Tag: "socialism"

Not a good night for Party of European Socialists

Doesn't look terribly good for the Party of European Socialists. We should have made gains.

Why?

Because the socialists have failed to promote a socialist agenda. It's time for something a bit more radical - broad nationalisation - without compensation, about bringing entire sectors of the economy under workers' control - and about freeing the press from capital.

The results point the way forward for Labour

Nationally the share of the vote looked like this:

Tories 44%
Labour 24%

In London, with a socialist candidate the share of the vote looked like this:

Johnson 42%
Livingstone 36%

Grimmer mentions their candidate, Janet Oosthuysen, falling short of ousting the Lib Dems by 53 votes, they campaigned on a slogan of "Vote Labour - Get a Socialist".

I think there is a message here for the Labour Party and somewhere in it is the 'S' word.

Inside or outside the Labour Party and Marxism-Leninism today

I was invited to attend the Yeovil Trades Council meeting yesterday. I was pleased to see the discussion was very open and it sparked a debate about being in or out of the Labour Party, one I've had with myself prior to joining for many years.

I wasn't able to get all of my thoughts out at the meeting on this, so here they are.

A couple of comrades brought up the point that because the Labour government was carrying out a neo-liberal agenda, which is perfectly true, such as moving the postal service in the direction of privitisation etc, they shouldn't have our support and we should attempt to form a new party.

Lenin said the Labour Party was a bourgeois-workers party, so we shouldn't be surprised that the leadership is carrying out a bourgeois program, with some concessions that is after all what they have been doing since it was founded.

It is a valid point to say that New Labour is far worse, and that Brown is even more right-wing than Blair. So we should look for an explanation why, I believe one possible candidate would be the state of socialists within the party. I believe thanks to all the people saying work outside the party, or attempting splits it has allowed the leadership to get away with far too much.

The state of the Labour Party is the way it is firstly because of the purges during the 1980s which weakened the left, largely thanks to the help of the media, Thatcher and the Labour leaders and their "longest suicide note in history" crap, and later because of so many people calling on their comrades to abandon the party.

If we lose the Labour Party, we lose the political wing of the working class. Instead of having the couple of dozen socialists in parliament we have nobody, 2.5 business parties sitting opposite each other. In effect handing the bourgeoisie total control of the parliament.

The fight for Labour isn't over, the next few years I think will be crucial, as a few comrades mentioned the possibility of losing the next election is something we need to be aware of, the polls are grim reading. But will an election defeat strengthen New Labour? Of course not it probably destroy it, it will end the one thing they've had going for them with all the moderates inside the party "we can win elections" doesn't amount to much when you lose an election.

Marxism-Leninism also cropped up, and how that the USSR and China are bad, oppressive and so on and so forth, Dave (Bridgewater TUC). How that has any relevance is beyond me, if anything it seemed more like an ad hominem against Ken (sorry I forgot your last name) from the Communist Party of Britain.

By the same logic one would attack democracy because George Bush declares he is for democracy - or any number of things. Marxists should not hand over our words just because Stalinist and Maoist revisionists like to use them.

Marxism-Leninism, or Bolshevism is important for the working class, the Labour Party is not capable of revolution, its a mass party of the working class, but still bourgeois which we should use to win progressive advancements for the working class. However when the time comes and the labour leadership are brought off on the edge of revolution, we need a revolutionary party to finish the job.

The difference between socialism, communism etc

So Brendan sent me a message a while back in which he asked:

whats the difference between socialism, communism, leninism, and marxism?

This is no simple question, but I will attempt to be brief as possible. To start off with its necessary to know a few back details.

Starting with capitalism, capitalism dates back on average 200 to 300 years (it developed in Europe, and Europe then spread it throughout the world). This is tied in with a number of key markers, firstly a political revolution, normally this results in the abolition of a monarchy, and the rest of the aristocracy. Britain is an exception here, Britain had its capitalist revolution early, as such capitalism was weak and could not totally break the monarchy. The bourgeoisie (French for middle class), then made up of merchants, business men etc, steadily growing in power became the ruling class in society, the classic example would be the French revolution.

We also see the development of the modern nation state, with a centralised government, usually a parliament full of representatives of the bourgeoisie, this leads to a single set of laws, currency, measurements and market. Which ended the often regional mess that dogged feudal society, you can imagine merchants struggling to trade between two towns because of the 20 different systems of measurements they each used. With this we also see the development of nationalism, often used by imperialist powers to justify their expansionism.

We also see the simplification of the class system, the old feudal classes like the peasantry, who were bound to the land owned by their Lord, and so on disappear. As this happens people wander into towns and cities often to "seek their fortune", however as we know they'd typically end up spinning wool or cotton for 14 hours a day just to get enough to eat.

We see the beginnings of the ruling class of capitalists, who own the tools, factories, materials etc. And the people who have to work for the capitalists in order to live.

By 1850 or so, the capitalist mode of production was the dominant one, the last traces of serfdom were being wiped out. In the last 50 or so years the number of capitalists had been dramatically reduced, put out of business due to the competition from the new technologies to increase production, and profitability.

This led many to question the system, production had increased say 4 times thanks to the technology of the industrial revolution, yet workers weren't being paid 4 times as much. This put forward the question of where profits come from, by the 1820s many socialists were coming to the conclusion that profits were the unpaid wages that the workers didn't get paid, the capitalists were pocketing the difference.

It took Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels to come up with a detailed description of what is going on in capitalist society. Anyway from there, I think we can talk about what socialism and communism are.

Socialism and communism is essentially the same thing, the goals of both are the establishment of a communist society (although not all socialists accept communism will follow). Various communist sects have existed throughout history, going back maybe a couple of thousand years, their goal to create a better world. It wasn't until Karl Marx did they actually have their feet on the ground.

Karl Marx said that now it is actually achievable, thanks to the direction capitalism was developing in. It was creating a class of people worldwide, who could lead a revolution and end the class war that has raged for thousands of years by making the means of production, the economic power base of every ruling class, public property, where not a minority control them but everybody democratically.

A socialist society, or the lower phase of communist society. Is one which has the workers as the new ruling class, and one where the means of production are under their control, as a whole, not through a tiny minority.

A socialist society would look similar to a capitalist one, there would be a state, there would be money, and people would go to work and get paid. However the place they went to work would be owned collectively by the society, and as such also controlled by the society.

As we see in Venezuela today some factories have been taken over by the workers, in some cases they meet each morning to manage the operations of the factory for that day, in some cases they elect a management to do this for them. There are many ways the people can control the economy democratically.

There will also be a few other key differences to the workplace; technology will no longer be feared. In capitalist society if a robot can help a worker do a job, in many cases the capitalist will sack the worker to increase profits.

In a socialist society, the profit motive does not exist. Assume a robot costs £100 and can double the production of a single worker, who is paid say £1000 a month.

We can either halve the cost of the commodity (plus the £100 investment for the robot, materials etc) as it costs the same amount of time to make twice as many commodities.

Or we halve the amount of time the worker spends at work, the same amount of goods get produced so he still gets the £1000 a month, minus the £100 for the robot.

Lastly we can double the wages of the worker to £2000 a month (minus £100 for the robot and extra materials used).

In practise I suspect all three will happen more or less together. Socialism would bring about a technological revolution like none ever seen before in human history. Everybody will want technological progress because everybody will benefit from it, everybody will have an incentive to improve production.

Communism, or the higher phase of communist society is a society in which the state has dissolved, money has dissolved the concept of "work" has changed beyond recognition and countries and nations are confined to the history books.

As the classes dissolve due to everybody both working and collectively owning the means of production. Everybody in the society will share the same relationship to the means of production, no one group will own and no one group will work for the other group. The state, which we saw develop with the first class societies will no longer need to exist to defend the ruling class from those beneath. It will wither away just like it slowly evolved into existence.

Thanks to production being so high, people's needs will be fulfilled, money will be a non-issue, thanks to technology work won't be seen as a necessary evil, but as something we just do. Obviously to get this developed may take some time, many generations perhaps.

To touch on Marxism, Leninism, social-democracy, anarchism, Stalinism etc.

Marxism I suppose has a couple of main components, dialectical materialism, historical materialism and the labour theory of value. All of which are too much to go into in this blog post. Essentially nowadays most socialists are Marxists, either by descent or by influence, very few areas of socialism were left untouched by Marxist thinking.

Leninism has a few components, the theory of imperialism which explains how the most developed countries exploit the 3rd world by owning their means of production. And also a method for bringing about the revolution, typically how the Bolsheviks did it in 1917, after the more mainstream left-wing leaders had been paid off by the capitalists, a democratic centralist party made up of committed revolutionaries would strike the final blow against capitalism. I believe Leninism is a valid continuation of Marxism, however I don't necessarily believe a small democratic centralist revolution party is the way to go in a western parliamentary democracy. I'd also lump Trotskyism in here too, typically Stalinists use it to insult anti-Stalinists, some Marxists use it to differentiate themselves from Stalinism.

Social-democracy (up until that time socialists were in parties usually called Social Democratic, or Socialist Democratic Labour), has the nickname the social-bourgeois split from the socialist movement in 1914 following the outbreak of the First World War. They supported the nationalistic bloodshed; genuine socialists urged the troops not to fight, but to turn their guns on their leaders who had sent them off to war. Social-democracy is something that has led the workers up the hill, only for their leaders to be brought out and lead the workers back down again.

Anarchists share the goal of socialists, in that they want a communist society. They differ on how to achieve it. Anarchists believe communism can be brought about over-night simply by smashing the state. They don't think the workers should make use of the things we have won, like the right to vote etc like Marxists and other socialists do.

Stalinism, often mistakenly called socialism or communism refers to the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and beyond, and also other countries influenced by Moscow after that date, China until the 90s or so, Korea, Eastern and Central Europe, and to a lesser extend Cuba. Stalinism (and Maoism) has a few key points, its strongly nationalistic, in contrast to the internationalism of Marxism, it almost always features a personality cult, a great man to look up to, and it is always a dictatorship of a small minority, typically it also features a nationalised economy which this minority rule over.

Anyway I hope that helps answer your question.

Hugo Chavez being pulled left

Chavez gave a speech last week, and I have to say what I've read of it so far is the most refreshing yet.

"...workers councils will come into being in the factories, in the workplaces, but they should reach out to the communities and be fused into other councils of popular power: community councils, students councils, etc... What for? To shout slogans? To go around shouting long live Chavez? No!... To change the relationships in the workplace, to plan production, to take over piece by piece the functions of the government and to finish up by destroying the bourgeois state."

"We are going to destroy the bourgeoisie".

Not using the word oligarchy as he normally does, referring to the worst of the capitalists, now he uses the term bourgeoisie, referring to all capitalists. He also suggests the reading of Marx, Engels and Lenin and Trotsky on how the workers themselves should organise and run society from the bottom up.

Like Castro, Chavez came to power on a platform not of revolution but social reform to ease the burden of the most down-trodden within society. But like Castro he is reaching the same conclusion the capitalists just won't let him carry out such a program without economic sabotage and attempted coup d'états, why? Because they're unwilling to let their profits be "wasted" on helping the workers, despite the obvious fact that its the workers who make those profits in the first place.

It only took a few healthcare reforms, like opening free clinics for the capitalists of Venezuela to want the guy out. Now he sees the only way to safeguard the gains that have been made is to empower the working class themselves to build their own state to replace the bourgeois and bureaucratic state that Chavez inherited, so they can start to learn how to run society themselves and close the door on the power of big business.

Why socialism?

From an essay written by Albert Einstein in 1949:

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Read the complete essay online here.

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