capture of political power”.

The Socialist position is adequately laid down in the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party thus: “The working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government”. That was true when it was adopted. Let all beware of adding or taking away a word.


The anti-trade-union “Socialist” even goes so far as to declare that a Socialist organisation or journal cannot legitimately criticise trade union action¾cannot offer comment upon a strike that has failed, and point out mistakes that have been made, and courses it would have been wiser to follow.

The argument used to support this contention is that a strike, and also the object of it, is a sectional concern, and that therefore the Socialist organ that enters upon the subject is guilty of sectional action contrary to the class basis of its principles.

Here again we have the old trouble¾the shibboleth; the tyranny of terms and theories. The class idea is only partly understood.

When we speak of the class basis of Socialism we imply its direct and irreconcilable antagonism to capitalism and the capitalist class. Our organisation, our politics, our activities, are based upon the recognition of the class struggle. That is all.

Now the first phase of the class struggle which the workers are up against is the struggle to live in the present. This is quite as real a part of the class struggle as the endeavour for emancipation itself¾though some otherwise enlightened wage-slaves whose lot is a comparatively easy one, seem unable to realise this.

The very elements of this struggle to live are “class”. True, a strike is sectional in a certain narrow sense; but it is only a sectional phase of a class effort; it is a part of the struggle of the working class against capitalist aggression.

As a matter of fact, this phase of the class struggle¾the fight for wages and conditions¾can only assume this sectional aspect. To assume an entirely “class” aspect involves the General Strike in its complete form. That, of course, can never come, because it presupposes organisation so far in advance of itself as to make it reactionary¾organisation calling for Socialism, not for improved wages and conditions.

It is not, then, inconsistent with the revolutionary position to render support to trade unions in any action they may take upon sound lines, or to criticise their actions when they are unsound.

>From what has been said it is clear that the Socialist Party cannot be antagonistic to the trade unions under present conditions, even though they have not a revolutionary basis. On the contrary, it cannot even wish this base to be changed for the revolutionary one, since the revolutionary material does not exist in sufficient quantity to enable unions restricted to such to perform their necessary functions.

What the Socialist Party must, however, be hostile to, is the misleading by the trade union leaders and the ignorance of the rank and file which make such misleading possible. But we call the manifestation of this hostility by a very good name¾propaganda.

As to the future attitude of the Socialist Party toward trade unions, of course, the present penman has no warrant to speak. But to give a strictly personal view, it seems hardly conceivable that the trade unions will fail to adapt themselves to the growth of revolutionary knowledge amongst their memberships. There at present appears to be no reason why they should not. There is nothing fixed about their bases which would preclude the change without the whole structures toppling to the ground¾always provided, of course, the one essential condition for their maintenance¾a revolutionary rank and file¾is at hand.

And even when the time comes when the revolutionary element among the membership could secure a narrow majority in a vote there seems to be no obvious reason for purging the organisations of those who do not hold the revolutionary opinion. Such a course could hardly avoid weakening the unions in their proper sphere of action under capitalist conditions, and would not strengthen them for the revolutionary purpose of the future. In addition, to do so must inevitably be to set up rival trade unions on a reactionary basis, and this would defeat the object of the revolutionaries in taking the step of revolutionising the unions.

For when it becomes a question of the respective strength of revolutionary and non-revolutionary unions, and more particularly as the first increased in strength, economic necessity would force men to hide their political convictions and creep into the organisation which offered them the best prospects immediately¾just as it forces revolutionary workers to-day to join economic organisations on a non-revolutionary basis, and dominated by reactionaries and traitors.

To make political convictions the test of membership of organisations which men are forced to join on pain of economic penalty, therefore, is pre-ordained to defeat its own object.

And what good could be expected? The two functions of economic organisation are¾immediate, and ultimate. The first is non-revolutionary, the second revolutionary. But though the two are so different they are not antagonistic. The non-revolutionary is not anti-revolutionary. To fight for present life does not delay the overthrow of the present social system. When the worker acquires revolutionary consciousness he is still compelled to make the non-revolutionary struggle.

Moreover, after his conversion his methods on the economic field differ little from those he previously was compelled to follow. His greater knowledge will save him from many blunders in the field, will show him how little he has to hope for from the struggle he is compelled to make. But substantially the efforts of the revolutionary and the non-revolutionary unionist on the economic field are reduced to the same plane¾that is, they must endeavour to restrict competition amongst themselves; to organise for collectively withholding their special quality of labour-power.

It is on the political field that the two part company and become antagonistic.

It is not difficult to understand this. The immediate object of economic organisation¾the only one which present trade unions have¾is non-political. It cannot be fought out on the political field. The arena is the labour market.

On the contrary, that other and future function of economic organisation, which is to take over and administer things when the workers have obtained political supremacy and destroyed the power of the State¾that function cannot begin to be active until the workers have fought out the struggle upon the political field.

All fit material, revolutionary or non-revolutionary, for the struggle on the economic field¾the resistance to capitalist encroachment¾can and must prosecute the fight together. But directly the political is entered upon, one is necessarily working for or against the revolution, and the non-revolutionary worker of the economic field becomes an anti-revolutionist in the arena of politics.

It is just because this is so that it became necessary to organise a separate political party of the workers. It was necessary to leave the workers the instrument of their resistance to capitalist encroachment while the weapon for capitalism’s overthrow was being forged. Had the requirements of the two objects been the same¾had the non-revolutionary worker been unnecessary in the present struggle upon the economic field, or had he been of any use in the revolutionary struggle, then the political and the economic organisations might have been one.

This seems to indicate that, as the revolutionary element in trade unions grows stronger, the same difficulty that at present makes it impossible to impose any political restriction upon their membership¾that is, that disruption would result¾will compel the unions to relegate all political action to political organisations.

Thus with the gradual spread of Socialist views and the consequent change of men’s minds, the unions may gradually become the fit instrument of what final purpose of economic organisation may have, without the purging process.

For it is difficult to see, at the present time, what is to be gained by the expulsion of such members as have not then embraced the revolutionary idea. The strength of the Socialist movement can never be judged by the strength of the economic organisation, whatever the supposed basis, but by the power of the working class political party, hence the presence of un-class-conscious workers in economic organisations avowedly open to such cannot well mislead. And at all events they will be present in such economic organisations as are ostensibly closed to them when those organisations are strong enough to influence their chances of obtaining work.

Of course, if the economic organisation was formed to “take and hold” in the face of the political supremacy of the master class, things would be different¾a different material would be required. But economic organisation is not demanded for that purpose, but for carrying on production and distribution when the political party has achieved its purpose. It seems logical to suppose that, since production and distribution will not then be carried on by the revolutionaries alone, even the reactionary labour power may be better organised inside the economic organisations than outside.

However, interesting as these speculations are, they are rather outside the province of the present articles, which concern the attitude to-day of Socialists toward trade unions. This attitude cannot be one of hostility, though it devolves upon Socialists to combat the unsound action of trade unions and trade unionists, as also the ignorance from which these unsound actions spring. But when trade unions take action on sound lines it becomes Socialists to remember their class allegiance and give them support.


(Socialist Standard, November, December 1911, January 1912)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

This Is The Socialist Way

Since Friday gone, the "Socialist Way" has received over 80 separate visits and 200+ pages have been viewed for more than 5 minutes. In addition we are pleased to inform readers that a visit has been made from the House of Commons on at least two occasions; and therefore we sincerely hope that the "Socialist Way" has been both interesting and thought provoking if nothing else. The Socialist Way subscribes to the views and ideas of the Socialist Party (SPGB) and supports altogether its Object and Declaration of Principles, which we reproduce at the end of this post. The purpose of this blog is to contribute to the propagation of the socialist case as the only alliterative to capitalism, and the growth of an effective movement, to secure a firmly grounded united membership unlike the many failures that have led to scrapheap at the knackers yard. The political struggle is the struggle of all the workers and along class lines without leaders, we the workers are the leaders in the altogether of life. The fight is not for more votes, but for enthroning of the Socialist Idea upon the seat of power.

We welcome debate, we welcome your posts whatever they say but within reason, like the one we received today from 'Faceless' - "Your mish-mash of ideas has more holes than Cornwall". Well 'Faceless' - I think that you are referring to the early post "Galloway Declines Debate". I know that your not deliberately being discourteous to Cornwall, and would like to think, that your not trying to be contemptuous? The Socialist Way is unable to respond to this so why not stop being a polar mint with a hole in it, and put some meat on the bones of your argument and then we will deal with you. 'Faceless'- "you can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink".

Object and Declaration of Principles

Including explanations of what the Object and each Principle mean to us
This declaration is the basis of our organisation and, because it is also an important historical document dating from the formation of the party in 1904, its original language has been retained.


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
What is meant by "a system of society"?
The world is a "global village". Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is world-wide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this system of society in one way or another. Socialism is not a cooperative island in the middle of capitalism, but a global system of society that will replace capitalism.
"The means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth"?
This includes the forests, mines, and oceans from which natural wealth is extracted, the factories in which this natural wealth is processed, and the distribution of that wealth via transportation networks (such as roads and truck lines) and distribution centres (such as grocery and department stores). It does not include your personal belongings such as your toothbrush or clothing, or the family heirloom.
"Common Ownership"?
Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.
Common ownership is not state ownership. State ownership is merely the ownership by the capitalist class as a whole, instead of by individual capitalists, and the government then runs the state enterprises to serve the capitalist class. In the self-proclaimed "communist" states the state enterprises serve those who control the party/state apparatus. The working class does not own or control. It produces for a privileged minority.
Declaration of Principles
The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds
That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
How are decisions about the operation of society made? What principles govern what goods will be produced in what quantity and quality, or what social programs and laws will exist?
If decisions were made based upon the needs of humanity then the food that is regularly destroyed by the truckload would instead feed the starving.
Decisions are made based upon the expectation of making a profit. The ecology of the world is being devastated, even though this devastation may wipe out the human race, because of profit. Poor quality goods are produced, not because people want to have junk, but because it is profitable to produce junk. The rich can get the best, the rest of us often have little choice. Anyone can think of dozens of examples of how decision making puts profit-making before the satisfaction of human needs.
The owners of the production and distribution facilities are responsible to no-one but themselves. Governments pass laws that maintain profits for the owners as a group. Sometimes one owner or one sub-group of owners loses a bit, but overall, the class of owners always benefits in the long run. By focussing on the worst excesses, and legalizing the rest, their profits are protected from demands for significant changes.
While many British people have generally seen the benefits of increased production in terms of material wealth, the decisions are made not to improve our lives, but to improve the lives of those who own the means of production. The gap between the very rich and the rest of us continues to grow.
That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
There are many different divisions in society. Divisions of hatred by sex, skin colour, national origin, religion or the amount of money that a person makes, among others. The insecurity of capitalism breeds these hatreds. We must eliminate their breeding ground, before they infect our children.
Socialists see a division of society based upon the means of acquiring wealth. If you must work for a living then you are working class, if your main income is derived from the work of others then you are a capitalist. This distinction clearly exists. Even though some of us own shares, workers do not have the luxury to quit their jobs and live off investment income.
When you analyze society using this class division, many problems that otherwise defy understanding have obvious solutions. Profit is derived by owning. Wages or salary are derived by labouring, by expending our physical or mental energy working for those who own the means of production and distribution.
The owner of a particular factory may not even know that they own it. It may be just a part of an immense holding company that is administered by someone else. The workers in the factory, however, are directly connected to the production. It is the labour of these workers (including the plant management) that creates the profits that keep the capitalists rich. It is vital that the capitalists pay their workers less than the value that their labour produces. It is this difference between the value of what workers are paid and the value of what they produce that is the source of profit.
That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master 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.
As long as the ownership of the means of production and distribution rests with the minority capitalist class, this antagonism will continue to exist. The antagonism is caused by the necessarily differing interests of the classes. No matter how nice capitalists may be on a personal level, they will always have different interests than the working class. It is not a matter of good and evil or anything like that, it is inherent in any class system. Therefore the only way to eliminate the antagonism is to eliminate the class system and establish a system of common ownership where the previous antagonism has no basis.
That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.
The hate and distrust that exists in society today is a direct result of the nature of societies past and present. A society in which we must compete to survive, in which our jobs are threatened by other workers, in which we do not feel secure, is fertile breeding ground for racism, sexism, nationalism and all the other hatreds that abound.
Even today, while this hatred is sometimes used to pit one worker against another, it appears that overall, these hatreds are being rooted out and made socially unacceptable. This is particularly noticeable in countries like South Africa where there is a shortage of white workers, and black workers must be brought into previously "white" workplaces without the major disruption that is caused by overt racism.
No society can meet our human needs as long as there are different classes of people. Every person has abilities that differentiate them from others, but we are all equal in our humanity. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What we need is a society that allows us to use our strengths, and that accepts and accommodates our weaknesses.
Socialism will be a society geared to meeting human needs, and the need to be accepted for what we are is probably the most basic of human needs. When the breeding ground for these hatreds has disappeared, people will naturally be able to eradicate them with all the other negative leftovers of capitalism.
That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
Working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership. The Socialist Party has an absolute need of supporters with understanding and self-reliance. Even if we could conceive of a leader-ridden working class displacing the capitalist class from power such an immature class would be helpless to undertake the responsibilities of democratic socialist society.
That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
It would be foolish to expect the capitalist class to voluntarily give up its privileged position in society. Governments exist solely to administer the society as it exists, in the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class, so governments will not end the privilege. Capitalism will continue as long as the working class accepts it. The working class will have to force the capitalist class to give up its position of privilege.
Socialism will be the result of workers democratically choosing a new, classless society based upon the satisfaction of human needs. And since capitalism is a global system of society, it must be replaced globally.
It is dangerous and futile to follow those who support violence by workers against the armed force of the state. Violent revolution has sometimes meant different faces in the capitalist class, always meant dead workers, and never meant the liberation of the working class. Unless workers organize consciously and politically and take control over the state machinery, including its armed forces, the state will be ensured a bloody victory.
Political democracy is the greatest tool (next to its labour-power) that the working class has at its disposal. When the majority of workers support socialism, so-called "revolutionary" war will not be required. The real revolution is for workers to stop following leaders, to start understanding why society functions as it does and to start thinking for themselves.
That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of all sections of the the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
Political parties of the left, right and centre, claim to be working for the betterment of society. Because society functions in the interests of the capitalist class, it is clear that these parties are then supporting the interests of the capitalist class. History shows us that no matter what these parties say, when elected they administer capitalism in the only way it can be administered - in the interests of the capitalist class.
Each of them has their own idea of how to run capitalism, often stealing the ideas of their supposed political opposites. The reforms that they implement must reflect economic reality. If they do not, they will not get re-elected - until the next party fails to reflect that reality. There is no way that capitalism can meet the needs of the majority, but all of these parties pretend it can if only they find the right plan. None of them have any really new ideas, only rehashed reforms that have failed in the past. Voting for any of these parties is voting for capitalism, forever.
Socialists are therefore hostile, not in the sense of committing violent acts against other parties or their members, but to the ideas of those parties which support capitalism.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.
The Socialist Party is part of a global socialist movement that believes capitalism cannot meet the needs of the majority of the people in the world. It does not today, and it never can.
In order to meet these needs capitalism must be replaced by socialism.
The only way to achieve socialism is for the working class to recognize this and consciously and politically work to replace capitalism with socialism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not support the idea of reforming capitalism and therefore does not work for reforms. There are plenty of other organizations that do and yet the problems remain. By relegating socialism to the future, it is relegated to never. Only a party dedicated only to socialism can promote socialism in any real, honest manner.
Among all the political parties in Great Britain, only the Socialist Party is dedicated to socialism as an immediate goal. It is this objective that makes the Socialist Party revolutionary - our dedication to peaceful, democratic and immediate change.
The Socialist Party is, therefore, engaged in a war of ideas against all other parties. Those other parties, no matter what they claim, are supporting the capitalist system and opposing the immediate establishment of socialism.
Only the conscious support of the working class will create socialism, and to this end the Socialist Party seeks to increase understanding of, and mobilize support for, socialism.
The Socialist Party calls upon every worker to support these efforts in any way that they can.

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