Open Letter To The Workers

Fellow Workers,

The world we live in at the beginning of the 21st Century is one that is fraught with contradiction. Some 800 million of our fellow humans are chronically malnourished and at least 1.2 billion will, on any one day, go without food. At the same time, the governments of the world order the destruction of vast mountains of food to keep prices high, stockpile food until it rots and pay farmers to take land out of production because the laws of supply and demand insist that overproduction is bad for the market.

Some 600 million of our fellow humans are homeless, sleeping rough on the streets of the world's cities, yet there is no shortage of vacant buildings—countless millions of acres of empty living space in the major cities of the world—and certainly no shortage of building materials or skilled builders and craftsmen presently out of work. Again, we find that the market not only dictates who does and does not eat, but who does and does not sleep comfortably.

Well over 1 billion of our fellow humans have no access to clean water, while its growing scarcity is calculated to spark many wars across the globe this coming century. Meanwhile, the technology exists to desalinate millions of gallons each day and to set up treatment plants capable of cleaning the dirtiest water. However, there is not much profit in selling something which covers five-sixth's of the planet, so the investment never comes.

While millions of children die each year of curable diseases and while we still await breakthroughs in medical science that can cure the presently incurable, we find there are literally thousands of scientists around the world employed in weapon's programmes—paid by their respective governments to devise new methods of murder, including germ warfare.

The list is as endless as it is insane. At every turn we find evidence of how capitalism destroys us physically and mentally, retarding real human development. At every turn we come smack up against the iron law of our age—"can't pay, can't have." At every turn we find capitalism running wild like a rabid dog, infecting all it comes into contact with.

Credit where credit is due. Capitalism has enabled us to carry out some pretty fantastic technological and scientific feats. Advances in warfare sparked a race for rocket technology that has enabled us explore the furthest limits of the solar system. The search for oil and other resources has allowed us to plumb the deepest oceans and map out the ocean beds. We can split the atom, map the human genome, and perform the most amazing organ transplants. Nothing, it seems, is beyond us. Our productive powers are fantastic. Our capabilities are awe-inspiring. Sadly, however, and in spite of the technology at our disposal, because of the never-ending battle for profits, we have entered the 21st Century dragging with us every social ill that plagued the previous century. War, hunger, poverty, disease, and homelessness are still making the headlines, and each of these problems is, to a lesser or greater degree, rooted in the way we continue to organise ourselves for production. The terrible irony is that we are already capable of solving the major problems that face us. Indeed, we have been capable of solving them for quite some time—though obviously never within the context of capitalism.

Over 20 years ago, the World Health Organisation revealed that the technology existed to feed a world population twelve times its (then) size. Five years ago the UN reported that Africa could easily feed a population six times its current size if western farming technology was introduced. Science and technology are in fact so advanced as to enable us to solve all these problems. However, the requirements of profit everywhere act as a stumbling block not only to the full use of the productive forces, but also to the full and unhindered use of science and technology in the service of humanity.

Socialists long ago realised that the problems we face are in fact social problems, not natural ones or the vengeance of gods—social problems because they have their roots in the way our world is organised for production, that is production for profit, not need. If you think seriously about it, you'll be hard pressed to find any aspect of our lives that is not subordinated to the requirements of profit. This is the case the world over. We are all of us at the mercy of the anarchic laws of capitalism.

What is to be done?

If this is the case, then what can we do about it? Socialists, real socialists, believe the only way forward lies in abolishing the money/wages/profit system that we know as capitalism and establishing a world socialist society or, in other words, a world of free access to the benefits of civilisation. Only then can we gain real control over our world and reassert control over our own destiny. Only then can we produce without polluting our world and only then can we enjoy a world in which there is no waste or want or war.

Since 1904, the Socialist Party has been advocating the establishment of such a world system: a global system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, by and in the interests of all people.

We advocate a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states or governments, armies, police, force or coercion. A world devoid of money or wages, exchange, buying or selling. A world in which people give freely of their abilities and take according to their own self-defined needs from the stockpile of wealth. A global system in which each person has a free and democratic say in how their world is run.

Of course, many we come into contact with agree that such a world would be a beautiful place to live in, but that “human nature” will always be a barrier to its establishment, because humans are “by nature” greedy, selfish and aggressive. It quickly becomes apparent that what they are describing is not human nature as such, but various traits of human behaviour exhibited under particular circumstances. Socialists maintain that human behaviour is determined by the kind of system people are conditioned to live in—that it is not our consciousness that determines our social existence, the way we behave, but that our social existence determines our consciousness. Nobody is born a racist or a patriot, a bigot or with a belief in gods. Nobody is born a murderer, a robber or a rapist, and our alleged greed for money is no more a function of the natural human thought process than were slavery or witch burning.

In general, the ideas the common people hold have been acquired second-hand, passed down from the ruling class above us. This is because the class which owns and controls the productive process, also controls the intellectual life process in general. Any anti-social behaviour is likewise determined by our position in the relations of production and in general by our social circumstances at any given time, ie. when we are poor, depressed, lonely, angry and frustrated.

In most cases, those who produce the world’s wealth (some 95 percent of the world's population) have had that second-rate education that makes free-thought preclusive—an upbringing that conditions us to accept without question the ideas of our betters and superiors. Indeed, the education system is so geared as to perpetuate the rule of an elite, insofar as it never encourages children to question and take issue with the status quo. Children may well cite that 8 times 8 equals 64, but how many will ask about the cause of wars or query the destruction of food?

Socialists hold that because we can adapt our behaviour, the desire to cooperate should not be viewed as irrational. We hold that humans are, “by nature”, cooperative and that we work best when faced with the worst and that our humanity shines through when the odds are stacked against us. There are millions of cases of people donating their blood and organs to complete strangers, sacrificing their lives for others, of people giving countless hours of their free time to charitable work—all of this without financial incentive. There is even the case of a man throwing himself on top of a grenade to protect children in a school yard. He died to protect children, none of which were his own, and in the instant knowledge that his action was suicidal.

Today, world capitalism threatens the human race with extinction. The reason this obnoxious system survives is because we have been conditioned to accept it, not born to perpetuate it. Rest assured, no gene inclines us to defend the profit system.

Again, many we come into contact with tell us that socialism has already been tried and has failed. They then point to the former Soviet Union, to China, Cuba and a dozen other states that claimed to have established “socialism”. What they fail to grasp is that socialism has existed nowhere, and that what existed - being passed off as socialism—was in fact state capitalism, not socialism or communism (which mean the same thing). A cursory glance at the affairs of these countries reveals they never abolished the wages system. The rulers exploited their workers and outlawed dissent. They produced when only viable to do so, maintained commodity production, traded according to the dictates of international capital and, like every other capitalist state, were prepared to go to war to defend their economic interests. Moreover, in all of these countries, it was believed that socialism could be established by force, that socialism could exist in one country. The Leninists who carried out the Bolshevik Revolution maintained that the revolution could only be carried out by a vanguard, that the masses were too ignorant to understand the case for change.

Since 1904, our movement has maintained that socialism, like capitalism, can only exist on a global scale, and that it will only come about when a majority of the world's people want it and are prepared to organise for it peacefully and democratically, in their own interests and without leaders. No vanguard, no party can establish socialism—the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”.

Who are the workers?

But who is the “working class”? Agreeing with Marx, we believe that there are two classes in society—the working class and the capitalist class, each one determined by its position in the relations of production. The capitalist class own and control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, living like parasites off profits, rent and interest. The working class, other than possessions we have purchased with our own sweat, own little more than our ability to sell our physical and mental abilities to the highest bidder. There is no “middle class” and view the working class as being inclusive of tradesmen, land workers, doctors, lawyers and teachers—anyone, indeed, who must sell their mental and physical energies to survive.

This class, the working class—not the capitalist class—runs the world and it's important to grasp this fact. It is we who fish the oceans and tend the forests and till the land and plantations. It is we who build the cities and railroads, the bridges and roads, the docks and airports. It is we who staff the hospitals and schools, who empty the bins and go down the sewers. It is we, the working class, who produce everything society needs from a pin to an oil-rig, who provide all of its services. If we can do all of this off our own bats, then surely we can continue to do so without a profit-greedy minority watching over us and, more, in our own interests.

The ruling class, the capitalists and their executive, the governments of the world, have no monopoly on our skills and abilities. These belong to us. Moreover, it is we who are responsible for the inventions that have benefited humanity and the improvements in productive techniques. Most inventions and improvements are the result of those who do the actual work thinking up easier and faster ways of completing a task, the result of ideas being passed down from generation to generation, each one improving the techniques of the previous. If those who work have given the world so much, in the past say 2000 years, then how much more are we capable of providing in a world devoid of the artificial constraints of profit, in a world devoid of oppression and coercion?

Capitalism must be abolished

It is easy to cite the advances of capitalism over previous economic systems. Many people believe that capitalism, though not perfect, is the only system possible. One thing is certain, though—if we follow the capitalist trajectory, we’re in for some pretty troublesome times. Capitalism has undoubtedly raised the productive potential of humanity. It is now quite possible to provide a comfortable standard of living for every human on the planet. But, to reiterate, capitalism now stands as a barrier to the full and improved use of the world’s productive and distributive forces. In a world of potential abundance, the unceasing quest for profit imposes on our global society widespread artificial scarcity. Hundreds of millions of humans are consigned to a life of abject poverty, whilst the majority live lives filled with uncertainty.

Our ability to imagine has brought us so very far, from the days when our ancestors chipped away at flint to produce the first tools, to the landing of someone on the moon, the setting up of the world wide web, and the mapping out of the human genome. Is it really such a huge leap of the imagination to now envisage a social system that can take over from the present capitalist order of things? Is it just too daring to imagine humans consigning poverty, disease, hunger and war to some pre-historic age?

Do we really need leaders deciding our lives for us? Do we really need governments administering our lives when what is really needed is the administration of the things we need to live in peace and security? Must every decision made by our elites be first of all weighed on the scales of profit, tilted always in their favour? A growing number think not and have mobilised to confront what they perceive to be the major problems of contemporary capitalism.

In recent years there has been a world-wide backlash against neoliberal globalisation, corporate power and the iniquities of modern-day capitalism. Everywhere where the world’s ruling elite have assembled to decide their next step they have been met with protests and demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands. Demonstrations at Seattle, Gothenburg, Prague and Genoa, for instance, have fuelled the ongoing debate on the nature of modern day capitalism. Thousands of articles have been written on the subject and hundreds of books have been published that explore the alternatives offered by the anti-globalisation movement.

What is now clear is that the anti-globalisation movement, however well meaning, does not seek to replace capitalism with any real alternative social system. At best it attracts a myriad of groups, all pursuing their own agenda. Some call for greater corporate responsibility. Some demand the reform of international institutions. Others call for the expansion of democracy and fairer trading conditions. All, however, fail to address the root cause of the problems of capitalism.

One thing is certain: capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the world’s suffering billions, because reform does not address the basic contradiction between profit and need. The world’s leaders cannot be depended upon because they can only ever act as the executive of corporate capitalism. The expansion of democracy, while welcome, serves little function if all candidates at election time can only offer variations on the same set of policies.

Capitalism must be abolished, if we as a species are to thrive, if the planet is to survive. No amount of reform, however great, will work. Change must be global and irreversible. It must involve all of us. We need to erase borders and frontiers; to abolish states and governments and false concepts of nationalism. We need to abolish our money systems, and with it buying, selling and exchange. And in place of this we need to establish a different global social system - a society in which there is common ownership and true democratic control of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources. A society where the everyday things we need to live in comfort are produced and distributed freely and for no other reason than that they are needed. Socialism.

It is now no utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in a world without waste or want or war, in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. That much is assured. We certainly have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will—the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to fashion a world in our own interests. And how soon this happens depends upon us all—each and every one of us.



Sent to the Shields Gazette, 14/12/04
Dear Sir,

More than one billion children, that's half of the world's population of children, suffer from poverty, violent conflict and the scourge of AIDS, the United Nations Children's Fund has just reported (the report can be downloaded in PDF format at: http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2005_(English).pdf)

Eight years after the promise to halve the number of the world's starving the figure is not budging. One child is dying from hunger according to the UN every 5 seconds. Its a startling figure. It means 17,280 child deaths every day from hunger. Where the two minute silence for this daily massacre? Indeed those two minutes, two minutes of inactivity, would see an extra 24 deaths added to the figure.

It is possible to read the figures on the world's hungry and to regard them in a very dispassionate way. There are many such lists of dead. Most of us cannot fail to be shocked at the number of 50 million who died in the Second World War. That number is horrendous but the numbers who die from lack of food are relentless - a holocaust that kills its victims every day of every year with no end in sight!

Unlike the casualties of the violence in New York back in 2001, the deaths from hunger are not the material of media drama. This is a silent outrage which is mostly ignored. It is of course impossible to take in the suffering of the millions of families who go into mourning every year over the death of a child because of starvation – over 800 million children since the FAO was set up in 1945, so I am informed. The total number is incalculable, but must approach 2 billion. Those who are better off are not uncaring but pre-occupied, pursuing their own daily struggles. We are driven by an economic individualism that provides us with little freedom to act effectively as a community.

The reason there are so many hungry is that under capitalism they do not constitute a market. The system Bair, Bush and their ilk defend says: "can't pay, can't have". Neither is it sound business sense giving millions of tons of food away free. It is far more logical to destroy tens of millions of tons of food each year and to pay farmers to take land out of production to keep prices high. It makes more sense for the West to have poor countries producing cash crops such as coffee and cocoa to pay off their debts than to produce food for their own people.

It is not so many years ago that The Gazette ran a lead story (I still have the clipping) about the cost to the EU of destroying their fruit and vegetable surplus of 3 million tons. It was £56 million. Of course it had to be destroyed. Were it allowed on to the market then the price of food would have come down and profits would have been hammered and that just would not do.

Were a child on South Tyneside to die of hunger, The Gazette would run the story on the front page. Parents, school teachers and social workers would be called to account. 17,000 die and the story is buried away on the inside page of the tabloids and, furthermore, totally devoid of any analysis.

Pop bands might well get together and re-release "Do they know it's Christmas?" in the hope that charitable donations will address the problem of hunger in Africa. But clearly it does not as the figures for global hunger have increased about 40 million since the record was first released in the 80s. I can only ask of those buying the record: "Do they know it's Capitalism?"

John B


Bush the moralist?

Sent to The Shields Gazette, 9/11/04

Dear Sir,

DS (8th November) says she favoured Bush in the US elections because of his moral stances.

I can only assume Miss S has been living on Mars these past four years.

Since becoming President, Bush has broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history. He has had the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission. and withdrawn the U.S. from the World Court of Law.

He has refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby has refused to abide by the Geneva Convention. He has appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history. He is the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, preemptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation, doing so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community. he has cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families -- in wartime.

On the environment, Bush's record is appalling. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In his first three years, the Bush administration initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of his country's air, water, public lands and wildlife.

Turning to women, Bush has dismantled efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work. He eliminated the Equal Pay Initiative, a program designed to expand federal enforcement against discriminatory practices that threaten equal pay for women and minorities. To make matters worse, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has weakened enforcement of the laws against job discrimination and even abandoned pending sex discrimination suits without notice or explanation. according to the National Women’s Law Center. Furthermore, Bush tried to close Department of Labor Offices charged with protecting women in the workplace

As governor of Texas he set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history. He still adamantly supports execution and has removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any other president in U.S. history.

Bush a moralist? His administration has been the most corrupt, secretive and unnaccountable in US history. If there is anything missing from the Bush administration, it is most definitely morality. He presides over the most inhumane, uncaring, self-centred administration ever. Indeed, I believe he could even have given Hitler a few pointers.


Joe Hill

Almost 85 years ago, on November 19th, 1915, Joe Hill, a rootless, unasuming migratory worker and memberof the IWW was executed by a five man firing squad in the prison yard of Utah State Penitentiary for the alleged murder of a Salt Lake City grocer and his son in January 1914. Though the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence was used to convict Hill, his guilt still remains a matter of controversy,, though should not really concern us here.

The facts themselves are pretty much straight forward. On the night of January 10th, 1915, one John Morrison, a former policeman, and his two sons, Aveling and Merlin, were closing their store when two men wearing red bandanas forced their way in shouting:"we've got you now." The commotion that followed resulted in the deaths of Morrison and his son Aveling and the wounding of one of the intruders, shot incidentally, by Aveling.

Five miles away and two hours later, Joe Hill turned up at the office of Dr FN McHugh, bleeding from a bullet wound in the chest. Hill informed the doctor before being treated and driven to the Eselius household (home of known IWW activists) that he had sustained the injury in an argument over a woman.

McHugh then informed the police of the visit and agreed to take part in Hill's capture.Three days later, McHugh turned up at the Eselius household to check on Hill's wound, drugging him in the process. Once Hill was drowsy, the police burst in, shot him in the hand and arrested him.

Although Hill's trial was a long way off, the police and press had already found him guilty of the murders. Only 10 days after his arrest, the Mormon-controlled press began a series of articles vilifying Hill, lambasting his songs as 'inflamatory' and 'sacriligous' and mounting a panic campaign about the IWW menace to Salt Lake City, a campaign that would continue right up to the trial date five months later and right on through it.

From the offset, the trial itself made a mockery of the US judicial system. None of the witnesses, including Merlin Morrison, only yards away when the incident took place, identified Hill as the assassin.No evidence suggested Hill had ever met Morrison or had a grievance against him.The gun McHugh claimed to have saw at his surgery (the handle of the same only) was never recovered and the slug that allegedly passed through Hill's body whilst in the store was never found.

Hill had maintained that he had been shot whilst his hands were raised above his head and this seemed to fit with the evidence presented to the court, that the hole in his coat was four inches lower than the bullet hole in his back.As no money had been stolen during the incident, no motive could be established and no concern was given to the fact that 12 other men had been arrested before Hill in relation to the crime or to the report that that same evening another four men had suffered bullet wounds in Salt Lake City.

Hill's obstinacy and refusal to answer questions during the trial did not help his case.Feeling under no obligation to explain his injury in detail, other than maintaining it was the result of a feud over a woman, he insisted upon the principle that he was innocent until proven guilty.

Moreover, Hill fired his defence team, citing their incompetence in cross-examining witnesses and failing to object to leading questions from the District Attorney. Only days before the jury found Hill guilty did a leading labour lawyer, O N Hilton step in, but to little avail. The death sentence was passed.

During his 22 months in prison, Hill kept himself busy writing articles, poems and the songs that had already made him a popular figure.Outside, the campaign to free Hill involved workers the world over, attracted tens of thousands of letters, petitons and resolutions. And whilst the IWW were only too happy to fully back the campaign, Hill objected to his lawyer: "I cannot expect my friends to starve themselves in order to save my life."

The labour movement was not alone in backing the Hill campaign, for it went on to involve the Committee of Californian Women, Virginia Snow Stephen, the daughter of the president of the Mormons (who was later thrown out of the faculty of he University for her pains) and the Swedish minister to the US. The acting US Secretary of State urged a reprieve and twice President Wilson asked Governor William Spry of Utah to reconsider the case.

Spry was having none of it, the stay of executions and appeals to the parole board seemingly a gesture to popular protest. Spry was himself a leading Mormon and had vowed at the time his political clique ousted the right-wing anti-Mormon American Party in 1913 "to sweep out lawless elements, whether they be corrupt businessmen or IWW agitators." The same Spry who had broken a srike by Western Federation of Mineworkers and allowed the Utah Copper Company to import strikebreakers and to hire an army of gunmen to guard them.

Spry was all too aware that it was the IWW that had upset Utah's ruling elite by organising workers in the employ of the Utah Construction Company in which the Mormon community had hefty financial interests. In June of 1913, the Wobs had organised a strike among 1500 workers on the UTC's Denver Rio Grande railroad. The company hired scab labour but trainmen helped keep them at bay by demanding IWW membership. Eventually the company was forced to yield, prompting one official to retort: 'before the end of the year, every single IWW will be run out of the state.' With police cooperation, gunmen were deputised, IWW meetings violently broken up and their speakers arrested and jailed on charges of 'inciting to riot.'

Len De Caux, in The Living Spirit of the Wobblies (1978), summed up the mood of the times in Utah, describing how 'an employer-based clerical-rightist regime dominated politics, press and courts. It blamed the IWW both for stirring up workers against bosses and for its radical irreverence towards established convention.'

Hill's lawyer commented: 'the main thing the state had on Hill was that he was an IWW and therefore sure to be guilty. Hill tried to keep the IWW out of it [the trial]...but the press fastened it upon him.'

Hill was never a leader or an organiser as such for the IWW. He was largely uneducated and never drank or smoke and was not known to the police prior to his arrest. He was however an activist and the author of many a song that the community he lived in at the time of his arrest would have found nauseating. In his three years as an activist for the IWW he had taken part in the 1910 San Pedro dock workers' strike, the San Diego Free Speech campaign, the abortive 'revolution' in Tia Juana intended to make California into a commune and fought alongside the rebels in the Mexican Revolution of 1911. This was enough to ensure his guilt, regardless of the evidence presented at his trial.

The death sentence hanging over him, Hill remained cheerful and calm until the end, embarrassed by the campaign to save him. Just before his death he wrote a brief letter to leading IWW organiser Big Bill Haywood: "Goodbye, Bill, I die a true rebel. Don't waste any time mourning. Organise!"

As was customary in Utah, condemned prisoners were given a chance to choose their method of execution. Hill chose the firing squad. Legend has it that strapped into his chair, Hill even denied his executioners the chance of giving the order to fire, shouting the command himself.

30,000 people attended his funeral in Chicago, after which his ashes were placed into small envelopes and scattered to the winds in every state of the union and all over the world on May Day 1916.

Of his funeral, the Desert Evening News reported: "No creed or religion found a place at the service. There were no prayers and no hymns, but there was a mighty chorus of voices singing songs written by Hill.." A reporter on the same paper asked: "What kind of man is this, whose death is celebrated with songs of revolt and who has at his bier more mourners than any prince or potentate?"

The answer was simple. There was nothing 'great' about Hill. He was a man of simple tastes, a member of the working class with an ingrained hatred of the system that impoverished the lives of his fellows, but with a unique ability to condense the arguments against injustice into songs with memorable tunes. Moreover, he stood as a symbol of the lengths the master class would go to silence those bent on helping win the world for the workers.

For 85 years workers the world over have sang the songs of Hill, whether it be Casey Jones the Union Scab, The Preacher and the Slave or Dump the Bosses of your Back. As his anniversary approaches, we have every reason to believe the same will be echoed until the last nail has been belted into the coffin we bury capitalism in.


US Elections

Sent to the Shields Gazette, 13/10/04

Dear Sir,

What difference will the victory of one candidate over another in the presidential election really make to the ordinary American? The short answer must be very little. In practice the election is little more than a public relations exercise where American people are given their ‘sixty seconds of democracy’ to select an emissary of the owning class to safeguard and, if possible, to expand its class interests over the next four years. Since the function will be to represent the owning class, the victor and his government will have to pursue policies that ‘stimulate’ profit regardless of the hardships this may cause the wider population. At the same time they must appear to represent the interest and welfare of the wider population. This profit imperative is not because the election is being held in America but because the world’s dominant economic system is the profit system (capitalism) and any election to government in society as presently constituted involves choosing one of the political parties that embrace the ideology of capitalism.

In the quest to preserve the pretence that the average American has a real stake, control of public opinion is crucial. So the media functions to peddle distortions and untruths that blur this reality, to keep public opinion placid and render ordinary working people isolated and ineffective, so leaving the interests of the ruling class unchallenged and supreme. The US media add credence to the myth that the Presidential election carries real choice by eagerly analysing every minute perceived difference between the candidates, bombarding the electorate with patriotic rhetoric and fine sounding ‘promises’ while enthusiastically expounding the lie that the candidates share a common interest with ordinary working people. Their propaganda is heavily loaded with corporate and business ideology and praise for the virtues of the ‘free-market system,’ designed to perpetuate the fallacy that capitalism and democracy are inextricably linked, indeed synonymous. Whether the American electorate will choose George W. Bush or John Kerry is at this stage difficult to determine. What is incontestable is that the outcome will not be of benefit to the America’s (or the world’s) wage and salary earning class over the next four years.





Sent to the Shields Gazette, 5/10/04
Dear Sir,
Out with the branch stall recently, I was drawn into a debate with one punter who called me an enemy of civilisation becasue I believed in a society without prisons, police and armies. I wasn't offended, I was was flattered. He had unwittingly hit the nail right on the head. Socialists are indeed opponents of civilisation. We favour an uncivilised alternative to the detestable "law and order" of the present social system.

When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation he replied that it would be a good idea if they ever tried it. Civilisation as the vast majority refer to it is that period of history in which the tyranny of property has prevailed. To be civilised is to submit oneself to a structure of power based upon the ownership and control of property by a minority. Civilised morality is an ethic of reverence for those who possess. Civilised law and order prevail as long as propert is safe.

Civilisation is the killing and maiming of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the release of tens of thousands of bombs on Dresden and a single catastrophic bomb over Hiroshima. Civilisation is prison officers beating up inmates, police charging lines of pickets, batons raised. It is the sound of tractors ploughing millions of tons of vegetables and fruit into the ground because too much has been produced and the sound of the malnourished orphan crying beside his decomposing parents on some African wasteland. Civiliation is the stench of pollutants in the air and its corruptable taste in the food we eat.It echoes in every ill that plagues humanity.

Yes I am opposed to Western "ciilisation" and I'm for a world devoid of waste, want and war, where people commonly own and democratically controll the earth's natural and industrial resources and in which they will have free access to the benefits of civilisation. This, though, is not being civilised, but being utopian and indulging, I am told, in a futile battle against immutable reality.

The Socialist Party


Palestinian nationalism

Sent to the Shields Gazette, 15/9/04

Dear Sir,

As I write, Palestinian and Israeli workers continue to butcher one another in a senseless round of tit-for-tat atrocities.

Many on the political ‘left’ will argue that Palestinian nationalism is somehow progressive and different to Israeli nationalism and should therefore be supported. As a socialist, I say that this is a dangerous poison that is being spread by the left and that no side engaged in such conflict can either speak for the working class as a whole or be an example to it.
History is replete with minorities in existing states using terrorist methods so that a new state may be formed or territory transferred from the “ownership” of one state to another. The working class of wage and salary earners is never in a position to benefit from this process; it is only in a position to suffer. The working class – by definition the class that does not possess any significant titles to land or private property, including capital – has quite literally nothing to gain from a situation where one group of rulers and owners is replaced by another group.
In the 19th century, when the modern capitalist system was expanding across the globe, “national liberation” struggles, typically led by a local growing capitalist class against the old autocratic empires, were part of the process which swept away the old political arrangements and opened the way forward for liberal democracy and the development of capitalist methods of production. It was often argued that it was in the interests of the working class during this time to take the side of the capitalists against the old autocracies like the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, etc. It was said that this process would open the way up for working class organisation and for the development of an advanced industrial system which is a prerequisite for a socialist society of abundance and free access to available wealth.
Since then, the capitalist system has become a world system. The alleged justification for the working class taking sides in 'national liberation' struggles has now gone if ever it existed and today all such struggles are just deadly battles between sections of the capitalist class, even though it is the workers – imbued with nationalist poison – that naturally enough end up doing the fighting and dying.
The goal of the socialist movement is not to assist in the creation of even more states and more nationalities, but to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society, communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive – and people will no doubt feel an attachment to places that are real and tangible – but the 'imagined communities' that are nation states will be consigned to the history books where they belong.Yours,

John B
The Socialist Party


Film Review - The Corporation

Approx 145 minutes
Directed by Mark Achban, Jennifer Abbot, Joel Bakan

The Corporation begins with a little US political history, observing how, in the 19th Century, corporations as we know them were “benevolent” associations of people with government charters to serve the public good. When, in the late 1860s, the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution recognised the slave as having human rights, the nascent corporate elite of the times had their lawyers stake their claim to the same rights with the Supreme Court. They fought and won and the state henceforth recognised the corporation as a human being, a person in law, with the same right to life, liberty and property.

This leads us to one of the big questions of the film: if corporations are legally defined as people, then what kind of people are they? One way the film addresses this question is to call in the FBI’s Consultant on Psychopaths, Dr Robert Hare. Hare, proceeds to run through a check-list of the traits of your run-of-the-mill psychopath before concluding that the modern corporation, bearing no moral responsibility for its actions, is very much the prototypical psychopath.

Much of the remainder of the film is given over to proving this claim beyond all reasonable doubt and many authoritative witnesses are wheeled in to testify. And what a selection of witnesses there are! – Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, Anita Roddick, Vandana Shiva, Michael Moore; experts from every field and all manner of labour rights organisations and grass roots activists, economists such as Milton Friedman and many CEOs. Their statements amount to a damning examination of the nature and personality of the modern corporation, charting its growth, its extending influence and downright indifference to democracy and how, as one commentator observes it has turned into a “monster, trying to devour as much profit as possible at anyone’s expense.”

What we are presented with is an image of all powerful organisations running wild, rabid with greed, superpowers, for whom there is “no such thing as enough” (Moore), for whom “everything is legitimate in the pursuit of profit” (Roddick). Modern corporations are presented as the “new high priests”, more powerful than governments and accountable only to their stakeholders, their brand labels protected by more legislation than covers the rights of the children who sew them onto their overpriced merchandise.

The film pits competing ideas on the modern corporation against one another. We are at one stage shown the offices of the National Labour Committee and hear Executive Director Charles Kernaghan revealing the level of exploitation of workers in the Dominican Republic (who for instance earn 75 cents for each Nike jacket that sells for $178 and 3 cents for a tee shirt that retails at $14.) We are shown the living conditions of those same desperate workers and hear their own testimony as to the level of their destitution and then listen to Michael Walker of the corporate think tank The Fraser Institute expounding his views on the role competitive markets play in providing for the economic and social well-being and how he believes firms such as Nike are an “enormous godsend” to people in the Dominican Republic

The film contains much that is totally fascinating. One section looks at big business and its penchant for the dictatorial regime. We are shown how a punch card system devised and regularly maintained by IBM (operating out of New York) processed millions of concentration camp victims and how Coca Cola, faced with the possibility of having its operation curtailed in Nazi Germany, simply changed its name to Fanta. Much evidence is presented as to how corporate allegiance to profit transcends its loyalty to national flags and we are presented with one startling fact: that in one week 57 US companies were fined for trading with enemies of the US. Contemplating big business’s links to tyrannical regimes, one commentator asks “is it narcissism that compels them to seek their reflection in the regimented structure of fascist regimes?”

One of several cases studies the film presents is that relating to Monsanto (famous for Agent Orange and 50,000 birth defects in Vietnam) and its manufacture of Posilac. This was a drug which, when injected into cows, increased their milk yield. That the world was awash with milk did not concern Monsanto; they were far more interested in profits and eventually were supplying a quarter of US dairy herds with the product. But because cows were not meant to produce so much milk, their udders went into overdrive and became infected with mastitis, the puss from which infected the milk. Not only were humans suffering the effects of the chemicals injected into the milk, their milk was now infected with mastitis puss. Monsanto’s reaction was to deny all allegations and to lie like condemned murderers.

The modern corporation is perhaps most vilified for its total lack of respect for the environment and the point is stressed in the film that the biosphere is dying, that every living system is in decline. Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Inc, who has won much acclaim promoting the idea that environmental responsibility makes good business sense, is seen addressing an audience of business leaders in North Carolina. Greeting them as “fellow plunderers” he goes on to tell them that there is “not an industrial company in the world that is sustainable.”

Robert Weismann of Multinational Monitor reminds us that the cost of getting caught for their corporate transgressions – i.e. environmental pollution – is, more often than not, less than the cost of complying with existing environmental legislation. Dr Vandara Shiva, physicist and ecologist, despairingly contemplates the suicide gene built into new strains of cash crop seeds, the new terminator technology that makes the third world farmer dependent ever on the seed supplier (instead of traditionally putting aside a portion of the harvest as seeds for the following year), and calls them inventions of a “brutal mind”

For the multinational, nothing is sacred. Even the US Patent Office has conceded defeat in its attempts to halt corporations patenting life forms and bear out Roddick’s sentiments that every means is legitimate if the end be profit. Climbing down from one seven year battle with big business, they had this to say: “You can patent anything in the world which is alive except a full birth human being.”

The film nears an end with a case study of the privatisation of the water supply of Cochabamba, Bolivia, at the bequest of the World Bank, focusing particularly on the residents of Cochabamba and their run in with the forces of the state on behalf of Bechtel, a San Francisco based company who bought the water company. So adamant were the powers that be to force the people to bow to the power of Bechtel that they demolished their homes for non payment of their exorbitant water rates and made the collecting of rain water illegal. The frustration spilled onto the streets with huge demonstrations and riots and violent clashes with the police. Eventually, though, Bechtel were forced to pull out of their Bolivian venture, but not before they had put in a claim for $25 million in compensation.

It is from this case study and other cited instances of green activism that we are meant to draw inspiration; the message being that the corporation should not underestimate the power of the people, that “the workers, united, can never be defeated.” Of course, corporations are advised to tidy up their act too. Michael Moore tells us that there should be more governmental controls and the film ends with Moore hoping the film will prompt people “to do something, anything, to get the world back in our hands”. This clearly suggests that Moore, and others who promote similar ideas in the film are missing the point. Granted, it is commendable, tragic even, that workers are prepared to often risk life and limb to defend basic rights and to confront the most harrowing injustices perpetrated by corporations. But it is a dangerous to believe that such grassroots action amounts to wresting control of the world away from its current owners.

If anyone considers this film a trumpet call for social change, a reveille for revolution, they are mistaken. The capitalist system is left unscathed. Nowhere is the logic of the market-driven profit system challenged. Nowhere are all of the case studies and criticism of corporate power and abuse rooted in a wider context. Nowhere does a commentator lambast the global “can’t pay, can’t have society” that consigns the greater portion of the planet to lives of abject misery. And no interviewee comes near to demanding the abolition of the capitalists system and its replacement with a system of society based on free access. Capitalism is taken for granted as being immutable and all that is being asked at the end is that corporations wear a smiley face and stop behaving so horridly.

Moore may well contemplate why such films are broadcast by TV corporations, in spite of the fact that they attack corporate power – for the record, he suggests it is because there is profit to be made by them and he may partly right – but he fails to grasp that this, and similar films like Fahrenheit 911, nowhere query the basis of class society - the setup that allows the ownership of property by one privileged class, and the consequent enslavement of one class by another is in no way threatened and the TV company broadcasting programmes revealing corporate crimes is aware of this.

I’d really hate to rubbish this film but, in truth, The Corporation simply echoes the sentiments of the anti-globalisation movement – the demand for greater corporate responsibility, reform of international institutions, expansion of democracy and fairer trading conditions, for instance – while allowing capitalism to carry on perpetrating every social ill that plagues us.

The Corporation is undoubtedly a remarkable expose of the modern corporation at its ugliest, at the lengths multinationals will go to and the depths they will stoop to in the search for profit. The film stands as a brilliant critique of corporate power and everything we associate with it and is a much needed resource in revealing the insanity of the present system. And as far as enthusing green revolutionaries and lending weight to the anti-globalisation cause is concerned the film is a powerful tool. But that is all.


Review of Fahrenheit 911

Michael Moore’s latest documentary film - Fahrenheit 911 - grossed $80 million in its first week. Despite initial attempts to secure an outlet for the film’s distribution and screening and right-wing claims that the film is inaccurate and initial plans to ban its screening, it has been seen by sell-out cinema audiences and won all manner of applause from US ‘liberals’ and the left everywhere.

Moore has clearly made a first rate documentary here in showing George Bush up as the first class moron we always knew him to be and heading a corrupt administration drooling oil and dripping from every pore with workers’ blood, unashamedly prepared to go to any lengths in the name of profit, but that’s about all we can extract from the film.

Whilst Moore can rip into the Republican administration over its obsession with Iraq and its intense love affair with the Saudi elite, he neglects to mention that President Clinton had Iraq bombed almost on a daily basis for 8 years—the 1998 cruise missile attack aside—and helped enforce an embargo that left 500,000 dead. Neither does Moore point out that high level dealings with Saudi Arabia have been going on since the 1940s. Furthermore, whereas the film gives full exposure to the visit by the Taliban to Texas in 1997 to sign an oil deal, that fact that Clinton was in power at the time is also overlooked.

More importantly, nowhere does Moore locate his film in a wider social and political context—in the capitalist system itself, in a system racked with contradiction, an exploitative social system that consigns hundreds of millions to abject poverty. While he clearly makes the link between oil profits and the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, he nowhere suggests that war, all war, is the continuation of business by other means; that in capitalism wars are fought over trade routes, overseas markets, mineral wealth or areas of influence; that if you build empires you have to be prepared to kill people.

But Moore is no revolutionary, no class warrior! In the film he talks to a woman whose family have a long military tradition and who proudly unfurls the stars and stripes outside of her house each morning. Moore, ever the patriot, suggests she must be a proud woman and himself qualifies her pride in her soldiering offspring with the line “it’s a great country” – and well worth dying for, no doubt, Mike? Later on, and referring to the many US soldiers from impoverished towns—such as Flint, with 50% unemployment—who have been killed since the invasion of Iraq, Moore says: “They offer to give up their lives so we can be free”. In this, Moore shows he holds the same ideas of freedom that Bush and his ilk are every ready to ask workers to defend. In a land where there exists a ‘Patriot Act’ that restricts many hitherto taken-for-granted ‘freedoms’, where trade unionists have recently been forbidden to engage in strike activity, where speaking out against the status quo is seen as dangerously subversive, where the prison population borders on 2 million, boosted by a “three strikes and you’re out” ruling, the only real freedom exists in which capitalist the workers choose to exploit them.

And I feel I must point to a racist undertone I detect in the film – though we are knocked off guard and almost miss it with the film commencing by focusing on the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida and the joint session of Congress where Congressional Black Caucus members are all but humiliated in their attempts to get a single senator to sign a letter that could initiate debate on an election that was decided on under 600 votes.

I refer to the manner in which the film ridicules Bush’s “coalition of the willing” – those small countries who lent support in the hope they would be well rewarded. Britain aside, which gave its full support the invasion of Iraq, small nations such as the Republic of Palau, Costa Rica, Iceland, Romania, Netherlands and Morocco also offered to help out. The imagery that accompanies the mentioning of the latter smaller nations, the voice-over being intentionally slow and moronic sounding, is stereotypical and demeaning if anything: footage from the film Nosferatu accompanies the mentioning of Romania, Palau has native dancers festooned in flowers and a bare chested man driving a cow-drawn cart, there are Vikings for Iceland, cannabis-smoking for the Netherlands and Morocco is mentioned with footage of rampaging monkeys. The message is clear – there are countries with large armies which are a welcome addition to a coalition (ie Britain, which never actually gets a mention), but did the US have to settle for the pathetic?

Likewise, considering the US Invasion of Afghanistan just after 911, real analysis is sacrificed for a snear at the size of the invasion force itself—smaller than the manpower needed to police Manhattan, we are told—implying it should have been many times bigger.

And again, at a time when thousands of Moslems were being arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge—some being sent to Guantanamo Bay and denied legal representation—what obscene instance of Republican repression is dangled in front of us? Answer: the case of one white-skinnned Mr Reingold who slanged off Bush at his local Gymn and was visited by the FBI who never, incidentally, detained or charged him.

The great danger with Fahrenheit 911y, lies in its frontal attack on the present Republican administration, which leaves viewers assuming that a USA headed by a more liberal—perhaps Democrat—government would not be so militaristic and friendly with its corporate elite. In truth, any newly elected government, a one headed by Nader included, would serve primarily as the executive arm of corporate America, charged with pursuing the interests of the profit-hungry US ruling elite at home and aboard, ready always to call in the troops and bombers if US profits are threatened. The history of US foreign policy since 1945 is testament to this fact. Any US president who entertained any idea other than that he/she should be maximising profits would most definitely receive a sniper’s bullet.

Moore in fact leaves the capitalist system very much unscathed and free to go on killing. Bush may well lose the coming election, perhaps partly thanks to the production of this film, but capitalism will continue in the US as it does everywhere else on the planet, and the myriad injustices Moore himself catalogues in his book Stupid White Men will continue.

Moore is building up a lot of false hopes in targeting Bush and his administration as the villains of the peace. Whereas People know Bush is a war-mongering stooge of big business, something he goes to no great lengths to conceal, Kerry gives the illusion that he can work wonders if elected and Moore helps with the fantasy by saying, in a nutshell, the sooner we get rid of the village idiot the better. Whilst one can clearly understand why audiences, who have watched Fahrenheit 911, have chanted “Bush out, Bush out?” as the film ended, they are clearly mistaken in thinking the unseating of the Texan idiot will better their lot one iota. They will exist as wage slaves, every aspect of their lives subordinated to the dictates of capital, just as much under Kerry as under Bush.


The BNP and the The Political Earthquake That Wasn’t

Just what is it about the BNP that the vast majority of British workers find so nauseating? In the run up to the 2004 local and European elections, all manner of people, organised in their respective groupings, mobilised against them, from the Labour and Conservative Party activists and the myriad left-wing groups, to student bodies, church groups and unions like the CWU who informed members that their “conscience clause” gave postal workers the choice not to deliver BNP material if they found it objectionable. The anti-nazi organisation Searchlight even produced 28 versions of a newspaper targeting the BNP election campaign and distributed 1.5 million of them in areas where the BNP were most active.

Many were clearly panicked at the thought of widespread BNP victories and this clearly afforded the BNP media coverage which was out of all proportion to the size of their organisation. An eve of poll message from Nick Griffin, fuehrer of the BNP, on the BNP website of 9th June, stated that they “were on course for a political earthquake”, that the BNP would be “breaking through with three or four Euro MPs” Yorkshire, the BNP claimed, was to be their "jewel in the crown.” Two days earlier the same website had this to say: “Today in London a Monk came up to us. He said he had voted for the Conservatives all his life but this year he was voting for the BNP. He informed us that most of the Monks in his monastery were also voting BNP.” One wonders whether the fascists of the BNP had been taking tips in humour from their favourite comedian Bernard Manning.

And so it came to pass that the BNP managed to gain four new councillors in Bradford in four wards. This ‘jewel’ was out of a record 101 candidates they fielded across Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, the BNP made a breakthrough in the south of England, taking three seats in Epping Forest in the local elections and gained its first foothold in Bradford. And in Burnley, the BNP gained one seat but managed to lose the other seven in which its candidates were standing. In the North East, where the party stood a full slate of 25 candidates in Sunderland, they failed to make any promised gains.

Leader Nick Griffin, who in April had invited over the French Nazi Le Pen to plan how they could work as a team (or rather comedy duo) when Griffin became MEP for the north west of England, failed to take the seat he hankered after. No BNP candidate succeeded in getting elected to the European parliament and in the London mayoral elections the BNP ended up in sixth place and failed to secure the votes required to get representation on the London Assembly.

Regardless of how much these smiley-faced fascists claim to have changed their image, booting out the boneheaded troublemakers of yesteryear, they still represent the politics of hate - and their writings and statements still contradict the respectable shirt-and-tie image they try so hard to project. This was much evident from their election manifestoes, moreso that used for their London Assembly campaign and entitled London Needs the BNP.

The manifesto began with a subject the BNP are famous for – the strange obsession with the colour of human skin. It opened: “Within another generation, without political change, London will not even be recognisable as a European city”. Considering the diversity of cultures existing peacefully side by side in most European cities London, in a generation, would very much be like any normal European city. It asserted that the “remaining British people in London are faced with progressive marginalisation” because there are too many non-whites, neglecting to mention the way capitalism itself marginalises, atomises and alienates not just individuals but entire communities .

There then followed the usual rant against asylum seekers, “both legal and illegal” and Ken Livingstone and the Labour Party were said to be responsible for “this new influx that is about to engulf us.” Here again, no mention of the fact that within the EU alone, the UK was recently ranked 10th in number of asylum applications compared to the country's population or that the government has recently brought in measures that make it far more difficult for people from a variety of countries to claim asylum in the UK - together with a reduction of appeal rights for a host of countries. Neither does the BNP acknowledge that the Home Office itself has recognised that asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants have made an huge contribution to the economic and cultural life of the UK, bringing with them a wealth of skills and knowledge.

Law and order, another BNP favourite, was then tackled. Having informed us that recorded crime has risen by 1000% (how they love nice round figures) since the 1950s they go on to cite the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers as claiming that mass immigration had: “brought new levels of organised crime, drug dealing, gun crime, prostitution, fraud and kidnapping,” before advocating the reintroduction of the birch and the death penalty and a policy of zero tolerance. Again, no mention that one BNP London Assembly candidate was a reputable soccer thug, that the BNP National Development Officer, Tony Lecomber, has twice been imprisoned or that BNP leader Nick Griffin was given a suspended sentence for incitement to racial hatred. A visit to the Searchlight website will reveal that the BNP has a membership full of unsavoury characters. Moreover, in the year following the first BNP council victory in Milwall in 1993, racial assaults increased by 300%. It seems crime will only be tolerated when it is the BNP and their supporters who are carrying it out.

Next was the issue of “security” with the BNP promising to “make London safe from the threat of terrorism”, by deporting “Moslem fundamentalists”. Their TV election broadcast, which was edited, though downloadable later from the BNP website, was similarly Islamophobic, blatantly hinting at a hyped threat of Islamic terrorism. Significantly, the last terrorist bombs to go off in London which killed and injured members of the white working class were set off back in 1999 by one-time BNP activist David Copeland, who, when apprehended , said his aim had been to start a race war which would lead to a BNP government being elected. And the BNP National Organiser, has a conviction for setting off a home-made nail bomb and possessing hand-grenades and electronic detonators. Moreover, Griffin’s political mentor is the Italian nazi terrorist Roberto Fiore; the very same Griffin who once went to Libya to gain support from Colonel Gadaffi and who was all too ready to share a platform at a Cambridge seminar in July 2002 with Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, the despicable Muslim fundamentalist, currently awaiting extradition to the USA for alleged terrorist crimes.

And so the manifesto continues, each statement showing the BNP to be the intolerant, narrow-minded, racist bigots they have always successfully presented themselves as, before closing on a subject covered in the May issue of the Socialist Standard (The Beauty Trap), namely the forthcoming erection of the statue of Alison Lapper: “Just as Ken Livingstone dislikes anything English he equally disapproves of anything British, which is why we are now to have a sad limbless body on the vacant fourth plinth rather than a British statesman or woman. A BNP Mayor would have this dreadful thing removed.” In this regard the BNP are in keeping with their beliefs on the white master race. Indeed, their National Organiser considers people with learning difficulties to be "sub-human" and those with disabilities to be "genetically inferior". As true heroes of the white working class they claim to be the BNP have said they will introduce a GM programme to get rid of those they consider "inferior".

The 800,200 misinformed workers who fell for this sort of rubbish across Britain and gave the BNP their votes in the European and Local elections on June 10th are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that one main issue - a total halt on asylum – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than is the hole in the ozone layer. At the end of the day the BNP promised voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty and tens of thousands wanted it.

Of course, the BNP were fortunate to ride a wave of patriotism—a tool they can use to great effect when it suits—in the run up to the election, with voters going to the polls as the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being commemorated and rammed down our throats every night on TV, and the English football team were gearing up to compete in Euro 2004 and when manufacturers were reporting sales of 4 million St George flags. And neither is their raw branch of nationalism that unique in today’s climate where the UKIP and the Conservative Party can make huge gains in the European elections on a “say no to Europe” platform, proclaiming the merits of British sovereignty, and where the Labour Party is all to ready to send British troops off to far away lands to protect the interests of Britain’s ruling elite.

Furthermore, we can only wonder at the mainstream parties fears of a surge in support for the BNP. Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum (Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech springs to mind) and the former’s part in upsetting the Islamic world so much recently, their objections to the BNP do seem a little hypocritical. They may genuinely abhor the racists of the BNP but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system they champion and which gives rise to the politics of race.

If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating lies of fascists and the quick fix they offer?


BNP humour

Sent to the Shields Gazette, 25th May 2004
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at DR's letter (the BNP candidate for Whiteleas).

He states the BNP is the "true representative of the working class" .So much so that many of their members have criminal convictions for assaulting and racially harassing the same members of their class. So much so that their National Organiser considers people with learning difficulties to be "sub-human" and those with disabilities to be "genetically inferior". As true heroes of the working lcass the BNP have said they will introduce a GM programme to get rid of those they consider "inferior".

Their same National Organiser believes the rich are genetically superior and under BNP plans many working class people will be banned from having their own children.

The Socialist Party is contesting the Monkton Ward as the TRUE representatives of the workiong class. We advocate the common ownership and democratic control of the earth's natural and industrial resources. A world without borders or frontiers, social class or leaders. A world where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. For 100 years ( we were founded in June 1904) we have campaigned for socialism and are yet to compromise any of our principles.

I've watched the BNP for many years now and one thing I can say without fear of contradiction is that they no more have the best interests of the working class at heart than did Hitler.

I certainly do not advocate banning the BNP, as many on the "left" do. For one thing I believe in freedom of speech, regardless of how silly the claims the speaker/writer makes. For another, the ideas of the BNP are easily discredited and calling for a ban on the BNP simply shows how intellectually bankrupt we are when it comes to countering their ideas.

John B
The Socialist Party Candidate
Monkton Ward


Promises, Promises - Gordon Brown and World Poverty

No doubt aware that the myriad promises made at World Summits and UN conferences - called to address the pressing problem of global poverty - amount to zilch, Chancellor Gordon Brown conceded in mid February that the world is still 150 years off set targets for tackling world poverty.

Brown, addressing a conference of diplomats and aid organisations in London, warned that immediate action was needed to have any chance of hitting the millennium goals for halving poverty, cutting child deaths and improving education in the Third World by 2015.

Mr Brown said that steps towards key millennium development targets for 2015 were so slow that in some parts of the world they would take more than a century to attain at existing rates. He said: "On current forecasts, sub-Saharan Africa will achieve our target for reducing child mortality not by 2015 but by 2165. This is not good enough. The promise we made was for 2015, not 2165."

He continued: "If we let things slip, the millennium goals will become just another dream we once had, and we will indeed be sitting back on our sofas and switching on our TVs and, I am afraid, watching people die on our screens for the rest of our lives. We will be the generation that betrayed its own heart." And further observed that the first target of the millennium development goals - to ensure by 2005 that girls are given the same opportunities in education as boys - would be missed, while aims to establish universal primary education by 2015 would not be met until 2129 at present rates.

As someone chosen to defend the interests of the British capitalist class and to ensure the cogs of profit machine remain well lubricated, Brown was no about to advocate class war and the abolition of the profit system. Instead, he called on the international community to support British plans for a new international finance facility (IFF), to double aid from $50bn (£26bn) to $100bn a year, and urged developed nations to take action on international trade. $100 billion?.

Although Mr Brown’s speech was welcomed by campaigners, opposition MPs and aid groups warned that Britain must do more to increase aid spending and open world markets to developing countries.

Irish rock star Bono called on delegates, inclusive of the Live Aid founder Bob Geldof, to "dramatise" the cause of world poverty just as Geldof had alerted the world to the plight of Africa in the mind 1980s. "We need to get people on to the streets asking why we are breaking these promises," he said.To Chancellor Brown, Bono said, "At a moment like this we need some very big ideas. You and Tony need to be the Lennon and McCartney of progressive geopolitics. What we need here is not love. All we need here is cash."

John Bercow, the shadow International Development Secretary, commented : "While the developed world practises protectionism on a grotesque scale it is hardly surprising that the poorest countries in the world cannot compete. It is time for the OECD to slash distorting subsidies, cut trade barriers and offer the poorest people on the planet a decent deal."

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who hosted the event at the Treasury, contrasted the £2.3bn spent in England on pet food and pet care merchandise in 2002 and the $700bn spent by Americans on beverages with the money set aside for poverty reduction programmes. Fair point. Is Brown really asking that much? An astronomical amount? Perhaps not where governments are concerned. The US military budget for 2004 alone is $400.1 billion, or to put it another way, the US spends $1,093,169,398 on the military every single day, or if you like figures, $759,145 every minute. Indeed, the figure considered, shared out amongst the world, what Brown is really asking the global executive of capitalism for its loose change. In truth, all Brown wants to save millions of people is the figure the US would otherwise spend in three months killing them.

While it is something of an upturn to see politicians admitting that promises to help the world’s poor are utter bollocks, it comes as no surprise to note that they still fail to address the real root of the problem – the way the world is organised for production. Their answer is always to throw money at the problem, like some modern-day shaman trying to exercise a demon. Whilst they promote ideas of fair trade, allowing less wealthy countries access to overseas markets, they know full well that as servants of capital it would be more than their lives were worth to promote polices that effected British exports, profits and jobs, and just how do they plan to get such an idea past the US corporate elite , who would mobilise a rapid deployment force if a barrel of oil was threatened?

In truth their charitable solution - using capitalist remedies to address a problem inherent to the capitalist system - amounts to little more than placing a sticking plaster over a gun shot wound. The system they defend is decrepit, anarchic and outdated. In a world of abundance, with so much science, technology and an advanced means of communication at our disposal, what is needed is the total abolition of the money system, the freeing of production from the artificial constraints of profit, and the establishment of a system in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation.

UN goals for 2015 and the progress so far:

To halve the number living on $1 a day or starving. Verdict: A little progress.
To ensure all children finish primary schooling. Verdict: failing
To end disparity in education between boys and girls. Verdict: failing
To cut death rate in under 5s by two-thirds. Verdict: failing
To reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters. Verdict: failing
To halt the spread of Aids and other diseases. Verdict: failing
To halve the number with no access to clean drinking water. Verdict: failing
To develop global partnership fordevelopment. Verdict: failing


Socialist Party's Centenary - something to brag about?

This I used for the editorial of Socialist View issue number 20
2004 is the centenary year of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, our organisation having been founded 100 years ago, in June 1904. For a century we have campaigned tirelessly for the establishment of system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and distributing wealth. In those 100 years we have not compromised our position once on any issue.

So how have we faired? Just what have we achieved? What can we brag about? Well, socialism certainly seems no nearer than it was 100 years ago, though it must be said that the technology needed to establish a world of abundance is by far in advance of that familiar to our founders. Moreover, the working class nowadays are far better educated than the men and women the autodidacts of the SPGB 1904 tried to win over to the socialist cause, yet still we admittedly find it difficult to recruit new members.

Our membership remains small, scattered and, let’s be honest, relatively inactive, and whilst we have had some decent election results in recent years we are yet to win a seat in any local or national election. And it is not uncommon for members to despair at the poor results of their efforts and to resign.

Of course we have faced many obstacles to our growth which we could not foresee back in 1904; not least of which was the 1917 Bolshevik coup and the myriad groupings that sprung from the inspiration of the “Russian Revolution” and which, in truth, have caused untold damaged to the true socialist cause. For many years now, we in the Socialist Party have spent a great deal of time not only trying to rescue the socialist name from the many Leninist and Trotskyist groups who have sullied the image of socialism, but also in exposing the fallacy that socialism was ever established in the former Soviet Union and distancing ourselves from the illusion held by many that socialists advocate violent revolution and that socialism can exist in one country. Though we were in existence a long time before any left wing group in Britain, we find that we have constantly had to compete, for the minds of the workers, with groups like the SWP, RCP, CP, CWO, CPGB and a hundred others, all of whom pedal the politics of confusion, offering the workers fast-track routes to the Promised Land, prepared to recruit anyone capable of signing their membership forms, regardless. Little wonder we have had such a difficult time recruiting.

Moreover, we have watched in dismay the ongoing workers’ support for the Labour Party in Britain - workers’ belief in Labour’s claim to be “socialist”, workers’ belief in the empty promises of New Labour and that party’s continued determination to betray those same workers at every opportunity and lead them down the blind alley of reformism.

It’s fair, also, to mention the impact of the thousands of single-issue groups on the political scene and indeed the collective consciousness of the workers. Groups like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and CND, though well meaning, focus many a worker’s mind on a single issue or reform, as if this is the most pressing matter of the day. If their combined energy had have been spent on attacking capitalism as a system, instead of campaigning against problems the system throws up, distracting millions of workers, then our task would have been halved.

So in honesty a great amount of our work has been taken up in attempts to rectify the damage done by other political organisations to socialist ideas and in challenging the single-issue mentality of thousands of organisations. Make no mistake about it – we have tried.

Let’s not forget that back in 1904 there was no means of mass communication, bar newspapers. Advances in communication technology were undreamed of in 1904. Now many workers have several televisions in their homes, and access to hundreds of channels. They have computers and access to a world wide web of information and all manner of electronic gadgetry that helps lull them into political apathy. And controlling all of this is the big corporations and the advertising industry, turning those same means of communication largely into idiot boxes that numb the minds of the workers.

Since 1904 there have been vast improvements in health, housing and in the way people live generally and which gives workers the impression that capitalism works for them and that the politicians ‘running the show’ have their best interests at heart. Little do the workers realise that any reforms were really the price the master class had to pay for their continued survival, and were certainly not an act of altruism. And all improvements in living were in general relative. Moreover, it was the workers who produced this wealth the politicians have taken the credit for and which the workers have erringly thanked them for on election day.

Of course we have had our successes over the years. Our monthly journal, The Socialist Standard, has been printed without fail since September 1904, producing sound Marxist analysis of current and international events as they have happened. We now have companion parties and members right across the world and hundreds of thousands access our website. We have our own head office, owned by the party and we produce literature and leaflets on a wide variety of subjects. We hold day schools and summer schools and attend as many events as we can to put forward our arguments to the workers. We contest elections every year — with increased returns in some places — and we regularly have members appearing on TV and radio and in the press arguing our case. We have for 100 years held lectures and debated with scores of political organisations and notable personalities. Many of the latter now exists on audio cassette and cd and more recently we have begun producing a film documentary to highlight our case. In 2003 we were active at almost every political event in Britain—we were even Glastonbury—handing out leaflets, putting up speakers and erecting literature stalls; in short, doing our level best with our limited resources to propagate the case for a non violent, democratic transition to socialism.

So let’s be fair – the lack of socialist consciousness and desire for real change is hardly down to us. It is the lack of success of the class of wage and salary workers in general. It's up to them, not us, to establish socialism. But such have been the distractions – some listed above – that we really have had our work cut out for us.

We can also consider ourselves successful in having developed some quite original and distinctive arguments in response to advances within capitalism. We were, for example, perhaps the first political party in the world to contend that the Russian dictatorship, in the wake of the 1917 coup, was “state capitalist” rather than socialist — an argument since adopted by many others. On other occasions, The Socialist Party has developed new distinctive arguments in that we have effectively blended extant strands of political and economic thought into a entirely new mix. This is most notably the case with our views on the “reform or revolution” question, where two seemingly incompatible theories were entwined into a unique new political position.

There are indeed a number of distinctive arguments The Socialist Party has developed since our formation in 1904 and while socialism has not yet been achieved, we have helped make some serious contributions to the development of socialist political and economic theory – weapons for battles now being fought and yet to come. Here are some of our most noteworthy contributions.

The Socialist Party helped solve the “reform or revolution” predicament which had beset the early labour movement by rejecting reformism but not democratic political action to capture state power – two views that had formerly been associated with one another. An early forerunner of The Socialist Party, The Socialist League of William Morris, Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx, had been taken over by anarchists in the 1880s largely because it combined opposition to reformism with anti-parliamentarianism, specifically a tendency to view elections as a bourgeois diversion and parliament as merely the “talking shop” of the capitalist class. The founders of The Socialist Party learned from the mistakes of the Socialist League and other groups, and contended that opposition to elections and Parliament did not logically follow on from opposing reformism. We claimed that for a socialist revolution to be as peaceful as possible, the state machine and armed forces would have to be democratically captured from the control of the capitalist class and converted from being “an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation.”

The Socialist Party resolved that modern wars are fought over issues of concern to the owning class and not the workers; specifically being disputes over areas of influence, trade routes, sources of raw materials and sometimes overseas markets or the strategic points from which all of the same can be defended. When war broke out in 1914, The Socialist Party was the only political organisation in Britain to unequivocally oppose the conflict. Many of our members were imprisoned for refusing to join the army. Other parties professing to uphold the interests of the working class took sides, having identified anti-militarism, “national liberation” and other causes as goals worth pursuing before socialism.

Admittedly, in the 19th century, socialists like Marx and Engels supported so-called “progressive wars” against feudal reaction at a time when capitalism had not yet become the dominant world system. They thought that sweeping away feudal regimes like Tsarist Russia would help pave the way for socialist organisation and eventually revolution. Their position in the period of capitalist ascendancy over feudalism was taken by some supporters of war in 1914 as justification for their own action. The Socialist Party maintained that whatever Marx and Engels’ views in the 19th Century, there could be no question of socialists taking sides with any section of the capitalist class once capitalism had become the dominant world system and socialism the pressing alternative to it. When capitalism has advanced far enough to create the material conditions for socialism, the capitalist class becomes socially useless and all nation states reactionary, needing to be swept aside not bolstered.

The Socialist Party, unlike most of the “left wing”, opposed the establishment of the dictatorship in Russia under the guise of “workers control” or “socialism.” The Socialist Party argued that Russia, under Bolshevik rule, would be forced to take the capitalist road as the only one open to it. Socialism in one country (an economically backward one at that) and without majority support was impossible. The Bolshevik “Revolution” was in fact a political coup d’etat by a self-appointed elite of political conspirators with no respect for the wishes of the majority. For decades, The Socialist Party has maintained in distinction to Bolshevism that minority action can never lead to socialism.

Socialists have affirmed that Soviet Russia was capitalist and could only have been so given the nature of its political birth. It exhibited all the principal features of the capitalist mode of production in one form or another, notably wage labour, capital accumulation, commodity production, class division and the exploitation of one class by another.

In the 1920s and 30s, the Communist Party and Independent Labour Party (ILP) argued that capitalism was going to collapse, with socialism arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes. The Socialist Party contended that this was baloney and that capitalism would not pave the way for socialism without majority political action. This contention was repeated in the years after the Second World War to Trotskyists and left-communists who took up afresh the mantle of “capitalist collapse”. In particular, The Socialist Party denied the claim that capitalism would collapse because of an in-built lack of purchasing power, with the workers and capitalists combined unable to buy back the entire product of industry. This claim was based on a erroneous view of the relationship between productive labour and effective demand in capitalism – that somehow there is a permanent mismatch between the value of the mass of commodities produced at any one time and the income derived from this production in the form of surplus value (unpaid labour) and the value of workers’ labour power (unpaid labour). This “deficiency of purchasing power” claim—sometimes called “under-consumptionism” and wrongly credited to Marx—is a myth and has been disproved both in theory and by history. The Socialist Party has argued that enough purchasing power exists in capitalism—it is how it is used that causes difficulties, as its relationship to production is not planned. This is the phenomenon which gives rise to periodic (not permanent) crises and slumps and the trade cycle which has been a characteristic of capitalism since its infancy.

In response to the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, The Socialist Party resolved that bourgeois democracy, with elementary political rights, is the most favourable condition for the overthrow of capitalism. In addition, we maintained that workers living under dictatorships should struggle to establish basic political rights, though without ever giving support to capitalist organisations, including those professing bourgeois democracy as their aim. This is not only because of the general reformist and anti-socialist nature of such organisations, but because these organisations in government are compelled to use the might of the state machine against the working class in the interests of capital.

For similar reasons, The Socialist Party resolved that socialists cannot support allegedly “democratic” countries fighting wars against dictatorships. Socialists are aware that wars are never fought over such lofty ideals and that history has proved that “democratic” states will prop up and assist dictatorships if it is in their interests to do so. The Socialist Party position was vindicated after the second World War when the allies carved up Europe in such a way as to hand half of it to the Stalinist dictatorship while leaving Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal, among others, as neo-fascist regimes.

In the late 1940s, we argued that the setting up of the “welfare state” in Britain and other countries after the war would not solve the problems of the working class, which are integral to capitalism. To the extent that the welfare state represented a gain for some workers on the previous arrangements, we noted that it was always dependent on the maintenance of a low level of unemployment and destitution—a situation capitalism is incapable of sustaining for long. In recent decades unemployment, the rise of the so-called “underclass” and demographic change have undermined welfare provision as it came to be built up.

Over time the burdens on the welfare state have increased just as the capitalist class finds it increasingly difficult to finance it through taxation of profits. These increased burdens have led to a squeeze on the rate of profit after tax—the bottom line for the capitalists—which is the main factor determining the pace of future investment and growth, and also whether firms or entire nation states sink or swim in the competitive world economy.

In distinction to the main political parties, The Socialist Party was never taken in by claims of Keynesian economics, which promised low unemployment, steady growth and stable prices for the post-war period on the basis of government borrowing, “easy money” and redistributive taxation, especially when slump threatened. Unlike most of capitalism’s economists, socialists argued that Keynesian policies could not prevent unemployment and crises as the major determinants of these—production for profit, the anarchy of production and capitalism’s antagonistic system of income distribution, are integral features of the market economy.

Sure enough, everywhere Keynesianism was attempted it proved disastrous and eventually provoked the return to “laissez-faire” economics in the 1980s. Its lasting legacy—still with most of the capitalist world—has been persistently rising prices. This has been brought about by the mistaken belief—exposed by The Socialist Party from the standpoint of Marxian economics—that an excess issue of inconvertible paper currency would act as a stimulus to production and trade.

In Anti-Duhring, Friedrich Engels had written of production in socialism being guided “on the basis of one single vast plan”, but given the complexity of modern society, this is not possible. The Socialist Party realised that socialism could not be built on the basis of a centralised allocative plan which would be, by definition, antithetical to local decision-making, and which would be unresponsive to changing needs. Instead, The Socialist Party suggested that socialism would operate a system of production solely for use, operating in direct response to needs, these needs arising in local communities. The operational basis for this system would be calculation in kind (e.g. tones, kilos, litres etc.) instead of monetary calculation, combined with the responsive system of stock-control outlined in our pamphlet Socialism as Practical Alternative. Such a system would be able to allocate resources much more efficiently, responsively and democratically than a pre-determined allocative plan which had proved next to useless for state capitalist regimes, and is no model for a real socialist democracy.

If anything, the aforementioned contributions to political and economic theory should reveal that The Socialist Party is no unsuccessful, sterile organisation full of utopian dogmatists. Socialists are not content to sit on the sidelines of history – we are original thinkers and are open to innovation and new ideas – providing, that is, that they are sound. We are willing and able to cooperate with men and women the world over to bring about a better society, and we are proud of the small contribution we have already made to the movement that will one day sweep away capitalism once and for all.

We remain small in size for numerous reasons outside of our control, not least because we refuse to compromise our position and pursue reforms and single issues that the myriad reform groups like the SWP do to the detriment of revolutionary struggle.

Our message to those who can see no future so long as the market economy remains is join us – and help us make history. Let’s make sure that this coming century sees the end of the profit system.


World's Undernourished Reaches Record Levels

Its official! In spite of all the promises made by leaders of the advanced industrial nations at the three international conferences since 1974, called to discuss the issue of hunger across the world, there are now more malnourished people on earth than at any time in history! Moreover, some 36 million people are now estimated to die from hunger, directly or indirectly, every year.

According to a new United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003, across the planet 842 million are malnourished and the figure is growing by 5 million per year. This includes 10 million in the industrialized countries, 34 million in countries in transition and 798 million in developing countries. The report says the new figures “signal a setback in the war on hunger and make previous pledges to address the problem “increasingly remote”

According to SOFI2003, only 19 countries successfully reduced the number of undernourished during the 1990s. “In these successful countries, the total number of hungry people fell by over 80 million”. At the bottom of the table are some 26 countries, where the number of undernourished people increased by 60 million during that same period, including countries in transition, where those suffering from hunger climbed from 25 million in the mid-1990s to 34 million at beginning of this century

Twenty-two countries, inclusive of Bangladesh, Haiti and Mozambique, succeeded in addressing the problem of hunger. In these countries, the report states, “the number of undernourished declined during the second half of the decade after rising through the first five years” But in 17 other countries, “the trend shifted in the opposite direction and the number of undernourished people, which had been falling, began to rise. This group includes a number of countries with large populations, including India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Sudan”.

The report also cites a number of countries in Central and West Africa which saw their numbers of hungry rise due to war.

In a number of ‘successful’ countries, including China, progress slowed after impressive gains in reducing hunger had been made in the early 1990s. The report says that having reduced chronic under-nourishment to modest or low levels, “these countries can no longer be expected to propel progress for the developing world”.

Referring to the last World Food Summit’s goal of reducing the number of undernourished people by half, by 2015, Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department, said: “The goal can only be reached if the recent trend of increasing numbers is reversed. The annual reductions must be accelerated to 26 million per year, more than 12 times the pace of 2.1 million per year achieved during the 1990s”. He added: “The SOFI project has provided us with many insights about hunger. Through SOFI we are learning more everyday about what works to reduce hunger and what causes increased numbers of people to suffering from under-nourishment. We are now in a position to make very specific recommendations that countries can follow to alleviate hunger and malnutrition sustainably”. Those countries who have began reducing the number of their hungry share five characteristics, concludes de Haen—faster economic growth, rapid expansion in the agricultural sector, slower population growth, lower rates of HIV infection and far fewer natural emergencies.

Whilst de Haen observes that "investment in agriculture is a precondition for growth in incomes of the poor and the food supply,” in reality such investment has been dwindling and there is little to suggest any immediate change.

And those 19 countries who have reduced the number of their hungry can hardly brag. The plain truth is that they have been fortunate not to have experienced the levels of droughts and natural disasters that have increasingly troubled other parts of the ‘Third World’ this past decade.

The influence of domestic politics on population growth is negligible, when poverty is widespread. Population growth tends to be determined largely by levels of poverty – the tendency being that the more dire your plight, the more intense your poverty, the more children you invest in to look after you when you grow old and infirm. For many poor families a large number of children are an insurance policy for old age.

And neither can poor nations address their Aids epidemics in the way the rich world can with its new drug systems, with its patents and profit quests that put essential drugs out of the reach of so many. Aids has killed over 25 million in the ‘Third World’ and in this decade it is expected to kill as many still as the numbers who died in both world wars. The undeveloped world is hit harder as it devastates agricultural communities, leaving hungry orphans.

Those countries suffering the most malnutrition are those most reliant on agriculture and many countries find they have to use land, hitherto used for crops, for cash crops such as cocoa and coffee to pay off debts. There are even instances of countries with undernourished millions producing flowers and strawberries for western markets.

The report points out how “half the higher prices received for exports went not to farmers but traders," and that “there was no increase in production in response to the higher prices". Furthermore, it says that "prices are expected to rise more steeply for food products that developing countries import than for the commodities they export.”

Little wonder that it then forecasts how “the lion's share of benefits from trade liberalisation is expected to go to developed countries."

The report reiterates the well-known statistic that the West spends 30 times more on domestic farming subsidies than it does on aid. It cites the US spending $3.9bn (£2.3bn) a year subsidising its 25,000 cotton farmers - more than the entire GDP for Burkina Faso and how Europe is now the world's second- largest exporter of sugar, despite the fact that EU sugar costs twice as much to produce as does that of Third World growers.
The report is straightforward in concluding "the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will.” In truth, in a world where profits are to be had, there are more pressing concerns than the world’s starving.

Back in the early 1970s, Henry Kissinger boldly announced that within 10 years global hunger would be eradicated. There were then 400 million malnourished people on the planet and this figure was a 75 million increase over the previous decade. In 1996, a World Food Summit pledged to halve world hunger by 2015. Six years later, in June 2002, came the second World Food Summit, called to review the progress made since 1996. Here the FAO revealed there were still about 815 million hungry people in the world. One of the clearest conclusions of that Summit was that little progress had made since 1996 and that it would take until 2030 to get global hunger figures down to the levels they had been when Kissinger made his famous promise back in 1974.

So here we are, 30 years after Kissinger’s famous remark and despite vast improvements in technology and food production methods there are now more than twice as many malnourished. In reality the leaders of the large industrialised nations don’t give a shit. The USA comes instantly to mind.

At the 1974 World Food Conference, governments examining the global problem of food production and consumption, soberly proclaimed that "every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties". But, within a decade the US would twice tell the world what they really thought about the 1974 proclamation. In 1981 and 1983, the US voted against UN resolutions declaring access to nourishment a human right (1981: 135-1, with the US voting against and in 1983: 132-1, the US voting against). The very fact that this had to be put to a vote in the first place shows how much warped thinking abounds. Did the UN really think it necessary that a vote was needed on whether humans should have a right to food? How the hell can you consider addressing the problem of hunger if first you need a vote on whether access to food is a human right?

As any socialist will argue, not only does that right very much exist, but that we can already feed the present world population and more. Organisations like Food First (Institute for Food and Development Technology –www.foodfirst.org) are clear that the world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. “That's enough to make most people fat!” they assert. And this estimate does not take account of many other universally eaten foods—vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Indeed, if all foods are considered together, sufficient is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs. Put that on a platter in front of most people and ask term to eat it and the thought of it makes them nauseous.

“Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today,” declares Food First. They go on to point out how, in the past 35 years, increases in global food production have outstripped the world's record population growth by about 16 percent. Indeed, mountains of unsold grain on world markets have pushed prices strongly downward over the past three and a half decades. Grain prices rose briefly during the early 1990s, as bad weather coincided with policies geared toward reducing overproduction, but still remained well below the highs observed in the early sixties and mid-seventies.

Hold on! Isn’t it the case that most of the world's hungry are living in countries with food shortages - countries in Latin America, in Asia, and especially in Africa?

Hunger in the face of abundant food supplies is all the more shocking in the ‘Third World’. The FAO has previously reported that gains in food production since 1950 have kept to the fore of population increase in every region except Africa. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced in a report published in 1997 that 78% of all malnourished children under the age of five in the developing world live in countries with a food surplus.

The simple fact is that what underlies global hunger is the maxim of the present mode of production—capitalism: can’t pay can’t have. Whichever country you live in, if profits are threatened enough then governments can be found ordering the destruction of food to keep prices high and paying farmers to take land out of production.

A close look at some of the world's hunger-ravaged countries confirms that scarcity, war and poverty are not the cause of hunger – they might result in hunger, but they are the symptoms of capitalism. And in an age when the US can overnight mobilise an invasion force (and supplies) of 130,000 troops thousands of miles away, there is no logic in saying drought and natural disaster cause hunger, for if the political will was there then those ill-fated multitudes could be rescued, fed and housed in a day.

In years to come expect similar reports like this recent offering from the FAO to be just as grim, and for one reason — they believe the problem of hunger, in a world of abundance, a problem rooted in the way our society is organised for production can be solved by reforming that system, by coaxing the capitalist class into mending their ways. Thirty years of world conferences on hunger, a thousand promises by the defenders of capitalism have proved otherwise and always will until we end their system.