I found the series on the Internet earlier this year (Socialist Standard, Jan-Apr) thought-provoking. I think Paddy missed out some points which are worth making. I’d like to hear other’s thoughts on these.
Fellow workers ought to read the series in conjunction with section one of the Communist Manifesto by K. Marx, since the points I am making derive mainly from this “idea association”.
At the recent Tokyo G7 meeting, there was a fair amount of talk about putting the African continent online. Some might be cynical and say this is just Sony’s way of creating a market for its computer section. However it should also be viewed as essential for the smooth running of African capitalism—they have to, are forced to, adopt the new technology. (“The bourgeoisie creates a world in its own image.”)
In order to win its political dominance the capitalist class had to enlist the working class in the battle against feudalist reaction. The Manifesto noted that capitalism creates its own gravediggers: the proletariat. It concentrated the workers into great cities, allowing our class to come into close contact. By using the workers in its politics, the capitalists are also unwittingly making workers think politically. They educate our class.
By pushing for parliamentary democracy the capitalists had also to give in to a demand of the workers: the vote—a weapon which the workers can use for their own interests at such a time as when they are no longer under the influence of capitalism’s sweet talk.
The internet is essential to the global capitalist system. But it, too, is a weapon the workers have acquired. Workers in Denmark can talk to workers in Canada, etc, etc.
The Internet will lead to a structural change; how big it will be is something we shall have to wait and see. Home-working may lead to a breakdown in social alienation—workers will begin to form communities again akin to feudal society. In Volume Two of Capital, Marx discusses the time in which capital circulates; whilst it is in circulation it cannot be realised—hence the growth of banks, etc which are the “middlemen” who reduce that time, and have become capitalists in their own right. The non-productive workers (bank clerks, who are also exploited like productive workers) may begin to find their position threatened by the advance in technology, and soon to swell the ever existent reserve army, along with the blue collar, whose labour is also threatened by machinery. The middlemen capitalists may also begin to be squeezed out with the advent of home banking and home shopping—capital will begin once more to be increasingly in the hands of a smaller, dwindling capitalist class.
And Communists? We disdain to hide our views! We will use the Internet to disseminate our views and create socialist party organisation. Let the bourgeoisie tremble at the prospect of an Internet revolution. Workers of the world log on!
GRAHAM TAYLOR, Brabrand, Denmark
Capitalism and its unpleasant side-effects rides roughshod over us all (like some giant steamroller crushing and flattening creativity, talent, feelings and our natural inclinations) for example, in so-called “education” which does little more than pour out a certain quota of information and propaganda, necessary to turn out more compliant wage slaves.
We’re constantly encouraged to work against nature, and in turn our own human nature and instincts, in order to get by under this system. When we’re ill we’re encouraged and advised to pump pills and chemicals into our overloaded and abused systems—in order to swell the coffers of the multi-million pharmaceutical firms—when we’d be better off, in most cases, relying on nature and working with it to help our bodes. All the time, it’s moving away from nature.
Manners, politeness and consideration are natural reactions to others and up until recently were taken as such. However it’s no coincidence that they’ve disimproved in the last 20-odd years, exactly since capitalism and greed tightened the screws even more acutely, under the reigns of “leaders” such as Thatcher and Reagan and more recently, Clinton and Blair. It’s a wonder that despite all this, people’s natural consideration for others still surfaces when the chips are down.
I recently got a taste of this, first-hand, after suffering a badly sprained ankle whilst out for a hike. I found myself—luckily in a location I knew well—unable to move by myself on a small beach. Lo and behold people arrived and everyone, without exception, upon learning of my predicament, was helping whatever they could. I was taken by lifeboat ambulance to hospital and all three of their personnel were courteous, helpful and kind, despite, under capitalism, performing a stressful, overworked and thankless job. Despite a system that tries to knock it out of them, every hour of every day, people’s human nature to be social animals and work with each other, still rises to the surface. These people helped me in a situation where I had no choice but to rely on my fellow human beings, and I’m glad to say they all came up trumps.
I’ve had a week to take it easy and plenty of time to mull over things and in reflecting on this topic, it’s overwhelmingly clear, that in our lives greed, selfishness and couldn’t-care-less attitude is merely a result of human conditioning, drummed into us all since the word go (to do better than the next kid in school and get a better job than Johnny next door) but that basic human nature is instinctive, natural and spontaneous. It’s what I witnessed on that beach last week and it’s what we’d all witness, all the time in a proper society. This can only occur when capitalism and its unnatural effects are replaced with a society in which everyone benefits from everyone else’s natural sense of caring and fair play, i.e. Socialism.
DAVID MARLBOROUGH, Dublin
Tim Collier (Letters, July) is right when he says that reform of the tax system would be Utopian, for greed, self-interest and aggression are endemic to any money system. We are so accustomed to dealing with money that we have come to think in its terms and find it difficult to imagine a world without it.
Money was useful in the past when local conditions created temporary shortages, but had there been overall scarcity, world populations would not have expanded from a few scattered tribes to the billions we have today.
It is the money system that creates the scarcity, because money has to be limited in order to maintain its value. But since today our digital information systems can make knowledge of what is required instantaneously available, and we can manipulate the bases of matter to produce it without limit, the use of money is the only impediment to the satisfaction of wants.
We have laws to protect property so that eventually, without market pressures to buy and the need to flaunt luxury articles as a sign of wealth, the concept of possession, individual or collective, would disappear.
It is the money system that restricts choice and freedom.
M.B.A. CHAPMAN, Bath
More on Dan Billany
I was interested to read the book review for Dan Billany: Hull’s Lost Hero by V.A. Reeves and V. Showan (/spgb/jul00/booksjul.html).
Dan Billany was my twice cousin and I have been researching my Billany ancestry since 1989. I naively helped Reeves and Showan with details of the Billany family history and my name is among the acknowledgements.
However, the biographers did not allow me to see the manuscript of the book before it went to print and I do not approve of some of its content, especially when the biographers claim that my cousin was homosexual. I totally agree with your comments in your review but perhaps for different reasons.
Can I state for the record that there is no evidence that Dan Billany was homosexually inclined. His only surviving sister, Joan is not aware of it and no-one in the family has ever said it of Dan Billany. I questioned the biographers about their comments. They said Dan was homosexual simply because he wrote about it and that his friends knew, although he kept it from his family because he was deeply ashamed. Hogwash! Then Showan admitted over the phone that it was only their opinion that Dan Billany was homosexual but she still insisted it was true. Anyway, the biographers have shown a lack of gratitude for the help I’ve given them and are now calling themselves the “authorities” on my family history. So I have demanded that they remove my name and contribution from their book.
I just want to thank you for your review and for helping to set the record straight. Yes, there is indeed a world of difference between fact and fiction!
GAYNOR JOHNSON (by email)
I was impressed by David A. Perrin’s history of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, well researched and well written. But I have a cavil relating to myself. He says my book. The Origins of British Bolshevism hardly gives a mention to the formation of the SPGB. This is correct. But surely the SPGB has never claimed to be Bolshevik, and therefore stood outside the remit of my frame of reference.
Moses Baritz was mentioned in the book because in those days the Left was inhabited by weird and wonderful creatures. Socialism at that time was a strange idea and consequently tended to attract strange individuals.
David Perrin could perhaps have said that I gave much more prominence to another eccentric—John S. Clarke—one of the SLP early leaders. I even wrote a short biography about him. It was entitled John S. Clarke: Parliamentarian, Poet and Lion-tamer. The Glasgow Herald, in its obituary of him, stated Mr Clarke claimed to have been the youngest and oldest person to enter the lion’s den. He had around his body many scars which attested to the nature of his trade. On one occasion he was bowled over by a tiger with toothache. With the animal towering over him, he stroked it and pulled out the offending tooth.
One of my subsidiary reasons for writing his biography was that I hoped it would act as a model to other parliamentarians. In my opinion, British politics today would be much better if more Members of Parliament took up lion-taming, preferably specialising in tigers with toothache.
Then there was the SLP’s general secretary Frank Budgen. He published the first cheap edition of The Communist Manifesto. He was a friend of the great Irish writer, James Joyce, who wrote a poem which begins “Oh, boozy Budgen and canvas dauber.” He earned his living as an artist’s model. I have a drawing of Frank Budgen naked, but, after much heart-searching, I decided not to include it in The Origins of British Bolshevism.
It might have tempted the general secretaries of other political parties to cast off all garments. That would have created the ultimate obscenity. For instance, would members of the SPGB like so see, plastered everywhere, drawings of their general secretary stark naked?
RAYMOND CHALLINOR, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear
Recently at my school, the council changed the cafeteria system. Before, there was one queue and it looked a bit like a proper café. Now it ‘s a McDonalds-style restaurant. It has four queues so that as many staff as possible are working at the same time. The school says that its because they want to serve us quicker but it’s really because they want the staff in the cafeteria to work harder so that our rulers get more money. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that it may cost some money to make it like this, but as the nearest McDonald’s is about a mile away and that the pupils actually like junk food like this, they would get a monopoly on the food sales for pupils at that school, and also get some more money for “our” rulers. I told someone I was walking about with that, the food had better be better than the other food we used to get. Yeah, right. At least the food they used to sell was half-decent, and although it was probably GM, the energy that I got from it gave me the energy to endure their attempts to indoctrinate me into believing that capitalism is the right way to live.
Now, the food is rubbishy—it is all mass-produced—and you have a choice of a burger, fries and a soft drink; a bit of pizza, fries and soft drink or a sandwich in which the roll is shaped for a hotdog. The burger is tasteless, the fries are soggy, the pizza is a cheap pizza base with a bit of cheese on it and the soft drinks are flat. In the pizza meal they even put the fries in the pizza box to save money on cardboard. When I was eating this I thought “That at least I only have to stand for this for the next two years” (I’m in third year). They have even introduced a card system in which you have a credit card-like card which if you swipe it on a machine in the school, it tells you how much money you have on it and your name.
The school probably have an account of how much you have spent on this rubbish to see if you have fallen for it. I’m sorry I don’t have any photos of the cafeteria, but think of what a McDonald’s looks like inside and change the name to “kids” and the main colour to red and you will be close enough.
RICHARD CUMMING, Glasgow