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Monday, 31 July 2017

Does A ‘Ruling Class’ Still Exist?

Morning Star 
Monday 31st July 2017
YES, it does, though it’s changed a bit since Marx’s time. Most industrial and commercial capital — factories, machinery, distribution and communication systems — the means whereby wealth is created (with a little help from workers, of course) is rarely any longer owned directly by individuals but by companies.
Though most land is still privately owned (and that’s excluding the house and garden that you and I may own — land becomes “capital” only when it can be used to make a profit) increasing amounts are held as investment by financial institutions.
However despite the significant sums that are held by pension funds, local authorities, universities and other institutions that you and I may feel we have a stake in, capital — stocks, shares, bonds and other “investments” — are overwhelmingly in the hands of a relatively small number of individuals.
Their assets are spread to minimise any risk (that’s what “hedging” is all about) and most have little involvement in the processes of production, unlike the entrepreneurial capitalists of Marx’s and Dickens’s day.
Don’t let the fact that you may receive some benefit from your own Isa or pension fund (if you are lucky enough to have one) fool you into thinking you’re a capitalist yourself.
The interest of course does come from other people’s labour but you have no control over how these funds are used and you probably don’t reinvest most of the income you get from them.
Even if you do it’s likely to be pretty small stuff compared to the power of the funds themselves and of the large investors who make the decisions as to how they are used.
Those who lived through the Thatcher years will remember the privatisation of British Gas and the “Tell Sid” television campaign meant supposedly to persuade people to buy shares.
Over 94 per cent of shares in Centrica (British Gas’s current owner) are today owned by institutional investors, not by individuals.
Today public assets are simply flogged off without any pretence of creating a share-owning democracy.
From aerospace to the water companies, privatisation has put hardwon public assets into the hands of the powerful, at enormous cost to working people.
The housing crisis, exacerbated by the ongoing sale of council housing, has proved a bonanza for developers.
Where wholesale privatisation has proved impractical, as in the NHS, the profitable bits are hived off or outsourced.
In general the ruling class comprises those who (in any social system) are able to appropriate the surplus produced by labour and who therefore have a collective interest in enforcing and reproducing the social conditions needed for its extraction.
Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto how “the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production and with them the whole relations of society. […] Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all other ones.”
This has proved as true in relation to the composition of the capitalist class — and to the way that they rule — as to everything else.
Our former Tory chancellor George Osborne is an example. His inherited wealth includes an annual income of some £40,000 from his father’s wallpaper business.
But Osborne himself is no industrialist. His income as the new editor of the Evening Standard remains a secret. But it comes on top of his £650,000 for less than one day’s work a week as “adviser on the global economy” to Blackrock, an investment management firm (everything from commodities to armaments), over £1 million for speeches given in the six months from September 2016 (some £65,000 for every speech!), £120,000 per annum as Kissinger fellow for the McCain Institute (a US “do-tank” seeking to promote “Western values” around the world) — and an honorary chair (as professor of economics) at the University of Manchester. All good compensation for the loss of his £74,000 salary and influence as an MP.
While the engine of capital is profit, individual capitalists are driven by complex motivations — money, power, security. Donald Trump, for example, said: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
And, in similar vein: “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”
Quite what the game (beyond money) is for Osborne is not clear — one theory is that he has ambitions to “return” to politics, as if he had ever left it!
Most capitalists, unlike Osborne, Trump etc (you list them, starting with “Sir” Philip Green) prefer to keep a lower profile.
Others still like to front their money-raking activities with “good works,” but in a rather different way from Dickens’s day when some at least did endow local libraries, hospitals, schools, public parks and sports facilities — the very assets which are now being flogged off or closed.
A recent study of the Bill Gates Foundation (he of Microsoft, the world’s biggest philanthropic donor) by Global Justice Now, demonstrates how “philanthrocapitalism” acts as a cloak for super-exploitation, ultimately enhancing Microsoft’s profits and power.
Corporate sponsorship is today much more than merely an advertising gimmick. It seeks to draw people into believing that the very system that exploits them works in their favour.
And of course the domination of the media by a handful of giant corporations — and powerful individuals — is just the most obvious manifestation of the way that public consciousness is controlled and manipulated in the interests of capital and the status quo.
Yes, capitalists exist all right, and both directly — through their capital (the “means of production”) — and through their domination of the media, the state that they control and ultimately their coercive supremacy (think International Monetary Fund, Orgreave or a thousand other instances) that guarantees them their power, they constitute the “ruling class.”
June’s election results represented an important first step in challenging their power and building a better Britain.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Communist Party meeting 24th July- Speaker Cancelled due to illness

Regrettably Steve Sweeney will not be able to attend tonight's meeting.

The meeting will still go ahead with a political discussion, topic to be announced.

We had a lot of interest shown by friends and allies in the Labour and progressive movements and we will endeavour to re-arrange the meeting when Steve is feeling better.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Communist Party Meeting 7pm Monday 24th July 2017 WITH MORNING STAR JOURNALIST STEVE SWEENEY

As regular readers of the Morning Star are aware, Steve has covered a wide variety of issues in the paper.

From the repression of journalists and others in Turkey, to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.

He is happy to deal with any contributions or questions, particularly on these issues.

Steve is also a former mental health nurse, GMB activist and a Health Service campaigner.

He will also be more than willing to discuss the role of the Morning Star in the Trade Union and Labour movement.


Striking Mears Workers Hold Protest As Bosses Talk

Posted by Morning Star in Britain 
Tuesday 18th July 2017
STRIKING social housing maintenance workers in Manchester held a mass protest meeting 
yesterday as their bosses met union officials and councillors.
The 200 Unite members are on strike over attacks on their pay and conditions by privateer 
Mears, which won a contract to maintain some of Manchester City Council’s social housing.
Mears attempted to increase working hours and has brought in pay differentials for workers, 
leaving some workers thousands of pounds worse off for doing the same job.
The workers began a programme of rolling strikes, initially three days a week, on May 15. 
On July 10 they began all-out strike action.
Unite regional official Andrew Fisher told the Star: “Mears introduced a new contract which 
meant three extra hours work, Saturday working, and a productivity agreement which was 
basically a sackers’ charter — and all this for what was effectively a pay cut.”
Mears, Manchester City Council and Unite representatives will reopen negotiations on
The company was ridiculed last month after it banned its construction workers from growing 
beards so they could “wear appropriate dust marks effectively.”

John Green reports on why artist Phil Collins has just shipped a statue of Friedrich Engels from Ukraine to Manchester, where it’s now on permanent display in the city centre

From the Morning Star   Tuesday 18th June 2017

PHIL COLLINS is an unusual artist, in that his strong left-wing political sympathies are directly expressed through his work.
With a passion for, and commitment to, people and human progress, he’s drawn to political movements and ideas, deploying his art as a vehicle for intervention and to make an oblique commentary on contemporary social and political processes.
In the past, his work has often originated in areas of conflict, shifting the focus from sensationalist news coverage to uncover unexpected aspects of life in contested territories, be it from Belfast to Belgrade or Baghdad to Bogota and Berlin.
In They Shoot Horses, he organised and filmed a disco-dance marathon in Ramallah with a group of young Palestinians.
“For me,” he says, “there really is a heroism to live in a place it’s impossible to leave, to be split from families, imprisoned by an apartheid wall and, maybe worst of all, to be forgotten by a world which refuses to understand you.”
His work Marxism Today, shortlisted for the Turner Prize, is two short interconnected films based on experience of life in East Germany which examines what happens when a whole system and culture is demolished overnight.
And his latest project, a statue of Friedrich Engels permanently located in Tony Wilson Place in Manchester city centre, keeps that German connection alive.
Collins feels strongly that Engels, Marx’s friend, financial mainstay and collaborator, should be properly celebrated in the city where he lived for most of his life and which gave him many of the ideas for which he and Marx have since become world-renowned.
It was there that Engels wrote his most celebrated work, The Condition of the Working Class in England.
After two years of seeking a suitable Soviet-era statue of Engels, Collins managed to locate one mouldering away in a scrap yard in the village of Mala Pereshchepina, in eastern Ukraine.
It is 3.5 metres high and made of concrete — not easy to put it in the boot of your car and drive to Manchester, so Collins hired a flatbed lorry to transport it there.
On the way, he visited places of importance in Engels’s life and work, a journey which was filmed and which forms part of the Ceremony event.
The statue also marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, inspired by the ideas from the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels, and Collins is particularly interested in the history of communism and what happened in eastern Europe during the Soviet era.
He’s also fascinated by the idea of transmission, how ideas travel through time and space.
Ironically, all symbols and icons of the past socialist era have been banned in Ukraine in a manner highly reminiscent of the way the nazis banned such symbols.
That’s how Engels ended up in a scrap yard.
Collins sees Manchester as a meeting point, where the birth of capitalism brought about the emergence of an industrial proletariat. But he stresses that Manchester is also a city with a strong tradition of resistance to the capitalist system, from early demonstrations for parliamentary representation in 1819 that went down in history as the Peterloo Massacre after peaceful demonstrators were attacked by government troops, through the Chartist movement to the battles of the Suffragettes for women’s voting rights.
The inauguration of the statue at the weekend was marked by an innovative ceremony, with music from Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi and Demdike Stare and a new anthem written by Gruff Rhys, together with a live performance featuring stories of today’s Manchester workers collected by Collins.
They are accounts of everyday resistance to the current political crisis. “In harrowing times for so many, it’s more important than ever to remember Engels’s legacy,” Collins says, “and the spirit of solidarity and dignity which beats at its core.”
Thus the statue marks poignant moments in the city’s history.
But it also chimes with the new mood in the country since Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, something Engels would surely have been excited about.

  • John Green is the author of Engels: A Revolutionary Life (Artery Publications, £11.99).

Sunday, 11 June 2017

In support of the Morning Star Fighting Fund- Social at the Glossop Labour Club, Sunday 18th June, Chapel Street, Glossop.

Charge at the door is

£4.00 (concession), 
£10.00 (solidarity)

Those who wish to walk in the hills of Glossop are asked to be prepared from 10.30am onwards, with weather resistant clothing & stout footware.

The social will begin at around 1.30pm when the bar will be open, with entertainment by the Glossop Mashers, with prose from our own laureate, Dave Puller.

For those with an appetite there will be food available, where a donation to cover the cost would be welcome.

The grand socialist raffle in support of our paper will take place; we ask for some worthy gifts to be part of the raffle to make this a success.