Karl Marx on “taxing the rich”

This might be of interest to any members or supporters of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party who think of themselves as Marxists while at the same time they support the programmes of their respective electoral fronts (Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit) which almost exclusively focus on a redistribution of wealth through increased taxation for the rich and corporations.

“it was in general a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it. Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one. Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution. After the real relation has long been made clear, why retrogress again?”
from ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ by Karl Marx


Bernie Sanders – imperialist warmonger

As Bernie Sanders’ campaign to be the presidential candidate for the Democrats trundles on towards its inevitable end (when he then endorses Hillary Clinton) there still remain a surprising number of self-describing “socialists” and “revolutionary Marxists” who are politically supporting Sanders and even describing him as some kind of socialist himself.

The truth is that Sanders is a capitalist politician wedded to the Democratic Party and US imperialism. Anyone who doubts this assertion need only look at the following examples for proof:

  • Sanders voted for U.S. intervention in Somalia in 1993.
  • He supported Bill Clinton’s 1999 war on Serbia and when anti-war activists occupied his office because of that support of Clinton’s war policies, he had them arrested.
  • He voted for the 2001 Authorization Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which pretty much allowed Bush to wage war wherever he wanted.
  • In 2001, Sanders did not support the vote in Congress to oppose the war in Afghanistan. This was followed by his vote for appropriations to support both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • He backed Obama’s Libyan debacle.
  • He supports an expanded US role in Syria alongside the Saudi Arabian regime.
  • He supports the building of the new F-35 stealth fighter as part of fairly consistently supporting spending on the vast US military machine.
  • He described Hugo Chavez as “a dead communist dictator”.

No genuine socialist, let alone revolutionary Marxist, would consider giving any political support to this kind of imperialist warmonger.


CPGB’s fake Marxism

The following letter (published in lightly edited form in today’s issue of Weekly Worker) is my latest contribution to the discussion on the attitude Marxists should take towards Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democrat’s presidential nomination.

In his letter in Weekly Worker #1097 (replying to my letter in #1095), Paul Demarty provides three historical precedents to justify the CPGB’s position of political support to capitalist politician Bernie Sanders.

Demarty chides me for not giving “any consideration to the surely not irrelevant fact that there is no independent party of the working class in the United States, which means that we have to fight for one”. Demarty links this to an argument that “Marx aggressively supported Abraham Lincoln in two American elections – why? Because Lincoln was the man most likely to destroy slavery – a necessary (though, as it turns out, hardly sufficient) condition for working class politics in the States.”

It is true that Marx wrote a few letters and articles supportive of Lincoln and his efforts to end slavery, most notably the 1865 “Address of the International Working Men’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm). The US civil war was in essence the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution, and Marx’s support was wholly correct in the era before the advent of imperialism.  Are the CPGB asserting, as the logic of Demarty’s argument implies, that Bernie Sanders’ election campaign is in some sense revolutionary, and that the outcome of his proclaimed “political revolution” will lay the basis for an independent party of the working class? This is pure fantasy.

Demarty then refers to the Bolsheviks’ electoral arrangements with the bourgeois-constitutionalist Cadets in a few Duma elections in the early 1900s. The different understanding of the CPGB and IBT on what this represented is an existing dispute which was definitively dealt with in the letters pages of Weekly Worker less than 10 years ago – see “Bolsheviks, Ballots & the Class Line” (http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no32/ibt_1917_32_10_CPGB_Cadets.html).

As we explained in that exchange, the Bolsheviks were quite clear that these electoral arrangements with the Cadets did not involve any political support and, to quote a 1907 RSDLP conference motion, “the only agreements permitted are those of a purely technical nature”. This reality is something that to my knowledge the CPGB have never subsequently contested – I presume because the facts presented by the IBT are simply incontrovertible.

The third supposed precedent is Lenin’s support for the 1916 Easter Rising, an analogy which borders on the obscene. On the one hand we have Lenin’s support for a military uprising against British imperialism in the midst of World War I. And on the other hand we have the CPGB’s political support to a politician with a long political history of backing US imperialism (see for instance http://screechingkettle.blogspot.de/2015/07/if-bernie-sanders-was-against-invasion.html).

I can’t help but notice that Demarty, presumably unintentionally, gives away what is probably the real reason for the CPGB’s position, i.e., his reference to the “external ridicule” that the IBT’s consistent defence of the principle of working-class independence elicits. I for one have indeed suffered ridicule from many on the reformist left in Ireland for applying this principle in the context of the recent Irish elections by telling the truth about Sinn Fein’s pro-capitalist political nature and that there should be no political support to them. Being a Marxist is not about popularity for popularity’s sake – sometimes we are unpopular and suffer ridicule, and worse, for telling the truth.

It seems that, like many other fake-Marxists, the CPGB are more interested in avoiding ridicule and courting immediate political popularity than they are about applying the principles of Marxism in any consistent way in their concrete political activity.


“Cobh 3Three”trial date set



Bernie Sanders and working class political independence

The Irish left who advocate explicit or not-so-explicit support for the capitalist Sinn Féin in the coming election usually do so despite a formal adherence to the principle of working class political independence. The same is true of the international left who are supporting Bernie Sanders in the US race to be the Democratic Party presidential candidate. I recently sent the following letter to the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (published this week with the heading “Peculiar”), pointing out the contradiction between their support for Sanders and their stated political principles.

In ‘The real Iowa coup’ (February 4), Tom Munday argued for critical support to capitalist politician Bernie Sanders: “It was and remains correct to give critical support to Jeremy Corbyn, knowing full well that he is a left reformist, for we appreciate that he creates a space for our arguments to be heard. This is likewise true of Sanders”.

The critical support tactic can sometimes be used to expose reformists within the workers’ movement, but extending it a Democrat – one of the twin parties of the American imperialist bourgeoisie – stands in stark contradiction to the basic Marxist principle of working class political independence.

The CPGB claims to uphold “the principle of working class political independence from the parties of the bourgeoisie” (‘Theses on the Labour Party’). Evidently we understand the word ‘principle’ differently. Your political support for Sanders is only the latest in a long line of abandonments of the Marxist principle of working class political independence (see, for instance, the relevant section of the IBT’s ‘Bolshevism vs CPGB-ism’).

Supporters of the CPGB should ask themselves why it is that the principle of working class political independence means so little in practice, while the organisational principle that the CPGB invokes to distinguish itself from other groups – ie, its peculiar definition of democratic centralism – is non-negotiable.


More proof the AAA are willing to join govt with Sinn Féin

In response to the “No direction” newspaper advert by the Labour Party leading Socialist Party/Anti-Austerity Alliance member Ruth Coppinger TD confirms my claim that they are willing to enter a government with pro-capitalist Sinn Féin in the following Facebook post:


If there is no way the AAA would ever go into government with three of the political forces represented by the super-imposed heads in this advert it must mean they are open to going into government with pro-capitalist Sinn Féin.

A shameful betrayal of the principle of working class political independence by so-called “revolutionary socialists”.


Elections and “ending equality”

Don’t get fooled by thinking that the shell-game of the coming Irish elections will make any real difference for working people (see the IBT leaflet on the elections).

All the potential options for a new government are wedded to the capitalist system and will have no answer to the next major crisis of the world economy that is now beginning (and will perhaps be even worse than 2008). Given Ireland’s role in the world capitalist economy it is inconceivable that the effects of this new crisis can be avoided.

Even the so-called “far left” groups standing in the election are unable to present any solution outside the framework of capitalism. They would have us believe in fairytale fantasies that their election platforms offering radical reforms of capitalism can “End inequality” (as every AAA election poster claims)!

The truth is that there is no possible “solution” to the coming economic crisis that will not be at the direct expense of the living standards of working people – and after 7 years of austerity followed by 1 of “recovery” (for the capitalists only) we are all in a worse position to cope than when the last crisis hit.

Working people need to be treated with respect by anyone calling themselves a socialist. That means telling the truth that it is only by ending the international capitalist system that there is any possibility of a world where inequality can truly be ended – no matter how immediately unpopular at the ballot box that may be. That means telling the truth about the central importance of building our own forms of self-organisation that are separate from, and in political opposition to, the institutions of capitalist parliamentary democracy.

Capitalist parliamentary democracy is a very limited form of democracy. Only once every few years do working people get to choose who will represent them (and we all know their manifesto promises are  just sugar-coated lies anyway). And even then most of the decisions that effect our daily lives are outside the control of parliament – hidden behind “commercial secrecy” in the board rooms of the major corporations and taken in the interests of maximising profits no matter what the human cost.

A society run by, and in the interests of, working people would need a new form of day-to-day participatory democracy (what has in the past been called workers’ councils) which extended to all corners of the new socio-economic system. Beginning to build those expressions of working class power must be begun now. The extent to which we are able to successfully fightback against the attacks of the capitalists and their government as they attempt to make us pay for the coming economic crisis will be closely correlated to the extent we have created our own organisations based on workers’ democracy. This will be true no matter where the new government stands on the neo-liberal to reformist spectrum of possible capitalist governments.

The communist approach to capitalist parliaments was first codified just under one hundred years ago at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International and remains as valid now as it was when it was written – Theses on the Communist Parties and Parliamentarism. Ireland’s “far left” reformist socialists would do well to read this text and reflect on why the practice of their own organisations diverts so far from this communist approach.

For anyone who thinks I am scaremongering about the coming economic crisis there is plenty of evidence available – see for instance this analysis on the www.zerohedge.com web site:

This Is The NIRP “Doom Loop” That Threatens To Wipeout Banks And The Global Economy




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