Socialism Continues - What's "Left" For Socialists

The Struggle Continues

The struggles of socialists and capitalism have not ended. The current (2012) economic crisis and the accompanying recession illustrate once again that the capitalist system does not work fairly. The pain and the gain are not distributed fairly. Nor are they distributed randomly. The poor suffer disproportionately and the poor are less able to cope with their losses. The rich frequently gain both absolutely and relatively.

Who Suffers? Who Gains? Who Pays?

Those who are suffering in the current recession are generally speaking not the financiers and bankers and crooks who caused the crisis. So why should those who did not gain pay? This is particularly pertinent when many of those who gained did not lose their winnings from their past behaviour. The poor cannot afford to pay, and the poor did not cause the crisis, so why should the poor pay?

As to why there are recurrent crises, these are an essential and unavoidable aspect of capitalism - see below.

Disparities of wealth have always existed. Discontent with disparities of wealth was not far behind. But when did the concept of socialism arise? What is socialism?

What Is Socialism?

Many of our future allies have never had socialism explained to them by a socialist. All they have had so far is socialism as "explained" by anti-socialists. A moment’s reflection will show how unlikely it is that they have been given a true view of socialism.

Any ex wife would give what she believes is a true and fair picture of her former husband’s strengths and weaknesses, but is she possibly biased? Her mother would no doubt be willing to fill in the picture. By the time one gets to the ex mother in law’s next door neighbour one is almost tempted to ask the husband what his explanation of his behaviour is!

Some "experts" who describe socialism have degrees in Economics or Politics where Marxism or socialism was not even on the syllabus. And yet these individuals cannot bring themselves to wonder why socialism was not on their syllabus. In whose class interest was it artificially to restrict the "education" of young people?

Capitalism Does Harm

The basic unfairness of capitalism was illustrated by Robert Tressal in "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists".

Within capitalism some people gain and some people lose. Capitalism is blind to the casualties capitalism causes. In the pursuit of extra profit or for maintaining existing levels of profit capitalists need to expand their markets and to expand their production. Individuals are frequently hurt by this activity.

  1. If powdered baby milk is marketed in the Third World as an upmarket nutrient for babies, some babies will die because the local water is unsafe. The capitalists concerned have made their profits, so what is the problem? The Nestle scandal ran for decades because the capitalist media gained from Nestle advertising and stood to lose Nestle advertising if they damaged Nestle. Why else would a scandal so worthy of headlines and "special reports" go so long without significant media exposure?
  2. In the pursuit of news stories journalists for the News of The World and The Sun (both owned by News International) appear to have hacked into mobile telephone messages and to have bribed police and other officials to disclose information to them. One may have limited sympathy for some of the "celebrities" and people in public life whose misbehaviour or hypocrisy were exposed. One of the most horrible examples was of the youngster Milly Dowling who was kidnapped and murdered by a pervert. News of the World journalists hacked into Milly’s mobile telephone. On finding the child’s mobile telephone mailbox was full the journalists emptied it so they could eavesdrop on more messages. This gave the mother false hope that her daughter was still alive and confused the police investigation. Rupert Murdoch asked for an interview with the family to apologise personally for what News International had done. Whether this was genuine remorse or was really only for PR purposes is not known. If it was genuine Mr Murdoch has a lot more apologising to do.
  3. In another case where there were multiple murders of prostitutes occurring in an English town the local detectives were shadowing one of their leading suspects in hopes of catching him attempting to murder someone or in hopes he would lead them to his lair where there might be forensic evidence. They became aware of private detectives employed by a newspaper who were also shadowing the suspect. The second team was shadowing rather ineptly and had to be stopped. Genuine harm could have been harmed had the suspect become aware that he was being tailed. In this actual case the suspect was not the killer – but that was not known at the time.
  4. When multinational seed companies persuaded the American administration in Iraq that the local economy required certified quality controlled seed this put the local seed merchants and seed producers out of business and gave a captive market to the multinational seed companies. This damaged local society significantly only for the benefit of the multinationals.
  5. Seed companies have also used "terminator" genes to stop people following the normal agricultural practice of saving seeds from each harvest to plant.
  6. GM products are a controversial political area. It is claimed that GM holds open the opportunity of better crops and more food to save the world’s hungry. If people cannot afford to buy food today they will not be able to purchase GM food tomorrow either. It is quite easy to feed the world’s hungry today. It requires a redistribution of wealth and income within existing societies so people can feed themselves. And perhaps a diversion of land use away from producing meat and associated animal feeds for the generally overweight First World towards food for the local people

Trammelling Capitalism

A few examples of what capitalism can do that hurts people is only part of the story. There is a continuous battle by democracies to manage capitalism.

Legislation about food safety is almost always trailing the latest discoveries of iniquity by food producers. Labelling for "water" or "added water" is necessary because, as one water injection equipment manufacturer actually advertised, "Why Sell Meat When You Can Sell Water?".

Legislation about food contamination goes back centuries. The earliest example I know of is the German beer purity laws of the 14th century that said beer could only be made from malt, grain, yeast and water. They are still in force today.

Workplace safety is a legal requirement because manufacturers are always anxious to cut production costs which includes maximising production. Worker safety has a lower priority for them than democracies think appropriate. Legislation is needed to give more safety to workers generally.

Consumer safety legislation is in response to manufacturers who generate defective goods.

After a series of bank collapses in the twentieth century the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) was passed that forbade retail banks investing in the capitalist casino of the time. The Glass–Steagall Act was repealed in 1999. The next collapse began in 2007. The retail banks were hard hit because they had overplayed in the capitalism casino.

Trade unions have evolved because of the problems in each country. They have to operate in their own countries. Alas many who legislate and operate the laws see trade unionists as unpatriotic, treasonous and criminal. Yet all democracies have legislation permitting and protecting trade unions.

Capitalists Distort Democracy

The desire by democracies to manage capitalism then leads the capitalists to attempt to manage democracy. In the USA and the UK rich individuals and many large companies fund politicians and political parties directly and indirectly. Whether it be the free loan of a helicopter and crew and fuel for the campaign, or suitcases full of banknotes, public donations or undeclared gifts, there is a lot of money goes into the political parties from the rich. These guys got rich by using and investing their money wisely. So what do these guys gain from their investments?

It is common for people to vote for a politician or party because they think that person or party to be right for the country. Many people tend to vote "against" rather than "for". If they have money they may well donate to the "best" or "least bad" individual or party.

Politicians properly promote the industries and businesses from their district. As these local industries and businesses often provide the cash local politics operates on there is a belief that "big oil" or "the car industry" run certain states and their politicians in the interests of the industry rather than of the people or of wider society.

In some states the local judges run for election and receive significant donations from the biggest local companies. How might this affect judicial decisions before and after the donations?

In both countries it is common to find companies or rich people donating to both the leading parties. The donations are to purchase access to the decision-makers within both parties, so whichever wins the donor has access. A multinational has a huge range of interests, and it could suffer actual loss or loss of profits from many government decisions. The purchase of access allows the multinational advance warning of what is being planned, the opportunity to make suggestions or to initiate ideas for the government, and the chance to influence decisions before they are made. One of the imbalances between rich and poor is that the rich often quietly and anonymously influence decisions before they are made.

Orwell’s thought control operative in "1984", Winston, would understand much of today’s media.

The Media

Certain issues are never discussed. If they are unavoidable they are twisted beyond recognition. The power of the media to affect elections and to boost or destroy individual politicians is hugely significant. Baldwin’s quotation about the media is still true today

"What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages"

The Conservative MP Louise Mensch attacked phonetapping and blagging in the News of the World enquiry. She was then "outed" by The Sun (A News International paper) as a past cocaine user. In the public interest of course, not in retribution for what she said in Parliament. She had the gumption to say that while she had no recollection of the incident it was probably true. And other things were probably true. But she would not be deterred from enquiring about the culture of phonetapping and blagging by Fleet Street.

Crises of Capitalism

The American hog market is in a perpetual state of excitement. It is studied by academics as an exemplar of capitalism in miniature. As prosperity rises the price of meat rises. People start raising or increase rapidly their raising of hogs. This increases the costs of pig feed because the production of pig feed is less elastic than the raising of hogs. The increase in the cost of feed makes hog raising less profitable. If there is also a slight recession in the economy and the demand for hog meat falls, people are often unable to continue and leave the market – sometimes ruined financially. All this uncertainty is made worse by a very active market that speculates in hog meat futures. So the price of hog meat and the amount of hog meat produced fluctuate markedly.

The volume of production of goods and services in our society is not related to the activities of the stock market. The stock market may look at the real economy and be affected by what is really happening. For instance if sales in the shops are up, share prices may rise. But share prices going up and down rarely has much impact on the real world. The linkage is usually from the real world to the financial markets.

The vast majority of shares in the stock market are not for sale today. Most are held by funds and individuals who have no intention of selling the shares in the forseeable future. The gentle ups and downs of the stock market are simply not relevant to the longterm investor. So normally the shares which are actively traded are the same shares being traded back and forth each day. If market sentiment is positive investors wish to buy shares and not to sell them, so the prices go up. Or conversely prices go down if market sentiment is negative.

If there is a market crisis, the situation changes, Prices go up or down faster than normal. If they go down, banks that have loaned money against shareholdings require investors to generate cash. Frequently the only way the investors can generate cash is by selling their shares, making the situation worse. They often also have to sell other shares they own, which they had no intention of selling. Those share prices go down, too. The banks panic, and hoard cash. They will not lend to customers and often they will not lend to each other. The big finance houses generally have computer generated share trading programmes which mindlessly generate selling instructions, causing the market to crash.

A major company can see its share price drop by a quarter inside a week. Nothing fundamental has changed. People are still buying its products like they did last week. What is different is that the company cannot now borrow, because the banks are not lending. Many companies use 30 day and 90 day short term loans to finance fluctuations in stocks and production. Once they realise they will not be able to renew these loans the companies have to generate the cash to meet their obligations and to continue trading after they have paid the short term loans as they fall due.

This is just the wrong time to raise long term capital on the stock market by issuing new stock or taking out long term loans. The company reduces inventories and may lay off staff. It suspends all investment.

The reduction of inventories spells disaster for the companies who supply the major company. They reduce and lay off and sometimes go bust. Suddenly no-one wants to replace equipment or build new factories. The machine tool industry is hit really hard. Industrial property is harder to sell and suddenly is "worth" less. All the companies which have loans or overdrafts secured on their factories or offices receive telephone calls and notices from banks calling in or reducing the overdrafts.

What has changed in the economy? Fundamentally nothing is different to the position three weeks ago. But the system is in crisis.

Marx observed these crises in the 19th century. In his day these were crises of overproduction similar to the hog market. Too many manufacturers were increasing production of say textiles to the point where there was oversupply. Prices crashed and there was a crisis. As the manufacturing sector got bigger and bigger the crashes were getting bigger and bigger. Marx predicted that one of these crashes would be so big that capitalism would collapse.

The globalisation of the world economy, the interlinkage of financiers and financial systems, and the dwarfing of governments by market forces has led to a situation where many fear the next big crash will lead to a situation as bad or worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Added to this is that many jobs have been exported, and many business owners are in another country. The potential for disaster is huge.

Marx expected the crises to be accompanied by the working class taking power from the capitalist class when the emptiness of capitalism was exposed. There are isolated situations where people "sit in" or occupy factories and businesses. The "occupy Wall Street" protests were an interesting development. It is too early to say what their long-term effect will be.

The "Romantic" Capitalists

There are many "romantic" capitalists, particularly Americans, who believe that capitalism will produce a fair society. As a socialist I observe that capitalism simply cannot work "fairly". Why should it? "Fairness" is not what capitalism is about. Socialism is about "fairness", which is why I think socialism is more logical and must eventually prevail.

These romantic capitalists believe that what Adam Smith called "the invisible hand" of the free market will resolve almost all issues. For the "invisible hand" to work to best advantage they believe there should be as little regulation as possible, and as little tax as possible. Money not given to the government stays in the hands of individuals, who in their theory will use the money to their personal best advantage. The perception of individuals as to their best advantage will in theory normally be better than the government’s perception simply because individuals have a better knowledge of their own needs. Government is a poor user of money and has so many inherent failings that the less money given to government the better.

Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

Where the State Should and Should Not Provide

Socialists tend to believe that some issues are so important that the state must provide for them directly or indirectly.

Defence

An obvious example is Defence. The State cannot rely upon private enterprise for its defence needs. There has to be a defence force of some description controlled by the state. Even the much vaunted Swiss system where every male citizen of military age must keep a weapon at home still relies on professional armed forces who can react instantly, with the citizen self defence force as a "minuteman" reserve effective within hours.

Issues such as the supply of military equipment admit to a range of solutions.

The state could in theory equip and train and clothe and house and supply and feed its armed forces from its own supply chains. Most states use the private sector for some or all of these needs because it is or supposedly is more cost effective. In peacetime it may be. One difficulty is that in times of crisis or war one needs the appropriate materials in the right place at the right time – and enough of them. The British Army suffered unnecessary casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan because the front line soldiers did not have the right equipment. Body protection equipment, vehicles, and helicopters were all in short supply or of the wrong kind.

At the beginning of World War 2 the British Army actually sent trained Territorial Army troops to France who had no weapons because there were just not enough weapons. Thousands of soldiers were killed or captured without ever having a weapon to fire. One of my extended family was a Territorial Army soldier sent to France without a weapon. He spent the six years of World War 2 as a prisoner of war. Britain did not have enough war planes or anti-aircraft equipment at the beginning of World War 2. Britain nearly lost the war at its beginning.

As well as having all the stockpiles one needs one also needs factories that can convert to war production immediately. This is investment that only the state will make. Private enterprise cannot invest in plant and materials for an event that may never happen. It may be that the factory is in private ownership and the state pays a subsidy to build it.

It may make capitalist economic sense for heavy industry to move plant and jobs abroad, but it is very hard to fight a war if one cannot make steel or munitions or vehicles at home.

Armaments manufacturers have an interest in arms races and in wars occurring. Sir Basil Zaharoff frequently supplied both sides in a conflict, and encouraged wars.

Defence Contractors

Throughout history there have been Defence contractors who are less than honest. Some are less than competent. The profit motive causes many to behave to their own advantage rather than to the advantage of society.

Samuel Pepys persuaded the Navy to change the victualing system for the Royal Navy because at that time the feeding of the entire Royal Navy depended on only one contractor. If that one contractor were not competent and adequately funded then warships could not put to sea. It was no criticism of the man. The problem was that the needs of the Royal Navy were too great for the nation to be reliant on one private contractor.

Law and Justice

Law enforcement should be centrally or municipally organised and controlled. Can one imagine police officers being on commission for catching criminals? Their efforts would be skewed towards whatever was the most profitable for them as individuals.

An appalling situation in Pennsylvania arose because the state used private providers for their youth justice facilities. Those private companies paid judges secretly for each juvenile they jailed, leading to unfair and over lengthy sentencing, The judges did eventually go to prison themselves, but only after the lives of thousands of youngsters were blighted. Had there been no profit motive in the system no inducements would have been offered and justice would have been fairer. For those who wish to study this story the judges were named Conahan and Ciavarella.

Should there be public defenders? The young and the poor tend to be the people who are arrested for offences. Many of them are guilty. Some may not be guilty, but they cannot afford lawyers.

Health

The American health system uses 16% of GDP and covers only about 60% of the US population. To cover the entire US population would logically take 24% or 25% of US GDP. The UK Health Service uses 9% of UK GDP and serves the entire population. One will still find Americans who say the USA system is more efficient!

There are failings in the UK system but these could largely be fixed with another 1% of GDP.

One important difference is that it is financially advantageous for the UK health service to spend money on health advice, health education, early intervention, health screening programmes and other ways of improving the health of the population. In the USA this is much less the case. An interesting area for policy is the taxation policy around tobacco and alcohol where the income from taxation on these products is less that they cost the Health Service to treat the consequences – cancers and alcoholism and drink related accidents. In the USA the calculations may be significantly different.

The National Health Service is less than perfect. We have to compare two less than perfect health systems.

Americans are often surprised to find that Cuba has a lower rate of infant mortality than does the USA. And Cuba has a lower rate of mortality than almost any country in the world. Given that a socialist society cannot be better, the Americans struggle for explanations.

Education and Culture

Should the state support education? Industry and commerce require a good education system. Industry and commerce can rarely fund education and training for individuals for 10 or 20 years in advance of needing the workers so they must contribute to general taxation out of which the education system is funded. As individuals move from general education to specific education, and start making choices about their lives, many societies require them to contribute financially towards their individual education.

Should the state support culture? Why should low paid people in the provinces pay from their taxes to support Grand Opera when they will never see live Grand Opera and could not afford to go if they did want to see it? If culture is not financially self-supporting should it be funded by the state?

Choices Between Societies

There are no pure socialist societies. There are no pure capitalist societies. Even in capitalist societies like America the municipality or State frequently run the schools, the fire service, the post office, and rubbish collection. Even in Soviet Russia people grew their own food and sold it in public markets. The question in any society has to be what system works best for that society.

One has to ask whether the Stock Market, Wall Street and the City of London are really the most logical mechanism for allocating investment. Is a casino where everyone cares only about making profit for themselves a rational way to operate? Warren Buffet is living proof that the stock market is an imperfect mechanism.

Alternatives To Wall Street

Might a committee of wise people be better at making investment decisions? It would be cheaper. Would it be any worse? The excesses of dotcom and derivative financial products would have been avoided. Some opportunities might be lost.

The general experience of new businesses is that they obtain their start-up funding outside Wall Street and make profits for some years before they float on the stock market. When they float their shares are bought by pension funds and some private investors. New businesses and existing businesses would benefit from a cheaper and more rational funding system. Institutional investors would have better value for money.

I have a vision of the 19 year old Bill Gates going before an investment committee in 1970 to say that he had a vision of a computer on every desk, and could he have a large investment please to compete with IBM? Wall Street would not have funded Bill at that time either.

It can properly be argued that governments are not good at investment decisions. The Norwegian state investment fund and the Kuwait Investment Office are examples that show that governments can be good at investment – or no worse than many. The sad fact is that many investment funds run by professional investment managers do no better than the Stock Market generally.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

There is often now a competition between political parties as to who can "manage" capitalism best. From Macmillan’s "You’ve Never Had It So Good" and Bill Clinton’s "It’s the Economy, Stupid" to the present day, the parties claim to be better at managing capitalist society than the other people. Many socialist parties appear to have abandoned or muted their ideology.

One consequence of this is that many socialists do not know what to do. If the supposedly socialist party claims that its role is to manage capitalism better, one is supporting the least bad pro-capitalism party. So many socialists either do not get involved in the major left party or only support it half-heartedly as the least bad option.

Or they join revolutionary socialist parties which are so detached from the lives of ordinary people as to appear odd and unimportant.

Issues For Socialists

The issues for socialists are many. Some are not easy. Some would justify a chapter just for themselves.

  • How do we help trade unionists and socialists in Third World countries?
  • How do we help trade unionists and socialists in our own country?
  • How do we help others fighting against oppression/ capitalism?
  • In Third World countries there often is oppression by the state opposed to the socialists and activists fighting with and for the people. What should we do to help?
  • For countries like Cuba and China which claim to be socialist but clearly are not democracies, what should our attitude be?
  • To what extent can we use the opportunities provided by the Internet to assist socialism?
  • To what extent can we use the power of public opinion in single-issue campaigns?
  • To what extent can we use "people power" or pension fund trustee responsibilities in support of single-issue campaigns?
  • What form of socialist organisation is appropriate in each of our countries?
  • What form of international socialist co-operation is appropriate?
  • In many situations race and religion are intermingled with the anti-capitalist struggle. Some religions have approaches to women, homosexuality and other issues that we western socialists find abhorrent. How do we deal with this?
  • Is religious freedom only for those religions we do not object to?
  • The state is in practice tied up with the power blocs of industry and commerce. If we are trying to overthrow capitalism this will be perceived as seeking to overthrow the state. What issues does this create for us? How do we deal with them?
  • This leads to whether in democratic societies are we seeking to overthrow the state? Most of us would argue that where democratic means are available we wish to use them. Experience of "bottom up" socialism is that it is more effective and more resilient to difficulty than "top down" socialism. Where democracy was not an option, as in China or Cuba or Nicaragua, armed struggle led to "top down" implementation of socialist measures, with varying success.
  • What is our approach to "liberals" and "men of goodwill" or "fellow travellers"?
  • What is our approach to some of the less appealing of our Left comrades?
  • Is the political priority for socialists to work to reduce the unfairness of capitalism or to concentrate on preparing to abolish capitalism? Should we really be competing on who can manage capitalism better?

Expand Our Horizons

As capitalism requires capitalists continuously to expand their markets so we socialists are required to expand our political horizons. This essay is a contribution to that thinking. It is a challenging piece to write because I am writing for two audiences. I need to be "general" for one audience and "particular" for another.

The more important audience is the many potential socialist allies who today are not socialists. Some future allies who will read this article are currently Republicans or Conservatives or even further Right. Some would claim to have no politics at all. Some are different shades of "liberal". Like the rest of us, our future allies are personally and politically the products of their experiences and exposures to date.

I am sufficiently confident of the basic intelligence of people and the truth of the socialist case that if reasonably intelligent people understand the socialist case I can trust them to form the right (or Left) conclusion.

My first contribution is to publish this essay on a non-socialist web site. If I were to publish it on a socialist web site, where I would be preaching to the converted, it would not reach those who need to read it. Some of my comrades on the Left will no doubt accuse me of simplifying the message. Yet the message is simple. The people of the world need socialism.

Some of my friends on the Left are alas much better at criticising the efforts of other comrades than they are at themselves explaining socialism to non-socialists. Becoming a socialist does not automatically make you a wonderful human being. If you were a dogmatic confrontational boor before you became a socialist your personality flaws will not wash off immediately.


So What Is Socialism?

There was socialism before Marx. One has only to read "The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine to recognise socialism. This article is not about the evolution of socialism, for which I suggest as a starting point "Socialism 101".

The classic Marxist position is that there is a class who own and control the means of production distribution and exchange. They have the capital, and hence are called "the capitalists" or "the capitalist class".

The capital is organised by the capitalists who employ the workers to work. Generally speaking the workers have no capital and are entirely dependent on their wages. They are "the working class".

Which group is more necessary? Imagine you own perhaps 20,000 acres but you have no one to work the land except you and your immediate family. Quite soon you are reduced to occupying the land you can maintain with your household and your tools. The rest of your land becomes overgrown with weeds and becomes waste.

The same 20,000 acres shared fairly or more fairly could support thousands of people and all could live at a tolerable and sustainable income level. The whole society could live at a better level than your land rich but labour poor family would be able to maintain.

If the capital employed is configured differently the society can have all the tools it needs and it can build all the storage and packing and transport facilities it needs. The society can develop and support its own infrastructure including health, education, and care of the young and the old. The society can provide for its necessary policing and defence needs or combine with neighbours or the state for that purpose. And the society can save and invest for the future.

For the sake of completeness I should mention my own class, often called "the middle class". When Marx was writing, the word "bourgeois" needed no explanation. It referred to the people who used some capital and employed some people, who were the proprietors of small or large businesses. Managers of businesses were also "bourgeoisie" and identified with the interests of their employers. Marx’s view of this class was that the conflicts inherent within capitalism would sharpen to the point where the bourgeoisie would be eliminated. Every time there is a financial crisis millions of bourgeoisie lose their employment, but the class is still with us.

What Is To Be Done?

In a democratic society socialists need to work to entrench and secure the democracy. The recent scandals in the Republican selection process in Maine and in other states are far more important than just for the Republican Party and just for those states. They strike at the heart of democracy. How dare party officers steal and distort votes? If they will do that to their own party supporters, what will they do to the public at large? And those who allow them to go unpunished and unexposed will help to cover up other frauds.

The link between the media and the wealthy needs to be exposed. There are many British and American people who think their media are honest decent and truthful in their reportage and in their selection of what is published. The truth about the distortion and lies of the media needs a sustained rebuttal campaign over decades.


Useful Quotations

" The money required to provide adequate food, water, education, health, and housing for everyone in the world has been estimated to be around $20 billion a year. It is a huge sum of money . . . about as much as the world spends on arms every 2 weeks. "

author unknown

"When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist."

Don Helder Camara

Socialist Message and Socialist Media

Socialist media tend to be strident and angry and no fun to read. So people don’t buy them. It is possible to be socialist and have fun. A good socialist cartoonist or socialist comedian can achieve so much more than any number of well-intentioned passionate bores. The "cheeky chappy" image of Ken Livingstone is so much better than the earnestness of say Ed Miliband. Cartoonists such as Evans and even the Dilbert series or Alex (Daily Telegraph) make good points.

When your newspaper condemns a local or national strike, consider that there are thousands of strikes every year, When was the last time your newspaper said the strikers were right?




Splitting The Left Vote

The Labour Party and the Democratic Party occupy so much of the left spectrum that any competing parties are marginalised. To whose benefit is it for the Left to fight among itself? One does not have to be a genius to work out that the rise of the Social Democratic Party in the UK was designed to split the Left just at the time when it looked as though socialists were about to take over the Labour Party. So who gained?

Similarly when minority candidates or minority parties take enough votes from the major left party that the Right get elected, to whose benefit is that?

There is of course a temptation to form a party or group to establish and promulgate the true line. Those who believe in such purity spend their entire lives on it and get nowhere. Should a revolutionary situation arise they are quite likely to be swept aside by the tide of events.

Building Socialism

Much better is to build socialism from the bottom up. Social clubs, co-operatives, trade unions, and groups working together to deal with a significant local problem actually achieve something in their local communities. Of course the true socialist message tends to get diluted in these situations, but people will know you are a socialist who does rather than a socialist who preaches. Plugging away in your local community for years on end because the things you are doing are the right things to do is actually the way forward. Earning respect for yourself will also earn respect for your message.

Moderates

One point I would make is that it is not possible to be "moderately" opposed to evil. One cannot be "moderately" against cruelty and pain and injustice. As a socialist one is adamantly opposed to the adverse consequences of the capitalist system. One may for strategic or tactical or practical reasons have to be muted in one’s public opposition. That is not the same as "moderate" where moderates are in favour of motherhood and apple pie but do not ask who gets to eat most of the apple pie.

People have died for socialism, willingly or unwillingly. The material and political advantages we have today are the bequest of nameless millions who have struggled for a better world for all – not just for themselves. Our role is to build on their work to try to get closer to a fair society.

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Comments 15 comments

Josak profile image

Josak 4 years ago from variable

Interesting hub. On a further note the struggle between socialism and capitalism never really stopped it simply declined in the USA for w while as it is the vast majority of the world population lives under a socialist or communist government the extent of that varying, from France which will in all probability elect a socialist government in the next day to all of South America which currently has socialist governments (minus Chile at the moment) to China, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba and South Africa plus many many more.

Anyways sorry for the rant voted up and interesting and thank you for the interesting analysis.


Cruncher profile image

Cruncher 4 years ago from UK

Interesting comments about "moderates". I consider myself a moderate not because I am only moderately against evil but because I don't think I have a monopoly on truth or goodness or that the other side is irredeemably wicked.

Basically the mixed economy post WWII settlement in the UK had the right balance.

But I agree with you about building from the bottom up. I would rather build a better world one brick at a time with whoever will join in than smash it apart in the hope that a better world will rise from the debris!


American Romance profile image

American Romance 4 years ago from America

First of all the poor do not pay! 50% of Americans do not pay taxes, or in the least get it all back at the end of the year! The rich are paying all the bills according to the IRS so why shouldn't they reap the rewards?

How in the hell does one build from the bottom up? Are poor people going to employee me? What will they pay my salary with? Can poor people open new business? Can poor people give loans? Can the poor create new inovations? The wealthy create wealth for the poor! How in the hell do you think the middle class became? Start with the TOP and trickle down to the lower levels for prosperity my friends!


Charles James profile image

Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

Well your name "American Romantic" is spot on!

The "trickle down" concept is a lovely one. It absolves the poor from taking charge of their own lives, and suggests they should be dependant upon the rich. So do not upset the rich!

Do you not have sales tax in the USA?


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Josak 4 years ago from variable

American Romance does not understand socialism as perfectly demonstrated by his comment, socialism precisely deals with how the poor can provide jobs, innovate etc etc. Please AR do some reading.


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Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

AR - check out the cooperative movement in the UK. We have one of the biggest grocery chains. "The Co-operative" grows its own wheat in Canada, runs its own farms, brews beer, sells insurance, organises funerals, and runs a bank and a merchant bank - both of which only invest ethically and so were unscathed by the economic crisis. It has just bought a building Society for home loans. In fact yesterday I filled with petrol at my Co-op petrol station to see the pump handle was advertising Co-op legal services.

It can be done!


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Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

TeaPartyCrasher

I liked your comment but then I decided to delete it.

Really it was just an attack on an individual which did not add anything politically.


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Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

I much prefer to build from the bottom up. I am always wary of those who wish to impose, however well meaning they may be.


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TeaPartyCrasher 4 years ago from Camp Hill, PA

Understood, but the hub itself was great. It never ceases to amaze though, how well the "%1" can misuse a term as a "dog whistle" and folks like AR respond to it. Never mind that the goal of the "%1" is to build what Noam Chomsky called "Socialism for Corporations", but isn't another term that folks like AR "bark" on cue to a better term for that idea--fascism

"Snake Charming" may be a better term though for what the "%1" rely on to keep folks like AR in line.


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immigrationhelp 4 years ago

I hear a lot that the bottom 50% pays no taxes. While it’s true they don’t pay much, they also earn very little. According to IRS’s website, there were a total of a little over 140 million returns (form 1040) filed in the year 2009 (the most recent year available on their website). The total adjusted gross income on that was a little over $7.6 Trillion and the bottom 50% had an AGI of a little over $1 Trillion. I hear that phrase quite a bit, “The bottom 50% pays no taxes”. I think this is designed to invoke resentment that too many poor people and immigrant just live off of hard earned taxes of the rest of the society.

I refuse to believe we have 70 million tax returns filed by people who are poor and live in poverty, not in America. If we do, we have bigger problems than we think. Remember, these are the number of tax returns, not the actual number of people. The IRS website only provides the financial statistics, so it’s hard to know who the bottom 50% is. I bet a majority of the bottom 50% is made up of students who can’t be claimed as dependents, and seniors who live on very limited income. I’d like to see a politician (Democrat or Republican) try to run on the platform that seniors should pay more taxes.

Though I’m not a fan of Socialism, I believe it inhibits growth and innovation, I am also not a big fan of unchecked capitalism (i.e. crony capitalism).

My source of 1040 data: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/09in11si.xls


An AYM 4 years ago

You make a more in-depth presentation of Socialism than I'm used to seeing, but I still don't think it works in account of an ecological frame of mind. Global standards of living are coming more in line with the standard Western perspective, which are irresponsible and selfish. We all seem to think we deserve to live with everything we want whenever we want it. 7 billion people are we're all going to somehow sustain that in the sentiments of an American Middle-Class? Meat every night, everyone with their own car, a nice home, fancy electronic toys for all? We we need to do is not be angry that others have more, and demand more, but learn how to be happy living with less.

A further issue I have is that the notion of Socialism suggests that 100% of the society are contributing to the best of their ability. Are we to assume that there won't be the typical minor percentage of delinquents uninterested in joining the flock? They get sustained on this same level of supply without chipping in and we assume everyone else is just hunky dory and isn't angered by that? The implication of required contribution creates the foundation for a destructive societal dichotomy.

Competition is hard-wired into every aspect of life as it has been one of the major defining factors of evolution. Would you punish those disinterested in the whole? I believe Socialism sounds pleasant from the economic perspective, but absurd from the biological perspective.


An AYM 4 years ago

Oh, man, I wanted to say one other thing that I forgot about until my 5 minutes was up. I don't believe Trade Unions are Socialist in nature in modern times, nor do I support them because they are just another expression of a greedy Capitalistic structure.

Take the AFL-CIO for example, over 50 of their highly ranked executives make 6 figure salaries. A small group is pulling in a huge amount of personal profits on account of the fact that many jobs require Union membership to be employed. How that's any ethically different from being exploited by an employer, I don't understand.


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Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

An AYM

Thank you for your intelligent and perceptive comments.

(1) Trade unions are not of themselves socialist. In terms of improving the quality of life of trade union members and their families the workplace cannot provide everything one needs for a decent life. The trade unions tend to support the socialist parties because only the socialist parties are trying to improve life for everyone.

(2) Yes some people are lazy. In the present system they do not contribute as they should. In a socialist society we immediately get into the coercion issue.


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Charles James 4 years ago from Yorkshire, UK Author

(3) During the Irish famine, to which so many Americans sent money ships of grain actually left Ireland because there was a better price available abroad. The hamburger or steak you ate last night may have come from the USA, but where did the animal feed come from? We have obese First World people and starving Third World people, and only the socialists can see how to fix it!


An AYM 4 years ago

That is certainly a valid point, I do believe Socialists would be the ones most interested and putting the most effort forth into feeding those who need food. I think the problematic issue is the fact that they are concerned with giving everyone the same amount of everything. In our vastly overpopulated world and inflated standard of living the world simply cannot sustain the Socialist ideal of equal access to resources.

And those are good points on (1) and (2), I admittedly am not sure where I could take them from there.

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