Thursday, March 31, 2005

Two useful sites

Well, while I'm on the theme of wealth distribution. Perhaps these two sites may help:

Your place in the UK
Your place in the world

Both, it has to be said, measure wealth in raw monetary income, rather than disposable - for instance they include income before housing costs and work-travel costs eat away at it, etc. What they illustrate, though is the obscene misdistribution of wealth in the world.

Obviously, we'd say rather than feel guilty, or give to charity, you should join us in levelling the world up through common ownership.

Results of War

this from the Guardian today illustrates the socialist case against war quite strongly:
Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food, said more than a quarter of Iraqi children do not have enough to eat and 7.7% are acutely malnourished - a jump from 4% recorded in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion.
Modern war disrupts the intricate web of production upon which millions depend for existence, and so often proves to be greater than any of the ills it is supposed to solve.

As a fotnote, it's worth saying that Blair has often proclaimed his crusade to end child poverty in the UK, and this story contrasts with the whole school dinners story (on which more tomorrow.

Life expectency

It would be clear, if someone were going round with a hammer smashing people's skulls in, that they were being murdered, having their lives foreshortened by the work of human hands.

When, though, people are having the span of life cut becauase of poverty, people don't start to consider this to be a breed of mass murder. It is the silent killer.

I'm not just talking about the fact that a person ins, say, the Gambia has a life expectency of about 55 years - a horrendous statistic in itself, though. Within the UK there are vast disproportions of longevity.

This PDF from the Office of National Statistics shows a division of life expectency witthin England & Wales by what they term class - which is actually by braod occupation type. Nonetheless, it shows that male unskilled labourers can expect to live on average to 71.1 yrs as compared with a professional who may expect 78.5 yrs. A difference of 7.4 years. the asstonishing thing, though, is that since 1972 that gap has grown. Although life expectency has risen overall, the gap has increased further. In 1972 unskilled manual labourers could expect to live to 66.5 yrs as compared with a professonal's 72.0 yrs.

Here is a nice chart of the same story.

This isn't all though, a swift look at regional disparities (with all the attendent distortions they bring taken into account, for instance that there are many many poor people in teh south, it's just there are also a lot of richer peopel down here than compared to the north) shows that there is a signbificant difference in life expectency within the UK alone.

Simple facts, but not ones that will come up in the Capitalist Party's campaign, nor will it be an election priority at all. It seems we are being hammered by capitalism.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Trying to make capitalism history

Here is the text of a letter sent by email to the South London Press on 21 March:

"Make Poverty History" writes Roger Elbourne of OXFAM (Letters, March 18). Yes, but I'm afraid it's going to take a lot more than charity shops and the sale of "fair trade" goods. Since the cause of world poverty is the capitalist system which puts profits before satisfying human needs, the only way to end poverty is to make capitalism history.
Danny Lambert, Socialist Party candidate for Vauxhall.

The aim was to draw attention to the fact (of which the South London Press has not yet informed its readers) that the Socialist Party is standing a candidate in Vauxhall, but the letter did not appear in Friday's (25 March) edition. So, people in Vauxhall (except those who've received one of the thousands of leaflets we have been distributing) still do not know this. Friday's edition did, however, contain a second letter from the Green Party candidate. So people have been informed two weeks running that they can vote for capitalism with a green face if they want to.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paid for not producing food

According to a news item in today's Times (and other papers):
"The scale of handouts from Brussels that line the pockets of some of the country's richest people, including the Queen and the Prince of Wales, was exposed for the first time yesterday.
The biggest landowners, including members of the Royal Family, a clutch of dukes, and agrifood companies, are able to pick up hefty amounts of cash under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Tate & Lyle topped the payments league with more than £127 million, while Farmcare Ltd, a subsidiary of the Co-operative Group, received the most in direct farm handouts. The company was paid a total of £2,601,757.
The Queen received £545,897 for farming interests on her Sandringham House and Windsor Castle estates, and the Prince of Wales received £134,938 for his Duchy of Cornwall estate and £90,527 for the Duchy Home Farm on his Highgrove estate.
The Duke of Westminster, ranked second in The Sunday Times Rich List, was also paid £448,472 for his 6,000-acre estate through Grosvenor Farms Ltd.
All the payments were made during the financial year 2003-04 -- the most recent for which figures are available. "
The figures are totals for all the subsidies paid to landowners and agribusinesses (Tate & Lyle, for instance, is paid "compensation" for having to sell sugar at a lower price on the world market), but those to landowners include payments under the notorious "set-aside" scheme under which, in a world where billions are starving, farmers are paid NOT to produce food.
If you want to claim money for not growing food, information, and forms, can be found on the site of the Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/schemes/aap_sa.htm
But be warned, you have to be what the ministry calls a "large farmer"; in fact the larger you are the more you'll get. Which is why the list of CAP subsidy scroungers contains so many dukes, earls and marquesses, whose antecedents were able, in one way or another (some came over with William the Conqueror, others were the offspring of Charles II's mistresses) to appropriate large tracts of land
This is flagrant evidence of what socialists have always said about capitalism: it puts profits before meeting human needs. The set-aside scheme aims to restrict production so as to maintain prices at a profitable level. There is no profit to be made out of producing food for people who can't afford to pay for it. So, production is limited, by "set-aside" and "land bank" schemes, to what can be sold at a profit. In other words, capitalism solves the problem of poverty amongst plenty, not by distributing the plenty to the poor but by taking measures to prevent the plenty being produced in the first place.
In a world geared to meeting human needs, such as socialism will be, food would be produced to feed people and would go on being produced it until every man, woman and child on the planet is properly fed. This is technically possible today but is prevented from happening by the profit system.

Sects appeal

Just been doing some more research about the local area on Wikipedia - I looked up Clapham - where our campaign office is (in the Party's Head Quarters on Clapham High Street - see if you can spot it...). I found an interesting link to the Clapham Sect - an 18th Century group of abolitionists, who resided in the area.

Now, in left-wing circles, a party such as ours is known as a sect - because we are small compared to say, the Labour Party, and because we privillige keeping our ideas and principles consistant over grabbing members at any cost. We prefer to be small with conscious socialist members rather than big with large numbers of confused but wantiong to be radical members.

Much like the Clapham Sect we are abolitionists. That is, we want to abolish wage slavery, the situation in which the vast majorityy are compelled under threat of poverty and immiseration to prostitute themselves for a wage or a salary.

Unlike the original Clapham sect, we aren't benevolent philanthropists wanting to lift the chains off others, we believe they can do so for themselves - once the agree to organise to take control of the wealth of the world and establish common ownership and democratic control.

Do you want to be an abolitionist?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Letter commentary

Well, it seems the Green candidate in Vauxhall can declare himself as such in the letters pages of the South London Press. I find his idea that they should put up a statue to CLR James in Brixton interesting. I know the connexion is obvious, James spent his final years there, but why should Greens - who deliberately and consciously support capitalism - want to errect a statue to someone whose avowed aim was to abolish it.

James was a Trinidadian Marxist, originally joining the ILP in the 1930's he became a Trotskyist - and quite a prominent one, too. He rose within the ranks of Trotskyism to be a confident of the Grand Old Man himself, dealing with 'The Negro Question' - in the 1940's he broke with Trotskyism over the issue of the continued existence of capitalism - albeit a state managed form - in the Soviet union. He further went on to reject his old allegiance to Romantic notions of revolution and vanguards, in favour workers' councils and conscious majoritariuan revolt.

While there are many things with which we would disagree with him - such as his support for national liberation movements, for Fidel Castro, etc.- on rejection of elite revolutionary leaderships at least we'd agree. In fact, we'd probably go as far as to suggest that rather than errect a statue to him, the best way to remember his contribution would be to abolish capitalism by our own hands, together. But then, that might be why pro-capitalists would prefer to errect a statue.

A lot of his work can be found here

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Arrangements

Well, now we've got a text for our leaflet we're spending some time trying to draw up a decent design. Fiddly business - there's always someone who will complain.

Anyway, we'll need to print about 54,000 leaflets to reach every home in the constitueency - I reckon less than 10% of them will veer get read, but at least we'd be reaching a few thousand people, and they'd be the ones actively paying attention to politics anyway.

Given that the sitting Labour MP won with only about 18,000 votes last time, we know there's a lot of people out there to tempt into the arena.

Anyway, next stage will be to get the leaflet approved by the Royal Mail - it has to be solely an election statement that passes guidelines on taste and decency. After that, get them printed and sent out.

I'll try and arrange a downloadable version to go on the party website once it's done.

I think it's looking good anyway.

Saturday

Members of the West London branch were out distributing leaflets at the Waterloo end of the constituency. Other members were leafleting the anti-war demonstration in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. On the way there two members carrying the party speaker's platform were accosted at a tube station where they had to change by an individual who gave them a leaflet headed "The Case for a Boycott of the Next General Election".
Obviously, we're not for a boycott of the election in Vauxhall, but what about in other constituencies, where there will be no socialist candidate standing?
Basically, there are four options:
1. Vote for one of the candidates as "the lesser evil".
2. Just stay at home and not bother to vote at all.
3. Go to vote but cast a blank or spolit vote.
4. Actively boycott the election.
Obviously, option 1 is out. As the early American Socialist Eugene Debs once pointed out, why vote for something you don't want just because you can't vote for what you do want. Besides, which party would be the famous lesser evil? And is the way capitalist profit system operates affected by which particular party forms the government? Do parties control capitalism or is it the other way round? [Answers: "No" and "It's the other way round".]
The case for option 4 was set out in the leaflet we were given, which seems to have been the work of an individual rather than a group, not that that makes it less valid. Anyway, here's the argument:
"What a boycott will do. It will throw into sharp relief what contempt the masses have for parliament! If the turnout falls below 50%, in theory, the electorate could then deem the election null and void. It would create a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class! It won't change things over-night but will create conditions for change".
Since only 59% voted in the last election in 2001, it would only takes another 9 or 10% of the electorate to abstain from voting and the leaflet's goal of reducing the turnout to under 50% would be achieved. But what would this mean? It would certainly create a mini-crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class (though this doesn't seem to be a problem in America), but would it show "what contempt the masses have for parliament" or "create conditions for change"?
There is no evidence that "the masses" (what a horrible term for our fellow workers!) do have a contempt for parliament. In fact, the leaflet itself quotes a worker complaining about there being no difference between Tory rule and New Labour rule by saying "we've been disenfranchised" and later denounces compulsory voting as an attack on people's "democratic right". Not voting certainly shows an element of contempt, but it's for the mainstream political parties which all end up behaving in the same way ("Labour, Tory, Same Old Story"). It's not a contempt for "parliament" or rather not for democracy and democratic decision-making. It's a protest at the lack of real choice at elections. People, rightly, value the vote and, if it disappeared, what alternative to winning political control to change society would there be other than violence (which people, again rightly, don't want)? Encouraging contempt for voting is the last thing those who want peaceful, democratic change should want to encourage.
Would a less than 50% turnout "create conditions for change"? That depends. If this was due to indifference or apathy the answer would be "no" and, in fact, there is no evidence that the 41% who abstained in 2001 were more opposed to the capitalist status quo than the 59% who voted. On the other hand, if the 51+% had abstained as a deliberate protest against the capitalist status quo, that would be a different situation. But if that was the degree of consciousness amongst people, would it not be better to have put up anti-capitalist candidates against the pro-capitalist Labour-Tory-Liberal Party? In fact, surely this would happen and there would then be a real choice -- capitalism or socialism -- at an election. But, unfortunately, we are nowhere near there yet.
So option 4 falls too. So, what about option 2 (not bothering to vote) and option 3 (casting a blank or spolit vote)? We favour going to the polling booth and writing "I want world socialism" across the ballot paper, ie casting a write-in vote for socialism. (But don't do this in Vauxhall since here you can vote for socialism). The leaflet is against this, saying "beware spoiling your ballot paper, and there will be many of those, will raise turnout". True, but a 54% turnout with 6% spoilt votes would have the same political impact, if that's what you want, as a 48% turnout.
Option 2 is the lazy option, but we can't be too critical of it as, to be honest, that's what some of our members do.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Election Address

It's finally been agreed:
The Socialist Party
is contesting this election as a part of our campaign to establish a new system of society:

One based on 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.

That is our sole object.

By common ownership we don’t mean that everyone should have to share a toothbrush, but that in a society built upon our mutual effort, we should all benefit and have a say in how it is run.

We currently live in a system of society based on a tiny number of people owning the productive wealth of our world, organised and run by a handful of bosses for their benefit. Their profits come first, our needs come second.

In Vauxhall nearly half of all workers are employed in administering business as compared with only a quarter in social services and looking after ourselves (derived from 2001 Census).

It seems we’re so busy taking care of business that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves.

Because of this we have endless problems of poverty, poor services and all the issues politicians love to spend time telling you they can solve, if only given the chance.

We don't believe any politician can solve these problems, as long as the flawed basis of our society remains intact. In fact, we believe only you and your fellow workers can solve these problems.

We believe that it will take a revolution in how we organise our lives, a fundamental change. We want to see a society based on the fact that you know how to run your lives, know your needs and have the skills and capacity to organise with your fellows to satisfy them.

You know yourselves and your lives better than a handful of bosses ever can.

With democratic control of production we can ensure that looking after our communities becomes a priority, rather than something we do in our spare time.

We all share fundamental needs, for food, clothing, housing and culture, and we have the capacity to ensure access to these for all, without exception.

If you agree with this aim, then we ask you to get in touch with us, get involved and join in our campaign to bring about this change in society. Together, we have the capacity to run our world for ourselves. We need to build a movement to effect that change, by organising deliberately to take control of the political offices which rule our lives, and bring them into our collective democratic control.

Our candidate makes no promises, offers no pat solutions, only to be the means by which you can remake society for the common good.

Dan Lambert
The Socialist Party Candidate

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The crumbs or the bakery?

Politics today is a game of Ins and Outs in which gangs of professional politicians compete with each other to attract votes, the gang securing a majority of seats in parliament assuming responsibility for running the political side of the profit system.
To win votes the politicians have to promise -- and be believed -- to improve things both for the population in general, as by managing the economy so as to avoid slumps and crises, and for particular groups within the population.
When the economy is expanding or even just ticking over the Ins have the advantage. They can claim that this is due to their wise statesmanship and prudent management. Such claims are false as the economy goes its own way -- expanding or contracting as the prospect of profits rises or falls -- irrespective of which gang of politicians is in office. But making such claims can backfire as, when the economy falters, the Outs can blame this on the incompetence and mismanagement on the Ins. But that's not true either since politicians don't control the way the economy works.
The Labour politicians who took over from the Tories as the Ins in 1997 have been lucky in this respect. In the past, Labour periods in office had happened to coincide with the downturn phase of the economic cycle, but the last election in 2001 and the coming election this year have happened to coincide with the economy ticking over. So, instead of having to live up to their previous reputation of being the party of austerity, they have been in the position of being able to offer a few crumbs to voters.
But throwing crumbs to the people (or to carefully targeted sections of the people whose votes could swing things) is not the main purpose of government. Marx once wrote that the government is "but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie". And it's still true. The function of any government is to manage the common affairs of the capitalist class as a whole. This involves a number of things. Sustaining a context in which profit-making can continue. Spending the money raised from taxes (that are ultimately a burden on the capitalist class) in a prudent way on things that will benefit the capitalist class as a whole, such as providing them with an educated, relatively healthy and so productive workforce. Maintaining -- and if need be using -- armed forces to protect sources of raw materials, trade routes, investment outlets and markets abroad. That's what most government spending goes on, and balancing this against income from taxes is what budgets are essentially about.
It is only because wage and salary workers, active or retired, have the vote that, occasionally if there's a small margin of money spare, a few crumbs are offered to some section or other of the electorate. No doubt, the pensioners, the home buyers and the families offered a few hundred extra pounds a year will accept these crumbs cast before them by Gordon Brown in yesterday's pre-election budget. Hopefully, they won't accept them as bribes to vote for his particular gang of politicians, but simply because it would be stupid not to pick them up.
Nowadays most people have learned by experience and are, rightly, just as cynical about the politicians and their promises -- and crumbs -- as are politicians about how they get people to vote for them. But cynicism is not enough. This should be turned into rejection. The game of Ins and Outs, to decide which gang of professional politicians should manage the common affairs of the capitalist class, only continues because most of us agree to take part in it. But by voting for them we in effect give them the power to keep the capitalist system going. And that, not which particular gang of politicians happens to be in office, is the cause of today’s problems since built-in to capitalism is putting making profits before satisfying people’s needs.
Socialists are only too well aware that most people put up with capitalism, and go along with its political game of Ins and Outs in the hope of getting a few crumbs out of it, because they see no practicable alternative. But there is an alternative, which is what we are trying to put over by standing a candidate in Vauxhall. Politics should be more than individuals deciding which politicians to trust to deliver some crumbs that they think will benefit them individually. It should be about collective action to change society. About taking over the whole bakery.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Local politics for local people...

I just thought I'd try and find out what the Capitalist Party in Vauxhall was saying about the campaign.

I tried looking at the Vauxhall Liberal Democrat Tendency's web site, but couldn't see anything about their candidate or the activity - too busy defending their coalition with Tories in the council. I had to visit their national site to discover that their candidate is Charles Anglin - Anglin' for a job maybe? Given the thumping Labourite majority, he's clearly on the suicide run until a better seat turns up. But, given that liberal democrats care you'd think he'd be more prominently campaigning already on the ishoos.

I tried Labour - they don't have a constituency specific site - but they do have the Lambeth Labour Fraction of the Capitalist Party, a website dedicated, it seems to attacking the the Tory/Lib-dem coalition in Lambeth. Strange how it's always the party in power that is wasteful and incompetent - couldn't be because there are no real issues of principles or policy to divide the warring careerists? I couldn't find a dedicated homepage for Kate Hoey The sitting Labour Fraction's MP, so that puff peice from the Lambeth site had to do. Her record as an MP wasn't hard to find - though it doesn't mention her continued support for capitalism.

The Tory Campaign Group at least have their candidates on their local front page - they at least look like their making an effort and mention the coming election. Looks like Edward Heckels (yes, I'm sure he does) - will be their candidate.

Of course, the reason why they are putting so little effort into campaigning, is because they have national campaigns and free access to national media to do their campaigning for them - to actively organise, get out and prosyletise for their parties is unnecessary. Though I'm sure a token effort will be made.

I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Movement for Justice threw their hat in the ring, and possibly the Green Party - plenty of choice - apparently - yet only the Socialist Party offers the choice of whether to continue with capitalism or not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Generals' strike

According to the BBC the First Division Association - the trade union of top ranking civil servants, is planning to join in with the big public sector pensions strike on 23rd March.

That's the same day that UNISON, T&G and Amicus Unions are all planning on holding strikes in local councils, and the PCS - for lower paid civil servants - will be joining in. The T&G carries some more of the story here.

That could see 1.5 million people going on strike in the run up to a general election.

Attacks on pensions are an attack on workers' rights and on our wages - by the back door. They are also a blow to the strength and prestige of Unions who help administer the pensions. It is a struggle that involves people as workers - and it goes to show our general case is right, that even people at the very heights of authority and power are members (albeit highly paid ones) of the workig class, with an interest in common with their fellow workers.

Over 40% of workers in Lambeth have a degree - and would thus be written off by themselves and the left as middle class, however, the grim reality is that is you depend upon selling your skills and abilities in order to get a living then you are a member of the working class,a nd have every interest in abolishing the wages system with us.

Monday, March 14, 2005

For the record.

Here is the letter the South London Press actually printed.

Someone has pointed me to this fine quote:
Private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information. It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights. Albert Einstein.

What corruption?

Further proof - as if any is needed - that we do not live in a democracy, but in a plutocracy - rule by wealth.

David Sainsbury - Lord Sainsbury as we are apparently compelled to call him, has given the Labour Party a pre-election gift of £2 million, according to the BBC. He must have found some loose change down the back of the sofa.

Obviously, this fabulous gift of money from a billionaire has nothing to do with him becoming a permenant fixture in the legislature of the House of Lords, or of becoming a government minister - in an area highly conducive to a Supermarket magnate's business interests, science and technology.

And, more obviously, this sort of gift for a party that delivers a vision of economic prosperity for supermarket billionaires, helps them win elections - which are an expensive business.

Government and power are bought and sold, that's the golden rule: them as have the gold rule.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Another Letter published

Bill's letter on housing was published in yersterday's South London Press, but simply as from "The Socialist Party", ie the "Election Agent" bit was cut out. So, the local press has still not informed people in the area that we're standing in Vauxhall.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Get yer votes out...

Well, today is the last day to get yourself on the electoral roll if you want to be registered in time to vote on May 5th (likely polling day).

Rolling registration meansthat turnout should be technically higher than previously, because the traditional registration in the autumn gave plenty of people a chance to move house or die, but still remain on the roll. We'll see.

Unlike other revolutionary groups - i.e. groups calling for a fundamental change in society - we encourage people to get out and vote, we do believe it has some effect (the candidate chosen by the majority will win, they will decide laws, etc.) even if the odds are stacked against outsiders (for now).

Fundamentally, we consider that voting is a way of co-ordinating between people. In some dictatorships, there may well be an effective majority capable of sweeping aside the esteblished order, but lacking the infamous 'spark' no one is prepared to go first and risk being caught on their own.

We have the same problem. Many many people say to us: "Socialism is a wonderful idea, but I don't think anyone else will go for it." Almost everyone says that. We need to send a clear signal that we are thousands strong, that we are not alone. Voters in Vauxhall have that chance, by voting for us if they agree with our ideas.

Elsewhere, where we are not standing, you still have the chance to make a write-in vote for socialism, by writing 'World Socialism' across the ballot paper.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Letter published in South London Press

Last Friday's (4 March) South London Press published the following letter from a member, edited and under their title of "Ken's been quangoed":

The incident between Ken Livingstone and an over-insistent journalist 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. Two Lambeth councillors have already fallen foul of the "ethical standards officers" (what next!) of the so-called Standards Board for England ("Two councillors are rocketed for 'misleading' election propaganda", South London Press, February 18). This was for printing "misleading" information on an election leaflet (don't they all do that?). If the board bans 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 principles of democracy and freedom of speech. That would, I believe, 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 still no mention that the Socialist Party will be standing a candidate in Vauxhall. Perhaps it'll be in tomorrow's edition. Meanwhile, the Gang of Three parties including the sitting (Labour) MP -- sitting on a horse at the Duke of Beaufort's hunt -- get twice-weekly local publicity.

Letter to the Authoritahs...


South Bank Board
South Bank Centre
Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road
LONDON SE1 8XX
2 March 2005

Dear Sir/Madam

On Saturday 19 February some members of our party were distributing leaflets outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This was in connection with the coming general election when our party is standing a candidate for the Vauxhall constituency into which this part of the South Bank falls. They were approached by two security guards and told that permission to do this was required.

As we find it difficult to believe that candidates in an election for Parliament require permission to campaign in a part of the constituency which they are contesting, we should be grateful if you would confirm whether or not the information our members were given was correct. In the event of it being so, we should be grateful if you would communicate the name of the person who apparently has the power to grant or refuse such permission so that we can contact them on the matter.

We should be grateful for an early reply as the next date we have fixed for leafleting in the area is Saturday 19 March.

Yours faithfully
Bill Martin (Election Agent for Danny Lambert, Prospective Socialist Party candidate for Vauxhall).

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bullet in the Head...

It was with almost incredulity that I heard that the IRA had offered to shoot the killers of Robert McCartney.

A moments reflection, though, suggested that it wasn't some monstrous joke, but simply the logical expression of what the IRA is. It is a state in waiting, exerting command over a community by threats of death and violence. It tries to project itself as the legitimate authority in Ireland.

Essentially, they are amatuers emulating the big boys. The politicians who furl their lips into a snarl and declaim the barbarity of the IRA's offer, are the same murderers who launched thousands of rockets in wars across the globe, which have killed more people with less discrimination than the weekend mass-murderers of the IRA ever could. They accept the principle that tens of thousands of deaths are an acceptable cost of their political goals.

Socialists have a long record of opposing the barabarity of the death penalty. We also have a long record of stating that the border divisions in Ireland - or anywhere else of Earth - did not justify the shedding of one drop of workers' blood.

Peace is not going to come from the barrel of a gun, but through common interest and a solid community based on a co-operative commonwealth and the free association of producers. Socialism must be worldwide or nothing and we need to start to build this real movement - the only way to stop the killers getting their way. With such a society, we can decomission all armies.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Another letter

This one to the South London Press...
Dear Friend,

It should be clear to any fair minded person that the debate about stock transfer in Clapham Park estate is a scandal. Not the question over whether the stock should be the property of Lambeth council or of a housing association, but the fact that there is a dispute at all over whether people should be decently housed; that renovations and repairs should be conditional upon the right financial chicanery.

Given that we have the wit, wealth and capacity to ensure that no-one need go without a proper roof over their head, it is a crime that people are homeless in the streets or living in run-down accommodation in our world. The problems with accommodation do not lie in council ownership or pure mismanagement, but in the fact that the condition of our having access to housing is a column of figures in the account books of them as own our world which must be satisfactorily arranged.

Whether council owned or housing association run, the capitalists and financiers must be satisfied before we can have access to the housing we need. So long as our society is owned by a tiny fraction of the population wealth and human life and talent will be squandered in pandering to their account books.

In the coming election, the Socialist Party will be contesting Vauxhall constituency to promote the campaign for the common ownership of society - so that everyone can have free access to food, clothes and housing - without exception and without having to go cap in hand to profiteers.


Incidentally, if you send anyone any letters in support of our campaign, do e-mail them to us and let us know.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Fairtrade?

Well, the Executive Committee didn't come to a definitive agreement about our election leaflet on Saturday - some doubts about the wording and the figures, so it is all still under discussion. I thus cannot bring you the text just yet.

I can, however, bring you a letter I sent to The Guardian this morning, in response to this letter.
Dear Friend,

in talking about minimum wage levels and working with employers Ian Bretman of the Fairtrade Foundation (letters 07/03/05) illustrates the futility of his own organisation.

How can trade based upon people being compelled to sell their ability to work or otherwise face poverty possibly be fair?

Their only answer is to ask other workers forced into similar prostitution of their skills to subsidise exploiters. That is, they stand for a redistribution of poverty.

We should be setting our sights higher - to the abolition of the wages system and exploitation, not trying to fix it.

Only through common ownership - not so-called Fairtrade - we will really be able to abolish poverty once and for all.

Bill Martin (Socialist Party)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Open Letter

A comrade in the North sends an open letter to the voters of Vauxhall...

An Open Letter to the Abstentionists of the Vauxhall Parliamentary Constituency from the Socialist Party

You are again faced with a bunch of politicians who can only be distinguishable by the colour of their rosettes, and you may already be of the opinion that there is little that separates the mainstream parties and have no intention of voting. Millions of people are not prepared to support any of them. Indeed, recent elctions have resulted in the lowest turnout since World War II and the trend is repeating itself across the globe. It is particularly to those members of the electorate who are not prepared to follow leaders, who think they are all tarred with the same brush, and unwilling to put their faith in the promises of Blair, Howard and Kennedy, that this article is dedicated.

Many of you will know little about The Socialist Party or our idea, unless you are a regular reader of our literature or visitor to our web site. Certainly many people have heard the word “socialist” and imagine it has something to do with the nationalised industries or with countries like China and the former Soviet Union. It is understandable that many people regard socialism as just another political cliché, once used by Labour politicians to win votes, but having very little meaning.

The Socialist Party stands solely for socialism because we do not think that the present social system – capitalism – can ever be made to work in the interests of the majority of the people. This is not the fault of government policies, but the present social system in which they are operating. Capitalism always puts the needs of a minority who own and control the factories, farms, offices, mines, media, the means of wealth production and distribution before the needs of ourselves, the working class.

It is a hard but undeniable fact that no political party – including The Socialist Party – can legislate to humanise capitalism or make it run in the interest of the working class. That is why it is important that the working class stops giving its support to politicians who support the profit system. None of them can solve unemployment or crime or any of the other social problems we face today, despite their proclaimed recipes for success. None of them will prevent tens of millions starving to death each year. None of them will provide decent housing for everyone. None of them will end the threat of human annihilation as a result of war, because militarism is inevitable within a system based upon the ferocious competition for resources, markets and trade. Why waste your time voting for parties that cannot make any of these urgently needed changes? Why go on in the hope that some miracle will happen and end the insanity of the profit system?

So what’s the alternative? We say that the resources of society must be taken into the hands of the whole community – and by that we do not mean the state, but all of us, organised together, consciously and democratically.

In a socialist society we will produce for use, not profit. This means producing food to feed the world’s population, not to dump in the sea if it cannot be sold profitably. Producing for use means ending the colossal waste of resources on armies, armaments, trade, banking and insurance and all the other social features which are only necessary within capitalism. By running society on the basis of common ownership, democratic control and production for use we can all have free access to all goods and services.

Two points should be clear to you by now. Firstly, this is no ordinary political argument. We have made you no false promises; we have not patronised you and neither do we beg for your support. Indeed we do not ask for your support unless you are convinced that the case for socialism is a rational one and in your interest.

Socialism, if it is to be the democratic and sane society that we envisage it will be, can only be established when a majority of the people understand it and want it, so there is no point in seeking support on any other basis.

Secondly, you will have noticed that what we are advocating is different – it has never existed. The Tory have-beens have nothing new to offer. The Labour Party, if re-elected, will continue its futile exercise of trying to run a system based upon exploitation in the interest of the exploited. The Liberals, if given half the chance, will pursue the vicious policy of dancing to the tune of profitability while human needs are ignored, with just as much gusto as Blair’s henchmen or Howard's confusionists.

This short pre-election statement can be summarised: Do you agree with the following statements.

1)Capitalism puts profits for the few before the needs of the many.
2)Labour governments, “Communist” states and proposals to reform the present system cannot establish socialism.
3)Socialism is yet to exist.
4)Socialism means a society of common ownership and democratic control, where production is solely for use.
5)Socialism means a world without buying or selling, where people give freely of their abilities and take according to their needs.
6)When a majority - including those who have previously abstained – understand and want socialism, the new system will be established.


If you think the above statements are correct then we thank you - if you are on the electoral roll for the Vauxhall constituency - to take the time to vote for us. If you disagree, please tell us why.

Campaign Update

OK, tomorrow our executive committee will be meeting. They will, hopefully, finalise our election statement which will be delivered to all the homes in Vauxhall Constuency during the election. As a democratic organisation, we have included in our rules a provision that our EC - directly elected by the membership as a whole - must approve election statements to ensure they conform to the party case agreed at conference by the whole membership of the party. You can see both conference resolutions and rules here. They should also agree our budget, but I need to arrange that.

That should mean hopefully on Sunday I could reveal the statement on this blog. It is the centre peice of our campaign and is, I hope, a concise statement of our case.

On Sunday the London Election Delegates Meeting will be gathering at our Head Office to continue co-ordinating the campaign. Three of our London Branches are involved in the campaign, so we need to make sure we can co-ordinate between them. More news when it comes.

Class War

The class war is the basis of socialist politics. The Hallmark.

The Labour Party has always shied from accusations of class warfare, aiming to speak for the whole community. Socialists contend, though, that where the community is divided by class it cannot be treated as a whole. Inevitably, government policies will benefit one side or another in the struggle between the tiny minority who own the wealth of society, and the vast majority who only own their ability to work.

When we talk of class warfare, we are not talking about rioting in the streets, attacking middle class people or anything of the sort, but the continual day to day struggle to secure access to the mneans of living for millions of people.

So far as we are concerned, there is no middle class, no separate privilleged mid-layer between the workers and the capitalists, only a vast army on different pay scales being exploited by the same bunch of owners.

Once we accept this, we cannot conscience co-operation with parties that advocate policies to the betterment of the ruling class. We are hostile to them - Labour, Liberals, Tories - and seek to frustrate their ends by building a socialist movement to abolish the system they prop up. Workers run society from top to bottom, it's time they ran it in their own interest...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

You are what you eat

It comes as no surprise to socialists when we are told that the food we eat can be poor in nutrition or as in the case of sudan 1, down right dangerous. The TV chef Jamie Oliver interviewed in the Sunday times 20/2/o5 on his crusade to improve the quality of school dinners, quoted a paediatrition he met with "What you don't understand Jamies that if the things I see on the inside were on the outside, it would be classed as child abuse"and on the effect this poor diet will have,"This is the first generation of kids who will die before their parents".
The relationship we have to the food we produce for ourselves can give us a clue as to the cause of the problem. In the 1960s and 70s I remember "radical" vegetarians arguing "You are what you eat" implying that if you eat beef, you are a cow, pork a pig. As a vegetarian I regard this as complete nonsense, but looked at another way it exposes a sordid truth.
OK so your hungry, you need some food, and as most of us don't grow our own it's of to the supermarket, there we can make our selection of food produced from all over the world, but, and here's the rub, before we can leave without a confrontation with the ever present rentacop, we have to observe the ceremony of the checkout, we have to pay! It doesn't matter how hungry we are if we can't pay we can't have, simple as that. The food we eat isn't primarily produced because we need to eat, it is produced for profit, it is commercially produced, so if we are what we eat, and this case we are, we must be commercially produced! Capitalism can be seen as the mass production of the working class,by the working class for the benefit of a tiny minority of parasites, it is the domestication of humans into a working class.
Socialists work for the time when ther are no classes just humans, and along with everything else food will be produced because it's needed, it will be free. So if we are what we eat, and the food we eat is free ????

Kites and Crows

Fortunately, if you're stuck for something to discuss, the Guardian can often come up with a choice morsel. David McKei today discusses the immense increase in choice at the ballot box:
Fifty years ago, the average number of names on a constituency ballot sheet was 2.2: artificially low because some MPs were still returned unopposed, but nevertheless reflecting a politics which essentially was Conservative v Labour. The Liberals stood in only 110 seats out of 630 in 1955. The nationalists in Wales fought 11 of 36 seats, the nationalists in Scotland just two out of 71.

Of the 76.7% of electors who seized on their chance to make a choice from these mingy ballot sheets, 49.7% backed the Conservatives, 46.4% Labour and a paltry 2.7% the Liberals, with other parties accounting for just 1.2% of the vote. Contrast that with 2001, an election in which only 59.4% voted. The number of candidates then was 3,319, with an average choice of five per constituency. That was below the figure for 1997, when a record 3,724 candidates stood (5.7 per constituency)
Yet such choice is largely illusory. Almost all of those parties start their politics from the premise of the capitalist system, of retaining production for sale on a market, rather than common ownership and democratic production for use. They are all factions of the Capitalist Party.

Yet Labour wants to frighten us with the Tory Bogey - to keep people backing them and so backing capitalism. When all along, Labour and Tories are very much "just a battle of the Kites and Crows." At the end of the day, all their polcies are about who gets the profits.

We are the only Party putting Common Ownership on the agenda - the Socialist Party.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Revolution number 19

Socialists stand for a social revolution - that is a fundamental change in the way our society operates - where a tiny minority own the means of production and the rest of us slave upon them. There was a time when, if you mentioned revolution, people immediately thought of guillotines from the French revolution, or firing squads and gullags from the Russian.

The modern world though, is changing that. Year on year we are being treated to popular uprisings and mass movements bringing down unpopular regimes. The former Portugal, Poland, Romania, East Germany, Serbia, Albania, Bolivia, Indonesia, Ukraine and now Lebanon. General strikes and streets full of demonstrators have been able to topple the mighty and powerful.

Of course, socialists are far from satisfied with these revolts - often instigated by splits within the ruling elite, or for nationalist causes - we want more. They are often hijacked by the professional politicians who take control and return to almost business as usual after the fireworks have died away. So long as they leave the fundamental aspect of ownership of the productive wealth in a tiny minority's hands, so the effects of these revolts will be a new elite.

But we take heart that they show that it can be done, that peaceful radical changes could be made. They are a part of the learning curve for all humankind, and we can look to the day when we take to the streets to secure democratic control over the means of production, to back up our democratic organisation, and we can do without elites entirely.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Profit is a dirty word

So, the HSBC bank made profits of nearly £10 billion in 2004, a record for any "British" bank (as, of course, a bank called the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation must be). A lot of people don't like banks and assume that they make profits by ripping off their customers. No doubt, like all businesses, they do go in for this to the extent that they can get away with it, but this is not the source of their profits. Profits represent wealth (a claim on useful things) and there is only one source of wealth: the application of human labour, mental and physical, to materials that originally came from Nature. Since banks produce nothing, where do their profits come from? Where did the HSBC's £10 billion come from? There is only one possible source: the work of those who actually produce wealth. These produce surplus value for their immediate employers, a part of which is passed on to banks and other non-producing businesses performing a useful role in the capitalist economy through the averaging of the rate of profit on equal amounts of capital invested. In other words, the surplus value extracted from the immediate wealth-producers is shared out, through competition, amongst the various sections of the capitalist class. That's the source of all profits, not just those of the banks. According to today's papers Tory leader Michael Howard is too complain in a speech today that "too often in our country profit is used as a dirty word". We'd say it is not used often enough in this way since it really is a dirty word, describing as it does the proceeds of the exploitation of the class of wage and salary workers.
Nobody made this point in the various phone-in programmes that commented on HSBC's record profits, not even those who criticised them. Some callers saw nothing wrong with the bank's profits, the patriots among them saying it was a good thing that a "British company" should make profits. The critics only criticised the profits as excessive. BBC Radio 2 phoned someone they called a "socialist". It turned out to be ex-Labour MP and leader of the Militant Tendency, Dave Nellist, whose Trotskyist group has been trying to usurp our name of "Socialist Party". He wasn't against profits either; he just wanted the bank to be nationalised so that its profits could be used "for the benefit of the people". In other words, private profits "obscene", State profits OK. Or, private capitalism bad, State capitalism good. Next time the BBC want the opinion of a socialist perhaps they'll contact somebody who really is a socialist. They'd have told them that in a society based on common ownership and democratic control with production solely for use there'd be no need for banks as there'd be no need for money. And of course no profits or exploitation either.