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Socialist Standard June 2010 1

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june 2010
socialist standard
website: www.worldsocialism.org

14 22

3 Editorial
10 Political whores trading
The Holy Grail and the poisoned chalice 4 Pathfinders
Blow out
12 The crisis: what is to be done?
We look at David’s Harvey’s latest book The Enigma of Capital. 6 Material World
Christian Fascism

14 The race to the bottom

Could Western corporations do without sweatshop production? 7 Tiny Tips

8 Pieces Together
16 “Listen, lady . . .”
The anger was palpable, the body language unmistakable – our driver 8 Contact Details
was one very pissed-off guy.
9 Cooking the Books 1
17 How shall we vote? How Capitalism Works
Part of the deal for the Tory-LibDem coalition government is that there’s
to be a referendum on electoral reform. But is electoral reform really 15 Cooking the Books 2
necessary? What’s a “Living Wage”?

20 Reviews
18 Darwin on human evolution The Real Venezuela; Why
A 150 years in June the famous confrontation over evolution took place
We Cooperate; The Selfish
between Bishop Wilberforce and TH Huxley. We begin a three-part
series where we look at Darwin’s theory of human evolution and the
reaction of Marx and Engels to it.
22 Meetings

22 50 Years Ago
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2 Socialist Standard June 2010

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Introducing Editorial
The Socialist Party Michael Portillo tells the truth
The Socialist Party is like no other The time between the close of polls tillo, it didn’t really matter which party
political party in Britain. It is made up on general election day and before formed the government: Britain’s policy
of people who have joined together the return to ‘business as usual’ is an would inevitably be dictated by ‘events’
because we want to get rid of the profit interesting one politically. It’s a brief in the market, and by the actions of
system and establish real socialism. Our space of freedom from bullshit, and the international ‘investors’ (the capital-
aim is to persuade others to become mainstream media reports it fairly well. ist class). In other words, what was
socialist and act for themselves, Politicians are briefly free from the need more important than the result of the
organising democratically and without
to hoodwink voters (the votes are in and democratic process was the needs of a
leaders, to bring about the kind of
being counted) or to dress up business small minority of humanity to find prof-
society that we are advocating in this
exploitation and war in the language of itable investment opportunities, and
journal. We are solely concerned with
individual liberty and choice (that’s on the democratic process was inevitably
building a movement of socialists for
tomorrow’s agenda). If you listen care- subordinated to that fact.
socialism. We are not a reformist party
with a programme of policies to patch fully during this brief period of freedom, The BBC interviewer, who had
up capitalism. you’ll hear our political masters tell it perhaps been daft enough to fall for
We use every possible opportunity as it is. We hope all those people who all the pre-election spin and bullshit,
to make new socialists. We publish voted for the main political parties were expressed surprise at this comment,
pamphlets and books, as well as CDs, paying close attention. and reiterated the propaganda point
DVDs and various other informative Take the former Tory MP and cabinet that the parties did differ on this issue,
material. We also give talks and take part minister Michael Portillo, for example, disagreeing about the timing of the
in debates; attend rallies, meetings and interviewed by BBC News on 8 May Thatcher-style cuts in public services
demos; run educational conferences; after the general election. An important that all parties had promised. Portillo
host internet discussion forums, make part of the ‘socialist case’ is to propa- haughtily dismissed this, and said the
films presenting our ideas, and contest gate the ‘capitalist case’, stripped of the timing would be dictated to the govern-
elections when practical. Socialist fine words and verbiage, among ordi- ment by those all-powerful ‘investors’.
literature is available in Arabic, Bengali, nary working people, so they can be in- On this issue, Portillo was putting
Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, formed about exactly what it is they are the Socialist Party case. We agree with
Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish and voting for and unconsciously working him that democracy under capitalism
Turkish as well as English. to support. They will then be in a better is all about choosing between different
The more of you who join the Socialist position to make informed, democratic management teams, all of which are
Party the more we will be able to get choices. Our candidate in the general committed to serving the interests of
our ideas across, the more experiences election was not interviewed by the ‘investors’, however much they may dif-
we will be able to draw on and greater BBC, but Portillo was kind enough to fer in style and on other comparatively
will be the new ideas for building the put the Socialist Party’s case (or at least minor points of policy. That means
movement which you will be able to aspects of it) for us. that, whoever you vote for, the govern-
bring us.
Portillo said that, whatever else was ment faithfully promises to put first the
The Socialist Party is an organisation
going on behind closed doors in the interests of the rich minority who profit
of equals. There is no leader and there
negotiations about who was to form the from investment, not the majority who
are no followers. So, if you are going
next government, there was one key work under their control for a relatively
to join we want you to be sure that you
agree fully with what we stand for and
issue that that government would have meagre wage. That’s the ‘capitalist
that we are satisfied that you understand to face – namely, the economy and the case’, and you should bear it in mind
the case for socialism. deficit. And on this point, said Por- next time you head to the polls.

Socialist Standard June 2010 3

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14 times as much as this (Guardian, 17 May).
BP have been criticised already for this downplaying
and reluctance to provide information, but it’s easy to
see their motives. In socialism there would be no stock
market share-price to consider, or corporate image
to protect, or litigation to avoid, all of it leading to a
tendency to talk down the scale of the disaster and be
tight-lipped with information in the interests of damage
limitation. BP stock prices have fallen sharply, its ‘green’
image is in tatters, and already over a hundred lawsuits
in Louisiana have been consolidated into a class action
which will sue BP for hundreds of millions, a figure itself
dwarfed by the cleanup costs which BP are of course
trying to offload onto the Swiss company Transocean who
ran the Deepwater Horizon rig.
“It is incumbent upon us to inform all of our
neighbours, not just the islands, but those countries
that could be affected by disasters that happen within
our territorial waters”, says the US State Department
(BBC Online, 19 May). Perhaps pro-capitalists will miss

the irony here but socialists certainly won’t. In socialism
these neighbours would have been consulted, and the
risks made known, before any drilling went ahead, not
merely informed after a disaster which they had no say in
The deep-water blow-out currently gushing gigantic preventing.
quantities of crude into the Gulf of Mexico threatens It is also not likely that, given wide consultation,
at the time of writing to be the biggest environmental socialist engineers would ignore or overlook published
disaster in US history, and already the blame slick is research which anticipated all the above problems.
reaching into every inlet and niche of government and the A report in 2000 revealed that blow-out preventers
oil industry. (BOPs) might fail at depths of a mile or more, causing
The fact that there could conceivably be industrial catastrophic pollution. BP and Transocean can scarcely
disasters in socialism means that, for socialists, the big say they didn’t know this, as they co-authored the report
question is how we would manage affairs better. What, (New Scientist, 15 May). The problem of deepwater
if anything, would a democratic, communally-managed ‘plumes’, where oil and water emulsify into gigantic
global society do different? underwater columns which never reach the surface
In the first place, we would have to ask whether we are and therefore cannot be contained by any known
really so desperate for oil that we are willing to maintain surface collection methods, may have astonished local
an industry now recognised as one of the most dangerous oceanographers in the Gulf but was already known from
in the world. In a moneyless society, who would volunteer experiments off Norway in 2000 (New Scientist, 22 May).
to risk their lives, when other sources of energy remain It is also vanishingly unlikely that socialist society
untapped, unexplored or undeveloped? There have been would entrust such drilling to an operational team found
858 fires and explosions, and 55 deaths, in the Gulf responsible (BP were fined $87m plus a further $50m to
since 2001, yet new drilling licences have been granted settle criminal charges) for 270 safety violations which
every year by the hundreds. Many of these, like the led to 15 deaths in an explosion in 2005. And in another
one BP got for Deepwater Horizon, are a ‘categorical court judgment in Texas in December 2009 BP were fined
exclusion’ exempting the operator from scrutiny by the $100m and branded ‘serial polluters’.
Environmental Protection Agency and intended only for The cost of the cleanup plus litigation to BP is
projects where environmental damage in the event of estimated at between $1 – 2bn , but this has to be set
failure is expected to be ‘minimal or non-existent’ (New against the year’s profit BP is expected to make from
Scientist, 15 May). its drilling operations of around $20bn, so even in a
Even supposing that socialism could not break the worst case scenario it’s still cheaper for BP to pay out for
addiction to oil, a very large supposition indeed and one cleaning up and court costs than avoid the disasters in
too great to explore here, the question arises whether as the first place. In fact, BP is cleaning up in more senses
a responsible collective we would dare push the drilling than one.
technology to its limits and well beyond our knowledge And what of the future, now that the US government
and ability to recover from a catastrophic failure. What is aiming to raise the corporate liability cap from $75m
is striking about this affair is the lack of preparedness to $10bn? The likelihood is that deepwater drilling will
shown by all parties. The Gulf spill is at nearly twice the move to fields with no such regulations. One recent find
depth required to crush a Navy submarine, making direct off the Falklands is a case in point, and in waters three
human intervention impossible. The blow-out preventer times deeper than the site of the current spill. The mind
failed. The huge 125 tonne containment dome failed. can only boggle at what will happen if a drilling operation
The robot-teams trying to shut off the valves failed. The there suffers a similar blow-out.
secondary drilling shaft may work but will take another Socialism, and its productive and extractive processes,
two months. The ‘plume’ problem was not anticipated. will be driven primarily by consideration of human need,
The injection of dispersant at the well-head had never and the way to define and then provide that need will
been tried, and may have contributed to the plume be one of socialist society’s most pressing debates. In
problem. Even the amount of oil coming out has been capitalism there are no such concerns. It follows the
consistently underestimated, with BP at first playing for a money, wherever it leads, even into the depths of hell,
safe 1,000 barrels a day, then later revising this to 5,000 while human society and the environment inevitably get
while independent researchers estimate between 5 and dragged down with it.

4 Socialist Standard June 2010

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becoming radicalised in German or or her lot in the best of all possible
Trend to fascism? “True Socialism” which presaged the worlds.
“eternal truths, the model nation”, This is fascism in “idealised” form
Dear Editors opposing the “brutally destructive” but capitalism’s also on a tendency
The letter from David Lee (April ) in tendency of Communism. And so on, towards it . But even if this should
calling for a socialist government I won’t repeat it all but summed up appear attractive to the petty-
shows a lack of understanding – as the bombastic representative of bourgeois Philistines it always comes
that socialism means an end to the petty bourgeois Philistine. Which along with the horrors experienced in
government and governed – but is as good a description of the true the 20th century.
you are too dismissive of his seeing nature of fascism as any. Effectively, as for as real
the inherent trend of capitalism to So, yes, the expressions of alternatives are concerned, this
fascism. The “ideal” of fascism is not fascism of the pre-war variety are turns the country into a one-party
necessarily the pre-war examples of not visible, at least on the surface, state, the consciousness of the
Germany and Italy. The philosophy but aside from this the tendency majority is formed by the prevailing
of fascism is the corporate state, the for fascist thought lingers in every accepted norms of society, education,
well-ordered state, where the most cell of capitalism, from the infantile the press, the whole structure of
able, that is by their own definition, individuals you sometimes meet production. This is as effective for
assume the positions of power who always have a ready list of control as any secret police and more
in politics and industry etc. The sexist, racist, anti-Semitic “jokes” acceptable as being “democratic”
majority accept that their position to share with guilty pleasure often than totalitarianism – you get to
is due to their being less able and on their mobile phones to the more leave a mark every few years, that’s
grateful to accept their position as discreet smoothing over by politicians democracy, isn’t it?
decided by “natural abilities”. whose job, if it can be called that, STUART GIBSON, WIMBORNE,
Other ways of describing this is to confuse the majority that it’s Dorset
attempt of natural selection of in interests to do whatever are the
order in society are meritocracy problems of the moment. To blur over Reply: We still think it’s an
and equality of opportunity. So this the divisions in society and represent exaggeration (and misleading) to refer
sorts out the order of society by the nation as symbolic as Unity, the to present-day Britain as “fascist” –
“natural” rule and a “benign” ruler problems of capitalism are all our
or ruling class makes the nation as
one. Classes are dismissed because
problems, we are all in it together – Pete Seeger
the National interests (sic or sick).
the order of society is as it should The well-ordered nation state is Dear Editors
be. The division between capitalists the capitalists and politicians’ dream As regards the article on Pete Seeger
and workers is again presented as and aspiration, the corporate state of in the March dard, isn’t it about
the natural order so fascism can successful regulation of private and time we looked at the positive rather
claim it is a classless society. This state undertakings, the self-defined than the negative aspects of the folk
obfuscation between the owing class meritocracy and the worker held in revival in the US?
and the majority is the common wage-slavery, happy to accept his To quote from the article: “The
good of the whole nation, that the 1960s saw Seeger affiliating with
interests of all as are of one. A phrase the current ‘good causes’, plucking
which appears regularly to plaster his banjo at Civil Rights rallies (an
over this is “the third way” to mean unfortunate instrument, given Negro
a way which is neither capitalism memories of stereotypic minstrel
nor socialism, but taking the best shows) and supporting the Anti-
elements of each. Blair used it early Vietnam War movement”.
on in his career, those in the social The banjo in American music was
sector – or third sector of co-ops played by both blacks and whites and
and the like, even Ted Heath in his goes back to a time when music was
attempt to square the circle in his more integrated, before the minstrel
conception of corporate capitalism shows.
– the human face of capitalism. But Civil Rights was more than just a
the earliest use of “the Third Way” good cause. It was a colossal task
was the NSDAP considering this to say the least. When people like
before settling on “the Third Reich” Seeger sang at freedom rallies in the
(see Michael Burleigh’s ). southern states they were putting
Bismarck’s Germany, sometimes themselves on the line, and to be
called state capitalism by Lenin dismissive about the role they played
already exhibited all the signs of is sectarian. Anybody that fails to see
“benign” fascism and was probably the importance of music in the Civil
as formative to Hitler as to Lenin/ Rights/Anti-Vietnam War movement
Stalin. That Lenin thought state is not really looking at the role it
capitalism was the route to socialism actually played.
and acknowledged the greater power ROY BEAT, London SE27.
of state capitalist Germany had
beaten Russia was enough to show
two apparently diametrically-opposed
dictatorships grow as fascism.
But probably most prescient was
Marx in the what could be seen as
the development of what was to
be called fascism, the reactionary

Socialist Standard June 2010 5

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Christian Fascism:
the best response

In American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War flocks, who pay a “tithe” of 10 percent of income in addi-
on America (Free Press, 2006), Chris Hedges warns of tion to other donations. Other money comes from sym-
the danger presented by the section of the US political pathetic capitalists, including Amway founder Richard
spectrum usually known as the Christian right – a danger DeVos and beer baron Joseph Coors. Finally, the Bush
to democracy, tolerance, science and intellectual freedom. Administration, with which they had close ties through
His warning concerns not Christian revivalism in general the Council for National Policy, enabled them to tap fed-
(traditional evangelists like Billy Graham, he points out, eral funds for “faith-based” social service initiatives – an
were concerned with saving souls not politics) but a spe- arrangement that Obama has left intact.
cific highly political tendency called “dominionism” that We may reasonably doubt whether the big capitalists
aims to establish the world empire of a reborn “Christian and politicians who support the dominionists care all
America”. that deeply about religious dogma. Their main interest
Dominionist preachers like Pat Robertson, Jerry Fal- presumably lies in the prospect of intensified control over
well, James Dobson, R.J. Rushdoony (pictured below) and exploitation of the working class.
and Rod Parseley propagate their worldview through a Indeed, for the preachers themselves religion is, apart
vast array of “megachurches” and publishing houses, from anything else, a highly lucrative business. Their
home schools and universities, museums and broadcast- opulent lifestyles suggest that they divert a significant
ing outlets. (The programming of Paul and Jan Crouch’s portion of the various cash flows into their own bank
Trinity Broadcasting Network is carried on over 6,000 tel- accounts. Evidently they have overlooked certain biblical
evision stations at home and abroad.) Theirs is a relent- passages – for instance, Jesus’ well-known remark about
lessly simplistic worldview, supposedly based on the Bible the camel who tried to pass through the eye of a needle.
as the literal Word of God, that denounces all opponents
as servants of Satan and eagerly anticipates the miracu- Our attitude as socialists
lous horrors of the Apocalypse. The danger presented by “Christian fascism” is a real
The dominionists are hostile to real science and deny one. It threatens us as socialists at least as much as it
global warming as well as evolution. Their “Gospel of threatens all other “servants of Satan”. Our ability to
Prosperity” celebrates unbridled capitalism and extrava- spread our ideas depends on tolerance of minority opin-
gant consumption. A long-term aim is government based ions. Moreover, people whose minds have been addled by
on biblical law. belief in magic, miracles and divine texts are unlikely to
be receptive to socialist ideas.
A purely American Fascism So we cannot say: “It doesn’t matter which group of
Hedges makes out a convincing case for regarding do- capitalists have the upper hand; they are all equally bad
minionism as a variety of totalitarianism and fascism. In because they all represent capitalism.” Of course it mat-
certain ways, however, the dominionists differ from earlier ters.
generations of fascists in the United States, even though Faced with the threat of fascism, socialists share a
they too used the Christian label. Dominionist symbols certain amount of common ground with non-socialists
are purely American; they admit to no connection with concerned to defend democracy and science. Both, for ex-
classical foreign fascisms (Italian, German etc.). ample, seek to debunk “creationism” and explain current
Comparing the new Christian fascists with the Ku Klux scientific thinking about evolution.
Klan, for instance, we find that each focuses on a quite However, we must not jeopardise our identity as social-
different set of enemies. They renounce hatred for blacks, ists by joining broad “anti-fascist” blocs that inevitably
Catholics and Jews – the three bugbears of WASP (White accept the continued existence of capitalism. One reason
Anglo-Saxon Protestant) bigotry. Instead, they appeal is that as socialists we have a unique contribution to
to Christians across racial lines, work with Catholics make to effective action against fascism.
on issues such as abortion and prayer in schools, and
cultivate a close alliance of convenience with the Zionist Real versus illusory community
religious right, despite the divergent apocalyptic expecta- In his book Hedges describes how vulnerable people
tions of the two groups. The main targets are recruited into dominionist churches. The target of
of their hostility are those they “seduction” is someone whose history and circumstances
call “secular humanists” – a (family breakdown, abuse, addiction, isolation, etc.) make
catch-all for all who oppose it especially hard to bear the absence of community in
them, non-fundamentalist capitalism. The church offers an illusion of community
Christians as well as athe- and the victim snatches at the bait, only later to discover,
ists and agnostics – and when escape has become very difficult, that he or she has
also Islam. paid a high price in submission for yet another illusion.
The soil in which fascism grows is the impersonal and
A highly lucrative alienating conditions of life under capitalism, especially
business at times of crisis. Hedges appears to understand this. But
How do the dominion- there is a disconnect between analysis and conclusion.
ist preachers finance their He calls for more determined resistance to Christian fas-
activities? Partly by fleec- cism, but offers no hope of a more communal way of life
ing their that might counter the emotional appeal of fascism. Only
socialists, by holding out the prospect of real community,
can act effectively to undermine the illusory community
of fascism.

6 Socialist Standard June 2010

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A lively document of a series of five talks given by the members of the
Socialist Party as a part of a weekend seminar in 1998. Titles are as
PAMPHLETS follows: 1) Who the hell was Karl Marx? 2) Was Marx a Leninist? 3) The
Price and Qty fetishism of commodities 4) Has the modern market superseded Marxist
An Inconvenient Question: Socialism and the economics? 5) Is the Socialist Party Marxist?
Environment £2.00 x____
One of the major problems of capitalism is pollution – as
capitalists cause long term damage to the environment for Socialist Principles Explained
short term gain. This pamphlet outlines the Socialist case This pamphlet is a basic introduction to our case, and ideal for
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£2.00 x____ joining. It explains in simple language our object and each of the eight
From Capitalism to Socialism…how we live and how we could live £2.00 x____
Contrasts the present state of life with what a future Socialist world would
bring, and then suggests what kind of political action can be taken to bring The Market System must Go! Why Reformism doesn’t work
Socialism about. Explains why the Socialist Party advocates the revolutionary
£1.00 x____ transformation of existing society rather than piecemeal reform, like the
Labour Party or Conservatives. It is a detailed backup to our
Africa: A Marxian Analysis more introductory pamphlets putting the case for genuine
A 30-page pamphlet written by socialists living in Africa consisting mainly revolutionary change.
of reprints from the Socialist Standard. Marx’s materialist conception of £2.75 x____
history and analysis of society is applied to subjects such as tribalism,
religion, race and class, colonialism and capitalism, Sharia Law in Nigeria.

£1.50 x____ All the above pamphlets (25% discount) £15.00 x____

Socialism as a Practical Alternative

Sets forth the practical proposition that Socialism entails, and develops
further arguments into ways in which a sane society based on social
equality and cooperation could operate. A Socialist Life by Heather Ball
£1.00 x____ A collection of sort stories by Socialist Standard writer Heather Ball. Many
readers liked her distinctive writing style, finding it full of charm, warmth,
Some aspects of Marxian Economics humanity and humour. Sadly, Heather died before she could complete her
A series of articles drawn from the Socialist Standard explaining the real writing project. This collection, published by the Socialist Party, presents
nature of modern economic problems and the failure of ‘conventional the case for Socialism on the basis of individual, everyday experience.
economics’ to solve them. £3.75 x____
£2.00 x____
Are We Prisoners of our Genes?
How the Gods were Made The argument that our behaviour is determined by our physical
A classic reprint of a text defending the materialist conception of history. In inheritance may pose as science, but in reality it is a socially determined
doing so it explains the Socialist opposition to religion. prejudice used as part of a crude political ideology. Faced with such
£1.50 x____ objections to socialism, the first thing that needs to be done is to clarify
what is going to be meant by the term ‘human nature’.
Marxism and Darwinism by Anton Pannekoek £4.75 x____
A classic reprint of a text that puts in context our origins as an animal
species and also our social nature as a key part in the development of Socialism or your Money Back
society. Articles from the Socialist Standard covering many key events of the last
£1.50 x____ hundred years as they happened. This book will be of interest to those
wanting to study the political, economic and social history of the twentieth
How we Live and How we Might Live by William Morris century, as well as to those committed to the interests of the majority
A clear exposition of what Morris saw as being wrong with society in class of wage and salary workers who want a different society to replace
his time and how a moneyless, tradeless society based on common the profit-wages-money system that is capitalism.
ownership and democratic control would have to be the basis of any SPECIAL PRICE: £1.00 x____
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£1.50 x____
The Right to be Lazy and other articles by Paul Lafargue
A reprint of Marx’s son-in-law’s classic text. Makes the clear point that
Capitalism and Other Kids’ Stuff £5.75 x_____
any imaginary right to work under capitalism is just a wage slave’s ‘right’
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Socialist Standard June 2010 7

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 7 24/5/10 15:27:11


RIGHTWING NONSENSE “The image Microsoft doesn’t want you to see: Too tired to stay
awake, the Chinese workers earning just 34p an hour. Showing
“The demonstration was marked by the same Chinese sweatshop workers slumped over their desks with
rhetoric that has galvanised the Tea Party exhaustion, it is an image that Microsoft won’t want the world to
movement and which crowds hear from see. Employed for gruelling 15-hour shifts, in appalling conditions
Sarah Palin on an almost daily basis: disgust and 86F heat, many fall asleep on their stations during their meagre
with Mr Obama’s agenda, rage at his health ten-minute breaks. For as little as 34p an hour, the men and women
reform legislation, Government bailouts, work six or seven days a week, making computer mice and web
accusations of a socialist White House and an cams for the American multinational computer company” (Daily
unconstitutional takeover Mail, 18 April).
of American life by
are in a war,’ said “LAZY” WORKERS (2)
Larry Pratt, president “Women who wear immodest clothing
of Gunowners of and are promiscuous are to blame for “A study of 6,000 British civil servants found
America. ‘The other earthquakes, an Iranian cleric said. The that those who regularly worked 10 or 11-hour
side knows they explanation for tremors in one of the most days were up to 60 per cent more likely to
are at war because earthquake-prone countries came after suffer heart disease or die younger than those
they started it. President Ahmadinejad predicted a quake who worked shorter hours. The research,
They’re coming for and suggested that many of Tehran’s 12 published online in the European Heart
our freedom, for our million residents should move. Hojatoleslam Journal, found that people who worked three or
money, for our kids, for Kasem Sedighi was quoted by Iranian more hours longer than a seven-hour day put
our property. They’re media as saying that adultery increased their health at risk, possibly as a result of being
coming for everything quakes and the only solution was to take more stressed and having less time to unwind”
because they are refuge in religion” (Times, 20 April). (Times, 12 May).
socialists’” (Times, 20

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Enfield and Haringey branch. Thurs Blanche Preston, 68 Fountains Road, Newtownabbey: Nigel McCullough. Nairobi.
May 18 and 27, 8pm. Angel Community M32 9PH Tel: 028 90852062. Swaziland. Mandla Ntshakala, PO Box
Centre, Raynham Rd, NI8. Corres: 17 981, Manzini.
Dorset Road, N22 7SL. Yorkshire Scotland Zambia. Kephas Mulenga, PO Box
Email:julianvein@blueyonder.co.uk Skipton. R Cooper, 1 Caxton Garth, Edinburgh branch.1st Thur. 8-9pm. 280168, Kitwe.
South London branch. 1st Tues. Threshfield, Skipton BD23 5EZ. The Quaker Hall, Victoria Terrace (above Asia
7.00pm. Head Office. 52 Clapham High Tel: 01756 752621 Victoria Street), Edinburgh. India. World Socialist Group, Vill
St, SW4 7UN. Tel: 020 7622 3811 Todmorden: Keith Scholey, 1 Leeview J. Moir. Tel: 0131 440 0995. JIMMY@ Gobardhanpur. PO Amral, Dist.
West London branch. 1st & 3rd Ct, Windsor Rd, OL14 5LJ. jmoir29.freeserve.co.uk Branch website: Bankura, 722122
Tues.8pm, Chiswick Town Hall, Tel: 01706 814 149 http://geocities.com/edinburghbranch/ Japan. Michael. Email:
Heathfield Terrace (Corner Sutton Court Glasgow branch. 3rd Wednesday of worldsocialismjapan@hotmail.com.
Rd), W4. Corres: 51 Gayford Road, South/southeast/southwest each month at 8pm in Community Europe
London W12 9BY South West Regional branch. Meets Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road, Denmark. Graham Taylor, Kjaerslund 9,
every two months on a Saturday Glasgow. Richard Donnelly, 112 floor 2 (middle), DK-8260 Viby J
Midlands afternoon (see meetings page for details). Napiershall Street, Glasgow G20 6HT. Germany. Norbert. E-mail:
West Midlands Regional branch. Shane Roberts, 86 High Street, Bristol Tel: 0141 5794109. Email: richard. weltsozialismus@gmx.net
Meets every two months on a Sunday BS5 6DN. Tel: 0117 9511199 donnelly1@ntlworld.com Norway. Robert Stafford.
afternoon (see meetings page for details). Canterbury. Rob Cox, 4 Stanhope Ayrshire: D. Trainer, 21 Manse Street, Email: hallblithe@yahoo.com
Tel: Tony Gluck 01242 235615. Road, Deal, Kent, CT14 6AB Salcoats, KA21 5AA. Tel: 01294 Italy. Gian Maria Freddi, Casella Postale
Email: tonygluck111@btinternet.com Luton. Nick White, 59 Heywood Drive, 469994. Email: derricktrainer@freeuk. n. 28., c/o Ag. PT VR 17, 37131 Verona
LU2 7LP com
Northeast Redruth. Harry Sowden, 5 Clarence Dundee. Ian Ratcliffe, 16 Birkhall Ave, COMPANION PARTIES
Northeast branch. Contact: Brian Barry, Villas, Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 1PB. Wormit, Newport-on-Tay, DD6 8PX. OVERSEAS
86 Edgmond Ct, Ryhope, Sunderland Tel: 01209 219293 Tel: 01328 541643 World Socialist Party of Australia.
SR2 0DY. Tel: 0191 521 0690. West Lothian. 2nd and 4th Weds in P. O. Box 1266 North Richmond
Email 3491@bbarry.f2s.com east anglia month, 7.30-9.30. Lanthorn Community 3121, Victoria, Australia.. Email:
East Anglian Regional branch. Centre, Kennilworth Rise, Dedridge, commonownership@yahoo.com.au
Northwest Meets every two months on a Saturday Livingston. Corres: Matt Culbert, 53 Socialist Party of Canada/Parti
Lancaster branch. Meets every Monday afternoon (see meetings page for details). Falcon Brae, Ladywell, Livingston, West Socialiste du Canada. Box 4280,
8.30pm. P. Shannon, 10 Green Street, Pat Deutz, 11 The Links, Billericay, Lothian, EH5 6UW. Tel: 01506 462359 Victoria B.C. V8X 3X8 Canada.
Lancaster LA1 1DZ. CM12 0EX. n.deutz@btinternet.com Email: matt@wsmweb.fsnet.co.uk Email:SPC@iname.com
Tel: 01524 382380 David Porter, Eastholme, Bush Drive, World Socialist Party (New Zealand)
Manchester branch. Paul Bennett, 6 Eccles-on-Sea, NR12 0SF. Wales P.O. Box 1929, Auckland, NI, New
Burleigh Mews, Hardy Lane, M21 7LB. Tel: 01692 582533. Swansea branch. 2nd Mon, 7.30pm, Zealand.
Tel: 0161 860 7189 Richard Headicar, 42 Woodcote, Firs Rd, Unitarian Church, High Street. Corres: World Socialist Party of the United
Bolton. Tel: H. McLaughlin. Hethersett, NR9 3JD. Geoffrey Williams, 19 Baptist Well States P.O. Box 440247, Boston, MA
01204 844589 Tel: 01603 814343. Street, Waun Wen, Swansea SA1 6FB. 02144 USA.
Cumbria. Brendan Cummings, 19 Cambridge. Andrew Westley, 10 Tel: 01792 643624 Email: wspboston@covad.net

8 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 8 24/5/10 15:27:12

this by virtue of simply been in office at the time,
then they should also accept responsibility for the
How capitalism moves recession that preceded it when they were also in office.
In fact they and their policies were responsible for
neither. Uncontrollable capitalism was.
Last month’s general election was dominated by “the
The other parties, naturally, claimed that the Labour
economy” but the politicians never learn. Despite all the
government had been responsible for the recession –
evidence to the contrary, they were still claiming to be
and that their policies would bring it to an end.
able to control the way the capitalist economy works.
“We’ll cut Gordon Brown’s waste and debt to get our
You might have thought that the Labour Party would
economy moving”, promised the election address of the
have become more cautious about such claims following
Tory candidate in Vauxhall, “Labour are now the party
the exploding of Gordon Brown’s claim to have put an
of unemployment. Conservatives will get Britain working
end to boom and bust. But no. “The economy is coming
again by boosting enterprise”.
out of recession thanks to Labour’s measures”, claimed
The LibDems were no different. “Labour promised us
a leaflet put out for the Labour candidate in Streatham.
economic stability, but they have failed”, said a leaflet
The economy does seem to be beginning to come out
put out on behalf of their candidate for Richmond Park.
of the biggest slump since the end of the last world
“Only the Lib Dems and Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable
war, but this was bound to occur sooner or later as the
have a plan that will get our economy moving forward
movement of the capitalist economy is cyclical. A period
of recession and stagnation is followed by a period of
But no government has the power to get the economy
expansion just as a period of expansion is followed by a
“moving”. All governments do is preside over the
period of recession, each period creating the conditions
workings of the capitalist economy as it moves forward
for the other. This in accordance “the economic law
and backwards of its own accord, irrespective of what
of motion of modern society” which Marx said in his
they may or may not do.
Preface to Capital he had set out to lay bare.
So why do politicians claim to have a power they do
The Labour government happened to be in office when
not have and make promises on this basis? There are
the recovery stage of the cycle showed some modest
only two possible answers. They either take us for fools
signs of beginning. But if they want to claim credit for
or they are fools themselves.

gold. But installed right and just ignore the Islamic right.
beneath the gold- I’m talking about equality.”
coated ceilings of
Sex workers in Bangladesh, some Abu Dhabi’s Emirates http://tinyurl.com/34a8d9y
as young as 12, are putting their Palace hotel, where royalty and
health at risk by taking a drug to make billionaires come for cappuccinos A regiment of eunuchs should be
themselves fatter so they are more topped with gold flakes, the machine established to guard India’s borders
attractive to clients. Their madams feed almost seems part of the furniture: and leading politicians, a state minister
them steroids also used to make cows suggested on Tuesday, citing their
gain weight: http://tinyurl.com/32svnwp “loyalty and integrity”:

http://tinyurl.com/36xcf4w The Brazilian women’s movement’s http://tinyurl.com/3ymlxt4

applause for the inclusion of sexual and
The Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition reproductive rights in the draft version An Australian woman Monday pleaded
3000 and Mahatma Gandhi Limited of the government’s 3rd National guilty to using her 12-year-old daughter
Edition 241 [pens]are available for for Programme on Human Rights (PNDH as a sex worker. The 41-year-old
93,500 dirhams (£7,292.89) and 13,800 3) has been cut short by the decision to woman, who was herself sexually
dirhams (£1,076.38) respectively: eliminate this controversial issue from abused when she was a child, has
the text. The government’s decision to admitted to being the commercial
http://tinyurl.com/3646dmz modify the draft programme came after operator of a sexual services business..
a campaign headed up by the Catholic The court was told that in August last
Imagine living in a Tesco house, Church, which went so far as to refer year the woman complained of not
sending your child to a Tesco school, to leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da having money so she and another man,
swimming in a Tesco pool and, Silva as “Herod” -- an allusion to the Gary John Devine, decided to use her
of course, shopping at the local king of Judea who ordered the killing daughter as a prostitute
Tesco superstore. According to the of baby boys in and around Bethlehem
Commission for Architecture and after the birth of Jesus Christ, according http://tinyurl.com/324t3u9
the Built Environment (Cabe), the to the Bible
government’s adviser on architecture Half of America has only 2.5% of the
and design, this collective monopoly http://tinyurl.com/39a3anm wealth
is not an imaginary dystopia. “Tesco Half of America has only 0.5% of the
Towns” on this model are already being “I’m not being rightwing,” she [Ayaan stocks and bonds
planned across the UK, from Inverness Hirsi Ali] says. “The people who believe Real average earnings have not
in Scotland to Seaton in Devon: themselves to be on the left, and who increased in 50 years
defend the agents of Islam in the name Taxes get better and better for the rich
http://tinyurl.com/2a2s5zf of tolerance and culture, are being If you aren’t in the top 1%, then you’re
rightwing. Not just rightwing. Extreme getting a bum deal
It’s the ultimate hole-in-the-wall -- a rightwing. I don’t understand how you
money machine that dispenses pure can be so upset about the Christian http://tinyurl.com/3xn88zk

Socialist Standard June 2010 9

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 9 24/5/10 15:27:12

Extract of MI5 recording, number XA-4821-S,
Westminster, May 7. Principals in cross-Party
coalition talks, House Speaker residing.

Chair: I must begin by asking you, gentlemen, if any

here present are intending in disregard of honour or
scruple to prostitute all their principles simply for
the sake of power at any price?
All: Of course!
Chair: Oh. Ahem. Well, that’s alright then. Now, to
Clegg: Still think I’m a joke, Cameron?
Brown: I think you’re both bloody jokes.
Clegg: I’m not even speaking to you, Brown.
Brown: Alright, I resign.
Chair: To order. The agenda is how to rake back £163bn
without ending up with Greek fire in Whitehall.
Clegg: PR! AV plus! STD! No wait, I mean...
Cameron: I’m a liberal Tory, that means I’ll screw the
poor and cut child tax credits but I won’t give the
rich that huge inheritance tax bonus until next year.
Clegg: I want no tax for the 10k superpoor. And did I
mention PR?
Chair: Do Labour wish to say anything?
Blunkett: Ok, we give in.
Cameron: What?
Reid: Who wants to be a coalition of losers?
Clegg: But you said you wanted PR!
Reid: Balls.
Chair: Come again?
Ed Balls: We’ve got what we want, Brown’s head on a
pole, plus we won’t get blamed for the cuts we would
have had to make in office. We’ll clean up next election.
Cameron will be toast and Clegg will be cornflakes.

Chair: You mean you’re walking out on the negotiations?
Harman: Manning the lifeboats actually. Good luck with
the deckchairs. The Titanic’s all yours.
Clegg: I knew they weren’t serious. Cameron, we’ve got
to do something. The axeman cometh.
Cameron: You mean the IMF?
Clegg: No, I mean our rank and file. If I don’t screw a
deal out of this hung parliament I’m hung, and if you
don’t, your name will be down there with Ian Duncan
Cameron: Oh my god. But we’re diametrically opposed!
Clegg: No, that was yesterday. Today we’re liberals.

Any deal will do. Now about PR... e strongly suspect that the
attached transcript is a hoax,
Recording indistinct. Sounds of Miliband brothers which is why we didn’t pay good
scuffling and Alex Salmond singing ‘Whose bonny wee money for it. However, something like it
probably did happen. Not for a generation
lassie am I?’)
has there been such an edge-of-the-seat
performance from all three main parties

10 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 10 24/5/10 15:27:13

rage over fat cat
corruption has got to
“An election which
Am I be any politician’s produced no clear
worst nightmare,
going to have and as if that winner did however
trouble with your trendy
wasn’t enough,
the spectre
produce three clear
liberal sentiments? haunting Europe losers. All three
this season is
one of Greeks leaders immediately
burning down
banks. Hanging
faced the guillotine.”
over this new
government, even before it’s got started, is a ghastly
sense of foreboding.
In the event, desperation has forced Cameron to
marry Clegg, on the grounds of better a bad hand than
no hand at all. Clegg in particular was in a hard bind.
He would have been crucified for not making a deal,
their first chance in 30 years, and given the Lib Dem
‘democracy’ mantra, no less crucified for hypocritically
siding with Labour when they were in a clear elective
minority with no mandate to govern. As it is, he will
probably be crucified by his own party for this deal with
the Tories. As one Liberal put it: “I think we could be wiped
out for a generation by this decision. We will probably be
annihilated at the next election” (Guardian, 12 May).
A common assumption doing the rounds is that, regardless
of Cameron’s plan to shore up the Con-Dem’d government
with 5 year fixed-term legislation and an increase in the majority
requirement for a Parliamentary vote of no confidence, the
whole show will probably collapse in disarray in a couple of
years or so. Labour certainly are banking on a short
period to regroup in opposition and another ‘97-
like landslide. But coalitions only look shaky
because they don’t happen often in Britain.
Heil In other EU countries where proportional
Hitler representation is the norm, coalitions
happen almost routinely and government
still manages to function, insofar as
governments can ever really be said to
The socialist view of all this has been
echoed by, of all people, Michael
Portillo (see Editorial). Governments
don’t control the money, the money
controls governments, and when
money says ‘Jump’, it is always
the working class who are for
the high jump. It is with some sadness that we predict that the
on a high-turnout vote, with voters queuing up for hours to get poor will pay the bill, however the politicians work out their debt
in on the act and then being turned away by the jobsworths repayment schemes, while the rich will do alright, thanks very
running the polling stations. All that drama for a holy grail they much. What’s not going to happen is that capitalism somehow
all knew was a poisoned chalice. The Governor of the Bank of falls flat on its face and dies of a seizure. Experience shows that
England, Mervyn King, had predicted that whoever formed the capitalism is good at surviving, even though it may consume
next government and made the required cuts in expenditure many of its supporters in the process. All governments are really
would be out of power for a generation afterwards. Perhaps coalitions of capitalist class interests against the working class,
this was why Labour apparatchiks like Blunkett and Reid were so if workers want something better than pain and
throwing in the towel even before the votes were all in, and all oppression for themselves then
that warm Liberal-friendly pillow-talk during the election rapidly they had better stop voting for
cooled as the realisation dawned that sometimes it’s better to its continuation. Were socialists
be outside the tent pissing in. ever to be in a parliamentary
An election which produced no clear winner did however minority and faced with the
produce three clear losers. All three leaders immediately faced Clegg dilemma, there’s no
the guillotine, Clegg for being the golden boy who lost seats, question what we would
Cameron for his secretive, Blair-like reliance on an inner say: A plague on all
circle and disregard of anyone else, as well as his crap and your houses, you’ll
meaningless ‘Big Society’ election message, and Brown just get no deal
for being Brown when New Labour was supposed to be about from us.
Blair, flair and razzle dazzle. A shaky coalition forced to wield PJS
the machete on wages and public spending amid general public

Socialist Standard June 2010 11

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 11 24/5/10 15:27:13

We look at David’s Harvey’s latest book The Enigma of Capital.

The crisis:
what is to
be done?
e are living through the big- necessary production of goods and capitalism cannot tolerate such clots
gest capitalist crisis since services – isn’t to have a scary heart for long without dying.
the 1930s – a crisis with attack. But as the years pass, cer- Like the human body, capitalism is
economic and ecological, not to men- tain scares are inevitable – and the a dynamic system that is very good
tion social and political, dimensions. problems get worse as the amount of at sorting out its own problems. It
No one knows for sure what’s going capital searching for profitable rein- patches itself up, and gets going
to happen or what to do next. In this vestment gets larger and larger. again – but always at the price of
context, what we need as a matter of storing up future problems for itself.
urgency is understanding. We need Harvey’s analysis So, to take recent examples, a crisis
to know what the crisis is, why it has Harvey identifies seven main risk of profitability in the 1970s led such
arisen, and what, if anything, can factors: money capital scarcities figures as Thatcher and Reagan to
be done about it. David Harvey, an (where’s all the money going to come dampen down wages by crushing
acclaimed geographer and professor from?), labour problems (e.g., insuf- unions, creating unemployment and
of anthropology, points to some of the ficient supplies of cheap, ‘flexible’ importing cheaper immigrant labour
answers to these urgent questions. labour), disproportionalities between from abroad. This was successful for
(Profile Books, 2010, £14.99) sectors (one sector overexpands in a while, but created a new prob-
opens with an account of the recent lem: a population of unemployed or
history of the economic crisis, from badly paid workers does not make
the first signs of trouble in the US for the vibrant and ever-expanding
‘subprime’ mortgage market in 2006, consumer markets capital needs
right up to very nearly the present to prosper (there can be no growth
day. This account is in the style of without sales). This problem was
and largely taken from the liberal and solved by recklessly extending credit
financial mainstream press. Harvey to ever more people, regardless of
then moves on to analyse what is their ability to repay. This in turn led
really going on behind this stand- to a crisis of overindebtedness in the
ard account. This is helpful because working class, which led to a crisis
no economist or financial journalist of confidence in debt instruments,
has been of any use in predicting starting with subprime mortgages
the crisis or explaining why it has in the US, which led us to where we
happened. Harvey rejects the search are now – the supply of credit dry-
for a scapegoat – Alan Greenspan, ing up, leading to blockages in the
Gordon Brown, irresponsible borrow- flow of capital, in turn leading to
ers, greedy bankers, and so on – and rising unemployment, the loss and
instead argues that crises are an in- Acclaimed geographer and professor of devaluation of capital, and so on. The
evitable and necessary feature of the anthropology David Harvey economic ‘stimulus’ measures (the
normal working of capitalism. defibrillator) haven’t worked, so now
His basic argument is a Marxian its search for profits), natural limits we are being promised Thatcher-style
one. Modern societies are driven by (e.g., scarcities of natural resourc- austerity (a fat-free diet) for the work-
the capitalists’ search for ever-more es), unbalanced technological and ing class.
profit. Competition forces capitalists organisational changes (including A crisis can be understood as those
to reinvest at least a portion of that competition and monopoly and so times when socially produced wealth
profit, again in the expectation of on), indiscipline in the labour proc- returns to its ‘rightful owners’, the
yet more profit. This leads to ‘capital ess (workers slacking off or organis- capitalist class, and as an opportu-
accumulation’ on an ever-expanding ing unions for example) and lack of nity for that class to consolidate its
scale, and this circulation process, effective demand (consumers’ ability power over both the working class
much like the blood in the body, to pay for goods and services). He and the political machinery of the
must keep flowing if profitable invest- argues that any one of these can be state (it was a commonplace in some
ment – and therefore the socially a clot in the free flow of capital. But sections of the financial press that,

12 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 12 24/5/10 15:27:13

“There is no way an anti-capitalist social order can
be constructed without seizing state power, radically
transforming it and reworking the constitutional
and institutional framework that currently supports
private property...”(Harvey)

whoever won the general election, the other anti-capitalist theorists, on the make the question of alternative so-
government would be forced to do the importance of capturing and trans- cial systems seem more relevant and
bidding of ‘international investors’, forming the state. There is, he says, urgent. In other words, good capital-
i.e., the capitalist class). The capital- “no way that an anti-capitalist social ists always view crises as opportuni-
ist class then uses that power to claw order can be constructed without ties. It would be wise if the people
back as many as possible of the gains seizing state power, radically trans- they rule over did the same.
and reforms won by previous rounds forming it and reworking the consti- There is plenty of room, then, for
of class struggle and political action. tutional and institutional framework both agreement and disagreement in
‘Balance’ and health is restored to that currently supports private prop- Harvey’s book. As a book, it is a bit of
the operation of profitability, and the erty, the market system and endless a loose, baggy monster – it is over-
flow of capital can continue. Hence capital accumulation. To ignore the long and repetitive, loosely and some-
the necessity as well as inevitability state and the dynamics of the inter- times vaguely written (things happen
of crisis under capitalism. state system is therefore a ridiculous “big time”, without quantification or
idea for any anti-capitalist movement referencing), and seemingly hurriedly
Leninist fly in the soup to accept”. We wholeheartedly agree. and lazily assembled from the profes-
So, what is to be done about all The third is his insistence that the sor’s lecture notes. His writing mostly
this? Harvey is right to insist that crisis does not mean that capitalism seems aimed at a general audience,
nothing less than what are usually is ending. Capitalism is a dynamic and yet technical terms and Marxian
dismissed as ‘utopian’ answers will system that has always solved its jargon go unexplained, and ideologi-
do. The crisis is rooted in the system. own problems in the past, and will cally loaded and potentially confusing
Capitalist attempts to solve the crisis do so again, whatever the cost to the words and phrases are used without
will mean more austerity and misery rest of us – and the cost this time apology or caution. But most of these
for everyone apart from the small- could well be environmental disaster, faults can and should be overlooked
est minority. A systemic problem perhaps even catastrophic war. Capi- because the substance of his argu-
cries out for systemic solutions. In talism will never fall on its own, says ment is sound and deserves as wide
this, we agree with Harvey. True, the Harvey. It will have to be stopped an audience as possible. In addi-
influence of Leninism in the book, and the power of the capitalist class tion, his analysis of the importance
especially in the final chapter, is ended by concerted political action. of urbanisation and the ownership
something of a fly in the soup. Eating And although the prospects for such and control of land and resources in
around the fly becomes increasingly change do not seem that good at the modern capitalism is an important
distasteful as we get near the end of moment, a crisis will at least tend to modern updating of Marxian theory,
the meal – Harvey’s criticism of what expanding on some insightful and
he calls ‘actually existing commu- “Now we are being promised Thatcher- prescient comments by Marx in .
nism’, i.e., the state-capitalist dicta- style austerity (a fat-free diet) for the Harvey also has an extremely use-
working class.”
torships in the former Soviet Union ful model for thinking about how
and so on, is mild to say the least, capitalism moves and changes,
though at least he is good enough through the interconnected
to confirm that what most peo- development of seven ‘spheres’
ple call ‘socialism’ is actually of activity, again derived from
just “democratically managed Marx, but avoiding the deter-
or regulated capitalism”. minism and one-sidedness of
Genuine socialists with many of Marx’s later follow-
weak stomachs may baulk at ers. Harvey helps us under-
this. But if so, they will miss stand, in relatively straight-
out on some good, solid, politi- forward English, what’s really
cal nutrition. Particularly inter- going on behind the stories we
esting are three points of strong read in the mainstream press, and
agreement between Harvey and us. therefore helps us think clearly
The first is the importance of about what it might be possible to
what he calls ‘mental conceptions’ do in the future. As Harvey says,
in revolutionary change, i.e., the “Questioning the future of capitalism
importance of ideas and what is usu- itself as an adequate social system
ally dismissed as ‘utopian’ politics. ought, therefore, to be in the fore-
Without a change in what people front of current debate.”
think about the prospects for change STUART WATKINS
and for socialism, as Harvey rightly
points out, there can be no alterna-
tive other than a return to some form
of capitalism.
The second is his insistence,
somewhat against the fashion among

Socialist Standard June 2010 13

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 13 24/5/10 15:27:13

The race to the bottom

Could Western corporations do without sweatshop production?

countries close their factories at home, conditions suffered by workers in the

weatshops are workplaces where wages rates are higher, and sweatshops. Although companies may try
where the working conditions invest in factories in the ‘Third World’ to say that they are not responsible for
are extremely poor and health as the labour costs are so much lower. the conditions of work in the firms they
and safety laws are not enforced or are Unfortunately for the ‘Third world’ sub-contract out to, campaigners have
non-existent. News reports of fires which workers, it was not undiluted joy at appealed to the sense of fair play and
have killed dozens of people because fire the prospect of having jobs and a bit compassion in consumers. Although not
doors were locked in sweatshop factories of money. The labour costs might be all consumers are worried by the idea
are not uncommon. Wages are very low, cheaper because the cost of living is of sweatshop conditions for the people
there may be bullying and intimidation, cheaper, but the wage rates can be so who make their clothes, the corporations
especially of anyone trying to improve low that workers find it hard to survive in do not want a bad image in the media
conditions. Hours are long and the Thailand and Cambodia for instance. and have produced corporate ‘codes of
work itself may be very demanding and Western corporations used to be able conduct’ and company policies which try
even dangerous. Sick workers cannot to distance themselves to a certain to improve their standing in the public eye
take time off and are penalised if they extent from the conditions in their sub- as well as (maybe) alleviate some of the
leave the factory. Sub-contractors for contractors assembly plants, because worst problems.
European, Japanese and American of the geographical distance between, How far they have managed to
corporations refuse their staff breaks, say, Britain and China. People in Britain clean up their image or help people in
monitoring the times they go to the toilet did not necessarily realise that when sweatshops in the developing world
and harassing and humiliating staff. Profit they bought an item of clothing from is debatable. According to Oxfam, the
comes before safety, before any quality Umbro, a British company, it was actually ‘race to the bottom’ was inevitable as
of life the workers may have, before any made in China in sweatshop conditions, you cannot have very cheap clothes and
idea of comfort.  conditions that would just not be also give your workers a decent standard
Developing countries are producing acceptable in modern day Britain.  of living. Although British workers also
an increasing amount of the world’s suffered from sweatshops in the past,
manufacturing production. This is Campaigns by Human Rights a mixture of increased unionisation,
symptomatic of the new international agencies, such as Oxfam and the Clean philanthropy and labour laws helped to
division of labour, whereby Western Clothes Campaign, have publicised the improve conditions for the working class.

14 Socialist Standard June 2010

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The question of how far can Western corporations
distance themselves from sweatshop production can only
really be understood by looking at the bigger picture, which
is: why is the pursuit of profit, to the detriment of all the finer
things in life for the working class, so all pervasive?
What’s a “Living Wage”?
The main goal in capitalism is the pursuit of profit. Profit is
put before needs. This is why millions of people do not have
“A ‘Living Wage’ for all”, alongside a photo with the
enough to eat – they simply don’t have the money to buy
caption “Fighting the growing gap between rich and
food. The world is quite capable of growing enough food for
poor”, was the heading of the first election promise of the
everyone and more, but no money means no food for poor
candidates of the Green Party in last month’s general
people. Poor people are stuck if they cannot improve their
election :
wages and conditions due to merciless capitalists, unless
“Green MPs will demand a ‘Living Wage’ to ensure low
they either migrate legally or illegally to another better paid
paid workers earn enough to provide for themselves and
job in another country.
their families.”
According to philosopher Iris Marion Young, we cannot
It’s an old demand, going back to the ILP in the 1920s
blame consumers directly for the misfortune of the
and beyond. Presumably what the Greens have in mind
sweatshop workers, but we can accept political responsibility
is a wage that would allow a worker to afford decent
and change the process. She said that, although many
housing, enough proper food, new clothes, to go on
individuals are involved, from the manufacturers to the
holiday and run a car (but perhaps not this last, as they’re
consumers, they should all play their part in improving the lot
of the ‘Third World’ workers. This is unrealistic in a capitalist
To find the level they consider necessary to achieve this
world. Capitalist corporations are there to make money and
you had to go to their full manifesto where they say :
all we can do is alleviate the symptoms – unless we cure
“The Green Party will fight for a National Minimum
it completely by changing the economic system in which
Wage of 60% of net national earnings (currently this
we live. There will always be someone who wants to make
would mean a minimum wage of £8.10 an hour).”
even more profit, by forcing poor conditions on the workers,
As the current minimum wage is £5.80 an hour what
or moving the factory elsewhere to where the labour laws
they were proposing was a massive 40 percent increase,
are laxer, as happened from Mexico to China, when some
a promise that put them up with the Trotskyists. In fact
macquiladoras (or assembly plants) in Mexico were closed
they were promising more than the ‘Trade Unionist and
so the capitalist corporations could find cheaper labour
Socialist Coalition’ between Militant and the SWP which
elsewhere. And consumers may not even know where else
only promised an increase to £8 an hour.
to buy their clothes.
Even so, £8.10 an hour for a 40 hour week is only
So, although Oxfam and the Clean Clothes campaign
£16,848 a year, which hardly qualifies as an adequate
have brought the attention of the media to the practices of
“living wage”. But how’s it going to be implemented?
manufacturers, still people cannot see it for themselves ‘next
Getting employers to increase the wages of anyone paid
door’ so are immune to the suffering. The suffering is too far
less than £16,848 a year to this is easier said than done.
away. They would help their next door neighbour but that is
The unions haven’t been able to do it, otherwise it would
in close proximity. People at a distance are ‘out of sight, out
have been done. But let’s assume for a moment that
of mind’. When even photos can be taken different ways,
a law forcing them to do this was passed. What would
people would be overwhelmed if they did not block out some
charitable appeals.
First, some employers would go bankrupt. Others
Some people think that the third world workers can work
would withdraw their capital from producing certain goods
themselves out of poverty, in the way of the ‘Asian tigers’,
or services, so their price would rise. Eventually this
without realising that the odds are stacked against them and
would stabilise at a new, higher level at which employers
they cannot repeat the success story of say, Hong Kong. The
would be able to make a profit even when paying the
workers are very much subjugated and repressed in these
increased minimum wage. So the cost of living would go
assembly plants. It is difficult to see where they could help
up, including for workers on the minimum wage.
themselves, anyone found trying to start a union is quickly
Second, given the increased labour costs, the
out of a job.
introduction of previously unused labour-saving
The Western corporations are just trying to do what
machinery would become cheaper vis-à-vis employing
they have to do in capitalism: make the biggest profit they
living labour. Employers would do this. So there’d be
can. If they don’t their rivals will undercut them and they
job losses and unemployment, particularly amongst the
will eventually go out of business or be taken over. It is a
unskilled, would grow.
dog-eat-dog world, and whereas people have to acquire
Also it’s not clear how the Greens’ plan would reduce
visas and passports, corporations and capital have relative
the gap “between rich and poor”, at least not between
ease of flows across the world. Money eases the wheels of
those who figure on the Sunday Times Rich List (25 April)
commerce, but the migration of people can be very much
and those on the minimum wage. It might reduce the gap
resented and resisted, as in Mexico with the self-styled
between low-paid and higher-paid workers, but this would
American Border Patrol.
just be a change within the working class – what we
Capitalists, who make up the richest 5 percent or so in
socialists have always called a “redistribution of poverty”
the world, may not be ‘bad’ people: they may give to charity,
– which would not affect the gap between the income of
go to church and be kind to children and animals. But back
the working class and that of the capitalist class.
at work, the system makes them behave in a ruthless race
In any event, socialism is not about redistributing
to make the biggest profits. If they don’t, they go under.
income and wealth from the rich to the poor, but about
Charities like Oxfam and the Clean Clothes Campaign are
establishing a society that would not be divided into rich
just whistling in the wind. They may dampen down the worst
and poor. To adapt Marx, workers should replace the
excesses of the capitalist profit-seeking, but they can never
green demand for a “Living Wage” by the revolutionary
stop exploitation until and unless they help to usher in a
demand for the “Abolition of the Wages System”.
world, where people are free to enjoy their lives instead of
making millions for the very few rich capitalists at the top.

Socialist Standard June 2010 15

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“Listen, lady . . .”
A Report from Greece
household and business refuse. Our driver’s anger
The anger was palpable, the body continued to mount.
language unmistakable – our driver was “Do you realise how much these bastards are
one very pissed-off guy. spending on weapons – guns, aircraft even ships and
We were on a short visit from our home in Turkey to submarines? Billions of euros.” [the actual figure was
Athens in neighbouring Greece; our son was working 14 billion euros or 6 percent of GDP in 2007 and 2009
there for a few days from his home in the US and it was (Eric Reguly and Brian Milner Globe & Mail (1 May) ;
a rare chance to share some time together. It was also i.e. half of the annual deficit problem, 13-14 percent of
the day after a general strike protesting the EU/IMF GDP, is caused by inflated spending on war preparation.
bail-out terms that would adversely impact everybody Greece’s overall debt is greater than its annual GDP and
except the wealthy ruling élite whose greed had bled the ‘public’ spending accounts for 50 percent of GDP].
country dry. We had picked up a taxi at the airport; our Our neighbours in Turkey have one of the largest
driver spoke pretty good English and asking him about militaries in the world, what could this little country do?
the economic and political situation seemed the natural Yet its politicians continue to make problems so they
thing to do. can put money in their own pockets from weapon sales.
“Listen, lady . . . Greece is a small country, only 11 “After independence in 1827 the Greek people never
million people; six million live here in Athens because had a problem with the Turks – before that bastard
there is nowhere else to get work. I came from Crete Venizelos (Prime Minister 1910-1915 and instigator of
because it’s hard to make enough for my family on the numerous internal and external conflicts) went to war
islands. Greeks and Turks lived together and worked together;
“We thought, when we got rid of the military in 1974, villages and towns were mixed.”
that we would have democracy and accountability. “Living is a struggle; we have pensioners protesting
What we got was a bunch of corrupt political families on the streets with us because their pensions are
and their cronies who have made themselves rich and being cut. Not just frozen – cut. It’s the same for most
immune from prosecution for their crimes. government workers. We even have policemen joining
“They pay themselves multiple salaries for having the protesters. The politicians are not cutting their own
their names on various committees and they also pay wages – no – it’s us, the ordinary people who are paying
themselves for more working days than there are days for their corruption.
in the year! But that’s not enough so they milk the “Taxi licenses have gone up a huge amount and fares
system with government contracts and ‘commissions’ have been increased by 45 percent, so now I get fewer
for their families and friends.” customers. Restaurants are closing – even the up-
Our driver pointed to two stadia as we drove by, “You market ones have fewer people in them. Look over there,
see those? They were built for the 2004 Olympic Games; (pointing) we have many more people begging on the
we were already bankrupt and still they borrowed more streets – homeless – there are even women with kids,
money to pay for constructions that were profiting them but the politicians still have their fancy houses and
and their business partners. Now they are empty and their black Mercedes cars.”
falling to pieces – no one uses them.” During our short stay in Athens we spoke with several
As we drove further into the city the piles of rubbish people from different economic backgrounds; bitterness
multiplied everywhere; building skips was a uniting factor. Will the ‘unprecedented’ bail-out of
overflowing with days of stinking Greece by the EU/IMF quieten the protests and shore
up the euro? We doubt that very much – after all, it is
not the people who are being salvaged but the corrupt
élite and their corrupt system. The Greek people
have a long history of defiance and rebellion
against corrupt authority.
As yet another ‘socialist’ government
prepares to protect what it and its
cronies have stashed into their
bank accounts and property
developments, by once again doing
the bidding of the financial ‘Masters
of the Universe’ and stuffing the
workers, we asked our angry
taxi driver why he continued to
put up with them. “What’s the
alternative?” he queried. We
could have told him, but he had
a living to make and the taxi
meter was running!
Alan Fenn & Janet Surman

16 Socialist Standard June 2010

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How shall we vote?
Part of the deal for the Tory-LibDem coalition government is that
there’s to be a referendum on electoral reform. But is electoral
reform really necessary?

e might as well give our answer straightaway: not elected unless, and until, after successive redistribu-
No, it isn’t. A majority seeking to replace capital- tions of the votes of the bottom candidates, they obtain a
ism by socialism only requires one thing of an certain quota of votes. It is frequently described as a sys-
electoral system under capitalism – that it should allow a tem of proportional representation even by its partisans
majority opinion to reflect itself as a majority of seats in but in fact it is not. It is essentially a system, like the
parliament. Socialists are not interested in whether the Second Ballot and the Alternative Vote, for ensuring that
system ensures a strong and stable government of capi- those elected attain a minimum level of representativ-
talism nor in whether it ensures a fair representation of ity. It is only incidentally that, in a context of competing
capitalist political parties. As the existing electoral system political parties, it ensures the representation of minority
in Britain does allow a majority viewpoint to be trans- parties enjoying a certain minimum, but not necessarily
lated into a majority of seats, we see no point in diverting low, level of support amongst voters.
any of our energies from our task of working towards the As all the above systems are compatible with demo-
emergence of a socialist majority to supporting electoral cratic theory, no doubt, depending on historically-inher-
reform within capitalism. ited circumstances and the preferences of people in a
particular area, they will continue into socialist society
Voting in socialism for the various delegate bodies that will form part of its
However, since socialism will be a fully democratic democratic decision-making structure, along with other
society we do have an interest in what is and what is systems such as choice by lot (as for juries today).
not a fair electoral system since such a system will be
an essential part of the democratic decision-making and Party Representation
administrative structure of socialist society. Proportional representation, properly so-called, is a dif-
From the point of view of democratic theory, an elec- ferent matter as it presupposes the existence of compet-
toral system should ensure that the persons elected really ing political parties and was in fact devised precisely for
are representative. The case against the first-past-the- such parties. It requires multi-member constituencies
post system that applies in Britain (which can be the whole country, as
is that it does not necessarily do this in Israel and in Scotland and Wales
when there are more than two can- “The essence of for the election of MEPs) and party
didates. This is because it allows a lists rather than individual candi-
candidate to be elected with less than democracy is popular dates. A great variety of PR systems
50 percent of the votes (that is to say,
against the will of a majority of the vot- participation not exist (a different version, mixed
with first-past-the-post, is used in
ers), as were most MPs, of all parties, competing parties” mainland Britain for the election
in the recent general election. of regional assemblies in Scotland,
There are various ways of avoiding Wales and London) but these are all
this. Organising a run-off between the based on the principle that the seats
top two candidates in a second ballot (as in France) or, should be allocated to parties in more or less strict pro-
what amounts to the same thing, allowing voters to place portion to the number of votes obtained.
the candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3, 4, etc) and, The essence of democracy is popular participation not
if no candidate gets 50 percent, to eliminate the bottom competing parties. In socialism elections will not be about
candidates and redistribute their votes amongst the oth- deciding which particular party is to come to ‘power’
ers until one of them does reach this figure. This system, and form the government. Politics in socialism will not
known as the Alternative Vote (the mysterious AV the be about coercive power and its exercise and so won’t
media talks about), is widely used in trade unions for the really be politics at all in its present-day sense of the ‘art
election of their officials and is the system that is to be and practice of government’ or ‘the conduct of state af-
voted on in the proposed referendum. fairs’. Being a classless society of free and equal men and
A variant of AV, known as the Supplementary Vote or women, socialism will not have a coercive state machine
Instant Run-off, is already used in England for the elec- nor a government to control it. The conduct of public
tion of mayors. Under it voters vote 1, 2 only (or just “1” if affairs in socialism will be about people participating in
they want) and, if no candidate gets 50 percent, then the the running of their lives in a non-antagonistic context of
No 2 votes of the third and other candidates are redis- co-operation to further the common good.
tributed between the top two. In other words, there is no Socialist democracy will be a participatory democracy
chance of the candidate finishing third getting elected, as rather than the choice every four or five years, with or
is possible under pure AV. without proportional representation, between rival bands
The system favoured by the Liberals is neither of these of professional politicians that passes for democracy
but the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is used in today.
regional and local elections in Northern Ireland and in ADAM BUICK
local elections in Scotland. Under it voters again place the
candidates in order of preference but in a multi-member
rather than a single-member constituency. A candidate is

Socialist Standard June 2010 17

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Darwin on human evolution
A 150 years in June the famous confrontation over evolution took
place between Bishop Wilberforce and TH Huxley. We begin
a three-part series where we look at Darwin’s theory of human
evolution and the reaction of Marx and Engels to it.

(1859) was, arguably, the most shattering book of win and Darwinian literature, especially in the context of
the 19th century, and Darwin’s most famous book. German socialism, most importantly in (1878), and wrote
It was not, of course, his only book, nor was it the the uncompleted in 1876 (he broke off the work in order
one in which he dealt with the evolution of the human to write , which makes extensive references to Darwin),
species, even though it sparked off the “Man’s place in shows that he kept up an interest in at least some of Dar-
nature” debate. In fact, it took Darwin just over 11 years win’s later writings.
to publish his first book on the human species, (1871).
Yet it did not have the same social impact as The Origin, Darwin on Human Descent
and it is unlikely that the same celebratory hoopla was published on the 24 February 1871, in two large
will accom- pany its 150th anniver- volumes, at around 700 pages in length, and selling at 24
sary in 2021. shillings (The Origin cost 15 shillings). The first print run
Unlike The Origin, was of 2,500 copies (compared to 1,250 for The Origin),
there is no evidence increasing to 4,500 by the end of March, and 7,500 by
that either Marx or the end of the year.
Engels The Descent was the first of Darwin’s works to deal
bought with the human species, and was followed in 1872 by .
a copy Originally, Darwin had planned to discuss emotions in
or even The Descent, but, as with much of his work, the material
read The on it just piled up and required a separate volume. The
Descent, as only other published work dealing with humans was. This
there are no was published in , the first psychology journal, and was
references to it based on observations of his first child, his son William
in their collected (affectionately called Doddy) carried out 37 years earlier.
works. However, This latter fact shows that Darwin had from the be-
the fact that En- ginning included human beings in the scheme for his
gels continued big book on Natural Selection (The Origin was only an
to discuss abstract of this proposed big book) and it would not be
Dar- something he needed to think anew for The Descent. In
1839 he had written:
“Looking at Man, as a Naturalist would any other Mam-
miferous animal, it may be concluded that he has paren-
tal, conjugal and social instincts, and perhaps others.
The history of every race of man shows this, if we judge
him by his habits, as another animal. These instincts
consist of a feeling of love (& sympathy) or benevolence
to the object in question. Without regarding their
origin, we see in other animals they consist in such
active sympathy that the individual forgets itself &
aids & defends & acts for others at his own ex-
pense.” (cited in White and Griffin Darwin: , 1995,

Publish and Be Damned!

The application of natural selection to the
human species would be the a lynchpin in
the argument against critics, and it is likely
that, as with other criticisms he rehearsed
before the publication of The Origin, he
would be aware that any failure to meet
his critics would be fatal to the future
of the concept of natural selection as a
naturalistic explanation. So rather than
being a late issue in the debate, Darwin
saw it as being a necessary foundation
from the very beginning of his studies.
Nevertheless, Darwin was famously
reluctant to include the human spe-
cies in The Origin. Even in 1857 (22
December), he wrote to Alfred Russel

18 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 18 24/5/10 15:27:14

Wallace about his reluctance to write about human evolu- after 11 years he was ready to show the world his views
tion: on the human species. However, even the political climate
“You ask whether I shall discuss Man; I think I shall seemed against him. Radicals and agitators were causing
avoid the whole subject, as so surrounded with preju- problems and Darwin feared he might be depicted as a
dices, though I fully admit that it is the highest and most black-caped anarchist.
interesting problem for the naturalist.” Darwin’s fear of all hell breaking loose on him was not
In The Origin, he famously wrote that the application of confirmed. To his relieved surprise, the reviews were
natural selection to human kind would be possible only muted. It seemed that the other Darwinians had success-
in the far future: fully shifted the reading public towards acceptance of the
“In the distant future I see open fields for far more im- evolution of the human species.
portant researchers.... Light will be thrown on the origin What he included in The Descent was to some degree
of man and his history. (Darwin , 1859; Penguin edition, conditioned by what his supporters had written earlier.
1968, p. 458) In particular, unlike Huxley, who had dealt only with hu-
But although he didn’t discuss the human species, man physiological evolution, Darwin wanted to discuss
everybody knew he did. His readers were from the very the origins of some of the mental and moral faculties of
beginning eager to jump the species gap. It was the hu- humans in terms of natural selection. This was neces-
man implications of natural selection that they were keen sary as a riposte to what Wallace, especially, had said in
to discuss. Whilst it took Darwin until 1871, by which his articles of 1864 and 1870. Wallace had come to the
time the heat of the controversy had cooled somewhat, to conclusion that whilst natural selection could account
publish his views for human bodily
on human evolu- development, it
tion in the two vol- could not do so for
ume The Descent, human mental de-
others were not so velopment and the
reticent. brain. To explain
Unwilling or un- human mental de-
able to defend his velopment, Wallace
position, or the all resorted to the
too obvious impli- idea that humans
cations of it, in the were endowed
bear-pit of public with mind by an
debate, Darwin left unseen spiritual
it to his bulldog, power. Such a po-
Thomas Henry sition was anath-
Huxley, to defend ema to Darwin
the theory from re- and he had written
ligious onslaught. to Wallace say-
Barely six months ing that he feared
after the publica- that he might
tion of The Origin, have murdered
the famous British their child (that is,
Association debate natural selection).
between Huxley It was, therefore,
and Bishop Samuel essential for Dar-
(Soapy Sam) Will- Contemporary cartoons of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and T H Huxley
win to show that
berforce took place natural selection
in Oxford on 30 could account for
June, 1860. It was here that Huxley brilliantly replied to human intellectual and moral features, without the resort
Willberforce’s snide query as to whether Huxley was de- to some ineffable “unseen spirit.”
scended from an ape on his father’s side or his mother’s Wallace did in fact have a good enough reason to
side, by retorting that he would rather have an ape for a believe that the human mind had raised humans above
grandfather than a man who misused his gifts to obscure all other animals, ensuring that they were not subject to
scientific discussion by rhetoric and religious prejudice. the Malthusian hell that would later frighten and disgust
By the time Darwin came to publish The Descent, a Huxley in his lectures on (1893). For Wallace it was the
number of others had already dealt with the issue of hu- human ability to create objects that would compensate
man origins: Huxley, Haeckel, Lubbock, Galton, Wallace, for any natural weaknesses in dealing with the struggle
Tyndall, and Bagehot. But the Master had not spoken for existence. In some respects, this difference is similar
and the public were keen for him to make his pronounce- to that recognised by Marx and Engels, but they dealt
ments and settle the matter. Darwin dreaded this ex- with it materialistically rather than by an idealistic un-
pectation. It is not improbable to think that he was glad seen spirit. (while Wallace became a believer in spiritual-
that others has spoken first (and perhaps too hastily and ism).
without adequate evidence), but at least they had taken ED BLEWETT
the first mad hail of flak. By now, some of the heat had
been taken out of the battle, and there might be less
anger directed his way. However, he knew he was going
to be on the receiving end of some fury. As he wrote in a
letter to St George Mivart, “Whenever I publish my book I
can see that I shall meet with universal disapprobation, if
not execution.”
And at Christmas 1870 he told Batholemew Sullivan
that The Descent “would disgust you & many others.” But

Socialist Standard June 2010 19

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Book Reviews
years, the poorest communities with ample opportunity for graft and
Massive reform almost no resources and few formal corruption, pre-established managers
programme skills have constructed and installed and bureaucrats wanting to hold
infrastructure for themselves with on to their privileges and mafia-like
The Real Venezuela – Making no official help. Barrios, slums, organisations intent on keeping a
Socialism in the 21st Century. By shanty towns, call them what you hold on their share of the spoils.
Iain Bruce, Pluto Press 2008 will, in cities such as Jakarta, Rio All the way through the book, in
de Janeiro, Johannesburg and the examples cited of substantial
Caracas, communities housing success, partial success or abject
Venezuela, since millions and millions of the world’s failure, the challenges relate directly
Chavez, has poorest – not helpless and passive or indirectly to the fact that products
been both hailed as often claimed, but proactive and still have to be bought and sold,
as champion self-reliant and most of whom are imported and exported to meet the
of the poor and underemployed and/or work in the requirements of the market and
underclasses and informal sector, all of this revealing a trying to set up an alternative logic of
also excoriated history of self-organisation. production continually clashes with
by leaders of the The chapter on ‘Democracy at the logic of capitalism. There is no
global capitalist Work’ gives an account of the attempt mention from individuals interviewed
hegemony. In this at a “radical extension of democracy” or encountered in this book of
book Bruce takes at Venezuela’s second biggest abolishing money either sooner or
no side but over a aluminium plant ALCASA which later but there is recognition that
period of several years and a number was “intended to be a test-bed and there is still a long way to go and
of visits to various parts of the catalyst for a much wider change”. according to Bruce at the time of
country – urban, rural, factories and He lays out the history, the hopes, writing, mid-2008: “It looked as if it
farms – he has interviewed ‘ordinary the set-backs, the workings of co- could go either way.”
folk’ involved in co-operative management, the divisions of labour, We may judge the current stage
initiatives ranging from the workplace the participatory budget and the of proceedings as being a massive
to community planning, land reform aim of spreading this model to other reform programme but there are
and literacy programmes. factories. Carlos Lanz, the president those who truly believe there are real
Throughout Bruce attempts to of ALCASA in 2005 was interviewed possibilities for socialism here. In any
discover if the reality of various at length and he spoke of how the case there are both cautionary tales
initiatives lives up to the rhetoric criteria of quality and efficiency and positive examples well worth
by comparing plans discussed would have to change and that to discussing.
at earlier visits to any noticeable traditional indicators of efficiency JS
changes several months or two or and effectiveness would have to be
three years later, and, as would be added other categories such as social
expected, his findings are mixed. and environmental pertinence or Helping to Survive
Whilst adult illiteracy was eliminated appropriateness. “Profitability and
in a relatively short time and vast growth, per se, are not the objective, Why We Cooperate. By Michael
improvements in health care have but human development is.” Tomasello: MIT Press £11.95.
been afforded to all by means of the Two years later one of ALCASA’s
Health Mission involving 20,000 activists explained some of the
Cuban medical staff, bringing visible, failures to Bruce, citing that ALCASA Young children
tangible changes especially to the was an isolated example and a are cooperative
poorest, some other workplace reminder that, “if you can’t build and helpful.
initiatives have floundered. Bruce socialism in a single country then At the age of
offers a number of explanations for you certainly can’t build it in a single eighteen months,
these failures later in the book after factory”. The overwhelming challenge almost all
further investigation following up on facing any part of this move towards children will try
his earlier interviews. ‘socialism for the 21st century’ is to help an adult
A recurring theme, endogenous that Venezuela is bogged down by the they have just
development, (development created logic of capitalism and although there met, for instance
from within the country; Chavez - “if are many efforts to encourage and by opening a
we want to put an end to poverty instil the alternative logic they are cupboard door
we have to give power to the poor”) forever met with the incompatibility if the adult’s hands are full. This is
is referred to as being one of the and antagonisms of the two systems. one of the findings from experimental
building blocks of the revolution, In some areas Bruce notes studies carried out with colleagues
“socialism for the 21st century”. examples of great achievements that Tomasello, a psychologist,
The call to empower the poor in from communal councils including reports in this short but informative
opposition to the IMF’s view is one where a mayor closed down volume.
manifest in the idea that spending on his social development department Before they can be helpful like this,
the poor is seen not as an expense because “the community has shown a child has to be able to perceive
but as an investment; education that they are running it better”, and what another person wants to do,
being a tool of empowerment so that there are many inspiring accounts of and to have the altruistic motive
those previously “buried in silence, successful outcomes to community- to help. Assisting others in this
obscurity and neglect have suddenly inspired initiatives. However, it way seems to emerge naturally,
emerged” and become “protagonists must be stated that many of the before children have been trained
both of their own individual stories challenges faced by this ongoing by parents to behave in this
and of the nation’s collective drama”. attempt to transform society come manner. Moreover, concrete rewards
As Bruce points out, all around from being entrenched in a monetary undermine this helping, rather than
the world, especially in the last 50 system which continues to allow stimulating it.

20 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 20 24/5/10 15:27:15

Helping is only one of three kinds Elsdon-Baker argues, it is perfectly
of altruistic behaviour. The second possible to be a “Darwinist” without
is informing others by providing and accepting the “selfish gene” thesis.
sharing information, which children Darwin’s contribution was to
The Official Journal of The
do naturally at twelve months (lying collect a mass of evidence to show Socialist Party of Canada
comes much later, and assumes that the various different species of
pre-existing trust and cooperation). life came about through a process of
The third kind is sharing goods such natural selection (akin to the artificial
as food, which again young children selection of animal breeders, pigeon-
do in a reasonably generous way. fanciers and flower growers, but
Children are far more cooperative unplanned and over a much much
than chimpanzees, who do try to help longer period, as environmental
humans in experimental situations factors changed). Darwin was
but are less keen to share food or to scrupulously honest and admitted
inform fellow chimps. that he did not know what caused
From the age of around three years, the variations between individuals
children become more discerning that the process of natural (and
in their altruism. For instance, they artificial) selection worked on.
may share more with someone who He suspected that it might have
was previously nice to them, or something to do with unknown
are more helpful to those who help “particles” governing the inheritance
others. The eventual outcome will be of an organism’s features. Later,
mutualism, where we all benefit from after his death, such particles were
working together towards a common identified (even though they didn’t Spring 2010 Edition out now
goal. Underlying this is a sense have all the features Darwin had
of ‘we’, a sense which is uniquely speculated they might have) and To obtain a copy send a cheque for £1.00
human. called “genes”. payable to “The Socialist Party of Great
If our closest primate relatives, Elsdon-Baker outlines Britain” to 52 Clapham High St, London
then, do not cooperate to anything developments within biology since SW4 7UN.
like the extent that humans do, the the publication of Dawkins’s book
question arises as to how and why which in her view undermine his
this cooperativeness arose. Answers view of genes as the only unit on
here must be less definitive, but which natural selection operates –
Tomasello sees cooperative foraging so-called “junk DNA” may also play
for food as playing an essential role a role and genes can be modified
in making us, in his terminology, by other natural factors than
‘obligate collaborators’. natural selection. But even if these
So in answer to claims that it is developments undermine Dawkins’s
‘human nature’ to be competitive, position, they don’t challenge
just say that no, we are by nature Darwin’s basic conclusion that it
cooperative beings. is through natural selection that
PB species evolved.
Elsdon-Baker also criticises
Dawkins for linking his personal
Dawkins criticised militant atheism with science,
seeing this as counter-productive
The Selfish Genius. How Richard and unscientific. She claims that it
Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s cannot be said that it is a scientific
Legacy. By Fern Elsdon-Baker. fact that “God does not exist”, on
Icon Books. £8.99. the grounds that it cannot be proved
that a non-interventionist god does
not exist. Maybe but this depends on
This is an attack what is meant by “exist”.
on Dawkins’s A non-interventionist god, precisely
claim that the because it did not intervene in the Picture Credits
Cover: David Harvey - © Daniel Lobo 2009
views he put world of observable phenomena, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
forward in his could not be detected and so to Clean Clothes Campaign - www.karat.org
1976 book The all intents and purposes does not p2: Greek strike - www.nowpublic.com. Refugees
1960 - www.graphicwitness.org
Selfish Gene are exist in any meaningful sense of p4: Deepwater Horizon fire, US Coast Guard, 21
the only one the word. As to an interventionist April 2010 - Public Domain
and true form of god, as the mathematician and p6: R.J. Rushdoony - www.tradebit.com
p11: Cameron & Clegg - © Office of Nick Clegg,
Darwinism. In astronomer Laplace is supposed to 2009 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
this notorious have said to Napoleon, science does p12: Defibrillator - © Ernstl 2006 Creative
Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic
book Dawkins not need that hypothesis to explain p14: Chinese factory - © Robert Scoble, 2008,
advanced the view that the unit of the world of phenomena. Having Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
natural selection is not the species said this, whether militant atheism p16: Greek strike - www.nowpublic.com
p20: The Real Venezuela - us.macmillan.com.
nor a group within a species nor (as opposed to practical, matter-of- Why We Cooperate - mitpress.mit.edu
the individual organism but the fact materialism) is useful has been p21: The Selfish Genius - www.inthenews.co.uk
individual gene. It’s a theory but debated amongst socialists as well as p24: Dharavi Slum in Mumbai - © Kounosu, 2008,
GNU Free Documentation License
it wasn’t Darwin’s, if only because scientists. p24: Pope Benedict XVI - © Rob & Lisa Meehan,
Darwin had never heard of genes. So, ALB 2007, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Socialist Standard June 2010 21

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 21 24/5/10 15:27:15

London East Anglia Chester
Saturday evenings 6pm Saturday, 12 June, 2pm-5pm Tuesday 22 June 7.15 pm
5 June “Slums and Slumps: Housing FILM SHOWING Debate at Chester Dabating Society
under Capitalism’? - Paul Bennett Theme - “Do You Feel Exploited?” ‘Should Capitalism Have a Future?’.
19 June “Class struggle and climate (1 of 3) Socialist speaker - Gywnn Thomas
change - the politics of A short (approx. 20 min.) film by Brendan Quaker Meeting House, Union Walk,
personal consumption.” - Paddy Shannon Mcooney will be shown in the basement Frodsham Street, Chester, CH1 3LF .
3 July “Business growth in conflict with of The Workshop, 53 Earlham Road,
the environment” -- Glenn Morris Norwich NR1 3SP
17 July 17 “Bitter Pill - Capitalism and the
The Socialist Party
Pharmaceutical Industry” Summer School
- Dick Field West London
31 July “Reforming Capitalism or the Tuesday 15 June
Socialist alternative” - Vincent Otter Discussion on Con-Lib coalition.
Socialist Party premises, 52 Clapham Committee Room, Chiswick Town Hall,
High Street, SW4 7UN (nearest tube: Heathfield Terrace, W4. Fircroft College, Birmingham
Clapham North) 23rd - 25th July 2010
What kind of future do we want? For centuries,
Forty Million Refugees people have imagined technological utopias
or nightmare dystopias. Meanwhile, how will
There are no less than forty million A tall order indeed. It is hopeless to capitalism adapt to ongoing economic and
refugees in the world today. Forty appeal to the conscience of a society environmental concerns? And what kind of
million people living in misery and which has been directly responsible socialist society can we aim for as an antidote?
hopelessness. Such is the appalling for such a monstrosity. Far better to Residential cost (inc accommodation and all
truth revealed in a little book recently have a world where man can be free to
meals) is £130, £80 conc. Non-residential cost
published—Refugees 1960 (Penguin travel over its surface without the futile
(including meals) is £50. Please send a cheque
Books, 2s. 6d.). (…) restrictions of nationality, and where he
for £10 (payable to the Socialist Party of Great
[T]he authors fondly hope that in can satisfy his needs from a sufficiency
Britain) to flat 2, 24 Tedstone Road, Quinton,
this world refugee year, the camps can of wealth that only Socialism can make
Birmingham, B32 2PD. For more information,
be emptied and the conscience of the available.
e-mail Mike Foster at spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk
capitalist world stirred so deeply that But when all this has been said, it is
every man, woman and child will be still worthwhile to read Refugees 1960.
resettled. Just listen to this: Mainly, it is a plain, straightforward
“Every country with room to spare statement of very unpalatable facts, and
should ease open its bureaucratic door no attempt has been made to grind a
and undertake to accept without ‘ifs’ political axe. Yet by its very simplicity of
or ‘buts’ a percentage of the sick or style and presentation, this book shouts
economically useless human beings, a condemnation of capitalist society
to balance what they have gained from from every page.
the young, healthy immigrants who will
be benefiting their economy without any (From book review by E.T.C., Socialist
cost to them in education or training.” Standard, June 1960)

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

22 Socialist Standard June 2010

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 22 24/5/10 15:27:15

Party News

Socialists in the election

In the general election the Socialist Party capitalism as a society where there are rich people,
whose income comes from the exploitation of workers.
stood one candidate, if only to show that We, on the other hand, argued that, as capitalism
we hold that a socialist-minded wage and was the cause of the problems, the only way to lastingly
salary working class can use the ballot box solve them was to replace capitalism and its production
in the course of establishing socialism. for profit and wages system with socialism, a society
Elsewhere we advocated a write-in vote for of common ownership, democratic control, production
solely for use, and distribution according to the
“World Socialism”.
principle ‘from each their ability, to each their needs’.
The constituency, Vauxhall, just south of the Thames
We didn’t advocate any reforms to capitalism, just
in central London, is one we had contested a number
of times before. We had expected our opponents to
As a German group put it in a comment on the
be only the ordinary capitalist parties – Labour, Tory,
election they sent to us:
LibDems and Greens – but in the event there were also
“Even fringe left-wing parties like Respect bow to
candidates from the Christian Party (an attempt to
the dictates of ‘realism’ and respect private property
introduce the US “Christian Right” here), the English
through their demands of ‘taxation on the big
Democrats (who want a separate parliament for
corporations and the wealthy to fund public services’
England), the Animal Protection Party (hunt saboteurs
– a demand which requires big corporations to make
challenging the sitting Labour MP, Kate Hoey, who is
the kind of profits which can then be taxed” (http://
chair of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance), and
Workers Power (a breakaway Trotskyist group).
Precisely. So, all the measures in the Trotskyist
We met most of these candidates in three well-
manifesto were supposed to be implemented under
attended hustings, the last one in a church near the
capitalism. Ridiculous. We doubt whether even their
Oval attracting up to 200 people. The Post Office
proposers believed this possible. In the event nobody
distributed 56,000 of our manifestos to households in
else did either. True, we didn’t do much better but the
the constituency.
point is: when Trotskyists with their programme of
As the Green Party candidate said he was an
“transitional” reforms are getting the same sort of vote
‘ecosocialist’, this meant that there were three
as us who are advocating only socialism, what’s the
candidates saying they stood for socialism. This
point of advocating reforms and not socialism? You
provided a case study of the difference between our
might as well advocate taking over the bakery (and the
and their approaches. The Green Party is not of course
wheatfields) rather than bigger and better crumbs.
a socialist party and does not claim to be, even if
The result was: Hoey (Labour) 21,498; Pidgeon (LD)
individual members such as their candidate in Vauxhall
10,847; Chambers (Con) 9,301; Healey (Green) 708;
do. Basically, the Green Party stands for a return to
Navarro (English Democrats) 289; Martin (Christian)
small-scale capitalism. Their election address made the
200; Lambert (Soc) 143, Drinkall (Workers Power) 109;
same sort of promises as the main capitalist parties,
Kapetanos (Animal Protection) 96.
only even less realistic – a minimum wage of £8.10
The Socialist Party also contested three wards in
an hour, a non-means tested pension of £170 a week,
the London borough elections held the same day. In
a million new jobs installing free insulation in “every
Kentish Town (Camden) the Socialist candidate got 113
single home” and (of course) “protect our NHS”.
votes. In Ferndale ward (Lambeth) the three Socialist
The Trotskyist candidate made even wilder promises
candidates got 82, 48 and 45 and in Larkhall (Lambeth)
(seemingly on the basis of take what the openly
48, 46 and 45.
capitalist parties are offering and multiply by three),
such as:
• “Create three million new jobs – tax the rich to fund
a huge programme of public works.
Thought About Joining
• £9 an hour minimum wage for all. The Socialist Party?
• Six weeks paid holiday as a minimum for all For further information about membership, return this form
to The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London
• Cancel mortgage interest for working people.
• Scrap council tax – for a local wealth tax. SW4 7UN.
• Jobs for all, funded by taxing the rich and taking NAME.....................................................................................
over the banks ADDRESS..............................................................................
• Benefits to be at level of minimum wage.
• Stop fare rises – slash bus and tube prices – make it ...............................................................................................
free by taxing the rich. ...............................................................................................
• For pensions tied to average male earnings. ...............................................................................................
• Automatic and total payment [for pensioners] of
all utility bills - gas, electricity, telephone and internet ...............................................................................................
connection.(from The Anticapitalist Manifesto for ...............................................................................................
All of this assumes the continued existence of the
rich who are to be taxed – and so the continuation of

Socialist Standard June 2010 23

June 2010 Std BDH.indd 23 24/5/10 15:27:16

The Advance Of Poverty surging youth unemployment, boosted by movement worldwide and led to a ban
Every day we can read about the graduates and mid-career professionals of some pesticides in Britain” (Sunday
expansion of capitalism and how new searching for jobs. Most applicants are Telegraph, 25 April). So fifty years after
industrial and commercial giants are aged between 20 and 26, although the alarm was sounded the position is
arising to challenge the supremacy of the British Gas said some were in their fifties” even worse. That is gradualism for you.
USA. One of the leading candidates in (Sunday Times, 18 April). Not only do we The drive for bigger and bigger profits
this struggle is India. We are constantly have workers madly competing for the means that the environment is of little
hearing about the modernisation of that right to be exploited but we have workers importance.
country and in employment working overtime for no
the supposed extra pay. “One A Papal View Of Society
benefits of the person in four is There are many ways to look at society.
expansion of working longer What are the most important aspects of
capital. We than ever but present day society? Socialists might
don’t hear so few are paid say the fact that a third of the world
much about extra for putting is starving, or that we live in a society
the plight of the in overtime. that could be annihilated in a nuclear
working class A survey of holocaust or even that in the drive for
there though. 2,000 workers, profits we risk the delicate balance
The following carried out for of the global environment. None of
news item Santander, found these considerations entered into the
illustrates that that the average reasoning of the Pope when he recently
the supposed Mumbai on a dollar employee in the visited Portugal. “The Pope yesterday
benefits of UK is working condemned gay marriage and abortion
capitalist modernisation are not so a 41-hour week for an annual wage of as ‘among the most insidious and
wonderful after all. “India has 100 £27,150. One in seven of those polled is dangerous challenges’ to society, as
million more people living in poverty, doing at least 11 hours of overtime every Portugal prepared to legalise same-
official figures show – 37.2 per cent of week, but only two in five are paid extra” sex partnerships next week. Benedict
the population compared with 27.5 per (Times, 4 May). also criticised Catholics ‘ashamed’
cent in 2004 – with 410 million people of their faith and too willing to ‘lend a
below the UN poverty line of $1.25 a Fifty Years Of Gradualism hand to secularism’. Ninety per cent
day” (Times, 19 March). Surviving on One of the oppositions to world socialism of Portuguese define themselves as
a pound a day while the owning class is that rather than have a complete Catholic, but Portugal’s society is
of that country now boast of the richest transformation of society we could have increasingly secular, with far fewer than a
men in the world. “Indian names now piece by piece gradual change. Well third saying they attend Mass regularly”
figure prominently on the league tables let us look at how that has worked out (Times, 14 May). Starvation, worldwide
of the wealthiest people on the planet. in relation to the environment. slaughter or global warming? Not as
The country now boasts 47 billionaires, “Sir David Attenborough has important as
up from 12 in 2005 and just nine at the warned that Britain’s wildlife is abortion or same-sex
turn of the millennium, compared with 10 being destroyed thanks to man’s relationships
in France and 35 in Britain” (Observer, impact on the environment. The according to His
9 May). That’s capitalism for you – naturalist made his comments Holiness – no
surviving on £1 a day contrasted with the in the foreword to a new book, wonder the pews
lives of billionaires. Silent Summer, in which 40 are emptying.
prominent British ecologists
The Whip Hand explain how humankind is
“British Gas has received more than wiping out many species.
65,000 applications for 600 gas fitter It comes fifty years after
Kiss my
apprenticeships. The scheme pays the publication of Silent
Spring, Rachel Carson’s paedophile ring
£5,000 a year, plus expenses, to train
staff to repair boilers and radiators. The acclaimed book on pollution
100-to-1 ratio of applicants to openings, of wildlife that helped the
twice the usual ratio, has been caused by growth of the environmental

ISSN 0037 8259

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

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