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Letters

Email the Editors

Contents:

    * Whose welfare?
    * Dictatorship
    * Marx's lapse

Whose welfare?

Dear Editors,
It seems to me the majority of workers are unable to see through the smokescreen of misleading language used by the "popular press". I would love to see people such as us adopt simple accurate definitions instead of using their terminology.

Welfare is most discriminatory and applies only to the diminishing pittance of basic subsistence money reluctantly rationed out by government to the most needy. But all government spending benefits some group of people in our society. Although categorised under such heading as "defence, subsidies, grants, aid, law and order, etc, etc they are all really "welfare for the capitalist class". As we all know, even education and health would never have been on any government agenda if a reasonably fit and literate workforce had not been required to exploit,. Cuts now on both health and education merely coincide with the decrease in demand for workers. It is uneconomical to bother keeping such a surplus in existence. However, all this government expenditure should be referred to as Welfare for the Rich.

In the West Australian newspaper of 23 October it was reported that Welfare for the Poor is being methodically cut by a government policy of penalising and fining recipients for trivial infringements . . . real or imagined. Three hundred thousand workers throughout Australia have been affected this past year and $17 million has been collected from the unemployed in Western Australia alone!

A recent Western Australia Telethon TV charity boasted that over 33 years the endless effort of any army of charity workers have collected a total of $55 million. Most of the money has provided special equipment for children's hospitals. Not a penny of government welfare money spent here.

However, government expenditure for the two-week Olympic event in Sydney totalled $8,000 million (eight billion). Most workers were delighted with this circus and are still delirious over the 16 gold medals Australia won . . . costing $500 million each. Even more delighted must surely be the business world . . . raking in vast amounts of income while all the outlay was paid by the government. Sounds like Welfare for the Rich to me!

RON STONE, Gelorup, Western Australia

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Dictatorship

Dear Editors,
As you know, socialists always have been fighting for proletarian dictatorship. When "Socialists" in Russia, Poland, Cuba, China, etc have got political power, they called it proletarian dictatorship. Nowadays people have not any good experience from the "dictatorship of proletariat" in Russia, etc and they hate any kind of dictatorship. Can you explain real "proletarian dictatorship"? I would like to know what did Karl Marx think about proletarian dictatorship? Is there any democracy and freedom for all social classes and all people under rule of proletarian dictatorship?

K. JAHANDIDEH, London W8

Reply: Marx took the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" from the French revolutionaries he met when he lived in Paris in the mid-1840s. Only, whereas they saw this as being a minority dictatorship supposedly on behalf of the working class (or proletariat) Marx gave it a democratic content and saw it as the unlimited exercise of political power by the working class by and on its own behalf.

What existed in Russia, etc had nothing to do with what Marx envisaged, but was a naked dictatorship over the working class. No wonder they hated it-and they were right.

What Marx envisaged was a period between the end of capitalist political rule and the establishment of socialism (or communism, the same thing) when political power would be exercised by the majority working class within a democratic context. So, yes, he did envisage democracy and freedom of speech for all people, even capitalists and former capitalists, under his interpretation of the "dictatorship of the proletariat". Engels referred to the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and, although we can doubt that it really was a beginning of a transition to socialism, it was an elected council with competing parties-quite unlike Russia under Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

Having said this, although we say that the working class should still organise to win control of political power and use it in the course of establishing socialism-and would call this the "dictatorship of the proletariat" if really pressed-we don't envisage this as lasting for any length of time and think the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" to be so open to misunderstanding as to be counter-productive. We prefer to speak simply of the (very short-term democratic) exercise of political power by the working class-Editors.

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Marx's lapse

Dear Editors,
It's ironic that you ("What is Capitalism?", Socialist Standard, December) admonish protesting reformers for not knowing "exactly" what capitalism is, when you make an inexcusable error. Yes it is true that production under capitalism is motivated by profit. However, profit is not "the difference between this [the price of the products sold] and what they [the capitalists] pay, as wages and salaries, for the working skills they [the capitalists] purchase on the labour market". Scientifically speaking, surplus value is the correct term. Saying that surplus value is profit is like saying that 11 is 12.

THOMAS ALPINE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Reply: If you want to be pedantic, surplus value and profit are not the same since surplus value is divided into rent and interest as well as (industrial and commercial) profit, but in being lax we are in good company. In his own popular explanation of his theories in Value, Price and Profit, Marx writes (Chapter XI):

    "The surplus value, or that part of the total value of the commodity in which the surplus labour or unpaid labour of the working man is realised, I call 'Profit', and "In the remarks I have still to make I shall use the word Profit for the whole amount of the surplus value extracted by the capitalist without any regard to the division of that surplus value between different parties."-Editors.

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