Capitalism and democracy
Last night, after leafletting the area behind Waterloo station, three of us went to see the new "documentary play" Counted?
put on in the council chamber of the old LCC/GLC. This couldn't be missed as it's in Vauxhall but also because it is largely based on research done by Stephen Coleman, professor of political communication at Leeds university, who used to be a speaker and writer for us.
The play takes the form of an actor playing Professor Coleman interviewing various different groups of people in Yorkshire about their attitude to voting. This requires some versality on the part of the six actors who have to change not just their clothes but their also their accents and age to perform the interviewees. It's well done and well worth seeing. It's on till 22 May. Sadly, there were only 35 people in the audience, perhaps because some who might have gone were at home watching the Three Stooges debate in what passes for "politics".
The professor opens by saying that his research starts from the premiss that democracy is a good idea but does it work. It doesn't seem to, when there are turn-outs of less, sometimes much less, than 50% in local elections, which are the only elections in which people could have some influence on what is done, such as the provision of community centres, sports facilities and other amenities or the positioning of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. So, why do people vote -- and not vote?
In the first scene the professor is trying to interview young mothers at a community centre, the day after an election, about why they hadn't voted. They are not interested. It's not something they do. He does manage to extract from them that they are interested in choices (his definition of politics, as opposed to what goes on at Westminster) and that they do make them on an individual basis and also that they do vote, by mobile phone in programmes such as Big Brother and the X-Factor.
The next scene is in a golf club. Everybody interviewed votes and they think it's a good thing, even a duty. Their local concern was to prevent the opening of a Tesco superstore. And they too had voted by telephone, for Strictly rather than Big Brother.
There are interviews with an Independent councillor and an Independent candidate who are concerned about purely local issues. The councillor explains what's involved in being a councillor, dealing with individual cases and pressing for amenities in his locality. That this is what most people see as the role of those they elect is re-inforced by the one interview that doesn't take place in Yorkshire, with MPs assistants in Westminster. They explain that most of the letters MPs get from constituents are about individual cases (and that not too much importance is attached to circular letters about Saving Whales, fox-hunting and the like. So, so much for petitioning by single-issue groups).
What's the conclusion, then? It seems to be that democracy might work at local level if people were consulted more about what they wanted for their locality and could be persuaded to participate by making it easier and more interesting to vote. Maybe, but this ignores the constraints that capitalism places on what people can get even with the most democratic of institutions and practices.
You can have the most democratic structure in the world and people can vote to have decent housing or whatever, but they won't get it as the economic laws of capitalism dictate that priority must be given to making profits and accumulating capital. In short, capitalism prevents democratic decisions to improve things from being implemented. And what local councils can spend on amenities depends on what they get from central government, which is never enough. What local councils can do, even with more popular participation, is limited by what is possible under capitalism.
Capitalism also prevents democracy working properly as under it some, those with more money, are more equal than others and so, as the case of Lord Cashcroft shows (there are many others), have more say and more influence. A real, properly-functioning democracy is only possible in a classless society where the means of production are owned in common by the whole community. Then there'd be no restrictions on the amenities that could be provided at local level. If, after discussion and debate, people voted that they wanted something they could go ahead and implement it.
The audience were invited to fill in a ballot paper asking such questions as "I tend to vote as my parents do", "I regard voting as my duty", "I know the names of my local candidates". We were tempted to write "WORLD SOCIALISM" across the ballot paper but didn't. Even so, one of us inadvertently spoilt his by putting an X for no and a tick for yes. How often has he voted?
Labels: Counted, Democracy, Politics, Voting
We're all in this together?
Only just found this blog post
but it does say something that's more important to this election than whether Gordon Brown is sorry or truly sorry:
In the 25 years from 1945, the share of the nation’s output going to wages held steady at close to 60% before rising to nearly 65% in 1975. Since that high point, the wage share has been in inexorable decline. Today it stands at a mere 53%. An even steeper fall has occurred in the United States, while continental Europe has experienced a shallower fall.
...wages have been falling behind productivity growth. Over the last three decades economic potential has been growing by 1.9% per year while real wages have been rising by only 1.6% a year. Since 2000 the gap has widened with real wages rising by around half the productivity gains.
There we have the class war red in tooth and claw, and there, the simple reason why we raise the banner of socialism. In the good times we were exploited, in the bad, we're exploited more.
Labels: Class war, Exploitation
Well, one of my Kentish Town opponents gets a bit of a leg up, by being given a guest posting on Alastair Campbell's blog
. Georgia Gould writes of the perfidy of the Lib-Dems in office in Camden, ever since they seized power last election in a coalition with the other Tory party. She makes a telling point: "At the moment the Liberal Democrats are providing a home for the collective frustrations of a country understandably disappointed in politics. However we can't let Nick Clegg get away with playing the role of outsider. The fact remains his party is in power across the country and time and time again his councils don't quite live up to Clegg's shiny rhetoric."
True enough. But we recall the turn around in Lambeth as well, when Labour retook the council last election. The similarities are striking, battles to save local baths, to refurbish council homes, to protect services, to freeze council tax (yes, the strategy of freezing council taxes Labour members oppose in Cmaden is proud policy in Lambeth).
The reality is that local representatives are actors playing their parts on a stage set by central government in a Capitalist Class Production. The Producers pay the piper and call the tune.
Labels: Kentish Town, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Local elections
Last Night in Kennington
Last night 7 of the 9 candidates in Vauxhall spoke at a hustings in St. Mark's Church, Kennington, chaired by the vicar. There were well over 150 people present.
Each candidate was given two minutes to say why people should vote for them and then another two minutes to talk about their "moral compass". Danny Lambert said he didn't want people to vote for him unless they wanted socialism. James Kapetanos, of the Animals party, said he wanted people to vote out Kate Hoey for being chair of the Countryside Alliance and supporting fox-hunting. The others blew their own trumpets. On the second question, the candidates of the 3 main parties (two of them Protestants from the north of Ireland) said their moral compass was christianity. Joseph Healey, the Green candidate, said he was not religious but still "spiritual". Danny said he preferred to have a sextant or a sat-nav than a compass. The Animals candidate said he wanted people to vote out Kate Hoey for being chair of the Countryside Alliance and supporting fox-hunting.
The candidates were then given one minute to answer questions put by members of the audience.
A crusty waving a Class War poster denouncing Blair and Bush as "war criminals" and "wankers" asked the candidates whether they thought that Blair and Jack Straw should be tried as war criminals. The Rev chair changed this to "what did the candidates think of the Iraq War?" The crusty was not pleased and had to be escorted out of the church by the sidesmen. All the candidates said they were opposed to the war, including the Tory who said it was a mistake based on wrong information (omitting to say that most Tory MPs voted for the war). Jeremy Drinkall said there should have been a General Strike to stop it.
In answer to a question on "gay rights" (now called "LGBT") two of the candidates said that they were gay -- as if anyone cared, or should care. All the candidates were against discrimination on grounds of sexuality. It might have been different if the candidate from the nasty Christian Party had been present. Also missing was the English Democrat, Jose Navarro.
The other questions were on local, very local issues. The answers of Jeremy Drinkall and Joseph Healey were so similar that, at one point, the vicar got confused and called on a "Jeremy Healey" to answer a question.
Somebody asked if the candidates thought that capitalism could be run in the interests of the majority. Another blogger has suggested this question was a plant (we can't think who by). The candidates of the three main parties all said that capitalism was the only game in town and that what we should do was try to make it fairer, either through the tax system or (Kate Hoey) through this and trade union action. The Animals party candidate forgot Kate Hoey for a moment and wondered whether we were still living in a capitalist society. The Green candidate said that his Leader, Caroline Lucas, had recently said that the Green Party was "anti-capitalist". He himself was an "eco-socialist" who thought that capitalism couldn't continue. Jeremy Drinkall said "no, capitalism can never been made to work in the interests of the working class" and then went on to advocate the nationalisation of all banks and their amalgamation into a single State Bank. Danny Lambert, too, answered no but went on to advocate socialism where there'd be no banks and no money but the application of the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".
At least two others bloggers have commented on this hustings. One
was OK. The other
, who doesn't seem to know -- or care -- much about what happens outside London SW8, refers to us as the "Socialist Workers Party" (and even provides a link to their website instead of ours), despite having been corrected on this point (see first comment here
). He also has Danny speaking of a "socialist code of the morality of the market" whereas what he said was that "capitalism's code of morality was the market". He really should leave SW8 more often, perhaps venture as far as SW4
to inform himself more about who we are and what we stand for.
After the meeting, in the Hanover Arms opposite Danny was approached by a female vicar who said that he was a great orator and that if ever he had a conversion there'd be a place for him in the church. Danny took this as a compliment. The rest of us were not so sure.
Labels: Animal rights, Green Party, Hustings, Iraq War, Kate Hoey, Workers Power
Stop the War hustings: the aftermath
The Stop the War Coalition has asked candidates everywhere to answer certain questions. The answers of our candidate in Vauxhall, together with those of some of the other candidates, can be found here
. Just type in SW4 7UN.
Following the hustings in Brixton on 19 April, Simon Hardy, a prominent member of the Trotskyist "Workers Power" group, sent in the following comment to another blog
Just on the WP candidate in Vauxhall. I think it is wrong to see it simply as two socialists standing against each other - the crucial difference is between a socialist organisation, no matter your criticisms, which can connect the election to the war, the financial crisis, the bank bail outs, the problem of housing and the case for a new party, and a candidate who simply talks about socialism.
The difference was clearly shown in a Lambeth Stop the War hustings earlier this week where Jeremy Drinkall made plenty of points about the current political struggles and campaigns happening and what kind of policies a working class candidate needed to fight for. The SPGB candidate just kept saying "the problem is capitalism, we need socialism". At one point all the candidate were asked to support a solidarity campaign for a man imprisoned in Guantanemo Bay, the SPGB candidate just replied that there was no point with such campaigns as long as there is capitalism.
Say what you will but the choice is between a utopian soap box socialist who was happy to spend 3 minutes of his speaking time reading out Socialist Standard from 1914 and a candidate with policies and a campaigning profile in the constituency.
He was seconded by a one of his less polite colleagues, who didn't give his name:
I was at the Vauxhall Stop the War Hustings. To be honest Drinkall of the Anticapitalists which is Workers Power won hands down. The candidates were asked about palestine and the SPGB guy said the Palestinians should give up. What a wanchor.
To which Danny Lambert replied:
You see what you want to see and you hear what you want hear. The reason I read out The Socialist Party's 1914 EC statement on "The war to end all war", was to take the opportunity to put the Socialist case against all war, What's unreported on this blog is that at the end of the statement I said "Same reasons for carnge , different century".
As for the Guantanamo prisoner, I have every sympathy with him, it's an outrage, but while we run around like blue arsed flies campaigning for the release of this one and that one of capitalism's victims, hundreds of thousands like them are and will be imprisoned and brutalised. If you have a problem be forensic go to the root. that is if you are serious about finding a solution, it's what the SPGB has always held.
A for the question of Palestine, I don't know about you but I recoil in horror when I see children, women,men mutilated by high explosive no matter what side they are supposed to be on.
What are the Palestinians fighting for? I've heard it's for their own state, well if that's the case they have no idea what they're fighting for, someone should tell them what all states are. The state is the monopoly of violence the public power of coercion and is is only necessary in a class divided society. If they do succeed they'll have fought and died just to be exploited, coerced and oppressed by a Palestinian ruling class rather than an Israeli ruling class.
Our advice is to campaign peacefully, if they do the will have an infinitely more powerful weapon than a home made rocket or a thrown stone at their disposal, they will have the power of international public opinion with them, a power they forfeit when they turn to violence.
Meanwhile Jeremy Drinkall has put up a video clip
of him defending "Iran's right to nuclear weapons", i.e. of the rulers there to waste resources on developing weapons of mass destruction, and also a call to vote for Labour candidates
in all but 40 constituencies, i.e. for the two other Labour candidates standing in the Lambeth constituencies, including Tessa Jowell who notoriously voted for the war (ironically, the Labour candidate in Vauxhall, did to her credit vote against). In other words, he is openly calling for the re-election of the current, discredited and pro-war Labour government.
Labels: Iran, Labour Party, Palestine, Stop the War, Tessa Jowell, Workers Power
Well, I've not been entirely idle. Personal commitments plus a rotten chest cold have kept me off the campaign trail - I managed to go out leafletting last Wednesday, but that merely produced a relapse of lurgi.
I did, though, manage to leaflet a council block that managed to combine the extremes of ugliness with a splandid view over towards Highgate. Yes, from the window of a council house you can see two million (upwards) pound houses on a leafy hill: from an estate with dingy corridors and in which the walkways have no redeeming decoration.
I'll have to get me finger out to make up for lost time.
More news soon.
Labels: Kentish Town, Local elections
Yesterday we were campaigning in the south of the constituency.
Our candidate, Danny Lambert, went to an event in Windrush Square, Brixton, organised by Power2010
where he met the WRP candidate
for Streatham who called him a "bourgeois democrat" saying that the way forward was a general strike (so why, you ask, was he standing for parliament) and the UKIP candidate for somewhere who called him a "Stalinist". On the whole not very fruitful, though we did give away some leaflets and maybe something will appear on the Power2010 site.
As last Saturday, there was a stall outside our premises in Clapham High Street. We saw, and heard, a car with a loudspeaker proclaiming "Vote Anti-Capitalist. For the millions, not the millionaires" driving past. We imagine that when they reached the top of the street and entered the Streatham constituency they changed their tune to "Vote Labour, one of the parties representing the millionaires". Quite a few passers-by told us they'd already had our leaflet, which would have been true and not just a polite way of saying "no" since the post office had been delivering them in the last few days (so some people do look at the election leaflets that drop through their letter-box). A passing cyclist from a local internet radio station stopped off to deliver an invitation for Danny to be interviewed (more details later).
Outside Stockwell tube station, we had rivals from the Testimonial Ministries Worldwide handing out leaflets warning of the "ravages of sin". We noticed an individual on a mobile phone with a "Vote Labour" sticker on it. Naturally we offered him a leaflet. He turned out to be Pete Robbins, one of the outgoing Labour councillors for Larkhall ward. He was friendly enough, thanking us for not contesting Clapham Town ward in the local elections (as we did last time) because it was going to be a close fight between them and the Tories there. We explained that this was not a consideration in our decision to contest Larkhall and Ferndale this time instead. Someone else told us they had once been a candidate for the "Socialist Alliance" in the area (it's true, this party did contest the local elections in Lambeth in 2002 local elections, their candidate in Larkhall getting 127 votes). We also met three canvassers for the candidate of the League for a Fifth International. They seemed lost but eventually headed for the nearby Stockwell Gardens Estate. Hope they have better luck than us in getting access to some of the blocks.
Next Saturday we'll hit the north of the constituency which includes the Oval cricket ground, St Thomas's Hospital, the Southbank Centre, Waterloo Station and Lambeth Palace. Some of us will be coming from the North after covering the trade union Mayday rally in Trafalgar Square (next Saturday is 1 May). Proceeding in a southerly direction from there down Whitehall we'll cross Westminister Bridge and enter the constituency that way. You can actually see the Houses of Parliament from Vauxhall constituency. Hadn't realised we were that near to "the seat of power". Or is that the observation of a "bourgeois democrat"?
Labels: Power2010, Socialist Alliance, Stockwell, UKIP, WRP
Activity tomorrow Saturday
Our official "election communication
" was delivered to the post office on Tuesday and has already been distributed by them in some areas. The trouble is that they only needed 56,000 while the printers had done 58,000 (with no extra charge for us). So we've an extra 2000 to distribute ourselves. The plan is to do this at stalls on Saturdays and at tube stations (Clapham North, Clapham Common, Stockwell, Brixton, Oval, Vauxhall and Kennington) during the rush hour in the evening and even the morning.
Distribution starts tomorrow. Meet at Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, SW4 from 11am to run a stall there and another somewhere else in the constituency (probably outside Stockwell tube station).
The Socialist candidate has also received an invitation to various events in the constituency on Saturday, two in Brixton and one in Stockwell. Details when you get to Head Office.
It's a nine-horse race
There have been some surprise last-minute nominations and there will now be 9 not the expected 6 candidates in Vauxhall. Here's the line-up (in the order they'll appear on the ballot paper):
Glyn Chambers (Con)
Jeremy Drinkall (Workers Power)
Joseph Healey (Green)
Catherine Hoey (Labour)
James Kapetanos (Animal Protection Party)
Daniel Lambert (Socialist)
Larna Martin (Christian Party)
Jose Navarro (English Democrats)
Caroline Pidgeon (LibDem)
In fact more or less the same as in the Lambeth & Southwark constituency for the Greater London Assembly in May 2008.
A local blogger describes the candidates' form here
An appreciation from Germany
We have received an election statement from the Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society of Greater London. Yes, but read on. This is the name of the London section of a German political group and their statement can be found here
on the site of this group (it's the article beginning with quote from Douglas Adams).
It is a bit of an essay on political philosophy but it makes some good points about the role of state, government and elections under capitalism. For instance, on the populist demands to "Make the Rich Pay" put forward by left-of-Labour groups and others, they make the point that this assumes the continuation of the rich, who are to be allowed to continue exploiting us but whose profits will then be taxed to pay for social reforms:
Even fringe left-wing parties like Respect bow to the dictates of 'realism' and respect private property through their demands of "taxation on the big corporations and the wealthy to fund public services" – a demand which requires big corporations to make the kind of profits which can then be taxed.
They have singled out Respect but it applies equally to the Trotskyists of TUSC in this election and, of course, to our own independent Trotskyist opponent here in Vauxhall who says:
The Government gave £1 trillion to the banks. We want it back! Anticapitalists say take over the banks, who are making giant profits again, and raise taxes on the rich. Spend the money on a massive programme of public works -- creating three million jobs, a million new affordable homes and a national repair and improve programme for council flats and houses.
We think the Wine and Cheese society might be over-estimating the extent to which these leftist groups (or anyone else, for that matter) really believe this to be possible. It's probably more of a cynical ploy to try to win a following. Still, there's a need to analyse what they say as if they really meant it. In this vein the Appreciation Society go on:
Left-wing parties for instance claim that mass poverty was unnecessary and within capitalism the problem could be solved quickly once they were in power and could tax the rich appropriately. Thus poverty was not a necessity of the mode of production which the state fosters for its own sake. Instead poverty was an unnecessary result of the wrong people in management.
Good point. Hence their general conclusion about all political parties that "the common feature of all these political parties is their affirmation of the basic principles of the capitalist economy". However, in a footnote, we are exempted from this:
The Socialist Party of Great Britian is a notable exception to this rule. The SPGB "claims that there can be no state in a socialist society" and "that socialism will, and must, be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common (not state) ownership". The SPGB "seeks election to facilitate the elimination of capitalism by the vast majority of socialists, not to govern capitalism." (http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/differences.html) Leaving aside for the moment of whether this is a good strategy or not, it is clear from their party programme that the SPGB does not affirm the basic principles of the capitalist economy.
It's nice to be appreciated.
Labels: Respect, Trotskyists, Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society
The Ayatollahs' bomb
Yesterday was a busy day.
First, at 11.00 hrs we handed in the nomination papers (and the £500 deposit, in cash) at the Town Hall. Everything was in order.
Then, at 14.30 our candidate spoke at a hustings in the same Town Hall organised by the Lambeth Pensioners Action Group. After speeches by three men in suits but with different coloured ties representing the "main parties" and a contribution full of technical detail by the Green candidate, Danny's, in which he said that the professional politicians on the panel were either fools or knaves for promising to run capitalism in the interests of the working class, was the only one to get a round of applause. The Liberal (Chris Nicholson standing in Streatham) smiled at being called a fool or a knave. The Tory (Rahoul Bhansani also in Streatham) took umbrage. The audience of about 40 or so gave the Labour candidate for Streatham (Chukka Umunna) a hard time, ending up with him heckling them. The pensioners of Lambeth seem a clued-up and bolshie lot.
At 19.30, the Stop the War hustings, in the Brix, St. Matthews Church, opposite the Town Hall started, with Joe Healey (Greens), Chris Nicholson (Liberal, still wearing his suit and tie), Jeremy Drinkall (Workers Power/League for a Fifth International) and Danny Lambert. There were 50 or so in the audience. The Green and Liberal candidates, believing that "politics is the art of the possible", outlined various practical steps that in their view could be taken to lessen tensions by pursuing an ethical foreign policy. Drinkall, supported by a claque of student supporters, played the demagogue calling for the "immediate" this and the "immediate that" (including the immediate dissolution of the state of Israel). But the highlight of his contribution was his defence of the right of the Iranian regime to develop its own nuclear weapons.
Danny read from our 1914 anti-war manifesto
and commented "same carnage, different century", pointing out that all the attempts since then to stop wars had failed because they'd left the root cause unchanged. Wars, he said, were caused by conflicts between capitalist interests over markets, sources of raw materials, trade routes, investment outlets and strategic points to protect or acquire these, so the only way to end wars and preparations for war was to get rid of capitalism. This only provoked Drinkall, in a bid to differentiate himself from us, into launching an attack on "the Socialist Party" for not supporting reforms. Danny had to explain that what we were opposed to was not reforms as such, but to the policy of reformism, of pursuing reforms, like he was doing.
After the meeting those leaving were handed a 6-page leaflet by two members of "the International Bolshevik Tendency" denouncing Workers Power as "fake Trotskyists" and reformists for departing from Trotsky's "transitional programme" and for supporting the re-election of the Labour government. Which all goes to show that there are nuttier Trotskyists than those who want to set up a Fifth International. Their paper called -- wait for it -- 1917
proclaimed "Spoil Your Ballot!"
The Green candidate was interviewed
about the meeting by a local blogger who more than once refers to us as the "SWP". The blogger is a localist who thinks that national and world issues should not be discussed at a local election. Healey put him right on this, well explaining the impact world events had on the amount of money local councils were given to spend (and that as a result of the present capitalist crisis things were only going to get worse). In fact what we have always said too and why we make no apology for raising the issue of world capitalism or world socialism in the local elections.
Labels: Class war, International Bolshevik Tendency, Iran, Joseph Healey, Stop the War, Workers Power
The Big Issue
Bought a copy of The Big Issue
outside Sainsbury's in Clapham High Street and found that it contained an article by David Harvey (in fact an extract from his new book The Enigma of Capital
) which says some things we have long said:
Can capitalism survive the present trauma? Yes, of course. But at what cost? This question masks another. Can the capitalist class reproduce its power in the face of the raft of economic, social, political and geopolitical and environmental difficulties? Again, the answer is a resounding 'Yes it can'.
This will, however, require the mass of the people to give generously of the fruits of their labour to those in power, to surrender many of their rights and their hard-won asset values (in everything from housing to pension rights) and to suffer environmental degradations galore, to say nothing of serial reductions in their living standards which will mean starvation for many of those already struggling to survive at rock bottom.
Capitalism will never fall on its own. It will have to be pushed. The accumulation of capital will never cease. It will have to be stopped. The capitalist class will never willingly surrender its power. It will have to be dispossessed.
That's why we're contesting this election -- to urge people to organise politically to dispossess the capitalist class and establish a world society of common ownership, democratic control and production solely not profit.
It's not too late to buy this week's Big Issue
. But, remember, the real big issue is whether capitalism should be allowed to continue or whether it should be replaced by socialism (not which political non-entity would make the best managing director of UKCapitalism plc).
Labels: Capitalism, David Harvey, The Big Issue.
Down Memory Lane: Clapham Manor Baths
On our way to the Manor Arms pub after distributing leaflets three of us noticed that Clapham Baths in Clapham Manor Street had been demolished and was now a mound of rubble. The place has a history. During the General Election in February 1950 it was the venue of a debate between the Socialist Party, represented by Harry Young, and a Mrs Curtis, who was the Liberal candidate for Clapham. Here's a part of the Socialist speaker's opening speech:
The chief characteristic of Capitalism is private ownership of the means of wealth production: Socialism implies common ownership. Therefore there can no penalisation of or discrimination against any person or groups of persons under Socialism. Today we have a class society—a community divided into groups, economically speaking. This division has nothing to do with biological characteristics. It is largely an accident of birth that makes one a capitalist. What determines his place in society is his economic position; and everything follows from that. Our habits, manners, speech, customs, ethics, all follow from this is division. According to a recent statement by Mr. Hall, the Secretary of the Treasury, "of the 550,000 people who die each year only 10% own more than £2,000, but these 10% between them own 90% of the total property."
It means that 10% of the people own 90% of the wealth, of this 10% many own vastly more than £2,000, some own £2 million. Therefore Class society means grinding inescapable poverty for the working class. People can be in a state of poverty without going short a meal or clothes. Therefore my second point is that we live in a class society and cannot escape from poverty.
The worker has only his ability to work to sell — the power of his muscle, sinews and brain. He therefore goes to work for wages, and receives only enough reproduce his labour power. The amount the worker receives is determined by what is required to reproduce his labour power, the surplus beyond which goes to the owner. It follows from this that the political interest of the working class is to overthrow the system which robs them. Everything else is idle nonsense, making no ultimate difference to their class position in society. This, therefore, is the reason we oppose all other political parties. They all stand for the same viewpoint—the Conservatives, Liberals, Labour Party and Communists—for a series of measures which they claim will eass the collar of poverty where it rubs too hard.
This system of society which we propose is entirely different from what we know today. After taking over the means of production the characteristics of Capitalism will disappear. Exchange will cease, for Socialism will replace sale by free distribution. Socialism will put into practice "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Labour Exchanges, Stock Exchanges, Banks, Insurance offices will all disappear. Force will cease. There will be no question of what to do with the man who won't work; most people want to work; most would be only too glad to do a sensible job of work. Socialism will succeed by the enthusiasm and determination of the socialists who have brought it into being to make it successful.
We stand for a system which will be world-wide, democratic, and based on a community of interest of the individual and society.
Neither capitalism nor the case for socialism have changed since then (except that the price level has risen and we wouldn't now refer to the worker as "he" and "his"). Even what the socialist speaker said in his concluding remarks also has a modern ring:
It is our contention that there is no great difference between the other parties. I quote from a news report the statement of Lord Samuel at the Liberal pre-election Conference that, if they polled sufficient votes "they might be called upon to undertake Ministerial responsibility." "We must accept this challenge" he said. When occasion demands the minor sham differences are sunk and they unite as supporters of the capitalist system.
For those interested in such things, the result of the election was: Gibson (Labour) 23,300; Lowndes (Tory) 22,094; Curtis (Liberal) 3,071(6.26%); Draper (Communist Party) 619 (1.26%). The turnout was 80.64%. Those were the days.
Labels: Clapham Baths, Liberals
This Saturday : our election meeting
CAN POLITICIANS SAVE THE PLANET?
Frank Simpkins covers the inability of politicians to solve any of the serious issues we face due to the constraints of capitalism. Are politicians able to change the economy, or does the economy change politicians?
Vincent Otter talks about the profit system's inevitable cycle of boom and bust and the 'credit crunch's' most recent demonstration of the crisis of capital. How does this affect politician's attempts to save our environment?
Glenn Morris considers the causes and consequences of global warming. Are politicians powerless in the face on impending catastrophe?
Danny Lambert describes the monstrous inefficiency of capitalism and investigates how we are conditioned to accept a false identity that makes us willing wage slaves who think we deserve no better.
Saturday 17 April, 6.00pm
The Socialist Party
52 Clapham High Street
All Welcome. Free entry. Discussion. Refreshments.
PS. Don't forget to watch the Three Stooges perform on TV this evening, otherwise you'll have nothing to talk about at work or in the pub tomorrow.
Somebody has seen our leaflet and by the look of it
got it through their letter box. Of course we know it's Larkhall but, agreed, it does look bad that we missed that typo. But we do mention local matters. As you can see even from the crumpled version, we say:
What happens in any local council depends mainly on what happens in the country and even the world.
Our point is that most of the money local authorities have to spent comes from the central government (and has to be spent on what they say). But the amount the central government has to allocate depends on the state of the capitalist economy and that they can't overtax profits. So councils end up as little more than local offices of government ministries, implementing unpopular and anti-social measures. And of course it's going to get worse with all three main parties promising cuts worse than under Thatcher. Which is why it is quite in order to raise the issue of world socialism at a local election.
Labels: Larkhall, local councils, world socialism
A HUSTING WE WILL GO
We have been invited to attend a hustings meeting on the 19th April , 7:30 at The Brix, St Mathew's Church organised by Lambeth Stop the War Coalition.
Confirmed speakers for the event are:
Rahoul Bansali - Conservative candidate Streatham
Jeremy Drinkall- Anti Capitalist (Workers Power) candidate Vauxhall
Joseph Healy- Green candidate Vauxhall
Chris Nicholson- Liberal Democrate candidate Streatham
Dan Lambert (yours truly) The Socialist Party Vauxhall
The Labour candiates: Kate Hoey, Chuka Umunna, Tessa Jowell have said they are unable to attend.
We have been asked to keep to the theme of British defence policy. That'll do because British defence policy is dedicated to maintaining and developing British capitalism, in a word profit, profit for a tiny parasitic minority.
Labels: Stop the War
Runners and riders
Camden have finally published the list of accepted nominations
for the borough, including Kentish Town - you'll see I'm there now alongside thirteen other candidates - including one from the BNP.
So, I'll just take this opportunity to rehearse our argument against teh BNP.
I'm glad their standing, because it'll be an opportunity for them to expose their idiocy, and for them to be outvoted. As far as we're concerned, however, they are simply another capitalist party - albeit one that elevates stupidity to a point of principle.
The idea that there is some authentic "British" group that have an ancient right to a patch of land (one which only really had its borders settled in 1921, and then they're disputed a touch) is bogus. Our nature as human beings cries out more to us that any tie of nation - or do the BNP really stop and think about a person's nationality before going to help them if they see them collapse in the street?
The BNP are wire happy - they see the bars on the cage that stop us from going where we like with who we like and want to make them into the prettiest bars imaginable. They want BRITISH capitalism, which really isn't so different from any other variety.
Yes, their leaders inspire and prey upon inter-communal violence and persecution, seeing that as a quick way to win followers and gain political power, but they have been pressured by the logic of democracy to mute that game and play by the rules of the ballot box, and if they grew that pressure would grow to simply make them into the stupid wing of the conservative party writ large.
The best way to oppose them is to be for something, we're for socialism, and as the movement for socialism grows so their ideas will be marginalised further.
Labels: British National Party, Kentish Town, Local elections
Yesterday we had our first stall of the campaign outside our premises in Clapham High Street. There'll be one there every Saturday between now and the election and maybe in other places too (Stockwell, Brixton, the Southbank). Lambeth Stop the War group
had a stall further up the road, outside Sainsburys. We visited them to make sure we get an invitation to the hustings meeting they are organising a week on Monday in Brixton:
Lambeth Stop the War Election Hustings
A chance for you to ask candidates questions about Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Palestine and the War on Terror generally
Monday 19th April
7:30pm - 9pm
The Brix, St Matthews Church, Brixton Hill, SW2 1JF
Meanwhile other comrades covered the trade union demonstration about defending the welfare state that was going on in Traflgar Square at the same time.
Labels: Stop the War, Trade Unions
The party of the Rich
On our way to leaflet the Springfield estate (where one of us got bitten by a dog) we noticed that the Tories had been leafletting Clapham Town ward. Their leaflet contained a photo of one of their candidates squatting and pointing to a pothole which somebody should sent to glum councillors
. Also amusing to see that it contained a version of the Liberals' it's-a-two-horse-race bar chart but with the Liberals trailing in third place.
We also found evidence that the Tories had been leafletting Clapham North tube station on behalf of their parliamentary candidate in Vauxhall, a young whizz-kid. He doesn't stand a chance but it's obligatory for would-be professional politicians to first contest a no-hope seat on behalf of their party in the hope of being given a better chance next time. According to his leaflet:
A Conservative Government will build economic recovery on investment and exports, not consumer borrowing and government debt.
As if governments can control the way capitalism works rather than having to react to what capitalism throws at them. Another empty promise not worth the paper it was printed on that deserved to end up where we found it: in the gutter.
Meanwhile the Tories' shadow chancellor Boy George has been sending personal letters to individuals in marginal constituencies in which he promises to "protect those on modest incomes", including by re-linking the state pension to inceases in average earnings (rather than consumer prices as now which has been rising more slowly). We'll see. Breaking this link was one of the cuts made by Thatcher in 1980 . . . and all three main parties are promising that the cuts they will introduce if elected will be worse than under Thatcher. Or maybe they are anticipating that prices will start rising more than earnings.
The Tories are only professing concern for those on modest incomes because they can't win unless they can gain votes outside their natural constituency of the rich. And they are, and always have been, the party of the rich. As comes through from time to time, as when Cameron calls on BA workers to cross picket lines and with employers currently lining up to support his (and their) party's promise to reduce a modest Labour tax that will hit their profits.
Not only are they the party of the rich. They are rich themselves. As Cameron re-assured
a "gathering of top financiers" last December:
"My father was a stockbroker, my grandfather was a stockbroker, my great-grandfather was a stockbroker".
And he's married to an aristocrat. And of course he, like many in his shadow cabinet, is an Old Etonian. What the "new", "modern" Tory Party stands for is not simply government by politicians for the rich but government for the rich by the rich.
Any person on a "modest income", i.e most people, who even thinks of voting Tory is a mug.
Labels: David Cameron, George Osborne, Glum councillors, Tories
What about a society with neither rich nor poor?
On Sunday we received an email from the Fairer Tax Campaign
The Fairer Tax Campaign is a not-for-profit and non-partisan project that is in favour of national income tax reform.
We believe that Britain needs to become collectively fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to grow for decades, which has only served to create a divided society. This is unacceptable for a developed country with one of the largest economies in the world. More needs to be done to tackle the aforementioned disparity. Fairer income tax is part of the solution.
We propose that that the tax free personal allowance threshold be raised to £10,000 for anyone earning less than £18,000 a year. This will be subsidised by reducing the threshold for the 50% tax rate from £150,000 to £100,000. It will ensure that the rich pay more and the poor pay less.
Question 1: Do you agree in principle with the aforementioned policy?
Question 2: In a generic sense, do you believe that the rich should pay more tax and the poor should pay less tax?
Question 3: If you are elected as an MP, do you pledge to campaign for income tax reform at the next parliament?
We look forward to receiving your response.
The Socialist Party is standing on a platform of socialism (common ownership, democratic control, production for use not profit, and distribution according to need not money) and nothing but. We are not advocating reform of capitalism. Your reform (trying to permanently redistribute income from the rich to the poor) has been tried many times and has always failed because it is undermined by the way the capitalist system works and has to work, as is explained in this article. It would be more effective to work for a society in which there will be neither rich nor poor.
As our reply was not published along with others on their website we asked why and received the following reply:
We can confirm that we did receive your email. However, as you can tell by our blog, we only upload answers of those politicians who broadly agree in principle, part or whole with the Fairer Tax Campaign (or progressive tax reform in general). So far, politicians from 11 different party affiliations have done so. It was clear from your response that you neither agreed with FTC in principle, part or whole. If we are mistaken, by all means send us a response to our questions that matches the criteria above and we will upload your answer. We can understand if you are unable to do so for ideological reasons. We hope that has been clarified and wish you all the best.
In the end our reply was published as a comment
. By the look of those who have signed up this reformist bankwagon is not going anywhere anyway.
Labels: Fairer Tax Campaign, Taxation
Kentish Town update
Sorry I've been quiet, I've been up in Kentish Town gathering signatures to contest the election there. I had to do this in between attending the Party's conference.
After knocking on about 300 doors (most of which were simply not answered) often in driving freezing winds, I got the ten signatures required. Most people I talked to simply weren't interested in politics - a good few said "No, sorry, I'm voting Labour" (the ward is a lib-dem/labour marginal in a tight council contest). One feller did start to discuss with me why it would be impossible to organise a complex economy without the market system, but I was so cold I didn't hang around long - I knew I could keep the counter argument going for about half an hour, and didn't reckon that would be fair on either of us.
At least, though, he instantly compared us to the diggers, which made me relatively happy.
I gave away a few copies 0f our Pamphlet 'Socialism as a practical alternative' to those who seemed interested in what we about.
I got my nomination papers in yesterday, and the returning officer asked for an additional coverign letter from our nomionating officer so I could use the party name - this despite the fact that I'd lugged the relevent form all the way down to Clapham to get it signed. Apparently, the form isn't enough, no, but an email that could be from anybody, really, is sufficient. Bureacracy, I tell's ya.
So, now for about 15 hours of leafletting, alongside any helping out I give in Lambeth, and joining in other campaigning events. Fun, fun fun.
Labels: Kentish Town, Local elections, Local Government
The Day the Election was Called
This seemed a good day to start distributing the local election manifestos, so went to the westernmost part of Larkhall ward (and of Vauxhall and the borough of Lambeth) on the other side of Wandsworth Road. Went the extra 300 yards up the Wandsworth Road to drop one in at the John Buckle Bookshop at No 170, the headquarters of the "Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)", a Maoist outfit (can't remember whether they supported Albania or Mao's widow -- anyway they stand for state-capitalism not socialism). It wasn't open. It never seems to be. So couldn't find out what their line on the general election is. I think they may be calling for a vote for Kim Il Sung II
of North Korea.
Picked up a copy of a paper for Portuguese-speakers in Britain, ie workers from Portugal, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. When a story concerns one of these countries it is signaled by the country's flag. Noticed that the Angolan flag features the hammer-and-sicke. That should please the RCPB(ML). Or maybe not.
Just heard on the news that the actor Corin Redgrave died today. He stood against us for the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1978 Lambeth Central by-election. He got 271 votes. We got 91. He
didn't like us. The feeling was mutual but we mustn't speak ill of the dead, at least not on the day they died.
Labels: Angola, Corin Redgrave, North Korea., RCPB(ML)
The future capitalism offers you
Apparently "Gordon" was in Larkhall on Tuesday,
but they never told us he was coming. We were there too but at the other end of the ward.
His job is to preside over the running of capitalism in Britain for the benefit of British capitalists. But they have turned out to be an ungrateful lot, lining up behind the Tories to avoid a minor tax on their profits.
They say the government's proposed increase in National Insurance contributions from next year will be a "tax on jobs". But they are not concerned about jobs. And what hypocrites to pretend they are. They are in business not to provide jobs but to make profits, and if the two clash then jobs will be sacrificed to protect profits, as they've been doing since the autumn of 2008 with more to come. The proposed increase in NI contributions will increase their labour costs and so cut into profits. That's why they are squealing, allowing the Tories to present themselves as a better party of the rich than Labour. And Labour had been trying so hard.
But what about the rest of us, the non-rich? In the boring TV debate last Monday between the main parties' economics spokesmen
all three agreed the future cuts would be worse than those under Margaret Thatcher. (see here, for instance)
Sorry. but we have to ask this: Are you going to be one of the mugs that's going to vote for them?
Local manifesto arrives
12,000 copies of our manifesto for the London borough elections on 6 May arrived yesterday. Distribution will begin this Sunday -- by delegates down for our Annual Conference this Friday and Saturday at 52 Clapham High Street (all welcome -- there are no secret sessions). Here's what the leaflet says:
Socialists are working for a different and better world
This is a message to those who are fed up –
• Fed up with the failures of this dreary system
• Fed up with leaders and the false promises of career politicians
• Fed up with poor hospitals, poor schools, poor housing and an unhealthy environment
• Fed up with having to live on a wage that struggles to pay the endless bills
• Fed up with serving the profit system and seeing poverty amidst luxury
What happens in any local council depends mainly on what happens in the country and even in the world. That is why socialists are working for a different world. But it can't happen unless you join us. The job of making a better world must be the work of all of us.
The world we want is a one where we all work together. We can all do this. Co-operation is in our own interests and this is how a socialist community would be organised – through democracy and through working with each other.
To co-operate we need democratic control not only in our own area but by people everywhere. This means that all places of industry and manufacture, all the land, transport, the shops and means of distribution, should be owned in common by the whole community. With common ownership we would not produce goods for profit. The profit system exploits us. Without it we could easily produce enough quality things for everyone. We could all enjoy free access to what we need without the barriers of buying and selling.
Most politicians blame our problems on lack of money, but this is not true. Money doesn't build hospitals, schools decent housing and a healthy environment. The things that make a good community can only be created by the work of the people. We have an abundance of skills and energy. If we were free from having to work for the profits of employers we would be able to work for the needs of everyone.
The profit system is oppressive; it dominates our lives. It plagues us with bills. The rent and mortgage payments, the food bills, the rates, gas, electricity, water and telephone bills. Money is used to screw us for the profits of business. If we don't pay, we don't get the goods. Without the capitalist system, a socialist community would easily provide for all of its members..
The challenge now is to build a world-wide movement whose job will be to break with the failures of the past. It won't be for power or money or careers. It will work for the things that matter to people everywhere – peace, material security and the enjoyment of life through cooperation.
This is the challenge that could link all people in a common cause without distinction of nationality, race or culture.
We in the Socialist Party reject the view that things will always stay the same. We can change the world. Nothing could stop a majority of socialists building a new society run for the benefit of everyone. We all have the ability to work together in each other's interests. All it takes is the right ideas and a willingness to make it happen.
If you agree with this you can show it by voting for our candidates in this ward.
The socialist candidates are:
Ferndale ward (Lambeth): Daniel Lambert, John Lee, Jacqueline Shodeke
Larkhill ward (Lambeth): Oliver Bond, Adam Buick, Stanley Parker
Kentish Town ward (Camden): William Martin
GENERAL ELECTION: The Socialist Party is also contesting the Vauxhall constituency (Lambeth) in this election. The candidate is: Daniel Lambert.
Follow our election campaign at: http://spgb.blogspot.com/
More information and offers of help: contact our offices at 52 Clapham High St, SW4 7UN or by email to email@example.com or by phone to 0207 622 3811. Website: www.worldsocialism.org/spgb