More of the Same

So, the votes are in and it’s a victory for the Conservative Party. Which doesn’t really surprise me to be honest as there is nothing, aside from tie colour, to differentiate the two major political parties. They both offer the same ‘solutions’ to the economic crisis -class warfare dressed up in the rhetoric of austerity and fiscal cut backs. Many of my friends on Facebook today have been wailing and gnashing their teeth over the results of the election as they seem to believe that had the Labour Party won enough seats to form a government then they would have mitigated the onslaught of attacks on the quality of life that we have at the moment. The truth is that had Labour won the election, either with a majority or through forming a coalition with the smaller parties,  then they would have continued on the path laid out by the Tories.

When Labour were last in office, 1997-2009, they slashed benefits, introduced private testing for the sick and disabled (because apparently GPs don’t know enough about their own patients to be able to tell if they’re fit for work or not), introduced the much hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ in the form of Local Housing Allowance for private tenants, and they did not repeal a single piece of anti-union legislation brought in by the Conservative Party under Thatcher and Major. How can a party that calls itself ‘The Labour Party’ not have repealed laws preventing flying pickets/secondary picketing? By having absolutely nothing to do with the interests of the working class, that’s how.

It seems that many people have very short memories.

Marx Pic

I have to admit that the Scottish National Party landslide up here in Scotland did make me smile. Not because I support the SNP -far, far from it in fact- but because I absolutely detest and abhor the racist, war mongering, anti-worker, Labour Party with a hatred that knots my stomach. I worked with asylum seekers through the last Labour administration and the horrendous policies they brought in, that saw children being incarcerated for the crime of having been born in the wrong place, caused unthinkable suffering to people I knew and deeply cared about. That and the millions dead in Afghanistan and Iraq means that I can never forgive the party that has the cheek to claim a socialist heritage.

The SNP victory here in Scotland does however serve as a nice illustration of one of the problems with bourgeois, sorry, “representative” democracy. The people in Scotland, those who engaged with the election anyway, have chosen the SNP as they feel, I’m sure, that the SNP will best represent the interests of those who live in Scotland. However the power to make decisions over what happens in Scotland still lies firmly in the hands of political parties that have absolutely no interest in the wishes of the people who live in Scotland. The decisions that affect the lives of people from Ardrossan to Aberdeen and beyond are still being made hundreds of miles away by people who are not affected by the outcomes of those decisions.

If we take this to a more local level then in Scotland where, for the most part, people are represented by SNP members. Now these individuals, whatever their intentions, are expected to represent the interests and wishes of the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of people within their constituencies. It’s plainly and simply impossible. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of politicians, of all parties, tend towards being business people, solicitors, or professional politicians -having joined the party straight of university, which is hardly representative of the population at large. These people aren’t the ones affected by changes and cuts made to the benefit system, they aren’t the ones working all the hours they can and still needing to claim benefits to make ends meet, they aren’t stuck on zero hours contracts, or having to feed their children from the charity of strangers via food banks. In fact it is often these same people, and their friends, who benefit from these decisions. It is utterly absurd.

To have a properly democratic society we need to do away with the antiquated notion of representative democracy and find something that is more suitable for a growing technological society. We need decisions that affect communities to be made by those within those communities and not by a class of wealthy politicians who, understandably, only look out for them and theirs. We need to be able to have a proper say over how our communities are organised, how our resources are utilised so that we have what we need and what we want in our communities.

We will never be able to have a truly democratic society however whilst people are having to spend a third of their lives working for fear of being made destitute. How can you spend time as part of a proper community, taking part in making decisions that affect your community when you are working 40+ hours a week just for the privilege of being alive? For that reason we need to change the way that work.. well, the way that work works. We need to stop producing things for the profits of a tiny minority and start producing things that benefit everyone. Sure I want to have the latest gaming tech and a snazzy smart phone in my pocket, I want nice clothes and a nice house. I want everyone that wants them to have these things -and for those that don’t to have access to them should they so desire.

And you know what? We *can* have all these things. We can have these things without the need to work 40+ hours a week, without the need to destroy the environment that our kids will inherit, without the need to sell our lives to a parasite so that we can  just about afford some of these things.

To achieve this we need, to put it bluntly, communism.

Lucy Parsons

Not the communism of the USSR, China, or Cuba. No. We need to work towards the stateless and classless society which Marx described thus in The German Ideology:

in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

A society where we organise our work and our lives ourselves, where our concept of work has changed so much that it would be unrecognisable to us today. A world where a person can engage in useful activities without being explicitly defined by those activities. Thus I may spend the morning writing and the afternoon working on a local farm. Doing the things that need to be done to improve my life and the lives of those in my community.

Of course those who presently hold all the wealth and the power will not allow change like this to be implemented as they have a vested interest in maintaining their positions of power and influence. These are the same people who are friends with politicians, who fund the political parties, who control the various media outlets we turn to for news and entertainment. It is these people who have done such a good job over the last hundred years that many of us now see the placing of a tick in a box every five years as political activity. That we see the theatrics of Parliament as the be all and end all of politics.

I don’t consider either voting in Parliamentary elections nor the charade of the House of Commons to be politics. Real politics happens where we live and work. Real politics is when you get together with your neighbours and fight to get the council to fix the local play park or to prevent them closing down your local library or sports facility. Politics is when you and your workmates go on work to rule or walk out on strike. Politics happens all the time all around us.

It would be foolish to believe that the rich and powerful would allow us to merely vote for meaningful social change. instead we are given the illusion of choice and pretty sounding yet empty promises. For this reason we have to force change, we have to collectively change the way our society works so that the work done benefits us all.

In order to force change we need to be organised. Traditionally the way that the working class has organised has been through the trade union movement with workers in a given trade bandying together to support one another in their common interest. This works well when you are in a trade that has high union density and when you are specifically struggling for something that affects those within that trade. Many modern workplaces however have people from a variety of trades working within them and so the workers within a given place of work are divided with some having greater bargaining power than others. A good example of this is the rail industry where if the drivers go out on strike then they are bargaining with the bosses from a very powerful position -without them the entire rail network shuts down. The people who clean the trains however do not have such a strong position from which to struggle.

For the modern workplace it is far better that workers are all organised into the same union rather than being spread across a variety of different unions with varying levels of militancy -and when it comes to unions militancy is extremely important. For that reason I shall, later on today, be renewing my red card and rejoining the union who say:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centring of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.”

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

I didn’t vote in the election. I have never voted in an election and I never will. What I have done is fight; I have fought for a better world for us to live in in the here and now and for a better world for our children to inherit. If you voted in this General Election and are feeling disheartened by the results, don’t be. The game was rigged from the outset. Choose instead to get organised, actually engage in proper politics, and to fight for a better world.

Click to join the I.W.W.

Shysters Gonna Shyst

shysternoun shy·ster ˈshīs-tər : a dishonest person; especially : a dishonest lawyer or politician

A couple of nights ago a ‘pilot’ for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series aired in the US (watch it below) and it really is emblematic of the way that capitalism stymies creativity. The Wertzone has a good run down on the shite that the shiteing shysters have shysted but the tl;dr of it is that Red Eagle media acquired the rights to produce other media based on The Wheel of Time and then proceeded to turn every single venture into a complete and utter clusterfuck. The rights were due to revert to the estate (Jordan died in 2007 leaving his epic series to be completed by Brandon Sanderson) this coming Wednesday (12/02/15) and so Red Eagle produced the pathetic short video below in an attempt to retain the rights. One assumes that they wish to now simply sit on them until the current popular interest in epic fantasy has waned and then try to get funding for a big budget Game of Thrones style epic. If you read the Wertzone article you will see that they have a track record of being clever like that.

What has this got to do with capitalism stymieing creativity you ask? Well, to put it bluntly capitalism allows business interests to control and dictate the activities of creative people and groups. The general argument that capitalism encourages development through offering financial incentives to creative people is contradicted by the simple fact that financial remuneration for the arts is utterly pitiful. No one decides to study art because they want to get rich, they may have pipe dreams of hitting it big but that’s not the driving force behind their creativity. The desire to create is a very human one and people express it in all manner of different ways from painting through writing, teaching, engineering, mathematics, in all manner of fields and disciplines. People do this simply because they are people, not because of the slim possibility of there being a massive pay check at the end of the day.

What people desire is shelter, food, sex, society, company, and everything else is just a bonus. If it weren’t for capitalism forcing people to engage in meaningless labour for the profit of a tiny parasitic minority creative individuals then people would be fully able to follow their creative urges and so we would be gifted with an even greater abundance of wonderful things with which to enjoy our lives. The actions of Red Eagle media are perfectly legal and are to expected in a capitalist economy, they would be insane to simply give up the rights they have acquired and from which they may potentially be able to draw a profit. If our economy were organised differently however (from each according to ability, to each according to need perhaps?) then there would be no issue here. The estate of Robert Jordan wouldn’t have the incentive to reclaim the rights and Red Eagle wouldn’t have the incentive to hang on to them. It would be possible to have the work produced as a visual drama by those who love the books, by those who love acting, by those who love film making, by those who love sound recording, and so on. Surely that would be preferable to the present situation?

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”
Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History

I love that quote though I would take it even farther. How many Tolkiens, Del Toros, Ligottis, Mievilles, Jacksons, Wintersons, Atwoods, Salingers, and so on have we lost to mines, to factories, to call centres? How many cancer cures and startling feats of engineering have we lost to 40-50 hour work weeks, to work days so long that when the work is done all that’s left is to sleep? There is a lot that is fundamentally wrong with how we organise our society but the amount that we deny ourselves through the perpetuation of capitalism has to be one of the most tragic.

For more on the 4 hour work day see here: http://www.iww.org/de/history/library/misc/Bekken2000