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Socialist Standard October 2010 1

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october 2010
socialist standard


3 Editorial
10 The New GDP: Gilts, Debts and ‘PIIGS’
We examine the state of what is euphemistically known as 4 Pathfinders
the ‘public finances’. Quantum Socialism

13 Practical politics 6 Material World

The “Lesser Evil”
Capitalism is an insane system which cannot be made fair
by reform or regulation.
8 Pieces Together

16 Aliens! 8 Contact Details

Flying saucers? Alien abductions? We publish an article
that may finally settle such mysteries. 9 Tiny Tips

18 Big Society or Little Trick? 9 Cooking the Books 1

Cameron’s Vision Thing is too obvious to fool anybody. Capitalism and the Labour
19 Cooking the Books 2
In next month’s issue: Defending capitalism
• Measuring World Poverty
20 Reviews
• Housing Crack Capitalism; PLAN B
• Slums 4.0; Africa’s Liberation

• Disability 22 Meetings

22 50 Years Ago
Telegram to British
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Cheques payable to ‘The Socialist Party of tel: 020 7622 3811
24 Free Lunch
Great Britain’. e-mail:

2 Socialist Standard October 2010

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Introducing Editorial
The Socialist Party Red shoots
The Socialist Party is like no other Are we beginning to see the red unions can still ‘cause chaos’ – a
political party in Britain. It is made up
shoots of recovery in the class strug- transport strike prevents other work-
of people who have joined together
gle? It certainly seems that way. The ers getting to work, for example, and a
because we want to get rid of the profit
annual conference of the Trades Union teachers’ strike sends millions of par-
system and establish real socialism. Our
Congress (TUC), held in mid-Septem- ents home to look after their children.
aim is to persuade others to become
ber, approved motions calling for ‘joint The Economist concludes from this that
socialist and act for themselves,
organising democratically and without industrial action’, and union leaders there is a vital need to keep the general
leaders, to bring about the kind of have promised ‘street protests’ and public ‘onside’ in any conflict – they
society that we are advocating in this a campaign of ‘civil disobedience’ to mean (as if it’s obvious) on the side of
journal. We are solely concerned with oppose planned government spend- business and its government.
building a movement of socialists for ing cuts. Two-day strikes on London’s And that¹s the media’s job – to wage
socialism. We are not a reformist party Tube network have already taken a propaganda war to make sure every-
with a programme of policies to patch place. And as the TUC met, the Inter- one’s ‘onside’, The tragedy is that their
up capitalism. national Monetary Fund (IMF) warned victory seems assured before the war
We use every possible opportunity that America and Europe face the is even begun. Why? Because alterna-
to make new socialists. We publish worst jobs crisis since the 1930s and tives to the system that got us into this
pamphlets and books, as well as CDs, an ‘explosion of social unrest’ unless mess are simply unthinkable. Even the
DVDs and various other informative governments tread carefully. most radical of the trade unionists, and
material. We also give talks and take part There’s no way of predicting with leftwing commentary generally, did lit-
in debates; attend rallies, meetings and any confidence whether this expected tle but offer reforms that the propagan-
demos; run educational conferences; ‘explosion’ will go off, or turn out to be dists will have no trouble portraying
host internet discussion forums, make a damp squib – it all depends on what as unrealistic. If you accept the logic of
films presenting our ideas, and contest millions of people think and decide capitalism, you play by its rules – and
elections when practical. Socialist to do. But the concern on the part of by its rules, savage government spend-
literature is available in Arabic, Bengali, our bosses and rulers is real enough. ing cuts are just necessary and inevi-
Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, The unions today may remain weak: table. By its rules, to fight against cuts
Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish and membership has declined from 13 mil- and for higher wages is as senseless as
Turkish as well as English. lion in the early 1980s to just over half trying to shake fruit from a dead tree.
The more of you who join the Socialist
that today, according to the Economist, Without a decent anti-capitalist argu-
Party the more we will be able to get
and membership is concentrated in the ment, and an idea of what we are for,
our ideas across, the more experiences
public sector (57 percent of public-sec- we¹ve lost before we’ve begun.
we will be able to draw on and greater
tor workers are unionised compared That’s why socialism is so important.
will be the new ideas for building the
movement which you will be able to with just 15 percent in the private). Yes, it is, as we are often told, a ‘nice
bring us. But, as the Economist points out, un- idea’. But when it takes hold of work-
The Socialist Party is an organisation ions remain an important social move- ers, it could become much more than
of equals. There is no leader and there ment. Its seven million members are a that. It could become the fertiliser we
are no followers. So, if you are going bigger force than, say, the four million need if the red shoots of recovery are
to join we want you to be sure that you who attend church at least once a going to take root, thrive – and blossom
agree fully with what we stand for and month. Along with the concentration of in a world beyond capitalism, a world
that we are satisfied that you understand forces in the public sector, this means fit for humanity.
the case for socialism.

Socialist Standard October 2010 3

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Lee Smolin pointed out in his
book The Trouble With Physics
(2006), M-theory is a fictitious
label to describe a theory which
does not yet and may never exist
and for which evidence is almost
completely lacking. It is not a
theory, it is merely a statement
of intent. ‘M’ does not even stand
for anything, although Hawking
suggests it could stand for ‘master,
miracle or mystery’. It could just as
well stand for ‘mumbo-jumbo’.
The problem with string theories,
whose mutual disagreements
M-theory would need to resolve,
is that they present us with an
unattractive choice between
Every journalist hack and indeed newspaper buyer the fundamentally unknowable and the fundamentally
knows that if you put ‘sex’ on the cover page you tend to incomprehensible. The only way to tie up all the loose
sell more copies. Science magazines and TV programmes stringy ends into a neat package that can explain all
appear to have a similar trick with the word ‘quantum’. those myriad annoying particles with exotic names is a
Presumably this is because readers understand as little formula that doesn’t just account for our universe but
about the one as they do about the other, and salivate in also 10500 other universes too (this is a 1 with roughly this
a pavlovian reflex at any false promise of enlightenment. paragraph’s worth of zeroes after it, some 410 orders of
Since nothing in physics is sexier than the search for magnitude more than the number of atoms in the known
a ‘quantum gravity’ theory which might underpin and universe). Being asked to believe that there are indeed
unite the two great arch-enemies, relativity and quantum this many universes existing in parallel, 48 quadzillion of
mechanics, any book which claims some new insight into them possibly hiding under one of your toenails, does not
the subject will be noisily promoted by publisher and do much to inspire confidence. Most normal people would
media alike. And all the more so if produced by Stephen suggest that such a theory is no theory at all, but then
Hawking, the one physicist that the UK public have perhaps normal people don’t go into physics.
actually heard of. Still, maybe we’re missing a marketing opportunity
Hawking is already famously quoted from his new book here. We could relabel socialism as M-theory, for Marx or
The Grand Design as coming out Materialist, and even include our own
against the God-squad: “It is not ‘uncertainty principle’ just for those
necessary to invoke God to light critics who think we’re smart-alec
the blue touch paper and set the universe fanatics who never question
going.” All well and good, but readers of his earlier, our own ideas. After all,
supposedly populist work A Brief History of Time we never said we knew
(1988) will know it’s probably necessary to invoke everything. And wouldn’t
a squadron of fictitious supernatural intellects ‘Quantum Socialism’ look
in order to throw any light on good on the cover?
Hawking. Carl Sagan or Richard There is also an
Dawkins he ain’t. M-theory in
“M-theory is the theory of everything. economics, which
It explains how the universe was created out of is monetarism, the
nothing in the Big Bang, and how it behaves now”, opposite of K-theory.
Stephen tells us in a recent Newsnight interview, In the one, as we are seeing
as if the matter has now been satisfactorily resolved, now, you grind the poor and cut services to
adding that “M-theory is the unified theory Einstein was get out of depression. In the other, you indulge
hoping to find”. A reasonable viewer might conclude from in a Keynesian orgy of spending to get out of depression.
this that M-theory has actually been ‘found’ and that its Since both were tried simultaneously during the Reagan –
equations really do solve the fundamental problems of Thatcher years and neither worked, we socialists tend to
physics. This however would be placing the truth of the bracket them both under the grand unified theory known
matter into some quantum superposition in the eleventh as B-theory. This, in case you’re wondering, is named
dimension. In fact, as theoretical physicist and iconoclast after a gentleman’s personal appendages.

Dawkins deified pop star, now an engaging TV presenter and photogenic

professor who presents entry-level astronomy to people who
Was there a deliberate irony behind the Guardian’s aren’t sure which revolves around what, would probably by
decision to entitle an interview with four prominent his own admission not quite qualify as a God. He cited his
scientists, including Richard Dawkins, as ‘Gods of Science’ co-interviewee Stephen Hawking as his hero. Meanwhile,
(11 September)? If there was any embarrassment on avoiding any such yuk-factor, Attenborough cited Richard
Dawkins’ part he didn’t mention it. When asked who his own Feynman, whose many sterling attributes do not include being
favourite living scientific hero was he chivalrously cited his alive. Hawking grumpily refused to cite anyone at all. Maybe
co-interviewee David Attenborough. Brian Cox, formerly next we’ll get a tour round their kitchens in Hello magazine.
Celebrity chemist, anyone?

4 Socialist Standard October 2010

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The World Socialist Movement, made up at the moment of
active parties in Britain, the US, Canada and New Zealand,
has a website at:

These parties have their own website which can be WSM material is also available on other sites. Past articles
accessed through here or directly: by three SPGB members can be found on Marxists Internet Archive: htm
The WSM also runs an open discussion forum, to which
anybody, socialist or not, can contribute as long as they lawrence/index.htm
respect the rules. It has contributors from all over the world: This French site has articles from our
publications in various languages (not
The SPGB has its own blog at: just French): http://bataillesocialiste.
Some branches have their own blogs. For instance the
Scottish branches here: anglo-saxon
A 50-minute video “Capitalism and
Members have set up MySpace and Facebook pages: Kids Stuff” can be found here: http://socialist-tv.blogspot. com/2008/02/capitalism-and-other-kids-stuff.html Videos of meetings can be found on You Tube but accessed through here:
89558217699 Audio recordings of meetings and debates, some going
World Socialist Movement - back to the 1970s and 1980s, can be found at
9558217699#!/group.php?gid=4940054730&ref=ts and on the experimental site at
World Socialist Party U.S. - Other language sites are:
Swedish: The Swedish section of the Marxist Internet
Archive is in the process of publishing all the issues of the
magazine and pamphlets published by the Swedish WSM
Socialist Party of Canada -
group there in the 1970s and 1980s:
More articles in French can be found on the SPC site at
Some individual members have set up their own blogs
or websites. We won’t list them all as some have proved to
be ephemeral or are not kept up, but here’s a few. As will htm
be seen, as befits a diary (of which blogs are a variety) the And in Spanish on the WSPUS site at
blogs can also contain material about the blogger’s musical
preferences or the sporting team they support: The WSM site has articles in these and other, European and Asian, languages at

Socialist Standard October 2010 5

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USA: Supporting the
“Lesser Evil”
Many “anti-capitalist” personalities urge people to At least there seemed, before the election, to be a clear-
support one of the two main capitalist parties, the Demo- cut difference on the issue of offshore oil. How many
crats, on the grounds that they are a “lesser evil” com- people must have voted for Obama in horrified response
pared with the Republicans. One example is film maker to the exultant cry of John McCain and Sarah Palin:
Michael Moore (see March issue, p. 10). Another is Paul “Drill, baby, drill!” But in March 2010 Obama broke his
Street, who has written two useful exposés of Obama – campaign pledge and gave the go-ahead to offshore opera-
Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (2009) tions. The next month an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of
and The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real Mexico. Another rig caught fire in September.
World of Power (2010) (both from Paradigm Publishers). Obama won trade union support by promising a new
Although Street calls himself a libertarian socialist, he law to facilitate union organizing – the Employee Free
campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate John Choice Act. He also said he would renegotiate the North
Edwards. American Free Trade Agreement to include stronger
labour and environmental protections. We have heard
What they say versus what they do nothing more of these things. Obama, we are told, does
How much less evil, then, are the Democrats? not want to look “pro-labour.”
A mistake that voters often make, especially during And so the sad litany continues.
election campaigns, is to compare what the Republicans
say and do with what the Democrats say. The relevant A political cycle
comparison is with what the Democrats do. The trouble is I do not mean to deny that in some ways or in some
that when the Democrats have been out of office for a few situations it may be better to have a Democrat rather
years most voters no longer remember what they do. But than a Republican in the White House. For instance, isn’t
those familiar with the record of the Clinton administra- it worthwhile just to reduce, even if not eliminate, the
tion in the 1990s, for instance, or with Obama’s record probability of an attack on Iran?
as a congressman, might have noticed that between what For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the Dem-
the Democrats say and what they do yawns a chasm ocrats are a significantly lesser evil. In that case, helping
wider than the Grand Canyon. them into office does ward off a greater evil. But only in
In stump speeches in the mid-West, candidate Obama the short term. For once in office, Democrats come under
thundered against regional companies such as Maytag irresistible pressure from their capitalist masters to break
and Exelon. And yet these same companies, justifiably their “populist” promises, to disappoint, disillusion and
confident that he would do nothing to harm their inter- betray the working people who placed their trust and
ests, made large financial contributions to his campaign. hope in them. Some sink back into apathy and despair,
Speaking before audiences of workers, Obama would while others fall prey to a racist or fascist backlash. These
denounce Maytag’s decision in 2004 to close the refrig- reactions give the Republicans their chance to return.
erator plant in Galesburg, Illinois, entailing the loss of This is a recognizable political cycle. We have been
1,600 jobs to Mexico. But he never raised the issue with through it before. Over and over again. Not only in the
Maytag directors Henry and Lester Crown, even though United States but (with variations of detail) in many other
he enjoyed a “special relationship” with them. countries. Those who support the lesser evil play an
essential role in constantly reproducing the cycle. They
Differences that make no difference share the responsibility for its persistence. Support for
Many of the “differences” between Bush and Obama (or the lesser evil also entails support – indirect and delayed,
between McCain and Obama) make no difference. Or very but support nonetheless – for the greater evil.
Obama initially opposed Bush’s military intervention in The difference that matters
Iraq – hastening to add that he was not against all For us as earthlings, the difference that matters is
wars, God forbid, but only against “dumb” ones. that between socialism and capitalism. Will we con-
Before leaving office, Bush initiated a gradual tinue on our present course to the irreversible de-
and partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq. struction of our home world? Or will we make the
Obama is pursuing the same course, breaking fundamental change needed to give us a decent
an earlier promise of rapid and complete with- chance of survival?
drawal. From this perspective, the differences between
Bush was heading toward war “greater” and “lesser” evils do not matter. Some capi-
with Iran. Obama is not. Prob- talist politicians are totally subservient to the
ably. Hopefully. True, he did oil, gas, and coal corporations
back off from his promise to and recklessly oblivious to the
meet with Iranian leaders. looming danger. In their hands
Commentator Steve Clemons we are doomed. Other capital-
informs us that “while there ist politicians are a little less
are individuals in the Obama subservient, show a limited
administration who are awareness of the situation, and
flirting with the possibility try to do something to mitigate it.
of military action against Something, but much less than
Iran, they are fewer in is absolutely essential. In their
number than existed in hands we are still doomed.
the Bush administration” Pass or fail. The “lesser evil” is
(The Huffington Post, July 23, simply not good enough.
2010). How’s that for reassurance? STEFAN

6 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 6 24/09/2010 09:04

Price and Qty Marxism Revisited
An Inconvenient Question: Socialism and the A lively document of a series of five talks given by the members of the
Environment Socialist Party as a part of a weekend seminar in 1998. Titles are as
One of the major problems of capitalism is pollution – as capitalists cause follows: 1) Who the hell was Karl Marx? 2) Was Marx a Leninist? 3) The
long term damage to the environment for short term gain. This pamphlet fetishism of commodities 4) Has the modern market superseded Marxist
outlines the Socialist case for a better, cleaner world run for people, not economics? 5) Is the Socialist Party Marxist?
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The Market System must Go! Why Reformism doesn’t work
From Capitalism to Socialism…how we live and how we could live Explains why the Socialist Party advocates the revolutionary
Contrasts the present state of life with what a future Socialist world would transformation of existing society rather than piecemeal reform, like the
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Some aspects of Marxian Economics writing project. This collection, published by the Socialist Party, presents
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Socialist Standard October 2010 7

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 7 24/09/2010 09:04

THE FAILURE OF REFORM “The rest of the country is still struggling
HUNGER AMIDST with high unemployment amid a sluggish-at-
“The number of people in the U.S. who are in PLENTY
poverty is on track for a record on President Barack best economic recovery -- but the wealthiest
“India’s grain members of Congress are in high cotton.
Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor warehouses are bursting
approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war Indeed, the top 50 wealthiest lawmakers
at the seams and sacks of saw their combined net worths increase last
on poverty. Census figures for 2009 the recession- rice and wheat lie rotting
ravaged first year of the Democrat’s presidency year, according to the Hill’s annual analysis
in the open for lack of of financial disclosure documents. Combined,
are to be released in the coming week, and storage space. These
demographers expect grim findings. It’s unfortunate the 50 lawmakers were worth $1.4 billion
government-managed in 2009 -- an $85.1 million increase over
timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks stocks are for offsetting
before important elections when control of Congress their 2008 total . ...The list of 50 lawmakers
a fall in agricultural spans both parties (27 Democrats and 23
is at stake. The anticipated increase from 13.2 production in the event
percent to about 15 percent would be another blow Republicans) and both chambers of Congress
of drought or floods, but (30 House members, 20 senators), the Hill
to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep are also meant for sale
them in power.” (Yahoo News, 11 September) reports.” (Yahoo News, 1 September)
to the poorest segment
of the population at
subsidised prices. But because the public distribution system (PDS)
MODERN BRITAIN is undermined by bureaucracy and corruption, 60m tonnes of grain is lying
“Nearly 54,000 children living below in warehouses or under plastic sheeting, and, according to the Hindustan
the poverty line will be pushed farther Times, 11m tonnes of it has been destroyed by the monsoons. A committee
down the scale by cuts to housing benefit, of experts appointed by the supreme court has claimed that this is nothing
according to figures from the charity short of “genocide”, and last month the court ordered the free distribution of
Shelter. Their families will be left with less the grain to the poor rather than have it eaten by rats. Since the 1970s green
than £100 a week once housing costs revolution, agricultural production has continued to rise, but not to benefit
have been paid. Of these, 33,00 children the hungry. Half of India’s children aged under five suffer from malnutrition,
will be in families trying to live on under and the rate remained stable between 1999 and 2006 despite the economic
£50 a week.” (Times, 7 September) growth in those years. India is the world’s 11th largest economic power but
still has more people in poverty.” (Guardian, 7 September)

Contact Details
Uk Branches &contacts Carlisle: Robert Whitfield. Ireland International Contacts
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Meets every two months on a Saturday 3121, Victoria, Australia.. Email:
Northwest afternoon (see meetings page for details). Wales
Lancaster branch. Meets every Monday Pat Deutz, 11 The Links, Billericay, Swansea branch. 2nd Mon, 7.30pm, Socialist Party of Canada/Parti
8.30pm. P. Shannon, 10 Green Street, CM12 0EX. Unitarian Church, High Street. Corres: Socialiste du Canada. Box 4280,
Lancaster LA1 1DZ. David Porter, Eastholme, Bush Drive, Geoffrey Williams, 19 Baptist Well Street, Victoria B.C. V8X 3X8 Canada.
Tel: 01524 382380 Eccles-on-Sea, NR12 0SF. Waun Wen, Swansea SA1 6FB. Tel:
Manchester branch. Paul Bennett, 6 Tel: 01692 582533. 01792 643624 World Socialist Party (New Zealand)
Burleigh Mews, Hardy Lane, M21 7LB. Richard Headicar, 42 Woodcote, Firs Rd, Cardiff and District. John James, 67 P.O. Box 1929, Auckland, NI, New
Tel: 0161 860 7189 Hethersett, NR9 3JD. Romilly Park Road, Barry CF62 6RR. Zealand.
Bolton. Tel: H. McLaughlin. Tel: 01603 814343. Tel: 01446 405636 World Socialist Party of the United
01204 844589 Cambridge. Andrew Westley, 10 States P.O. Box 440247, Boston, MA
Cumbria. Brendan Cummings, 19 Queen Marksby Close, Duxford, Cambridge 02144 USA.
St, Millom, Cumbria LA18 4BG CB2 4RS. Tel: 07890343044 Email:

8 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 8 24/09/2010 09:04

Fabian Society Labourite who argued that capitalism
no longer existed. Which might explain why David
Miliband, and Blair and Brown before him, refuse to use
Capitalism and the Labour Party the c-word.
The reason Labour – and indeed the Tories who also
“I’ll make capitalism work for the people,” promised talk of a “people’s capitalism” – fail to make capitalism
Ed Miliband in his bid to become Labour leader work for the people is that this is an impossible mission.
(Observer, 29 August). He explained: Capitalism just cannot be made to work in the interest
“Britain’s big question of the next decade is whether of all. It is a profit-making system that can only work as
we head towards an increasingly US-style capitalism such, in the interest of those who live off profits and to
– more unequal, more brutish, more unjust – or whether the detriment of those who live off wages and salaries
we can build a different model – a capitalism that works or, in the absence of these, on state hand-outs.
for people and not the other way round.” The driving force of capitalism is the accumulation
Apparently, “in 2008, a consensus existed that of capital out of profits. When this slows down, as at
we should understand the lessons of the financial present, there is a crisis. So, governments must not do
crisis, not just about regulation, but about the kind of anything that might discourage the making of profits
capitalism we needed to build”. to accumulate as capital; in fact, even if it wasn’t their
We’ve heard this before. The Labour Party has always original intention (as perhaps, giving them the benefit
tried to make capitalism work for the people but, every of the doubt, it wasn’t with some Labour governments),
time that it has been in office, it has failed miserably. they have to end up doing all they can to encourage
What is new is that previously Labour leaders never this.
admitted that this was what they were trying to do. They Inevitably, this brings them into conflict with the wage
said they were trying to gradually reform capitalism out and salary working class whose labour is the source
of existence, not building a new kind of capitalism. of profits, imposing wage restraint and/or austerity on
Still, an open recognition of what they are trying to do them. This is not because the government’s members
can only help clarify things. It is, however, indicative of are nasty or incompetent or corrupt, but because
how far Labour has changed that Ed Miliband was the this is how they are forced to act by virtue of being
candidate supported by the Left in the party. Even they the government in the context of capitalism. They fail
have bought into the idea that there is no alternative to because they can’t act in any other way.
capitalism, only a choice about what sort of capitalism, Instead of Labour gradually changing capitalism into
and dropped the anti-capitalist rhetoric. something else, the experience of running capitalism
Ed’s brother David, the candidate supported by the changed the Labour Party – to the extent that today you
Right, declared that his Labour hero was Anthony are labelled a left-winger if you just mention the word
Crosland (New Statesman, 30 August). He was the “capitalism”, even to support it.

Some women who were raped at Poland at the height

the US’s Abu Ghraib prison facility in of the war on terror.
Iraq were later “honor killed” by their According to the
families, says a Jordanian reporter who Associated Press, a no-frills Irish airline. Now a senior
writes on women’s issues. “In Abu former CIA agent identified only as Ryanair pilot has taken the rare step
Ghraib, women were tortured by the “Albert” tortured the terror suspect Abd of publicly challenging his boss after
Americans much more than the men,” al-Rahim al-Nashiri multiple times with the outspoken chief executive said he
Lima Nabil told The Independent. “One an electric drill at the converted Stare was trying to convince authorities to
woman said she witnessed five girls Kiejkuty military base near Szymany in let his aircraft fly with only one pilot.
being raped. Most of the women in the the Masuria region of Poland: A flight attendant could do the job of
prison were raped – some of them left a co-pilot if needed, Mr O’Leary said
prison pregnant. Families killed some of last week, because “the computer
these women – because of the shame.” does most of the flying now”. Captain
Nabil, who has reported extensively Morgan Fischer, who trains other pilots
The new “saddle” seat, to be unveiled
on the status of women in the Arab at Ryanair’s Marseilles base, says
at a conference this week, increases
world and runs a home for runaway he knows the airline is dedicated to
the number of seats an airline can
girls, made the comments to renowned keeping its costs as low as possible, so
have in its economy class. Shaped
foreign correspondent Robert Fisk in why not go one better – and replace Mr
similar to a horse saddle, passengers
an article on honor killings in Jordan. O’Leary with a junior flight attendant?
sit at an angle, with their weight taken
Nabil did not expand on her comments “I would propose that Ryanair replace
on by their legs. It allows seats to be
in the article. Fisk reported that a the CEO with a probationary cabin
overlapped. The seats would also
“very accurate source in Washington” crew member currently earning
offer storage space including a shelf
in close contact with military personnel approximately €13,200 net per annum,”
for carry-on bags and hooks to hang
has confirmed “terrible stories of gang Capt Fischer has written in a letter to
a jacket or a handbag...The makers
rape” by US forces at the now-notorious the Financial Times, which reported
say the seat would allow budget
prison: Mr O’Leary’s comments last week.
airlines, such as Ryanair, to cram more
“Ryanair would benefit by saving
passengers into their tight cabins:
millions of euros in salary, benefits and
stock options,” the captain said, and there would be no need for approval
Former CIA agents have confirmed
from the authorities.
for the first time that the agency Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has
tortured prisoners at a “black site” for years endured complaints from
detention center in north-eastern passengers about his famously

Socialist Standard October 2010 9

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 9 24/09/2010 09:04

The New GDP:
Gilts, Debts and
the original bond
certificates had a gilt-edge to
the paper (see Gilt Complex).
The issuance of gilts is a regular
government activity because government revenue
expenditure (e.g. on from taxation does not neatly
state-provided services match patterns of government
like education, on defence, and expenditure, either because
on staffing in the civil service, etc). spending is running ahead of
During However, if printing money causes government revenues, as at present,
2010 inflation, and there are limits to the or because tax-collection typically
amount that can be raised through has greater seasonal variations than
the most talked-about taxes, why not just borrow more government spending. And even
consequence of the housing to avoid the need for big public when governments might be paying
and banking crisis has spending cuts? back some gilts as they mature
The borrowing option is very often (‘redeeming’ them) they will usually
been its knock-on effect there, but government borrowing still be issuing others.
for governments – those is not always as straight forward Other countries have similar
charged with masterminding and risk-free an exercise within mechanisms for issuing debt (in the
capitalism as it may appear at first US the bonds are called ‘Treasuries’)
the bailout. We examine sight. and all have similar issues at root.
the state of what is In particular, the laws of supply
euphemistically known as Good as gilts and demand will affect the level of
Governments borrow money the interest payments demanded
the ‘public finances’. through the issuance of bonds, by investors as will the general level
which are sold to investors with the of confidence in a country’s ability

here are ultimately only promise to pay a rate of interest to pay both the coupons and the
three sources of revenue and – usually – to return the original original capital advanced when the
for any government – taxes, capital advanced by the investor at bonds mature. In the UK there are
borrowing and printing money. a pre-determined time (when the usually weekly gilt auctions and the
The economic crisis has led to a bond ‘matures’). The issuance of debt government will have to respond to a
media preoccupation with all three. in the UK is overseen by an agency lack of demand for gilts by increasing
Because of the bailout of the banks of HM Treasury called the Debt the coupon on new issues thereby
and massive financial stimulus Management Office. Bonds issued making them more attractive – but
programmes initiated by governments with maturities of less than a year in at the same time making them more
the world over in an attempt to avoid the UK are called Treasury Bills and expensive from the government’s own
another Great Depression, there is are traded on the money markets, point of view.
quite some interest in how all this is typically by big financial institutions A big influencing factor on this is
going to be paid for. who only want to tie-up some of their the ‘secondary market’ for already
One aspect of this, which money for short periods. However, existing gilts – the billions of pounds
the Cameron government is the vast bulk of the bonds issued in of gilts in circulation until they
now grappling with, is to try to the UK to finance government debt mature do not usually trade at their
compensate for the bailout and the are for maturities over a year and are face value after they have been
costs of the recession by reducing called ‘gilt-edged securities’ because issued, but at rates determined by

10 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 10 24/09/2010 09:04

the market (see Bond – Licence to a
Such market gyrations in gilt prices
and yields as determined by capitalist
investors daily will influence the way
and cost at which a government can
borrow by issuing new gilts, with
shifts in yields being crucial. Because
investors may be tying their money
up for long periods it is normal for
the yield on long-term bonds to be
generally higher than for short-
term bonds too. However, periods
of financial uncertainty and likely
recession usually lead to interest
rates being temporarily higher for
shorts than for longs as investors do
not want to tie their money up for
extended periods. This leads to what
is called an ‘inverted yield curve’,
with higher short-term interest rates
in the economy than long-term rates,
as happened for a time at the start of
the credit crunch (the yield curve is
the relation between interest rates,
i.e. the cost of borrowing, and the the money to be able to do this. This countries and their governments
time maturity of debt). prospect sent the bond markets rather like they treat individual
These ever-changing market into fright to the extent that long- companies. Just as credit rating
interest rates at which governments dated Greek debt was yielding over agencies like Moody’s or Fitch give
have to issue gilts in order to finance 10 per cent at one stage, more credit ratings to companies (the
their borrowings is of obvious than double that typical for other highest being ‘Triple A’) so they
concern to them. But the maturity of western economies. This was because rate nations too and this influences
the bonds is a significant issue too. investors dumped their bonds, in the market perceptions. Credit rating
‘PIIGS’ at the trough belief they may not get their original agencies and other financial firms
In the last few months a new investment back, sending the prices view companies likely to default on
acronym has arisen in the financial of the bonds plummeting and their their debt (whether to banks, or
press reflecting the times. Instead yields soaring. to investors such as the owners of
of the talk being of the fast-growing This has been a clear example corporate bonds) with the utmost
emerging market ‘BRIC’ countries of of the way in which the bond suspicion. Defaulting on debt or
Brazil, Russia, India and China, we markets are able to determine which inability to pay coupon payments on
have the ‘PIIGS’ instead. These are countries are able to carry on issuing bonds or on promised dividends is
countries that have been deemed by debt investors are willing to buy,
the international bond markets to and which countries investors Gilt Complex
have issues regarding the amount have lost confidence in. This is
and/or nature of the government precisely what has happened to a Gilts are usually issued for £100 each
debt they have outstanding, the number of Latin American states but come in various types and maturities
unfortunate acronym standing for such as Argentina during the last – which means that the issuing and paying
Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and 30 years too – and the retribution back of government debt is a far from
Spain. The most serious situation, has usually been severe. When straightforward business. The defining
now accompanied by massive a country shows signs that it features of a conventional gilt are its
government spending cuts and cannot pay back its debts or may ‘coupon’ (the interest payment) and its
riots on the streets, has been that default on coupon payments on its maturity, both reflected in the name of the
encountered by Greece, which has bonds, a restructuring programme gilt e.g. 8% Treasury 2013, a gilt which
implemented austerity measures of initiated by the International
pays 8 per cent a year – in other words £8
around 30 billion euros in return for Monetary Fund is not far away,
– and for which the government will pay
a 110 billion euro rescue package typically leading to cuts in state
back the initial £100 in 2013.
from the EU. spending coupled with tax rises
Other gilts are ‘index-linked’ in that
Interestingly, Greece’s annual and the inevitable social unrest.
Once a government defaults the coupon and final repayment amount
budget deficit – its annual
on its debts, the bond markets are linked to movements in the Retail
expenditure over its annual revenue –
tend to have long memories, and Price Index, while another category are
is projected to amount to about 8 per
cent of GDP this year, actually less the fear of future default will undated or ‘irredeemable’ gilts such as
than the US’s 11 per cent (Financial push up interest rates (yields) for 4% Consols, gilts often originally issued
Times, 23 June). And its total years to come, making the cost in the nineteenth century and which
accumulated national debt built up of government borrowing high. pay a regular coupon but for which the
over time is, at around 110 per cent In such situations, international government is not bound to pay back the
of one year’s GDP, a lot less than investors retreat to ‘safe havens’ original sum advanced at any set date.
Japan’s at 190 per cent of GDP. The like the US and UK, countries that The vast majority – nearly three-quarters
problem, however, with Greece has have never had any significant – of UK gilts in issuance today are of
been that much of its debt was due to default on their debts during their the conventional variety and these are
be retired in the next couple of years history. clustered into ‘shorts’ of under seven years
(i.e. a large proportion of the bonds maturity, ‘mediums’ of seven to 15 years
it had issued were due to mature) Just like BP? and ‘longs’ of over 15 years.
and there was no guarantee it had In this respect, the markets treat

Socialist Standard October 2010 11

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 11 24/09/2010 09:04

will be able to issue bonds at rates booming and were paying back the
Bond – Licence to a that are not exorbitant and thereby national debt as quickly as they
Killing finance their expenditure. This could, reducing national debt to GDP
also applies to governments that ratios to well below 50 per cent in
Generally bonds pay a fixed rate of have more headroom to increase both countries for a while.
interest on issue, eg 4%, or £4 on taxes because state spending in the What this means practically is
a £100 gilt,  but secondary trading economy is lower (another reason that it usually tends to be sudden
might push the ‘running yield’ up to why the US and UK have been seen upward changes in the rate and
5% as this is the rate investors want. as safer havens for bond investors nature of government debt that
To achieve this 5 per cent the than countries like Greece). tends to really spook markets,
But in truth there is an historical drain them of confidence and lead
price of the gilt would need to fall to
element to this as well. The story to the type of government austerity
£80 with a fixed £4 payout (£4
of the last 20 years or so isn’t that measures we are now seeing, rather
being 5 per cent of £80 not £100).
there has been a massive explosion than particular total levels of debt
What this means is that, when the
in government debt – the explosion as such. Indeed, a comparatively
gilt is finally redeemed at its in debt has been in personal debt. In healthy economy like Singapore’s
original price of £100, the gilt owner the US this rose from 80 per cent of has a national debt equivalent to
who bought it at £80 stands to average disposable income in 1990 113 per cent of GDP, while – perhaps
make a profit of £20. This promising to over 140 per cent, and in the UK a counter-intuitively – Uganda, Iran
information is factored into the similar measure of personal debt rose and Mozambique have national debt
running yield they receive, giving a from 100 per cent to 170 per cent of of less than 20 per cent of GDP.
somewhat higher ‘redemption yield’, household income under New Labour After myriad failed government
as it is called.  So in essence, this (Financial Times, 9 August 2008). By stimulus programmes over the last
redemption yield is the running contrast, while government deficits two decades Japan has accumulated
yield also taking account of any in a given year are now significant (a the second highest national debt to
capital gains (or losses) due from record £159 billion or 11.4 per cent GDP ratio in the entire world (after
buying the gilt at above (or below) its of GDP last year in the UK) and have Zimbabwe) but despite its ongoing
face value. caused some market wobbles, the problems has comparatively little
accumulated national debts of most difficulty borrowing funds via the
one of the greatest corporate sins countries have not been particularly bond markets.
and companies deemed at risk of high by historic standards.
default have their bonds rated as Because of inflation over time, You can’t buck the market
‘junk’ and are punished by markets. the big number headline figures of What is certain from all this is
Recent examples of those falling billions and trillions are misleading, that governments are far more like
foul of financial markets because of and percentages give the best companies than they would ever
a perceived inability to service their picture. By way of example, total generally like to admit, and certainly
debts would not only include the accumulated national debt as a cannot ‘buck the markets’ and
banks but also major companies percentage of one year’s GDP is market perceptions, which are always
like William Hill and Premier Foods currently around 70 per cent in the crucial. But then again, who are ‘the
which have had to go back to their UK. According to figures from the markets’ anyway?
shareholders cap-in-hand asking Bank of England this compares with The market for UK gilts is typical
for money to reduce their debt and over 250 per cent in 1946 at the end and is dominated (at around 40 per
shore up their balance sheets. Yet, of the Second World War. Indeed, for cent) by insurance companies and
a company like BP can domestic pension
have a temporary dip funds, followed by
in its share price but overseas investors and
otherwise largely escape financial institutions,
the type of battering hedge funds, etc (at 35
from the markets meted per cent). The rest is
out to others despite its made up of recognised
involvement in one of collective investment
the biggest and costliest vehicles like unit
environmental disasters trusts, by banks and
of all time. And the lastly by households
reason . . . ? BP’s net (households being
debt is little over one less than 3 per cent
year’s typical profits (last of the total). In other
year being $20 billion) words, the bond
and it has a flexible markets – like the
debt structure. In equity, commodity
other words, it is highly and currency markets
cash generative, has – are dominated by
headroom on its debt the big capitalists
and so investors have and institutional
more confidence it can investors. Their flows
meet its financial obligations. all the period from the start of the of investment capital are substantial
First World War in 1914 until the and cross national boundaries at
Little headroom early 1960s it was far higher than it the press of a button. These are the
Like companies, some countries is now, and the situation in the US people always on the look out for gilt-
have more headroom to tackle their has been very similar in percentage edged opportunities in life. The laws
financial situation than others. terms. Indeed, only as recently as of the market economy dictate that
Where confidence in government 10-15 years ago governments in the no government will – or can – argue
finances are high and where debt US and UK were running big budget with them for long.
servicing is manageable, governments surpluses when the economy was DAP

12 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 12 24/09/2010 09:04

Practical Politics
Capitalism is an insane system which cannot be made fair by reform or regulation.

emocracy is a tremendous po- ple’ as we are led to believe, but the to the continuance of a system that
tential that is locked up in the capitalist owners. maintains and causes injustice and
capitalist system. In countries This minority capitalist class is conflict world wide. We are told that
that hold democratic elections the comprised of various groups both everything would be a mess with-
majority have so far continued to vote within and between states that com- out the capitalist system, but apart
in a capitalist government of one sort pete for profits to keep power and from the inexorable efficiency of
or another. Once every four years position. How these conflicts will af- profit making for a small minority, it
power is put into our hands and we fect workers is a minor consideration is capitalism that is the messer. In
ritualistically give it away again. if it is considered at all. The often terms of the wellbeing of the working
In capitalism a small minority has tragic consequences for individu- class – and of humanity as a whole –
vast extra power beyond the demo- als and communities when jobs are capitalism holds us back from taking
cratic process, because capitalism outsourced to reduce costs, or when giant leaps in efficiency. This is be-
is a system of financial ownership one company loses out to another cause the financial system prevents
in which they own, in the capitalist are considered to be acceptable. All us in numerous ways from cooperat-
sense, and thus control, resources, the horrors of war are considered ing directly for mutual benefit.
production and distribution. What- acceptable. It is portrayed as ac-
ever government is voted in to be the ceptable, indeed glorious and noble Wealth and power
‘leaders’ in capitalism they represent that workers should go to war; but All financial wealth comes from the
the majority only in that the majority the truth is kept hidden that it is on raw materials of the planet and the
agree, with whatever degree of aware- behalf of their masters. It is pre- labour of the workers – who are the
ness, to them enacting the will of this sented as acceptable and necessary majority, however, this majority is
minority owning class. Where there that billions if not trillions of dollars involved very little in decision-mak-
are genuine intentions to be spent on weapons systems and ing about how the work is done or
help workers, protect armies every year to maintain and how the wealth is subsequently used.
the environment etc, increase the business domains of the This means that in the main we live
these soon come up rulers, whilst public services are cut as the capitalist class want us or
against the power and people are trapped in poverty. allow us to live, we do the jobs that
behind the And capitalisms inevitable economic the capitalist class want us to do,
parliament recessions increase hardship. As and we do them in the way that the
which is well as public services being cut even capitalist class want us to – not with
not ‘the more, small community-based busi- the priority of supplying for need, but
peo- nesses are hit, conglomerates or large to maximise their financial profits. It
corporations take over and power is seems likely that lack of cooperation
further concentrated into the hands with each other and our environment
of a few who know little of the areas using all our faculties and directly for
over which they have control. wellbeing contributes to the mental
Nor do they much care except and emotional disaffection from each
about how they can profit other and from our environment
from it. which is prevalent in modern society.
To agree to capital- The capitalist class gets profits
ism is to agree from the labour of the workers. So
to tyranny; basically the workers pay for the
capitalist class to have more money
than them – large amounts of which
are used for the instruments and
conduct of war to protect or extend
the interests of the capitalist class.
Then we have to pay to buy back the
necessities of life that are products of
our labour. Then out of the kindness
of our hearts we give to charity. This
money is largely used in attempts to
clean up the mess that the capital-
ist class has made in the world, i.e.
we pay so capitalism doesn’t look
so bad. Then, when we need money
we have to borrow from the wealthy
– and guess what? We also have to
pay – so more profit can be made. We
work, work, work and we pay, pay,
pay, and pay.

Socialist Standard October 2010 13

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 13 24/09/2010 09:04

It stands to reason that for healthy the freedoms that we have in law are for profit. If they do make some head-
and enjoyable life, what we need is to severely curtailed by the economic way, they exist precariously in a sea
be able develop and use our knowl- forces – by not having the means to of troubles, and can as soon be swept
edge of what is practical for healthy do what we want. We have political away again by the next financial cri-
and enjoyable life. But we have not but not economic democracy. sis or state of war.
been free to do so. This is because, as Democratic ideas are also ex- ‘Can’t pay? Can’t have!’ and ‘No
noted, the majority of power is held ploited as a ‘justification’ for wars profit? No production!’ That is how
by a small minority, and because which are actually engaged in for capitalists have to function. Where
they have to pursue financial self- financial profit. Via governments, needs are supplied in some form this
interest in the competitive capitalist but otherwise much like any of the is incidental; it happens to be neces-
market place or lose their privileged more obvious despots, the capitalist sary for the profit making. Any ben-
positions. This minority has the class wields the power of armies and efits that are claimed to come from
financial power to lobby politicians to weapons of mass destruction, and of capitalism actually come from the
get favourable policies for their profit the mass media. As already alluded workers, who could do a much bet-
making, but the ter job without
whole financial sys- it. These ideas
tem is constructed seem strange to
to function in favour many because
of this anyway; to we have been
maintain the ruling largely condi-
class. The longer this tioned to believe
continues the more that we can’t do
obvious it becomes without it, that
that what is help- we need states,
ful for maintaining borders, rul-
the class system is ers and money
harmful to workers, – the system as
to communities, and it is; and faced
to life on Earth in with the horrors
general. that the system
creates we are
The exploitation as far as possi-
of democracy ble conditioned
There is indoc- to not care. We
trination simply by are separated
living in the capital- and set against
ist system that it is each other
‘normal’ and ‘right’, More people than ever before are being forced into city slums by the profit
and the capitalist- system which
controlled mass media tends to hide, to, public opinion can be influenced encourages rage, greed and envy, and
distort or distract us from unfavour- by what is put in and what is left out directs it into nationalism, racism,
able facts about the system and our of ‘the news’, and by how it is told. prejudice between more and less
potential to overcome it. Revolution- Even invasion and militarily enforced financially well off groups and indeed
ary ideas are usually kept out of the business expansion with millions of unsympathetic and irrational judg-
picture, and when they do appear it casualties (deaths, injuries, trauma, ment of every sort. All this division
is usually in the context of being mis- loss of homes, families, communities is very useful for the capitalist class
represented, ridiculed or demonised. and livelihoods), is now called ‘bring- in that it makes us easier to rule. It
People fall for this to varying degrees, ing democracy’. The ‘democracy’ that makes us agreeable to their policies
and it is questionable to what extent is brought, of course comes along that cause poverty and war. It makes
the majority in ‘democratic’ coun- with financial and mass media back- recruits willing to bomb, shoot and
tries believe themselves to be free or ing for the candidates that support torture their fellow human beings.
are satisfied with the system, and the business plans of the invaders. It tends to divert us from, and leave
to what extent they stick with the undeveloped the human potentials to
system due to not knowing enough Profit or waste? question, to study cause and effect,
about how it functions nor about a The victories for sanity that oc- to empathise, communicate, unite
viable alternative. cur in the world are despite capital- and organise.
We do of course have some ism, because capitalism is an in- As capitalism has spread around
freedoms that are lacking in other sane system. Capitalism cannot be the globe, money has become the
parts of the world, but how much made sensible and fair by reform or main controlling and deciding factor
of this is ‘freedom’ as long as we regulation because it is not based on in much of our behaviour. The profit
comply? Freedom to choose between cooperating to supply what we need, priority of the capitalist class results,
dictated choices? And how much of efficient use of resources, apprecia- amongst other things, in wages being
what has been fought for and won tion of beauty or being humane. It is as low as possible, and thus generally
through previous generations could, based on competition for profit; on the priority for the workers is to buy
and indeed is being taken away? capitalising without conscience. The the cheapest. Because the cheapest
Democracy is exploited by the capi- rules of capitalism work for a privi- can be provided by mass production
talist class as disguise for the basic leged few, and not for the common and supply, this also feeds into the
set up, which is mass exploitation of good for people and the biosphere. dominance of big business produc-
workers for minority gain, and not for Calls for equitable reforms or regula- ers and suppliers, which together
the wellbeing of society as a whole. tions to protect our environment are with the drive for financial profit has
This basic set-up means that even frequently drowned by loud demands had, and continues to have, profound

14 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 14 24/09/2010 09:04

“When we unite to remove money and class division
from the equation, and replace it with common
ownership and democracy, our energy will be set
free to develop a healthy society and a healthy

and drastic effects on society and the – which is possible. But in capitalism ration and general ignorance that
environment. that costs money… capitalism breeds, the capitalist class
For profit large companies/corpora- It is a measure of the unhealthi- continues to rule us with majority
tions can source and manufacture ness of the capitalist economy that it support. The innumerable problems
goods around the world where land is is unsustainable; it is destroying the and ills in our society are blamed on
cheap, where low wages can be paid living environment that supplies it; human nature, and some suggest
and where there are fewer environ- and environmental damage is in- that the problem is therefore democ-
mental regulations. This results in, creasingly a factor in causing poverty racy. But capitalism by its nature
for example, deforestation, child and conflict. denies the majority, in one way or
labour, subsistence wages, land and More people than ever before are another, of opportunities for indi-
water pollution and long distance starving or malnourished/lacking vidual and social improvement and
transportation of goods adding car- clean water/suffering from curable instead rewards mindless compliance
bon emissions into the air. It is now diseases/losing their land and com- with damaging activities and ruth-
conventional to go along with prac- munities and being forced into city less, exclusive, short-term self-inter-
tices which damage our communities slums. More people than ever before est.
and our living environment, and a live on rubbish dumps. More peo- The problem is that we do not have
lot of the profits made from exploit- ple than ever before are imprisoned. enough democracy. The working peo-
ing workers are used for advertising ple supply the goods and services in
products that are actually harmful in society, but suffer from the conflicts
some way; things that that we do not of capitalism and are constrained by
need or would not need if we could financial rules and pressures that do
sensibly organise the way that we nothing except maintain a disastrous
live. system. Instead we can organise
For profit, there is sacrifice of qual- ourselves to claim common respon-
ity, abusive treatment of workers, sibility for resources, production and
cruelty to animals, and ecological distribution and free access to the
devastation. For example, a huge goods and services that we provide.
amount of waste of resources is Communities can then access the
involved in built-in obsolescence. The resources and technology that they
cost of getting something mended need. We can also reap the benefits of
locally is made prohibitive (by the everybody’s experience and exercise
price of parts and transport costs) so our powers to cooperate, doing the
that we just buy a new one from the More young people than ever before work that we wish to do directly for
multinational. Vast amounts of en- are imprisoned. More young people the wellbeing of our communities and
ergy are also wasted on running the than ever before are abandoned and the wider environment that sustains
financial system, on protecting it, on homeless. More young people than them.
war, and to present the whole thing ever before are involved in the sex Capitalism is a perverting and cor-
as the pinnacle of civilisation. This trade. Depression and addiction are rupting influence and always involves
energy could be put into enhancing common and even those with what deprivation and slavery in various
the wellbeing of our communities. is called a ‘good standard of living’ forms. It is now in a particularly
Capitalism is tragically wasteful of tend to suffer in this system. The ubiquitous phase and the situation
the abundant resources of the Earth diseases of capitalist affluence, that for humanity is deteriorating. People
and of technology. All that waste to are lifestyle and stress related, are run gallant campaigns to help oth-
maintain something that we really prevalent. ers and to protect the environment,
don’t want! Something that is bound These are not just problems that but in capitalism, although there
to be unhealthy; the undemocratic capitalism hasn’t got around to solv- are some temporary successes, this
power of a minority. ing yet. Nor is it just what capitalism is a losing battle. When we unite to
allows, it is what it produces. Nei- remove money and class division
Stress and scarcity ther does capitalism respond to the from the equation, and replace it with
There are resources and technol- need to solve problems that it has common ownership and democracy
ogy enough for everyone to be well produced. Concerning global warm- our energy will be set free to develop
supplied, but capitalism results in ing, for instance, the whole system a healthy society and a healthy envi-
poverty. Poverty is caused by war; by ferociously resists making the radical ronment.
the resources of land and sea being changes that are needed to protect L.B.
taken for profit; by environmental our environment. Instead, we are
damage, local and global; by dispos- taken to war to secure more oil sup-
sessing people of the means of life. plies. This is typical of the catastro-
Population growth is also largely phe of capitalism.
produced by the artificial scarcity of
capitalism. It has been shown that Majority support
population growth begins to decrease What we are getting is clearly not
where people have a reasonable what the majority of people want, but
standard of living and education by exploiting the prejudice, sepa-

Socialist Standard October 2010 15

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 15 24/09/2010 09:04

The years.) So it is strange
descriptions that having come so far
they give they don’t hang around a
of their bit and let us all see them.
abductors A flying saucer landing in
usually tally Trafalgar Square during the
closely with the rush-hour would settle the
more than four light-years away.
“creatures from outer space “ which question once and for all. So why do
If the aliens came from any planet
have appeared in science-fiction they apparently scurry back home
around Alpha Centauri, they would
dramas on American television. so quickly? Here is a document
have to have a space-ship travelling
(Interestingly, America also has that may throw some light on the
at the unimaginable speed of one
the most religious believers in the matter. But whether this is a genuine
hundred million miles per hour –
Western world.) These aliens must account, or merely a bit of fiction,
and even so it would take them
have come vast distances before readers must decide for themselves.
twenty-five years to get here. (If
they land in Wyoming or wherever. If it is genuine, it may indicate why
they dawdled along at only a million
The nearest star to Earth (apart any aliens would not want to delay
miles per hour, the journey would
from our own sun) is Alpha Centauri, their return trip.
take two thousand five hundred

16 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 16 24/09/2010 09:04

million unemployed in this country, Can you use it instead of bricks? Or

was in the middle of the including lots of builders, plasterers, instead of slates on the roof?”
Cairngorm Mountains in the plumbers, electricians, and so “No, of course not!” Privately I
Scottish Highlands, miles from on – and lots more of the jobless thought that surely space voyagers
any human habitation, when I saw could quickly learn these skills. The who have been able to journey
a group of men approaching me. I country is full of people who could billions of miles could get hold of
knew they were from outer space, teach all these useful trades.” such a simple idea. I tried to explain.
because they all had pointy ears “I see!” said the alien. “So it’s “People hand it to each other. Well-off
like Mr. Spock in Star Trek. When bricks, and cement, and pipework, people have to hand some of these
they got near enough, one of them and paint, electric wiring and so on bits of paper to the government,
said “Greetings, Earthling!” another you are short of.” then someone hands some of it to
clue: not many ordinary humans “Not a bit of it! Since the recession, the people who make bricks or carry
talk like that. “We bring builders’ merchants’ yards up and them along the motorway. The actual
salutations from down the country are full of all this builders and pipe-layers and so on
outer space!” I stuff.” get some bits of paper each Friday.”
understood “But perhaps the authorities are More bewildered conversation
every word, keeping all these materials in reserve among the aliens.
and that for other important building jobs, in “This paper – high-grade paper
was a case you run short of raw materials?” as you say, with coloured designs
stroke “No, no, nothing like that. All the – can’t keep the rain out, or hold the
of luck, raw materials – clay for bricks, roof up, or carry water or electricity
because out metal for pipes and wires, colour round the new buildings?”
of all the six for paints – there’s more than “No, of course not”, I said,
thousand enough, up and down the laughing. “It would just collapse if
languages country.” you put any strain on it, and any
spoken The alien – and his friends water in a paper pipe would just
on Earth, appeared puzzled. Then he run away. And if you tried to make
they had brightened up. electric cables out of paper they
“Ah, I see what it must be. would probably catch fire!”
Transport! You’ve got all these “But if you don’t have these pieces
things, but you can’t get them of coloured paper, even though they
to where they are so desperately are only feeble, useless stuff,” said
wanted.” the alien, “you can’t have these
“Not a bit of it,” I insisted. I schools rebuilt and so on?”
didn’t want him to think we were “Exactly,” I said. “Now you’ve got
that backward. “We have fleets of it. Without these pieces of paper, no
happened to great trucks, under-used because of food is grown or eaten, no clothes
learn the only the recession. The country is crossed are made, no buildings go up
language I with excellent roads, well surfaced – nothing happens. We all have to
knew. with tarmac. All these materials pass these pieces of paper around
“We have could be delivered anywhere in to each other, or everything comes
been reading Britain within hours.” to a halt. In fact most of us here on
the news The aliens went into a huddle, and Earth spend a large part of our time
on your jabbered away in their own language. handing these pieces of paper on to
internet,” Then the spokesman piped up again. other people. Every organisation has
the alien “Let’s get this straight. You people many people who spend their lives
spokesman here in Britain all want these schools writing down figures about all these
continued, to be built or repaired. You have pieces of paper: doing sums, all day.
“and we plenty of people standing around idle In fact some great concerns don’t do
wish to who would love to do all the work, anything else – banks, credit card
condole with if only because their children are companies, insurance companies,
you on your being educated in inadequate and people concerned with revenue
recession. ill-equipped schools. You have all and taxation – all of them spend
Hundreds of the materials, and all the transport their lives fiddling with these bits of
your schools you need to get them where they are paper.”
were going to wanted. So – excuse me if I seem a The aliens all looked at each other.
be rebuilt or bit obtuse – why don’t you just do it?” I saw several of them pointing a
refurbished, “We haven’t got the money, of finger to their own foreheads, and
and now very course!” making a kind of circular motion
few of them A longer pause this time. with the finger, while pulling a face.
are. A sad “Er – what is this ‘money?” I wonder what that means in alien
business!” He I smiled. How could anyone not language?
shook his head. know that? After some more unintelligible
“So there are no “You know – money, dibs, conversation, the spokesman said
people available spondulicks, the ready! Coins – little that they had decided to get back in
to do all this round bits of metal, though most of their flying saucer and get away as
rebuilding.” it is paper, nowadays. High grade soon as possible. I thought I heard
“Oh yes”” I paper, of course, with nice designs on him say something like, “I thought we
assured him. it – in colour, too.” were told there was intelligent life on
“There are two “This paper,” said the alien, with a this planet!” but perhaps I mis-heard.
and a half baffled expression. “What does it do? ALWYN EDGAR

Socialist Standard October 2010 17

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 17 24/09/2010 09:04

or Little Trick?

Cameron’s Vision Thing

is too obvious to fool

f you are a professional politician your job, as a min- politicians to do what George Bush called “the Vision
ister when your party is in office, whether on its own Thing”. You must give the impression that you are en-
or in coalition, is to take part in managing the gen- gaged in doing something more than the mere routine
eral affairs of capitalism in your country. Politicians are management of capitalism. It rarely works, but politi-
elected and so you have to win popular support. Just to cians still try it from time to time. The latest is Cam-
say “we’re a better capitalism-management team than eron and his “Big Society”.
the other lot” is hardly inspiring, even though most
people do see elections as being about choosing the State and society
least objectionable set of politicians. National politi- Cameron’s “Big Society” is based on a distinction
cians have even been described as the mere middle between “society” and “government”, reflecting that
management of international corporate capitalism. emphasised by the German philosopher Hegel between
As a politician in office you “civil society” and “the state”. In saying he wants “so-
also have to win a degree ciety” to be big he is saying he wants government to
of popular support for the be small (or, rather, since that would be going too far
policies capitalism obliges from a capitalist point of view, for it to be smaller). His
you to pursue. It’s not scheme involves transferring some of the services pro-
enough to be truthful and vided by local councils to the “voluntary sector”, i.e. to
say “I’m just reacting to charities and “social enterprises” (enterprises that are
whatever problems the not allowed to distribute their profits). In other words,
uncontrollable workings a continuation of the Thatcherite programme – and the
of capitalism place on my permanent agenda of big business – of rolling back
agenda”. You have to give the state so that taxes on capitalist enter-
the impression that you prises can be reduced allowing them to
are working towards a keep more of their profits.
better life for every- Transferring services to the
one. Hence the voluntary sector will save money
need felt by because those working in this
sector are generally paid less
and have less job security than
local government employees.
The “Big Society”, then, turns out
not to be a grand vision but a sor-
did little exercise in cheese-paring. Or
rather, in so far as it is a longer-term view,
it’s putting a positive spin on the New Age of
Austerity announced by Cameron and his
Hegel’s “civil society” (bürgerliche Ges-
ellschaft) is often translated, especially
when used by Marx, as “bourgeois society”,
which in fact is what Hegel meant: the
everyday economic activities of people in
pursuit of their personal interest, capi-
talists competing for markets and prof-
its and workers competing for job and
wages. The state he saw as representing
and enforcing the overall general interest
of society as a whole. Marx showed that,
while the state did indeed represent

18 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 18 24/09/2010 09:04

an overall general interest, it was not that of society as a
whole but that of the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, as a
The state is defined not just by socialists but even by
conventional academics as a institution with a monopoly
in the employment of legitimate force within a given ter- Defending capitalism
ritory. But the state is more than just force. It is also the
Capitalism is indefensible (except if you are a capitalist).
centre of social control and as such has responsibility for
But that doesn’t stop people trying. One recent example is
carrying out various administrative tasks essential to the
Lucy Turnbull, member of the Australian Liberal Party and
continuation of society such as, these days, education,
former Lord Mayor of Sydney. “Capitalism is still the only
health care, looking after the vulnerable, town planning
system that works,” she asserted in the Sydney Morning
and many others.
Herald (9 August).
It is by no means self-evident that these necessary According to her, “price signals, fair markets and free
services would be better performed by charities and other trade are the cornerstones of the capitalist system for
civil society organisations than by national or local gov- creating goods and services”. Prices, markets and trade
ernment. In fact the likelihood is that in most cases they certainly are features of capitalism but she manages to omit
won’t be or won’t be sustainable. But that’s not the point. two other, key features: the class ownership of the places
They will be cheaper. That’s the point. where goods and services are produced and production for
profit. Without these capitalism wouldn’t be capitalism.
Voluntary work Prices may signal to people and firms what to buy, but
There is one interesting aspect of Cameron’s plan. Rely- it is profits that signal to capitalist firms what to produce.
ing on volunteers to do certain things accepts that there Unless prices are high enough to allow capitalist firms to
is such a thing as voluntary work, which the ideological realise a profit they can signal as much as they like but no
defenders of capitalism usually deride. According to them, production will be forthcoming. In addition, some needs
people are motivated to work only by monetary compen- don’t register at all if the person hasn’t got the money to
sation or by the threat of starvation. In seeking to take pay to satisfy them. In which case they go unmet.
advantage, even if only to save money, of the undeniable “Fair markets” and “free trade” are not essential features
fact that millions of hours of voluntary work are engaged of capitalism but policy objectives that sections of the
in by people all the time, the government is unintention- owning class sometimes want the government to pursue.
At other times subsidies and tariffs have been preferred.
Turnbull has made the mistake here of identifying capital-
“The ‘Big Society’, then, turns ism with a particular policy.
out not to be a grand vision She makes some extravagant claims for her conception
of capitalism:
but a sordid little exercise in “It alone harnesses the reality of human nature – our
continual striving for progress and our competitive instincts
cheese-paring” to do our best.”
No doubt people do want to do their best, but what has
ally conceding an important point to socialists. People are this got to do with competition? If it is part of “the reality of
motivated to do socially useful work by reasons other than human nature”, then this would continue if the capitalist rat-
money and so could be relied on to do this too in a social- race to avoid falling into poverty is replaced by cooperation
ist society. to ensure that nobody‘s needs are neglected..
In a sense socialism will be a “big society” in that it will Competition in fact prevents many people from doing
be all society and no state. However, what we mean by their best. Capitalist firms compete to make profits by try-
both “society” and “state” is different from what Cameron ing to keep their costs below the average for their sector;
means. By “society” we don’t mean bourgeois civil society the lower their costs compared with their rivals the more
where everybody has to fend for themselves to get a living, sales – and profits – they can expect to make. It’s a race
but one based on the common ownership of the means for to the bottom with speed-up and pressures to get a job
producing useful things where everyone will be guaran- done quickly taking precedence over taking the time to do
teed a decent living by virtue of having free access to what it properly.
Turnbull also claims of capitalism: “It alone is compatible
they need. What people need will be provided by society
with political and democratic freedoms.” Capitalism may
and will not depend on their own initiative or competitive
well be compatible with political democracy but it’s also
compatible with a restricted franchise (as in the 19th centu-
While the coercive aspects of the state – what makes it a
ry) and political dictatorship (as in many countries now and
state and which Cameron has no intention of downsizing
in the past). Capitalism impedes the carrying out of demo-
– will have disappeared, many of its administrative func-
cratically-expressed wishes to improve housing, health
tions will remain. There will still be central and local coun- care, education, transport and the like as the workings of its
cils, though much more accountable and democratic than economic laws force governments to give priority to profit-
today and whose personnel won’t be able to allocate them- making over these. When it comes to production capitalism
selves any material privileges as everyone will have free is undemocratic. The moment a worker enters the factory
access to what they need. In these changed circumstances gates or the office doors they stop being a “free citizen” and
there is no reason why some of the services provided by become subject to the authority of the employer.
these administrations today should not continue to be. On Socialism alone is capable of ensuring a genuine democ-
the other hand, there will be scope for some of them to be racy as, with the means of production the common heritage
provided by groups of volunteers. It will be up to the local of all, everyone will be able participate on an equal basis
communities of the time to decide. But the debate then as nobody would have a privileged say in how the means
will be a genuine debate about the best way to organise of production are used and nobody would have a privileged
things in the common interest. Not the smokescreen to share of what is produced. Under democratic control the
disguise cost-cutting in the interest of the capitalist class means of production can be used to satisfy people’s needs
that Cameron’s “Big Society” is. not to make a profit for the few.

Socialist Standard October 2010 19

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Book Reviews
Dig deeper for weakness, however, is a very serious
one. It is that it risks evading the real
the stage where the class struggle of
our side could conceivably counter,
socialism difficulties that remain. say, capital flight to the other side of
According to Holloway, the ranks the world, or the organised violence
of the “anti-capitalist revolutionaries” of state power, requires exactly the
Crack Capitalism. John Holloway, are impressively large. They include kind of big-picture thinking and
London: Pluto Press 2010, £17.99. the composer who expresses his dedicated, disciplined organising that
anger and dreams of a better society Holloway dogmatically opposes.
through his music, the worker who We in the Socialist Party do not of
John Holloway’s bunks off work to go read a book in course oppose most of the activities
previous book, the park, the “gardener who creates that Holloway places his hopes in.
Change The World a garden to struggle against the As individuals, some of us enjoy
Without Taking destruction of nature”, the friends gardening, for example; and most
Power, was who form a choir for no good reason of us are active in trade unions and
relatively popular except their love of singing, and similar organisations, even if we
and the focus “the young man in Mexico City who do not take up arms and head out
of much debate goes to the jungle to organise armed into the Mexican jungle. But we
and discussion, struggle to change the world”. The do not flatter to deceive, nor dodge
at least in the key to becoming fully human, says the most difficult questions. The
relatively small Holloway, “is simple: refuse, disobey.” problem we have to face is that,
circles where you find anti-capitalist If this didn’t happen, there would be in the class struggle, the odds are
activists. A lot has happened since no grounds for hope in a socialist nearly always against us, and that
the book’s publication in 2002, but future at all. But if it was enough, to build a socialist future, we need
you wouldn’t know it from reading then surely capitalism would have a mass organisation of people who
Holloway’s latest, Crack Capitalism, collapsed long ago – in fact, could know what it is they want and are
which makes more or less exactly the never have got off the ground in the prepared to work to achieve it. As
same arguments. first place. Engels put it, “The period for sudden
Holloway’s main point is basically Imagine, says Holloway, borrowing onslaughts, of revolutions carried
that of ‘autonomist marxism’ and a metaphor from an Edgar Allen Poe out by small conscious minorities at
there is one great island of strength story, that we are all in a room. We the head of unconscious masses, is
in this, which readers might drag are all in it together – some sitting on past. Where the question involves the
themselves onto if they don’t first a comfortable couch, others cramped complete transformation of the social
drown in a sea of verbiage. It can miserably in a corner, perhaps; but organisation, there the masses must
be summed up in a paragraph. It in it together nonetheless. There are be consulted, must themselves have
is that the world’s workers create four walls, a ceiling, but no windows already grasped what the struggle
capitalism by going to work. or doors. And the walls are advancing is about, and what they stand for.”
Capitalism is therefore not a thing slowly inwards, threatening to Holloway’s work is in many ways an
that stands outside and over and crush us all to death. How would ingenious dodging of this immense
above us, but a social relationship we respond to such a situation? task. But the task remains and will
that we create everyday through our No doubt, says Holloway, some remain as long as capitalism does.
daily activities. If we understand would just refuse to see what was It’s time we faced it.
this, we can, if we want to end happening and distract themselves SJW
capitalism, merely stop creating instead with the latest offering
it and do something else instead. from Disney. Some would perhaps
In fact, according to autonomists, denounce the walls, but not propose Saving the planet
this is actually happening all the to do anything about it, while others
time – every time we refuse work, would look forward to and dream of a
go on strike, call in sick, or even, if day when there were no walls. Then PLAN B 4.0 Mobilising to Save
Holloway is to be believed, dig our there are those like Holloway who Civilisation. Lester R. Brown.
gardens. The workers of the world are would instead run to the walls and Earth Policy Institute. W.W.Norton
always resisting their exploitation, try desperately to find cracks, or to and Company. $16.95. (Book
even if only in their own, small, create them. In an unintentionally downloadable for free from
personal ways, and even if they’re hilarious conclusion, which speaks The Earth Policy website www.
not conscious of exactly what it is against his whole argument,
they’re doing. The task is merely to Holloway imagines these activists
extend and expand and ‘circulate’ banging their heads against the wall
the struggles. Holloway calls these “over and over again” until the wall
struggles the ‘cracks’ in capitalism. comes crumbling down. Holloway, The book is built
What we need to do is find the for all his straining after poetic effect, around what
cracks, and work hard to make them doesn’t seem to realise that, in the Brown sees as
bigger. “The opening of cracks is repeated encounters between a head four mutually
the opening of a world that presents and a brick wall, the wall very rarely dependent goals
itself as closed,” says Holloway. gets the worst of it. – stabilising the
This is a neat way of summarising To take another of Holloway’s climate by cutting
a fundamental Marxian proposition metaphors, and turn it against him, carbon emissions
about class struggle as the motor perhaps the cracks in capitalism are 80 percent by
that drives change. The strength more like the cracks in mud than the 2020, stabilising
of the argument is that it puts the cracks in a wall – one short spell of the population at
power and potential for change back rain can wash them away without 8 billion or less (a rather contentious
where it belongs and where it in fact trace. To understand this and and difficult proposition), eradicating
really lies: in our own hands. The organise to counter-act it, to get to poverty and restoring the Earth’s

20 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 20 24/09/2010 09:04

natural systems, soil, aquifers, if they’re not then pressure will need and incorruptible shows that the
forests, grasslands and fisheries. to be brought to bear on them. This problem in Africa (and elsewhere) is
‘Plan B is the alternative to business would be some of the action required. not bad leaders but capitalism. Not
as usual – the ambitiousness of Socialists, on the other hand, will even a saint can made capitalism -
the plan is not driven by perceived simply want to point out that it is which African countries are currently
political feasibility but by scientific the use of such methods over the obliged to accept – work in the
reality.’ long term that has brought us to interest of all.
The early chapters lay out the where we’re at now and it is this It only remains to add that
extent of the challenges he sees very system which perpetuates Tanzania in 1967 could have passed
presented by pressures on water and deepens the problems. Only a directly to socialism but only with
and land, climate change and the move right away from the capitalist the rest of the world following a world
transition to non-fossil fuel energy, profit system will suffice to save the socialist revolution. Given that this
followed by chapters laying out his planet. Business not as usual means did not happen, capitalism developed
response to each of these areas in removing all financial incentives, in Tanzania, as in Russia.
well documented detail. He offers taxes, subsidies and money itself ALB
plenty of evidence to show just what from the equation, abolishing the
could be achieved in a relatively short wages system in favour of common
period of time if there is the will to do
it. However, in the capitalist system
ownership in a classless society.
Party News
we live in this, the will, is what is so The World Socialist Party (New
often shown to be lacking. Zealand) now runs two local radio
The chapters are crammed with African Narodnik stations: Radio 88.3 Imagine,
solid information, some citing Manurewa (located in South
examples of good practice around Auckland) and Radio 106.9
the world, examples which could Africa’s Liberation. The Legacy Imagine, Brooklyn (located in
be followed with advantage to both of Nyerere. Edited by Chambi Wellington).
people and planet. With his use of Chachage and Annar Cassam.
unemotional, dispassionate matter Pambazuka Press. 2010.
of fact language which presents
the plan as realistic and rational it
could be difficult for some to grasp If Julius Nyerere,
why world leaders haven’t already President of
grabbed the concept and run with it. Tanzania from
It is in chapter 10, the last chapter, independence in
that, as socialists, we get what we 1961 till 1985,
know to expect somewhere along had been a late
the line; the let-down of how we 19th century
are actually expected to put this Russian he would
plan into practice. Up to this point have been labelled
socialists and non-socialists alike a “Narodnik”, i.e.
could agree that here is a plan someone who
about which we could largely have thought that a basically agricultural
consensus. It would appeal to most country could move straight to
rational thinking people who believe socialism, on the basis of local
we have to address immediately the communal villages, without having
problems that are facing us right to pass through capitalism. The
now. But we are about to be divided Russian Marxists denied this, but
again. It is the means to the end that the Narodniks never got a chance to
divides us. implement their ideas.
Non-socialists will accept without Nyerere did, with the Arusha
question that there is an economic declaration which adopted “Ujamma”
equation to be discussed and will (“socialism and self-reliance”) as the
believe that politicians will be official state policy of Tanzania. As
focussed in this direction for the good predicted by Marxists it failed. In fact
of the planet, reforming taxes and one of the contributors to this tribute
subsidies to achieve the objective and to Nyerere on the 10th anniversary To order a copy complete the form
of his death in 2009, Issa Shivji, on page 7.
once described the result as the
development of a “bureaucratic
Picture Credits
bourgeoisie” in Tanzania. Today
the present Tanzanian government
openly embraces (is forced to) p2: Telegram -
p6: Demonstration -
capitalist development. p10: Bank of England, Adrian Pingstone,
This said, Nyerere comes across 2004, Public Domain
as sincere and principled, as p15: Sign -
p17: Alien, Crobard, 2006, Public Domain
genuinely wanting a society of social p20: Crack Capitalism - www.plutobooks.
equality, democracy and without com. PLAN B - www.sustainableguernsey.
exploitation, and unlike nearly all the info. Africa’s Liberation - www.fahamubooks.
other historic African independence p23: Marshmallows - Andy Johnson, PD.
leaders power did not go to his head. p24: Balls,
However, the fact that he was sincere

Socialist Standard October 2010 21

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 21 24/09/2010 09:04

Norwich Telegram to British Association
Saturday 9 October, 2pm
Telegram sent to the British Association THESE PROBLEMS EXCEPT ON A
Forum with the Zeitgeist Movement for the Advancement of Science at WORLD-WIDE BASIS OF COMMON
(Norwich) their September 1960 Conference in OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF
93-97 Quebec Road, NR1 4HY Cardiff. PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION.
Monday 11 October, 7pm
Unitarian Church, GAIN.
High St, SA1 1LF IN OUR VIEW IT IS UTOPIAN AND (Socialist Standard, October 1960).

Wednesday, 20 October, 8.30pm
New Socialist Party Pamphlet
INFLATION Speaker: Vic Vanni 2009 Socialist Standard Index What’s Wrong With Using Parliament?
Community Central Halls, For a copy send 2nd class postage to: The Cases For And Against
304 Maryhill Road, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High The Revolutionary Use Of Parliament
G20 7YE.
Street, London SW4 7UN
Public Debate
Saturday October 23, 7.30 Autumn Delegate
WORLD WITHOUT MONEY? Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 October
Michael Albert (ZCom) 10.30 am to 5.00 pm
Adam Buick (World Socialist Movement) Socialist Party Head Office,
Conway Hall, 52 Clapham High St,
25 Red Lion Square, London SW4 7UN
London WC1R 4RL Open to public. All welcome.
Addresses arguments put by others
who desire a classless, moneyless
Lancaster Manchester society but who do not see parliament
Monday 25 October 8.00pm Monday 25 October 8.30pm as relevent to achieving this.
‘Death by 1000 cutbacks’ Discussion on Sport To order a copy complete the form on
page 7.
Gregson Centre, Moorgate, Lancaster. Unicorn, Church Street, City Centre.

Declaration of Principles
This declaration is the basis of by the capitalist or master class, the emancipation of the working 7.That as all political parties
our organisation and, because and the consequent enslavement class wil involve the emancipation are but the expression of class
it is also an important historical of the working class, by whose of all mankind, without distinction interests, and as the interest of
document dating from the labour alone wealth is produced. of race or sex. the working class is diametrically
formation of the party in 1904, opposed to the interests of all
its original language has been 2.That in society, therefore, there 5. That this emancipation must sections of the master class,
retained. is an antagonism of interests, be the work of the working class the party seeking working class
manifesting itself as a class itself. emancipation must be hostile to
Object struggle between those who every other party.
The establishment of a system possess but do not produce and 6.That as the machinery of
of society based upon the those who produce but do not government, including the armed 8.The Socialist Party of Great
common ownership and possess. forces of the nation, exists only Britain, therefore, enters the field
democratic control of the to conserve the monopoly by the of political action determined
means and instruments for 3.That this antagonism can capitalist class of the wealth taken to wage war against all other
producing and distributing be abolished only by the from the workers, the working political parties, whether alleged
wealth by and in the interest of emancipation of the working class class must organize consciously labour or avowedly capitalist,
the whole community. from the domination of the master and politically for the conquest and calls upon the members of
class, by the conversion into the of the powers of government, the working class of this country
Declaration of Principles common property of society of national and local, in order that to muster under its banner to the
The Socialist Party of Great the means of production and this machinery, including these end that a speedy termination
Britain holds distribution, and their democratic forces, may be converted from an may be wrought to the system
control by the whole people. instrument of oppression into the which deprives them of the fruits
1.That society as at present agent of emancipation and the of their labour, and that poverty
constituted is based upon the 4.That as in the order of social overthrow of privilege, aristocratic may give place to comfort,
ownership of the means of living evolution the working class is the and plutocratic. privilege to equality, and slavery
(i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) last class to achieve its freedom, to freedom.

22 Socialist Standard October 2010

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 22 24/09/2010 09:04

Marshmallows are not the only sweet
It is to be hoped that while some people may damn the tions lie undisturbed after financial cutbacks at the local
Coalition as repressive and impoverishing there will be town hall, it must be made clear that, whatever Nick
others who happily acknowledge its vital role in educating Clegg may imply, social mobility is not a universally avail-
us about human behaviour and responses. In particular able opportunity. David Cameron, for example, would not
government ministers have been consistently eager, in be eligible for this benefit because his status is already
justifying themselves to us, to examine how we score in high enough to disqualify him. His late father was born
the matter of Deferred Gratification, a concept once so into a family where affluence was ingrained enough for
absorbing to sociologists, child psychologists, criminolo- him to describe himself as “a nepotistic heir”. The advan-
gists and others similarly seeking to explain the need for tages in this – for Cameron Senior and for his children
us to endure so many blemishes on what could be our including the Prime Minister – were in spite of his being
enduringly fulfilling lives. born with a physical handicap which would have been
For example here is our Deputy Prime Minister out- crucially restrictive to the ambitions of a disadvantaged
lining a most recent concept of official policy: “…this family for their children’s social improvement. Whatever
Government is committed to the long term – to mak- Clegg’s glib mouthing about social mobility – the op-
ing decisions today that will promote a better future: portunity for a family or group to improve their material
a more prosperous economy, and a fairer society. Our situation and prospects – it is only rarely that they can
determination to fix the deficit is matched by our deter- be immune to pressures which are out of their control by
mination to create a more socially mobile society…But in being built into the fabric of this property society.
five years’ time we want to be able to look back and say
that the children born in 2015 are less constrained by Poverty
the circumstances of their birth…that true progress was And of these the most powerful and persistent is pov-
made in making opportunity a right of the many, rather erty; in this country no other factor has so devastating
than a privilege of the few”. (It is worth noting that this an effect on the life chances of people – on the likelihood
kind of empty drivel is not spouted exclusively by Liber- of them being able to benefit from Clegg’s Social Mobil-
als and Tories; in his campaign for the Labour leader- ity. For a long time this has figured prominently in the
ship David Miliband assured us meaningless manifestos of the
that he would bring about “…the capitalist parties. This was the
redistribution of power in Britain, Labour Party, asking for a sec-
an assault on inequality of life ond term in 2001: “A single aim
chances…”) drives our policy programme:
to liberate people’s potential,
Marshmallows by spreading power, wealth
It would have been better – and opportunity more widely,
nearer the truth – if Clegg and breaking down the barriers that
Miliband had said that if we be- hold people back.” And this was
have ourselves for the present, in Michael Howard, then leader of
the sense of controlling our urges the Conservative Party, in the
to achieve a less perilous living 2005 election: “For me the heart
standard we shall, in due course, of politics is all about people
come by our reward in the form of Go on - you know – their hopes and aspirations.
a society which through its social you want to People want the freedom, secu-
mobility is a model of fairness. rity and opportunity to get on
This arouses memories of what has gone down in history in life.” Fine words for anyone who allows themselves to
as the Marshmallow Experiment. At Stanford University be so easily impressed. What has happened since then?
in the 1960s a group of four-year-old children were each Among the mass of evidence, a report published in Janu-
given a marshmallow and promised that if they waited ary this year by the National Equality Panel (a brainchild
twenty minutes before eating it they would be allowed to of Harriet Harman) stated that by the years 2007-2008
have another. Some of them waited; the others quickly income inequality had reached the most extreme level
ate the marshmallow. Some years later, when they were since the Second World War, with the top one percent
18, they were assessed as to their degree of social adjust- of the population each owning household wealth of £2.6
ment and dependability – the extent of their economic million while the poorest had £8,800. Being poor inflicts
advantage against disadvantage. (It would have been enduring, accumulative damage to a child’s education, to
more accurate to call this being profitably exploited in a where they live and to their life chances: “…people’s oc-
job against being underemployed). The results showed cupational and economic destinations in early adulthood
the children who had stifled their impulse to scoff the depend to an important degree on their origins”.
marshmallow scoring significantly higher than the others. In other words the promises about social mobility,
(Although more than one response doggedly pointed out about yet another policy to spirit away the inequality and
that it needed only someone averse to marshmallows to its social damage inextricably linked to capitalist society
score highly enough to invalidate the whole exercise). Per- are the empty pleadings of political leaders with nothing
haps Nick Clegg and his gang might reflect on this, while more original or effective to offer. So let us not be influ-
nursing their confidence about the uncritical acceptance enced by Nick Clegg and his attempts to persuade us to
of their pledges for “fairness” and “social mobility”. behave like the good kids with the marshmallows. The
need for us to change society is as urgent as it ever was.
Cameron And marshmallows are deceptive: just sweet and sticky
To forestall any impetuous celebrations at Job Centres with a very soft centre.
where the staff are flooded under the current influx of IVAN
claimants or on council housing estates where dilapida-

Socialist Standard October 2010 23

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Capitalism In Action country, where they eventually end up in sweetheart’s engagement ring in order
Capitalism is a very wasteful society. laptops, mobile phones and video game to get some groceries. Isn’t capitalism
When fruit growers have a more than consoles.” (Times,18 August) When The wonderful?
bumper crop it is common to let some Times investigators queried the supply
of it rot unpicked. When charities ask of such materials with industrial giants The Price Of Oil
for the surplus they are told that to give such as Apple, Sony, Nokia, Dell, HP We are often told by social
it away would lower the price. These and Nintendo they were very evasive, commentators that capitalism with its
charities at present pay for the crop best summed up by Microsoft’s reply “It’s wonderful technology and scientific
that is picked. Here is a recent example very hard to reliably trace metals to mine endeavours has made the modern world
of this madness in the retail clothing of origin.” It is of course even harder for a vast improvement on the past, but the
trade. “High Street retailer Primark has them to let their rivals have exclusive human cost in injury and death is always
been criticised by charities for its policy access to these cheap sources. soft-pedalled by capitalism’s supporters.
of shredding damaged and unwanted Almost unnoticed in the paeans of praise
clothes. Aid organisations have described Business Is Booming for the profit system is this short news
the practice as “worrying” and “a shame” It is common nowadays to read of item. “Employers in the offshore oil and
- saying items could be used to raise growing unemployment, businesses gas industry were urged yesterday to
vital funds. Primark said the practice was folding and widespread bankruptcy improve their safety record after a big
common and was to protect consumers.” ,but there is one trade that is booming . increase in the number of workers killed
(BBC News, 13 September) Overlooking “Pawnbrokers will soon be as common or seriously injured. The Health and
the hypocrisy of Primark’s “to protect on the high street as coffee shops and Safety Executive said that 17 workers
consumers” remark, the purpose of banks, according to the chief executive of died in off-shore-related incidents and
all production inside capitalism is to Britain’s biggest operator. John Nichols, there were 50 severe injuries in the past
sell goods in order to realise a profit. of H&T, said year, a “stark reminder” of the hazards.
Capitalism isn’t interested in protecting eventually The combined fatal and severe
consumers or aiding charities. Fruit can there would be injury rate almost doubled, coupled
rot while people go hungry and clothing pawnbrokers with a “marked rise” in the number
can be destroyed while people go about in every of hydrocarbon releases - regarded
ill-clad. That is how the capitalist system town centre.” as potential precursors to a major
operates. (Times, 25 incident.” (Times, 25 August) When it
August) His comes to profit making human life is not
Modernity, But At An Awful Cost forecast a major factor.
The advance of capitalism has led was made
to many improvements in technology. as his firm A Nice Little Run-Around
None of us would like to imagine a world announced a From time to time that old banger
without mobile phones, computers or 71 per cent that you called the family car needs
digital cameras, but this being capitalism leap in its renewal. Here is an idea. “Lotus has
such advances have led to social disaster profits over unveiled the ultimate track-day car - a
for some. A major source of the essential the last six Formula One-inspired racer called
ingredients for such technology is the months. It is the Type 125. The British sports car
Democratic Republic of Congo. It is from worthwhile company will show its consumer-
here that gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum noting what focused F1 clone at this weekend’s
originate. It is also from here that we the source of this high street boom is annual Pebble Beach Concourse
have had the deadliest conflict since the put down to. “Slightly more than half of d’Elegance in the United States, with
Second World War with an estimated pawnshop customers use the cash to plans to build only 25 examples from
death rate of 5.4 million people. pay for daily essentials, such as food next April. The 125 will cost
“International agencies have described and groceries, while about six out of ten much less than a real
how paramilitary groups in the region are not in work, according to Formula One car
control many of the mine producing gold Bristol University research but the price tag
and the “3Ts” where locals including released yesterday.” is still expected to
children are forced to work for as little (Times, 25 August) be about $1.1 million.”
as $1 a day. The same groups then Some of us are (Drive, 11 August) C’mon what
help to smuggle the minerals out of the forced to pawn our is holding you back?

ISSN 0037 8259

24 Socialist Standard October 2010
Produced and published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN

Oct 2010 Std BDH.indd 24 24/09/2010 09:04