Learning from the past
This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Marcus Thrane, an early pioneer of working class organisation in Norway. He along with other workers established the Drammen Labour Union in 1848. The union’s call for universal suffrage (granted to men in 1889, women in 1913), better schooling, reduced prices for certain commodities, as well as agricultural subsidies, and the extension of mandatory military service to those with property, were met with a dismissive response from the king. One of the motions at the national conference of 1851 was for revolution. Thrane perhaps fearing the wrath of the ruling class, lobbied against this decision and the motion was not, in the end, carried. The historian Tore Pryser, however, sees Thrane in favour of revolution but not before all other avenues were tried first. The Socialist Party is opposed to reformism but not necessarily individual reforms which may be of benefit to our class. Here are just two of many examples as to why we have been encouraging workers for over a century to take the revolutionary road rather than innumerable well-trodden reformist blind alleys: ‘women will have to wait 217 years before they earn as much as men and are equally represented in the workplace, research finds as gender pay gap worsens’ (dailymail.co.uk, 2 November) and ‘the number of children living in poverty will soar to a record 5.2 million over the next five years’ (theguardian.com, 2 November).
Back to the future
The Socialist Party is an organisation founded on scientific methodology and as such must constantly re-examine its principles and practices. Our Declaration of Principles is no exception yet has stood the test of time. One principle states in part that ‘ the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.’ Such a statement may seem reserved for a Star Trek future, yet we should remember that capitalism as a system of society with its glaring inequalities, war and want alongside wanton wealth has not always been with us. Socialists argue, however, that it has long outlived its usefulness and scientific research shows that we lived very differently in the past. ‘The Ju/’hoansi people of the Kalahari have always been fiercely egalitarian. They hate inequality or showing off, and shun formal leadership institutions. It’s what made them part of the most successful, sustainable civilisation in human history’ (theguardian.com, 29 October).
Stuck in the present
Judging by Donald Trump Junior’s recent tweet – I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to [sic] early to teach her about socialism – he probably thinks Bushmen support the two recent US presidents with that name and primitive communism is found in North Korea. Another member of the 1 percent, who unlike Trump climbed the greasy pole rather than inherited her wealth, tweeted the following reply: ‘fill her bucket with old candy left by her great-grandfather, then explain that she has more because she’s smarter than all the other kids’. This exchange was reported by harpersbazar.com (1 November), who perhaps ought to be thanked for not providing any definition of socialism. We are happy to oblige: a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Reinventing the past
The mendacious mass media says that China is socialist or communist, yet capitalist hallmarks, such as class society, commodity production, profit motive, exploitation of wage labour, markets, etc., exist there as they do worldwide. Further evidence is supplied by a recent article titled ‘Always Stay Professional’. Inside China’s Booming Butler Schools, Nothing But the Best Will Do’ (time.com, 1 November). Here we learn that some of China’s 1,590,000 millionaires wish to live the life of Riley Downtown Abbey style! ‘Students pay 50,000 rmb ($7,500) for a six-week course on food presentation, how to iron shirts the proper way, and maintaining serene decorum at all times…. Students learn how to choose fine wine but also good Chinese liquor, teach tai chi, perform a tea ceremony and caddy on the golf course. For many, it’s another world.’ Indeed. ‘…15-hour days and endless drilling. How to clean a toilet, iron a tablecloth, use tape-measures and plastic blocks to get table placings perfectly aligned. It’s a regimen of burns, blisters and bottomless cups of coffee’. The Ju/’hoansi people work only 15 hours a week.