Letter to the editor
We've just sent this letter off to the South London Press:
We are writing to you as Series Editor since we have not been able to get very far with your Lambeth desk.
On two occasions we have informed them that we will be standing a candidate in Vauxhall in the coming general election, but nothing informing the public of this has appeared. Asking why not, we told over the phone that election coverage would be done nearer the election. Fair enough if that’s the editorial policy but, if so, it is not being consistently applied as you can see from the attached cutting from your 25 February issue about a candidate standing in Tooting.
What we are expecting from the only local paper covering the constituency is not a long article on who we are, or what we stand for, but at this stage simply a short notice that we will be standing, the name of the candidate (Danny Lambert) and, ideally, perhaps the address of our election blog at spgb.blogspot.com (which we would have thought your reporters might want to look at from time to time in any event).
Established parties get press 24hrs hours a day, all year round. Yet, come election time, the privately owned press has no interest in offering the various alternatives to the electorate. This is democracy?
Perhaps you might like to e-mail them with your views on this?
Well, Today the Government will try to write it's legacy into law - the new terror legislation
giving ministers the power to impose house arrest on people that there may or may not be enough evidence to indicate that they are a terrorist.
They say they are motivated by their duty to protect citizens right to life. Yet thousands die on the roads each year, and we hear not a peep about internment of motorists. More plausibly, they claim the security services have asked for this power, because they feel they need something between simple surveillance and a full scale trial. It beggars belief, though, given the plethora of anti-terrorist laws - and other laws - that they could not find one charge to lay against a terror suspect that would not endanger their sources.
The reality, though, is that irrespective of the legislation - which is dubious at best - state power can and will be arbitrarilly used in the interests of the ruling elites anyway.
During the miners strike the Thatcher government established an unlawful national police force, unofficially suspended freedom of movement and used arbitrary arrests to break the miners movement. More recently, the Movement Against the Monarchy crowd were arbitrarilly arrested to avoid them causing trouble at the Queen's Jubilleee - the state just decided to pay the compensation for it's arbitrary abuse of power.
Judges have never been any help in the past. Hide-bound and caught up in their support of deference and power, they defend the establishment - and are no more likely to protect people from arbitrary arrest than a Home Secretary would.
These powers, though, are part of a war being fought between the capitalists of Britain and Midle-Eastern capitalists, wanna be capitalists and their respective camp followers. It is a war of power, control and oil.
The threat of terrorism cannot be removed by ever greater use of power, but by removing the source of the conflict - greedy men seeking to own the riches of the Earth. Today's events in Parliament are a side-show.
Tough on the causes of crime
Like Labour, socialists think we should be tough on the causes of crime. We have plenty of reason to want to do so. According to South London Press
there is going to be a protest this weekend against gun crime in Lambeth
[An Anti-Gun Campaigner] told the South London Press: "Gun crime is a threat to the whole of society. To sit at home and do nothing is as good as giving these people the green light.
Indeed, and we need to recognise that the cause of crime is free enterprise. These gangs aren't killing for the sake of it, but because it is business. They are entrepreneurs, looking at the comparative advantage of using guns to extract profits.
They're not the only ones making a profit. Arms manufacturers are making a tidy deal. According to a UN conference back in 2001:
[The] statistics include: 500 million small arms worldwide, $1 billion in annual illicit trade of arms, and armed conflict as the second cause of death worldwide after AIDS
In a sane society where everyone could usefully employ their energy in self-fulfilling ways, where everyone could have access to leisure and culture, where there was no impetus of the fear of poverty or proseletysed creed of naked greed, then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't need to protest about gun-crime on our streets. the statistics back this up, gun laws are irrelevent, it is economic prosperity that drives crime rates.
On another front, the Labour government seems set to raise the minimum wage, according to the BBC
The Low Pay Commission, which advises ministers on the issue, is reported to want the minimum wage to increase to £5.05 in October and £5.30 next year.
Mr Blair is expected to back the recommendation at his monthly news conference. Raising the £4.85 wage is one of Labour's key election pledges.
Strangely, we hear most about minimum wage rises around election times. You might actually think that they were, gosh, trying to bribe us. As Bernard Shaw once wrote, any government that promises to rob Peter to pay Paul can count on the support of Paul
Of course, rises in the miniumum wage are welcome, anything to ameliorate poverty is a fine thing, except, when we have the wealth, talent and capacity to end poverty altogether, and simply don't, because holy private property stands in the way. A rise in the miniumum pittance is nothing compared to abolishing the wages system once and for all, and establishing a system of society bsed on from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.
People are greeeeedy!
Well, the TUC
has another day of plebian pleading with the masters - this time in Work Proper Hours Day
. According to their press release
The average long hours employee does almost an extra day of work each week (7 hours 18 minutes) according to official statistics. If paid at the average wage for these hours they would get an extra £4,650 in their pay packet a year.
Apparently, today is the day thatif the average long hours employee did all their unpaid overtime at the start of the year, [...] they would start to be paid.
And we're always being told that socialism can't work because people are greedy, and won't work for free. When here and now, we find people slaving away because they want to get the job done.
But what the TUC miss is that even if employers paid for every hour properly, and we always worked to time, we`d still be exploited. Exploitation is not
low wages, it is the wages system itself. We are not paid for the work and wealth we produce, but for oure abilities to work, which we loan out to a boss on a daily basis. They pocket the wealth we create, and the difference between the cost of our skills and that wealth is their profits.
So long as this exploitation continues, so long will workers feel the need to slong themselves into a waking coma each night, to slave away to try and battle to keep their jobs which hang solely upon the profitability of their employers` firm.
But, of course, the TUC are up to their necks in propping up a government that proudly and consciously supports capitalism, so they themselves proudly and consciously support exploitation. The workers of Vauxhall have the chance to send the message that there is an alternative to wage-slavery, where each contribute their freely given labour to work on the commonly owned means of production to secure the goods society needs to which each is entitled to their share. Socialism, not pleading with bosses.
It`s well worth taking note of how these politicians competing for our votes in the up coming election see us. I`ll wager pound to a pinch when we hear or read how they propose to make us the working people, the class who do all the necessary work that reproduces society day to day, more secure, prosperous, healthy etc, we`ll hear ourselves described as ordinary people
, and the ordinary family
, or the ordinary man in the street
. The joke, and it`s on us, is that we submit to this ordinary
identity without a second thought, we have been conditioned by our class situation to accept the status of ordinary, why? Because all that people who see themselves as ordinary want is an ordinary life, who we believe ourselves to be determines our desires! The reflex of this must follow that those with power over us because of wealth who don`t have to endure the degradation of selling their lives to an employer for wages must be special
and being special
we allow them to interpret our lives for us. We rely on them to tell us what to do, how to think, what to eat, how to dress and most importantly, who we are.
So if you`re still with me let`s take that second look, a sideways second look.
Imagine that extra terrestrials from somewhere in our universe having conquered time and space are surveying our planet, what do you imagine they would find most amazing, dazzling and most extraordinary? Exactly, us, what else?
But the joy of our imaginary visitors, who would be not only technically but socially advanced, would be tempered by the fact that they would be unable to introduce themselves to us, because we sadly have yet to introduce ourselves to ourselves.
But we’re getting there!
Be Vewwy Vewwy quiet...
One thing you won't hear much about during the election from the pundits - who will pore over every nuance, pose and detail of the 'big' (i.e. offiically favoured) Party's campaigns - is about who owns these parties.
Certainly, they are legally owned by their members, but if we look at who funds them, who pays for them, we can find out who's buying them.
The BBC looks at the electoral commissison's register of donations, here
TheLabour Party received more than £5m in donations in the final quarter of 2004, new figures show. This is nearly half of the £11,724,929 received by 16 political parties listed by the Electoral Commission.
That is a lot of money. And look. they're backing the winning horse.
Obviously, this includes Trades Unions, who must take their share of the blame for the Labour government, as well as Northumbria Water, who gave £4,999.00 to try and avoid their donation being disclosed, no doubt.
Check out the Labour Party's reigister entry here
- you'll need to scroll down to the very end. Fascinating reading.
Who guards the guardians?
The incident between Ken Livingstone and the journalist from the gutter press has revealed the existence of an unelected Quango with the power to suspend or ban from office any elected councillor deemed to have brought their office into disrepute.
This confirms that today local councillors and mayors are not really the elected representatives of the people that they are generally supposed to be, but more elected civil servants charged with spending government money and subject to the same sort of disciplinary measures as ordinary civil servants.
The website of the so-called Standards Board of England is clear enough:
"If an allegation is referred for investigation, then an Ethical Standards Officer will carry out an independent investigation. If the investigation concludes that a matter is serious enough, they can refer the case to the Adjudication Panel for England. The Adjudication Panel is an independent statutory body who will make a final judgement. They may suspend a member for up to one year, or disqualify them from holding office for up to five years".
Ethical Standards Officers, what next! Not quite as sinister sounding as Ethics Police, but bad enough. Last Friday’s edition of the South London Press reported that two Lambeth Labour councillors had fallen foul of these snoopers, no doubt on a complaint from some other councillor with a grudge against them or anxious to score some political point. They were accused of printing "misleading" quotes from council officials in an election leaflet. "The Ethical Standards Officer also concluded that Councillor O'Connell improperly conferred an advantage on the candidate in the by-election" (see full report
). So these "Ethical Standards Officers" have now arrogated to themselves the right to comment on the contents of election leaflets. Leaflets from the conventional parties are notoriously full of misleading quotes, statistics and arguments, but it’s up to other candidates and other interested people (including us, which we do all the time) to expose these and for electors to judge for themselves. That’s the way democracy should work and the existence of the so-called Ethical Standards Officers with the power to censure election leaflets goes against this.
If they ban Livingstone from office simply for expressing a view (it's not as if he's been caught with his hand in the till) it would go against all the principles of democracy and freedom of speech. That would turn them into Thought Police. In a real democracy it would be up to the electors and no one else, and certainly not some unelected board of appointees with pretentious titles, to throw out an elected official. But we are not living in a real democracy, only a limited one where power is concentrated in the hands of the centralized State needed to enforce capitalist class rule and policies in their interests that go against those of the majority (such as going to war or running down essential local services).
In socialism, as a classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production, this dominating top-down structure, in which local councillors are virtually elected civil servants responsible to the State rather than to those who elected them, will be abolished. The power of the State, which operates from the concentration of centralized power in the hands of governments, will be replaced by a fully democratic system through which decisions would flow from the broadest possible social base to represent the views of the whole community. Councillors wouldn’t be subject to disciplinary measures, including being thrown out of office, by appointees of any central State. They’d be the delegates of those who elected them, subject to recall if they did’t carry out the mandate given them. Capitalism can’t operate on this fully democratic basis, because it is a class-divided society which needs to have an institution capable of imposing the will of the minority ruling class.
Last night we held a public meeting with a representative of the Tax Justice Network
, John Christensen, on the topic of Globalization, which way forward : World Socialism or Tax Reform.
John put forward a persuasive case for the ill effects of global capitalist finance -especially in terms of the vast, well co-ordinated networks fo corruption that are necessarilly involved. He told us how dictator General Abacha of Nigeria had been squirrelling away $15 million a a day
to Swiss bank accounts by standing order - a feat that could not have been achieved without the connivance of Western bankers, accountants and lawyers. He estimated that some hundreds of billions of pounds a year were being withehld by corporate tax avoidance; that British dependencies and terrirtories accounted for around half the world's 72 recognised tax havens; and that debt releief is off-beam because so many of the ruling classes in poor countries are making a fat living for themselves from their national debts.
It was a concise, well-argued and powerful case. Our speaker, Adam Buick, though put the socialist case, that there is a class issue. The burden of taxation falls ultimately on the owners of property, not the workers they stole that wealth from in the first place. Capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of the plundered, and that John's arguments just showed how irredeemable the capitalist system is. Any tax regime would just be a matter of changing the balance of competition between capitalists, not removing the inherent corruption of the system.
I was mugginsed into the chair, and had to keep order in the lively debate that followed, where we explored what possibilities socialism might provide and in which John defended his preference for attempting to reform capitalism in the short-term. At the end, I reminded everyone that we were contesting Vauxhall constituency, and that this was not an abstract debate but a pressing immediate choice for the electors of Vauxhall.
"Abolish Money Now"
The London Election Committee has just received a letter from Ernest Reynolds, of Swindon, saying that he was be contesting a seat in Swindon in the coming general election as an independent on an "Abolish Money Now" platform and inviting us to look at his website at www.abolishmoneynow.com
In a sense we could be said to stand for this, but indirectly. What we stand for is the immediate establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production, which would have as its consequence making money redundant. But we do concede that "Establish common ownership now (and money will become redundant)", though more correct from the point of view of theory, is rather less snappy as a political slogan.
The argument is that, if the means of producing wealth are held in common, then what is produced will also be commonly owned. The "economic" problem will then be, not as it is under capitalism, how to sell what has been produced, but how to distribute it, how to, if you like, share it out.
We would envisage this being done very rapidly on the basis of free access: people getting the food, clothes and other articles they need for their personal consumption by going into a distribution centre and taking what they need without having to hand over either money or plastic or ration cards of any sort. Houses and flats rent-free, with heating, lighting and water supplied free of charge. Transport, communications, health care, education, restaurants and laundries organised as free public services. No admission charge to theatres, cinemas, museums, parks, libraries and other places of entertainment and recreation. Collective needs (schools, hospitals, theatres, libraries and the like) decided democratically by local councils and the like. So, production in socialism would be the production of free goods to meet people's self-defined needs, both individual and collective. Money would not be needed; in fact it wouldn't make sense.
On his site E. W. Reynolds makes some good points and develops one or two good arguments, but the big drawback is that he thinks that a moneyless society could be established just in Britain. But you can't separate what happens in Britain (or any other single country) from what happens in the rest of the world, as successive governments here have found out the hard way(financial crises, balance of payments crises, oil price rises, etc, etc.). Not even capitalism exists in one country. It is a world system. So, therefore, must the system that will replace it. So when we talk about socialism we are talking about world socialism, of all the resources of the planet becoming the common heritage of all humanity to be used for the benefit of the whole population of the world.
Still, it will be interesting, on election night, to see how many votes Ernest Reynolds gets in Swindon.
The battle for Waterloo
This morning members of West London branch were out leafletting in the eastern end of the constituency round Waterloo station. It actually stretches as far as the London Television centre on the South Bank. We set up our stall outside Queen Elizabeth Hall near where the secondhand booksellers have theirs. We knew we risked being moved on, but the first security guards who spotted us were surprisingly sympathetic (one said he was against the Iraq war) and let us stay. The second couple, who came along an hour and half later, were more officious, explaining that the South Bank was run by the South Bank Corporation which didn't like tourists being upset by being given leaflets with political views with which they might not agree. We said that there was an election coming and that the Socialist Party was standing a candidate in the Vauxhall constituency which included this part of the South Bank. They said we should go and ask permission from someone at the box office at the Royal Festival Hall. We didn't bother as we'd already been there an hour and half and were getting cold. So we packed up the stall and went to help the comrades putting leaflets through letter boxes. But not before we'd had a look at the bookstalls. The stall nearest to us turned out to have an interesting collection of books on politics, history, the trade unions and literature. The stallholder explained that they had come from the library of the late Paul Foot and that he had many more since he had bought 26 ft's worth of his books (not the pick of the collection, he added, since these were being auctioned along with his furniture). We bought a copy of the autobiography of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the "Rebel Girl" of the pre-WWI IWW, a pamphlet on "Socialism and Nationalism" and a 1985 book on leisure in capitalist Britain which had a section devoted to discussing the theory of work and leisure of Stanley Parker, billed as one of the pioneers of "the sociology of leisure" in this country. Paul Foot was obviously a well-read bloke. He was also a leading member of the SWP and on sale from his collection was a pamphlet The ABC of Socialism
by John Rees which outlines the SWP's case for their form of state capitalism (since that's what they stand for, not socialism) as well as his own SWP pamphlet which we always thought should have been called Why Paul Foot should be a Socialist.
Also on sale were the official Labour Party Conference Reports for the 1960s and 70s when Paul Foot was a member of the Labour Party (without illusions of course).
Anyway, we distributed our quota of leaflets and, incidentally since that was not our main purpose, sold one Socialist Standard (though comrade Roland wasn't too flattered at being mistaken for a Big Issue
Back at the Socialist Party's Head Office in 52 Clapham High St at the other end of the constituency we switched on the radio and who should be on but the local MP for Vauxhall (for Labour, apparently), Kate Hoey, addressing a meeting of the unspeakable before they set out to chase the uneatable. Perhaps she'll soon be calling on her Tally-ho friends to come to Vauxhall to deal with the urban fox problem here.
The next item on the news, incidentally, was that the Welsh Nationalist Party had announced it was to launch a "socialist" opposition to the Labour Party. This seems to be a bid to steal Labour votes in the English-speaking valleys of South Wales where the Welsh Nats usual policy of "jobs for the Welsh-speaking boyos" doesn't go down so well as in Welsh Wales. Still, it's nice to think that some people think that calling yourself a socialist can still attract support. Let's hope that actually being a socialist will also work.
The Socialist Party unequivocally opposed the war in Iraq. We drafted a clear statement
on our position when the war began:
War is completely unnecessary. We are living in a world that has enough resources to provide plenty for all, to eliminate world poverty, ignorance and disease, to provide an adequate and comfortable life for everyone on the planet. Yet under capitalism resources are squandered on armaments, of individual as well as of mass destruction, and, as now, in actual war....
We place on record our horror that capitalism has once again provoked the orgy of death and destruction known as war; We extend the hand of friendship to our fellow workers in Iraq who our political masters have designated as targets for destruction; We pledge to do all within our means to bring the slaughter to an immediate end ; We pledge ourselves to continue to work for the establishment of a world socialist society of peace and cooperation ; We call upon fellow workers everywhere to join in the struggle for World Socialism.
(There are more articles in the saame issue of the Socialist Standard
We beleive that we can peacefully and democratically build a world of common ownership, and oppose all wars in capitalism as against the interest of the working class. Unlike the leftists in the Stop the War Coalition
we do not cheer on the resistance who are continuing the war, slaughtering about 20 Iraqi workers per day - as in this most recent example
. The constant fighting only weakens the workers there. All the resistance will do is replace one set of rulers with a new set. We are against all rulers, all national boundaries, and are for a world co-operative commonwealth.
You have the choice of supporting these aims, or supporting the slaughter of capitalism's wars.
Day of Action
Apparently the TUC
is organising a 'day of action' over public sector pensions - that is, they are going to try and do their best to grab their masters and the media's attention
Pensions have always been a con. Initially, they workers were set to receive them if they reached an age greater than the average life expectancy (it was 58 years when pensions were first begun to be given out at 65 years). We're expected to give over a third of our waking hours to our employers now, on the premise that when we're old (and of no use to them anyway) we can be secure and have money.
When the political whores in government and media start bleeting about 'the pensions crisis' and the 'demographic timebomb' they are lying through their teeth. The resources are there, the houses are there, there is enough food, goods and materials to go around. Where the problem for them is, is in fitting the pensiuon system in with their profits.
It's all about accountancy, and not about our lives and interests.
The TUC's pleading for pensions protection, though, does little good. There is no point asking nicely or parading around for cameras, when the real way to make change is to take charge for ourselves. So long as we are not society's priority, so long will we be left with facing having to beg for scraps. But of course, the TUC won't break with the Labour Party, and the illusion of influence that association gives them. They prefer to work within capitalism, rather than to try and abolish it.
Speaking of common ownership (as Bill was) by coincidence on Wednesday we received a booklet Down with the Fences. Battles for the Commons in South London
brought out by a local radical history group based at 56 Crampton St, SE 17.
In the sixties an American academic invented a new anti-socialist argument which he called the "Tragedy of the Commons" which has been doing the rounds ever since. It went like this: where you have common ownership of some natural resource, say grazing land, people with access to it, say to graze their cattle, will abuse it. Because it would be in the economic interest of each individual to use the common land to graze as big a herd of cattle as they could, they would all try to do this and eventually the land would be overgrazed. Conclusion: common ownership won't work and land and natural resources should be privately owned.
Socialists spotted the flaw in this straightaway. The academic assumed that only the land was owned in common whereas the cattle remained in the private ownership of individuals seeking to maximise their economic gains. Whereas, of course, socialism would mean the common ownership of both the cattle and the land and the aim of production would be to satisfy people's needs rather than to make profits.
Having said this, the argument is quite a good description of what happens under capitalism
when there's no ownership of some resource such as still today the oceans -- they get overfished.
But the argument was also completely unhistorical, as the pamphlet we were sent confirms. The commons in England did not come to an end because they were over-exploited by the commoners taking too much firewood or trapping too many birds or rabbits or anything like that. They came to an end because some landlords wanted to extend their domains and used parliament and the law which they controlled to enclose the commons as their private property, either for agriculture or later for building houses on.
As a popular street ballad of the time put it:
"The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose."
The grasping landlords (who in South London included the Spencer family who are still landed parasites to this day and of which the late Princess Airhead was a member) didn't always get their way -- fortunately, otherwise there'd be no public parks in South London.
Socialists stand for common ownership. Not just of land and other natural resources but also of human-made industrial resources. On this basis, we (society) could produce and distribute what was needed in accordance with the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs". That, in fact, is what socialism is. And to help get people to realise that this is the only basis on which wealth production can be geared to serving human welfare rather than profits is why we're standing a candidate here in Vauxhall in the coming general election.
Charlie is who's darlin'?
So the Chas is to wed then.
And the the bizzo was intended to be done at that stately pile Windsor Castle - symbol of our domination by a class of useless parasites.
That plan has had to be scuppered -- coz it might give the hoi polloi a chance to do the same as their betters and
in the same surroundings.
Perish the thought! Using the same bogs as Royalty might have given rise to ideas of working for a more real equality perhaps
Although the actual date of the forthcoming election has yet to be announced one subject matter likely to be in the forefront of the debate is immigration.Not for the first time in British politics both Labour (Sorry! New Labour) and the Conservatives will play the race card. Each will try to persuade us they their controls will be as watertight as a ducks rear end. They will both generate and play on fears of the supposed dangers of thousands and thousands of diseased and destitute foreigners just waiting to "swarm" into Britain and "swamp" an already overstretched health-care system.And of course we can see why it is the politicians do this - frightened people are often more malleable and less likely to ask akward questions. Questions like - who is it that staffs the health service? Of the seven doctors in the GP surgery I attend six are "immigrants" or the children of immigrants, and I suspect that this is not unusual.Immigrants and asylum seekers are in the main workers on the move attempting to find work and improve their lot in life. As such their interests are the same as workers everywhere and those intereats lie in the replacement of the system of exploitation we all live under by a system of common ownership and production for use.
Tilting the political scales
Someone has emailed us (at firstname.lastname@example.org
) asking us to comment on an item on the BBC site on "balancing the political scales"
It's by Andrew Marr, their political editor, who, to give him his due, is making a better job of this than he did as editor of the Independent
. He's got the difficult job of trying to find a difference between Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Tweedledoh (or the Labour, Tory and Liberal parties as they are more generally known) so that the BBC can give each of them a fair crack of the whip. Since they all stand for keeping the present system of minority class ownership and production for profit (and only seem to differ on whether asylum seekers should be sterilised or simply put in concentration camps -- well, OK, it hasn't actually come to that yet but it's heading that way), the easiest thing is to give them equal time, with a few minutes for the Scots and Welsh Nats, UKIP, George Galloway's RESPECT and Kilroy-Silk's VANITAS which also all stand for capitalism in one form or another. And that's what the BBC does, but that's not "balancing the political scales". It's tilting them massively in favour of the capitalist status quo. What about those who are opposed to capitalism and want to see it replaced by a system of common ownership, democratic control and production fot use not profit? In all our hundred years of existence we in the Socialist Party, despite contesting nearly every general election since 1945, have never once had a party political broadcast. We've been interviewed and mentioned on rare occasions, but that's not the same as having access to the airwaves with the presentation and format entirely under our control. As a political party, we're even banned from buying time on radio and TV, as is permitted in some other countries like America. But they can't stop us using the internet . . .
Right, I've added another link in the side bar - Lambeth Statistics
- so you don't have to take our word for it, you can look at the same figures that are known to all politicians but which they try not to bore you with, or believe you won't understand.
For instance, they reveal that 61% of the borough works for a living, currently, but there are 6% unemployed and seeking work - allmost double the national average. We know that "Real Estate; Renting and Business Activities" employs 32,058 (about a quarter of the total) whereas "Health and Social Work" only employs 14,563. With another 14,664 working in "Wholesale and Retail trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles", we can see where the priority of effort in our society lies (all from an excel spreadsheet dataset
We believe that any fair minded person observing the world around them will have to accept the justice and correctness of the socialist case for common ownership. We're too busy taking care of business to take care of ourselves.
Workers of the world, UNITE!
Not, I think, over-blown. We may comment on local affairs, because the idea of socialism reaches down to every life in our current world. We look, though, to the big picture as well.This
story is horrifying:
Hundreds dead in Chinese mine blast
Associated Press, Tuesday February 15, 2005.
Chinese workers waiting at the scene after the coal-mining accident in Fuxin city that killed at least 203 people.
Its mines are by far the world's most dangerous, with more than 6,000 deaths last year in floods, explosions and fires.
China says it accounted for 80% of all coal mining deaths worldwide last year.
Via The Guardian.
6,000 workers a year minced by the drilling of coal from the Earth, sacrifices to the machine of capitalism and super profits or the Chinese rulers.
While some bleat about fake liberty, whilst politicians siddle up to the murderous wretches who rule that country, capitalism wreaks ongoing atrocity. Thus socialists urgently call for the workers of the world to realise that their fight is one, and they should unite against the common enemy that sends their brothers and sisters to their deaths three thousand miles away for chunks of fossilised trees.
Our actions here, in Lambeth, can light the fuse to end the slaughter.
What do we want?
Well, Saturday I got myself down to Brixton to do our paper sale. It was cold and grey, and as I got off the bus, I say that either side of the tube station door were Workers Power
and Socialist Workers' Party
. A little further along were the bunch of trotskyist fakers formerly known as Militant
. All that were missing were the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
and the International Communist Current
- who have both been known to put in appearances there, and we'd have had the set.
Being adverse to Judean People's Front
style situations (it's OK at Socialist events were the crowd are committed, but on a high street it just looks silly) we skiddadled. It's hard enough to get the message of socialism across without having to field jokes about sectarianism or even being asked why we don't all work together.
Anyway, it did set me thinking. The SWP won't be contesting Vauxhall with their Respect Coalition
, they've closed down their old front the Socialist Alliance, so we should be the only Socialist Party contesting Vauxhall.
Good news? Well, sort of. It occurred to me that these people on the high street, waving their fake petitions, selling their papers demanding to stop the thing and save the pittance, might, just might, ask people to vote for us. They might vote for us. The problem is - we don't want their votes.
We're not about aving council housing, wresting reforms from capitalism, reaching out to 'new layers', raising the minimum wages to £11.20, nationalising the top 403 companies, or anything of that sort. We do not want a mass movement led by glorious leaders in unelected cabals directing full time cadres.
We make no promises. All we ask is that you join a democratic movement filled with conscious workers who understand and want common and democratic ownership of their wn world,a nd are repared to go and get it. So far as we're concerned, it's the quality not the quantity of the votes that count. Votes gained by leftist confusions of socialism, we can do without.
Labour, Liberal, Tory, same old futile story
An election must be nearing as a political leaflet was dropped through our letter box at 52 Clapham High Street (and presumably in surrounding letter boxes too) over the weekend. If it wasn't printed in blue, you wouldn't be able to guess which party it came from. It's all about street lighting, roads, residents' parking, graffiti and other matters of everyday concern. This must be what "community politics" means, though it's called "ward-healing" on the other side of the Atlantic. This is all very well but it remains true that local councillors are little more than elected civil servants given some control over how money allocated by the central government should be spent at local level. But the amount the central government has been allocating has been squeezed for the last thirty years by the pressure of the world market obliging all states to cut back on "wasteful" public spending if their industries are to remain competitive. This has trickled down to local level in the form of cuts and/or charging for everyday local services (and in the closure of local post offices). So you can't isolate what happens locally from the workings of world capitalism.
But, to return to the leaflet, it's a bit self-congratulatory with Councillor Gentry patting himself on the back a number of times. That's because in Lambeth the Tories are in power -- in coalition with the Liberals (in case you thought that they were opposed to each other). The poor Labour Party, which imposed the undemocratic cabinet system in Lambeth, has been hoisted by its own petard and now has virtually no say locally.
OK, so events dear boy, events.
I've just drafted this letter which will hopefully be enclosed in our next all members mail-out that we send to comrades all over the world. It's a direct copy of the Guardian's 'Operation Clarke County'
which was their (much derided) intervention in the American Presidential Elections.
For our part, though, we see the working class as part of one potential worldwide movement with a common interest in removing capitalism. So I'd like to emphasise that by encouraging members from all over the world to write in.
because we put such an emphasis on our members understanding the case for socialism, I'm confident they can put it as clearly as any election statement can.
branches in London intend to contest the Parliamentary Constituency of Vauxhall in the coming general election.
We want members from all over the world to take part in this.
What we would like to ask you to do is send a personal letter to a voter in South London, explaining why you think they should vote Socialist.
If you contact Head Office, we will forward you the name and address of a Vauxhall elector for you to write to, along with guidance and suggestions of what to say.
This is your chance to reach out and help in the campaign for socialism. We look forward to hearing from you.
Simply send write to head office, with ‘Operation Vauxhall’ on the envelope or in the e-mail subject line, and we will send you the details when a general election is announced.
What classless society?
Someone phoned our office today (on 0207 622 3811) at 52 Clapham High Street to ask if we had any figures on the distribution of wealth ownership in Britain. The figures we have been using are for 1992 from our 1997 pamphlet "The Market System Must Go!". Since we say capitalism is based on the minority ownership of the means for producing wealth the official figures we're interested in are those for "marketable wealth less value of dwellings" (since people's homes are means of production).
The official figures we quoted showed that:
The top 1% owned 29% of such wealth
The top 2-5% owned 24%
The top 6-10% owned 12%
The top 11-25% owned 17%
The top 26-50% owned 12%
The bottom 50% owned 6%
In other words, in 1992 the top 5% owned more than 50%, ie, more than the bottom 95%. Or, as we put it, "out of every 20 adults, one has a stake in the ownership of the means of production equal to that of the other 19 of us added together". This, we went on, confirmed "that the basis of present day society is indeed, as socialists contend, the concentration of the ownership of productive resources in the hands of a tiny minority of the population".
Our caller's query led us to look up the latest figures, those for 2002 (which can be found on the site of the Office for National Statistics at www.statistics.gov.uk
). These show that the figures in our pamphlet are out of date and in fact are not an underestimate
The equivalent official figures for 2002 are:
The top 1% owned 35%
The top 2-5% owned 27%
The top 6-10% owned 13%
The top 11-25% owned 13%
The top 26-50% owned 10%
The bottom 50% owned 2%
So, now the top 5% own getting on for twice as much as the rest of us put together.
So, the richer have been getting richer -- and under a Labour government too, not that this is at all surprising since, first, governments can't do much about this and, second, the Labour Party has given up trying to do this for some years now. They just administer capitalism and let it work in its normal way, having learned the lesson that if you don't do this you make things worse (as happened under Wilson and Callaghan the last time there was a Labour government).
Having said this, we socialists are not advocating a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. That's not our programme at all (and doesn't and can't work anyway, given capitalism). What we are saying is that the means of wealth production should be owned in common by the whole community, ie shouldn't belong to anybody, but should simply be there to be used under democratic control to turn out what people need instead of as present to make a profit for the tiny minority who own and control then.
That -- common ownership, democratic control, production for use not profit -- is what socialism means and that's what we'll be standing for in Vauxhall in the coming general election. That, and nothing else. It's the only framework in which current problems of transport, education, healthcare, insecurity and destitution can be tackled and cleared up. Trying to reform capitalism to make it work in the interests of all, as proposed by all the other candidates, is an exercise in futility.
News from North Korea that they have nuclear weapons
seems to have been overshadowed by the news of some rich people getting married. News values as ever hugely skewed. The possibility of another totalitarian nuclear state in a highly volatile strip of the world is cause for concern.
Socialists maintain, though, that there is a connexion. That soft soap stories about the unrelievedly privilleged and the build up of armed rivalries between powerful elites in the world are part of the same process of dominance and acquisition that marks out the capitalist world.
For the record, North Korea is nothing to do with socialism, it is an insane throwback to a feudal dream desperately trying to hold back the clock, while all around capitalist powers like America, Japan and China circle for position and advantage.
We think this part of our principles holds especially true for both stories:
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.
We need a world movement to get rid of the causes of nukes and royals.
Socialism Forward not Back
Anyway, blog update.
I have added the constituency map as a link.
I've added the e-mail address of the local paper as a link - please, do write to them in support of our campaign (We'll be giving people a chance to write to electors in Vauxhall directly once the campaign starts, like the Guardians famous Operation Clark County
- this is a worldwide movement after-all).
I've added a link to a wee video some of us made while doing media skills practice (indeed, it does look like a media studies course project piece, so please, do be kind to the rough edges and my own 'Open University' style, pay attention to the message not the medium - or my beard).
Had a branch meeting last night - turnout was vaguely poor, still the middle of winter - it's hard to drag the buggers out. We agreed we'd be doing a paper sale outside Brixton tube Saturday coming, 12 o'clock. See anyone there who's willing to show up.
Where we stand
Might help to clarify a little here. We are contesting the Vauxhall parliamentary constituency
in South London in the looming general election (link leads to a map). It's not a big (geographically) constituency, but it's going to be tough work anyway.
All in all there are 85,919 electors in Vauxhall, and we will be sending our election address to some 53,959 homes (figures supplied by Lambeth Electoral Services). That's quite an udnertaking to reach that many people in the fervid atmosphere of an election campaign. I hope we can get our message across.
Part of the point of this blog is to give an account/impression of the amount of work involved in UK parliamentary elections, as well as putting the socialist case. The scale is actually breathtaking, when you consider how many people must be invovled to make it work. That gets lost in the gloss and fight between the well established and entrenched parties. We're definitely trying to punch above our weight.
I'll probably add the map link, and some other useful Lambeth ones, to the sidebar later in the week.
The show is on the road
The same weekend that Labour's announcement of their Peter Seller's-esque election campaign slogan 'Britain Forward not Back', aka the war on verbs, our campaign team finally sorted out our draft election statement.
We agreed it at a delegate meeting of our three London branches. Unlike other parties where the candidate (in our case Danny) and the election agent (aka me) make all the decisions, we're running this campaign democratically. Our common position has been agreed by the delegates committee, and will go for approval to our executive committee who have been elected by the whole party's membership to ensure that such statements comply with the policy of the whole party as agreed at conference.
We are, thus, open, democratic and leaderless. This campaign is not a disperate group of people in London, but a part of a wider movement of hundreds of conscious socialists working together with a common cause.
Until we can release our elections statement, check out our declaration of principles
the basis of our common cause.
Getting our name on the ballot paper
The first step to allow us to use our name on the ballot paper will be taken later this week -- an application to the Electoral Commission to upgrade our current registration to full registration for parliamentary elections. When this goes through we'll be able to use on the ballot paper either our full name of "The Socialist Party of Great Britain" or a variant of it such as "The Socialist Party".
Watch this space for confirmation that this has gone through.