BEGINNERS GUIDE 14.

On Capitalist Crisis or Crises.

The term ‘crisis’ appears frequently in the mainstream media, but it is rarely applied to the capitalist mode of production as a whole. With the exception of the 2008 financial crisis, it is also rare to see the term applied to more than one serious problem of modern life. Yet there are six areas where the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist mode of production are dangerously destructive. The six areas are; economics, finance, politics, social-welfare, environment and education.

1 Economics.

Economic activities (producing food, water, clothing and shelter) are the foundations upon which all human communities are based. Yet exceptions aside, within capitalist modes of production, these basic needs can only be purchased with money. Yet sufficient money can only be normally obtained by paid employment and large-scale unemployment therefore creates a national social crisis.

But alongside that basic-needs contradiction squirms another. The motive for capitalist production is profit which requires the constant production and sales of commodities and services. Production in turn needs constant supplies of raw materials and accessible markets. Capitalists compete for these and in extreme cases, encourage their political and military elites to declare hostilities on another country to secure such resources. Creating enemies and wars – are symptoms of capitalism in an international crisis.

2 Finance.

In stark contrast to the poor, the elites have so much money that they not only obtain obscenely high standards of living and accumulated wealth, they can use their money to do two things. First, use it to invest in more efficient production and distribution, thus creating even more goods/unemployment. Second, they use it to speculate in commodities (or contracts) buying and selling to make more money.

This ‘trading’ not only increases prices for essential commodities but speculation can devalue money and make everything more expensive. It can also lead to regular speculative bubbles like the one which burst in 2008. Speculators are currently pumping up bubbles in many more commodities which will burst and again paralyse general economic activity. Bursting bubbles are a symptom of capitalism’s financial crisis.

3 Politics.

Few can can doubt that the political systems and politicians in most countries are in crisis. Most are incompetent, motivated by self-interest, collectively corrupt and committed to the continuance of the capitalist mode of production. It is this commitment to capitalism with its unsolvable contradictions, which leaves them unable to sort anything out. Over the last century or so of governing capitalism, all the possible political forms have been tried and failed.

Capitalist countries have been run by aristocratic, right-wing, left-wing and liberal political elites; Fascist dictatorships, Bolshevik sectarians, former slave and peasant revolutionaries, military elites, religious elites and even the occasional female leader. All failed to overcome capitalism’s inbuilt contradictions, which remain irreconcilable with the needs of the majority of humanity. Unequal economic relationships inevitably create unequal political forms. Ownership and control, of production by the producers is what is needed, but politics stands in the way.

4 Social-welfare.

Social programmes in the areas of unemployment pay, health-care and end of life care programmes are all in obvious crisis. Under capitalism these should be funded from high earnings and purchases. Therefore, reduction in savings and taxes caused by unemployment and low pay results in a welfare funding crisis. Less taxes means less money for benefits, health-care and end-of-life care.

Under capitalism, a disproportionate amount of the combined annual value of all economic activity in each country goes into the private bank accounts of elites in finance, business, commerce, entertainment, sport and government. Consequently none of this finds its way into social-welfare programmes. Furthermore, the capitalist mode of production by developing science and mechanised production has enabled the human population to expand and consume a multitude of products at a rate which mean global resources are being rapidly exhausted.

Over 7 billion people (and rising) now potentially over-consume on a planet which prior to the industrial revolution supported less than one billion. For the world’s poor sufficient water, food, shelter and are already difficult to acquire. The better off countries of the world are running out of places to ‘dump’ their rubbish. More production and distribution by capitalist methods equals more social-welfare problems.

5 Environment.

Environmental issues are currently the most featured aspect of capitalist crisis. However, this area of concern is usually considered in isolation from the other five aspects of crisis. Its direct connection with capitalism is generally ignored. Otherwise knowledgeable commentators, describe the effects of ecological damage, climate change, floods, fires and pollution, but demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the dynamic of capitalist production which make these symptoms inevitable.

This intellectual disconnect between cause and effect in capitalist productive relationships, has led to large-scale denial, indifference, addictive consumption and a focus on cleaning-up rather than eliminating pollution. Arriving at different environmental conclusions from different class perspectives, is itself an element of the crisis facing humanity. If a critical-mass of people cannot think holistically, (and self-critically) then there can be no short or long-term serious efforts to reverse the environmental damage being done.

6 Education.

Education under capitalism is predominantly training for an occupation within its evolving system of production. The training is simultaneously ideological in order that people support the capitalist system and think there is no acceptable alternative to it. The resulting lack of questioning has become a symptom of crisis since it obscures the clarity needed by people to analyse the role of ‘capital’ in the many aspects of crisis we face.

Consequently, a great deal of self-education is required to navigate through the propaganda, half-truths, fake-truths and self-serving bias which are promoted by supporters of the capitalist system. An associated problem lies in the prevalence of dualistic either/or modes of thinking and in assumptions and opinions borrowed from supposedly authoritative sources. Seriously questioning everything is sadly the only wise course of action for anyone wishing to understand the world – as it is – in order to change it.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 13.

On Neo-Liberalism.

The capitalist mode of production began its career in the hands of merchant traders and capital took the form of Commercial Capital. Money was used to commission, purchase, transport and sell commodities from wherever they were produced to wherever they could be sold. Warehousing, market stalls and shipping were the most visible indicators. Merchant traders became rich and socially influential.

Later an industrial revolution occurred and capital began to be used to manufacture commodities on a large scale and on a continuous basis. Industrial Capital began to dominate socio-economic activity, it’s owners became the wealthiest and most influential. Factories, mines and large-scale farms were the most visible indicators.

The accumulated profits generated during those two stages accelerated a third stage in which loan or finance-capital became the most dominant form. Accumulated money was loaned at interest, to other capitalists, (merchants, industrialists, speculators) and governments. Banks, finance-houses and stock-exchanges, became the most visible manifestations of this particular stage.

Economic strategies.

Each of these stages had its own internal evolution and had different effects upon the general social and international relations within which they operated, but all grew absolutely, whilst their relative dominance shifted. The intellectual strategies of these interconnected stages appeared within economic theory. Mercantile, protectionism dominated early economic discourse and was replaced by liberal ‘free-market’ thinking when industry dominated governments.

The period of ‘free-trade’ capitalism led to freedom for the strongest capitalists (and capitalist countries) to dominate the weakest. Results! ‘Enclosures’, ‘Colonialism’ and ‘Imperialism’. Wars over access to essential raw materials and markets were triggered – including two world wars. Furthermore, technical advances in capitalist production techniques led to large-scale unemployment and potential (as well as actual) uprisings and revolutions. So after the Second World War a modification of free-market economics was proposed by John Maynard Keynes and was accepted by most European and Western governments.

This Keynesian economic strategy involved governments playing an active and leading role in economic and social affairs by regulating, stimulating and directing economic activity along with promoting social welfare programmes. Governments began to control capitalists. This welfare-capitalism model of economic theory and practice appeared to solve some of the problems associated with ‘free-for-all’ capitalism, but it hadn’t really.

A new phenomena occurred in which taxes on capital, profits and wages were increased to pay for this governmental activity. However, competition continued and in the leading capitalist countries, profits slumped, capital was increasingly exported and large-scale unemployment returned.

Financial de-regulation.

The drain on profits led to some economists and politicians resurrecting free-market liberal ideas – but in a new form – hence a new ‘liberalism’ or neo-liberalism. This involved free-market capitalism with new (ie neo) twists. The continued domination of finance-capital meant that that particular sector was able to persuade politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (et al) to introduce de-regulation of banking and financial transactions; to hold down wages and salaries by limiting trade union bargaining; and by allowing finance-capitalists to purchase public utilities, (eg, gas, electricity, water, telephones, postal services etc.,) at bargain prices.

Consequently wealth for the rich upper and middle-classes soared, particularly in Europe and North America whilst many working people living there sank into relative and absolute poverty. However, the advocates of neo-liberal capitalism were not fully satisfied by this mega re-distribution of social wealth upward to the elite. They wanted to secure it. Working people might get sufficiently upset by poverty and precarious conditions, to elect governments pledged to end this neo economic/financial theft. So in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, some elites invented a means to prevent this.

The T.T.I.P. Of a bureaucratic iceberg.

Neo-liberal theorists, financiers, economists and politicians collaborated in writing trade agreement documents, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, (TTIP) which would allow, private companies to prevent governments from taking any action which damaged or diminished their profitability. A future of capitalists controlling Governments.

Governments will be compelled to pay taxpayers money to compensate for losses incurred to capitalists by local or national government actions. Revealingly, these trade agreements are not available for public scrutiny. Nor are the special courts of arbitration open to the public. Secrecy and elite-only access to these machinations of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite are strictly enforced.

Financial, economic, political and social power already resides in the hands of the capitalist elite and further bureaucratic forms are being used against the ordinary people and their representatives. The capitalist real-world god is still profit, but their New Testament is now neo-liberalism and the Cardinals and Pontiffs of capital are now the owners/controllers of ‘too-big-to-fail’ corporations. Consequently, neo-liberalism has transformed ordinary people’s rights into the modern equivalent of dependent serfs and peasants. That may seem bad enough, but ecologically, there is more.

Profit-based production and consumption, increases commodity volumes and reduces labour costs. The manufacturing processes of commodities, also produces an increase in pollution, ecological damage and climate-change crisis. It also – via neo-liberal financed automation and artificial intelligence – reduces the numbers and pay of people employed who are then unable to purchase this increased production.

Over-production, stagnation and social strife.

Existing capitalist relative-overproduction is now increasing toward a 21st century generalised over-production crisis, leading to further economic stagnation before economic collapse and social strife. Yet a mixture of ignorance and self-interest means practically all pro-capitalists are blind to such unresolvable contradictions waiting to explode among their countries citizens.

Since these elites, dominate, economics, finance, education, science, politics, media and law, and are blind to the contradictions at play, ordinary citizens are not aware of them either. So those who suffer most are left struggling to understanding why. Thus leaving them open to being persuaded to blame other victims of the same socio-economic system. Divide and rule is daily being promoted in the hope of diverting attention away from the economic system capitalists promote and defend.

Applying neo-liberal theory and practice to 20th century capitalism has enabled a further enrichment of the elite by a further impoverishing the non-elite.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020.)

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CONFLICT IN THE GULF.

Superficially, it seems that the recent targeted assassination of Iran’s Qassem Suleimani, authorised by the American President, is just another example of Donalds’ schizophrenic type mentality. However, his role in this act of killing as well as his presence in office is a symptom of a much larger crisis. One which reaches deep into the history of the capitalist mode of production. It is a history that orbits around oil precisely because capitalisms cycle of production, distribution and consumption completely depends upon it. The Iranian missiles fired in retaliation and the one bringing down a civilian aircraft demonstrate how quickly tensions can escalate.

But it should not be forgotten that interference by the elites of dominant capitalist countries in the affairs of oil-rich countries has been continuous since industrialised production and transport switched from coal and steam to oil and electricity. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that for almost a century, rival blocs of capitalist elites have continued manipulation and rivalry in countries such as; Iraq, Saudi, Iran, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Congo, Venezuela etc. In the process using, abusing and even killing, those who stand in the way of ensuring reliable oil supplies.

This history is crucially important to understand. In particular, the people of Iran have an extremely negative experience of UK and USA interference in their countries. During the early 20th century, Iran and it’s oil was controlled by Britain and British Petroleum (BP) whose shareholders became mega rich whilst most Iranians remained desperately poor. Attempts by Iran to gain control of their own resources were constantly thwarted. A regime headed by a Shah was eventually put in charge via a UK and USA manipulated coup.

However, that CIA/MI5 preferred regime, did not sufficiently benefit the masses. Eventually a rebellion deposed him. Iran became dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, headed by Ayattola Khomeini. Religious ideology replaced secular ideology and most secular-minded people were physically eliminated as agents of western capitalism or soviet communism. Iranians were told (and many believed) that Islamic law would create better governance than any Soviet or US backed examples could offer.

Western capitalist systems elites – mainly those in the UK and USA – remained livid at loosing control of the huge and highly profitable oil reserves in Iran. Ever since, Iranian and USA/UK elites have been involved in a hot and cold war with each other. Tragically, hostilities may now be heading toward a new intensity. Further resentment by Iranian people (and other Arab people’s) to the West’s interference in the Middle East, is with regard to the role played by Britain and the USA, in the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, towns and villages since the 1940’s.

Furthermore, when America, Britain and France supported Iraq’s Saddam Hussain with arms and resources in the Iraq/Iran war, this was seen as the West using Iraq to achieve regime change in Iran. But there is an interesting double irony. The reasons many Shia Iranians chose an Islamised state – all those decades ago – was because the secular examples promoted in the region by the West were so consistently bad. However, when Sunni Islam created it’s own alternative version of fundamentalism, via the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (1928) as interpreted by Hasan al Banna, later by Savyid Qutb and redefined by the Islamic State of ISIL/IS IS, this development was vigorously opposed by the Iranian regime.

Part of the irony is that the leading Iranian organiser of successful opposition to ISIS and it’s geographical Caliphate was none other than – Qassem Suleimani – the General assassinated on the authority of Donald Trump! Having allowed the Turkish version of patriarchal Islam, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to disperse and kill the northern Syrian Kurdish fighters against ISIS, the US president has had another fighter against ISIS bumped off in Iraq.

Given that ISIS type Islamism is supposed to be the USA’s main target for eradication this may seem strange. However, it is not elite male killing of rivals and female oppression in general, or Islamic versions of these two inhuman practices, that the West’s own male-dominated elites object to. How could they since they clearly indulge in versions of these patriarchal practices themselves? What they really object to is any threat to the control of what they see as ‘their’ (sic) sources of wealth and profit.

Incidentally, the young people in Iran only six months ago were demonstrating against Shia fundamentalist rule in Iran and by implication also against Sunni fundamentalist rule. This was a welcome groundswell. Youth and women struggling against poverty and patriarchy in the middle-east, undoubtedly saw that their oppression comes from the western elites as well as their own Arabic religious elites.

Yet it is a well established lesson from history that when the population of a country feels sufficiently threatened by the armed forces of another country, they suspend internal divisions for the duration of the threat. In addition, many expect retaliation for acts perpetrated against their own side. This was the case in the two-world wars of the 20th century, where deep divisions in the UK and the USA were suspended between 1939 and 1945. Almost everyone rallied to support their respective Allied governments. The same occurred in Germany and Italy on the Axis side of that war for control of markets and resources.

So it will not be surprising if many of the dissatisfied Iranian women and youth now feel duty bound – not only to object to the American assassination of their (sic) Iranian general – but call for retaliatory action. And not just for this latest act: but also for the poverty and suffering caused by years of USA orchestrated trade embargo against them. Just which sides elites the Iranian dissatisfied feel are the bigger villains in this whole sorry mess remains to be seen. After a century of western interference in the Middle East, it may well be the West’s – yet again – and hostilities continue.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 12.

On individualism and Entitlement.

Of all the inter-linked strands of pro-capitalist ideology, the stress on human individuality and entitlement within it, are perhaps the most cancerous to life on the planet. The first, (individualism) is only possible because the division of labour within human societies has become so intensive and widespread that it can appear – in the absence of continued family life – we are mostly on our own. Yet the feeling of being alone – even in a crowd – contradicts the fact that 20th and 21st century humanity has never been more interconnected.

The second, (entitlement) is only possible because the capitalists in control of the mode of production have turned production into mass-production and in order to maximise profits – have encouraged mass-consumption as a ‘normal’ phenomenon. Not only essentials but non-essentials were continually added to the items of consumption potentially available to us. When immediate funds were not to hand, numerous systems of credit were invented to keep the mass production ‘merry-go-round’ moving. Easy money and credit have encouraged an insatiable appetite for consumption to enter human consciousness as ‘entitlement’.

Correcting Individualistic nonsense.

Although our bodies are individually wrapped in a breathable, waterproof membrane, and our umbilical chords are severed at birth, our dependence on our species (and other species) continues. Our internal organs are staffed by billions of donated micro-organisms without which we could not survive. The same goes for our skin, which is in continual contact with micro-biotic life-forms swarming in the atmosphere. So even at the level of a newly born baby, we are not alone, nor are we ever an independently viable entity.

Apart from our billion-strong microbiological internal support structure, parents and medical staff, at birth we are immediately dependent, (and remain so until death) on thousands of other human beings for food, water, clothing and shelter. Our future thoughts, skills, preferences and even prejudices will depend upon the input of hundreds, if not thousands of other human beings, contributing to the language, skills and general culture within which we exist.

Even those who have reached the highest points possible in their chosen careers, clearly did not get there on their own. They were taught by many other human beings and, as mentioned above, many others continued to grow their food, make their clothes, remove their garbage, keep their lights on, make the tools they used, keep the transport system moving, etc., freeing them to practice the thousands of hours needed to become expert. Even at their pinnacle, the talented few rely absolutely upon an audience of thousands of us to understand and appreciate their socially acquired expertise.

So reality, rather than individualist ideology, reveals that we are all social beings and that we all depend upon each other – even those we never see or ever meet. No matter how highly we hone our ‘socially acquired’ skills our dependence on a wider community also increases. Recognising this interdependent reality should caution against the pro-capitalist assumption that those millions (seen or unseen) upon which we rely should get less than they need, whilst the privileged few get far more than they need.

Entitlement Blues.

The industrial revolution, powered by fossil fuels, created the possibility of mass production. As noted, mass production required mass consumption and this was stimulated by various means. Capitalists soon felt entitled to increase their wealth by fair means or foul. Foreign conquests and imperial control of land and resources followed. Pro-capitalist governing elites considered themselves entitled to a share of the international wealth extraction in the form of high salaries and pensions.

A proportion of this global wealth extraction filtered down to the middle-classes of the countries associated with the capitalist mode of production. They too began to feel entitled to a ever larger share of what was continually extracted from across the planet. In the the most advanced capitalist countries, working people eventually managed to get hold of a proportion of the global wealth created. They too felt individually entitled to what it could yield – and it yielded plenty. Cars, houses, televisions, foreign holidays, etc., for workers; yachts, limousine’s and second homes, etc., for middle-classes; vast estates, mansions, private aircraft and entire islands, etc., for capitalist elites.

Practically every individual felt entitled to get what they could and to try to get more by whatever legal or illegal means they could. Many even felt entitled to lie, cheat, steal and rob to augment the number and quality of their mass-produced possessions. After 1950, in particular, the ideology of entitlement managed spread across all classes. It is now so entrenched that most individuals still turn a blind eye to the negative effects, experienced by the rest of global humanity. Eyes were frequently averted from the brutal exploitation of foreign workers, or the enslavement and dispossession of native people’s. The first-world entitlement obsessed were also wilfully blind to the increasing pollution on land, sea and air created by mass-production and mass-consumption.

Entitlement ideology is so firmly entrenched in western contemporary thinking and practices, that few can bring themselves to contemplate what is necessary to halt our descent into multi-species oblivion. Quickly abolishing petrol and diesel powered cars, vans, trucks, tractors, trains, ships and aircraft for – travel, industrial production, sport and recreation – might just halt and eventually reverse, the damage already done to the planet. But that’s not going to happen – is it? Too many vested interests and entitlement minded individuals stand in the way of even halving such damaging transport.

Just how little the elite, the middle-classes and the moderately paid working classes are prepared to do without is demonstrated by the paltry reforms advocated by the few ‘green-minded’ activists and the resistance to these reforms by politicians and industry leaders. Large-scale entitlement addiction and indifference will ensure that little ‘damage reversing’ will be done. Insufficiently challenged individualism and entitlement will ensure that future generations’ lives (including our sons, daughters and grandchildren) will be exceedingly difficult, if not increasingly impossible.

Roy Ratcliffe (January 2020)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 11.

On Anti – capitalism.

The first 10 guides in this series, provided many reasons for questioning the existence of the capitalist mode of production. Guide 10, outlined the many failed attempts to moderate capitalisms worst extremes. But early 20th century economic hardship and social unrest, also led to firm conclusions that capitalism had become an existential problem for working people. Large-scale movements developed, proposing to end capitalism.

Indeed, a number of ‘revolutions’ did occur, particularly in Russia and China, but control of the main means of production always remained with elites. In reality these ‘alternative‘ societies were state-controlled forms of economic exploitation. Workers simply became state employed wage-slaves. When these ‘alternatives’ collapsed, most workers became wage-slaves for capitalists again.

Those ‘state-capitalist’ failures revealed that going beyond capital requires; a) a thorough understanding of the capitalist mode of production; b) knowing what really makes a post-capitalist society possible. c) awareness of what actually needs revolutionising.

Anti-capitalist leaders/led of the 20th century, lacked this basic a, b, c. Yet knowledge of (a) had been pioneered by Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx. Here, an important distinction needs to be made between Marx and ‘Marxism‘. Marx, after reading what many ‘followers’ wrote, declared that; he was ‘not a Marxist’.

Nevertheless, throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, many Leninists, Trotskyists and Maoists, still claimed to be Marxists without fully understanding Marx’s revolutionary-humanism. Many pro-capitalist intellectuals criticise present day ‘Marxists’ but demonstrate their own ignorance of Marx by assuming these have understood Marx.

With regard to (b), the most potential developments are the creation of large-scale, non-profit, public service organisations. Despite the alleged superiority and efficiency of private ownership of social production, capitalists have found it necessary to construct huge examples of the opposite.

Even the most enthusiastic pro-capitalists would not advocate completely privatising the following: armies, navies, air forces, police forces, political and legal institutions, local government agencies, schools, universities, health services and road transport systems. The reason is obvious. Funds for these services would be reduced drastically if citizens only purchased them when needed.

It is a frequently overlooked fact by capitalists and pro-capitalists that without the existence of large-scale, non-profit public services institutions, modern capitalist societies would simply collapse. Without these institutions, unemployment would also increase exponentially. Thousands of white and blue-collar workers now staffing them – at all levels – would be jobless.

The fact is, that in the 20th and 21st centuries, a capitalistic private, profit-making sector of the capitalist mode of production can no longer survive without the multiple supporting buttresses of non-profit public services. These non-profit forms are necessary to ensure that transport/waste disposal infrastructure, national security requirements, organisational and personal education/welfare needs, all function sufficiently for modern societies to survive. The private profit economic sector is now absolutely dependent upon a solid foundation of non-profit public institutions.

Moreover most of the services listed above would be essential for a non-capitalist future once the hierarchical appointment structures and management teams within them were democratised. It would be foolish to condemn an excellent set of organisations (eg schools, universities, hospitals, fire services, etc.) just because a small section of those staffing them are currently patriarchal, sexist, elitist, arrogant, self-serving, dishonest, incompetent and overpaid. There would obviously be a need to respond to future changing requirements and to replace the current hierarchical structures, with genuinely democratic and egalitarian ones.

Economic and technical developments, created by millions of skilled and unskilled workers, have produced enormous amounts of surplus-product and value from their combined efforts. This surplus in turn has enabled the staffing of varied and extensive non-profit public services. For over 60 years these non-profit models have proved sustainable and effective in delivering the basic needs of modern citizens. Most represent valuable, if incomplete and still woefully under-resourced, prototypes for a future mode of production not distorted by individual profit-seeking and hierarchical greed. In the 20th century, capitalism gave birth to its future replacement.

This brings us to point (c). What elements of the capitalist mode of production need to be abandoned? First of all private or elite control of the main means of production needs to be ended – in all its various, neo-liberal and authoritarian forms! This is because the ceaseless elite desire to accumulate individual power, surpluses and profit, not only fuels inequality, injustice, trade wars, ill health and global pollution, but also widespread ecological destruction and accelerated climate change. These symptoms of social and biological disintegration are inevitable while elites determine the pattern, the purpose, the pace and the location of production, distribution and exchange.

NB. In the entire history of the human species, capitalism is the only mode of production which has the capability (and elite incentive) to destroy the foundations of humanity itself. Pro-capitalist economic, financial and political classes now have the industrial and commercial means, to globally degrade or destroy; people, water, air, soil, seas, lakes, rivers; and to eliminate vital biological species (trees, bees, microbial soil balance and multifarious forms of sea life) upon which we depend. The existence of humanity and the other life-forms needed, requires that elite control of the modern means of production is replaced by genuine and direct community control.

Instead, the 20th century revolutionary uprisings, noted above, demonstrated that anti-capitalism, in the sectarian, elitist forms of Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and Maoism were authoritarian dead ends. In or out of power, such elitist forms failed humanity completely. Apart from a few remaining members such groups have been abandoned. However, a healthy strand of revolutionary-humanist ideas that transcend sectarian ones have survived those 20th century aberrations.

As noted in Guide 8, Revolutionary-Humanist understanding and practices exist and are available. They offer critical, self-critical and humane responses to capitalism’s existential threats to humanity and life in general. Unlike, religion, nationalism and political affiliation – concepts that intentionally promote human disunity – revolutionary-humanist ideas actually reflect 20th and 21st century global realities and the future integrated needs of our species.

Roy Ratcliffe (December 2019)

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THE UK ELECTIONS 2019.

The results of the December 12 (2019) UK elections came as a surprise to many and a shock to some. The collapse of the vote for the Labour Party was perhaps the most shocking as well, as the size of the Conservative majority. A blame game was quickly started within Labour as scapegoats were sought to explain the demise of this once powerful, contender for political power. However, anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Labour Party history might have anticipated this kind of outcome would happen – sooner or later.

This dismal result by Labour is just the latest twist in the downward spiral of voter confidence in this British version of left reformist politics. The explanation for this decline as well as its post Second World War high point, is to be found in its practical and ideological foundations. The Labour Party was founded on the basis of a compromise between social democratic ex-liberal members, disgruntled conservatives and upwardly mobile, trade union leaders. Individuals from these three political backgrounds dominated its various founding committees and funding sources.

Their common ideology was of solid commitment to capitalistic forms of exploitation of working people, tempered by reforms to cushion the more severe effects of the struggle between capital and labour. The promise of reforms attracted working class activists and over time millions of working class and middle-class voters, particularly after the experiences of the Second World War (1939-45). The activation of the Beveridge Reforms (Health, Education, Social Care, Pensions, Housing and Nationalisations) by a post-war Labour Government cemented this loyalty for generations of working and middle-class people throughout the UK.

However, the Labour Party remained a middle-class, progressive, but fiercely pro-capitalist party in terms of who controlled it’s powerful committees and it’s ideological position. When the post-war boom period drew to a close and British company profits were squeezed, the Labour Party leadership moved to support their capitalists. They did so by imposing wage limits and productivity deals upon working people and restricting Trade Union bargaining. This was seen by working people as one of many betrayals by the Labour Party, betrayals which continued under Blair and Brown’s New Labour.

It should be remembered in the context of decline that Scotland once voted overwhelmingly for Labour and support by Scottish working people just disappeared as it has now done in the North of England. The commitment to Labour by working people has progressively decreased, whilst the commitment to Labour of sections of the progressive middle-class has been largely retained. This explains the retention of Labour seats in the affluent south and losses in the impoverished north. It also explains the divide between Leave and Remainers in the Brexit referendum. Exceptions aside, working class people mainly lost out during the EU years, whereas middle-class people mainly gained.

In the UK, northern working class people witnessed the EU principle of free movement of labour and capital in the form of unemployment, food banks, dwindling public services and low pay, whilst southern middle-class people saw in the same EU principle, low cost domestic cleaners, casual agricultural labour, EU job opportunities and EU holiday/retirement destinations. Furthermore, when northern workers voted out of Europe and witnessed the Parliamentary Labour Party ‘remainers’ effectively preventing getting out, that betrayal was obviously seen as one too many.

It has been said by some commentators that Corbyn’s anti-austerity plans were too radical for voters, but my guess is that wasn’t the case for most working class voters. It was more likely that given all the previous failed promises by Labour, they just didn’t believe these new promises would be implemented. Voting Conservative in Parliamentary seats held by Labour for several decades, can only be realistically seen as part protest and part wish to have their exit vote honoured. I doubt it was a desire for a Boris-led form of Thatcherism or a British version of Trumpism

We need to remember that both sides of the referendum vote were wishing things to get better – or at least not to get worse. The one side by getting out, the other by staying in. The desire for things not to get worse or even to get better is, I suggest, the default position of most people. How they viewed achieving this desire was largely determined by what they had so far experienced. So blaming ‘Leavers’ for wanting the same outcome as ‘Remainers’ and vica versa is at best short sighted – at worst, divisive.

My guess is that the next few years will demonstrate that getting out of EU will not improve things for the majority in the UK. Moreover, those countries which have stayed in the EU will experience a continuing deterioration for the working classes. It’s already happened in, Greece, Spain, Portugal and recently in France. This prediction is based upon the fact that countries in and out of the EU are already over-producing goods and services, all have severe debt liabilities, are experiencing decreasing tax revenues, and increasing demands for benefits/services.

Furthermore, competition from large mass-producing countries, will inhibit the creation of well paid jobs in small countries. The UK is no longer the ‘workshop of the world’ and is now largely dependent upon financial services and funding international ‘bound-to-burst’ speculative bubbles. If one adds to this scenario the costs of reversing climate change, air and sea pollution, increasing safe waste disposal, extra flood defences, health and end-of-life-care costs, the obvious question arises; who will bear these costs?

The pattern of working class desertion of social democratic reformist parties is international precisely because the crisis of capitalism is international and because social democratic politics internationally has favoured middle-class voters over working class ones. The pattern of working-class voters turning to representatives of the right-wing ruling elite, such as Trump and Johnson, can only be temporary, because these elites also represent the rich few over the interests of the increasingly poor working classes. Instead, working people must actually rebel against all forms of elite politics –  or continue to suffer.

Roy Ratcliffe (December 2019)

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BEGINNERS GUIDE 10.

On Reformism.

Almost from its earliest beginnings, supporters of the capitalist mode of production, recognised its many benefits to them, whilst it’s huge downsides were recognised by the majority. When capitalism reached the industrial revolution stage, it’s ‘dark satanic’ failings became all too obvious. Pollution, poverty and pestilence for the masses, profit, privilege and prestige for the few. This extreme contrast led to various political tendencies proposing slight changes to the system (known as reforms) to reduce some of these negative outcomes.

The enlightened elite perspective became; Pollution yes – but not too much; Exploitation yes – but not excessive; Poverty yes, – but not starvation; Unemployment yes – but not permanent; Work related accidents and diseases yes – but with compensation and medication; Commercial warfare yes – but diplomatically moderated. Eventually, clean water and air acts; minimum wages legislation; legal entitlement to benefits (unemployment, child and housing); were implemented – as reforms – along with United Nations peacekeeping institutions.

The list could go on, but the reader will undoubtedly understand that even those limited 20th century reforms were mostly ineffective, that the symptoms noted have increased and also become global. The reason is simple. Modes of production controlled by elites can only be permanently reformed when the reforms benefit a majority of the elite. All others, particularly those which reduce the profits and wealth going to the elite, will be resisted, ignored, undermined, countered or exceptions granted.

Revealingly, the two world wars, (1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 45) noted in previous guides had their origins in the rivalry between capitalist nation blocs for control of markets and sources of raw materials. Whatever other rationalisations for these wars are offered in history books, (fictional and non-fictional) the nature of capitalist profit seeking, with industrial levels of production, required ever more markets to sell mass produced goods and ever more raw materials/energy sources to manufacture them. Despite the inauguration of the United Nations (peace-keeping) Organisation, armed conflict between capitalist economies for direct possession or proxy control of these resources, was (and still is) inevitable.

Nevertheless, between 1900 – 1945, after economic downturn, financial collapse, the two world wars and two major revolutions (Russia and China), a ‘new deal’, ‘citizen welfare’ section of the western capitalist elite reasoned that, ‘we must give the workers reforms or they will give us revolution’. Post second world war reforms and a reconstruction-driven boom period followed. Meanwhile the vanguard-led revolutions in the east, had turned into the surreal nightmares of Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism. That kind of authoritarian controlled revolution (plus the Fascist kind) was rejected by most western working people, white-collar and blue. Welfare reforms to capitalism seemed preferable and US lend-lease, defibrillated, European capitalism’s failing heart.

With the fear of revolution gone, the pro-capitalist financial elites of the later Thatcher/Reagan post-war era, guided the less profitable welfare capitalism into its neo-liberal phase. Thus humanity entered the ‘I’m leaving on a jet plane’ period of globalisation with its accelerated negative effects. Added to the ones listed above, were climate change, polluted seas and large-scale ecological destruction. Half a century after destroying much of the world with bombs, capitalism and its supporters were at it again – this time by excessive production, commerce and transport.

So capitalism has faced humanity with another existential crisis and surprise, surprise, it’s supporters have reintroduced the idea of reforming it!

Having progressively abandoned welfare capitalism as too costly and with a tame working and middle-class class hooked on the entitlement ethos of the right to consume ever more commodities, streaming services and holidays abroad, some pro-capitalist elites now suggest reforming capitalism into a eco-friendly condition. Green ‘growth’ is the latest mirage dangled in front of the influential middle-classes and those workers still entranced by conspicuous consumption, spin and deception. The hope is that capitalism, with some clever technological adjustments, can carry on mass producing far into the future.

This new, liberal extinction prevention vision for the future, is based on the following. That capitalism can continue creating profitable investment returns, with guaranteed salaries and pensions for the middle-classes, providing it churns out bio-degradable goods and services, using renewable energy sources and with tireless, non-waged, non-striking robots staffing factories, hospitals and care homes. When the rare minerals and earth elements required to manufacture such ‘brave new world’ technologies run out, then an even more deluded section of the middle-class (scientific) community are keen to send robotic space vehicles to dig out whatever is needed on the Moon, Mars or passing asteroids.

Currently, the capitalist systems advocates claim that it cannot afford decent wages, hospitals, schools, homes and care homes for everyone needing them now, let alone when the extra costs of producing future eco-friendly and non-polluting methods of mass production, transportation, consumption and refuse disposal are added to the balance sheets. And that is assuming capitalist industries of the future will do everything pollution free, regardless of the negative effects this will have on their profit levels. [Their past track record, even when heavily regulated, would suggest otherwise.] To my mind, imagining a future green Capitalism, with eco-friendly production methods is no further advanced intellectually than some early childhood musings, (rather than questioning), when told that the moon was made of green cheese.

Yet dozens of professors of science and astrophysics are jetting around the globe conferencing and planning future billion dollar (or Pounds or Euros) rocket propelled expeditions to excavate and return a few kilos of extraterrestrial, mineral-rich dirt. They seem to think this would be an economically viable activity for a humanity already on the verge of mass extinctions and ecological collapse.

I suggest that campaigns to reform capitalism, unless capable of triggering an anti-capitalist revolution, are nothing more than pie in the sky distractions. Advocating green-capitalism, is also an oxymoronic concept revealing that its advocates have sadly failed to understand how and why the capitalist economic and financial system of production will continue to dangerously mutate unless physically stopped.

Roy Ratcliffe (December 2019)

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