I’m amazed - you guys are really scientific socialist/communist/Marxist thinkers, in my opinion - unlike all the confessional political sects who stain the name of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and so on.
In theory, I mean. In practice, to be honest, I don’t think you’re going to make it - but nobody did in a long time, so it’s not really your fault maybe. Anyway, you’re working very hard and I think your paper is a beacon of light in a very dark world.
In fact, I’d like to congratulate (just to pick one - but I think you have a lot of amazing articles on every issue) Kevin Bean on his article about the surge of strikes and how the trade union leadership is going to spoil things, obviously (‘A year of strikes’, June 22).
But the article’s even better when he gives his opinion on the sectarians: the Socialist Workers Party (Cliff’s morons), the Socialist Party in England and Wales (Taaffe’s morons) and Socialist Appeal (Grant’s/Woods’ morons); and, of course, the failings of the hopeless Labour left: in fact I think the Labour left got that name mainly because they left Starmer to take over the Labour Party, while doing absolutely nothing.
This part, for instance, is spot on: “Socialist Appeal wants to, needs to, keep its recruits excited. Very excited. So what we have is the upturn in strikes painted, yet again, as a prelude to an acute social crisis and the outbreak of social revolution. The danger is, of course, that the false perspectives of today lead to burnout and demoralisation tomorrow.”
I was a teenager at the beginning of the 1990s in my home town in Spain, and when I was in high School and university I was a student union organiser. At that time, the old Spanish section of Militant got a huge grip on the Spanish student movement and I saw with my own eyes as they burnt and demoralised a whole generation of the Spanish youth. But that was my generation; the current generation have been spoiled by Mandel’s morons (if you know anything about Podemos, the Spanish version of the Greek Syriza. That was what they did - they spoiled a huge opportunity.
I personally know Allan Woods very well - he was the guy who Ted Grant sent to Spain in the 70s, 80s and 90s, where he set up inside the Socialist - Spanish Labour - Youth and the Nuevo Claridad paper (the Spanish Militant). I worked alongside him a lot of times.
What a political genius! He wrote the other day - just before the Wagner group coup - that Russia was going to win the Ukrainian war; that’s how I know Ukraine is going to win it! Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I want any of them to win this imperialist proxy war; it’s just that I know that with every perspective Allan Woods makes just the opposite happens. For instance, at the end of the 80s he predicted that it was impossible for the Soviet Union to go back to capitalism (I think you know how that turned out).
He also predicted at the beginning of the 90s that it was impossible for the ruling class in South Africa to find a way out of the situation in a Spanish 70s transition style: it would be “apartheid or socialism” ... I think you know how that turned out too. At the end of the 90s he predicted also that the world socialist revolution would happen “before the turn of the century ...”
For god’s sake ... it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. But, you know, sometimes tragedy and comedy mix very well together in a very Shakespearian way.
I thank Frank Kavanagh for his comments (Letters, June 15). However, I don’t understand what he means when he says he disagrees with me that “the change in composition of capital won’t stop the decline from a productive to a service form of capitalism”.
I don’t understand what “decline” means in this context. On the contrary, I argued, as far back as the early 1980s, that the change from a manufacturing economy to a service industry economy was inevitable - as significant as the change from a largely agricultural economy to a manufacturing economy in the 19th. century. As Marx described, that change largely arose because industrial capital developed in the towns and cities, and increasingly demanded agricultural commodities as food and raw material. The still largely feudal/peasant agriculture could not supply this and in order to do so was despoiling the soil. It’s only when capital then takes hold of agriculture to deal with that problem - Lenin describes the process in The development of capitalism in Russia - that the very methods (but also the products) of industrial capital enable agricultural production to rise substantially, sending large numbers off the land and into the towns.
But it is the same huge rise in productivity which frees industrial workers too. Marx notes that the rise in productivity in the 19th century led to a large rise in the number of domestic servants employed by the bourgeoisie. In Marx’s day, services were almost entirely comprised of individual workers, who exchanged their labour with revenue rather than capital, and so by Marx’s definition they were ‘unproductive’: ie, not productive of surplus value/capital, though they were productive of new value (as he says, otherwise why would anyone exchange an equal value for them?). But that is not at all the case today. Teachers, health and social workers, etc all exchange their labour with capital, albeit state capital, which as Marx and Engels describe in Anti-Dühring, is the most mature form of capital. Further huge numbers are employed by media companies, restaurants and so on.
So, far from this being a “decline”, it is a further rational development - made possible by the fact that this permits, as Marx describes it in The Grundrisse, the “civilising mission of capital”. As productivity rises massively in manufacturing, requiring less and less labour per unit of output, so capital looks to produce an ever-expanding range of use-values, including services, by which to employ labour, extract surplus value, and realise that surplus value via the sale of those services.
If I have misunderstood Frank’s point, perhaps he could clarify what he meant.
Oil and gas workers are facing their ‘Thatcher pit closure moment’ - this time from so-called Labour. A new assault as monumental and destructive as that faced by the miners and our communities in 1984-85 and 92-93 is ready in public view waiting for an election victory for Labour to let it loose. This will ban all new oil and gas licences and effectively close the bulk (probably 75% or more) of Britain’s fuel and power industry.
The stupidity of Just Stop Oil’s slogan was plain for even the most technologically illiterate to see, having become Britain’s most unpopular organisation. But Starmer, under the direction of the increasingly unhinged Ed Miliband, sees not the writing the wall from this, but the central piece of Labour’s manifesto. The sheer arrogance of dropping this upon almost 200,000 workers and their families and communities - ‘No ifs, no buts: we’re closing you down.’ The death-defying illogic of the plan (hypocrisy, virtue signalling - call it what you will) is water off a duck’s back. This is rather like telling someone to jump off a high roof, although we don’t know how to catch you yet - something will turn up before you hit the floor. Nothing - absolutely nothing - will work without oil: not the turbines, not the manufacture of the blades, not their transportation on land and rail and sea. The same is true of coal, of course, as I have said many, many times - there ain’t no new steel without coal; no renewables exist without steel and coal.
Gas is between 40% and 50% of the electricity grid. Not to mention people’s heating and cooking, and specialist industrial systems. So if we stop mining gas and oil and making new steel, have we reached a net-zero wonderland, where life goes on just the same without them? Of course not. That’s not in the plan - we will still use coal or its produce, still use gas and still use oil, or the country and its infrastructure and every aspect of its existence would come to an end. Someone somewhere else, will mine or produce it and import it all here, having produced the emissions and sent them skyward just the same. The difference is, the price of these extracts and goods will have risen astronomically.
If we look at the example of coal, because Thatcher and Major took 180 million tonnes of coal off the market, the price of coal is now almost 400% higher since 2013. So, with oil and gas, taking about 800,000 gallons off the market will do what? Send the prices not just of oil and gas, but literally everything, beyond the reach of most of the working class population of this island. But Miliband declares that, by letting loose a plague of new, on-land wind turbines, energy prices will come down. The fool - you can’t replace oil with wind energy unless you fit sails to your cars and lorries and make international aviation airships or gliders. You can’t replace gas with wind energy - the grid cannot work off wind.
He must surely know that the apparent ‘cheap’ cost of wind is because it is heavily subsidised by a two-thirds fossil fuel tax on coal, oil and gas, steel, cement, glass, etc. Kill the geese that lay the golden eggs and there will be massively increased energy prices or a rise in taxation to pay for them. But Miliband and co know this, of course. The point is to ensure oil and gas prices rise, so fuel at the pump and air travel is priced out of the range of the ordinary Joe Soap and his family. You will not go abroad for holidays, you will not drive a car, you will stay local, you will not use gas boilers. But eco-zealots - like religious fanatics, given vision by grace of God - will have no truck with civil rights and economic liberty. No, they have the word of God and Miliband is their prophet.
Oil and gas workers or their unions need to stop the game of pat-a-cake with Labour and get serious. The workers must get ready to fight as furiously as the miners did to stop this mass destruction of jobs and working class lifestyles and incomes. Defend coal, oil and gas, and workers’ living standards.
David John Douglass
The Labour Party clearly regards a wife as the chattel of her husband, but the rest of us simply rejoice that the activist, Laura Alvarez, is participating in the search for a candidate for the seat of Holborn and St Pancras, which is presently occupied by Keir Starmer.
As a Commonwealth citizen who is not serving a term of imprisonment in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland, Julian Assange is eligible to contest a British general election. He should do so in this case, and he should be elected. Likewise, Islington North should return its member of parliament since 1983 - the husband of Ms Alvarez, Jeremy Corbyn.
Too many people
So Miriam Cates, the rightwing Tory MP who spoke at the National Conservatism conference, wants white female graduates to have more kids. This is in spite of Tory government policies, which make it near-on impossible for young couples in London and other major cities to afford to rent or buy a home big enough to raise a family.
At the same time Cates opposes the two-child benefit limit for those in receipt of universal credit. Such a policy was introduced by David Cameron’s coalition government in order to stop women from being a baby factory at the state’s expense. Call me old-fashioned, but Marxists should support this two-child policy, which encourages people in receipt of benefits to not have more than two kids.
Marxists support female graduates having fewer kids. There are too many people in the world, and a shortage of workers - all other things being equal - should lead to a rise in wages. As far as there being too many people in the world, I’m with the Greens here who want the population of the UK to be reduced to just 25 million and of the world to just three billion by the year 2100.
The reasoning for this comes from the need to fight climate change. One statistic says it all - if the average Chinese had the same standard of living as the average American, we would require the resources of four planets. It is therefore disappointing that the Chinese government has recently replaced its one-child policy with a three-child policy. Similarly, it is disappointing that the Nigerian government has not introduced a one-child policy - the population of Nigeria is expected to grow from its current 180 million to 300 million by the year 2050.
Many Marxists oppose population control by bringing up the writings of Karl Marx about the ideas of reverend Thomas Malthus, who wrote about the problems of people having lots of kids. Yet, in the early 20th century, Marxists - especially in America and the UK - fought for a health service which introduced free birth control and family planning. At the same time, Marxists call for free safe abortion on demand - the CPGB’s slogan being: “As early as possible, as late as necessary”.
The speakers at the National Conservatism conference showed that they are climate-change deniers who want women, especially graduates, to have more and more kids. In opposition to Miriam Cates, Marxists believe that women having fewer kids is a vital policy, when it comes to the battles against climate change and falling wages.