The world can now easily produce wealth sufficient to adequately house, feed, care for and educate the global population. Instead we see hunger, disease and homelessness around the world despite the concerns of governments, charities and popstars. Today’s Guardian newspaper reports on the broken promsies of the G8 to alleviate poverty in Africa. Closer to home, in a "developed" nation like the UK, we see rising child poverty and an increasing gulf between rich and poor. Rates of depression and anxiety are becoming epidemic. Capitalism is failing: it now acts as a barrier, preventing production being geared to human need. Rather than constantly tinkering with this system we should start looking beyond it to an alternative: a classless world community based on production for human need, not profit.
The mainstream candidates contesting this election (whether openly pro-capitalist or supposedly socialist) are asking you to believe that they can run this society a little bit better. I’d argue that history shows that the money system actually ends up running them. Their pre-election promises usually amount to nothing. So don’t vote for them - it only encourages the idea that capitalism can be made better. A vote for the Socialist Party in contrast, is a statement that you don’t want to live this way and that you think another world is possible.
What is apparent so far in this election is the extent to which all the parties try to manage the agenda for the election. They all want to encourage the debate to be round the handful of high-profile “flagship” issues where they feel they are on strong ground.
But its always phrased along the lines of “knocking on doors, we keep hearing that XXX is the real issue of the day”. Funnily enough, we don’t hear the Lib Dems, for example, say “recent canvassing returns indicate that voters actually don’t give a monkey’s f*** about our policies one way or the other”. The assumption is that voters are stupid and can only remember 3 or 4 things at a time, so why give them more than that to consider. Indeed, a cursory glance at the election leaflets of the mainstream candidates suggests they premise their case on the assumption that the average person on the street is an imbecile. What it all means is that the campaign may centre around a handful of issues only. That may appear to appeal to the Socialist Party. After all we are the ultimate single issue party - Abolish Capitalism. But while this is a single issue no-one is pretending that it is a simple case. Sure its not complicated, the case for putting human need ahead of profit, but soundbites don’t do our case justice.
Let's face it, if it wasn't for the politician's head on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which? It's tempting, in the absence of any real alternative, to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today.
Whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or BNP they all spout the same promises. But it always amounts to the same thing - they offer no alternative to the present way of running society.
Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live?
And do politicians (whether left-wing, nationalist or right-wing) actually have much real power anyway?
OK, they get to open supermarkets and factories, but it's capitalism and the market system which closes them down.
We have endless problems of poverty, poor services and all the issues politicians love to spend time telling you they can solve, if only given the chance.
Socialists don't believe any politician can solve these problems, as long as the flawed basis of our society remains intact. In fact, we believe only you and your fellow workers can solve these problems. In truth there is nothing the Socialist Party can do for the working class that it is not already capable of doing for itself.
We believe that it will take a revolution in how we organise our lives, a fundamental change. We want to see a society based on the fact that you know how to run your lives, know your needs and have the skills and capacity to organise with your fellows to satisfy them.
You know yourselves and your lives better than a handful of bosses ever can.With democratic control of production we can ensure that looking after our communities becomes a priority, rather than something we do in our spare time.
If you agree with this aim, then we ask you to get in touch with us, get involved and join in our campaign to bring about this change in society. Together, we have the capacity to run our world for ourselves. We need to build a movement to effect that change, by organising deliberately to take control of the political offices which rule our lives, and bring them into our collective democratic control.
As the Socialist Party candidate for Monkton Ward, I make no promises, offers no pat solutions, only to be the means by which you can remake society for the common good.
The crumbs or the bakery?
When the economy is expanding or even just ticking over the Ins have the advantage. They can claim that this is due to their wise statesmanship and prudent management. Such claims are false as the economy goes its own way - expanding or contracting as the prospect of profits rises or falls - irrespective of which gang of politicians is in office. But making such claims can backfire as, when the economy falters, the Outs can blame this on the incompetence and mismanagement on the Ins. But that's not true either since politicians don't control the way the economy works.
Socialists are only too well aware that most people put up with capitalism, and go along with its political game of Ins and Outs in the hope of getting a few crumbs out of it, because they see no practicable alternative. But there is an alternative! Politics should be more than individuals deciding which politicians to trust to deliver some crumbs that they think will benefit them individually. It should be about collective action to change society. About taking over the whole bakery.
Though, as a socialist, I'm not into juggling the local authority's accounts, I can think of a thousand things £20,000 could have been better spent on.
Needless to say the erection of this tombstone has been met with widespread derision, with residents on other estates - where similar tombstones have been erected - also kicking off, as indeed the Lukes Lane Community Group did within minutes of seeing workmen putting it up.
Replying to a letter from the CPAG on 20th January 2006, Tony Blair confidently wrote:” I can promise you that we share your ambition to make child poverty history in our country. It is why we have publicly said we want to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it completely by 2020. ”What is nauseating about this is that Blair is telling the CPAG, who in 1965 complained that there were officially half a million children in poverty, that by 2010 he will halve child poverty – ie. slash the number of impoverished children from 3.4 million to 1.7 million (in Jan 2006 child poverty stood at 3.4 million).
Today The Guardian reports that child poverty now stands at 3.8 million!! 42 years after Labour promised to end child poverty, the problem officially is almost seven times as worse!!
Of course, come May 3rd, Blair and co will continue to depend on working class historical amnesia to carry them through, confident their lies and betrayals and rampant hypocrisy will be concealed by surfeit of promises for the future and pathetic excuses for past failings.
Myth 1: Britain is swamped with refugees
We're not that popular. Britain is in 10th place in Europe per head of population for asylum applications. The vast majority of refugees end up in the Middle East and Africa.
Myth 2: We are being ripped off
Hardly. A typical asylum seeker gets £5.62 per day to live on. They lose this if they don't live where they are told to by the Government. That's £40.22 per week - roughly 30% below the poverty line.
Myth 3: Asylum seekers are lazy
Our fault. We don't let them work. Many are really skilled and want to work and we have a shortage of skilled workers. The Government has reversed legislation so that asylum seekers are now prevented from working. Home Office research has shown that asylum seekers would prefer to support themselves rather than be supported by the Government, yet the law prevents them from doing so.
Myth 4: They take our homes
As if. When they are given a house or flat, asylum seekers have often been given the ones that are empty; the properties landlords find difficult to let.
Myth 5: We pay more Council Tax because of asylum seekers
Not true. Asylum seekers are looked after by the Government, not local councils. In 1999-2000, migrants and refugees made a net contribution of approximately £2.5 billion to the UK economy, according to The Home Office - worth 1p on income tax.
Myth 6: All refugees are con artists
You decide. Even though the Home Office is being tough on refugees applying to stay in Britain, last year, 40% of applicants were given permission to stay.
Myth 7: One in four come to the UK?
No... That’s reality times 10. In the UK, on average, people think that 23% of the world's refugees and asylum seekers are living in the UK, according to research by MORI. The reality isactually less than 2%.
Myth 8: It is safe back home
Hard to believe. Most refugees come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia and Iran. All these places have seen serious human rights abuses.
Myth 9: Asylum seekers bring crime to our streets
Ask the police. There is no evidence that asylum seekers commit more crime than anyone else, says the Association of Chief Police Officers. They are more likely to bevictims of violent crime, even murder, because of who they are.
Myth 10: Britain is the Land of Milk and Honey
Not true. Asylum seekers are not allowed to claim mainstream welfare benefits. If they are destitute, the only option for some is to apply for support with theNational Asylum Support Service (NASS), the Government department responsible for supporting destitute asylum applicants.
Myth 11: It is safe back home?
No... It’s not. Most refugees come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Iran. All these places have seen serious human rights abuses and some, civil wars. There is a connection between the situation in the home countries of the people who come to the UK for refuge. The increase in positive decisions by the Home Office proves that the majority of the people are fleeing for their lives from harshand oppressive regimes and severe ethnic conflict.
Myth 12: They arrive with false documents?
Maybe...It is virtually impossible for people fleeing persecution to reach Britain without resorting to the use of false documents. Article 31 of the 1951 Convention on Refugees prohibits governments from penalising refugees who use false documents. There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. The 1951 Convention on Refugees means that by law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in the UK and remain until a final decision on their asylum application has been made.Myth 13: They’re really well off?No... You decide85% of asylum seekers experience hunger95% cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes80% are not able to maintain good health.(Source: Oxfam and the Refugee Council study of40 organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.)
Myth 14: Asylum seekers are draining millions from the NHS?
No... The cost is marginal. Asylum seekers are entitled to NHS services, like other residents and visitors to the UK. Don't forget the enormous contribution that asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants make to the economic and cultural life of the UK. Refugees bring with them a wealth of skills and experience.The Home Office has recognised this and has made a commitment to put the skills to good use. The NHS relies heavily on foreign labour. In London, according to the Greater London Authority for example, 23% of doctors and 47% of nurses working within the NHS were born outside the UK."The system is very stretched" says Vivienne Nathenson, Head of Science and Ethics Committee, British Medical Association "and we have a serious shortage of GPs. It adds to the strain but it didn't create it. And if they lived in better conditions they wouldn't need so much intervention from the NHS.The evidence is that asylum seekers become ill after they arrive in the UK. The BMA also estimates that there may be up to 3,000 refugee doctors - a potentially invaluable resource at this time of acute staff shortage."
Myth 15: Employers won’t hire refugees?
No... 90% of employers want to take on refugees. Nine out of 10 employers want to take on refugees to meet skills' shortages, but don't because of their ignorance of the law and the confusing Home Office paperwork, according to research done by Personnel Today.
Myth 16: They get houses and are given new furniture, washers, fridges and cookers?
No... It’s not theirs. Asylum seekers are given support and furnished accommodation until the outcome of their application is decided. The household equipment never becomes the property of the asylum seeker and is reused for the next family. As with most furnished tenancy schemes equipment is new for the first person only. A similar furnished tenancy scheme in public sector tenancies operates for residents in a number of areas in North East England.
Myth 17: Greater London is tops
Around a third of asylum seekers (31%) supported by the Government live in Greater London. The North East is in sixth place in the UK (with 6%), after Yorkshire and Humberside (13%), West Midlands (13%), North West (11%) and Scotland (7%).
Myth 18: They are all issued with mobile phones, leather jackets, TVs, satellite TV and given money for cars?
No... They choose what to buy. Asylum seekers receive up to 70% of income support and like all of us have choices about how to spend that money. A mobile phone can be the only link to family in other countries. One woman living in the North East said she wanted to buy a phone card so that she could talk to her mother in Zimbabwe once a week.
Myth 19: Asylum seekers are uneducated?
No... Most are well educated. A high proportion of asylum seekers have substantial educational and work related qualifications and were successful individuals in their home country. A Home Office survey found that 90% of refugees speak at least one other language and 65% speak at least two, in addition to their first language.
Myth 20: Asylum kids mess up our schools?
No... Says teachers leader: "All the evidence we have is that in some of the toughest schools it is the asylum seekers' children who provide stability, because they are most dedicated to getting the best out of the system.” (John Banks, Head of Education, National Union of Teachers)
Myth 21: North East England has been flooded with asylum seekers?
No... Not true. North East England has a population of about 2.5 million. There are less than 5,000 asylum seekers. That's less than a quarter of 1% of the total population of the region.
The top ten nationalities of asylum seekers living in the North East.
1. Iran - 424 2. Angola - 257 3. Turkey - 250 4. Eritrea - 222. 5. Sri Lanka - 192 6. Zimbabwe - 189 7. Congo Democratic Republic - 185 8. Pakistan - 176 9. Iraq - 165 10. Afghanistan - 116
(Source: North of England Refugee Service and NECARS, December 2005)
What is a refugee?
A refugee is anyone fleeing their country of birth. Refugees are described as 'asylum seekers' while they are waiting for official recognition as defined by the United Nations.
In the UK it is The Home Office that decides if they can stay or not. There is an appeal procedure. The Home Office may not grant refugee status to some asylum seekers.
Or, it may grant the right to stay in this country for a limited time. At the end of this time the Home Office will look at their case again. If the Home Office believes it is then safe for them to return to their country, they have to go home. If it is still not safe, the Home Office may allow them to stay for longer.
Around 3,500 asylum seekers from 79 different countries in North East England.
There were 3,508 asylum seekers in North East England at the end of December 2005.
Around a third lived in Newcastle and a third in Tees Valley.
The North East Top Ten areas for asylum seekers
1. Newcastle - 1081
2. Middlesbrough - 668
3. Gateshead - 3924. Sunderland - 345
5. Redcar and Cleveland - 327
6. Stockton - 277
7. North Tyneside - 251
8. South Tyneside - 138
9. Darlington - 25
10. Hartlepool - 16
Seems the North East hardly has an 'immigration problem' at all!!
THAT'S WHAT THEY ALL SAY!
They don't all mean it, though. And they don't all know what they're talking about
HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT?
We're not promising you anything.
SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING THEN?
Asking you to think. Then vote for yourself. For a change.
What Are The Mainstream Parties Offering?
The usual platitudes of course. Some unexciting and probably insincere promises which won't make much difference to the quality of our lives. Consider what's on offer from the usual suspects - New Labour, Tories, Lib-Dems - all totally committed to maintaining and defending the profit system, and serving the interests of the minority Capitalist Class. Labour, whether New or Old, has never aimed at anything more than managing capitalism. Maybe more crumbs for the workers - but only if the profit system allows it.
Same again! Like the others, they want to keep the working class divided because they know that way we are more easily ruled over. They want us to blame our fellow workers for the problems which capitalism causes. They try to turn us against ourselves - blaming immigrants, or Muslims, or non-whites instead of understanding that it's the profit system itself which is the problem.
The BNP like to pose as a radical alternative to the mainstream parties of Labour, Conservative and the Lib-Dems. The fact that these parties seem united in regarding the BNP as 'beyond the pale' serves to bolster the BNP's image. But what neither they nor the mainstream can ever acknowledge are some fundamental things which they share in common. Chief among these is that in supporting one variety of capitalism or another, all these parties are fundamentally anti-working class.
The mainstream parties have long used the tactic of 'divide and rule' to keep us - the majority - in our place. Instead of realising what we have in common as a class, we are taught to regard our fellow workers as being the enemy, or the cause of our problems. The BNP's version of this, of course, is its rabid nationalism. But when the BNP talk of putting 'Britain' first, it simply means putting the interests of the ruling class first! You can't just wish away the reality of class division, and the interests of Blair, Cameron, Branson etc. are most certainly NOT the same as the interests of the working class in Britain. We have far more in common with our fellow workers elsewhere than we have with those who rule over us, and swapping Labour or Tory for BNP won't alter that.
The BNP hits out at symptoms but fails to understand causes. Take immigration for instance. Immigrants are, quite simply, our fellow workers. They are NOT the cause of unemployment, they are NOT the cause of overcrowding, they are NOT the cause of crime. These things are caused by the system of production for profit; in fact, capitalism itself. It is the profit system which forces employers to drive wages down by importing cheaper labour, but the BNP have no wish to tackle this system - in effect, they think it's ok for the ruling class to exploit the rest of us.They also think we need leaders to do things for us - only with them being in charge instead of the present rulers.
Think Local or Think Global?
This may be a local election, but it's impossible to separate the everyday local issues from the wider social system we live under. Councillors aren't necessarily lying when they say there's not enough funds for the things people want funding for - they point to National Government and say they don't get enough from them. But the job of National Government is to run the profit system - that's the number one priority and people will always come second to that in capitalism.
If we want to improve things we are going to have to act for ourselves. We're going to have to organise democratically to bring about a society geared to meeting human needs, not profits. But production for use (not profit) is only possible on the basis of genuine common ownership and democratic co-operation - what we call socialism.
This kind of society may seem like a million miles away, but remember we already have the resources and technology to make it possible! After all, this is a world of plenty. What prevents us from enjoying it is class division. Under capitalism, only a tiny minority of the world have ownership and control over the economy. The vast majority of us have nothing except our ability to work which we are then obliged to sell to the minority. WE are the ones who create all wealth in society - but then we hand it over to the minority, the capitalist class!
One World. One People
We have a world to win. The Socialist Party cannot bring this about on your behalf, and we're not promising to. As workers ourselves all we promise is to play our part in bringing about a sane and rational democratic society where we collectively make the decisions that affect us without needing to worry about how to pay. A society where meeting our needs is the only priority!.
The Socialist Party
What happens in Monkton ward depends mainly on what happens in the country and even in the world. That is why socialists are working for a different world. But it can't happen unless you join us. The job of making a better world must be the work of all of us.
Since 1904 The Socialist Party has completely opposed the idea of leadership; has rejected all forms of nationalism and advocated a world without borders; and has opposed both the phoney 'socialism' of the Labour Party and the state-capitalist dictatorship of the Soviet Union.
The world we want is one where we all work together. Co-operation is in our interests and this is how a socialist community would be organised - through democracy and through working with each other.
To co-operate we need democratic control not only in our own area, but by people everywhere. This means that all places of industry and manufacture, all the land, transport, shops etc. should be owned in common by the whole community. That way we could all enjoy free access to what we need without the barriers of buying and selling.
FOR A WORLD OF GENUINE COMMON OWNERSHIP AND FREE ACCESS!
An End To Pessimism
We, in the Socialist Party, reject the view that things will always stay the same. We CAN change the world. Nothing could stop a majority of socialists building a new society run for the benefit of everyone. We all have the ability to work together in each other's interests.
In the last few days I’ve heard residents tell each other to bring their washing off the clothes line at night, to make sure their garden sheds are locked, and to “watch out”; and then there are the regular comments about the “mess” they leave behind. The fact that items get stolen from clothes lines, that sheds are burgled, and that masses of rubbish is dumped in the local dene on a regular basis on Lukes Lane Esate, and indeed by people who live here, lets be honest, never seems to occurs to residents. See the postcard from Lukes Lane further below – this is not the work of Gypsies.
The local Independent councillor in the coming elections was quick to leaflet the estate with a hastily prepared statement, criticising the local council over its incompetent handling of the matter, suggesting the area could be sealed off with huge boulders. (for more on what residents think of boulders erected by the local council click, a piece which features moi ( click here )
Whether or not the qualms of residents are well founded, the near impossibility of finding ‘legal’ stopping places means that Gypsies and Travellers have often been forced into confrontational situations with local authorities and with members of the settled community in the areas where they are encamped.
It is reckoned that in England there are between 4,000 and 5,000 vans and from 16,000 to 20,000 Travellers and Gypsies either in transit or without a legal place to stay (Environmental Health Journal, April 2005, online). The shortage of sites means that Travellers are forced to move on, to the detriment of their health and their children’s education. It also means that many more than were intended are stopping on legal sites.
The Environmental Health Journal, September 2005, says: "The travelling community will not disappear. Continually moving them from one local authority's area to another is financially wasteful and damaging to health - a bill which all in society have to pay. Risks to health increase as the standards of amenities on sites worsen and are at their greatest on disorganised, crowded and unplanned sites.”
And, that “Financial audits suggest the eviction of travellers can cost local authorities up to £400,000 per annum, much of which is spent on legal fees. A recent ODPM report estimates £123.5m is needed to maintain existing authorised sites over the next 30 years, equivalent to £13,363 per site per year.”
The 1960 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act had “forced families to move off agricultural land onto lay-bys and car parks.” A government survey revealed the extent of traveller poverty: more than two thirds were living on sites without access to running water or rubbish disposal (Helen O’Nions, The Marginalisation of Gypsies, 1995).
The 1968 Caravan Sites Act had the prime purpose of remedying this situation. Local Authorities were mandated to provide “adequate accommodation for Gypsies residing in or resorting to their area”. However, the sites that were provided by councils were not necessarily to the liking of Gypsies in that they made insufficient allowance for their lifestyle. For example the collecting of scrap metal and keeping of animals could be forbidden, and there would not be room for the gathering together of extended family groups. Councils had additional powers to remove Gypsies not on designated sites. The Act did not work as intended, not least because councils found ways around the duty to provide sites. By the time the Conservative government removed the statutory obligations in 1994 one third of Travellers had no legal place to stay. During the Thatcher era thousands of traditional stopping places disappeared.
In what was perceived as an attempt to make Gypsies abandon the nomadic way of life, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ended the duty for local authorities to provide sites and removed government funding for them. It also became a criminal offence for caravans to stop on the highway, unoccupied land, common land or land without consent. Gypsies were encouraged to buy land and develop their own sites, but because of the restrictive criteria set by councils some 80 per cent of these applications are turned down. This is why some have resorted to buying and moving on to land before seeking planning permission. The position whereby green-belt land could be considered for Gypsy sites (“a recognition of the difficulty of finding suitable sites in suburbia”) was ended on the grounds that “Gypsies enjoy a privileged position in the planning system”. Ironically councils were given encouragement to allow building and development on green-belt sites.
The Labour government resumed the funding of sites and has increased the amount it intends to spend on them. However it has not put the responsibilities of councils back to the pre-1994 position. The Housing Act 2004 placed a duty on local authorities to include Gypsies and Travellers in their local housing assessments and “demonstrate how these needs will be met”, with the Secretary of State having powers to direct a local authority to produce a plan.
Many councils do not need encouragement; the Environmental Health Journal cites the example of Norfolk, whose Traveller Liaison Group has already produced a Traveller protocol and has five authorised sites and is planning a transit site.
In some instances local people protesting about illegal traveller sites are also sympathetic to the plight of Gypsies and Travellers; for example, the Cottenham Residents’ Association and the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition forwarded a joint statement to the Government pointing out that the provision of adequate sites by all local authorities would address the acute shortage of sites and also bring an end to illegal and unauthorised encampments.
Whilst emphasis is put on the problems caused by illegal sites and the excess numbers who are stopping on authorised sites, the widespread perception is of Gypsies and Travellers as people who live outside of the constraints which the settled community are bound by, who do not contribute in work or taxes but commit crime, spoil the environment with their rubbish and generally cause trouble by their very presence in an area.
Gypsies and Travellers are much like other people; most of them do work, though not necessarily in full-time wage labour, and they do pay taxes. A study for the Rowntree Foundation among New Age travellers found that nearly half of those surveyed were in work and many more had worked at some time during the year. Most of the accusations regarding criminal behaviour are unsubstantiated but as in the rest of society some commit crimes. Ironically many thousands of Gorjios (non-Gypsies) choose to take caravan and camping holidays, and cook meals in their gardens; some dump their old sofas and other rubbish in country lanes, just as local residents do their sofas in the nearby dean - indeed, as I write it with this morning having spotted a double bed mattress lying in the stream, just down from Blackpool Parade.
Gypsies have preserved their identity through many centuries of prejudice and discrimination. They may choose to call themselves Travellers but not all Travellers are Gypsies and not all Gypsies are of a single group. Changes in their lifestyle have inevitably been made. The most obvious being the departure of horse-drawn caravans which had earlier replaced bender tents. I’ve shown some of the things which have made the itinerant life more difficult over recent years including legal restrictions, the disappearance of traditional stopping sites (some after hundreds of years in use), constantly being moved on. Other factors are the reduction in casual farm work, and restrictions imposed on scrap metal dealing.
As a Socialist I’m not into interfering in the affairs of Gypsies. That would be to target a group of fellow workers for problems caused by capitalism. Could the reasonable enough demands of the Travellers be met within capitalism? Possibly. It may be that local authorities will be persuaded to fulfil their obligations but, since they are faced with competing demands on their finances, probably at the expense of other local services. But what we will never end under capitalism is the competition between workers for jobs, housing and amenities arising out of the artificial scarcity that is built-in to it and which gives rise to and sustains divisive prejudices amongst those who are not socialists.
It was precisely because there are so many problems which cannot be solved within the capitalist system that I became a Socialist.
As an aside, I’d much rather local residents turned their attention from the “illegal occupation” of local fields to the illegal occupation of Iraq by western forces, at the bequest of their respective capitalist class. There’s class consciousness for yer!!
Many of you will know little about The Socialist Party or our idea, unless you are a regular reader of the letters pages of the local press (particularly the Shields Gazette). Certainly many people have heard the word “socialist” and may mistakingly imagine it has something to do with the nationalised industries or with countries like China and the former Soviet Union. It is understandable that many people regard socialism as just another political cliché, once used by Labour politicians to win votes, but having very little meaning.
The Socialist Party stands solely for socialism because we do not think that the present social system – capitalism – can ever be made to work in the interests of the majority of the people. This is not the fault of government policies, but the present social system in which they are operating. Capitalism always puts the needs of a minority who own and control the factories, farms, offices, mines, media, the means of wealth production and distribution before the needs of ourselves, the working class.
It is a hard but undeniable fact that no political party – including The Socialist Party – can legislate to humanise capitalism or make it run in the interest of the working class. That is why it is important that the working class stops giving its support to politicians who support the profit system. None of them can solve unemployment or crime or any of the other social problems we face today, despite their proclaimed recipes for success. None of them will prevent tens of millions starving to death each year. None of them will provide decent housing for everyone. None of them will end the threat of human annihilation as a result of war, because militarism is inevitable within a system based upon the ferocious competition for resources, markets and trade. Why waste your time voting for parties that cannot make any of these urgently needed changes? Why go on in the hope that some miracle will happen and end the insanity of the profit system?
So what’s the alternative? We say that the resources of society must be taken into the hands of the whole community – and by that we do not mean the state, but all of us, organised together, consciously and democratically.
In a socialist society we will produce for use, not profit. This means producing food to feed the world’s population, not to dump in the sea if it cannot be sold profitably. Producing for use means ending the colossal waste of resources on armies, armaments, trade, banking and insurance and all the other social features which are only necessary within capitalism. By running society on the basis of common ownership, democratic control and production for use we can all have free access to all goods and services.
Two points should be clear to you by now. Firstly, this is no ordinary political argument. We have made you no false promises; we have not patronised you and neither do we beg for your support. Indeed we do not ask for your support unless you are convinced that the case for socialism is a rational one and in your interest. Socialism, if it is to be the democratic and sane society that we envisage it will be, can only be established when a majority of the people understand it and want it, so there is no point in seeking support on any other basis.
Secondly, you will have noticed that what we are advocating is different – it has never existed. The Tory have-beens have nothing new to offer. The local Labour Party, if re-elected, will continue its futile exercise of trying to manage Blair's system based upon exploitation in the interest of the exploited. The Liberals, if given half the chance, will pursue the vicious policy of dancing to the tune of profitability while human needs are ignored, with just as much gusto as Blair’s henchmen or Cameron's confusionists.This short pre-election statement can be summarised: Do you agree with the following statements.
· Capitalism puts profits for the few before the needs of the many.
· Labour governments, “Communist” states and proposals to reform the present system cannot establish socialism.
· Socialism is yet to exist.
· Socialism means a society of common ownership and democratic control, where production is solely for use.
· Socialism means a world without buying or selling, where people give freely of their abilities and take according to their needs.
· When a majority - including those who abstained in 1997 – understand and want socialism, the new system will be established.
If you think the above statements are correct then we thank you – if you are on the electoral roll for the Monkton Ward - to take the time to vote for us. If you disagree, please tell us why.
It’s tempting, in the absence of any real alternative, to get drawn into the phoney war that passes for political debate today. Whether Labour, Tory or Lib Dem, they all spout the same promises. But it all amounts to the same thing – more of the same and no alternative to the present way of running society.
One thing is certain, and perhaps you’ll already be of this opinion. Whichever candidate or party the electorate decides to vote for brings about no significant changes to the way things are. And in between elections we have little or no say in the major decisions - the real issues - that concern us.
Politicians are fond of telling us that we must take responsibility for our own lives and that we must see to it that our world is a fit place for our children to grow up in. I’ll not disagree with that, but what I will ask is how can we seriously do anything about it when the real decisions are not in our hands? Because of the way things are organised at present, none of us are allowed to take part in the really important decisions that affect us – the ones about our schools, about health and housing, peace and pollution and the distribution of wealth. We are no more consulted on the closure of schools or the selling of council properties to private landlords than we were consulted on the decision to invade Iraq.
What the Socialist Party suggests as the alternative to this insane set up is a truly democratic society in which every person has a free and democratic say in the decisions that affect them – a society without leaders and the led.
In such a society, people would co-operate to run all of the world’s natural and industrial resources in their own interests, freeing production from the artificial constraints of profit and establishing a system of society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation.
Today we have the technology, the resources and the know-how to satisfy everyone’s needs. That fact is well established. However, we cannot utilise society’s assets sensibly because of the profit-driven requirements of the market-system.
In a society in which the fundamental need of production is profit, our needs come a poor second. The profit system exerts such an influence in society that it impinges upon every aspect of our lives, and you’d be hard pressed to think of some service or product that is not balanced against cost – something to muse on whilst waiting for the bus, the police or visiting the local shops.
You may consider that the society I have outlined sounds nice, but that socialists are demanding the impossible. All we are asking is that you, the electorate, think for yourselves, value yourself and your fellows higher; expect more for your children and grandchildren. Is it not the case that our world would be a better place to live in if we each had a real democratic say in the decision-making process and real control over the means and instruments for producing and distributing the things we need to live in comfort? Is it not high time that we took back control of our destiny from the profit mongers and their lackeys in power?
Unlike every other politician in this election, I’ll make you no promises, not least because I believe there is little politicians can do for us that we are not already capable of doing for ourselves, once we decide to really cooperate and decide just what is in our real interests.
Voting for socialism on May 3rd is not going to bring about immediate change. Indeed, none of the candidates can bring about real changes to our lives, because they do not control the system – it controls them.
However, voting for socialism is a step in the right direction and at last puts the ‘real issue’ on the political agenda.
At the end of the day it is up to you, the elector, as a member of the wage and salaried class. It is up to you to decide whether you favour the present system or the rationally organised system I call socialism.
If you agree with me, if you think we are each capable of cooperating to run a society of free access in our own interests – but only if you agree – then vote for socialism and yourself on May 3rd.
It is a political party separate from all others. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a global system of society in which there will be common ownership and democratic control of the world’s natural and industrial resources. We advocate a world social system in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation and an equal say in how their society is run; a world in which production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all.
What is Socialism?
To elaborate slightly on the above – Socialism is yet to exist. When it is established it must be on a global basis, as a real alternative to the present system. In a socialist society there will be common ownership of the earth by its inhabitants and no minority will dictate to us that production must give priority to profit. There will be no owners. The people of the world will share the world. Production will be for use, not sale. The only questions we will need to ask about production are what do people need and can these needs be met. Science and technology will at last be used to their fullest potential and in the service of humanity. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their needs. There will be no buying or selling, as money will have been abolished and will not be necessary in a world of free access. Socialism will mean a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders, states or governments, force or coercion.
How does this differ from Capitalism?
Capitalism is the social system that now exists in all the countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution are monopolised by a small, wealthy elite. All wealth is produced by us, the working class who sell our physical and mental abilities for a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold profitably. Not only do capitalists live off the profits they obtain by exploiting us, they reinvest their profits with a view to accumulating more wealth. Because of the logic of their system, if goods cannot be sold at a profit, they are either destroyed or not produced at all. Because of capitalist competition, wars break our fairly regularly, being fought over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets and mineral resources – all sources of profit for capitalists.
Capitalism, with its endless drive to make profits, throws up an endless stream of problems. Many workers feel insecure about their future and work related stress is on the increase. Crime, homelessness, poverty – these are all ongoing problems. A society based on production for use will end these problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. Abolishing the money system will mean food will not have to be destroyed it can’t be sold. Wars will no longer be fought if there are no more borders or frontiers and the source of their cause has been removed. At present it is not ‘economically viable’ to solve many of the problems that plague us – it eats into profits. Socialism will mean nothing but the best for every human being.
Surely it is easier just to reform the present system?
No. As long as capitalism exists, profits will always take priority over our real needs. Some workers welcome reforms; some reforms have improved working class conditions, but no reform can abolish that basic contradiction between profits and need. No matter how well meaning the politicians, nor how colourful their promises, they are bound to fail because they do not control the system – it controls them. The governments of the world may well introduce 1000 reforms, but we would still continue to live in a world ravaged by starvation, war, homelessness, unemployment, poverty and every other social ill. We would still live in a two class society, with our real needs subordinated to the wishes of a minority. Why campaign for crumbs when the whole bakery is there to be taken?
Is Nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?
No. Although the old Labour Party used to think so, and many leftists still do, there is nothing progressive in nationalisation. It simply means the workers are exploited by the state in the interests of capitalists. There were once many nationalised industries in Britain. This did not stop the government closing them down and making hundreds of thousands of workers redundant when they ceased being profitable – and these nationalised industries supposedly ‘belonged’ to us.
What about kibbutzim?
Is this not akin to Socialism? Socialism can only exist, as capitalism does, on a global scale. It cannot be established in one country, let alone one farm. The kibbutzim do show that humans can live without money and work without wages, but their small scale means that what they can offer is very restricted so young people tend to leave them. In practice they have paved the way for the development of capitalism in Israel and some have themselves become capitalist institutions employing outside wage labour and producing for the market with a view to profit.
Have there ever been Socialist countries?
What about the former Soviet Union? No. Those countries which claimed they were socialist were in reality state capitalist. Power was monopolised by a privileged elite who became the new ruling and controlling class. Countries like Russia and China and Yugoslavia still had money and buying and selling. They still had wage slavery, exploitation and commodity production. They still traded with capitalist states and according to the dictates of international capital and were ever ready to go to war to defend their economic interests.
My anonymous detractor, A. Patriot (Gazette 5th April), perhaps thinks he is being unique in his criticism. In truth he regurgitates the hackneyed old anti-socialst sentiments I've been countering in this paper for over 15 years.
He, like countless others, points his all-knowing finger to China and Cuba as 'proof' that socialism has failed. But nowhere have I ever claimed, or will claim, that these countries were socialist. Indeed, I'll gladly give anyone £1000 who can prove to me that socialism has existed anywhere. All I am ever offerred are examples of state capitalism (China, Cuba, the Soviet Union etc etc - all of which had a wages system, commodity production and every other trait we associate with capitalism).
My critic suggests that for socialism to be impemented would require "the coercion of everyone who disagrees with it and the death of democracy", which is the exact opposite of everything I have always argued.
I have always maintained that socialism will only come when a majority of the world's people understand what socialism means (and, no it has nothing to do with Lenin, or Mao or Castro), want it and are prepared to organise for it peacefully and democratically, without leaders and in their own interests."