THE PEOPLE ARE THE PROBLEM (sic)!

The statement by German President, Joachim Gauck, (August 2016) that; “The elites are not the problem, it’s the people who are the problem”, reveals far more than perhaps was intended. Indeed, it is worth considering this opinion in a much wider context. This reactionary outburst was asserted in relation to the millions of German nationals who are increasingly opposed to the current levels of immigration. However, this arrogant attitude is symptomatic of a much broader characteristic demonstrated by the political and economic elites the world over. From the perspective of the economic and political elites, the people are always the problem when they do not agree with or follow their suggestions or dictates. This symptom applies to all elites, whether of the left, centre or right wing inclinations. When they are allowed to vote, people are capable of voting the ‘wrong’ (sic) way – according to the elite mentality.

For example, after the result of the Brexit vote in the UK, many pro-European politicians, economists, academics, pundits and commentators considered that the problem lay with the millions who voted against their wishes. These Brexit voting people were alleged to be ill informed, racist or just not capable of being rational. In the USA, the people who are supporting the elite loose cannon Donald Trump are likewise being characterised by the dominant media outlets as racist, or insufficiently intelligent to know any better. The people really are becoming a serious problem for the economic, financial and political elites the world over. This same elite attitude was also revealed not too long ago when the people of Greece massively voted against Brussels proposals for austerity. The Greek people were seen by the Brussels elite as causing a problem, not the political elite who created the sovereign debt issue by reckless borrowing and the finincial elite by their aggressive lending.

These three recent examples make clear that from the perspective of the elites, the ‘people are the problem’. This is especially so if they object to the way the current neo-liberal phase of the capitalist mode of production is being administered. In the advanced countries, when the people demonstrate or ‘occupy’ to protest they are considered such a problem that they are pepper sprayed, kettled, arrested and injured. In less advanced countries people who protest against elite corruption are incarcerated, tortured, assassinated or simply disappear. During the 20th century, the Bolshevised and Stalinised elites of Russia and China etc., despite a rhetoric of concern for the oppressed, still treated millions of working people as a problem requiring, torture, incarceration and assassination to get them to ‘toe the (Party) line’. For elites the world over, the manifold problems infecting and effecting the modern world are never caused by themselves or the system they uphold – it is always the people!

So the contemporary response of blaming the victims by the elites is nothing new. The 20th and 21st centuries are full of such examples. In the UK, the US and Europe, the people were celebrated when they fought and died in two world wars to defend the capitalist system. However, as soon as they tried to defend the living standards achieved in the aftermath of the Second World War, they once again became perceived as a problem. After having laboured to reconstruct the post-war economies and create new levels of wealth for the new elites, the ‘people’, particularly working people, were once again perceived as an intractable problem. They were considered a problem of such magnitude that the full force of the nation – states of Europe and North America were successfully marshalled to corrupt, marginalise and destroy their organisations of resistance (trade unions) and communal associations.

With the achievement of a partial socio-economic destruction of peoples lives and communities under the Thatcher and Reagan periods of the 20th century, a new (big-bang!) neo-liberal phase of the capitalist mode of production was introduced. It has been a period of unregulated and unchallenged financial domination in which everything except the air people breathe has been up for sale to those who had gained wealth during the previous stage of reconstruction. In the UK for example, water, gas, electricity, transport, communications, were privatised and transformed from public services into sources of further profit for the financial, economic and political elite. Not content with this, the same financial, economic and political elites also devised stealth inspired manouvres to get control of profitable areas of health and education.

Not surprisingly under the new conditions of large-scale unemployment, low pay, precarious employment and contraction of welfare services, working people are again faced with a serious predicament. Do they passively accept the policies handed down to them by their elites or do they resist them? It is clear that increasing numbers of the citizens of the various nation-states have little or no trust (or faith) in the established bourgeois methods of social democratic governance. In addition in most countries, there is a new generation of well educated, jobless young people who recognise the corruption, the self-interested greed and the general incompetence of the political elites. They are also rejecting the two Janus faces of bourgeois social democracy, Republican and Democratic; Labour and Conservative; or Socialist and Social Democratic. They have already realised, that the problem is not the people, but the elites.

That is the first stage of recognising the real problem. It may take some time before this new generation recognises that it is the mode of production which needs to be changed, not simply the political puppets (left, right or centre) who constantly dance to its various tunes. Meanwhile, faced with frustrated careers, social exclusion and austerity, these new workers may well vote for demagogues, not vote at all or even protest and riot. Sooner or later, however, if they conclude that ‘another world is possible’ they will need to become revolutionary rather than reformist or abstentionist. More importantly still they will need to be revolutionary – humanists if they are not to recreate the the patriarchal vanguardist pretentions and totalitarian conditions of the various 20th century Bolsheviks, Trotskyists or Stalinists. As revolutionary humanists they truly will become a problem for the elites of all political persuasions and at the same time collectively become part of the solution to the problems now facing humanity and the global eco-system upon which humanity ultimately depends.

Roy Ratcliffe (August 2016)

Posted in Critique, neo-liberalism, Politics, Reformism, Revolutionary-Humanism, The State | Tagged , | Leave a comment

THE INVENTION OF RACE.

Differences between human beings such as those designated as ‘racial’ and religious are again being promoted as causing most, if not all, of the problems facing contemporary society. The reason is not too difficult to fathom. The economic aspects of the current crisis have created job insecurity, relative levels of poverty, contraction of welfare provisions and financial instability. In all countries in which the capitalist mode of production dominates, there are severe problems with housing, education, health provision, and employment opportunities. These symptoms have given rise to a percieved need by some to once again fall back upon exagerating differences among working people in order to have someone to blame. The five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production has once again provoked increased outbreaks of violence within the ranks of the exploited and oppressed.

The ‘austerity’ driven cutbacks particularly effect those in the low paid working and non-working sections of society. This in turn has produced despair, anxiety, anger and an emerging struggle between the various victims of the present system for access to the increasingly scarce resources. It is a struggle which is to some extent also directed against the state. As usual where there is organised protest against the deteriorating economic and social conditions, those who control the capitalist states defend themselves and their system aggresively. The armed bodies of men employed by the nation states are sent to pepper spray, tear gas, kettle, disperse, arrest, maim and even kill those who pay their wages but who do not accept the conditions they are currently required to endure. The capitalist system once again cannot provide adequate resources for the number of people requiring them. The resurrection of a previously invented scapegoat therefore is now in full swing.

Instead of blaming the capitalist mode of production for its many fundamental failings, the dominant ideological hold over opinion makers ensures they blame one or other of the victims of this global system of oppression and exploitation. The ersatz blame game by one set of petite bourgeois opinion makers has targeted immigrant workers as the problem causing repeated social crisis, whilst another distorted variant of petite bourgeois ideology blames the indigenous workers for being racially prejudiced, unwelcoming and exacerbating the internal crises of nation states. This is despite the fact that both these category of workers are equally the victims of the global capitalist system.

Even some of the traditional left have joined in on one side or another of this dualistic divide of blaming one or other of the working class victims who comprise of different ethnicities, skin colour, or religious denomination. Yet it should be obvious that any economic system based upon inequality needs to invent, construct and perpetuate exagerated differences such as religion, class or ‘race’ in order to justify itself. The capitalist mode of production is no different in this respect. Moreover, for the capitalist system to survive it’s periodic crises its supporters also need to choose periodic scapegoats. As we shall see, they have a long history of creating them.

In contrast to the apologists of capital, the voices and opinions raised against the capitalist system and its defensive and offensive ideology which fuels and rationalises this multifaceted crisis are feeble and few. This itself is a serious indictment of the sectarian fragmentation of the anti-capitalist movement – and the lack of a substantial one – which even fewer of its representatives are prepared to self-critically examine. Be that as it may, there is also the need to understand the economic tap roots of the cultural and ideological phenomena of prejudice in general and racial prejudice in particular. For racism, as with other discriminating prejudices is not an inevitable (or uncurable) disease but a carefully constructed, culturally driven aspect of bourgeois ideology. What follows is a contribution to furthering the understanding of that pernicious and divisive ideological feature driven by the needs of the capitalist mode of production.

The concept of race versus biology.

Dictionary definitions of race are many and they confusingly utilise a mix of environmental, geographical, linguistic and religious terms and characteristics. For example; lineage, blood, issue, people, type, clan, tribe, etc. This jumble of terms itself indicates that that the concept has little agreed social or biological content. This is perhaps not surprising since the concept of race, as has already been mentioned, is a manufactured or socially constructed invention of a previous century. Its biological basis in evolutionary reality has little or no substance.

It is a fact that people group together on the basis of family, location, religion, economic production or shared interest. It is also fact a that a permanent geographical location over extremely long periods, can alter the physical appearance and skills required by human groups to adapt to that environment. Skin pigment, muscle development and motor skills may differ from group to group by permanent residence in one location or by one habitual economic activity or another. So too will the domination of one food source lead to slight differences in health or longevity, as well as skin texture and internal tissue development. In other words humans adapt and evolve. It is also true that procreation and nurture will pass on many of these adapted characteristics, both positive and negative within any closed group of families.

But these are all minor alterations or  adaptations to the basic biological/physical construction of the entire human species. Human beings can interbreed successfully between the mostly widely differently adapted groups on the planet. Thus rendering the term ‘widely different’ in evolutionary and genetic terms a microscopically small one in actual fact.  In biological terms there are more genetic differences within groups of humans on the same continents (such as differences in the blood groups O, A and B and height) than between those human groups on different continents. These small differences arise because the human body along with other life forms is capable of adaptation and development which is now classed as evolution.  Very few, if any, of these globally diverse changes to the basic (out of Africa) structure of all humans is permanent or irreversible. Most, if not all, physical characteristics developed over millennia of adaptation to one environmental location will alter over further millennia of adaptation if transferred to a new one.

Skill sets, cultural preferences and knowledge will take only a fraction of that time to change and be adopted or adapted. So there is in actual fact biologically and socially only one human species and if by race, biological species continuity is being referenced, there is only one race – the human race. In evolutionary terms, biological continuity is a species issue, not one determined by ethnic, geographical, economical, cultural or ideological factors. Yet despite its despicable invention and spurious justifications, the concept of race – as just one form of deliberately exagerated difference – has served and still serves a very definate purpose.

The ‘creation’ of exagerated difference.

The creation of exaggerated difference certainly has one of its tap roots in the tribal histories of those groups who later founded the Abrahamic religions. This was a period when the competitive differences concerning how and where human beings lived and worked, (pastoralism, herding, agriculture and pillage, and the location in which these modes of production took place) were further and deliberately exaggerated by the construction of separate religions out of the one common concept of a male god. As pastoral and agricultural communities grew in size and complexity, competition for scarce resources ‘begat’ increased conflict for control of them. Utilising the concepts of God’s ‘chosen people’ and God’s ‘will’ to rationalise and justify, killing, territorial conquest and economic enslavement of other human beings, this became an early Abrahamic practice. Just to take one example of many;

“I am the Lord your God who has separated you from the peoples……I have set you apart from the peoples to be mine.” (Leviticus 20 v 24 and 26.) “They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth. And lick the dust of of your feet…..And foreigners will build up your walls…..For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish. And the nations will be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 49 v 23; 60 v 12.)

The purpose of this ‘created’ difference is made crystal clear in this extract. The Old Testament (Torah), the foundational text of both Judaism and Christianity, is full of this sort of arrogant assumption of superior difference, intentional separation and belligerent, not to mention wealth appropriating and genocidal attitude, to other peoples. That is to say those peoples standing in the way of their prefered mode of production or not accepting their version of monotheism. The third, Abrahamic religion, Islam is not bereft of the same sectarian arrogance and attitude to resource conquest and killing in the name of God, within its ‘holy’ text, the Qur’an. By the use of these and other ancient ideological forms of patriarchy, belonging to the ‘right’ religion became the ‘fictionally invented’ positive marker for tribally associated human beings.

Not belonging to the ‘right’ religeous denomination consequently became the negative social marker for other human beings. And for 21st century remnants of this religious fundamentalism within all three religions – it still is. Organised religion was and is a mystical means of asserting and exagerating superiority and differences between human beings. However, this ancient tap root of economically motivated and deliberately exagerated difference was given a further intellectual twist during the development of the capitalist era. The deliberate, cobbled together construction of different ‘racial identities’ out of bits from anthropology, biology, economic participation, history and medical pathology, was given a supposedly scientific foundation for a definate purpose. The motivation for this invention became strong during the period between the 18th to 19th centuries with regard to dealing with ‘foreign’ native populations. Why this was so, is not really a mystery when we consider the investment and realisation needs of the dominant mode of production – capitalism!

Manufacturing the concept of race.

The rapid increase in economic productivity due to the industrial revolution phase of capitalism (via extraordinary surplus value extraction) provided the stimulous for two associated developments. First, it provided the necessity and motivation for seeking new sources of raw materials and markets. It was no use being able to mass produce commodities if insufficient raw materials were available to allow continuous production by workers and machinary or if the huge quantity of finished products could not be sold. At an early point in industrial development, the local, national and international markets established by commerce no longer sufficed and according to the capitalist perspective, the rest of the world was economically, socially and politically under-developed. The periods of colonialism and imperialism, were the logical capitalist and bourgeois answer to this problem of ensuring continuous production and continuous export for consumption. The return of capital investment and profit depended upon it.

Second, the same increase in industrial  productivity and surplus value on the backs of working people massed in factories,  also created the means for a greater production and accumulation of educated persons in the intellectual spheres of bourgeois life. A boom time for industry and commerce led to a boon time for the developing middle classes. New universities were formed, courses were extended, academic subjects added and mainly male students from the middle-classes were recruited. These students carried their middle class prejudices and bourgeois assumptions along with their books and clothes into their halls of residence when they went down to Oxford, Cambridge (or whichever university,) to begin their studies. Advances in the breadth and depth of bourgeois scientific understanding springing from and carried into industry, commerce, state bureaucracy and the armed forces, seemed on the surface to doubly enrich capitalist culture and on the surface it did. Nevertheless it’s primary purpose was to serve the economic interests of those supported by and engaged in the capitalist mode of production.

This early globalised ambition for profit brought the bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie into closer contact and conflict with native inhabitants of the foreign lands they coveted for the raw materials and labour they could extract from them. However, the ruthless and relentless appropriation and exploitation of ‘other’ human beings needed more than just guns and steel, to maintain it. It needed both justification and rationalisation. The new sciences wielded by the newly educated middle class (ie bourgeois) intelligentia provided both. From the mid 1800’s on, Francis Galton in the UK, Charles Davenport in the USA and Erwin Baur, Eugen Fischer and Fritz Lenz in Europe, were outstanding advocates of ideas which ultimately led to concepts of racial identity. By the turn of the 20th century their ideas were widely accepted among the scientific community and had filtered down into popular culture. The era of a so-called scientific basis for exagerated difference had begun.

Race as a tool of capital – 1 (colonialism and genocide).

The ideological tool of race was partly, if not wholely constructed in the intellectual workshops of a late 19th century discipline which was called Eugenics. Among other things, the eugenics movement studied supposed congenital traits and inborn character whilst selectively borrowing concepts and data from anthropology and cultural studies. The political purpose of racial eugenics was to rank global human communities on a sliding scale from advanced to backward. The advanced were considered to be the white European colonists, the so-called backward were those who did not measure up to the accepted European norms in economic activity, cultural levels and religious preferences. Skulls were measured, noses profiled, heights were measured along with many other physical characteristics, such as skin colour and hair texture, as well as alleged social attributes and character traits. For a time such eugenic classification of ‘other’ human beings became a bourgeois obsession of almost global proportions. For example;

“The first ever international meeting of eugenicists, in Dresden in 1911, brought together scholars from eight different countries: Germany, the United States, Great Britain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. By the end of the 1930’s the eugenics network had expanded to include five times as many countries and dominions: France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Guatemala, Venezuela, San Salvador, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Siam, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India.” (Racial Science in Hitler’s New Europe, 1938 – 1945. Introduction.)

In addition to the dates (1911 and the 1930’s) the keen observer will quickly note that the countries developing these proto racist ideas were those countries which had been colonised and those which had sponsored colonialism and imperialism. For, as noted above, when the ‘advanced’ nation states of Europe became the organisational vehicles for the dispossesion of native peoples, during the colonialist and imperialist periods of capitalist expansion, their elites needed a set of rationalising theories to justify this expansion into what became 19th century Empire building. The so-called science of eugenics supported by scientists, physicians, lawyers and academics – all drawn from the educated middle-classes – provided an important part of these theories. Popularising racist ideology for the lower classes was also not neglected as the following extract from a 19th century poem by Rudyard Kippling illustrates;

“Take up the White Man’s burden
send forth the best you breed
Go bind your son’s to exile,
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild,
Your new caught, sullen peoples
Half devil and half child.”

It’s amazing how much can be compressed into such a short extract, isn’t it? Racial stereotyping and imperial justification condensed into a few populist stanzas. Yes it is all in there – except the systematic genocide perpetrated against these global indigenous communities. And of course also missing is the recognition that there was an urgent economic need to exagerate difference in order to rapidly exploit the human and natural resources of the world. Racism was (and is) merely an intellectual appendage to bourgeois ideology.

Race as a tool of capital – 2 (sterilisation/euthanasia/slave labour).

It is interesting and revealing to note that this crude ‘bioligist’ ideology of the eugenics movement developed two distinct strands, negative eugenics and positive eugenics. Positive eugenics were seen as promoting policies and procedures which enhanced the health, strength and general well being of the favoured people (now posited as a superior ‘race’) whilst negative eugenics was meant to activate policies and practices which eliminated those defective among the favoured population. Elimination was a fate, along with slavery, which also awaited any unfavoured people, now designated as a inferior (or more offensively as ‘mongrel’) races.

In other words, healthy, foods, exercise and good living conditions for the favoured people, forced sterilisation and euthanasia for the deformed or mentally handicapped, and, slavery, internment or extermination for the ‘inferior’ categories or the socially deviant. The manufactured concept of race became so widely accepted that the elite in many nations, attempted to assert, their own version of racial superiority with regard to other people’s. The search for some mythical (non existent) pure blood continuity became widespread. So in many places and particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, the ideas developed in the eugenics movement quickly morphed into ideas of racial improvement by means of so-called Racial Hygiene. For example;

“The German Society for Racial Hygiene (Deutsch Gesellschaft fur Ras senhygiene) was replicated in the years leading to and immediately after the First World War across East Central Europe. Thus, similar institutions were established in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Estonia, and Bulgaria, although the specific national context and social and medical practices in those countries did not differ significantly.” (Racial Science in Hitler’s New Europe, 1938 – 1945. Introduction.)

So the pseudo-scientific ideology of race was already common place throughout Central Europe, North and South America as well as Eastern Europe around the time of the First World War (1914 – 1918). After that particular war, the Nazi elite and their followers merely took the internationalised ideas of the eugenics and racial hygiene movement to their logical distorted extreme. The Nazi intelligentia and their supporters had a particular need to exagerate difference for additional political as well as economic reasons. They merely included those classed as Jews and Slavs in their list of so-called ‘mongrel races’ and applied this type of racial categorisation to the continent of Europe as well as to the colonies of Africa, America, Asia and Oceana. These newly classified unworthy and unwanted Europeans (which also included communists) were eventually forced to work as slave labour, to emigrate or were simply eliminated. And again from the standpoint of the capitalist class and their state supporters, there was a compelling economic reason for them to do so.

The European states in which capital dominated not only created a new dominant mode of production but as noted expanded the means of production into larger and larger and more efficient units. This fact together with the industrial use of machinery created not only a surplus of commodities needing foreign outlets, but soon a surplus working population, who where no longer regularly needed. These dispossessed indigenous people were a potential and actual problem for they were prone to disatisfaction, disruption and rebellion. One solution was to provide them with newly sequestered land, farms, offices and buildings obtained by invading a foreign territory. And of course this type of capitalist inspired conquest required a disciplined, healthy fighting force of loyal citizens to seize and secure the confiscated factories, shops, offices and farms.

Prior to the development of Germanic lebensraum, advanced capitalist countries, such as Holland, France and England, had already done the same resource expansion and annexation in Africa and elsewhere. Spain and Portugal had done so in the Americas etc. It was only a matter of time before others tried the same. These loyal citizens of the state, in the case of Nazi controlled Germany where classed as the ‘true Germans’ of mythical ancient Aryan stock. Hence positive eugenics was practiced for those classified as such. That left the question of what to do with those – who for whatever reason – opposed such development? The answer was concentration camps, work camps, assassinations and ghettos. What to do with the unreliable, unhealthy or handicapped elements of Germany? The answer lay in negative eugenics – assassination, sterilisation or forced euthanasia.

So to sum up so far: The accelerated invention, manufacture and distribution of ‘race’ coincided with the accelerated invention, manufacture and distribution of commodities in general and of sugar, tobacco, tea, cotton, spices and fruits in particular. It was these latter commodities that required vast areas of foreign lands to farm and large numbers of slaves or other forms of compulsory labour, to plant, grow, pick, pack and deliver as cargo to the commercial wing of the capitalist mode of production. Such ruthless subjugation, exploitation and oppression, in pursuit of a profitable return on capital required an extention and promotion of bourgeois ideology in the form of supposed European superiority, allied to Eugenics and Racism. As we have seen, the invention of race was an aspect of pro-capitalist ideology that developed in the universities and state departments of the countries most advanced capitalistically. The 20th century Fascist version of state-capitalism in Germany merely came up with the ultimate eugenicist/racist (final) solution to the problem of people who got in the way.

The legacy of exaggerated difference.

Religeous differences are still being kept alive in the 21st century and are particularly emphasised by the fundamentalists of all religious persuasions. Reaching or harking back to the fundamental tenets of religions, as Jewish, Christian and Islamic fundamentalists do, means reviving ancient texts and renewing the myths and exagerated/distorted differences contained within them. Backward ideas based upon tribal rivalries of 1,500 to 2,000 years ago have now been reintroduced as relevant to the 21st century. Killing and land appropriation in the name of God after going out of fashion for a lengthy period, returned in the 20th century and sadly continues in the 21st.

The actual textual justification and recommendation of conquest and killing in the name of God contained within the Bible and Qur’an, which the extreme fundamentalists, utilise may have been neglected by the majority of those who still subscribe to these religions, but they have not been openly rejected by them. It is perhaps revealing why this might be so. Could it be that to reject them openly would be to admit that God is not good or alternatively admit that these words were not a God’s at all, but based upon the original, tribally inspired words of some dangerous, devious, and ancient patriarchal men?

The legecy of ‘scientific’ Racism lies partly in the way in which non-white people have been and still are being treated. The cobbled together psuedo-science of racial classification, so permiated the advanced capitalist (ex colonialist) countries in the 20th century, that its residue still exists in the form of discrimination against certain peoples – usually, but not exclusively, of colour. This racism has never completely disappeared and in many cases has been institutionalised. In this regard people rarely bother to consider why racism is predominantly, if not exclusively, a white problem and prejudice. Yet it is obvious why. The domination of the capitalist mode of production, first occurred in Europe, where nations of people of light skin existed in large numbers. The continuing domination of elite white people in all aspects of European and North American life, is a direct result of the global domination of capital as a mode of production.

Since capitalism is based upon minority control of wealth and competition for scarce resources, then that minority – as a dominant economic class – will tend to be white. But also since under the class divisions of capitalism, there is competition for jobs, housing and education, then this relative scarcity for the vast majority of citizens has engendered a need to gain (or prevent loss of) economic and social advantage. In an attempt to gain an advantage, it has become useful for some people to focus on small human differences such as skin colour or nationality and to continue to exagerate them. This relative scarcity of jobs has been made even worse by the capitalist inspired recruitment of low wage workers, of different ethnicities and religions who have been encouraged to become official economic immigrants. Imigrants, themselves victims of dispossession and displacement, particularly those of colour, are being conveniently being used as scapegoats for the present economic and social ills. However, it is the capitalist mode of production which is at fault. It creates wealth for some and relative scarecity for the majority. All this evidence suggests that as long as the bourgeois system of capitalism exists bourgeois inspired practices and prejudices such as racism will continue to surface. Yet the new crisis situation in the 21st century, points to more than one possible outcome.

The first outcome is, as we now witness developing in Europe and North America in particular, the taking up of previously sanctioned exagerated differences to claim priority in jobs, housing and education, among other things and to deny them to others. In this way the concept of ‘race’ along with ‘nationality’ and ‘religion’ will remain something of a socio – economic tool of capital for it hinders and obscures the second possible response to scarcity for the non – capitalist majority of the worlds populations. Since the present system of production could be and would be capable of ensuring a high standard of existence for everyone if a minority were not disproportionally benefiting from it whilst controlling it, then the second possibility is as follows.

It would be for the oppressed majority to refuse to sanction these previously manufactured exagerated differences and unite to challenge and change the mode of production. As we have seen it is the needs of those controlling this mode of production which has created the modern concepts of race (and nationality) as well as the relative economic scarcity for those not in the top ten percent. However, the very real danger is that those who are not provided with such a practical understanding along with a coherent humanist alternative, will always be subject to bourgeois prejudices such as sectarianism, racism and nationalism.

Once again I suggest that only a revolutionary – humanist understanding can offer a non-sectarian theoretical and practical alternative to the contemporary bourgeois and petite – bourgeois ideological hegemony. This is because sectarianism (political or religious) is just another form of petite bourgeois exagerated difference manufactured for very definite purposes of discrimination, exploitation and control. A revolutionary humanist understanding also contains the intellectual tools to deconstruct the economic base of the continuing racist and nationalist narratives and thus to challenge the practice of blaming and dividing the victims. Once again I suggest a critical-mass of revolutionary – humanists urgently needs to be created.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Critique, Nationalism, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism, The State | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

MISSING THE OBVIOUS.

A palpable sense of relief has been expressed in the mass media that the lone shooter of 8 plus people in Munich was not connected in any way with the Islamic fundamentalist movement, currently headed by ISIL. Within one day a provisional diagnosis of psychological problems was suggested by the German Police, the European political elite and the sycophantic press. I suggest the increasingly frequent reference to the possibility of mental disorders to explain such atrocities, is motivated by the relief that a confrontation with religious mysticism, extremism and reactionary ideology can once again be publicly avoided.

The recent events in Nice, Paris, the UK and elsewhere – instigated or recognised by the Islamic extremists of ISIL – has compounded the opinion held by many people that this particular religious form of belief has much to do with most of the current manifestation of targeted violence. I share the ‘obvious’ opinion that religion has much to do with many of the atrocities, but I also suggest a word of caution. By wanting a simple answer, it is too easy to miss another obvious connection. In actual fact, religion is not the only causal aspect of the modern manifestations of terrorist brutality. There is another.

Whilst the religious connection is obvious to all those not in denial, what is missing from the ‘official’ analysis is that this religious connection itself is yet another symptom stemming from the five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The extent of this compound crisis is causing high levels of dissatisfaction and anger among many of the millions effected negatively by one or more of the elements of what amounts to a large-scale global crisis. The economic part of the crisis is one of relative over-production, (exemplified by the symptoms of unemployment, precarious employment, low-paid employment and austerity) which mostly effects those among the working classes and poor. This economic part of the crisis also disproportionally effects the lives of young people – that much is obvious. The financial aspect of the crisis primarily effects those who live off, or depend upon, financial investments (shares, foreign currency dealing, futures trading, investment banking etc.) of one kind or another, but this also indirectly effects everyone.

The social dimension of the crisis, (housing, health, education, social services etc.) mostly effects the working classes and the poor, but again it disproportionally effects young people. That much should also be obvious. The ecological and moral elements of the crisis – themselves of substantial magnitude – also effect how disaffected some people feel with the world in which they live. In particular, illegal wars in which millions are killed unjustly by western armed aggression – can radicalise previously passive citizens. How much more will this fact alone radicalise many of those under 30 years old, who feel disgust at such barbaric injustice, particularly those who have so little to lose and want to hit back? What should also be obvious is that radicalisation and anger against the present neo-liberal capitalist system is unlikely to take the form of flowing through existing political channels. It is common knowledge that these channels have proved useless in the past and are choked with the detritus of existing ‘mature’ elites, who apart from rhetoric, are just out for themselves.

Disaffection with how capitalist societies are run, how the system divides up the wealth created, how its representatives bomb and invade countries and how productive activity for profit destroys the planets ecology, is now an almost universal if not co-ordinated reaction to the current multi-faceted crisis of this present mode of production. And deterioration and consequent dissatisfaction is bound to increase. To constantly ignore all this dissatisfaction, as most commentators do, is clearly to miss the obvious. For with this background in mind it is obvious that some sufficiently disaffected people will commit crimes against individuals, or property. Some may gather together and riot as they have done in the past!

Yet others will retreat into depression, drug addiction or commit an even quicker form of suicide. It is also obvious that some will even join a movement which is not only against the present system, but is in favour of another form. So despite a number of differences, what connects most of these 21st century outrageous acts, by small group and lone wolf perpetrators of mass killings, is the fact that they are predominantly the work of disaffected youth. Decades of history reveal that in a systemic crisis, young people (ie those above 15 and usually below 30 years of age) are invariably the first to become radicalised in one form or another.

During past crises of capitalism, radicalised young people (predominantly those between the ages of 17 and 30) also joined movements of violent pro-active action and resistance, such as the various fascist parties, socialist parties and communist parties.  This same age group also became the main shock troops of the two world wars, (1914 -18 and 1939 – 45). They sat in the trenches, piloted the warplanes and manned the naval vessels of various types. Of course, young people are not the only ones disaffected by modernity, but they are often the most alienated, energetic and self-sacrificing, members of our communities.

For the above reasons it is obvious that if in a maturing crisis, they are not provided with a decent living, a positive direction and motivation to make sense of their lives, some of them will individually hit out in anger and frustration. In other words they can be expected to react in just the way some have already done in Norway, America and now Munich. It is also obvious, that others will be influenced by one aspect of the crisis or another, to join organisations such as ISIL which collectively hit out and idealistically promise better things. Both these results or outcomes of the current multi-faceted crisis are occurring almost simultaneously within the towns and cities of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and  North America.

The bourgeois characteristic of ‘missing the obvious’ is for me yet another example of the old saying ’there are none so blind as those who won’t see’. The current elite-led focus on remedies aimed at surface symptoms, such as gun control, airport security, personality profiling and increased policing will not remove the growing dissatisfaction of communities with the failing mode of production or its violent expression in one form or another. The real challenge for adult humanity, is to recognise the validity of the current dissatisfaction of young people and others and create a means of overcoming it which becomes a more attractive, comprehensive, achievable alternative than the self-defeating alternatives of depression, drug culture and individual or collective terrorist violence. When the Mayor of Paris told Parisians that they must learn to live with terrorism, this indicated a typical one-sided bourgeois hypocrisy and bankruptcy.

We in Europe and the west have lived with terrorism – state orchestrated terrorism – for decades as was practiced in Vietnam and numerous other places since. It just never greatly effected us directly. However, in the wake of the Afghan and Iraq wars and Syrian and Libyan interventions – it now does – and that too should by now be obvious as the long awaited report on the war in Iraq, makes clear. In contrast to the Mayor of Paris and the elites who think like him, we should no longer be prepared to live with state organised terrorism nor the form orchestrated by the reactionary ideologues of religions – all religions. We should actively oppose both! Another world is possible, but not if it is based upon the capitalist mode of production – state run or corporate controlled. All this should be glaringly obvious and yet it is obviously missing in the bourgeois and petite-bourgeois media outlets. Once again we are witnessing those who support the capitalist mode of production, demonstrably and perhaps deliberately ‘missing the obvious‘.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2016.)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., Finance, neo-liberalism, Politics | Leave a comment

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.

As with many things influenced by the capitalist mode of production, the motives for political correctness are not all what they seem. On the surface, the promoters of this strand of bourgeois ideology seem to be concerned with how people ‘feel’ and appear to be anxious not to allow any disrespect to be shown to others. However, dig a little deeper and its true purpose can be seen to be fuelled by power, ambition and monetary concerns – not concerns for humanity. Those arguing for political correctness are highly selective in who they defend and who they attack; who they support and who they neglect. They are far from being universally benevolent. Some advocates of political correctness stayed silent on, or colluded with, the war on Iraq and the bombing of wedding parties in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly the origin of the concept and practice of political correctness lies in the field of politics. The clue to its evolution and function clearly lies within the term itself – politics – and the less advertised, behind the scene, links to the economics of capitalism and state capitalism that politicians have.

In passing it should be remembered how Political Correctness was used under Fascism, Bolshevism, Stalinism and Maoism – all variants of capitalism, state orchestrated in this case rather than corporate. Under those particular political elites, any and every form of critical discourse, sarcastic comment or harmless joke against the ‘leader’ or the ‘system’, was met with savage reprisals. Within a short time of these elites gaining power, such was the oppression meted out to critics that self-censorship was practiced by all but a few. Indeed, in some of these former ‘systems’ and more recently others such as Egypt, ISIL and (last week) Turkey, such savage retaliation can still occur. Political correctness, whether exercised officially or unofficially, means pressure to never do, say or think something that the elite and their supporters do not like. The more power the elite have the more they are able to sanction or silence criticism with the most draconian measures of punishment. At the moment the western capitalist based elites and their supporters usually only detrimentally influence their own critics by neglect, disaproval or censure, for they are still platonically wedded to a modicum of free speech. But for how long?

Money makes the world go round’.

Under the normal phase of the capitalist mode of production, it is not productive activity which determines how money moves around, but it is the way money (in the form of capital) moves around which determines productive activity. Under capitalism, making money is the primary concern which dominates all else. Whether by working or investing for profit, obtaining money determines, how we live, where we live or even if we live. But everyone knows that the economic and political elites get the lions share of the available wealth distributed on the distorted ‘money-go-round’ of capitalism. They also have most to lose if anything interupts or interferes with the steady flow of cash which is channelled into their bank accounts.
It is potential social disturbances effecting these elite-destined power and cash steams which the concept of political correctness is designed to prevent. In the west, it is a concept originally coined by those whose cash flow is gained exclusively or predominantly through the bourgeois economic and political processes. Its open purpose is to modify attitudes and circumvent criticism of issues which are of vital concern to the economic and political elite. For example, issues such as religion and of course, the form of immigration practiced under the capitalist mode of production. In other words in the west, the concept of political correctness is yet another form of bourgeois and petite bourgeois intellectual thought control. Its undeclared purpose is to deflect a serious examination of the exploitation and oppression at the heart of capitalism and it’s desire for the ‘free’ movement of capital and labour.

The term has also been taken up as a valid form of linguistic currency by others within the middle classes, but for very different reasons. Nevertheless, even these particular dealers in political correctness and it’s associated boo words are also under the shared illusion that politics and capitalism are natural and therefore eternally valid forms of human interaction. In fact modern politics along with such terms as ‘political correctness’ are nothing more than social constructs manufactured by the bourgeoisie during the 20th century of their epoch. Like any other coin of the realm, ‘political correctness’ has two faces – a heads and a tails so to speak. The main side, the purpose for which it was fairly recently minted, was to avoid offending or alienating sections of the producing, purchasing and voting public in the modern mixed urban and global settings spawned by capital. But before exploring this aspect further, let us remind ourselves of what we already know.

‘All my troubles Lord, soon be over’.

The bourgeois (capitalist) mode of production has in the past few centuries, forcibly created a world market for its goods and services. During the periods of Colonial expansion and Imperialist control, the bourgeois economic and political elites had no fear of offending anyone or any group who stood in their way. With swords and guns in hand, they conquered lands and peoples. They bought and sold human beings, ethnically cleansed native populations and decimated indigenous peoples. Later still they bombed them into submission or into an early grave, whilst continuing to use the most foul language and disrespectful terms to describe them. The inhabitants of the Niger region of Africa or gentlemen of the western orient were shortened into nasty and frequently used expletives.

The elites who instigated and orchestrated this brutal extractive process, needed by the accelerating productivity of the capitalist system, were deeply racist and sexist and were mainly men. Until the advent of universal suffrage, their positions of power were not substantially reliant upon upsetting anyone and so as noted above, the names they chose to apply to their victims in Africa, Oceana, the Americas, and Europe were highly offensive and derogatory. In the 19th and 20th centuries whole departments of middle-class bourgeois intellectuals created fields of so-called science based upon the alleged and in most cases manufactured inferiority of the different non-favoured, non-white ‘races’. Since these males dominated society, they also dominated the intellectual discourse within bourgeous culture and their racism and sexism permiated down the class structures into popular culture. And sad to say pockets of it still persists in all classes and genders.

The times they are a changing’.

However times have changed and the pro-capitalist political elites in the ‘advanced’ capitalist countries have by now assembled a cultural mix of religions and ethnicities in all the major towns and cities who are not only cheap sources of labour for production, distribution and sales, but voters in elections and consumers of capitalist commodities and services. So now there is an urgent need not to offend any section of global society in case those offended cease to purchase goods and services (the primary vehicles of profit) from certain suppliers, cease to supply essential or ‘strategic’ raw materials, or fail to vote for an eager new candidate or currently incumbent politician.

Hence the the fear side of the political correctness coin. So much fear exists amongst the economic and political, elites that they will not publicly condemn any cultural or religeous backwardness unless they are forced to. Hence female genetal mutulation, forced marriages and honour attacks have until recently, had a blind eye turned to them. The fear of offending Zionists Jews has resulted in silence or muted complaints against the continuing slow genocide of Palestinian life in Gaza and the West Bank. The patriarchal ideology and practices of all the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are passed over in silence or even colluded with as if they and the capitalist mode of production were not the most significant parts of the problem facing humanity. Atrocities done in the name of Islam are classed as terrorist in order to avoid confronting the fact that some terrorist acts are directly inspired by Islamic religious ideology and their mainstream religious texts. Atrocities done in the name of the ‘war against terror’ are classed as self-defence in order to avoid confronting the fact that they are inspired by neo-liberal capitalist ideology. This type of hypocricy is all part of the broader spectrum of bourgeios ideology along with its recent appendage, political correctness.

‘Old man river’.

Then, as mentioned earlier, there is the other side of the political correctness currency which has a different motivation. This stems from a knowledge and understanding that the Colonial and Imperialist period of denegration of foreign peoples, women and homosexuals, was incorrect, inhuman, counterproductive and needed to be corrected – at least verbally. The concept of Political Correctness therefore had a warm reception amongst some sections of society. Not wanting to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of those who were once forced to plant and pick cotton, tobacco and sugar cane etc., this section of society in the name of ‘acceptance’ also kept silent or turned a blind eye to patriarchal and brutal practices such as child marriages and genetal mutulation, long condemned within the advanced capitalist countries. In this section of 20th century society too, there was no longer a need or desire for a crude derogatory regard for other cultures and ideas,

From the compensating and welcoming, non-judgemental perspective, the rights of women and children (or rather lack of them) were viewed as culturally and religiously specific. The right to openly criticise religious ideas and practices were (and are) seen by many in this mileu as phobic abberations. Political Correctness guru’s have wielded mis-used terms such as anti-semitism, (when they were actually witnessing Judeophobia), Islamophobia, (when they witnessed anti-Muslim racism), and racism (when they encountered ethnic or social intolerance). These accusations they levelled at anyone and everyone who dared raise an intellectual eyebrow let alone engage in any form of rigorous criticism against reactionary actions and ideologies. Some of these political correctness wielding individuals used (and still use) their positions of power and influence to ruin the careers and reputations of those who could not be silenced by any other means. As a result, self-censureship became part of the political correctness exchange currency within the so-called democracies. But at what cost?

The cost of political correctness can now be measured by the changes in politics itself. A resurgence of right-wing political movements is gaining ground because the politically correct left has abandoned a radical criticism of the capitalist mode of production and it’s reactionary and aggressive symptoms. The social-democratic left is in total denial concerning capitalism and crisis and the radical anti-capitalist left is in sectarian melt-down. Once again (as in the 1930’s) the main orchestrated radical voice arguing against the ongoing symptoms of capitalism in crisis are from the right-wing nationalists. These proto – fascist parties and individuals are correct when they say 21st century immigration is primarily a way to lower wages in the advanced capitalist countries.

They are also correct when they point out that the welfare system provided under the current neo-liberal economic and political structure are being stretched too far and applied unfairly. They are also correct when they argue that the EEC is a bureaucratic gravy train for business, banking and the political elite. In these and on other issues they are not original but merely echoing what large numbers of ordinary people already think. Being right on some issues of course does not mean that the right-wing proto-facists are not without extremely dangerous dispositions. However, it is far too simplistic to deny or ignore these realities because the proto-fascists constantly dwell upon them. Of course, what these right wing petite bourgeois elements do not say is that all these symptoms are the logical outcome of the capitalist mode of production in the 21st century. But neither do most of the left. And there is the danger.

‘You’ve got me, under your spell’.

While the ‘left’ has been intellectually hypnotised by the concept of political correctness swinging purposefully before their eyes, the ‘right’ appear to address reality – at least as far as some of the symptoms go. It cannot be surprising therefore if many people threatened by unemployment, low pay, deteriating welfare, health and educational opportunities are listening to the right-wing politicians rather than the left. The amazing response of much of the politically correct left (and even some of the so-called anti-capitalist left) to this outcome is to blame the white and blue collar victims of bourgeois practical and ideological domination. Workers (as yet not revolutionary minded) who want to protect themselves against unemployment, low pay, over crowded schools, poor housing, and hospital waiting lists – and say so – are designated by the politically correct, as racists or closet racists.

As perhaps could have been predicted, this ‘political correctness’ syndrome leaves no option for an anti-capitalist struggle based upon class, since class divisions are ignored, glossed over or dissolved by the acid of political correctness. Instead, there is a taking of sides over a distorted form of cultural and religious relativism. Political correctness is certainly not an aid to critical analysis of anything let alone the critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production and the manifold symptoms which emanate from it. Political correctness is nothing more than a means of curtailing analysis of anything the economic and political elites along with their petite bourgeois supporters deem detrimental to their interests. It is the thin end of the wedge being driven into the (perhaps no longer needed?) bourgeois notion of free speech. As such it can be extended to anything the elite designate as in the ‘national interest’ which of course is bourgeois interest carried into the insitutions of the state.

Politics is part of the problem for humanity, not part of the solution. One only needs to consider the recent events in Europe and North America with regard to the political elite, to appreciate that this is the case. Their evident self-interested manouvres and back stabbing during and after the 2016 Brexit, on the one hand, and their imposition of austerity, as in Greece etc., on the other, (how politically correct is all that?) is a sufficient indicator of the problems they cause and the incompetence they display. The working class and those identifying with working class struggles against the capitalist mode of production needs to be guided by political correctness like they need an additional (non-natural) hole in their head.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2016)

Posted in Critique, neo-liberalism, Politics, Sectarianism | Tagged | 3 Comments

BREXIT AND THE BLAME GAME.

If the gloves were off among the economic and political elites before the counting of the referendum votes – and they were – then  there is no sign that the combatants are ready to step out of the ring. The two sides in the Brexit debate, in the run up to the vote, consistently misrepresented the other side, fabricated information for their own side, ignored the real issues and thoroughly discredited themselves further in the process. Even before the debate, very few people believed more than a fraction of what any politician asserted was the truth about anything let alone what was in their own particular interests. This whole episode has merely confirmed the polite view that politicians are extremely economical with the truth and has given further credence to the cynical answer to the rhetorical question; ‘How do you know when a politician is lying; Answer; when they open their mouths.’  Bourgeois politics has no real credibility with increasing numbers of ordinary people – and not just in the UK.

On the political surface of European and British politics at the moment, everything is in turmoil, yet below this surface nothing has really changed. The Conservative Party is split between ‘inners’ and ‘outer’s’, its leader Prime Minister Cameron has resigned and internal chaos, close to war is the order of the day. Many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, also split between, ‘inners’ and ‘outer’s’  have openly replaced their pugilistic debating gloves with knives poised to plunge into each others backs. The ripples are already spreading across Europe as the implications, repercussions and recriminations turn into a tidal wave of financial speculation and political manoeuvring. This effects is also being felt in Scotland and Northern Ireland within the UK. The financial markets, already in another condition of undeclared leverage crisis, will now be as volatile as they were before the 2008 financial crisis. Everything seems to be changing and it is, but only on the surface.

For at the economic and social level nothing substantial has changed. The global capitalist economy is still bogged down in a crisis of relative overproduction and  falling demand. Unemployment, low paid employment and precarious forms of employment are still endemic in all countries, in or out of any federal system of states. The world is still full of failed or failing nation states with regard to internal wars and refugee exodus, or with regard to the post-second world war consensus on welfare reforms. The effects of climate change, pollution and ecological damage continue to rapidly accumulate.  There is still a gigantic gap between the 1% (or less) and the 99% (or more) and none of the mainstream politicians can be even bothered to seriously challenge this state of affairs. The five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production is the elephant in the room which is generally ignored by  the elite and was absolutely ignored by all the sides in the Brexit debate.

The results of the Brexit referendum produced figures of approximately 17.4 million in favour of leaving and close to 16.2 million to stay. This bifurcated result has been promoted as a new substantial division between the citizens of the UK, but this too is merely to glance at appearances without considering many underlying factors.  It was presented as a single issue referendum, and on the surface it was, but this is to ignore what is going on below the political surface of European society in general and the UK in particular. Among the population in general, there is deep seated anger concerning the economic and social welfare under the neo-liberal phase of the capitalist mode of production. There are far more losers than winners in this new phase of capital accumulation. The Brexit referendum needs to be viewed with regard to this underlying socio-economic picture.

Of course on both sides there were also those who had different outcomes in mind. The right-wing, racist politicians among other things desired a return to nationalistic views, whilst some financiers and production firms wanted advantageous terms for present and future profit taking.  The elite politicians no doubt had in mind their future careers beyond politics – for them any lucrative seat in Brussels or the IMF is better than none. This mixture of temporary allies were successful in recruiting large sections of the population to vote their way, but the voting behaviour did not necessarily reflect the same motives as the leaders of both campaigns. In the confusion and contradiction of the pre-vote debate, some UK citizens may have just voted out of dislike for certain politicians, others may have voted because they liked, or hated less, certain politicians. Others may have tossed a mental coin to decide. Yet others may have simply boycotted the whole shabby charade.

Yet there were undoubtedly millions who thought (or hoped) that their situation would not get worse if they stayed within the EEC/EU. There were also millions on the leave side who thought (or hoped) that things would not get worse (as they have in Greece etc.) if they left this crumbling capitalist federal alliance. In other words, for the bulk of the population the real division was over how to prevent things getting worse and  hopefully would get better. For the bulk of the population there was (and is) the desire for things to get better, for improvements to hospitals, wages and salaries, job security, pensions, savings etc. In my estimation, the difference for the majority of the UK population was a difference in how best to achieve those outcomes, not a difference over what these outcomes should be. Yet the interests of the elite is to talk up the blame game to create an atmosphere in which what happens next economically and financially – and because of the profound nature of the crisis it will all be negative – will be the fault of one side or another.

And any blame game taking place among the oppressed and exploited in the aftermath of Brexit is the greatest danger. It has already begun among the political elite and they will try to involve others. Indeed it has already begun among the left, including the ’socialist’ left.  After only one or two days we are witnessing the ‘don’t blame me’ disclaimer in articles and posts, which only others on the left will probably read. This attitude assumes there are literally millions to blame for what follows – not the capitalist mode of production! How ill-considered is that, from so-called ‘socialists’? Such sectarian posturing of imagining there is a ‘correct’ line on everything – and only they know it – is to be expected, but also to be resisted. An allied danger is labelling all those who voted out because of immigration fears as racists or fascists. This would be a grave mistake and cause serious divisions. Not all those who voted one way are racists and not all who voted the other way are paradigms of virtue. Blaming the victims of the capitalist mode of production, for being under the influence of bourgeois prejudices (where they actually are) and for not immediately drawing revolutionary conclusions, is itself a product of bourgeois or petite-bourgeois modes of elitist thinking.

The real revolutionary-humanist non-sectarian position with regard to the Brexit vote is to remind the workers and others on both sides of the vote that their real problem lies with the capitalist mode of production and not with each other. The task, among other things, is to point out that their shared goals for decent homes and standards of living depend upon not blaming each other but of coming together to change the mode of production.  The task is to explain that all the negative symptoms raining down upon the vast majority of the world’s populations are the results of a mode of production which has outlived its ‘sell by date‘, never mind its ‘use by date‘. It is time for a revolutionary change – at the very least in thinking – not time to use this Brexit side-show as an excuse to indulge in a reformist blame game.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2016)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Nationalism, neo-liberalism, Politics, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism, The State | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

MOHAMMAD ALI

Predictably there has been a far greater outpouring of sentiment over the death of the charismatic boxer Mohamad Ali, than was apparent when he was alive. As was the case with the death of Nelson Mandela, establishment figures have queued up to heap accolades upon Ali, when before his death, the same establishment figures (and more) heaped animosity and scorn upon the many causes he stood for. Particular anger and contempt were levelled at him when he changed his name, then when he joined the Nation of Islam and when he refused to enlist for the American-led war in Vietnam. However not only was he the most accomplished boxer of his era and will probably be so for many generations to come, but he was considerably more. So it is not just his many boxing skills for which he will be remembered but because he was also something of a consistent activist, particularly for black rights in North America and elsewhere.

The media and the establishment will undoubtedly mention his activism, as they did with Mandela before him, but also from a similar reformist perspective. He will be presented and viewed as an active reformer for bourgeois human rights, and this is essentially the correct characterisation, for he never embraced a revolutionary anti-capitalist position. In all his criticisms of the social and economic situation for black Americans and white workers there was no hint of an anti capitalist perspective. His decision to discard his given name of Cassius Clay as with his other stances took bravery and strength of character but his consciousness never went much further than the religious understanding of The Nation of Islam. Nevertheless, for the most part and in his actions he represented a strong humanist trend albeit within the boundaries of a religious perspective.

This limitation of Ali’s understanding is not surprising and his failure to go further and become a revolutionary – humanist rather than a religeous – humanist cannot be really laid at his door. The example of anti capitalism presented to the world in the form of the former Soviet Union, China and their local defenders in the various sectarian Communist Party guises, acted as a barrier not only to talented charismatic persons such as Ali, but millions of ordinary citizens as well. The rapid degeneration of the Bolshevik model of anti capitalism into repressive state capitalism had sealed off generations from the revolutionary – humanist perspectives of Karl Marx and other such 19th century humanist orientated anti-capitalists. All that remained with a modicum of humanity for those dissatisfied with the many negative characteristics of capitalism in the late 20th century, was left reformism, institutionalised voluntary work and religeous introspection.

So it is well that ordinary people celebrate the life and perhaps mourn the death of Mohamad Ali as an example that not all those who succeed within the capitalist mode of production and make millions of pounds, dollars etc., are as thoroughly corrupt as the rest of the capitalist and pro-capitalist establishment. Ali stands for what the rest of the capitalist elite are not capable of becoming ie radical reformers, but he also demonstrates the limitations of the individual and of limited understandings of the current mode of production based upon capital and wage labour. The latter is something the present and future generations will have to re-discover in order for humanity to really put behind it divisions of race, religion, gender and ability and move on to a less destructive mode of production.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2016 )

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WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOCIALISM?

The capitalist mode of production has always attracted criticism, predominantly for its effects upon the poor, the underprivileged and the working classes. The unremitting greed of those who accumulate prodigious wealth directly or indirectly through their connections with capitalist production and circulation, has also brought about very negative comments. Furthermore, the enormous gap between rich and poor engendered by Capitalism has periodically produced scathing condemnation. More recently the defects of capitalist speculation, corruption and financial crisis, along with industrial pollution and ecological destruction have drawn much adverse attention.

Yet it is possible to be steadfastly against all these symptoms emanating from the domination of capital without actually understanding the unresolvable conflicts and problems of alienation which lie at the heart of this particular mode of production. Critical views of capitalisms symptoms combined with a lack of understanding of its fundamental and irreconcilable contradictions, has given rise to two associated phenomena within the social and political spheres of modern societies. They are reformism and socialism. Both of these are the result of superficial understandings and emanate predominantly from within the middle-classes. This lack of analytic understanding, I suggest is what is wrong with those who cannot see beyond reformism and ‘socialism’. Elsewhere I have critiqued reformism, so in this particular article I will criticise the concept and practice of socialism.

What is Socialism?

A fairly concise definition of ‘socialism’ is; ‘a system of political governance which replaces competition with Co-operation through state ownership of land and capital and which introduces a policy of social equality.’

We can see right away that the description contains it’s own oxymoron. A system of political governance for a start can never create social equality. Politics is already an elevation of one section of a community over the rest who are, or then become, a formal elite. Furthermore state ownership of the means of production – land and capital – becomes the province of the political and bureaucratic state elite – which is yet another source of social inequality. It is often case that the term Co-operation can sound positive and life affirming, but only if we do not stop to think about it. However, if we do stop to think, our knowledge will tell us that the socialist state of the Soviet Union insisted – gun in hand – on the co-operation of those in industry and agriculture as well as those in the numerous Gulag concentration camps. Co-operation is also enforced in the armed bodies of men and women who our elites order to wage war on other such armed contingents. In other words, the term Co-operation is just another meaningless abstraction until it is filled with content and there is clearly no social equality within the content of these and many other co-operative projects.

The concept of ‘socialism’ is also one which has become so elastic that it has been stretched to include a wide spectrum of beliefs, opinions and actions. On the one hand it is used to describe any feeble institutionalised action a pro – capitalist state may take to offset any of the negative symptoms arising from the capitalist mode of production. On the other hand it has been used to characterise the establishment of the huge nation states mentioned above (Soviet Union and China etc.) in which everything was owned and controlled by the state. The use of this term to describe such a varied selection of actions and policies indicates the confusion and superficial understandings of those who continue to utilise it as if its meaning was clear and agreed, or could now ever become so.

It is true that the term ‘socialism’ originally attracted a strong element of anti-capitalist thinking, this is perhaps why a few people still cling on to it’s use. However, this element has long since gone. It was partly emptied of this content due to its adoption by Stalinists and Maoists to describe the systems of state controlled compulsory wage-slavery they developed in the Soviet Union, China and other such command economies. The mode of production they and a few Stalinists and Maoist imitators actually ruled over is more accurately described as state-capitalist. This type of draconian outcome could have been predicted and indeed was predicted. In addition, decades earlier Marx had criticised ‘socialists’ on a number of occasions and in his own research notes on capital had commented;

“.. the idea held by some socialists that we need capital but not the capitalists is altogether wrong.” (Marx. Grundrisse. Page 503 ebook version.)

So in the case of the Soviet Union, China and their imitators, the state elite held control of the natural resources along with the means of production and workers continued to work part of the day for their own maintainance and the rest of the day for the state – instead of an individual capitalist firm. In this way the state elite dictated the type and scale of production and controlled the surplus labour and surplus value produced rather than the previous owners or shareholders of industries or firms. In other words the workers continued to be wage-slaves (one of the essential foundations of the capitalist mode of production) and were treated with as much – or even more – brutality and indifference than any former capitalist employers might have displayed.

The term ‘socialism’ was also emptied of any lingering anti-capitalist content by those middle-class ‘socialist’ reformers who enjoyed privileges under the capitalist mode of production and thus wished to retain it. Many from this section of society were offended by the heartlessness of many aspects of capitalism and wished to use state intervention as a means to keep any extremes in check. The New Deal in the USA and the 1945 Labour Government in the UK being prime examples of the implementation of these ‘socialist’ style reforms in the 20th century. This desire to moderate any rampant capitalist exploitation from above, they claimed was a socialistic one and indeed by any strict definition it was. Because of this confusing spectrum of uses, I suggest those who wish to bring clarity in the anti-capitalist struggle, can have very little reason to continue to use the term ‘socialism’ as a rallying call or as a concept which describes their views. Those anti-capitalists who continue to cling to its use out of some misguided loyalty to tradition, are clearly not revolutionary with regard to the language they use or how they choose to portray themselves. Indeed, seriously considered, revolution and tradition are even incompatible as abstract concepts let alone when applied to the anti-capitalist struggle.

So who are the Socialists?

There are many who describe themselves as socialists. It is to be expected, from what has been written earlier, that those who do so comprise of a wide spectrum of socio-political positions. ‘Socialists’ can be found among all economic classes. Yet the most influential category, under the capitalist mode of production, are to be found among the educated middle-classes. It is from among this mileu that the two main types of ‘socialists’ can be found. The first type are the genuine petite bourgeois socialists and the second type are the opportunist petite bourgeois socialists.

Genuine middle-class socialists are those who subscribe to and sincerely wish for a future socialistic type state-moderated capitalist mode of production as an end. They honestly aspire to bring about a more benign public/private partnership; a socio-economic mix of state-capitalist and private capitalist co-operation within nation states or federations of states. These individuals have been unable to recognise that a radical change in the mode of production has become necessary and that the only way to achieve that is by a revolutionary transformation. So even genuine ‘socialists’ of the public (ie state) ownership persuasion represent a conservative element within the struggle between capital and labour; between workers and capitalists. Unless such individuals undergo something of an epiphany, they will invariably act to protect the system in order to retain their ‘positions’ and pursue their goal of attempting to reform its worst aspects. They invariably fail to recognise the extent to which the upholders of the system will resort to dirty tricks and violence in order to prevent its demise as well as resist or subvert any reforms they do not approve of.

Indeed, it is precisely the deviousness and violence of the elite upholders of a system in crisis which introduces the necessity for revolution. The elites and their supporters will not sanction the transformation of the system they benefit from despite the fact that from the perspective of humanity as a whole, it does far more harm than good. Just look at the heartless vigour they are exercising over austerity and the privatisations of public resources in Europe and elsewhere. Revolution, therefore, is no more than the political term used to describe the socio-economic process of creative destruction that becomes absolutely necessary to end one mode of production and replace it with another.

The second group who may from time to time call themselves ‘socialists’ are merely those opportunists paying lip service to a socialist future in order to gain votes or credibility among potential working class voters. Tony Blair and his accolites spring to mind here. These ‘socialists’ are often political chameleons who change their political complexion according to the environment they find themselves in. These in times of social or political unrest will also act to conserve the system because their social and political ambitions are to personally prosper within the system.

Both the genuine and opportunist ‘socialists’ can be found enjoying privileges within the political theatres such as parliaments, left political parties such as the British Labour Party and of course trade unions. In these arenas they can be found promoting their brand of reformist ‘socialist’ nonsense which they assert is in the best interests of the working class and the poor. It is nonsense because the fundamental problem with the capitalist mode of production lies not in the myriad of negative symptoms which arise from it, but from the causal defect at the core of it. The problem lies in the historic dispossession of the vast majority of humanity (the workers) from direct control of their means of production and what is produced.

Dispossession and alienation.

Throughout most of the long evolutionary history of the human species, there has been a direct connection between the work done by individuals and groups and the ownership of the results of that work. In the early socio-economic communities if an individual chose to create an object out of the materials the natural world provided then the object belonged to the individual. The individual decided how to utilise the chosen object because it was a product of his or her own labour. If a group (family, local community, tribe etc) created an object or a number of objects these objects of labour belonged to the group. The group would collectively decide how to utilise them. The connection between their labour and the object or objects created was direct and could only be given away or alternatively taken away from them by force.

The advent of slavery and feudal semi-slavery ushered in periods in which what the economically active population produced was proportionally confiscated as tribute or tax/rent in kind. But with perhaps the exception of slavery and imprisonment, even during those periods there was still a direct connection between what was produced and ownership of the results. Not so now. Apart from within the home, the fundamental connection between what communities of people make and who gets to own the results has been broken. Modern ‘socialists’ in the main do not recognise that this fundamental fact is the substantive problem within the capitalist mode of production.

Dispossession.

In fact the eventual world domination of the capitalist mode of production, commencing several centuries ago, only became possible due to the severing of four previous socio-economic communal connections to production. 1. The severing of workers from direct control of productive land. 2. The separation of the workers from direct control of the tools of production. 3. The disconnection of the workers from independent sources of subsistence. 4. The dissolving of any previous direct feudal ties or personal servitude to the conditions of production (ie the ending of serfdom and slavery).

This fourfold severing, which was actually a form of incremental dispossession, created a working class almost completely devoid of materials, tools, means of subsistence and communal obligations. These dispossessed workers were then ‘free’ to work for those who now controlled these means of production – the capitalists. That sort of ‘freedom’ is the bourgeois way of looking at this historic separation of the bulk of humanity from collective control of production. However, there is another viewpoint. The progressively dispossessed workers were (and are) not free, they are actually compelled by the lack of alternatives to become wage-slaves. This historic disconnection at the heart of production cannot be reversed by reforming the existing system or by the introduction of what its advocates call ‘socialism’.

The entire evolution of the capitalist mode of production has proceeded by developing the productive forces of society in such a way that those who work (the working classes) and create all the wealth, do not have a direct claim on the wealth they produce. Under the capitalist mode of production all the majority of workers get in exchange for the vast amounts of commodity and infrastructure wealth they produce and service, are wages or salaries which are only sufficient to survive at a moderate level when they manage to get employment and even less when they cannot. The huge resources working people collectively produce are appropriated by the capitalists and their elite buddies who now store them in the form of luxury goods, property, land, bonds, banked money-capital and of course use some to invest in further surplus value (profit) realising ventures.

Alienation.

Yet all this wealth, including the money capital, is nothing more than the combined value of stored up previous products of labour in various money or commodity forms. Therefore, to paraphrase Marx, the stored up value of capital is the product of collective labour and the product of collective labour now for the first time in history predominantly appears as capital. The product of collective labour now belongs entirely to someone else! In other words it is alienated from those who create it. The working classes are the creators of all wealth yet under the capitalist mode of production they are made to appear as the incidental secondary (precarious) and disposable elements of the production processes. In fact they – along with nature – are the primary elements.

Under the capitalist mode of production, every worker is also now a potential pauper. This is because if a capitalist concern cannot realise surplus labour/value (thus profits) from employing him or her, then the worker will be laid off. Thus under the normal or crisis conditions of capitalism sooner or later a proportion of workers will be unable to purchase the adequate necessities of living and be forced to beg for alms (state benefits, food banks etc) or other forms of charity. Thus alienation from capital dominated production can lead to alienation from life’s necessities and in extreme cases (as with some economically motivated suicides) from life itself. Capitalism has alienation and pauperism built into its very economic foundations.

As long as this system persists a relatively small capitalist and pro-capitalist elite can dictate what is produced, how much is produced, where it is produced, how much pollution and ecological destruction results from it and whether countries go to war to obtain resources and markets. The form of representative democracy and the law developed under capitalism are designed to secure and promote this mode of production – with all its major features intact! Representative democracy and bourgeois property laws are designed not to question capitalisms basis or to seek it’s transformation into something more egalitarian and which re-connects workers with the products of their labour.

For all these reasons it represents a real advance within the workers movement to have gained a consciousness of the real basis of the capitalist mode of production and therefore the limited nature of placing demands upon the capitalist state, which ‘socialists’ routinely do. It is a real advance in understanding to recognise the need for humanity to develop a post-capitalist mode of production. It therefore represents a serious failure and retreat to avoid including that understanding in any campaigns to defend workers conditions. Such a failure places any such demands within the framework of bourgeois ideology and amounts to no more than reinforcing the illusion that the capitalist mode of production is not fatally flawed and can go on forever. The perpetuation of that particular reformist illusion is now the predominant content of the term ‘socialism’ and it is the role of ‘socialists’ within the workers movements to promote it. Those who doubt the counter revolutionary nature of ‘socialism’ and socialists during severe structural crises of capitalism should consider the role both (including the ‘national socialists’) played in Germany during the 1930’s. Or at least read ‘Nazis: a double warning from history’ on this blog. For a more contemporary example consider the role played by the ‘socialist’ Hollande and his cabal in even banning peaceful demonstrations by trade unionists. So, what is wrong with ‘socialism’? In my opinion – all the above and more!

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2016)

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