Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Winstanley: A film about the Diggers

Winstanley is a film made in 1975 in the UK by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, based on the 1961 David Caute novel Comrade Jacob. Gerrard Winstanley made a declaration that the land was not just for the few so-called Lords of the Manor:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Marx’s Class Analysis is Still Correct! Workers have yet to Realise it!

Tensions between classes in the US are rising. Society is split between the 99 percent (ordinary working people, struggling to get by) and the 1 percent (the super rich getting richer every day). Statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. In the USA, which has no nobility, the working class are called the “middle” class. A Pew Research Center poll found two-thirds of its respondents thought the primary division in society was the strong conflict between rich and poor, 19 percent up on 2009.

Michael Schuman says in Time (March 2013) an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study found:

  • the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the US in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973
  • 74 percent of the gains in wealth in the US, between 1983 and 2010, went to the richest 5 percent while the bottom 60 percent experienced a decline.

Union membership in the US has continued to decline through the economic crisis, the global labor market having apparently rendered unions toothless throughout the developed world. But the world’s workers are getting more impatient with their prospects. They have common problems, but seem still reluctant to unite to resolve them. Even so, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of cities like Madrid and Athens, protesting against massive unemployment and austerity.

Marx’s trenchant criticism of capitalism—that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive—cannot no longer be easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. He wrote:

Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.

Yet since the deregulation big bang of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the political left has been unable to unite around a practical alternative strategy. Jacques Rancière, a political analyst at the University of Paris, says:

Virtually all progressive or leftist parties contributed at some point to the rise and reach of financial markets, and rolling back of welfare systems in order to prove they were capable of reform. I’d say the prospects of Labor or Socialists parties or governments anywhere significantly reconfiguring—much less turning over—current economic systems to be pretty faint.

Michael Schuman concluded that though Marx’s revolution has yet to successfully appear, Marx had correctly diagnosed both capitalism’s flaws and the outcome of those flaws, and that:

If policymakers don’t discover new methods of ensuring fair economic opportunity, the workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Talking Back against European Union Naivety

The Germans are wonderful people in my limited experience of them, and so are most other Europeans, and their parties are doubtless heavenly compared with the Tories, but it is all quite irrelevant to our being all members of the same EU international bund.

The EU was set up as the Common Market to be run by bureaucrats with a mockery of a parliament, and it still is 40 years later. Knowing that, and the rest that we now know, would any of us want to vote “yes” in a referendum today? We are told the EU is not imposed on us externally. We have freely joined it. Then why cannot we decide to exit it? Because it suits our ruling class, which, some say are worse than the ruling classes of our fellow Europeans, but our rulers are not so stupid they do not realize they are stronger while they have these virtually unbreakable ties with almost every other country in Europe, not to mention the threat of NATO looming in the background should anyone show dissent. It is harder to blow a hole in a big wall than it is in a small one, it is harder to untangle a large skein of legal threads than a small one. The longer we stay in it the harder it will be to get out.

And it seems we shall soon have another layer of courts to deal with, besides the ECJ, as a condition of the TTIP. If EU membership offers us any crumbs of benefits, the shackles and conditions imposed for them render them worthless.

In discussing our predicament in the EU, some light-hearted contributers, think it is fun to propose various hypothetical stances, but we actually are in a real situation, right now! It has never been the game some depict it as. While we remain in the EU, all thoughts of socialism are wishful thinking—the very rules of the neoliberal club exclude it. And for those who are loath to lose their European identity, we were Europeans before we joined the EU. If we leave it, we shall still be European, besides being British. That we would be rejecting the people of Europe by leaving the EU has always been one of the main false lines of the pro-European media. Lastly for those of a Marxist inclination…

How the Trotskyist Organizations in the UK helped to bring down the CPGB

Trotskyite organizations of the 1970s were critical of both factions within the CPGB. They disagreed vehemently with the Eurocommunist ideas, which were seen to be unfairly critical of the Soviet Union, despite their own views, and the abandonment of Marxism-Leninism and the class struggle. They picked up some new members from the CPGB as the Eurocommunists undermined it. However, they were barely more successful than the communists, taking some dissident members but doing little to promote Marxism in Britain.

The most significant of them was the SWP (formerly the International Socialists or IS), supposedly 4,500 strong in the late 1970s. Like the CPGB then, it focused on workers in industry, and on trade unionists. It had attacked the CPGB for the abandonment of class conflict by the Eurocommunists, and because they identified the traditional CP’s attempts to influence trade unions as representative of the trade union values it abhorred. The SWP claimed a lot of workers would overthrow capitalism but for the bureaucraric trade union leaders whom the CPGB supported. The party’s newspaper, the Socialist Worker, spent most of its time attacking the CPGB in the late 1970s. The SWP tried instead to set up ’rank-and-file organizations’ within each union, and had then about fifteen ’rank-and-file’ newspapers in various, mainly white collar, trades—the Hospital Worker, Journalists’ Charter, Rank and File Teacher and, in the civil servants’ union, Redder Tape. These also relentlessly attacked the alleged secret deals and corruption of putatively reformist CPGB trade union officials, “wild allegations made without any real evidence”, Professor Keith Laybourn says. The SWP influence faded, and only six ’rank-and-file’ newspapers remained by 1982.

The International Marxist Group also had some success in rhe 1970s but then dropped Tariq Ali from its leadership in 1972, and made a call for a general strike which hardly anyone heard.

The Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP formerly the Socialist Labour League, run by Gerry Healy) had made little progress because of the dissension Healy provoked.

The Militant Tendency, founded in Liverpool in the 1950s by Ted Grant as the Revolutionary Socialist League, added to the damage of the CPGB around 1980 while the Labour Party was claiming to be most hurt by them. It challenged the very fundamental policy of the CPGB, stating in its constitution: “unlike the reformists, centrists and Stalinists, the Marxists decisively reject the theory of the Parliamentary road to socialism”... Its policy of entryism into the Labour Party is well known but, like the Communist Party, it played little part in the Labour leadership crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the Bennites within the Labour Party promoted the idea of an electoral college selecting the Labour Party leader.

The SWP and the Militant Tendency inflicted some damage on the Eurocommunist-rent CPGB, challenging both its trade union orthodoxy and its lack of commitment to the class struggle, yet set against its decline after the defeat of the Heath Government in 1974 and the rise of Eurocommunism, the Trotskyite impact was minimal.

Adapted from K Laybourn, Marxism in Britain: Dissent, Decline and Re-emergence 1945-c2000

There is No Need for Austerity: Tony Benn

Tony Benn, interviewed by Michael Moore, describes how the UK welfare state, in particular, the NHS came out of the horror and destruction of WW2.

He explains that there was no unemployment during the war. If it is possible to employ everyone killing Germans, then why cannot we employ people building hospitals? The post War Labor government did it even though the country was wrecked by 6 years of Nazi bombing.

Why then cannot we do it now that we are much better off, there is more money and better technology and we are in one of the most advanced countries in the world? The truth is that we have not overspent. It is simply that the vast wealth we now have is not evenly distributed among us. A tiny fraction of people own nearly all of the wealth. Benn says 1 percent owns 80 percent, though it is more extreme still. A few thousand families own almost all of it.

So there is no need for austerity, no need for warfare, but there is a need to realize the reason why the politicians pretend there is. It is to make sure the wealth stays in private hands, and that it is, indeed, concentrated into them even more. People are constantly fooled by artificial threats and the threat of destitution. Benn says fear and demoralization keep people malleable. It's true!