Sunday, 31 May 2009

Marxists and the Labour Party

The Alliance for Workers Liberty have now opened a debate on their attitude to the Labour Party before they officially change their position to recognise that, like was the case with Mark Twain, the announcement of the Labour Party’s death were premature. See: How Stalinists and Centrists Change Course .

In the debate they have opened up Keeping Our Options Open , Cathy Nugent puts her finger on the nub of Sean Matgamna’s position when she says,

“What I see most of all in Sean’s approach is, despite the stated commitment to objective analysis and concrete historical experience, is a lack of faith (as opposed to reasonable scepticism) in any substantial, broadly working-class, political project outside of Labour, even under new conditions.”

Precisely, but that lack of faith in the working class is what I have been saying for the last few years characterises the AWL’s politics in general!!!! It means in effect giving up on the working class being central to your politics – a feature which has affected all Third Campist organisations eventually – and instead looking for other vehicles to hitch your wagon to. That’s what led the Third Campist SWP to end up hitching their wagon to the clerical-fascists and communalists, whilst the same method but different subjective judgements led the AWL to hitch its wagon to “democratic-imperialism”, as it increasingly saw the world as divided into tow camps – on the one hand “democracy” (which was ‘good’), and on the other Totalitarianism/Bonapartism (which was ‘bad’). Of course, both the SWP and the AWL refuse to accept any responsibility for the ‘bad’ actions of those to whom they have tied their fate, which simply leaves them acting as cheerleaders for these greater forces, who can then play the role of Monday Morning Quartback decrying what went wrong in their chosen teams tactics!

Cathy Nugent is absolutely correct that is what this new zig or is it a zag by the AWL leadership is all about as it necessarily gets tossed from one position to another according to the whims of fate, and cut loose as its Third Campism has led it from any kind of objective Marxist analysis.

Martin Thomas does a valiant job in trying to back up Sean’s argument in the face of Cathy’s rebuttal – a rebuttal, which though it locates the real reason for the change of position still ends up itself arguing the wrong position. He argues that the reason for the change of position IS based on some objective analysis. The current economic crisis of Capitalism, he argues will lead to a Tory victory next year. The severity of the crisis will mean that inevitable clashes will occur between workers and the Tory Government, which will be a right-wing Tory Government needing to take harsh measures to deal with the severity of the crisis. Under those conditions the unions will not split from Labour, they will hunker down with it. Labour will be able to strike up an oppositional more radical pose, and within those conditions some opening will arise for action inside the LP.

Sounds plausible until you look at the experiecne of history, and look at the real situation. The end of the Long Wave Boom that began in the 1880’s came around 1914. Its during that boom period that we see some dramatic changes. The growth of mass workers parties, the rise of new unions organising the unskilled etc. After that the crisis leads on the back of the militancy built up to large scale workers resistance, indeed to the Russian, German and Hungarian Revolutions. But, after a brief boom, from around 1920 onwards, Europe sank into a protracted economic malaise that deepened sharply with the onset of the Great Depression and lasted until the outbreak of WWII. During this period class conscioussness did not advance, but went backwards. The rise of Stalinism, of National Socialism and in the LP a reflection of that with the Liverpool Conference that voted against the admission of Communists ata time when they were being arrested just for being Communists, and the subsequent expulsion of CLP’s in the National Left-Wing Movement etc.

The same was true in the later equivalent period of the 1970’s and 80’s. The Long Wave Boom that began in 1949 did not bring large numbers of people into the LP. It took some time before the renewed confidence that the boom created via higher demand for Labour, and rising workers living standards to even be translated into greater union militancy that really began to be noticeable in the early 60’s with the growth of the Shop Stewards Movement and unofficial action. The main beneficiaries of that were not the LP during this period, but the groups like the IS who offered a simple syndicalist message of more militancy. Its again only when the boom comes to an end that “more militancy” can be seen no olonger as a solution that the more advanced workers realise that a political solution is required, and, still attached to the illusions of bourgeois democracy, come to the obvious conclusion that such a political solution can only come through the Labour Party. In fact, I like many other TU militants I know from the time, followed exactly that course. Its that, which set up the battles within the LP of the 1970’s and early 80’s. But, just as the ultimate failures of revolutions after 1914 and into the 1920’s led to a retrenchment so the failures of those struggles in the early 1980’s, and the watershed of the defeat of the Miners Strike in 1984, also then saw the retrenchment in the LP, the growth of the Right, the abandonment of the struggle by large sections of the left.

The current boom that began around 1999 has not yet seen that kind of development. It has begun with the first signs of increasing militancy – the petrol drivers strike of last year, the wildcat strikes by refinery workers etc. – but as I suggested some time ago the commencement of that process will necessarily, in the case of a more decrepit British Capitalism, be initially more defensive than offensive in nature. It takes time for the objective conditions to find their reflection in the psyche of workers. It takes time for them to rebuild basic structures, and to select new rank and file leaders. If this really were a serious slump then its unlikely to produce the kinds of response that Martin describes.

But it isn’t. Last year long before the actual recession began in the Third Quarter the AWL were talking about recession as though it was already a fact. Its been typical of sections of the left to shout crisis at every opportunity like some kind of comfort blanket. It partly stems from the old Lassalleanism and the Iron Law of Wages, the need to every so often propagandistically suggest that Capitalism is unable to raise workers living standards, and partly from the continued influence of Stalinism within the workers movement that took on that Iron Law of Wages, and feels the need to describe some absolute impoverishment of workers, and dream up all kinds of explanations and caveats to overcome the very obvious fact that workers living standards HAVE risen! Its also a bit of Mr. Micawbersim – the left continually hoping that “something will turn up”, to get them out of their hopeless condition.

Now, even as its clear that the worst of the recession is over, and – subject to some unforeseen second shoe not dropping – recovery is about to get under way the AWL continue to frame their politics – at least to argue this particular case – around the notion of some continued long and deep slump. Yet, it is the fact, that no such long, deep slump is likely that is the real reason to be in the Labour Party. Its likely, in the next few years that the resumption of the boom will again see as it did in the early 60’s a rise in the ideology of syndicalism and Trade Union militancy. The larger groups like the SP can benefit from that, but its unlikely that the sectlets like the AWL will, except very marginally. But, that private benefit will be at the expense of the good of the labour Movement as a whole, precisely because that kind of syndicalism can offer no real long term political solution for the working class. That political solution can only be developed on the basis of a struggle within the Workers Party, and both Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas are right to say that no credible alternative Workers Party to the LP is on the horizon, and Cathy Nugent accepts that too.

Yet, its clear that for the AWL leadership this orientation to the LP is based on just the same sectarianism that marked the left’s previous Entrism. Martin says,

“Sean wrote: “AWL will be running Jill Mountford as a... candidate against Labour... in the 2010 general election, and we... call for the maximum coordination and mobilisation of socialists to run as broad a spread of [socialist] candidates as possible”. Sean’s and my orientation does not hinder such “extra-Labour” AWL activity as is realistic.”

In other words we recognise the LP as still being the Workers Party – albeit a bourgeois workers party – but we will not join that Party of the workers in good faith, but only to leach off it. And as a worker in the LP who, however much I might dislike the leadership, acts on the basis of workers democracy and the acceptance of majority decisions, I would say to such people, “if that’s your attitude, piss off and build your own Party if that’s what you really want”!!!!

And, there really is an important point here about the nature of the statist, revolutionary left. For all of their many pages of opposition to Stalinism, for all their propaganda about fighting for democracy – the AWL, for instance has another article entitled The Battle For Democracy , a reference to Marx’s statement that for socialism to be possible it was necessary to win the Batlle of Democracy within the working class, to win it over in its vast majority to socialist ideas, - the reality is that they do not really believe in democracy, not even in workers democracy. The real workers, and the real workers party hold ideas that they disagree with. If that exists in a Trade Union there are two alternatives – either you accept the majority view and try to change it, or else if that view is so distateful, you go and set up another union. But, this revoluitonary, statist Left doesn’t do that. Its tried many times to set up its own Workers Parties and failed miserably to attract Workers to them. Not surprisingly, because those same workers in the LP hadn’t been won over to them either!!!!! Yet, Martin declares with what appears to be some astonishment,

“It is galling to admit that we have failed to split any large part of Labour’s base away to our politics over the 12 years of New Labour rule.”

Having failed to do so they don’t want to accept the majority view at the present time of workers, and try to change it, they want simply to us the LP when it suits them, ignore the majority votes of workers within it, and do their own thing by standing their own candidates etc.! Is it any wonder that workers have such a low regard for people who can play so fast and loose with democratic principles within the workers movement? Is it any wonder that looking at the experience of the Russian Revolution, and the manifestation of similar disregard for the majority votes of workers when they didn’t suit the views of the revoluitonary statists predecessors, and seeing how that ended up, that workers give them such a wide birth???

Marxists have to be in the LP because it is the Workers Party, warts and all. As workers militancy rises, as it necessarily will in coming years as the resumption of the Boom raises the demand for Labour and workers confidence, Marxists have to learn the lessons of the 1960’s when a lot of that raw militancy was squandered in syndicalist politics. They have instead to channel it into a political struggle within the Workers Party, and into building workers self-activity around such a political perspective.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Building on Confidence

For the last fortnight or so, I’ve been busy laying slabs, landscaping and building dry stone walls, so I’ve been too busy to proceed much further on putting together my analysis of why this will be the last quarter of negative economic growth. However, the economic data continues to come in showing that the basis thesis is being confirmed. The latest was the US Consumer Confidence Data which came out on Tuesday. It showed the largest increase in 6 years, and went up to the level of September last year prior to the onset of the recession.

The Index rose by nearly 30% from last month rising from 40.8 to 54.9. See: US Consumer Confidence . Other US data showed that although house prices were still falling on an annualised basis, the fall is being reduced. In fact, detailed figures showed on a monthly basis house prices were rising in some parts of the country. In addition, US Existing Home Sales also increased by around 4% compared with the previous month, though housing inventories remain at very high levels. In Britain, Net Mortgage Lending fell. This appears to be due, however, to a reduction in remortgaging as people benefit from the existing low rates. At the same time, the number of new mortgage approvals rose by about 4% compared to the previous month continuing the rising trend from the beginning of the year.

In fact, most economists now agree that the worst of the recession is over, and that the second half of the year, or the beginning of 2010 will see a resumption of growth. The discussion has shifted to the strength of that recovery with all sorts of descriptions using various letters of the alphabet from L to W, and various other symbols such as the Nike Swoosh, and the Square Root to describe the shape of the graph of decline and recovery. Those who refuse to see the end of the recession tend to be those on the Right, the Libertarians, Austrians and their attendants who ideologically are committed to the view that only disaster can result from the kind of “socialistic” state intervention in the economy that the last few months have seen, and those on the Left, who are equally ideologically committed to the view that Capitalism is always on the verge of imminent collapse, which they hold to out of desperation in the hope that it might provoke some kind of working class revolt, thereby removing from them the arduous task of having to actually relate to and work with the existing working class.

In fact, as I will show when I can present my overall analysis, the recovery is likely to be stronger than most people envisage. Part of the reason for that is the fact of the Long Wave boom in which we continue to exist. The other part, and related to that is the nature of the recession and recovery. In short, it is to do with the innovation cycle. I’ve been fascinated to watch a number of programmes about the extent to which the US is beginning to invest in alternative energy – now surpassing Germany to become the lead producer of Wind Energy, for instance. There is an interesting article by Bjorn Lomborg in the NYT, about why such investment offers opportunities for Capital. Lomborg . This emphasis on Research and Development to create new low-carbon technologies not only offers the most efficient means of reducing carbon emissions and climate change, but offers technologically driven economies such as the US a means of dealing with the economic situation they face of being unable to compete with low wage economies. Not surprisingly, we see the US government beginning to provide incentives for such industries, and beginning to talk about the introduction of carbon taxes on the old polluting industries, as well as similar moves in relation to vehicle emissions, and incentives for fuel efficient cars. Even oil men like T. Boone Pickens are investing large sums in this new technology. As Lomborg pointed out in another article, this kind of development is much more efficient to some of the other options like planting forests. See: We Don’t Need Five Planets .

In fact, the nature of this economic crisis, sparked by the Financial Crisis, is basically structural. Exacerbated by the nature of Monopoly Capitalism, which allowed Capital to be locked up for long periods of time in huge monopolistic firms such as General Motors, Capital failed to be efficiently allocated. The nature of crises according to Marx is to bring about in violent form the necessary readjustment and reallocation of Capital. Now huge amounts of Capital that was misallocated in firms like GM – along with the Labour that it kept employed – is being reallocated, and the kind of adjustment that Marx described is taking place – along with the corresponding readjustments on a global scale – See my blog: A Crisis Out of All Disproportion amongst others.

In short, in a global market, and global labour market, countries like the US can no longer compete in the production of many manufactured commodities, which require large amounts of unskilled labour, because US Labour Costs are simply too high compared to those in countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and increasingly even Africa, where these commodities can just as easily be produced. Marxists have to tell the truth to workers in developed economies that in the longer-term, these kinds of industries and jobs will either have to go, or else workers in developed countries will have to accept a huge fall in their living standards, unless Capitalism is overthrown – and even then they might still struggle to compete in these types of production. It is no wonder that we see a rise in Nationalistic sentiment, and of Protectionism such as that of No2EU.

The solution for Capital in the developed economies is to move to those areas where it has an advantage – areas which require large amounts of skilled labour, which require huge expenditure on Research and Development, which require large amounts of innovation. Again this ties into the nature of the present conjuncture. I was looking recently at figures for my own area in North Staffordshire. Although the figures for job losses were higher than the average, the figures for new business start-ups were also higher than the average. In periods of Long Wave downturn there can be lage numbers of start-ups as people made redundant and with little hope of new employment in the immediate future look to become self-employed – especially where they have some kind of skill – and scrape around for work. However, in periods of Long Wave boom such as now the start-ups are different. They tend to be entrepreneurs who see an opening for some new commodity or market.
Look at the number of bio-tech companies that have started up in the last ten years. Look at the number of Science Parks that now adorn every University Campus in the country. Why? Because these kinds of businesses CAN compete on a global scale. The low organic composition of Capital, by which they are characterised means a high rate of profit, and the Universities are happy to welcome and encourage them, because like the old time Landlords, it means that they can charge high rents out of these high profits!!!

It is this nature of the conjuncture, the possibility of large amounts of Capital flowing out of long moribund firms such as GM into vibrant new industries based on base technologies created during the last innovation cycle, industries with high rates of profit that will give, the recovery from the present recession its powerful impetus. In addition, the rapidly developing economies in Asia – now also benefiting from the fact that the investments in new mines etc. of the last decade has begun to bring on stream new raw materials supply, with a consequent fall in primary product prices – continue to grow rapidly. Their domestic markets will soak up not just the increasing production of manufactured goods from the new workshops of the world, as Capitalism does what it has always done and creates its own market within these economies, but will also be markets for these new products from the already developed economies. The downside is that these new industries in the developed economies will not employ vast numbers of people. They will, however, go some way to providing the resources to continue to employ large numbers of lower paid workers in various forms of service industries.

At the same time that on a global scale living standards will tend to come together – because given the above the living standards of many workers in the developed economies will fall relative to those in developing economies – we are likely to see a widening of living standards WITHIN economies, between those very highly skilled, highly educated workers in these new industries, and those employed in unskilled service sectors.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Kick Out The Monarchy

The anti-Monarchist organisation Republic has an online petition for the abolition of the Monarchy. I’d recommend every socialist sign it. Here: Take Action .

I don’t agree with all of the politics presented by Republic; I don’t think there is a need for an elected Head of State, for instance, any more than an elected House of Lords. Bourgeois democracy would be just as well served by an elected House of Commons unrestricted by the blocking powers of other Chambers. But, even within the restricted confines of bourgeois democracy, much more would be required. In the US, Senators can be recalled as happened a few years ago in California. It is also a basic element of democracy in Venezuela, so there is no reason not to have such accountability written into the British political system. In the US, the top Civil Servants are brought in by the elected politicians. Although, given the right-wing nature of all elected US politicians this means a right-wing bureaucracy to go with it – that is no different that the political complexion of the bourgeois state in every country. What it does mean, though, is that, if an when some Left-wing government were elected it would have the Constitutional right to bring in its own staff, thereby helping to overcome the natural opposition such a Government would face from the full-time permanent staff of the bourgeois state.

The same thing applies to all those other state officials – the Judges, the Police Chiefs, the Military Top Brass should all be subject to election, as well as there being far greater democracy within the armed forces and Police forces. In fact, in the US the bourgeois Constitution sets down the right to bear arms of all Citizens as part of a properly constituted Citizen Militia. Given the current economic situation it would be far more effective to scrap the standing army, and all the other paraphernalia of Imperial ambitions, and to set up and train the whole population to defend itself.

Alan Johnson has called for a referendum on electoral reform in relation to Proportional Representation. Good, the current First past the Post system amounts to nothing more than ballot-rigging and fraud. The argument that it ensures the election of a strong government has nothing to do with democracy. On that basis you could justify a one party state, or a Dictatorship! But, simply introducing PR is no good on its own, and some of the other suggestions like introducing US style “Primaries”, would be a step backwards. IN the US the system of Primaries is a farce, with supporters of one party registering as supporters of the other simply in order to vote to get the least electable candidate selected!!! However, the underlying principle that there should be a huge increase in the democratic base of those participating in the selection process cannot be gainsaid. It will mean that the Left will have to abandon its sectarian fantasies, and begin the job that Marx set out – to win the battle of democracy within the working class, by relating to and providing practical and immediate solutions to workers problems as opposed to fantastic visions of some far off socialist society or socialist revolution.

On “Question Time” this week, Ben Bradshaw spoke out against the House of lords, saying that there is no place in the 21st Century, for the Hereditary Principle. He restricted that to just the House of Lords, but if it applies to the Lords it applies to the Monarchy even more so. We should simply abolish both. The left, once again looking to its own narrow interests is looking to milk the MP’s expenses scandal to the utmost. That is most marked by the attitude of No2EU. In doing so it is missing a huge opportunity. The majority of the population are furious over that scandal, but it comes on top of the even bigger scandal of the Banker’s Bonuses. As I said in my recent blog, Greed Is Not The problem even that is small beer compared to the millions of pounds leached away by the top bosses in their own expenses scandals, expenses that drain the profits of the companies we work for, the companies whose profits should go as dividends to our pension funds, and whose profits should also finance the taxes for the Capitalist State. The Torygraph have opened a Pandora’s Box on the corruption that is endemic and inherent in the way the Capitalist system works, socialists should be throwing the lid of that box wide open not allowing workers to only glimpse into it so far as the issue of MP’s expenses.

Friday, 22 May 2009

What Is The Hum?

The last week has seen the media asking the above question. Even tonight's "Have I Got News For You?" referred to it. I was quite surprised when I came across it, because I've been asking the same question!

The BBC in this report Have You Heard The Hum?" relates the main details. Even Wikipedia has a section on it. The Hum . There is even a website devoted to it Here .

According to most news reports, scientists claim that the Hum is due to people having "over-sensitive" hearing. I don't think so. About 5 years ago, I began to suffer from Tinnitus - the continuous buzzing noise in the ears. No one really knows what causes that either. Mine began after a severe case of nasal congestion, but it also started after someone came into an already very hot sauna and threw a load of water on to the coals - but ENT specialists tell me its nothing to do with that. In fact, I have always had exceptionally good hearing, and when I went for tests for the Tinnitus they conformed I still have perfect hearing, which is unusual for people who have Tinnitus.

Oddly, my wife who has poor hearing - me and my kids are always complaining she's deaf as a post - as a result of years spent working in a very noisy Computer Room now also suffers from Tinnitus, but has also been told by the ENT specialists that she has the hearing of a 16 year old!!!! Perhaps says something about the effect of MP3 players on thee hearing of 16 year olds.

But, both of us have heard a hum over recent months. I checked the obvious things - no she hadn't left her vibrator switched on, no a car wasn't parked outside, electrical equipment wasn't still running and so on. The noise seemed to be coming from underneath the bed. I opened the window and it didn't get louder, but I checked in the Study and could still hear it. I could hear it also in the bathroom.

My guess was that it could be coming from within the central heating system, but I couldn't hear it any louder by putting my ear to the radiator either. I can't accept the idea that its due to over-sensitive hearing, because although I normally hear it before my wife, she can hear it too, despite the fact that her hearing is not over acute by any means. And I quite distinctly only hear it at night, and I hear it start, and stop. Its quite a different nolise to that you get from Tinnitus, which IS a constant noise, even though you can get distracted from it.

My guess is it could be soemthing to do with the amount of micro wave radiation we are pumping through the air with the profusion of cell phones, wirelss technology of various kinds etc., but that's just a wild guess.

How Stalinists and Centrists Change Course - The AWL and Labour

The history of Stalinism has been one, particularly in the 1920's and 1930's of rapid and large changes of course. In the 1920's, support for bouregois forces such as the Kuomintang, the leaders of the TUC and so on. Quickly followed by the shift to the opposite direction, to the Third Period, where everyone other than the Stalinists was described as some kind of fascist. That was followed by a rapid shift back to the Popular Front, and so on. Not only was each dramatic shift accompanied by terrible defeats for the working class, but each shift was presented as though, the fundamental analysis underlying each position remained in place. It was as though each change did not of itself demonstrate that the original position was wrong!

That same feature of Stalinism and Centrism, of continual zig-zagging has been a feauture of the Stalinists of the AWL. And once again, the shift of position is presented as being completely in tune with what has gone before. The latest example is the AWL's shift of position on the LP. See: The Unions, Labour, AWL, and the Crisis: a Debate .

Having for some time like most of the Left deserted the working class and its political struggle inside the LP, in favour of various party building stunts and orientations to one after another petit-bourgeois milieu, Sean Matgamna, and so necessarily shortly after the AWL itself, has decided that its time to re-evaluate the LP. The AWL's membership apparently do not understand the the AWL's complex history and attitude to the LP - I wonder why that might be?????

They do not understand that the AWL has NEVER considered that the LP was dead. Really???

Sean says,

"The correct and necessary emphasis in all our recent commentary on denouncing New Labour may even mean that some comrades have not understood our basic "line" on the Labour Party. They may think that our assessment has been identical to that of the Socialist Party - that the Labour Party is dead. That is not our position, not even in the latest AWL NC document for our conference, which (extrapolating as it does more or less in a straight line from recent years' developments) I now think to be seriously off-balance."

Perhaps, what might have confused the AWL's own cadre were the stories that the AWL carried in its paper last year, when it collapsed into support for the SWP/Hezbollah - you know that organisation that Sean describes here (Their cavalier attitude to the existing labour movement, essentially their blinkered and sectarian "build-the-revolutionary-party" indifference to that movement, has been one of the roots of the sectism that grips the ostensible revolutionary left in Britain - its shaping influence) - which said "The Labour Party is a Stinking Corpse"!!!!

The Labour Party is a Stinking Coirpse

In that Editorial either written by or approved by Sean the AWL wrote,

"Look back over the process of change, and the fact hits you full in the face: the Labour Party founded over 100 years ago by some unions and socialist organisations is dead."

It concluded,

"The central conclusion from the history of the fragmented responses to the Blair-Brownite coup in the Labour Party is that only a coherent Marxist organisation can in itself act to co-ordinate in any thoroughgoing way the different responses evoked in the labour movement. We, as a living organisation, have to respond to the “fragments”. AWL has to co-ordinate our different fields of work — trade union, youth, students, in No Sweat and Feminist Fightback — integrating them both politically and organisationally as we build a new broad movement for working-class political representation."

In other words the AWL had to build itself as a Party.

What we have then is that old Stalinist politics whereby mistakes are never acknowledged, and whereby about faces in position are presented as a continuous line of march. A proposal to now orientate to the LP is not at all inconcsistent with the position of the AWL, because you see the AWL never did consider the LP dead like those sectarians in the Socialist Party. And here probably is the real reason for the change of course. The SP has linked up with the CPB in the reactionary, nationalist No2EU. As I have stated elsewhere, Marxists should not give any support to this reactioanry lash-up, but its clear what the SP's reasons for it are. Having seen the tide of working class feeling, and on the back of their success at the LOR strike, the SP see the possibility of breaking out of their electoral and organisational doldrums. By utilising the links of the CPB Stalinists with the TU bureaucracy, most prominently in the role in No2EU of Bob Crow, the SP hope to be able to pull off the same kind of trick that the SWP attempted with RESPECT, not only thereby getting a higher profile, but also creating the kind of milieu in which they can again Party build. At its most fantastic they hope that such an organisation might become a kind of Labour Mark II, in which they can udnertake the same kind of role their predecessors - the Militant - undertook in the LP.

But, the AWL along with a number of other small Left groups have been banned from joining No2EU. The AWL must fear that whatever the limited success of No2EU that space it occupies will severely stifle its own potential recruiting sphere. It makes perfect sense under such conditions to look instead to work once more inside the LP. In fact, the AWL has been marked in recent years by its maverick approach which amde a virtue out of taking an opposite stand to almost everyone else on the Left on any question you care to think of. Again a turn now to the LP would fit that approach. What is clear is that the real reasons for turning to the LP are not those presented in the article. The idea that the current "crisis of Capitalism" has brought about fundamental changes in the relationship of the working class to the LP, or of the LP rank and file to the Leadership are ridiculous.

If the AWL does make an orientation to the LP that is a sort of step forward. However, as I've written before the experiecne of the past is that even when the AWL's predecessors DID have such an orientation it was only a certain section of its membership that actually carried it out, and the orientation was NOT based on building the LP as the Workers Party, but was seen just as much as a Party Building exercise as was the method of the Militant. Its unlikely that any future orientation will be any different. In fact, given the degeneration in the politics of the AWL sicne then into that of a Stalinist sect, its likely to be much worse.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Greed Is Not The Problem. Moral Rectitude Is Not The Solution

The current media fest over the MP’s expenses claims, follows the similar furore over bankers' bonuses amid the financial meltdown. Anger and disgust is an understandable and positive consequence, but, as Marxists, we have to be careful that the concentration on the actions of greedy and corrupt individuals is not used to divert workers attention from the real problem, and the real solution. The furore over MP’s expenses has already acted to divert attention away from the story about bankers' bonuses – which make the expense claims of MP’s look like chicken feed – and the report of the Select Committee, last week, into the role of those bankers in bringing about the financial crisis. The greed and corruption of the MP’s is being hyped up, and made to look as though it is something new, but, in fact, compared to the past, it is, if anything, mild. Lloyd George openly sold peerages for his personal gain, and, in the 18th and 19th centuries, parliamentary seats were simply bought, and were bought often for the direct financial benefit of those who purchased them! And, compared to the personal gain and corruption attendant on obtaining political office in many other countries, such as the US, what has been revealed in the UK is again minor.

If such corruption has always been a part of British bourgeois democracy, if indeed, it forms a routine part of bourgeois democracy, throughout the world, then it becomes clear that it is not a matter of individual greed, and moral decay, but is an inherent part of the way bourgeois democracy works. The solution cannot be simply to change the MP’s in the hope of putting in place other MP’s with higher moral standards – which, of course, is what the current media campaign attempts to focus on – but can only be to challenge the very functioning of bourgeois democracy itself. (See: Open The Books On Bourgeois Democracy ).

But, as I said in that blog, its not just MP’s expenses that need to be investigated. We need to open the books on the expenses and other corrupt practices of top civil servants, judges, military top brass, police chiefs and so on as well as of the top paid journalists, and media companies. More than that, as was discussed in the post Boardroom Bourgeois Democracy, its not just MP’s who have these expense accounts that are open to abuse. The boss of TYCO in the US – now in gaol – Dennis Kozlowsky, spent $7,000 on a shower curtain for his office! He charged to the company the cost of hiring an island in the Pacific, along with the cost of flying in a number of well-known performers and guests for his wife’s birthday party to the business! The bonuses of the bankers are just a tip of the iceberg that has been exposed just as the MP’s expenses have been exposed.

In a recent article the Financial Times wrote,

“The UK parliament has been humiliated by an expenses scandal of Augean stench, prompting Martin Bell, an anti-sleaze campaigner, to suggest such abuses could never occur in the business world. If our cabinet ministers worked for a private company or public corporation, half of them would be out of a job this morning,” he said. “They would have been shown the door. Their employers might then call in the police. Sadly, he is wrong. Shareholders are taken for a far bigger ride by their C-suites than UK taxpayers are by their MPs. Shareholders have little insight into the perquisites enjoyed by executives: the jets, country club memberships and season tickets are never disclosed in remuneration reports. Every so often, daylight reveals shocking shareholder-funded extravagance. Ex-Tyco boss Dennis Kozlowski, for example, supplied himself with a $15,000 umbrella stand, a $17,000 “travelling toilette box” and $2,200 wastebasket. More recently, opponents of John Thain leaked to the media that the one-time chief executive of Merrill Lynch had treated himself to a $1.2m office makeover, with $87,000 rugs, $25,000 pedestal table and $68,000 credenza. But for every case that makes headlines, thousands do not. Which accounts department queries the spa treatment in the boss’s hotel bill or questions helicopter trips to far-off golf courses? C-suites around the world are, with few exceptions, hypocritical in the extreme, demanding austerity from workforces while living high on the hog themselves.”

This is inevitable within the very way in which bourgeois democracy works, both at the political and the economic level. In many ways its similar to what used to happen in Dynastic China. In China, the State owned the main means of production, and economic power resided with that State. State functionaries, the bureaucracy, formed the ruling caste, whose members were recruited mostly from within the same set of dominant families, though the examination system for entry, also meant that some of these families would “adopt” a bright child to bring up and educate as their own. Through this procedure, these state functionaries also acquired means of production of their own in the form of becoming landlords. Over time, some families would become strong, at the expense of others, whilst the ruling dynasty would inevitably engage in the kinds of corruption currently being discussed but on a much grander scale. New families would then seize upon unrest within the peasant masses, in order to push forward a rebellion that overthrew the ruling dynasty, and installed their own family in its place. Such changes of dynasty became a regular feature, but Chinese society, itself, moved forward not one jot, because these changes in ruling family did not change the underlying mechanism by which Chinese society functioned, and on which this political system rested.

Bourgeois democracy works in the same way. One set of politicians is periodically replaced, or one set of company executives is replaced by another, but nothing fundamentally changes in the way the society works, in the way the political system or the economic and industrial system works! Nor can it, because neither the politicians nor the company executives, who replace each other in succession, have any reason to change anything fundamentally, and, even if they did, they do not have the power to do so. That power not only rests with the capitalist class, it rests in the very functioning of the system itself, and that can only be changed if a different economic system is developed that replaces it. The danger of concentrating on sleaze, greed and all these other moral concepts is that, in doing so, that basic fact, for a Marxist, that only a change of system can provide a solution is lost. Worse, under current conditions, the main beneficiaries of the concentration on moral rectitude, and the diversion of attention away from the real cause – capitalism – is not a move towards the left, but the increasing support for right-wing capitalist parties such as UKIP and the BNP.

If the problem is seen solely in moral terms, then the working class will be wholly misled and miseducated. After all, if the real problem is greed, then all that is required is for society to instil moral values in its politicians and business leaders. Society would simply have to put a premium on those businesses, and business activities that were “moral”. Capitalism could simply be “morally” reformed, with no consequent need for socialism. The problem is that, in the 19th century, when capitalism was at its most brutal, there was no shortage of such “moral” capitalists. Indeed, the 19th century was renowned for its philanthropy. Wealthy capitalists almost competed with each other in their attempts to outdo each other in their charitable good works, engaging in prison reform, the establishment of model workers villages, the establishment of orphanages, children’s hospitals, parks and so on. The US today is similar, and in fact, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have both agreed to donate almost the whole of their personal fortunes – around $40 billion each – to the Gates Foundation, which concentrates on providing free healthcare solutions for the world’s poor. The problem is not greed, the solution is not moral rectitude. The problem is capitalism, the solution is socialism.

In Ancient Greece the politicians were not elected, but chosen by lot. That might sound most undemocratic, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was a symbol of the fact that having to act as a politician was seen as a burden not a privilege. But, its also necessary to understand the role of the politician in such a system. In reality, the democratic decisions were not taken by the politicians as happens in bourgeois democracy, but were taken by the people or “demos”. The people were actively involved in a direct democracy, and the politicians role was more or less to carry out the decisions arrived at. A similar system of direct democracy existed in 18th century Switzerland, as was described by Rousseau. But, such direct democracy implies control, and control implies ownership.

Workers in a factory can engage in whatever direct democracy they like, but without ownership of the factory their ability to implement the decisions arrived at are pretty meaningless. They can strike to achieve them, but ultimately if they are against the interests of the owner, he can simply shut up shop and move his capital elsewhere. Only if the workers then take over the factory for themselves can the decisions arrived at be implemented. The same is true on a workers housing estate. Workers can organise a Tenants and Residents Association, and democratically arrive at decisions on how they want the estate to be run, what repairs they want doing, what facilities they would like, and can present those demands to the landlord, be it the local council, a housing association, or private landlords, they might be able to force through some of those demands, but again the landlord has the upper hand to say yes or no. Only if they take over the houses on the estate, become themselves the collective landlord, can they be in a position to implement those decisions. In other words, the practical solutions, both economic and political, to these problems run through changing the basis framework of society, of replacing individual ownership with collective ownership by workers, and thereby allowing the kind of direct democracy that prevents the corruption etc., inherent in bourgeois democracy from becoming entrenched.

It does not require workers to have to simply wait for some socialist revolution in the distant future, or to rely on some new dynasty of politicians to resolve their problems, but revolves around the direct self-activity of workers, here and now, to change that basic framework of society around them. In so doing, it fundamentally changes the workers consciousness here and now. Its rather like Marx’s argument against Lassalle over the Iron Law of Wages. Marx had demonstrated in his economic writings, and particularly in Capital, that the fundamental objection to capitalism was not some moral objection to the conditions it imposed on workers – on the contrary Marx understood that the very functioning of capitalism necessitated a steadily rising real standard of living for workers – but, was the fact that its very functioning necessitated regular crises that would impoverish a large number of workers, and that these crises would also result in a massive destruction of capital, and society’s wealth and productive capacity. In short, his objection was not a moral objection, but a scientific, historical materialist objection that a better means of society producing and distributing existed in the form of socialism. Despite that, he was infuriated that his opponent in the workers movement Ferdinand Lassalle argued a moralistic case that undermined this argument, both because it was a return to pre-Marxist moral socialism, and because it was fundamentally wrong. Lassalle argued that capitalism, because it needed to maximise profits, would always be forced to reduce workers' wages and conditions, resulting not just in a relative decline in the workers position, but in an absolute impoverishment. He called it his “Iron Law of Wages”. Marx, slammed the notion in a number of places, including here in his “Critique of the Gotha Programme”.

“It is as if, among slaves who have at last got behind the secret of slavery and broken out in rebellion, a slave still in thrall to obsolete notions were to inscribe on the program of the rebellion: Slavery must be abolished because the feeding of slaves in the system of slavery cannot exceed a certain low maximum!” 

In other words, what Marx is saying here is that no matter how lavish the lifestyle of a slave might have become he would still be a slave!!!! The objection to slavery would not change, because that objection is not based upon the moral objection to the poor living standard of the slave! No matter how lavish the lifestyle of the worker, he remains a worker – a wage-slave (i.e. only works on the basis of handing over a portion of his production free to the capitalist). In similar vein, our objection to bourgeois democracy is not based upon some moral objection to the greed and corruption that are inherent within it, but is based upon the fact, that it is itself based upon and serves the needs of capital, and thereby is forced to assume certain such forms.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

No To No2EU

No2EU, the organisation set up by the National Socialists of the British Communist Party has now announced its list of candidates to stand in the European elections. Many of those who have joined the Stalinists in this reactionary venture do so, at least partly, on the basis of an argument that a Left-Wing, more democratic alternative to the Labour Party has to be built. But, in that case it is puzzling why they accept an election platform and programme that was simply announced by the Stalinists, and which is thoroughly imbued with the kind of reactionary, National Socialist ideology of Stalinism – See: The Cancer of Nationalism in the Workers Movement - and over which they have had no right of discussion.

Only, the leaders of the other main grouping to have joined the Stalinists – the Socialist Party – have been allowed to ask for amendments to the original platform, and the changes they have been able to make have been insignificant. And the announcement of candidates, similarly without any kind of democratic selection process, is again reminiscent of the authoritarian methods of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. In recent years, the fact that large numbers of the Left ran away from the fight, meant that the Right were given a freer hand to restrict democracy within the Party, but even today the Labour Party remains far more democratic than anything that No2EU has demonstrated. At least LP members retain the right to discuss and help formulate LP policy from the Branch level upwards, at least from the Branch level upwards they retain the right to select the candidates who will stand in their name!!!!

The adverse comparison extends even further. Ever since Lenin and the Comintern advised the British Communist Party to apply for membership of the Labour Party, the Stalinists have complained that they were expelled and refused membership. The Socialist Party too, complains that it is barred from membership of the Labour Party following the expulsion of some members of its predecessor – The Militant Tendency – back in the 1980’s. In fact, the Communist Party could have retained membership of the LP back in the 1920’s simply by stating that the British Socialist Party – which was an affiliated organisation of the LP – had simply changed its name to the Communist Party – which was true. It did not, and framed its application in terms that were almost certain to result in the application being turned down, repeating Lenin’s statement about supporting the LP “like a rope supports a hanged man”! And, although its true that some members of Militant were expelled from the LP in the 1980’s, the fact is that the majority faction that went on to become the Socialist Party, simply voted to leave, rather than stay and fight alongside all the other Trotskyist organisations, and members of the Left. If Marxists and members of Marxists organisations WANTED to be in the LP they could be, Marxists have found ways to operate politically in far more difficult and restricting conditions than those which exist within the LP today. Just look at Trotsky’s arguments for his supporters to remain in the Stalinist Parties during the 1920’s and early 1930’s when they were facing physical assault and even murder!!! Look at the way Marxists in Germany operated under the Anti-Socialist laws, or even the Russian Marxists under Tsarism.

No, the reason the majority of Marxists are outside the LP, is because it is their choice to be so, and simply reflects the sectarian politics of British “Marxism” going back more than a hundred years. It compares very unfavourably with the methods of Marx and Engels, who were extremely critical of those sectarian Marxist groups of their time who made similar arguments to those of today – of groups such as the Social Democratic Federation, for instance. In comparison, Marx and Engels rejected such sectarianism when they threw themselves into support for genuine mass workers organisations like the Chartists. And, as Engels states, when they helped create the First International they made its programme as broad as possible precisely in order to bring together all of those real mass working class forces such as the Chartists and the British Trade Unions.

But, look then at the attitude of the Stalinists and of the Socialist Party. No2EU specifically refused entry to the organisation for various Left-wing and centrist organisations. They were obviously keen to refuse entry to the SWP, for the simple reason that the size of the SWP could threaten the dominance of the campaign by the Stalinists, and the SP, who will try to utilise No2EU as a recruiting ground for their own organisation, as they used the LP in the past, will not want to compete for the same ground with their rivals in the SWP! IN other words the same kind of sectarianism that has dogged the British Left for over a century is institutionalised within No2EU.

But, to be honest most of those organisations are in any case better off keeping their distance from such a reactionary Nationalist organisation. In the past weeks most of the Left has outlined the reactionary nature of No2EU in similar terms to those that I set out in the post linked to above. Whether they would have done so quite so much had they been allowed to join in the first place – as some of them tried to do – is another matter! In response, the Socialist Party, many of whose members must be uneasy about signing up to such a reactionary platform, has been taking every opportunity to defend No2EU, and to attack those other left groups as being sectarian – the same groups they have refused entry to, but from whom they expect support for the reactionary programme they have signed up to!!!

A discussion of these arguments has been going on over at the A Very Public Sociologist blog run by SP member Phil B.C. But, others have been providing some very interesting information about how the reactionary, nationalist politics of No2EU is pulling down by an inevitable logic members of the organisation into a reactionary swamp.

For example, over at the Serge’s Fist blog there was this report of the meeting of No2EU inaugural meeting attended by just 8 people, half of whom were from Left groups hostile to the campaign, in which the CPB speaker Dave Hawkins, came out with a load of reactionary crap in favour of Immigration Controls.

“The meeting began with an unwelcome discussion on the politics of the campaign with myself and other comrades taking the CPB to task for backing immigration controls, British jobs for British workers and little Britain politics dressed up in trade union clothes. The comrade from SPEW seemed genuinely shocked when Dave Hawkins from the CPB proclaimed that immigration controls are a great British tradition and that British workers should be protected from immigrants coming over here and taking their jobs.”

Well, those SP comrades may have been shocked, but it was not long before other prominent SP members had been drawn down into the sewer of such reactionary politics. A later post on the same blog related how a prominent SP member had been posting on BNP dominated websites trying to whip up votes for No2EU by appealing to all of those kinds of reactionary nationalist sentiments. In No2EU Looks To Far Right For Support , they relate how SP member, Andrew Ballard, had been posting comments on BNP dominated pages of facebook such as,

“‘British jobs for British workers and Italian jobs for Italian workers. The only reason the EU has such a large migrant workforce is to drive down workers wages and increase profits for the super rich. Vote no2eu on June the 4th.’”!

This apparently has been the “internal” position for a long time. According to one post I read last week in an internal discussion the SP’s Peter Taffe stated that if they raised a demand for abolition of all Immigration Controls, British workers simply would not understand it!

But, similar stories are coming in for other parts of the country too. This report from the Weekly Worker gives a similar picture of the defence of reactionary nationalist politics and support for Immigration Controls being put forward by No2EU spokesmen.

Given the deeply ingrained Nationalism and xenophobia of the British population that comes partly from being an island nation, unconquered for more than 1,000 years, and partly from the need to develop racism as a specific ideology based on the inferiority of those it enslaved – the American sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox argues cogently that Capitalism as an ideology based upon the idea of Equality, needs racism in a way that previous class systems did not, precisely because of the need to explain why some people are NOT treated as equals – Marxists have a specific duty to stand against any infection of the workers movement by Nationalism. Moreover, given that situation it is obvious that even at the best of times that Nationalism will colour workers ideas and responses. In the current conditions where xenophobia is being whipped up by the BNP, and sections of the media to diver workers attention from the responsibility of Capitalism for the current crisis that duty is all the greater. If socialists stand on a platform whose very name “No2EU” chimes in with everything that the BNP and the right-wing media have been saying. Let alone when the individual elements of the programme of that organisation reinforce those Nationalistic ideas, it is no wonder that workers do not hear any potential progressive message that members of the Socialist Party might want to convey to them, because that message has already been drowned out by the reactionary nature of the name and basis of the organisation!

Even Phil was forced to admit that in his blog post about his experience of holding a “No2EU” stall in Hanley recently. No2EU in Hanley . He says,

“For starters people approaching the stall tended to be more politically engaged, though not always in the way we socialists would like! Given how the campaign's only recently come together it was unsurprising a bit of confusion greeted the name. He and Brother N spoke to some anti-EU people who were preparing to vote for UKIP or the BNP and found the best way of talking to them was to strongly contest anti-immigrant sentiment by putting forward straightforward class arguments.”

He doesn’t say what the conclusion of that was, but I’d suggest that such people are unlikely to be won over to a progressive position simply on the basis of a short discussion in the street, or being given a “No2EU” leaflet to read!!!! And, as the reports above demonstrate the nature of No2EU as a pretty opportunistic election vehicle – the opportunist nature of it was demonstrated by its declaration of trying to pick up votes on the back of opposition to sleaze in Parliament – is more likely to result in a sliding into accommodation of those backward ideas simply in order to win over votes from workers holding those reactionary ideas.

Marxists should say No to No2EU, and vote for Labour in the upcoming elections as still being the mass party of the working class. More importantly, Marxists should join the LP, and begin to do the necessary work at a Branch level of turning it outwards to local working class communities, building the working class and its organisations from the ground up on the basis of encouragement of direct-working class action and self-activity. That can be done by encouraging and facilitating the building of basic working class organisations such as Tenants and residents Associations, Credit Unions, Housing Co-operatives and so on that can give immediate practical solutions to workers in dealing with their problems here and now without asking them to wait for the revolution, or asking them to place their faith in the bourgeois state at a local or national level. It can be done by linking such organisations to the local Trade Unions, to Co-operatives of Construction Workers providing houses and repairs as well as jobs under workers ownership and control. And, at the same time it can be linked to local anti-fascist organisation to keep the fascists and also criminal gangs out of workers estates, through the building of workers own defence and policing organisations on their estates. Such solutions, however, can only ever be partial. They cannot deal with the overall contradictions of Capitalism, and the repeated economic and social crises which it suffers. But, without that basic focus on workers self-activity, without that root and branch rebuilding of the workers movement from the ground up the solutions to those bigger problems cannot be solved by the working class. Instead, the solution to those problems will be posed in terms that have continually failed throughout the last century, and which No2EU replicates today. The solution will instead be posed as coming from some “Leader”, or “Vanguard” that provides a solution from on high to be brought about either via some Parliament or via some revolution undertaken by this leader or vanguard, and to which the working class have no other relation than to be the foot-soldiers. We’ve seen time and again where those solutions lead in the consequences of Social Democracy and of Stalinism, and its time to return to the fundamental solutions based on workers self-activity, and Co-operation advocated by Marx and Engels.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Now Its Official

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research has now said, that the UK economy stopped contracting in April. See: NIESR . This confirms what I said in my blog a couple of weeks ago The Recession Is Over . Its my intention to provide a fuller account of the reasons for making that call, once I have time.

In the meantime the FT, has also today come out with a report from the OECD, which also comes to similar conclusions.

A string of further data continue to show that the deterioration in conditions is lessening, and the basis for a resumption of growth is being laid. The FT also has a report today that Retail Sales in the UK increased at the fastest rate in 3 years, whilst house prices, although still falling, are falling less quickly. One bad sign is the continued rise in unemployment, but for economists that is a lagging indicator, it can continue to rise up to a year after recessions have ended so its continued rise is no surprise.

More soon.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Open The Books On Bourgeois Democracy

If anyone doubted that Bourgeois Democracy was a bankrupt, corrupt system by which the Capitalist Class disguise their Dictatorship the revelations in The Torygraph about MP’s expenses should have removed those doubts. For the ruling Capitalist class, MP’s and Ministers perform the same function as the non-executive Directors on Company Boards. They are there for show, to try to present a picture that decisions are made in the interests of a wider constituency than just the tiny number of Capitalists who have real control over the means of production and power in society. And just like those non-executive Directors the bosses are happy to keep them sweet with high levels of remuneration and expense accounts. But, by the same token that relationship allows the bosses to control and admonish its paid servants whenever it chooses. See also: Boardroom Bourgeois Democracy . Bourgeois democracy encourages the mass of the people to abstain from active political involvement themselves, and to leave it to a small number of professional politicians. Of course, if you do that then you should not be surprised if, having put the fox in charge of the hen house, you find your chickens are disappearing.

To be fair, given that political system, coming up with a fair system isn’t as easy as it seems. This morning on Adam Boulton, he suggested, as have other commentators that MP’s just be given a bigger salary, and cut out the expenses. But, that wouldn’t be fair either, because not all MP’s have the same necessary expenses. Take one of the examples cited – that of a Defence Minister who claimed for Poppy Wreaths. Far be it from me to want to defend any of these politicians, but you can see from this example the difficulty. Say as that Minister you as part of your job are expected to attend say 20 events requiring wreath laying. I have no idea what the cost of such wreaths might be, but say £50. Then just in that alone you are talking about £1,000 – an expense that other MP’s wouldn’t have to pay.

The best solution would be to have such expenses covered by the Department, not the Minister. Similarly, in respect of housing, as I suggested in my blog Solving The MP’s Housing Expenses Problem , they could just be provided with a Council house on some run down London estate.

But, simply shunting off the problem to the Department is no solution either, because if we get round to finding what the top Civil Servants get in expenses, along with all the Judges, the Top Brass in the Armed Forces etc., we will undoubtedly find that what the MP’s have been claiming is chicken feed. Just look at the current story about £350 million being paid out by the NHS for Management Consultancy fees, RCN Criticises Consultancy Fees .

In fact, this is not at all out of the ordinary. It is typical of the way in which the State Capitalist bureaucracy functions. An in depth analysis would probably show that many of these Consultants are former NHS or Department of Health bureaucrats themselves. That is certainly common in Local Government, where the Chief Officers, frequently take early retirement, once they have reached the level of maximum pension, only to turn up for work again a few weeks later, this time in the form of a “Consultant”, being paid even more money for fewer hours worked!

If the Torygraph have raised a moral panic over the issue of MP’s expenses they have done a great service by opening a Pandora’s box on the whole gamut of abuses that constitute the functioning of bourgeois democracy as a whole. Finding out what MP’s are claiming is only the start. We need to demand the same kind of opening of the books of the whole system of bourgeois democracy that is now being demanded of MP’s. We should have all of the expenses and other payments to the top Civil Servants, the judges, the Police Chiefs, the Military and all those other Governmental and Quasi-Governmental bodies set out in full detail, for all to see, and checked over by committees of inquiry under the control of Trade Unions. We should see all the payments and claims made by the Royal Family and their hangers-on. Similarly, the head Vicar has come out and criticised MP’s for greed, which is a bit rich from an institution, which for the last 2,000 years has leached off the poor by various means, and whose spokespeople today are wholly dependent upon the income derived from the huge wealth so obtained during that period, and on the current generosity of strangers, as well as a continuing support from the State! Let’s open the books of the various Churches and see how much wealth they have stored up on Earth, and what the expenses claims of ITS top bureaucrats are getting too.

But, more than that workers should be able to see how much of the profit of the companies they work for, are being drained in similar expenses by their top bosses, and the various Board members of those companies too. And bourgeois democracy, is about more than just the people who are elected to Parliaments and Councils, its about the whole structure of the society we live in, including those who provide the information on which the politicians are judged. Its all well and good journalists shaming MP’s, but we should also have full disclosure of THEIR salaries and expenses too. Certainly, we should know how much these rags are being paid by the bosses in one form or another to run stories, and how much they are paying out to obtain stories.

The Torygraph may have started something it didn’t anticipate. But, workers anger should necessitate a thorough investigation into the functioning and corruption of the bourgeois state as a whole.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Carnival of Socialism

When I agreed to Phil’s request to do this Carnival of Socialism , I thought, “What on Earth shall I put into it?” My first thought was to just do a roundup of current blogs, but I thought that would be a bit tedious for me to write and for you to read. So I thought, instead, it would be better to pick a theme, and then see what various bloggers had to say on it. Question what theme? In a recent discussion with a regular contributor to my blog, I found the answer – Sex!

For some reason the Left seems always to have had a problem with sex in recent decades, a problem that earlier socialists and feminists, certainly don’t seem to have suffered from. Its probably, a bit like racism. Afraid of saying the wrong thing or being accused of being racist, people on the Left have often shied away from the necessary discussion of important issues. Similarly, afraid of being called sexist, or having impure thoughts, their seems to have been a similar tendency in regards sex, and even as my contributor demonstrated a retreat into Victorian moralism.

The dilemma was illustrated to me 25 years ago when I was a Stoke City Councillor. One of the Committees I sat on was called the “Law and Parliamentary Committee”, which had responsibility amongst other things, for licensing the sex shops that were just beginning to be set up. I have to say that some of the most illuminating information I had come across in relation to sex was provided to me at that time, by a succession of Church groups who bombarded me with mail including photocopies of all sorts of adverts for dildos and vibrators from the aforementioned shops, in an attempt to mobilise the good Christian people of the area to oppose such a den of iniquity in their midst.

In fact, compared to the sex education Phil says he got at school, the information we received at school was non-existent. The only thing I remember was for some reason the Music Teacher showed us some films about fish, we didn’t even get to see rabbits shagging. Its, perhaps amazing, that I can’t remember any of the girls at the school getting pregnant, but then it wasn’t as though even without the officially sanctioned education we were completely ignorant. I remember learning all you needed to know from a friend of mine when we were about 13. Going round to his house during one school summer holidays he was explaining why he was in some discomfort from the teeth marks one of the girls in the class had left in his dick. A female maths teacher in the school was also a bit of a ‘biker chick’, and delighted in telling the class in a very suggestive voice that her favourite bird was the Shag. I seem to recall she had to leave.

Anyway, when the vote came for licensing the sex shop I found no reason to vote against it. As far, as I was concerned if women found anything they were selling offensive, or exploitative they could picket the shop, and I’d support the picket, but apart from that I saw no reason why I should censor other people’s sexual behaviour.

That was fine until some time later on another committee there was a proposal to subsidise the holding of the Miss Stoke on Trent Contest. As far as I was concerned, opposing censorship by the State was one thing, but actually giving support to an event that specifically portrayed women as sexual objects to be leered at by a bunch of old men, was completely different. I voted against it, and almost immediately, started getting anonymous and threatening phone calls, my wife even got a load of hassle at work. Part of the reason given for the huge opposition that arose was the excuse that the event raised a lot of money that was given to local charities. That was a load of bunk, but even if it wasn’t it wouldn’t have been a justification.

Of course, what it did lead to was a load of Puritanical Right-Wing Labour Councillors attacking me on the basis of voting against a beauty contest, whilst not opposing the licensing of a sex shop. That I think sums up the dilemma I mentioned at the beginning. On the one hand we oppose sexual as much as any other kind of exploitation, but we are not Puritans, nor Moralists, and our job is not to dictate to people what kind of sexual behaviour is acceptable, and what is not.

So, I thought this was a good opportunity to see what various Left bloggers have to say about Sex in the hope that it might open up the discussion. After all according to some survey I saw a while ago people on the left are supposed to make the best lovers because of our tendency to be more open to new ideas, and generally more adventurous attitudes. And who am I to disagree with that?

Running a search on “sex”, on Phil’s blog I found quite a good selection of posts ranging from a fairly recent blog dealing with the question of Paedophilia as viewed through the always interesting prism of Louis Theroux, to Phil’s terrible attempts to tell us that he only went in to Ann Summers to buy a Birthday Card!!!!!


For those who prefer their sex not straight a similar search at Afemanistview provides a wealth of information, including quite a good set of reviews of the recent TV series, “Sex Education Show v Pornography”.

Another example of the dilemma, and self-censorship I was talking about above is given by Action Without Theory , who talking about a meeting at Manchester University, asks,

“I was wondering whether we live in a climate where organising for a man to speak to students about sex would be considered inappropriate.”

There is an interesting post about male and female prostitution Air Pollution at Air Pollution’s blog.

Over at Anglonoelnatter there is a discussion of the supposed moral breakdown that we are supposed to be experiencing.

Always willing to give a plug to those who bash the Daily Mail, this selection from the Angry Mob looks at a number of Mail stories and its campaign for moral rectitude.

On the theme of censorship Benjamin Solah has a number of good pieces starting with a look at Amazon’s decision to withdraw a number of books from sales ranks, search listings and the store’s bestseller lists, including some LGBT books, which it classified as “adult”. He has quite a number of other interesting posts dealing with various forms of sexism, and sex and religion.

Bent Society had quite a few good posts, including this one on advertising and prostitution.

A roundup of news stories affecting trans people is given over at Bird of Paradox , while Blood and Treasure I think strikes a correct note in a story about being given a subsidy by California, when he comments,

“The actual scandal here is that subsidies went to a company which should be able to turn a perfectly good profit without state aid, while being required to meet payrolls and tax bills. Union recognition should be required too.”

Bob Piper has quite a lot of short comments dealing with the question of hypocrisy by mainstream politicians when it comes to matters of getting caught with their trousers down.

An interesting discussion about the term “sexy” is given by Capitalismbad . Additionally, there are some good posts about the question of rape. Othering Rapists .

“(This in turn feeds into a meme where straight sex is a necessary social glue - an "investment" in the future of society, as it were - whereas gay sex is seen as a purely "consumption commodity", a frivolous luxury. The Protestant work ethic has much more in common with the Protestant sex ethic than we might have thought.)”

Comments, Chaos Marxism in a post titled, “Mistargeting”.

Chicken Yoghurt has a spread of topics covering every part of the body politic.

In a post entitled “Fucking With Kant”, I’m assuming this could be some kind of pun, Considerphlebas gives a penetrating philosophical discourse on intercourse.
Coventry Green Voice have some good posts dealing with sexual health, as well as questions relating to prostitution. There is also a good little short post about Tory hypocrisy over lap dancing.

Cruella-Blog also has a wide range of posts dealing with many aspects of sex, especially the way it is dealt with in the media.

Culture Sluts has a post based on a post from stroppyblog about what the left get up to in bed. As they say, and as part of the reason for choosing this topic, “So what does this tell us? Firstly that lefties, who tend to have a theory on pretty much everything, have no unified approach to sex. In my experience most left-wing bloggers, who are generally male, tend to avoid or fudge the subject. It does however come up quite regularly on Splintered Sunrise and A Very Public Sociologist, and Madam Miaow can be also very funny when she deals with the subject.”

I’m not sure that I agree with the statement “The survey also tells us that a lot of people- presumably men, as they are primary users of porn- are hypocrites, in that they use porn even though they think it degrades women.”, because there seems to be a lot of evidence that women use porn quite a lot too. For example, Cambridge Women’s Porn Co-op .

The Daily Quail has a number of humorous posts, including one that has discovered a survey that found pornography is rude, and another story about Homosexual Ducks in a Polish Zoo.

daisydeadair has a number of interesting posts, including one asking the question Can Comics Be Pornography to which with a picture of Homer Simpson attached to it, you are almost bound to say no.

Dave Ostler over at Dave’s Part has a good selection, in particular his post Capitalism and the Commoditisation of Heterosexuality which he begins with,

“BACK when I used to frequent strip joints,”

Just, to put my own oar in on the discussion on this topic. A few years ago, I used to do some training at my Kung Fu club with a woman who was a Lap Dancer. I have to say that she was far from the image of someone who was oppressed or exploited. She was extremely confident at both a personal level, and when it came to sparring. She was intelligent, and saw her job as being just that a job like any other, except as she said, she was very well paid for the hours she put in, and for her, the martial arts training was just part of an overall fitness regime she saw as being part of the training she needed to do her job professionally.

Directionless Bones has a number of posts on Sexual Political Philosophy, and on Sexual Politics .

This story caught my eye.

“I find this story utterly baffling. A man has "sex" with a bicycle, ok so far, so normal, though I quibble over the phrasing (was the bicycle a willing partner? courted with flowers and candlelit meals? roughly seduced?). Anyway he does this in the privacy of his locked hotel room, then a pair of nosey-parkers use a masterkey to force their way into his room, catch him in flagrante delicto, then "extremely shocked" inform the hotel manager, who in turn informs the police.”

Given by Dolphinarium . But, this story covered a lot of the ground here

If you want a comprehensive round-up of the treatment of sex by the tabloids then Enemies of Reason have a wide selection.

Charlie Mc Menamin has a bit of a chuckle at the way the credit crunch is affecting bankers sex lives.

I found that Fat man on a Keyboard has some very posts looking at sex and hypocrisy.

Over at Feminist SF there are a number of posts that include discussion of sex within Sci-Fi.

Feministing had a range of posts, including one providing “Agony Aunt” advice.

Fetch Me My Axe had probably more material on the subject than most, and some of it quite funny.

I’ve noticed many blogs concentrating on what the media have to say, and 5 Chinese Crackers again looks at hypocrisy in the treatment of sex by the papers.
Generation Y has a number of posts on sex and sexuality with a Latin twist.

Issues such as Sikhism and Homosexuality, and Sex Before Marriage, are just a few of the topics covered by get There Stepping .

In The Unkindest Cut Grimmer Up North looks at Genital Mutilation and “The perfect Vagina”.

I had to quote this from HarpyMarx because I had the misfortune to see this Jeremy Kyle bloke on a TV in the gym the other week, and was intending to write something similar.

Homo Ludens has some great posts on pornography.

Ian Bone has a blog about “Anarchist Speed Dating”!

Confirming, that I was not making it up in an earlier statement, Identity Check has a number of relevant posts including this one on why “Anarchists Make Better Lovers”. No doubt, however, this will provoke a debate on whether it is actually Anarchists or Marxists who are better, and whether this has to be considered within some kind of structural context. So, which is better Anarchist love-making or Marxist Love making …. There’s only one way to find out. To paraphrase Harry Hill.

There is a series of great posts on the question of legalising prostitution amongst other things at Infantile and Disorderly .

If you’re more into the mechanics than driving the car, Rough Trade has a couple of posts on human fertilisation and embryology.

For a fascinating view transgender transformation, including swimming in Stoke, visit Jenny v The World .

Tom P at Labour and Capital has a short post about a survey on people’s fears about the risk to children from paedophiles. He’s right that the stats actually mean people think the risk to kids was greater 20 years ago than ten years ago, though still less than today. I think it probably says more about people’s understanding of statistics than it does their attitudes to paedophilia.

As we approach Hay Fever season, Lay Science has some welcome news in research that suggests that the solution to nasal congestion could be masturbation!!!

Life is a Question has a number of posts on gender as well as another about a woman who was desperate for here son with Dwns Syndrome to lose his virginity.

If you have the time to read it all there is also Louis Proyect’s review of “The Homosexual in Society”.

Madam Miaow gives us a taste of her own flair for literary erotica, as well as an obituary for Betty Paige.

There are some excellent posts on the question of abstinence and chastity, and the attendant religious bigotry and hypocrisy over at Ministry of Truth

Musin and Confusin has some great posts on sex workers rights, and one about young men’s expectations suffering from watching too much porn. Time was that when you looked forward to your Sunday roast it came with Yorkshire Pud.

There are a number of posts on sex and sexuality, particularly in respect of Muslim societies in a series of posts by Not Of A Free Thinker .

Obsolete was not alone in having a post about the recent case of the teenage dad, and the issues that stand behind it.

Penny Red has a range of posts. I was going to say “including”, and pick out a couple of the best, but there is such a range that my advice is just “Go read em”.

As Republic of Teesside says, “Brace Yourselves, It’s a blog about Girls Aloud”!

A selection of more good posts over at Pink Scare.

Plattitude has a couple of good blogs for example, one on cyber sex, and another entitled “Polygamy, Oral Sex, and the Imam”.

I was glad to find a number of posts on sex here Postman Patel , because I just love that name, and would otherwise have had to have made some up just to include it.

Progressive Gold had this about old naughty cartoons.

Rachel From North London had some good posts, and I was particularly taken by two posts –you should check out – “Won't somebody please think of the perverts?” and “Poledancing slatterns and media tarts”

There are some good posts from an internationalist perspective, particularly looking at attitudes to porn, and roundups of the legal position in a number of European countries at Radical left
If you want a psycho-therapists view then this piece by Ragged Trousered Philanthropist should fit the bill.

Red Star Coven has this blog on the response to the Tarrantino film, “Death Proof”.
Skip the first two posts in this selection from Ryan McReynolds , and you get to some interesting posts on Nazis having sex with animals, and a blog about Andrea Dworkin amongst others.

Second Life left Unity has a discussion on the attitude to Pornography amongst other issues relating to sex. In addition to this post another view is given in This Post
Serge’s Fist has some great posts on Sex and the Revolution.

There should be a new Commandment instructing “Thou Shalt Have Sex”, says, Shavings Off My Mind.
Shiraz Socialist has this thoughtful, and in my view pretty much correct view on Lap Dancing.

There were a number of posts at Splintered Sunrise such as this one on the Sex Education Show.

Fancy a bit of Literary Sex? Try State Street .

The Cedar Lounge Revolution has this interesting review of Tristan Hunt’s new autobiography of Engels. For those who seek to turn Marx and Engels into some kind of automatons this quote is a useful remedy.

“It is absolutely essential that you get out of boring Brussels for once and come to Paris, and I for my part have a great desire to go carousing with you,” Friedrich Engels wrote to Karl Marx in 1846. “If I had an income of 5000 francs I would do nothing but work and amuse myself with women until I went to pieces. If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn’t be worth living. But so long as there are grisettes [prostitutes], well and good!””

The last Resort has this post on raising Trans Gender awareness.

You should definitely check out Un-Cooler Than Thou .

For a more Trade Union orientated view also look at Union Futures .

Unknown Conscience has a post on Polyamory.

Vulgar Marxism has a number of posts about beauty pageants.

Phew, that’s about it. I need to lie down now. If I missed you out its probably because you had nothing much to say about sex. If you did, and I missed it, I blame the search engine. You can still post a comment, and a link here.

The Next Carnival is over at The Third Estate .