Thursday, 31 December 2009

Not Quite Yet

Everyone keeps talking about the end of the decade. The TV is full of programmes reviewing the last decade and so on. But, as with the Millennium they are all a year too early!

No one starts counting from zero. Even if you count on your fingers, which is the basis of our decimal system, you don't count the first finger as zero, but as one. The tenth finger is not counted as nine, but as ten. The last number in a decimal based system is the tenth, not the ninth. More importantly there is no year zero. The dating system does not go 1 B.C., 0, 1 A.D., but goes directly from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.

The start of the current Millennium began on January 1st. 2001, not 2000, as did the first year of the 21st. century, and as did the current decade. The current decade ends not tonight, but a year tonight.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Risk Assessment

When a risk assessment is undertaken it has two basic elements. Firstly, its necessary to determine the likelihood of some harm arising. Secondly, its necessary to determine the degree of the harm that might be caused. The risk is the one multiplied by the other. In that way, even some activity, that might only have a low chance of causing harm, might be considered dangerous, and to be avoided, if that harm results in death.

Considering the state authorised murder, of a person only accused of drug smuggling, by the Chinese State, my Risk Assessment would tell me to stay well away from China. There is no reason for me to believe there would be any reason to be accused of any crime, but not long ago, people were being executed by the Chinese Stalinists for "thought crimes", and I'm quite sure that, were they able to determine my thoughts, the Stalinists would certainly find them objectionable. Of course, its not just China I would avoid for that reason. I have no more reason to have any confidence in the tender mercies of the Capitalist state in the US than in the Stalinist state in China. After all, not only do they engage in the same state sanctioned murder, but a look, at those so put to death, shows a preponderance of black people who are executed, which suggests that the system that carried out these murders is somewhat biased.

Trotsky argued that there were conditions under which the death penalty was acceptable. He was referring to exceptional conditions such as War or Civil War, where consideration of a wider harm, that might be caused, had to be considered. As Marxists, we are not Pacifists, at either an individual or a collective level, but we are only reluctantly not Pacifists. We are not opponents of pacifism on the basis of being in favour of violence for the sake of violence, nor because we believe that it is the best, quickest, or easiest means of achieving our aims, certainly not because we believe it to be the only way of achieving our aims. On the contrary, the fundamental condition for achieving Socialism is that the working class are committed to it in their vast majority - that the Battle of Democracy has been won in Marx's terms - and you can never force people to actually agree with you through violence. We are opponents of pacifism only because we know from history and from experience that, however peaceably we went about it, the Capitalists, and their State, will not simply allow us to transform society into Socialism. They will resist, and have resisted, even the most tentative steps in that direction that challenged their wealth and power. They even considered a military coup against Harold Wilson's government!

In normal times socialists have to favour peaceful means of achieving their aims, and we have to stand against the use of violence by others to achieve theirs. That is why it is necessary to stand against the Death Penalty.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


It seems I've been watching a lot of Tony Robinson on TV. Over the last few weeks, I've been watching his Man On Earth series about how climate change over the history of Man's time on the planet has affected his existence. The basic message is, environmental change, even dramatic change, is nothing new. Man has survived it, and in some cases thrived because of it. The other central message is that where Man tried to either ignore the change, or else to prevent it, he failed; where Man adapted to it, he survived, and often prospered. In fact, as he demonstrated, in his last programme of the series, in South America, it was the decision to establish elaborate hydraulic and water management systems that allowed some, not only to survive, but to build an impressive Empire, on the basis of the advantages it gave, over others, when drought came. The idea is not new. Marx and Engels, amongst others, wrote about the role of such systems in creating the role of the bureaucratic state in the Asiatic Mode of Production. Although that Mode of Production ultimately became a fetter on productive development, compared with the potential of Capitalism, upon it arose fantastic civilisations, in India and China, that lasted for thousands of years, at a time when Northern Europeans were still living in caves and running around in animal skins.

In contrast, as Engels describes, one of the reasons that the North American Indians remained at the level of hunter-gatherers was the fact that they had access to adequate food supplies, and in the main temperate climates. Only a few progressed to the stage of animal husbandry. The relation between climate and development cannot be seen as a simple one. The first civilisations that arose in Mesopotamia and in the Nile Valley, were able to do so, largely because the favourable climate, and fertile soils, enabled Man to cater for his basic needs with little expenditure of labour-time, leaving time free to investigate the world around him, to gaze at the stars etc, and to spend time building pyramids. It is probably the fertile soils, which enable agriculture to begin, which explains why Man settled down here, but did not in North America.

There was an interesting programme on Discovery Knowledge, a few days ago, on a similar subject, on locating the Garden of Eden. It too pointed out that the Bible account of the Creation dates approximately to the time that Man actually began to settle down, and civilisation begins. The account places the Garden in Mesopotamia, and according to the programme the actual location appears to be on the Iraqi/Turkish border.

But, returning to the environment, the other thing I was watching last week was the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which, this year, was looking at the 300 million year battle between plants and animals. It too, looked at the role of changing climate in that battle. Again the message, as with Man on Earth, was that climate change is nothing new in Man's, and the Earth's, history, and those species have done well, which adapted to that change.

In a sense, this ought to give us pause for thought, in all the current debates about climate change, and what to do about it. It may well be the case that Man is a big contributor to climate change, but, on the other, it could just be that we are so egocentric, as a species, that we cannot comprehend that the planet might be changing for reasons outside our control. If that is the case, the danger of ignoring that possibility is far greater than the danger of ignoring the fact that Man might be responsible. For example, the main reason that Earth is not a dead planet, like Mars, is the fact that we have a magnetic core, which acts to shield the Earth from the cosmic rays, which burnt off the atmosphere of Mars. Scientists believe that the Earth's magnetism could be about to disappear. Some place the date for that as being 1200 years away, some much sooner. But, that is just one catastrophic change. There are many normal features of the Earth, as a living planet, for example in relation to the Long-term carbon cycle, and the effects on volcanoes etc. that could at a stroke put far more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than Man is responsible for.

If the Earth's climate does what it has done in the past, and simply changes irrespective of what Man does or does not do to try to change it, then those societies will survive and prosper that prepared for such change and adapted to it. As Tony Robinson pointed out, the societies that are most likely to be able to do that are those which are already developed, which have the resources, and the technological know-how to adapt and respond. After all, if we look at those advanced countries, they are already the ones that have cleaned up the mess produced by the Industrial Revolution in their own countries, they are the ones that have installed the more efficient and less polluting energy systems. It is the very poorest of societies that cannot afford to do so, that are led to over use the land, to burn dung on their fires etc, and all of the consequences of that.

As Bjorn Lomborg points out, if we really want to clean up the environment then the most effective means of doing so is to enable all of these societies to develop as rapidly as possible so that they too can share all the benefits that the already developed economies have, in being able to afford to introduce environmental measures, to invest in more efficient energy systems and so on.

After all, even were all the measures agreed at Kyoto, to be fully implemented, it would only delay the rise in global temperatures by just 6 years!!! Spending, all of the billions of dollars required under current projects - most of which, as with all State capitalist interventions, will simply disappear into some bureaucratic black-hole of lucrative salaries and contracts for the already rich - on developing these economies would speed up the day, in which they could both invest in cleaning up their environments, and would enable them to adapt to environmental changes, which might in any case be inevitable.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas TV

When I was a kid, and even up to a few years ago, it used to be thee case that over Christmas, BBC and ITV competed to see who could get the biggest ratings by who got the biggest blockbuster film to show. I noticed, particularly, this year what a dearth of TV there really has devloped. I did enjoy "The Incredibles", but it was hardly like in the past when you waited with anticipation for the latest Bond Film, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones to hit the screen.

I suppose that in part its because in recent years actual film going has increased, so more people have already seen the latest releases, and more importantly BBC and ITV can't compete with Sky and Virgin providing all the latest films via the Movie Channels. But, they could compete with other programming, yet that was pretty abysmal too.

Twenty-five years ago, "Mr & Mrs", was a daytime TV programme watched only by Pensioners, and really sad perople. Today, as with much of modern life, include the word "Celebrity" in the title, and it becomes must-watch TV apparently. So much so, that it was prime-time viewing on Christmas Day! Cashing in on the latest Dan Brown book, Tony Robinson repeated his picking apart of "The da Vinci Code". Slightly entertaining, but I couldn't help feeling that it was a good way of Comrade Robinson, getting a cheap holiday, and being paid for it. I saw him a few years ago when I was on holiday in Javea in Spain. I don't know if he was on holiday himself, or if he'd managed to get one on the back of some programme investigating the Roman ruins uncovered by the sea there. But, its funny how TV presenters always manage to choose nice locations, in the Summer around the world to have to visit! Having said that Comrade Robinson did do all those "Worst Jobs in History".

Rather than actually dismantling Brown's conspiracy theory the programme was more like a Cook's Tour. Speak to a leading UK Freemason, "Are there secret rituals and so on?", "No.", "Oh right, that's dealt with that then"! Speak to a US architect about the design of Washington, "No its all perfectly normal.", "Fair enough". Do the Masonic designs and symbols on the dollar bill have any significance? "No". That's another myth dealt with then. What I thought was amazing was the fact that why would anyone NOT think that the Masons are a secret society of the rich and powerful in society!

Of course, you have to be careful in assigning too much significance to conspiracy theories. Brown's books show how easy it is to construct a story around facts that you only slightly distort. In general the means by which the ruling class rule has nothing to do with an organised Conspiracy. That doesn't mean that sections of that ruling elite don't engage in them. As the CIA used to say, Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean you AREN'T be following. Anything, that deals with things that science doesn't adequately explain is also open to such manipulation.

Part of the pllot of Brown's book involves the gaining of such powers such as telekineses - moving objects by thought alone. Robinson spoke to a Psychologist who said that although there is no evidence of such powers being possible, they had identified the potential of some people to influence processes, such as the numbers generated by a random number generator. The USSR also spent a lot of resources on developing ESP, whilst the CIA had groups whose function was "remote viewing". Some of those involved have appeared on TV to describe how they were able to learn to "see" things that were happening thousands of miles away, including locating where hostages were being held.

Of course, we have no proof they could do any such thing. They could be just putting out disinformation, in the same way that the US allowed UFO speculation to circulate to cover its covert work on developing advanced aircraft. On the other hand as part of my martial arts training I've seen demonstrations of things that seem pretty spectacular. Some of it mirrors things I've read and practiced from doing Yoga since I was about 14 - in fact Chinese Martial Arts were developed out of the training that an Indian Monk, Bhodidarma, gave to his students in China.

For example, I've been able to sit in a Full Lotus position from before I actually began studying Yoga. I can extend it to the swing position where you theen basically support yourself just on your fingertips, so you can swing back and forth. That requires some effort, but I cannot for the life of me manage to lift myself completely off the ground without the use of my hands! But, that is precisely what Yogic flyers do.

The first book on Yoga I bought was by Ernest Wood, who was a British scientist, and associate of Annie Besant, and whose writings about Yoga, attempt to fit it into that Western scientific tradition. Yet, I was never able to accept some of the claims that Wood made in the book about such "flying", levitation and so on. I still can't. Yet, the Yogic Flyers do seem to contradict the laws of Physicas, because it should simply not be possible to generate sufficent downward force from the legs in a lotus position to life the body to the heights they achieve. The ability of practiced Yogi to control things such as heart rate, are so well documented as to be accepted proof.

I've also done Lau Gar Kung Fu for twenty years and seen Master Yau drive his fingers into a solid leather punch bag, amongst other feats. Most of them are explicable in simple terms of Physics. For example, when I punch through a two inch thick piece of wood it is a simple application of the principle of force equals mass times acceleration. Many are simple application of the Newtonian principle that every action has a reaction. Some are less easy to explain. An Eighty year old man is able to shake a massive tree by focussing his Chi, and striking the tree with his palms. In Yoga Chi is referred to as "air", the idea being that through breath control you can direct this air to different parts of your body to make it hard. The Shaolin monks are able to place a solid metal bar on their throat, and through such control two of them are able to walk to each other and bend the bar between them!

As a materialist I obviously do not beleive that there is anything "supernatural" about such feats, but clearly humans - just as animals like homing pigeons have talents we do not understand - are capable of much more than we can currently explain. How wonderful it will be when Socialism frees each individual to develop such talents to their full, rather than being content with sitting full of food on Christmas Day watching "Celebrity Mr & Mrs".

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Northern Soul Classics - Homer Banks - A Lot of Love/60 Minutes of Your Love

This is the first record I bought. I bought it from an old friend Trevor Harley who I began work with. I'm inlcuding both sides because both are equally good, and always go together. Homer Banks was primarily a song writer for Stax, but as the discography says also one hell of a singer. "A lot of Love", was one of the songs he wrote, and was also covered a few years ago by Mick Hucknall.

60 Minutes of Your Love is in the same vein. Not one of the more uptempo Northern Sounds, but distinctively a Northern foot stomper that conveys all the gritty soulful, brassy sounds of the genre.

Monday, 21 December 2009

A Reply To Jacob Richter - Part 3

The National Question

”I of course oppose nationalism, but nationalist sentiments amongst workers could be used in the short term as a two-edged sword.”

The problem with two-edged swords is that they can cut you from either side. Of course, as I have written myself, in relation to Proletarian Military Policy, I believe that the Left has ceded too much ground, to the Nationalists and Fascists, in relation to workers understandable concerns over Defence, Terrorism etc. I believe it is necessary to address those concerns rather than to simply dismiss them as being reactionary. But addressing them does not mean accommodating to them.

“Outsourcings and capital flights should be described as "ever-unpatriotic" whenever communists appeal to nationalistic workers, while the capital flight phenomenon you mentioned can even be described as a form of "economic terrorism" (terrorizing the population at large to the whims of the capital flight lobbyists).”

We can, of course, point to the fact that whilst it calls on workers to be patriotic, Capital is anything but. But, we have to be clear, in doing that, that the message we convey is that, in fact, there is nothing wrong with Capital acting in that way, that, in fact, we demand the right to act in the same way ourselves, by demanding free movement of workers across borders. Our aim is to address the concerns of those nationalistic workers by undermining their attachment to Nationalism, not simply to gain the support of such workers, Opportunistically, by subordinating our own principles to their prejudices.


”You of all people should know the political weakness of cooperatives as a movement foundation.”

But, I have never suggested that Co-operatives should form the foundation of the Movement. On the contrary, I believe that the foundation of the Movement has to be the Workers' Party. Without the development of the Workers Party, and its ever more developed Programme – I mean here developed in the sense that Marx and Engels meant, that is that the first thing is to build a mass Party that mobilises ever more workers behind it, and only the second thing is to develop its Programme, on the basis of those workers themselves developing an ever more heightened class consciousness i.e. winning the battle of democracy – then neither class struggle on the industrial front, nor class struggle on the economic and social front (represented by the extent to which workers develop Co-operatives and free themselves from the domination of Capital) nor on the ideological front, can proceed. Part of the reason I believe that the position of much of the Left today is sectarian is that they fail to locate the reason for the programmatic inadequacy of the LP (and the same applies to other Workers’ Parties elsewhere) in the actual material conditions and class consciousness of the class itself. They have separated out the realm of ideas from the material realm, and believe that the solution to building a new Workers party is rather like that of the “Field of Dreams”, that if “If We Build It They Will Come”. Unfortunately, however many attempts are made by the left Sects to build it, however, much they liquidate their own politics in order to build a LP Mark Two, the workers totally refuse to come. Worse, to the extent the workers abandon the LP or other Workers Parties, they move not towards the Left, but further Right!

But, here I return to the beginning of this reply, and the reason why the Workers Parties have not so developed, and why those that have, have done so on the basis of Lassallean and Fabian ideas, and not the ideas of Marx. It is precisely because the basis of class struggle has been seen in the restricted terms of industrial or political struggle alone. At best, the former leads to a revolutionary syndicalist consciousness within the working class, the idea arising from success, particularly during periods of Long Wave Boom, in improving pay and conditions, obtaining concessions through industrial militancy, that Socialism can be obtained simply by continued such militant action, and the winning over, during such actions, of individuals and groups of militants to socialist ideas. At root this is what lies at the heart of the thinking of most of the Left sects, which was most clearly seen in Britain in the Luxemburgist SWP, but which is central to the methodology and “Party-Building” of all the others too, fused with a version of Leninism, which seeks to then convert such militants to a wider political struggle. But, necessarily, such a course is a dead-end. It hits a brick-wall once it no longer becomes possible to simply achieve any success via such militancy, and the workers, attracted to organisations, with such a perspective, melt away like snow in the Spring. Alternatively, it simply results in the development of a Reformist consciousness, simply taking the lessons of the Trade Union struggle into the political arena, the lesson of bargaining within the system. In periods of advance it might build a more Left reformism as temporarily manifested itself in the late 70’s, and early 80’s, but it remains Reformism all the same. And, by contrast, in a period of downturn and setback, such as that which set in during the late 80’s, and through the 90’s, it is reflected in a more right-wing reformism, as manifested in New Labour. But, I repeat those changes in ideas in the Workers’ Party cannot be seen as simply existing in the realm of ideas, cannot simply be put down to unscrupulous right-wing politicians within the Workers Party, but are quite simply a reflection of the change of material conditions, and class consciousness of the workers themselves, and the best place for Marxists to confront that change, to stand against it, and reduce its impact is inside the Workers party itself. Abandoning the Workers’ Party during such periods, in actual fact, amounts to nothing less than abandoning the class, of desertion from the class struggle.
And that is precisely what Lassalleanism and Fabianism are all about. It means calling on the workers not to rely on their own strength and self-activity – which at least revolutionary syndicalism does – but to rely on winning concessions from the bourgeois state, calling on the bourgeois state to act. Indeed, in Lassalle’s case it meant simply doing deals with Bismark in return for such action. As Draper puts it,

‘Lassalle organized this first German socialist movement as his personal dictatorship. Quite consciously he set about building it as a mass movement from below to achieve a Socialism-from-Above (remember Saint-Simon’s battering-ram). The aim was to convince Bismarck to hand down concessions – particularly universal suffrage, on which basis a parliamentary movement under Lassalle could become a mass ally of the Bismarckian state in a coalition against the liberal bourgeoisie. To this end Lassalle actually tried to negotiate with the Iron Chancellor. Sending him the dictatorial statutes of his organization as “the constitution of my kingdom which perhaps you will envy me,” Lassalle went on:

“But this miniature will be enough to show how true it is that the working class feels an instinctive inclination towards a dictatorship, if it can first be rightly persuaded that the dictatorship will be exercised in its interests; and how much, despite all republican views – or rather precisely because of them – it would therefore be inclined, as I told you only recently, to look upon the Crown, in opposition to the egoism of bourgeois society, as the natural representative of the social dictatorship, if the Crown for its part could ever make up its mind to the – certainly very improbable – step of striking out a really revolutionary line and transforming itself from the monarchy of the privileged orders into a social and revolutionary people’s monarchy.”

Although this secret letter was not known at the time, Marx grasped the nature of Lassalleanism perfectly. He told Lassalle to his face that he was a “Bonapartist,” and wrote presciently that “His attitude is that of the future workers’ dictator.” Lassalle’s tendency he called “Royal Prussian Government socialism,” denouncing his “alliance with absolutist and feudal opponents against the bourgeoisie.”’

It is no surprise then, that Lassalle’s statism forms the bedrock not just of Fabian, Labourite reformist statism, but also the revolutionary, but elitist, Statism of Leninism and its offspring Stalinism.

The Workers’ Party has to form the foundation of the Labour Movement, but that Party can only develop if the working class itself develops. That development CANNOT come through industrial struggle, precisely because as Marx points out such struggle is inherently reformist. At most, it can lead workers to consider the need for a political solution to their problems, when they discover that industrial struggle alone cannot resolve them. But, it cannot answer the question of what that political solution might be. Only a Workers’ Party can provide the answer to that question, but we then find ourselves in a conundrum, because this Workers’ Party cannot itself fully provide those answers to begin with – unless we are to confuse the Workers Party with the Marxists who only form a part, the Left-Wing of that Party. That is why the role of the Marxists within that Party is crucial, and why the actions of the Marxists, in their sectarian relation to the Workers’ Parties, have been so criminal.

But, as Marxists, we do not believe that ideas can simply become dominant as a result of the force of argument. They can only become so if they can be seen, by growing sections of society, and, in this case, initially, by the working class, as having some foundation within material conditions. The odd bourgeois intellectual, like Marx or Engels, could, by observation and mental power, arrive at the idea of Socialism, but the vast mass of society can never do so. It has to see Socialism in action, see that it works, see that it benefits from it, before it will embrace such ideas. That was precisely Marx’s argument in relation to the need for workers to develop Co-operatives by their own collective efforts. Only on that basis could it ever become possible to win over ever larger numbers of workers to the idea that they could provide a solution to their problems through their own collective actions, that they could produce without the need for bosses or the State, that they could do so, more efficiently and more equitably, by Co-operating rather than competing, and so on. In other words, prove, in deed rather than by argument, all of the fundamental bases of Socialist ideas, and thereby win the battle of democracy.
It is not at all necessary that such Co-operatives have to gradually replace Capitalist enterprise in their entirety, and, indeed, to do so would be impossible. Capitalist enterprises did not have to replace the feudal guilds and land ownership in their entirety, in order for bourgeois ideas to become dominant. The only had to demonstrate, in sufficient measure, their superiority over the old forms. Moreover, it was precisely the resistance of the old ruling class, to Capitalism, in order to limit its growth, which led necessarily to the bourgeoisie, and the other sections of society it drew behind it, to develop its own political forms – specifically developing within its centres of power in the towns – and, ultimately, to challenge for political power, via its own Political Party. As Marx says, in his Address to the First International, it is precisely the same kind of resistance of the bourgeoisie to the workers and their Co-operatives that must lead the workers to recognise the need to develop their own political forms, their own political Party, and to struggle for Political power itself.

“In my programmatic material, I wrote of the need to partially rehabilitate the "producer cooperatives with state aid" slogan. No, it isn't the stuff of maximum programs, but there are justifications:”

I am not, and nor were Marx and Engels opposed to the idea of the State providing aid to Co-operatives. What is crucial is the context. What I, and Marx and Engels, thoroughly oppose, is the idea of calling on this bourgeois state to act ON BEHALF of workers, i.e. to do what only the workers themselves should do. Marx opposed Lassalle’s call for the bourgeois state to take the initiative in setting up Co-operatives with State Aid, whose modern equivalent is the call for Nationalisation – albeit then and now with meaningless calls for “Workers Control” – precisely because this meant encouraging workers to place their faith in the bosses state, and to admit their own feebleness. But, that is quite different from the scenario that Engels, for instance, sets out, whereby workers faced with a factory closure, occupy it, and establish their own Co-operative production. Under those conditions, as Engels points out, there is nothing wrong with those workers demanding that they be treated the same as all other firms who receive state aid. Of course, even in raising such a demand, just as when workers raise a demand for the boss to give them a pay rise, it remains the job of Marxists to explain to the workers why the bosses and their State will resist, why their interests are fundamentally opposed, and why, therefore, it is necessary for them to win State power.

“The genuine end of “free markets” – including in unemployment resulting from workplace closures, mass sackings, and mass layoffs – by first means of non-selective encouragement of, and unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial) for, pre-cooperative worker buyouts of existing enterprises and enterprise operations”

And my response to that is the same as that given by Marx to Lassalle. Short of a Workers’ Government in the true sense, short of a situation of dual power, who do you believe such a demand is addressed to? Is it likely that Brown or any likely Labour Government on the horizon would take up such a demand? Is it likely at any point in the foreseeable future that workers will be strong enough to force any Government to act upon it? No, of course not. If any Government acted in such a way, it would be purely for its own ends. There would be no real content of Workers Control or ownership in such a venture, the actions of workers within it, to join with other Co-operatives – which is vital if they are not to simply become Capitalist enterprises owned by workers – to engage in class struggle activities, such as providing for striking workers, would be prohibited, and so on.

The role of Marxists is to encourage workers to engage in their own collective, self-activity to resolve their problems. That is what we say to workers in the workplace, it is what we have to say to them in their communities. To the extent that workers have already reached a certain level of class -consciousness to have created their own Workers’ Party, we have to honestly attempt to assist them to build that Party, and to develop its programme to more adequately meet their needs. Our role is to be as Marx and Engels put it, the Left-Wing of that Party. It is not to act within it as parasites attempting merely to build our own sects, at its expense. Part of the means by which we do that is to turn that Party outwards to assist workers in struggle in the workplace and in the Community, not in the sense of offering to resolve workers problems, but again in the sense of encouraging them to resolve them through their own collective self-activity. The classic form of that is the establishment of the very Co-operative form that forms the fundamental basis of a Co-operative, Communist society. In doing so we both build the Workers Party, by attracting more of those workers to it, but we also fundamentally change the material conditions of the Workers existence, and thereby change the basis on which those workers ideas and class consciousness develops. In turn that change within the class is reflected within the Programme, composition, and combativity of the Workers Party itself.

Had Marxists done that over the last century, rather than engaged in sectarian adventures of attempting to build their own pure parties separated from the class, then the progress that was being made at the end of the 19th Century could have continued, and if Socialism had not already been achieved, we would have been much closer to it.

A Reply To jacob Richter - Part 2

The Iron Law of Disproportionate Immiseration:

"In the “trickle-down” best of times, workers’ incomes do not rise as rapidly as the incomes of those above them, and while immiserated further by interest on the growing but hidden consumer debt slavery that supports this disproportionate immiseration, they can be subject to the disproportionately immiserating effects of inflation;"

There are many problems with this. Firstly, it assumes that “workers” are some homogenous group, all of whom face exactly the same conditions all of the time. That is quite clearly not the case. The position of young workers will not be the same as that of older workers. The position of workers in London, or other high housing and living cost areas, will not be the same as that of workers elsewhere in the country, where housing and living costs are only a fraction of that. The position of workers in high unemployment areas, or industries, will not be the same as that of workers in new, low unemployment areas, or in new, dynamic and profitable industries. For example, during the 1930’s alongside the devastating unemployment that afflicted some areas like the North-East, there were new emerging industries like consumer electronics beginning to be developed, particularly in the South-East. Workers in these industries tended to do very well, especially as they faced lower prices for wage goods, and new methods for house building were also beginning to make house purchase possible. In fact, during the 1930’s, for those in stable employment, things were not that bad, because wages did not fall as much as prices. I’ve detailed some of that in previous posts, particularly in The Truth About The Economy.

A good illustration of that is your comments about the immiserating role of debt interest and inflation. If we look at the period of the post-war, Long Wave Boom, then we find a large number of workers, for the first time, becoming home-owners. Of course, many also remained rent paying tenants either to private or Local Authority landlords. If we take the period from the early 1960’s onwards, in particular, then what we see is that those workers who had decided to buy their homes were not at all immiserated by the debt burden they had taken on, nor by the inflation that gradually rose. On the contrary, these workers obtained considerable affluence as a result! Although, the mortgages they took out, on these properties, to many, seemed burdensome at first – though they would have only been for a fraction of the multiples of income permitted today – rising wages soon made the repayments appear much smaller. The rampant inflation of the 1970’s from the “Barber Boom” onwards simply inflated away the debt. In fact, it inflated away the debt so much that, for many of these houses, which cost £1,000-£2,000 for a new semi detached house in 1960, it was as though they had simply been given away to the workers who bought them. Even those who bought towards the end of that boom benefited. My sister bought her new three-bedroom semi in 1972, for £2,000. As both she and her husband have always had low paid jobs that would have seemed a lot of money. But, after the inflation of the 1970’s and early 80’s, even for low-paid workers, £2000 seemed an insignificant sum. At the same time, the inflation had the opposite consequence for those workers who had not bought. It meant that where the first group of workers now had essentially no housing costs – because you could pay off your mortgage – these other workers saw their housing costs soar with rising rents. The fact that such a large number of workers DID buy their houses during that period, and the gross variation in house prices – and consequent effect on rents – between London and much of the rest of the country is of considerable consequence.

In fact, contrary to your argument here, inflation always has this consequence for debt. Its why Governments have always used inflation to deal with debt, and why its likely, as I’ve argued elsewhere, they will use it again to deal with the current high levels of Public and private debt.

This had other consequences too. Freed from housing costs, which formed a large proportion of household expenditure, such workers were able to save money, and contribute to Pension Schemes, where they became available through the companies they worked for, and at the same time acquire other assets. Again the consequences should not be underestimated. For one group with disposable income and savings, it becomes possible to buy cars, consumer durables etc. out of savings. For the other, lacking such savings, buying such goods often does require going into debt, often at extortionate rates of interest on HP. Nor should we underestimate the role, during the 1980’s, but even going back to the 1970’s, of a growing financial services industry, selling financial products now to workers that once would have been the preserve of the rich. I remember, for example, in 1975, being offered a job with Hambro’s Bank, selling such products. But, by the 1980’s, most workers had got used to the idea of owning shares, if not directly, then via, Unit Trusts, and PEP’s. Those older workers, who had essentially been given the houses they lived in for free, were well placed to accumulate considerable amounts in such funds, which again, with inflation, and a rising rate of profit, during the late 1980’s and 1990’s, increased considerably in value.

Its no wonder then that it is estimated that by 2012, 30% of Britons will be dollar millionaires, a figure which must include a considerable number of workers. I read somewhere that around 5 million Briton’s now own property in Spain, and more own property elsewhere, whilst 1 Million live at least part of the year in Spain. And, whilst the figures for personal indebtedness appear horrific, it has to also be remembered that the number of people with such net debt is actually a minority, if I remember correctly less than 20%, whilst the average net savings is estimated at around £30,000.

Secondly, I think there is every reason to believe that in the “ best of times” periods, which I would refer to as the Long Wave Boom periods, the incomes of workers probably DO rise faster than the incomes of those above them, particularly within the ranks of the petit-bourgeoisie, but probably within the bourgeoisie too, though not necessarily at the beginning of such periods. I think that its necessary to distinguish here, between the “incomes” of the bourgeoisie and “profits”. As Glyn and Sutcliffe showed in “Workers and the Profits Squeeze”, during the last Long Wave Boom, workers incomes did rise relative to profits. As, during such a period, the need to maintain rates of accumulation continues, its likely that a greater proportion of this profit, which can still be bigger in absolute terms, even whilst being “squeezed” by wages, will go to accumulation, leaving less to be distributed as income to Capitalists. The consequences of that can be seen later in terms of relative inequality. Inequality levels have risen more recently, and that is almost certainly due to the weaker position of workers during the Long Wave downturn of the 1980’s and 90’s, whereas inequality did seem to diminish after the Long Wave Post War Boom.

“When rates of industrial profit fall during recessions and otherwise, workers’ incomes are fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating pressure coming from elsewhere in the “freely” and “socially” exploited labour market – namely from the reserved armies of the unemployed – and specifically unprotected workers’ incomes are fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating effects of inflation;”

It simply is not possible to speak, in mechanical terms, of the rate of profit falling during recessions. Recessions, in periods of Long Wave downswing, will be different, in character, to those in periods of Long Wave Boom. During the former, as with the character of such a Long Wave Phase in general, it is, on the contrary, more characteristic to see rates of profit rise. That is what was witnessed during the last downswing of the 80’s and 90’s. And, although it is clearly the case, that during these periods, the Reserve Army of Labour does act to put downward pressure on wages, it is important to look at this empirically rather than simply to conclude that real wages, for all workers, must fall. Keynes and other economists recognised this fact, and spoke about wages being “sticky” in a downward direction. As I said above, during the 1930’s, wages for those in employment fell less than the fall in prices. Rather than inflation, during such a period, being relatively immiserating, therefore, the deflation had the opposite effect.

And, during the 1970’s, it was the closing stages of the Post-War Boom and onset of the downswing, which saw profit rates squeezed the most, because the residual strength and militancy of workers, built up during the Boom, enabled them to resist attempts by Capital to reduce wages. I agree that those who suffer most are those not in work.

”3) When rates of financial profit fall during recessions and otherwise, much of workers’ incomes are diverted to consumer and mortgage debt payments, while still fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating pressure coming from reserved armies of the unemployed and, for unprotected workers’ incomes, the disproportionately immiserating effects of inflation;”

I have no data to confirm or deny your first statement, but I would expect that again it would be different in different recessions. For one thing, it will depend upon the extent to which workers’ real wages rise or fall during the recession, the amount of disposable income available for paying off debt, the rate of interest, and the rate of inflation and expectations in relation to these. As I have stated, the role of the Reserve Army applies at a high level of abstraction, but in order to see its actual role it is necessary to drill down to the real workers at any one time. As Lenin said, “The truth is always concrete.” Again I would agree that those without work, those in temporary or casual employment etc. will be the worst affected. In part, I think this is part of the problem with much of the Left’s analysis, which focuses on this Minority (if, especially during the Long Wave downturn, and first stage of the upswing, a sizeable Minority) and its condition, and takes it as being the condition of the working class as a whole.

“4) During depressions, the absolute immiseration of workers’ incomes towards subsistence levels is in full effect.”

But, in actual fact, that clearly is not the case! As Hobsbawm says, in “Industry & Empire”, even during the 1930’s, workers were, on average, only out of work for a few months. It was only in specific areas where there was chronic and persistent unemployment. In those areas, the full weight of the reserve army could press down on local wages, but could have little effect on National wage rates, or in those areas where new dynamic industries were being developed – especially as during the 1930’s it was even less practical for workers to “Get on their bike”. Consequently, even during the 1930’s, workers incomes were not driven down to subsistence levels. Compared with today, they were pretty abysmal, but that is not comparing apples with apples. By the same token, real wage levels in the 1930’s were not driven down to anything like the levels that applied even during relatively prosperous periods of the 19th century. Nor, during the Second Slump of the 1980’s and 90’s, were wages driven down to anything like those of the 1930’s or even the 1950’s, or early 60’s.

A Reply To Jacob Richter - Part 1

This is a response to Jacob Richter, who has taken up some of the arguments I raised in my blog The Left And The Crisis , and in my letter to the Weekly Worker. Jacob’s comments can be found here , and on the Weekly Worker website. His comments arise also from his own work on developing a socialist programme, some of which can be read here Due to the length of the reply I have separated it into three separate posts based loosely on the three areas set out by Jacob.

Theory and Agitation

”I've written programmatic material about how boring and academic "relative immiseration" sounds, so I look back upon Lassalle's agitational skills. One should admit, first off, that between Lassalle and Marx, Lassalle was by far the superior agitator.”

The first thing I would say is that I think it is very difficult, at this point in time, to say who, 150 years ago, was the better agitator, between Marx and Lassalle. Moreover, I will seek to demonstrate that, even were it true, it is irrelevant. What I, at least, would admit is that it has been Lassalle not Marx, who has been most successful in getting his ideas taken up by Socialists, even those Socialists who genuinely believe they are actually following Marx. But, I would argue that there is a good Marxist, Historical Materialist reason for that. Marxists do not believe that ideas exist in a vacuum – though to judge by the positions of pretty much all the Left sects you could be forgiven for believing that they do – but that they are a reflection of, though react back upon, the material conditions existing in society. Where two ideas confront each other, at a point in space and time, the fact that the proponent of one argument is successful, as against the other, in mobilising the majority, even the vast majority, of opinion behind them, that does not mean that they are right. Had Einstein debated Newton, and argued that light is bent by gravity, he would have lost the argument badly. In fact, even when Einstein DID make that argument, the vast majority of Newtonian scientists rejected it. The idea could only be properly conceived, and, more importantly, only widely accepted when the material conditions had changed such that we had a better way of understanding that material reality, and means of verifying the hypothesis.

Secondly, its important to understand, as Lenin did, that in order to win the masses to a particular idea, or set of ideas, that a number of things are necessary. To begin with, Lenin accepted fully the idea, put forward by Marx, that “the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class.” From that he concluded that it would never be possible to do what Marx and Engels had argued was necessary for the creation of Socialism – win the battle of democracy i.e. win over the vast majority of the class to the idea of Socialism – within the confines of Capitalism. That is why he advocated the idea of a Vanguard of the class, and the revolutionary party as the vanguard of the vanguard. The working class would only be won over, in their majority, to the idea of Socialism, AFTER the revolution, AFTER, the Vanguard had seized State Power, and held it in the name of the whole class. Only then, as this Vanguard and its Party transformed the material conditions, would it be possible to transform the working class, and its ideas. It’s where I fundamentally disagree with Leninism.

But, in “What Is To Be Done?”, Lenin also sets out the difference between theorists, propagandists and agitators. He argues for a division of labour within the Workers Party, recognising that different people have these different skills in different measure. The job of each is different. It’s unlikely that Einstein could have conveyed his ideas effectively to school students. Yet a Physics teacher COULD convey the basic ideas. Something is clearly lost in the transmission process, but, and this is important, provided the essence of the idea is accurately conveyed, the purpose is achieved. As time goes on, the idea becomes more widely held, and more readily understood, which in turn enables an even deeper understanding of it, to be developed. That is why people in general today understand many things, quite comprehensively, that a century ago only a few people understood. Its an indictment of Marxists that Marxism is one of the few things for which that is not true, and the reason for that is not unrelated to the basis of this discussion.

The point is that someone can be a very great agitator, but for the purpose of spreading understanding of Marxism, which, ultimately, is what raising workers’ class consciousness comes down to, if that agitator actually distorts the idea, coverts it into its opposite, then rather than aiding understanding they only obscure it. And if the original theory was correct then we would expect that the conclusions that flow from it would be vindicated by experience, and from there would flow greater confidence in it, thereby facilitating its greater spread and acceptance. I would argue that Marxism was correct, and has been vindicated, but it has not been seen that way, has not received greater confidence from workers, has not been more widely accepted, precisely because those that have been its “propagandists” and “agitators”, have fundamentally misrepresented it, replaced it with its opposite, which not only was not vindicated, but which has had the most profound negative consequences for workers who were persuaded to follow it. I would argue that that is true both in the experience of Reformism, and of Stalinism, and both have their roots in those ideas of Lassalle, as opposed to those of Marx.

Relative Immiseration

I agree, that if you talk to workers in terms of “relative immiseration”, you will not get off to a very good start with workers from an agitational standpoint. But, who talks like that? Furthermore, it depends who you are talking to, and under what conditions. Going to workers at BA, at the moment, and saying to them that Capitalism raises their living standards, and working conditions, would not be likely to endear you to them! But, what kind of Marxist would do that.
Yet, it does remain the case that the statement is true, and if you are talking to workers as a whole, trying to say to them that Capitalism impoverishes them is also unlikely to endear you to them – when, for the vast majority, they can see, from their own experience, the exact opposite. In fact, if you read Marx, in the Grundrisse, in particular, he never talks about poverty in this sense. He makes a clear distinction between “affluence”, by which he means high living standards, and “poverty”, by which he means exclusion from ownership of the means of production. He does not mean, even, that workers become relatively impoverished in the sense that their wages fall as a proportion of total production – though that is undoubtedly the case – but that they become impoverished, precisely because, even as their living standards rise, their ability to own the means of production is diminished! In fact, the more affluent you become as a worker, the more you are tied to your position AS a worker, because in order to sustain that standard of affluence, the more dependent you are on staying in work. Lose your job, and you go from hero to zero very quickly.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Northern Soul Classics - One Wonderful Moment - The Shakers

When i first heard this I wasn't sure about it. Having grown up with the gritty sould of Stax, which featured loads of brass accompanied by the guitars of Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn, who along with other session musicians not only backed people like Johnny Taylor, Rufus Thomas and others, but also were responsible for numerous instrumentals put out under a range of names from Booker T and The MG's, the Mar-Keys etc, this was something completely different. Even Motown, with its more commercial sound was still noticeably rooted in R&B. It too had its own brassy sound produced by the Funk Brothers, who again not only backed all the Motown Artists, but also in a variety of names produced some great instrumentals, perhaps most noticeably under Early van Dyke. After Motown took over the Ric-Tic label, it picked up the Wingate Strings, and Motown began to feature strings as part of its full orchestration far more than the more traditional R&B sounds of Stax, Atlantic and others. "One Wonderful Moment" contains all that, and despite the fact that to me its not part of that traditional R&B sound, it is a Northern Soul classic, because it contains all of the features, the beat and rhythm that got lots of Northern soul dancers up on heeir feet.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care?

Following the previous series, in which entrepreneur Gerry Robinson looked at the parlous state of the NHS, the BBC is now running another series in which he looks into the issue of dementia care homes - Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care?.

I’ve watched two programmes so far. The first thing that strikes me is the fact that he is the very opposite of the picture of the grasping Capitalist often used by Moral Socialists as an alternative to objective analysis of Capitalism. Far from it, he comes across as a very caring person, who relates with great empathy towards the poor souls he meets confined in these institutions. And, in fact, he also seems to show great empathy towards the ordinary workers within these homes, in contrast to his disdain for the bad management of many of them – bad management, which, in part, he seems to conclude, arises from a short term focus on penny-pinching measures of cost-cutting, intended to maximise profits, but which have the opposite effect. Of course, he’s not alone. Nineteenth century Britain, when the age of its grasping Capitalists was at its height, was also the age when Philanthropy in Britain was at its height, and when many of the well-known social reformers like Rowntree came from the ranks of the rich. Today it is the US, which tops the league for charitable giving. The world’s two richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have both given nearly all of their vast fortunes over to the Gates Foundation, which spends vast sums on a range of charitable works in the poorest parts of the world. Of course, if you are very rich, then the pleasure of giving is just one of the many pleasures, which wealth enables you to enjoy, and which is largely denied to those without. Having said that, I had a walk along the lane to my Cousin’s house the other day. He’s as poor as a church mouse, and lives in conditions more appropriate to a Dickens novel, yet his cheque book is full of donations to every charity under the sun.

In the first programme I saw, Robinson visited two homes run by the same company. The first was almost like a good quality hotel. There was a good staff to resident ratio, conditions inside the home appeared excellent, and the residents were kept occupied and well-attended. It was fully-occupied, and very profitable. But, it charged £750 a week. On that basis it was quite selective in the residents there. If not all, then nearly all, were self-financing. If you go into a Nursing Home, you can if you qualify, get financing to cover the cost from the Local Authority. The Authority will pay up to a given amount, and the balance has to be found by the resident, or the resident’s family. If the resident’s or their family cannot meet the additional sum, the Local Authority will cover the difference within reason, but that is normally only up to around £400 a week. The second home was quite different. A large number of its residents were financed by the Local Authority, and its charges reflected that fact, being nearly half that of the former home. As a result, the quality of the home was much lower in terms of its facilities etc. Fewer staff were employed, due to the lower revenue, and what staff there were were badly paid and demoralised. The demoralisation not only stemmed from being poorly paid whilst doing an arduous job, but also from the fact that they were constantly short-staffed, and that management tried to cut costs even more by petty cost-cutting measures in relation to the workers meal breaks, perks etc. With the home way below full-occupancy, economies of scale kicked in, so that even with such cost-cutting, the home was still unprofitable. As Robinson pointed out, if the home had been full, the income would have covered more staff and facilities, and still have made a profit! This always tends to be the problems faced by small, under-capitalised businesses. The problem here being that the condition for the home being fully occupied was that it became a place that people would want to go. A classic chicken and egg situation.

At the same time he went to see another home that did not have lots of Capital standing behind it, but which was profitable. In fact, although this was a private company, it embodied some of the ideas I have spoken about in the past, in relation to how I would see local communities running their own Co-operative Care facilities. For one thing the management of the home made a point of breaking down the separation between carers and residents. Despite the fact that these residents were suffering from dementia, it was difficult sometimes to know who was carer, and who was a resident. The carers wore ordinary clothes, they sat and ate their meals with the residents as though they were all residents in a hotel, or members of a family. Rather than the residents being drugged up, and left to vegetate, sitting in a room with nothing to do, they were encouraged and assisted to continue caring for themselves, and carrying out all of the functions of maintaining the home alongside the carers. That had a noticeable effect in terms of the relationship between residents and carers, and on the behaviour, not to mention well-being, of the residents. Although, the home did not charge outlandish fees, the fact that it was fully occupied, and the fact of how it was run reducing some of the costs, the home was very profitable.

Robinson attempted to get the managers of the second home to learn from the managers of this last one. But, their was clear resentment at the idea that there management style was being criticised, and nothing came of it. Similarly, this week Robinson brought in the same managers to another home to try to see if he could bring about a change. This case demonstrates what I was talking about the other week in my blog Warning – State capitalism Can Seriously Damage Your Health. The home had originally been assessed as “poor”, but after a change of management a more recent assessment had raised it to “adequate”. Yet, as Robinson noted as he first visited the home if this was “adequate” how bad do you have to be to be “poor”. Once again the residents were sitting around lethargic, unmotivated and understandably reacting with bad behaviour and resentment. The staff were also demoralised, and badly motivated with similar problems of absence leading to short-staffing and so on. At least one resident who was immobile had his emergency cord, by which to call for assistance, tied up out of his reach! Its important, however, not to be too critical of the workers who had resorted to such measures, as you’d know if you spent much time in one of these homes.

My Mother was in a Nursing home for four years, so I got plenty of opportunity to see some of what goes on, though clearly nothing like all. The picture painted by Robinson of poorly paid, poorly motivated staff, rushed off their feet doing an arduous, and often quite unpleasant job is typical. They have a tight schedule of jobs to do – going out in a morning to get bed-ridden residents like my Mother, washed and dressed, which in itself is difficult when the person has wasted away like my Mother to around six stone, and when you have to be careful not to tear the skin, or break a bone just in moving them; changing often badly soiled beds, organising breakfast; taking out and dispensing medicines to pretty much every resident; and before you know it, organising dinner and so on. In the midst of that, the alarms from certain patients will be going off constantly trying to draw you away from the resident to whom you were trying to give attention. Sometimes, it will be for a genuine reason, often it will simply be because the particular resident wants constant companionship and attention from a carer. So, the buzzers tend to drone on endlessly until a carer has the time to attend to it, or as my sister and I used to do, a visitor goes to deal with it.

The response of workers at the home to the suggestions and methods put to them by the Managers Robinson brought in was extremely positive. The attitude of management also seemed quite positive compared to that of the home he tried to improve the previous week. Many of the changes were brought in quickly and had a notable effect on both patients and staff. Yet you got the feeling that the staff were more committed to this approach than the management, a feeling born out by the comments of staff, including asking the outside Managers if they’d like a job! Symptomatic of that was the fact that in the middle of all this, the Manager, and one of the owners of the home, went away on holiday together. During that time the outside Managers from, I think the home is called Merryvale, came in and brought in even more drastic, but rapid changes, that appeared to cost very little, but which had a dramatic effect. The resident who had had his cord tied up, was an ex-paint sprayer, and was given a job painting a shed outside, and which he set to with gusto. However, during the week, it also came out that this home, which had only recently been inspected, and raised from “poor” to “adequate”, had even more severe problems relating to incidents of sexual abuse between residents. The home was closed down.

Robinson himself has asked the question whether the profit motive is itself incompatible with the needs of providing such care. Of course, the simple answer is yes. The profit motive is incompatible, overall, with the need to provide anything on the basis of need, precisely because those in most need, will frequently be the ones least able to pay the price required to meet that need by suppliers out to make a profit! For many things we can simply choose not to buy them if we can’t afford them, but if you need healthcare, if you need social care, such a choice does not exist, or at least if it does, then the consequences of not being able to buy it are severe. Of course, we should not be too dogmatic about that either. Lenin, following Marx, wrote that although Capitalism is a system driven by profit, Capitalists cannot divorce the drive for profit from the need to meet the needs of consumers. In the end any commodity is only profitable if enough people are prepared to buy it, and as Mandel correctly states, again following Marx’s comments about the “Civilising Mission” of Capital, the history of Capitalism fort he last few centuries has been the history of making commodities once only available to a very few, very rich people, available to the masses. Part of the problem with private Social Care, and with Nursing Care in particular, is that it has been a very, very profitable business. According to Robinson, profit margins can be as high as 30%.

Why is this a problem? Most new industries see a few firms enter them, and make similar large profits – what is known as first mover advantage. In many industries, those who enter first tend to be pioneers, they tend to be set up by people who have specialist knowledge – the computer industry is a classic example. But, other firms then seeing these large profits jump in. The large profits mean that some who jump in will not have a good business model, product or whatever. Again we saw that with the Internet Bubble, in the 19th century it was seen in the Railway Mania. Sooner or later, these firms go bust, there is rationalisation, and only the efficient firms are left to compete it out. But, with Social Care, and Nursing Care in particular its not quite like that. In Healthcare, the NHS takes care, albeit badly and inefficiently, with the needs of the vast majority of the population for “free”. Only if you are rich, or desperate will you resort to private healthcare. Demand is limited, and so the Supply from the Private sector faces intense competition. Only those providing good quality, efficient healthcare can make a profit in the mass market. But, the number of people requiring Social Care and Nursing Care is vast and growing as the population ages. There is no free Social Care or Nursing Care for many, if they have savings or assets. Although, Local Authorities can run Residential Care homes – though the number is reducing, and many are being outsourced – they cannot run Nursing Homes. With the NHS, now handing over responsibility for Nursing Care to such homes, there is a vast demand. Its that demand which makes it so profitable. But, the level of profitability also means that those who have entered this market, and who enjoy first mover advantage, do not necessarily represent those most suited to running such businesses. That is certainly, the impression I get from watching Robinson’s programmes so far. In many ways they are more like the old Merchant Capitalists who were adventurers and opportunists, seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck, get rich quick and get out with their winnings. Many I suspect are former nurses, or social workers who saw an opportunity to make money and took it. With that kind of short term vision, its no wonder that many want to maximise profits by cutting costs rather than maximising revenue. If private social care is to provide any kind of solution, it will only come about when the big professional companies like BUPA and others begin to dominate provision, and who will maximise profits by taking a longer-term, revenue maximising approach based on utilising the benefits of economies of scale, by maximising utilisation. As with private healthcare, that will only happen if they can provide good quality care, efficiently, and at a price that the majority can pay either from their own funds, or from Public Funds.

The more Capital moves from being based on manufacturing and becomes based on services, the more such a possibility becomes likely. But, there are other problems. When consumers make choices, they always try to make informed choices. But, despite the claims of orthodox economics, that is never such an easy thing to achieve. If you buy a Snickers, and decide it was the wrong choice, and you should have bought a Mars Bar, nothing much is lost. Make the wrong decision about which Care Home to move into or to move your parents into, and the consequences are more serious. And, however, much we might want to make the right choices for our parents or dependents we will tend not to take everything into consideration. For one thing, we’ll tend to take our own needs into consideration. And, I know that several times my Mother asked if she could be taken out of the home she was in, and I ignored her, basically because I believed that there was nowhere better for her to go, and that she would have wanted to be taken out of wherever she was. If we go into a hospital we can decide for ourselves whether we’d want to go there again, and we can pass that information on to others, but unless we are ourselves in a Care Home, we can never see exactly what happens when we are not there, and never make the same kind of choice.

In addition, if the problem of the “alienation of labour” can affect us badly as consumers of products, it can affect us even more badly as consumers of Social Care. I wouldn’t really want to be a passenger on a BA flight over Xmas, given the fact that the Cabin Crew on whom I could depend in a life and death situation, have been really pissed off by a bad management that has once again shown the partiality of the bosses State and its Courts. Less still would I want to be a totally dependent resident dependent on workers who have been badly treated by a Dickensian Management. But, of course, none of that is solved either by Lassallean and Fabian calls for the bosses state to take over. As I’ve said in recent weeks, and as recent reports have shown, State Capitalism is just as guilty in providing appalling care for the working class as private Capitalism. Badly paid, over-worked workers employed by the bosses state will be just as alienated as those in the private sector.

Only, if local working class communities have ownership and control of social care within their midst, providing care for themselves as a community as one big family, can we begin to break down that alienation. That after all is one of the arguments we put forward for Socialism, and what better means could there be of convincing vast numbers of workers of its superiority over Capitalism, than showing in practice how that could work here and now. All of the methods used at Merryvale that broke down that alienation, that broke down the division between worker and consumer, carer and resident, could be fully achieved in a Co-operative Social Care Home, owned and controlled jointly by the workers and residents and their families. All of the economic efficiencies that flow from Co-operative as opposed to private Capitalist firms could be directed towards providing a high level of care and comfort, that would ensure full occupancy, and the advantages of economies of scale that flow from that. Socialism is not something we should put off until the indefinite future after some hoped for revolution. It is something we have to build ourselves now, and on that basis the revolution will be brought that much closer.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Northern Soul Classics - Back Streets - Edwin Starr

I met Edwin Starr in 1971, when I was working at The Torch. By that time he had been a big star for nearly a decade, but I was surprised at his complete lack of any edge. Before the club opened, and having got all thee bands gear set up on stage, we sat in Chris Burton's office talking to him as though he was just one of us. That is also the message of Back Streets, which was one of my favourite records to dance to at the time.

Original Version

Later Version With video

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Left & The Crisis

This is an extended version of latter sent to the Weekly Worker, in response to an article about discussions recently within the CPGB - The Polemical Alternative.

I was disappointed to read the Weekly Worker’s analysis of the economic crisis, and where we are within it. Of course, the WW are not alone in the kind of catastrophism that was represented in the article. On the contrary, that kind of view is typical on the Left, some groups, even talked about the “recession” at the beginning of 2008, whilst the world economy was still growing quite strongly, and a full six months before the recession began, following the outbreak of the Financial Crisis, in the Autumn! It is rather sad then that they criticise “Permanent Revolution” for asking the question, “What Happened To The Depression?”, because of all the Left groups, they have been about the only one that has had anything approaching a correct analysis, and as I wrote some months ago, Financial Crisis & Recession, even they wobbled in the depths of the crisis, in the face of a wall of doom-mongering. In fact, I think that the CPGB’s analysis, like most of that of the Left, is based not on Marxism, but on Lassalleanism, just as much of the Left’s politics are based on Lassallean statist notions rather than on the anti-state positions of Marx.

Running, through almost all of the Left’s economic analysis is the idea repeated in the WW article that Capitalism is a system in decay.

“Comrade Bridge pointed out that it was not just a question of capitalism’s cyclical crises that ought to concern us, but the fact that it is a system in long-term decline.”


It is an idea that basically flows directly from Lassalle’s “Iron Law of Wages”, the idea that if there is growth, if there is improvement in workers conditions, it is necessarily suspect, it has to be explained as not real improvement, but some kind of mirage, the result of super-exploitation somewhere else etc. In fact, this is another hang-over from Stalinism, which, as Mandel demonstrated, continually spoke in these terms. Soviet economists went through the most extreme panegyrics in trying to demonstrate that living standards in the West were really falling, even when to the most casual observer it was obvious that exactly the opposite was the truth! Yet, it is common to read in the “Where We Stand” columns of even supposedly “anti-Stalinist” organisations, comments such as “Capitalism creates poverty”, which whilst relatively true, in absolute terms is fundamentally, and palpably false. Not for nothing did Marx talk about the revolutionising role of Capitalism, its rescuing millions from the idiocy of rural life, nor of its “Civilising Mission”, in raising workers standards of living, their access to leisure, education and culture, which were fundamental, and necessary for workers to adequately develop the class consciousness that would make them the new ruling class.

Mandel writes,

The apologists for capitalism have always pointed to the reduction in prices and widened market for a whole set of products as the benefits brought about by this system. This argument is true. It is one of the aspects of what Marx called “the civilizing mission of Capital.” To be sure we are concerned here with a dialectical but real phenomenon where the value of labor-power has a tendency to fall by virtue of the fact that capitalist industry produces the commodity equivalent of wages with ever increasing rapidity while it simultaneously has a tendency to rise by virtue of the fact that this value of labor-power progressively takes in the value of a whole series of commodities which have become mass consumer goods, whereas formerly they were reserved for a very small part of the population.

Basically, the entire history of trade between the sixteenth and twentieth century is the history of a progressive transformation from trade in luxury goods into trade in mass consumer goods; into trade in goods destined for an ever increasing portion of the population. It is only with the development of the railroads, of the means for fast navigation, of telegraphy, etc., that it became possible for the whole world to be marshalled into a real potential market for each great capitalist producer.

The idea of an unlimited market does not, therefore, merely imply geographic expansion, but economic expansion, available purchasing power, also. To take a recent example: the extraordinary rise in the production of durable consumer goods in world capitalist production during the past fifteen years was not at all due to any geographic expansion of the capitalist market; on the contrary, it was accompanied by a geographic reduction in the capitalist market, since a whole series of countries were lost to it during this period. There are few, if any, automobiles of French, Italian, German, British, Japanese or American manufacture exported to the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, or the countries of East Europe. Nevertheless, this expansion did take place, thanks to the fact that a much greater fraction of the available purchasing power, which had increased absolutely as well, was used for buying these durable consumer goods.

See: Introduction To Marxist Economic Theory

Rosdolsky, trawled through every reference in Marx to wages, and in the several thousand there was just one that he found, that could be interpreted as suggesting that Capitalism drives down wages and living standards in absolute terms i.e. causes immiseration. But, it is massively outweighed by all of his other comments to the contrary, and in particular in his attacks on Lassalle and the notion of the Iron Law of Wages. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme he reiterates that in a comment, which should serve as an indictment of all those who have followed in Lassalle’s footsteps.

He wrote,

“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!”

Critique of the Gotha Programme

Imperialism & Decay

Of course, Lenin and other Marxists at the beginning of the last century did not help matters by themselves declaring that the “Imperialist” stage of Capitalism was one of decay. But Trotsky, advised his supporters – “Learn To Think”. Rather than simply accepting Lenin’s dictum, Trotsky’s advice should be heeded. Trotsky himself wrote that if Capital survived the crisis of the 1930’s, and was able to restructure, then not only was it possible that Capitalism would return to growth, but that such a prospect was likely. That, of course is precisely what did happen.

On what possible rational basis can any serious economist describe Capitalism as being in “long-term decline”? There is absolutely no basis at all. Far from it, since at least the end of WWII, Capitalism has been in a phase of development that far exceeds its earlier stages. Not only has it created a world market in the true sense of the word, but it has opened up, within that market, the potential for a much freer movement of Productive Capital than existed before, when “Imperialism”, was really a function of marauding Merchant Capital. It has harnessed science to production in ways that make the Industrial Revolution appear pitiful, and consequently it has expanded production, and raised living standards way above anything that seemed possible in the 19th century. And on the back of it, it has spread its preferred political regime, for the accumulation of Capital, bourgeois democracy, more widely than at any other time in history. For Marxists to try to portray Modern Capitalism as in decay or long term decline, can only further damage the image of Marxism in the eyes of the working class.

Twenty-five years ago I wrote about emerging Asian economies at a time when most of the left viewed these economies as being subjects of neo-colonialism at best Imperilaism & The New International Division of Labour. Those economies are now some of the most dynamic and powerful economies in the world. More recently, I have spoken about how the same process of Capitalist development will bring about a similar transformation in Africa. In fact, that transformation appears to be occurring more quickly than I anticipated. According to this recent article on CNBC, there are already 20 investable markets in Africa.

The rise in commodity prices has given some African economies staggering growth rates in recent years, whilst rising food prices is leading economies like Angola to invest billions in developing their fertile soils, on an industrial basis to meet growing world food demand. At the same time, Middle Eastern states with huge oil wealth to invest are buying up huge tracts of land in Africa, purely in order to set up their own industrial agriculture to directly meet their needs, in a confirmation of part of Kautsky’s theory of Imperialism. In doing so not are they rescuing millions of subsistence peasant farmers by transforming them into an agricultural proletariat, but at the same time they are creating the very conditions by which those proletarians will be able to transform those large farms into Worker Co-operatives.

Faith & Objectivity

The fact, that the WW seized upon the events in Dubai to try to bolster their argument, and to attack PR, is symptomatic. But, it is not PR who have been embarrassed by Dubai surely, but the WW’s own analysis, which blew the event up, only to see it disappear as a 48 hour wonder, because in reality it was negligible in its economic importance. It is symptomatic, because much of the Left has based itself not on an objective economic analysis, but on its own hopes for some kind of economic collapse in the false belief that this would improve their own political fortunes. Yet, it is a very misguided approach as I set out in my blog Oh Ye Of Too Much Faith.

What is missing from the CPGB's analysis is any consideration of the question of why capital used Keynesian methods in the US in the 1930s, but essentially nowhere else; why it used such methods during the post-war boom and why it used them now; and why, in contrast, it did not use such methods in the 1930s in Europe, nor in the second slump of the 1980s. The answer is that it used such methods in conditions of long-wave upswing, when sufficient surplus value existed to finance them, and when renewed growth would repay the expenditure, and did not during the periods of long-wave downswing in the 1930s and 1980s when such conditions did not exist. We are in a period of long-wave rise, not decline.

The WW’s comments about China and India, suggesting that they were merely outposts of US Capital, and continue to be dependent upon it, to be honest I found laughable, but they are in the same vein. They are of the school which defines Imperialism in terms of some kind of immutable relationship of dependency, which is highly unMarxist, and undialectical. Dependency theory has never been a very good explanation of Imperialism, at best it had something to say about the relationship under Colonialism. Not only can it tell us nothing about modern imperialism, but, in fact, it misrepresents the real development occurring in many of these economies, thereby telling us less than nothing. In just the same way that firms grow, become dominant, and then decline, to be replaced by other large firms, so national and transnational economies go through a similar process.

To simply see China as dependent upon the US is to ensure that you are completely wrong-footed to understand both current global events, and those which will unfold over the next decade or so. See: Third World War.

Missing The Point

What is worse, is that in following this kind of economic catatrophism the Left fails to deal with the actual economic situation facing workers in Western economies. The reality of that is that in a Global Market for commodities, including Labour Power, and in which Capital can move to where it can most effectively exploit available Labour, the problem facing workers in the West is that the kind of frictions that enabled their relatively high wages of the past, are increasingly removed. No longer can they rely simply upon the fact that their Labour Power is backed up by masses of Capital, so that the higher productivity of labour affords higher wages. Workers in China and India now increasingly are equipped with even more effective machinery than workers in the West, and so on. No longer can workers in the West rely on the fact that it is difficult for Capital to relocate entire factories etc. The experience at MG/Rover demonstrated that, and increasingly as production moves to higher tech industries such relocation becomes even easier. Nor can they rely on the risks for Capital in relocating, as the spread of bourgeois democracy, and the Capitalist State enforcing property laws for all Capital operating within its borders creates the necessary conditions for its expansion and accumulation.

The second slump of the 1970’s and 80’s saw a process of deindustrialisation set in, which was limited, because given the conjuncture in which it was in a more thorough restructuring of Capital would have been devastating for Western economies. But, that process is symptomatic of this reality of the new world capitalist economy. A reality in which workers in the West will face increasing competition from workers in the East, and which will necessarily drive down wages and conditions in the West relative to those in the East. That is a simple matter of economics, and no amount of state ownership, reformism, syndicalism, or calls for more militancy can change it. To the extent that new areas of production such as high-tec production, or areas such as media and finance, which rely upon highly skilled complex labour, in which the West retains some comparative advantage, some workers with the necessary skills can maintain their conditions, but for the rest the next 15-20 years will be very uncomfortable . Capital is already responding by bringing in cheap imported labour to do the low paid, low status work remaining, and which it finds the domestic workforce is currently not prepared to undertake.

The reality we face is one in which Capitalism as a global system is in a period of rapid advance, but one which is full of contradictions. In the West we are likely to see a much more bifurcated workforce than in the past, and ordinary workers will see their relative position decline markedly. Only a political solution can provide workers with a way forward. That political solution cannot flow from Lassalleanism. Workers will no doubt respond in the first instance with traditional methods, but that may lead to Capital being even more inclined to simply up sticks and relocate. International solidarity between workers to prevent that would be nice, but the whole operation of Capitalism, which engenders competition between workers at an individual and collective level mitigates against it. It will then be necessary to respond with new, and not so new tactics such as the Occupation, as demonstrated at Visteon and Vestas, and over recent years by workers in Argentina. But, Occupation alone is not enough, after occupying workers need to resume production under their own auspices, perhaps using the example of the Argentinean workers in demanding that the factory be legally transferred to them. But, that too will require that workers have in hand their own workers plan of production similar to that drawn up by the Lucas workers, to ensure that production is viable in the longer term. Moreover, if these worker Co-operatives remain isolated they will necessarily fail, either economically, or because they will end up becoming simply Capitalist enterprises owned by workers – and that too would probably lead sooner or later to their reconversion into purely private companies. We need the Labour Movement and the left to take seriously the idea raised by Marx and the First International to create a national Co-operative federation through which all of this planning and support could be channelled, and to which each of these separate organisations should be tied.

The repetition of the old formulas by the left are inadequate. For example, in the current WW, James Turley writes,

“Rather, we have to confront the political issues involved. There can be no question - the nationalisation of the banks is an immediate economic measure which should be high up the agenda for any Communist Party. Nationalisation is not a panacea in itself, as is obvious from these developments at RBS. A nationalisation that puts the banking system under the democratic control of the masses, however, is a necessary measure for revolutionaries.”

In Another World

But, as I have written previously this is nonsense Nationalisation, Workers Control and Workers Ownership. Are we to believe that Brown’s Government will voluntarily grant such “democratic control of the masses” – a phrase by the way ruthlessly criticised by Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Programme? If not then does anyone seriously believe that the working class here and now are going to force this demand upon a Brown Government let alone a Tory Government? If not then who exactly is this demand aimed at, what is the means of its achievement? It is thoroughly pointless, and in fact less than that.
Trotsky in the Transitional Programme says of the demand for the nationalisation of the Banks,

“However, the stateisation of the banks will produce these favourable results only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”

Are we seriously to believe that power is about to pass into the hands of the toilers? Are we on the verge even of the coming to power of a Workers Government? Of course not, so the demand for nationalisation is and can be nothing more than the old Labourite, Fabian and Lassallean demand for workers to place their faith in the good offices of the bourgeoisie and their state! Its time we had done with this stuff, once and for all.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

What an Asshole!

If anybody missed this classic on Newsnight last night here it is courtesy of Youtube, as prof Watson gives the classic response to Morano on Global Warming.

Northern Soul Classics - Chubby Checker

If you are using the latest version and update of IE8 there is a conflict with the video gadget for viewing the Northern Soul Classics. So here's another chance to hear Chubby, and this one features Sting dancing!.

And for those who missed last week's excellent motown track from Kim Weston.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Warning - State Capitalism Can Seriously Damage Your Health

Only a few months ago there was much Labourite back-slapping of the NHS, in response to attacks on it by right-wingers in the US. The fact that it was “Labourite” back-slapping, of course didn’t stop large sections of the Left, including the supposedly Marxist Left from joining in. Instead of fulfilling the role that Marxists should perform of putting forward an independent working class alternative to Capital, and its State, most of the Left has become little more than cheerleaders for State Capitalism, and its measures of state intervention and welfarism. Any Marxist should have realised the woefully inadequate nature of State Capitalist provision in the arena of health and social care. I have blogged about it here, and even those who have retained some attachment to the idea that there is no immediate laternative to reliance on the state have been forced to reconsider their views in the light of their own direct experience, as did Charlie McMenamin in his blog On Spending 31 Hours In A&E With An 87 Year Old.

In the last few weeks, there have been many reports from the Patients Association, The Care Quality Commission, and from the Dr. Foster Group, blowing the cosy view of State Capitalist Health and Social Care out of the water. Indeed, reports from the Office for National Statistics, on that other major area of State Capitalist provision - Education – demonstrate that the outputs obtained there too, fail to measure up to the massive amounts of money pumped into it over the last ten years. In fact, all of these reports grossly understate the real level of inadequacy of these services. Just as the Police are allowed to investigate themselves through the Police Complaints Commission, so too these reports, as with the bodies set up to monitor provision, are carried out by people who are professionally and personally tied to those services and those who work in them. Only when ordinary workers themselves reliant on these services are the ones doing the investigating, the monitoring and the controlling could we even begin to get a fair picture. Even then the power of the Capitalist State is such that even were it to concede such a measure – which it will not do short of something approaching a situation of dual power – it was so circumscribe the role and power of such workers inspection as to make it meaningless. It would insist on providing its own professional advisors to “assist” the workers in these functions, the workers would find their investigations frustrated at every stage, and find themselves becoming bogged down in reams of paperwork and jargon, designed to hide the true picture, and baffle them with science.

As the BBC put it,

“In truth, the NHS is such a vast and complex monolith that no single monitoring body can get a completely accurate picture of everything that goes on…”

During my last period as a County Councillor, I witnessed that first hand. Just a few examples will suffice. I was Senior Vice Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee. Its role was to scrutinise the decisions not just of the NHS within the County, but anything else that related to Health, including Social Care, the Leisure polices of local Councils, Environmental Health matters etc. In other words a huge area of activity. Consider that a normal Council Department in even a small District Council will employ around 100 administrators, and several tiers of supervision and management. A large County Council Department will employ several thousand people, many of them being administrators, supervisors and managers. How many Staff did we have to assist with scrutinising this vast area of work? Just one single person, and a budget of £20,000!

I have also previously referred to my experience on the Social Services Committee where myself and the Committee Chair month after month complained at the lack of education being provided for Children in the Council’s Care. Month after month we were frustrated that nothing had been done, and yet some other excuse was provided. A similar thing occurred with the Chair of the Highways Scrutiny Committee who wanted to push a simple policy of getting white lines painted on the sides of rural roads. For months we were given excuses as to why it would cost too much money, and every excuse under the sun, and when those providing the information have a monopoly over it, it is very difficult to challenge their position.

I have also referred previously to my experience of actually working in Local Government as well. In reality, those tasked with conducting the oversight normally Auditors, are so concerned with trying to protect their own backs by trying to catch people who have acted in some way illegally that the last thing on their mind is looking at whether things are being done efficiently or not! Moreover, Auditors are normally tied into the most powerful Department in the organisation the Finance Department. As the Finance Department also often has control or at least considerable influence over Council policies its unlikely to criticise too strongly those policy’s efficiency. On one occasion I saved the Council around £25,000 in buying computers from an alternative supplier to the one the Council had traditionally dealt with. As this put the noses out of joint of the Finance Department who had argued for retaining that relationship – the IT Department came under the Finance Department and they did not like the idea of their Empire being threatened by Departments being able to make their own decisions – I found myself facing three months of Internal Audit investigation to justify my decision, at the end of which they concluded that the decision was okay, but criticised me for not saving £25 (!) by buying the software for the machines (which was pre-installed!) from another supplier.

The various reports on the inadequacy of state Capitalist provision – See:

BBC On Dr Foster
Dr Foster
Hospital Boss Sacked
Patients Association On Dirty Hospitals
Another Hospital Boss Sacked
Hospital Kit Covered in Blood
No One Should Go Through That
Councils Warned over Social Care

for example,massively understate the problems. As many people have said this last week in relation to Social Care, the real situation in many homes is far worse than the picture of “adequacy” painted in the report.

But, why should any Marxist be surprised at any of this, let alone why should any Marxist cover it up out of some misplaced desire to “defend” State Capitalist provision as being in some way “socialist”? After all it was Marx, who, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, criticised the Statists and Lassalleans who fell into that trap. In relation to State Capitalist provision of Education he wrote,

“"Equal elementary education"? What idea lies behind these words? Is it believed that in present-day society (and it is only with this one has to deal) education can be equal for all classes? Or is it demanded that the upper classes also shall be compulsorily reduced to the modicum of education — the elementary school — that alone is compatible with the economic conditions not only of the wage-workers but of the peasants as well?

"Universal compulsory school attendance. Free instruction." The former exists even in Germany, the second in Switzerland and in the United States in the case of elementary schools. If in some states of the latter country higher education institutions are also "free", that only means in fact defraying the cost of education of the upper classes from the general tax receipts. Incidentally, the same holds good for "free administration of justice" demanded under A, 5. The administration of criminal justice is to be had free everywhere; that of civil justice is concerned almost exclusively with conflicts over property and hence affects almost exclusively the possessing classes. Are they to carry on their litigation at the expense of the national coffers?

This paragraph on the schools should at least have demanded technical schools (theoretical and practical) in combination with the elementary school.

"Elementary education by the state" is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school. Particularly, indeed, in the Prusso-German Empire (and one should not take refuge in the rotten subterfuge that one is speaking of a "state of the future"; we have seen how matters stand in this respect) the state has need, on the contrary, of a very stern education by the people.

But the whole program, for all its democratic clang, is tainted through and through by the Lassallean sect's servile belief in the state, or, what is no better, by a democratic belief in miracles; or rather it is a compromise between these two kinds of belief in miracles, both equally remote from socialism.”

Critique of The Gotha Programme

Yet, it is precisely this “servile belief in the State” (even in the Capitalist State let alone the “State of the Future”) which characterises the politics of most of the supposedly Marxist Left today.

And what Marx describes here is what we see today, even when the development of Capitalism has been such as to enable it to provide free universal education. On the one hand there is Eton and Harrow for the toffs, and on the other a failing Comprehensive for the workers. There are top quality private hospitals, clinics etc. for the rich and dirty, unsafe NHS hospitals for the rest of us. Even within the NHS itself there is a vast disparity of provision. In the more affluent parts of the country provision tends to be better than in the more deprived. IN the more affluent areas there is little problem attracting GP’s, whereas GP’s are more reluctant to set up in deprived areas.

Capital does not provide socialised Health and Social Care nor Socialised Education out of the goodness of its heart. It does so in order to reproduce Labour by the most effective means for its needs. That is why the Democrats, as representatives of the more enlightened Big Capital in the US have been attempting to introduce Healthcare reform. The most inefficient aspect of private healthcare is insurance, and its administration. Not only are vast armies of administrators required by a host of insurance companies to compete for and collect insurance contributions and to make judgements on whether treatments comply, and then to make payments to providers, but the healthcare providers themselves also then require even more administrators to deal with these claims, and the attendant insurance companies. As many of the most organised workers in the US have their Health Insurance paid for by employers, the high cost of such a system falls on the employers. That is why they are looking to cut that cost by the introduction of something approaching the European model of socialised Healthcare of some kind of single payer insurance with healthcare provision remaining in the hands of competing providers, competition then ensuring that costs are kept down, and quality is kept up. Faced with the inefficiency and inadequacy of the NHS, its no wonder that the British Government has been looking to adopt a similar model.

The European model of socialised provision, certainly does provide lower cost, and better quality healthcare provision than does the NHS, but that is no reason why socialists should advocate that as an alternative either. The fact is that we have no reason to go back to privatised healthcare even where it does provide something better. On the contrary, our interest lies not in going backwards, but going forwards, taking the general principle of socialised healthcare of free at the point of use, and covering all workers irrespective of their ability to pay, and making it real and effective in the only way it can be. That is by bringing it completely under the ownership and control of the working class itself collectively. Indeed, that is our argument in relation to all aspects of life. There is no reason why we should put that process off until some time in the distant future – after the revolution – because the best way of bringing about that very revolution is by beginning to transform aspects of our daily lives here and now, and thereby demonstrating, as Marx suggested, by deed rather than argument, the very basis of our socialist ideas and programme, demonstrating in practice how a different, better form of society can work.