Saturday, April 29, 2017

Don't stop at protests

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To-day people around the world will be coming together for the People's Climate March to draw attention to of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser Kandi Mossett explained “If we don’t all collectively learn that we need to fight together, then we are all collectively going to die together. There is no escaping that,” 

The dream of a just and class-free society has long stirred the hopes of women and men, shackled by exploitation, poverty, oppression, and war. The early 19th-century labour movement envisioned a cooperative community of producers and many constructed intricate blueprints for egalitarian societies. So we can’t claim that Marx and Engels invented the idea of a society defined by common ownership, mutuality, freedom and equality. Capitalism has inflicted incalculable harm on the inhabitants of the earth. Tragically, the future could be even worse for a simple reason: capitalism’s destructive power, driven by its inner logic to expand, is doing irreversible damage to life in all its forms all around the planet. Rosa Luxemburg famously said that humanity had a choice, “socialism or barbarism.” In these days of climate change, her warning has even more meaning. Almost daily we hear of species extinction, global warming, resource depletion, deforestation, desertification, and on and on to the point where we are nearly accustomed to this gathering catastrophe. Our planet cannot indefinitely absorb the impact of profit-driven, growth-without-limits capitalism. To-day prominent figures warn of the possibility of human extinction as a result of man-made climate change. How could it come about that a species so intelligent, flexible and well-equipped could potentially destroy itself? Unless we radically change our methods of production and pattern of consumption, we will reach the point where the harmful effects to the environment will become irreversible. Even the most modest measures of environmental reform are resisted by sections of the capitalist class. This makes the establishment of a socialist society all the more imperative.

One way or another, the coming decades will be decisive for the fate of human civilisation. Unless greenhouse emissions are swiftly and drastically curbed the result will be an environmental catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale, threatening the survival of all life on the planet. The reality of climate change is already manifesting itself in an increasing number of extreme weather events, such as heat-waves, droughts, floods and typhoons. Melting ice sheets are resulting in rising sea levels and increased flooding of low-lying areas. Some islands will soon be totally submerged, turning their inhabitants into climate refugees. Some solutions to climate change are known and simple: rapidly phase out the use of fossil fuels, make the switch to renewables and halt deforestation. But significant economic interests at the heart of the capitalist system have big investments in coal, oil and gas. Protecting these interests, governments refuse to take more than token measures to halt climate change. The goal of the big corporations is to secure the greatest possible profits for their super-rich owners — regardless of the consequences to the planet and its people.

Imagine an alternative, a society where each individual has the means to live a life of dignity and fulfillment, without exception; where discrimination and prejudice are wiped out; where all members of society are guaranteed a decent life, the means to contribute to society; and where the environment is protected and rehabilitated. This is socialism — a truly humane, a truly ecological society. With socialism, our work would engage our skills and bring personal satisfaction. Leisure time would be expanded and fulfilling. Our skies, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams will be pollution free. Our neighbourhoods would become green spaces for rest and recreation. Communal institutions, like cafeterias, will serve up healthy and delicious food and offer a menu of cultural events.

The Socialist Party does not believe in achieving socialism through coercion or through violent seizure of power by a revolutionary vanguard. That's no basis upon which to build a fair and democratic society. No, the only way that socialism, as we understand it could be set up and run, is through the consent and cooperation of an overwhelming majority of the world's population. And the only way we will know once there is such a majority is when it says so via the ballot. It is then, and only then, that we will know that the time is ripe for socialist revolution. It is then that we can start dismantling the coercive machinery of government and start taking control of the things we need to make society function in our own interests. That the socialist revolution can only be international, creating a world-wide society where production is carried out solely to meet the needs and desires of its inhabitants. 

The Socialist Party argues that it is not enough to have demonstrators on the streets or workers occupying the factories. Above all, we say, our fellow-workers must have a clear understanding of what socialism entails and what methods are effective in overthrowing capitalism. A grasp of socialist principles by the vast majority of the workers is a minimal condition for going forward to socialism. No minority revolution can lead to socialism. Hence our conclusion that the movement to establish socialism, and the methods it employs, must “prefigure” the democratic nature of socialism. Socialism is the ongoing task of the majority; it cannot work top down; it cannot be imposed and cannot be legislated for by leaders, however well-intentioned. The socialist revolution necessarily involves the active and conscious participation of the great majority of workers, thus excluding the role of leadership.

In considering the question of how realistic it is to expect a socialist revolution, it is important to consider the hidden history of events that most people are unaware of. It was in the Paris Commune of 1871 that French workers actually created organisations of mass control which challenged the old system for a brief space of time. In the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, workers and peasants developed similar structures of direct workers' control such as the workers' councils and factory committees. The Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 eventually destroyed this, and ushered in a system of state capitalism. Similarly, in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the workers set up workers' councils when they took on their so-called "communist" oppressors. During the May of 1968 in France, workplaces and universities were taken over and in many cases run in a way that is of immense inspiration to socialists.

What happened on these occasions? Not socialist revolutions, as some claim. But they were significant in the history of the struggles of our class. They are significant because the sort of people who dismiss the possibility of revolutionary upheavals was dismissing it days and weeks before these events blew up in their faces. No one is in any position to dismiss the prospect of the revolution who has not carefully examined these movements. In none of these cases was a socialist revolution achieved, but in each case, there was a fundamental interruption of the ruling order and the appearance of new forms and conceptions of everyday life. To ignore them because of their failure is to miss the point. Individual revolts are bound to fail until they are accompanied by a widespread and growing—and ultimately worldwide—socialist consciousness. The socialist revolution must be world-wide and cannot be achieved in one country alone. Because capitalism has become a world-wide system the society to replace it must also be world-wide. Class emancipation must mean the freeing of the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggle.

What we hope by citing these historic examples can show that real change can be brought about by people themselves. Socialism is not a utopian dream. It is an ever-present undercurrent in working class struggles. The task is to make it the main one. That these revolts did not go farther is hardly surprising. What is inspiring is that they went as far as they did. The socialist revolution is not likely to start from some strike over wages spreading to the whole of the working class. Certainly, workers can learn from the experience of industrial struggles against employers that socialism is the only way out and, in this sense, strikes can contribute to a growth of socialist consciousness. But so can the many other experiences of the way capitalism works against the interests of workers (bad housing, poor health care, pollution, wars and the threat of war, etc, etc). 99 percent of the socialist revolution consists of imbuing our class with the confidence and ambition to succeed, and a revulsion of living as wage slaves whether pampered or ill-fed: once we have this our numbers will carry the day. The productive powers have been increased to a vast degree, yet people are still idle, starving, poverty stricken, and homeless, while the machinery of production is misused or neglected. This must change. This will change. This, the 21st century can be the true century of revolution, of true socialist revolution. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, is an urgent necessity.  

Burnley Street Stall

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  • Towneley Park

    Holmes Street, Burnley BB11 3RQ
May Day Festival organised as an annual event by Burnley TUC.
The Socialist Party will have a stall at this event and have literature for sale and give away along with the opportunity to speak to workers and exchange views and ideas.

Time is running out

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Another  Peoples Climate March is planned for April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC focused on fighting for climate, jobs and justice. The coalition picked the 29th because it would be the 100th day of the new administration.

Certain environmentalists adopt a rather smug attitude concerning proper green lifestyles. They leave out the material pressures upon millions of workers which leave them no option to live healthily.  Many in the Green movement supported by some scientists imagine that a sustainable environment-friendly world can be achieved through reforms of the market system. This is impossible. The capitalist system has destructive features which cannot be removed through reform. How is it possible for us to choose non-destructive production methods when these are in the hands of corporations which must place profit before needs? How is it possible for us to co-operate when we are dominated by economic competition? How is it possible to build a stable way of life, a non-growth system in balance with nature, while retaining a market system which is driven by a relentless pressure to renew its capacity for sales at a profit? The activists in the environmentalist movement must face up to these questions. Capitalism is primarily a system of capital accumulation and with any faltering of this anti-social aim it breaks down in crisis and a worsening of all social conditions. For sure, some efforts, both technological and legislative, will no doubt be made to deal with the effects of global warming. However, it can be said with certainty that any environmental improvements will come second to the accumulation of profits by the capitalist class.  Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class in the production process and exists only to make profit and accumulate capital. Workers have no control over pollution, locally or globally, while the state exists only to further the interests of the capitalist class, taking action only when their general or particular interests warrant it.  Capitalists only adopt new technologies and working methods when it is profitable to do so, not because the existing ones happen to be polluting the planet. It is sheer folly to believe capitalists will adopt an environmental policy if their competitors elsewhere in the world market do not. What would shareholders say to a board of directors which introduced costly anti-pollution machinery or practices if it meant that the company lost its competitive edge and market as a result? 

The false belief that problems can be solved by reforming the market system has led to the death of every decent hope for humanity  To avoid such a disastrous outcome we urge all those who wish to protect the environment—to join the work of establishing socialism. It is the only sure and practical way forward. With the planet held in common by all people and on this basis democratic decisions about how best to organise life in non-destructive ways could be freely made. There would be no economic constraints preventing us from using ecologically-sound methods. We would carry out the work through direct co-operation. A society which was not constrained by private property, commodity production and buying and selling would use as a matter of course the best possible technology at hand to ensure the safety of those working in the plants and the protection of the natural environment. Social cost would be the deciding factor, not commercial cost. Capitalism is unable to do this. 

While the planet will survive in some shape or form, there is now a fair chance the human race will not. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fighting the cuts in Brazil

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 Brazilian trade unions backed by various social movements are striking against the relaxation of restrictions on outsourcing and temporary contracts. new anti-union laws and austerity cuts on pensions. It is the first nationwide general strike in 21 years.   35 million Brazilians didn't show up for work on Friday, more than one-third of the working population and many thousands took to the streets in anger Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous city and financial center, was the worst affected.  All public transport networks were closed, bringing the city to a standstill. General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG all halted production.

  Meanwhile, police fired tear gas at protestors who had blocked off a highway.  Similar scenes were reported in Rio de Janeiro's state assembly and bus station. Transport services were also completely shut down in the capital Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba.  Union officials said most workers at state-run oil producer Petrobras joined the strike


"We are demanding our rights, as workers, because the president of the country proposed a law for people to work more and live less, so you will only receive your pension when you die," said Edgar Fernandes, a dock worker who was protesting in Rio.

Brazil’s largest labour unions, like the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Força Sindical, are organizing the strike. Other groups who have joined in organizing the strike are Frente Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo. 


Guildford West Election Statement

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“I am standing to raise the issue of the need for the shared and democratic ownership of the Earth’s resources, with all goods and services produced for use, rather than for profit.
“The current crisis in social care in Surrey is a pressing example of why this change is necessary. Its root cause is today’s outdated system where finance determines what can, and cannot happen.
"Socialists suggest a better way. At a time when we can easily feed, house and care for every
human on the planet, it no longer makes sense to use money to ration access to what we need, especially not to the needs of the most vulnerable.”
"I am standing to make the point that local problems arise from the economic system of production for profit that exists everywhere and that they cannot be solved unless this system is replaced by one based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, and access for all to what they need on the basis of 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."
The Socialist Party of Great Britain candidate for Guildford West -  Adam Buick 

Lewes Election Street Stall (May 1)

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Monday, 1 May  

 12:00pm

Venue: 
 Cliffe High Street 
Lewes (East Sussex) BN7 1XE
 Organised by Brighton Discussion Group

Guildford Election Street Stall (May 1)

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Monday, 1 May  

12:00pm - 3:00pm

Venue: Tunsgate Arch, 
off High Street, 
Guildford GU1 3AA
Organised by West London Branch as part of the SPGB's campaign in the forthcoming County Council elections when it will be standing a candidate in the Guildford West division

Mending by ending

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The Socialist Party opposes those political parties that promise to deliver a programme of reforms on behalf of the working class, often in order to gain a position of power. Such groups on the left-wing, often have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. Many of these leftists are going to put before the working class only what they think will be understood by the workers - proposals to improve and reform the present capitalist system - and, of course, they are going to try to assume the leadership of such struggles as a way of achieving support for their vanguard party. These Left parties may try to initiate such struggles themselves and they will try to muscle in on any struggles of this sort that groups of workers have started off themselves. The ultimate result of this is disillusionment.

The Socialist Party understands only too well the urge to do something now, to take action and create some sort of change. That makes us all the more determined, however, to get the message across, to clear away the barrier of the wages system, so that we can begin to build a truly human society. Why waste time fighting for half measures? We would better spend our time, energies, and resources educating people to establish socialism rather than waste time in the false belief that our present system can be made to work in everyone's interest. We do not claim “capitalist reforms” stand in the way of achieving socialism. If we did we'd logically have to oppose them; which we don't. We encourage workers to fight back against employers and, although we don't propose or advocate reforms, we don't oppose them if they genuinely do improve workers' lives under capitalism. What we say is not that they are obstacles to socialism but merely that they are irrelevant to socialism and that a socialist party should not advocate reforms.

If you are convinced, however, that groups or parties promising reforms deserve your support, we would urge you to consider the following points. The campaign, whether directed at right-wing or left-wing governments, will often only succeed if it can be reconciled with the profit-making needs of the system. In other words, the reform will often be turned to the benefit of the capitalist class at the expense of any working class gain. Any reform can be reversed and eroded later if a government finds it necessary. Reforms rarely, if ever, actually solve the problem they were intended to solve. Socialists within the Socialist Party make a choice. We choose to use our time and limited funds to work to eliminate the cause of the problems. One can pick any single problem and find that improvements have taken place, usually only after a very long period of agitation. But rarely, if ever, has the problem actually disappeared, and usually, other related problems have arisen to fill the vacuum of left by the "solution".

If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less . To stem the socialist tide the capitalist parties will sink their differences and draw closer together, much as religions do today in the face of the world avalanche of atheism. Reforms now derided as Utopian will be two a penny - in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, for example, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is "the beginning" of a free society, but socialists will not be taken in.

If a pipe bursts and the water is flooding the house, one can start bailing the water out while it continues to flow in, or one can turn the water off, and then start bailing it out. It may take a while to find the tap, but unless the water is turned off, the water will continue to rise and bailing is rather pointless. Socialists are not immune to the human tragedies which occur daily, by the millions, and which generate tens of thousands of activists to trying to stem the flood. Socialists suffer those tragedies as severely as anyone else but work to encourage people to find the tap and turn it off.

Wales - Saturday streets stalls

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Street stalls on the 1st Saturday of the month in Cardiff and the 3rd Saturday of the month in Swansea.

Cardiff stall will be located at the Newport Road end of Queen Street (10 am to 12 noon).  

Swansea stall will be located around the entrance to the market on Oxford Street (11 am to 1 pm).

Who sups with the de'il should have a long spoon

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Dr Peter Boylan, one of Ireland’s most respected obstetricians has resigned from the board of a maternity hospital over plans to transfer its ownership to a religious order that ran institutions where women were enslaved and children abused for decades.
Secular campaigners have been leading the opposition to the government’s plan – which emerged earlier this month – to move the National maternity hospital in Dublin to the St Vincent’s Elm Park campus, which is owned by the Sisters of Charity.  The Catholic order –  still owes €3m (£2.5m) to a government compensation scheme for victims of institutional abuse.  The Sisters of Charity never issued a general public apology for the abuse suffered by children in their care. 
Boylan told Irish radio: “It has been said that the nuns are not going to run the hospital – that’s absolutely correct. I’ve never suggested that they would run the hospital, but they own the hospital, they own the company that runs it and they have undue representation on the board.”
The minister for health, Simon Harris, has insisted that Catholic ownership of the hospital will not influence the care it provides. We can consider another hospital run by the Sisters of Charity to see how much credence to give that. At St Vincent’s, nuns sit on the board of directors and doctors must sign contracts promising adherence to the ethos of the hospital. The ethos stated on the hospital’s website is “to bring the healing love of Christ to all we serve.” The first stated core value is “respecting the sacredness of human life and the dignity and uniqueness of each person”, which, anyone fighting for reproductive rights in Ireland can tell you, is code for “every zygote has a soul”. If and when Irish women finally win abortion rights, will the National Maternity Hospital implement them?
Barrister Claire Hogan points out that in Ireland, where gruesome medical histories of symphysiotomy and “compassionate hysterectomy” stem from Catholic mores, religious ethos has historically affected women’s medical treatment. The Institute of Obstetricians has expressed concern that even Ireland’s extremely restrictive abortion law, which allows for termination only in the case of threat to the life of the mother, will be compromised in a Catholic-controlled institution.
John Kelly of Survivors of Child Abuse (Soca) Ireland cautioned against having “the religious involved in any way shape or form” in schools and hospitals, while Magdalene Survivors Together expressed “deep anger and absolute shock” at the decision.
Just to recap: the state spends €82m on a report that uncovers heinous abuses perpetrated by Catholic orders against the children it paid them to care for; it pays out over €1bn to the victims, while the godly shirk financial and moral responsibility. It commits another €58m compensating women, while the cassocked again decree themselves blameless.
And it learns what? That Ireland needs further integration of church and state.

International Workers' Memorial Day

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On Friday 28th April, millions of workers across the world will remember those killed at and by work as part of International Workers' Memorial Day. Many commemorative days receive mass attention, environmental, health and safety issues in the workplace are barely acknowledged.

 A few employers may care about the safety of their workers, but in general, capitalists seek to maximize profit. That means they will pay more for safety only insofar as they are forced to bear medical and other costs associated with injuries – through workers’ compensation, for instance.  It is clear that much work is potentially dangerous, such as anything involving chemicals, machinery or working above ground. But that does not by itself explain why there are so many injuries, fatal and otherwise. While ‘accidents’ cost money, regulations and enforcement are expensive too. All impinge on profits, which are the main reason for production under capitalism. Companies will say that they take health and safety seriously, but they have to take profit most seriously of all. We cannot say that there would be no workplace deaths or injuries in a socialist society, but we can be sure that the safety and well-being of those who produce the goods and services will be paramount. There will be no shortcuts, no cheap and nasty solutions, no forcing people to work in unsafe situations. Producing in the interest of the whole community will include making production as safe as is humanly possible – something that capitalism simply cannot deliver.  
     

Tyne and Wear Mayday Rally (Sat 29th April)

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Saturday, April 29, 

 to 

Princess Square


Newcastle upon Tyne,
Members from North East Branch will be present selling the Socialist Standard and available to answer your questions about the Socialist Party

Stoking the Yemen Civil War

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As of March 21, 2016, Human Rights Watch reported the following weapon sales, in 2015 to the Saudi government:
  • July 2015, the US Defense Department approved a number of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, including a US $5.4 billion deal for 600 Patriot Missiles and a $500 million deal for more than a million rounds of ammunition, hand grenades, and other items, for the Saudi army.
  •  According to the US Congressional review, between May and September, the US sold $7.8 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis.
  • In October, the US government approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of up to four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships for $11.25 billion.
  • In November, the US signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $1.29 billion for more than 10,000 advanced air-to-surface munitions including laser-guided bombs, “bunker buster” bombs, and MK84 general purpose bombs; the Saudis have used all three in Yemen.
Reporting about the role of the United Kingdom in selling weapons to the Saudis, Peace News notes that “Since the bombing began in March 2015, the UK has licensed over £3.3bn worth of arms to the regime, including:
  •  £2.2 bn worth of ML10 licences (aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 bn worth of ML4 licences (grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (armoured vehicles, tanks)
On April 26th, 2017, in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition which has been waging war in Yemen for the past two years dropped leaflets informing Hodeidah’s residents of an impending attack. Already, five cranes in Hodeidah which were formerly used to offload goods from ships arriving in the port city were destroyed by Saudi airstrikes. 

UN agencies have clamored for humanitarian relief. Yet the role the UN Security Council has played in calling for negotiations seems entirely lopsided.  On April 14, 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2216 demanded: “that all parties in the embattled country, in particular, the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.” At no point is Saudi Arabia mentioned in the Resolution.
Speaking on December 19, 2016, Sheila Carpico, Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond and a leading Yemen specialist called the UN Security Council sponsored negotiations a cruel joke.
These negotiations are based on UN Security Council resolutions 2201 and 2216. Resolution 2216 of 14 April 2015, reads as if Saudi Arabia is an impartial arbitrator rather than a party to an escalating conflict, and as if the GCC “transition plan” offers a “peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people, including women.”
Although scarcely three weeks into the Saudi-led intervention the UN’s deputy secretary-general for human rights said that the majority of the 600 people already killed were civilian victims of Saudi and Coalition airstrikes, UNSC 2216 called only on “Yemeni parties” to end the use of violence. There was no mention of the Saudi-led intervention. There was similarly no call for a humanitarian pause or corridor.

The U.S. Congress could  insist that the U.S. stop supplying the Saudi-led coalition with weapons, stop helping Saudi jets to refuel, end diplomatic cover for Saudi Arabia, and stop providing the Saudis with intelligence support. And perhaps the U.S. Congress would move in this direction if elected representatives believed that their constituents care deeply about these issues. 


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Clinton, Obama, Trump – Birds of a Feather

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Since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, news reports have proliferated about rising raids, arrests, detentions, and deportations.  These suggest that something new, terrifying, and distinctly Trumpian—something we’ve simply never seen before—is underway, including mass sweeps to deport individuals who would have been protected under the previous administration. Long before Trump entered the Oval Office, the “tough on crime” approach to immigration fit into a broader pattern of the criminalization of people of color that fed the prison-industrial complex, made the U.S. the globe’s leading incarcerator, and encouraged the proliferation of private prisons.  It helped justify the increasing militarization of the police in those years and the over-policing of communities of color.  It also fed a national sense of insecurity that contributed to political passivity, disempowerment, and the kind of nativism that Trump has thrived on. Criminalization plays a role as well in the country’s growing economic inequality.  It justifies both high rates of unemployment and low wages among people of color, while warehousing those whose labor has become superfluous. And it plays a particular role when it comes to immigrants and the labor market.

Immigrants actually experience significantly higher labor force participation and lower unemployment rates than the native-born, making them an exception among people of color.  However, they earn less ($681 week) than do native-born workers ($837 a week), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2015.  For employers in recent years, the criminalization of the already unstable status of immigrants (and their inability generally to access social services), makes them a uniquely exploitable and so desirable work force.  They tend to be hired to do jobs so dismal, arduous, or dangerous that they fail to attract native-born workers.  Anthropologist Nicholas de Genova has suggested that the very “deportability” of undocumented immigrants makes them desirable to such employers. Meanwhile, the criminalization of people of color and of immigrants in particular lent a distinct helping hand to Donald Trump in his campaign for president, even as it helped the prison-industrial complex and the police justify ever-increasing budgets and employment

  Washington Post scare headline typically read: “ICE Immigration Arrests of Noncriminals Double Under Trump”  is misleading. Non-criminal immigration arrests did indeed jump from 2,500 in the first three months of 2016 to 5,500 during the same period in 2017, while criminal arrests also rose, bringing the total to 21,000.  Only 16,000 were arrested during the same months in 2016.  The article, however, ignores the fact that 2016 was the all-time low year for arrests under President Obama.  In the first three months of 2014, for example, 29,000 were arrested, far more than Trump’s three-month “record.”
And even though arrests went up during Trump’s first three months in office, deportations actually went down, mostly due to the fact that the number of immigrants crossing the border declined.

Trump’s policies seem to be growing directly out of policies first instituted in the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  The fact is that two Democratic presidents laid the groundwork for Trump’s policies. It was, after all, President Clinton who oversaw the draconian “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act” of 1996.  It drastically increased all levels of immigration “enforcement,” expanding the Border Patrol, criminalizing numerous types of low-level immigration violations, and facilitating and expanding deportation procedures. In many ways, Donald Trump is only reiterating, with more bombast, ideas, and policies pioneered under Clinton, that then became a basic part of Barack Obama’s approach to immigration. Those policies drew directly on racist tough-on-crime and anti-terrorism police tactics that also helped foment white racial fears. Obama was dubbed the “deporter-in-chief” for a reason.  He oversaw historic rises in deportation rates.  Immigrant rights supporters like to emphasize the humanitarian nature of what Obama did while downplaying the two border prongs of his policies, criminalizing and targeting those not eligible for them.

When it came to interior enforcement, President Obama called on ICE to exercise “prosecutorial discretion.”  Immigrants who were parents, students, hard-working, had close family and community ties, or served in the military, he suggested, should be granted relief from deportation.In the process, however, he offered a language of innocence versus criminality and the illusion that, when it came to immigrants, the notion of criminality was self-evident and universally agreed upon.  By dividing them into felons versus families, he actually contributed to the criminalization of large groups of immigrants and so fed directly into Trump’s future rhetoric.  He also drew on Bill Clinton’s “tough on crime” policies in ways that linked the criminalization of people of color with the deportation of “criminal” immigrants (also overwhelmingly people of color). Once criminalized, they then fell into a separate-and-unequal immigration enforcement system in which due process was eliminated and deportation, the ultimate draconian penalty, could be implemented regardless of the seriousness of the “crime.”  Worse yet, the ever harsher over-policing of communities of color and the expansion of mass incarceration produced,  immigration scholars Alan Aja and Alejandra Marchevsky point out, “a reservoir of immigrants with criminal records, creating an endless chain of detentions and deportations.”

As Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, has made strikingly clear, all of this—the redefinition of minor crimes as felonies, the increasing pressure on those charged to plea bargain, and measures that then excluded felons from public housing, employment, welfare rolls, voting booths, and other aspects of society—relegated a significant number of black men to a permanent underclass. Undocumented immigrants were also caught in this web, with some special twists. In the wake of Clinton’s 1996 immigration law, for instance, convictions of just about any sort, including the most minor crimes, became grounds for deportation—even retroactively.  So a long-ago violation that resulted in probation and community service, or a small fine, now became evidence of an immigrant’s “criminal” status from which deportation naturally followed.

And there was another new catch-22 category as well: so-called immigration crimes. Those with a record of illegal re-entry and those who engaged in what was termed “immigration fraud” were automatically re-categorized as “criminals” under President Obama’s priority enforcement policy.  “Illegal reentry” is, in fact, the most curious of crimes, since it distinguishes between those who succeed in entering the country without inspection on their first try and those who are caught and only succeed on a subsequent try.  “Immigration fraud,” a broad category, includes common practices like using a false social security number in order to work. Obama’s interior deportation scheme relied heavily on this expansive notion of the criminality of the undocumented, who might otherwise have qualified as people trying to get by as best they could.  In fact, the situations of many of those caught at the border proved remarkably similar to those being granted prosecutorial discretion in the interior.  They had family, including children, in the United States, or jobs and strong community ties, or had lived in the country for years.  Because they had left and tried to return, however, they were redefined as criminals. Trump is extending that criminalization further by ruling that anybody convicted of, charged with, or even suspected of a crime constitutes a priority for deportation.  In the process, he’s expanded the concept of the “criminal” even as he’s built directly on the Clinton-Obama legacy.

What earned President Obama the moniker of “deporter-in-chief,” however, was his policy towards border enforcement, since it was there that the number of deportees rose most sharply.  This was in part because he prioritized “recent border crossers” for deportation; everyone, that is, who had crossed without authorization, which essentially meant everyone apprehended in the border region, was now criminalized.  Under previous administrations, most of those caught there had been granted what was called “voluntary departure.”  In other words, they were returned to the Mexican side of the border without legal sanction.  During the Clinton and Bush administrations, more than a million people a year were returned to Mexico in this manner without being transformed into criminals and so were not included in the usual deportation figures. In the Obama years, those apprehended at the border began to be formally charged and fingerprinted before being issued a deportation order.  In this way, they were redefined as “criminals,” and if they were caught attempting a second border crossing, as criminal “repeat immigration offenders.”  It also meant that formal deportations began to skyrocket, although the numbers crossing the border, those apprehended at the border, and those sent back to Mexico were all beginning to fall.

One aspect of immigration enforcement under the Obama administration generally goes unmentioned: the president’s role in pressuring Mexico into collaborating by arresting and deporting Central Americans heading north (including families and unaccompanied children) before they reached the border with the United States.  In 2014, under growing pressure from Washington, the Mexican government implemented the Southern Border Program.  While U.S. law was being repeatedly updated to provide humanitarian treatment to families and children apprehended at the border, when the Mexicans got to them first, they simply deported them. In 2014, only 3% of the minors apprehended in the U.S. were deported; in Mexico, the figure was 77%, or 18,269.  As one report summed up the situation: “The United States is outsourcing its border enforcement to Mexico.”  As in the United States, so Mexico’s increasing militarization and repression on its southern border did not actually slow the flow of migrants. It merely made the voyage far more dangerous, while giving ever more power to smugglers and gangs that now prey upon Central American migrants desperately trying to evade Mexican border controls.

 Trump’s immigration policies follow in the footsteps but also intensify those of his predecessors and continue to create fear, justify exploitation, and rationalize authoritarianism. Similarities can also be made about their foreign policies and overseas military ventures. Trump is the symptom of what the United States is and not the cause. 


The Socialist Party Explained

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The world is crying out for change. Millions of children die each year of starvation while those with millions spare themselves no indulgence. People say that we in the Socialist Party are utopian because we hold to the view that a new society is the only lasting solution to the mess we're in and because we dare to suggest that we could run our lives in a much more rational and harmonious way. Some people on the "Left" decline to define socialism because they think that any account of a future society is a waste of time and that we should concern ourselves with present-day struggles. But unless you do talk about where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived?  More and more people today recognise that the present system of production for profit makes our lives needlessly painful and is ruining the planet.  Unless you do have a clear idea of socialism then anyone can claim it, defame it and say it doesn't work. And unless we keep the idea of working directly for a worldwide co-operative community on the agenda people will always be sidetracked. It is essential that the ideal of the new society should always be kept at the fore. It cannot be stressed enough, that without a widespread and clear idea among workers of what a socialist society entails, it will he unattainable. The reason is simple. The very nature of socialism—a money-free, wage-free world of unrestricted access to the goods and services provided by voluntary cooperative effort—necessitates understanding. There is absolutely no way in which such a sweeping fundamental transformation of social relationships could be thrust upon an unwilling, unknowing majority by some minority, however, enlightened or well-meaning. The Socialist Party is not prepared to associate with organisations which carry on propaganda for the amelioration of capitalism, recruit members on that basis and seek the votes of reformists. Our case is that work for socialism is the essential end and it cannot be combined with reformism. Socialism cannot be achieved without a social revolution, that is a change in the property basis of society, from private ownership to social ownership and democratic control.  Alone, we have stood for a social revolution to overturn capitalist society and replace it with socialism. There is no way that an anti-capitalist social order can be constructed without seizing state power, radically transforming it the constitutional and institutional framework that currently supports private property. To ignore the state is a ridiculous and dangerous idea for any anti-capitalist movement to accept.

The Socialist Party holds that the only way workers can end their conflict with our masters is to build on our economic and social power and organise collectively and politically to end the madness of the market system once and for all.  Class struggle is the motor that drives change. Built into capitalism is a class struggle between those who own the means of wealth production and those who don't and who are therefore forced by economic necessity to sell their ability to work to those who do. The class war, between the owners of the means of production (the capitalists) and those compelled by threat of poverty to sell their capacity to work (the workers), is an essential and continual feature of capitalist society.  This class struggle is not just over the price and conditions of sale of the commodity workers are selling, their labour power. Ultimately, it's about control over the means of production. The problem we have to face is that, in the class struggle, the odds are nearly always against us, and that to build a socialist future, we need a mass organisation of people who know what it is they want and are prepared to work to achieve it. 

Those pursuing the tactic of trying to reform capitalism by concentrating on humanising it are wasting their time since the entire system is based on a minority exploiting a majority. To expend all energy in demands for a more "friendly" capitalism is not what socialists should aim for, as, even in the event of success, the primary evils of capitalism would still remain i.e. production for profit and extraction of surplus value. The main effort of socialists should be aiming for socialism itself. The end of capitalism can only come as a result of a consciously socialist political movement winning control of political power with a view to abolishing all capitalist property rights and ushering in the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. The preconditions for ending capitalism are a majority socialist consciousness and workers democratically self-organised in a large-scale socialist party. Neither of which, unfortunately, currently exist. 

During the election campaign, questioning the future of capitalism ought to be in the forefront of the debate. Socialist ideas have to be communicated to other workers, but not from outside the working class as a whole. They have to be communicated to other workers who, from their own experience and/or from absorbing the past experience of the working class, have come to a socialist understanding. It is not a question of enlightened outsiders bringing socialist ideas to the benighted workers but of socialist-minded workers spreading socialist ideas amongst their fellow workers.  The Socialist Party's mission is to show clearly both how we are robbed and exploited by the system ruled by capital and how we can tap the wealth of our collective productive power by taking control of the means of production directly.

The Socialist Party’s conception of revolution is often criticised for its lack of credibility since it is falsely assumed that people have to wait for the overwhelming majority necessary to “enact” socialism before doing something about their immediate problems. The Socialist Party recognises the necessity of workers' solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. Workers must engage with the issues of pay and work conditions and pensions, but the main issue is the overthrow of capitalism, not picking away at it and then having our gains eroded sooner or later. In thinking of the class war as an actual war, the drive for a socialist understanding in the working class and the creation of a socialist society should be the main front, demanding the most effort, while everyday issues of pay and conditions and defending the gains that have been made would be a secondary front. We should never lose track of the actual aim of the socialist movement, the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a democratic association of peoples.

Left-wingers reject the Party’s concept of revolutionary change as “impossible”. Their argument is that a working class government could set society on a course of change in the direction of socialism. In control of the state and all legal processes, such a government would grant the widest freedom of action to the trade unions and thus set up a partnership with the trade unions pursuing working class interests on the industrial field and a government doing the same on the political field. The unions would maximise the workers’ share of the social product at the point of production. The government would provide housing, health care and education, etc. At the same time, such a working class government would begin the process of establishing common ownership through the nationalisation of the means of production and through “taxing the rich out of existence”.

The Socialist Party rejected this gradualist policy at the beginning of the last century and it has been vindicated by experience. With a growing socialist majority, the class struggle will take new forms, not least because the ruling class will become ever more cunning and ruthless as its hegemony is more and more threatened. Critics have accused the Socialist Party with some foolish ideas such as Parliamentary “cretinism”, as they call it . The Socialist Party is aware that the use of parliament by a socialist majority is just one part of a much broader movement for change in which the revolutionised ideas and activities of millions of class-conscious workers will be rather more important than the actions of delegates in parliament. Nor does the Socialist Party rely simply upon the agency of ‘abstract propaganda’. Our propaganda is not abstract: we relate to the real experiences of workers today, constantly making clear at our meetings and in our literature that socialism is the immediately practical solution to workers’ so-called “short-term interests”. We present our objective as an immediate solution to the problems of the present and not as some far-off futuristic utopia. Our appeal to workers is on the basis of class interest and our appeal will be successful because the class struggle generates class consciousness in workers.   

These left-wing critics accuse the Socialist Party of being unconcerned with short-term interests within capitalism and offer the example of our failure to be directly involved in trade unions. The reason for this is that as socialists we are engaged in a necessarily contradictory struggle: on the one hand, we propose the abolition of the wages system as an immediately practical alternative, but on the other, we recognise the need for workers to fight the wages struggle within capitalism. But, as socialists, our main energies must be directed towards the former objective. We could, of course, remove this distinction between the trade union struggle within capitalism and the socialist struggle against capitalism by adopting the ideas of the De Leonists, who at one time advocated that socialists should form their own socialist unions. This would be an example of breaking down the false dichotomy between short and long term interests. But the result proved an utter failure when De Leonist trade unions which were set up in the USA and, to a lesser extent, in Scotland. Indeed, the failure of  “socialist industrial unionism”  is a very important case study of the danger of imagining those capitalist institutions such as trade unions can be easily converted into socialist bodies. They demonstrate that capitalism cannot be transcended from within.

The Socialist Party rejects the gradualist theory and policy because it does not accept the political premise that the economic operation of capitalism can be controlled in a manner which would allow for any gradual realisation of working class interests.  The force of the Party’s arguments has not diminished with the passing of time; on the contrary, as capitalism has continued to develop as a world system, it has become more compelling.

Criticism of the Socialist Party's “aloofness” has also been by those who promote a co-operative movement which they intend will supplant their capitalist competitor. Socialism is a non-property system, and systems which accept and reject property cannot co-exist. Regardless. These critics propose that “socialistic” relationships will spread within the capitalist economy and as socialist consciousness develops these co-ops will be gradually be gutted of their capitalist content. They will be run eventually upon the basis of “free production” and ultimately they will link together and evolve “towards a totally socialist society”.  Such a revolutionary change is incompatible with what capitalism can allow.  Where is the financing of these co-ops to come from? Presumably not from workers’ savings where impoverished workers can “buy out” the bosses. If capitalist banks are to provide loans to finance these co-ops is it not certain that they will make demands upon them which will undermine their “socialistic” nature?

 Existing within the cut-throat environment of the world market, is it not inevitable that the economic goodwill of the co-operators will be swamped by the iron laws of the profit system, with all of the exploitative demands which it places upon enterprises? Indeed, far from being able to demonstrate a better life to workers trapped in the remaining units of capitalism, the workers making an inevitable failure of running “free production” under capitalism would provide an ideal case study for the anti-socialist propagandists — even more so if such enterprises failed having had the backing and endorsement of the Socialist Party. How do these co-ops, locked into the capitalist economy, evolve towards a totally socialist society? It seems incredible to think that institutions which are tied into capitalism for existence are going to evolve out of it. If developing the new within the kernel of the old alternative scenario is an example of pragmatism, Socialist Party’s be justifiably accused of lacking credibility and naivity? The economic laws of capitalism will continue to operate, essentially unaltered until the very eve of socialism. The growth of socialist consciousness and organisation will allow workers to prosecute the class struggle more effectively and to this extent the limited freedom of maneuver which the economic laws of capitalism allow the employing class will be limited even more. But the suggestion that a “socialistic” co-operative sector of the economy would be able to defy the economic laws of capitalism to the extent of being able to disengage from the market and operate on the principle of free production goes way beyond this. It amounts to asserting that the economic laws of capitalism can be overcome by a mere act of will.