Thursday, 8 March 2018

Midlands Discussion Forum meeting, Birmingham 17/3/18

Reforms, Reformism and the Welfare State
The subject is reforms and reformism in the context of the recent years of UK austerity and public sector cutbacks and the rolling back of the 'welfare state' - with particular reference to how we relate to left and union lead campaigns in response to this (for instance with the NHS). Saturday 17th March at 2pm at the Woodman Pub back room, New Canal Street, Birmingham B5 54G (next to the parkway at the Curzon Stret end) and 15 mins walk from New Street or Moor Street railway stations. All Welcome. Following documents may be useful: HERE and HERE.

Friday, 16 February 2018


Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that whilst the MDF debates the need for a  transition to socialism, free distribution to meet need etc, capitalism is contemplating free distribution to meet need...

BUT no one will work!
Yes, but we will abolish work and introduce labour....or is it abolish labour and introduce work...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Women in Class Struggle

Women in class struggle

I thought I would post my presentation from a recent meeting on feminism and class struggle that was partly a response to Theft's rantings (seems like the only way to describe it really) but is also relevant to some extent to the discussion we had on the issues in the AF


In Britain, we have had 50 years of the equal pay and equal opps type legislation, many years of politicial correctness,2 female prime ministers, queen, womens can play  football and rugby and accepted in pubs on their own.

Feminist arguments have had a major influence on current thinking and especially political correctness policies of recent years.

Do such examples mean capitalism has given women freedom and equality? Of course not,   Women remain exploited as workers and subjugated as women in a fundamentally paternalistic society. 

This discussion will attempt to place the situation of women in a class society. It is likely to discuss the social trends of recent years in that context.  Discussion is likely to incorporate issues such as the participation of women in the class struggle of the past, how to view domestic labour, feminism in a class society , how the roles of men and women have come about, what a society of equality could look like, and how to fight for an equal society in future.

points should be onto issues

On the other hand women remain focal victims of rape,  mysogenistic  attitudes stalking, postings on social media, stalkers, unequal pay and discrimination by some employers due to their capacity to bear children,  susceptibility to be drawn into law pay, high pressure jobs as well as being seen by many as still the homekeeper.

How can we make sense of this contradiction?  It is important to start by seeing the role of women in society as a class issue.  This may stlll leave us with difficulties in foreseeing what an equal society would look like and how it would leave relationships between males and females, but it does enable a vision of how soc called female liberation is affecting todays society and how to fight for an equal society in the future

It is sad to say that like all  mainstream history , womens history is written by ruling class men for ruling class men but by looking at the history of the working class it is possible to see how women have been exploited and subjugated by capitalism and how they have contributed to the working classes resistance as a whole to capitalism


Is the issue of women’s oppression separate to class society and the struggle between classes?  No it is not, but just because there is a patriarchal continuity in class societies does not mean that the role of women, indeed of both mean and women, has not changed with these class societies.  We live under a capitalism system and these roles of men and women are changed and determined by capitalist relations.  Just because we have a continuity and still use building built or designed in feudal times doesn’t mean that the people in them are defined by feudal relations.
 I cant do the whole history of sexual relations however so under capitalism in my simplistic view ,  the role of women is defined by ruling class ideas of domestic life.  The family takes a particular form in the bourgeois ruling class.  The ruling class household becomes an individual family home and yes the male is the breadwinner, the boss, he goes out and earns money by employing others.  The woman stays at home as a wife and produces children, the bloodline - but the role is much more than that, she is the management of the household.   Her status in terms of the male female relationship is low agreed but personally and socially, her status it is high.  Money standing in the community, roles in the community

Unfortunately that lesser status in the ruling class family translates into the rest of society and a significant burden on working class women.   The property relations of that family, the sexual role, the housebound role, that subservience to the male, that protection of the bloodline become a series of oppressive social controls which are compounded by the like hood of having to work as well to support the family because the low income of the male is insufficient.  Something that today has become worse where 2 incomes have become almost essential to a reasonable living standard.

Main point here then is that ruling ideology creates an a oppressive and limiting environment for women socially (perhaps even common ground) but that the class context leads to a distinct and opposing set of interests for women of different classes

I struggled with how to approach this topic it’s so broad and so many issues, I CANT DO IT ALL.  As is ay that was my simplistic historical bit, now for a simplistic bit about class struggle.  If its true that the history of society has been written by ruling class men for the benefit of ruling class men, it is also sad to not e that when we talk about workers and class struggle its all too easy to picture men swinging hammers and so forth.  Working class women are not part of a separate group to working class men, they are all the workers.  In the 19th century men went out to work women worked at home as well as looked after the family

OK there is a division of labour with women more connected to household duties and lighter work.  There is also a segregation of type of employments some seen as more suitable to men some to women. But even that is not absolute e.g. this description of Black Country cottage industry:

Women that worked at home in shops behind or near to their houses had to divide their time between getting their families off to school and work, cooking, washing, baking bread, brewing home made beer and making chain. Some of them would be tapping away making small chain links until 9 or 10 o’clock at night.

Many women made chain, a great number at home in backyard chainshops usually at the back of their houses, quite often just across the yard or ‘fade’. Some were situated at the top of their gardens and some were built in groups on spare ground near the houses (as in Plant Street, Old Hill). Sometimes a dozen or so women would work together in larger chainshops owned by a chainmaster or chain dealer. Women generally made the lighter gauge chain as used in harness work.

Again it’s all too easy to translate this view we have been given of women’s role to the perceptions of the class struggle.  Is it only men that strike and go on demonstrations and confront the state?  It what we see in our mind when we think of these terms but NO it is clearly not the case.  There may well be a division of labour in strikes eg the miners on strike in the UK were significantly supported by active miners wives groups – but I would argue that this is a product of a culture imposed by capitalism not  of inherent wc behaviour.  

I think its actually a sad reflection of how we now separate issues of women and class struggle in that we can pick examples such as the chain makers above. Other similar strikes stand out like grunwicks and hailwood.  So ill repeat women are not separate but an intrinsic part of the struggle. One of the more famous strikes from the black country were those female chainmakers who struck in 1911 for higher wages in fact TUC/lp hold a festival each year commemorating

I have had to focus things for this presentation and I have chosen to start with some reflection on the Russian revolution again well it is 2017 and hence the women in class struggle and relate to issues today

First point to note is that the spark for the whole revolution was the international women’s day march. And i am going for a lot of  cudos here, even brownie points, with an extended quote from a youngster writing under the name jock

February 23 1917. A century ago, on International Women’s Day (February 23 old style/ March 8 today), women workers of both home and factory took to the streets of Petrograd. Five days of strikes, demonstrations and over 1300 deaths later, the Tsarist edifice had crumbled. In these events, hundreds of thousands of men also took part but,
It was the women who initiated the action in most cases, primarily working women from the textile mills.”[2]
The final straw for the women workers had come with the breakdown in the supply of bread which began at the start of February when only half the food ordered for Petrograd arrived.
Long lines stretched in front of shops and bakeries. A winter unprecedented in severity had set in, filling the streets with ice and piling snowdrifts on the roofs of homes, sidewalks and bridges of the city. Shivering from cold, poorly dressed young people, women and old men waited hours for bread and often went home empty-handed. Food shortages provoked an even greater ferment among the masses. In line they discussed why there was no bread and why prices were still rising; they wondered who was responsible for the people’s misery and who needed the war. The Petrograd Okhrana observed that on days of severe crisis the queues had the same force as revolutionary meetings and tens of thousands of revolutionary leaflets. The street had become a political club.”[3]
The war made these conditions particularly exacting for women. Many were left having to work long hours in war industries after their men were conscripted for the front, as well as look after children, and spend what little free time they had in long lines queuing for bread and kerosene. Bread became the issue which sparked off uncontrollable rage. In the days before International Women’s Day bakeries had been sacked and bread shops stoned but what now transformed these bread riots into something more was that women (plus some male) workers held “stormy” mass meetings and decided to celebrate the day by going on strike and not just demonstrating. Having decided to down tools in one factory they then went round others, sometimes throwing snowballs at windows to attract other workers’ attention. Men and women poured out of factories to take part in demonstrations. All told that day somewhere between 80,000 and 120,000 workers, the vast majority of them women, went out on strike demanding bread, peace and, more ominously for the regime, an end to Tsarism.[4]

My point of looking at that detail is that it demonstrate precisely my argument that workers struggle as a united class whatever gender, race sexuality etc.

The new workers’ state established by the revolution of October 1917, and led by the Bolsheviks, quickly moved to declare a new approach to the issues of women’s rights and sexuality. The December proclamation of the new state’s program struck out the laws which criminalised homosexual acts; it abolished the concept of illegitimacy, made marriage and divorce a secular matter which required simply consent.

These social changes seen as an integral part of a social revolution taking place but for  Lenin the laws were not enough however: and we are by no means content with mere decrees. In the sphere of legislation, however, we have done everything required of us to put women in a position of equality and we have every right to be proud of it. The position of women in Soviet Russia is now ideal as compared with their position in the most advanced states. We tell ourselves, however, that this, of course, is only the beginning

Kollontai and Lenin for example had a great deal of common understanding of what they hoped to build after 1917: childcare centres, new housing which allowed more communal living, community kitchens, the socialisation of housework, laundry and cooking.   Its interesting that the Stalin era reversed most of this Bolsheviks legislation but that emphasis on women in work with a corresponding provision of child care facilities remained until the wall came down

Trotsky suggested To institute the political equality of men and women in the Soviet state was one problem and the simplest . . . But to achieve the actual equality of man and woman within the family is an infinitely more arduous problem.” He concluded, “All our domestic habits must be revolutionized before that can happen. And yet it is quite obvious that unless there is actual equality of husband and wife in the family, in a normal sense as well as in the conditions of life, we cannot speak seriously of their equality in social work or even in politics.”35

In summary the achievement of workers’ rule is the preconditions for the goals set for women’s rights but it is the threshold for the really significant battle to change behaviour

Socialism is not a utopia which can be wished or willed into existence. The conditions for liberation have to be created by workers transforming the economic and social foundations of society which give rise to oppression. Once they are destroyed and a new way of organising society – collectively and democratically, for human needs rather than for profit – has been established, then the ideas of the revolutionaries themselves are of secondary importance. The logic of the end of exploitation is towards human freedom in all aspects of human experience.

Communism we say is to be created by a conscious working class. This is consciousness of struggle and cooperation and of a goal to achieve.  This does not mean however that wc can be conscious beforehand of every change that has to be made to improve people’s behaviour.  That is impossibility.  It’s the fact of cooperation to eliminate class exploitation that will draw people together in a way that eliminates alienation and creates equality.  Most of the implications of that activity we cant foresee now and we can’t predict. 

This for me is what Marx meant when he said theory becomes a practical act.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

So at this point I would say whilst it is true that history is written by men for men, it not actually a true representation of reality.  The point is to change society.  Just as on all social issues, Capitalism,  because of its nature, can pose the problems but it cannot solve them.

Back to today

Women struggles are part of the class struggle and we don’t identify a separate struggle. 

But that is precisely what bourgeois feminist movement does from the suffragettes and their votes for women to today’s calls for wages for housework or whatever.  Bourgeois feminism is based on women as individuals and fights for individual’s rights in existing society not in conjunction with workers struggles for independence.   There is no basis for gender solidarity precisely because the experiences of wc women wc women, African women, European Chinese America black white generate cultural differences which inhibit solidarity.  There is no common social experience that lead to a coherent social unity and it is then the individual’s experiences then lead to differing conceptions of both the oppressions and the opportunities for freedom.  This is the aspect that Dauve ignores in the article that Mike recommended.  He makes interesting reading but in the end is just asserting that women’s liberation has to be fought for at the same time as wc liberation with out identifying how this has or can happen

Once we agree that women are subjugated, the next problem is that we can look a the lives of black people, Asian, Chinese, gay, fat people immigrants, workers, unemployed disabled, factory workers, white collar workers and pretty soon we reach the conclusion that everybody is oppressed and subjugation by today’s system So what can be done about the fact we are all fucked, can we set a priority of importance of the different struggles? Course not.  We can feel sympathy and empathy because or our experiences of this oppressive society.  But people in general  can’t even agree on precisely what is wrong and what needs to be corrected because all of the issues related to identity politics are by their very nature open to individual interpretations.  There is no group identity that draws them together and towards a common solution for behaviour whether within capitalism or not.

What we are left with when we investigate social oppression is a whole mess of contradictions.  Not so long ago women abjeted to wearing bras.  This is now seen as a bit of a joke but it was a serious step against male repressiveness.  Again Miss and Mrs were once seen as sexist tags but nowadays feminism seems quite happy to own these female roles..   Black women believe more liberated than white women but black men are mysogenistic and backward yet will be happy to join in with gangsta rap cos it supposedly is a voice against mainstream racism. I find it amazing that white european culture still somehow believes that minority culture must be left wing or liberal or revolutionary.  Both White and black women voted for Trump  precisely because he is right wing nationalist, theres no mystery as to why.

I just do not know what Theft is specifically arguing for, he doesn’t explain anything.  But I do agree that rape is a product of the general situation of male power and domination over females with capitalism.  I object to that reality but I also object to Theft absurd argument that males are consequently rape apologists if they do not say exactly the right words all the time.  Further in this society Sexuality and sexism are far too easily confused.  What one women wants is anathema to another let alone men.  Men are prone to violent outbursts, women are prone to emotional outbursts  and feminists argue that men should only respond by genuinely ie not superficial and not to get a hand in her pants,  fitting in with the women.   Now I quite agree that this is a reasonable and appropriate approach to relationships within capitalism, this is always purely personal and an individual response and not a solution to creating mass action to getting rid of capitalism.  I again argue  that that only the actual process of building a communist society can extricate them..   to make things more complicated for theft, we can look at the campaigns run by the  UN and various other agencies against rape as a weapon of war, but fighting a clean war is  maybe a laudable aim that the wc should take up but it is clearly today a bourgeois campaign

The path to a classless, stateless human future

A number of MDF participants have started a discourse on the mailing list about this question. Both Bookmark and Steve S have expressed views. Perhaps this blog could be a good place to allow them and others to outline their positions.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Hi tech slavery

Amazon has patented designs for a wristband that can precisely track where warehouse employees are placing their hands and use vibrations to nudge them in a different direction.
The concept, which aims to streamline the fulfilment of orders, adds another layer of surveillance to an already challenging working environment.
When someone orders a product from Amazon, the details are transmitted to the handheld computers that all warehouse staff carry. Upon receiving the order details, the worker must rush to retrieve the product from one of many inventory bins on shelves, pack it into a delivery box and move on to the next assignment.
The proposed wristbands would use ultrasonic tracking to identify the precise location of a worker’s hands as they retrieve items. One of the patents outlines a haptic feedback system that would vibrate against the wearer’s skin to point their hand in the right direction.
The result? Human workers can fulfil more orders – until robots develop the dexterity to replace them altogether.
The proposed wristbands would use ultrasonic tracking to identify the precise location of a worker’s hands as they retrieve items.Photograph: Amazon / USPTO
The wristbands are, according to the patent documents, first spotted by GeekWire, designed as a labour-saving measure to keep track of products throughout the warehouse.
A less generous interpretation would be that the wristbands provide Amazon management with new workplace surveillance capabilities that can identify the workers wasting time scratching, fidgeting or dilly-dallying.

"Amazon already has a reputation for turning low-paid staff into “human robots” – working alongside thousands of proper robots – carrying out repetitive packaging tasks as fast as possible in an attempt to hit goals set by handheld computers.
This month, the 24-year-old warehouse worker Aaron Callaway described having just 15 seconds to scan items and place them into the right cart in during his night shifts at an Amazon warehouse in the UK. “My main interaction is with the robots,” he said."

Monday, 29 January 2018

Aftermath of bitcoin discussion


Ok, I like this idea, hope to contribute anything that comes to mind, may be useful.  
At the last meeting in Sheff, a few ideas of great interest were briefly aired and I would like to elaborate.

Capitalism as a revolutionary force.
The lack of a revolutionary response to the 2008 crash.
The coming crash.

Obviously talking about capitalism as an agent of revolution is not the same as it was during its early inception.  The capitalist revolution is done, any small outposts of stone age culture and the like make little difference.  
Nor am I saying that revolution was not possible previously (though that may have been the case, I am unsure as there is any way to prove that point, 1917 could have escalated, 1968 could have escalated 1984 could have escalated...).

What I am saying is that there is a feature of the capitalist process that again and again sharply poses the question of an alternative, a non capitalist society.  This is not necessarily only posed by crisis, not only posed by misery, but also by all manner of sharp turns that provoke  consideration of the system itself.  For some, cryptocurrency could have kicked off a critique going beyond the limited critique which bitcoin enthusiasts are popularising.

Also, capitalist development generally facilitates the setting up of a socialist society.  Its technological advance does not stop producing veritable leaps, for example the internet, massive computational power, energy sources, agricultural technique and the like,  however grotesque the application for profit chasing.

This is not to deny the repressive, suppressive ideological control which also advances along with the technological means to do so, and nobody is saying capitalism will simply transform into socialism in a seamless flurry of modernisation.  

As previously stated, there is no rule stating only crisis and misery provides the condition for generalised revolutionary consciousness, but equally there is no rule to say it does not.  The previous revolutionary wave of 1917 occurred in dire circumstance, the 1930s events were also against a background of extreme economic dysfunction, but the causation of the 1968 wave is not so easily described.

But capitalism is constantly breaking the mould and ejecting people from comfortable routines.  It is dynamic, precarious, frightening and unstable.  

This dynamic is not the sole element in provoking revolutionary responses, but it remains an element.  It is in this sense that I think capitalism plays a revolutionary role.

And one that could be very dramatically illustrated very soon.

In the latest RP (CWO publication) we are informed that a stock market crash today would wipe off trillions and catalyse a deep depression.  The working class could very well respond robustly.  It would seem highly likely in fact, given the  current rise in poverty and lack of leeway.  That scenario is no fantasy.

" is only a matter of time before stocks notice the same things that are spooking bonds, and credit in general, and get reacquainted with gravity.
What happens next? Well, if the Citi correlation extrapolation is accurate, and historically it has been, it would imply that by mid-2019, equities are facing a nearly 50% drop to keep up with central bank asset shrinkage. "

The leverage in the economic system has become so extreme; investors have no idea of the disaster that is going to take place during the next stock market crash. The collapse of the U.S. Housing and Investment Banking Industry in 2008 and ensuing economic turmoil was a mere WARM-UP for STAGE 2 of the continued disintegration of the global financial and economic system.

While the U.S. and the global economy have seemingly continued business as usual since the Fed and Central Banks stepped in and propped up the collapsing markets in 2008, this was only a one-time GET OUT OF JAIL free card that can't be used again. What the Fed and Central Banks did to keep the system from falling off the cliff in 2008 was quite similar to a scene in a science fiction movie where the commander of the spaceship uses the last bit of rocket-fuel propulsion in just the nick of time to get them back to earth on the correct orbit.

Thus, the only way forward, according to the Central banks, was to increase the amount of money printing, leverage, asset values, and debt. While this policy can work for a while, it doesn't last forever. And unfortunately, forever is now, here....or soon to b
e here.  So, it might be a good time to look around and see how good things are now because the future won't be pretty.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Last meeting of MDF

The last Midlands Discussion Forum took place on Saturday 27th January in Sheffield on the subject: ''Crypto-currencies, high-tech cure all or pseudo solution to capitalism's quagmire''.

For those who missed the meeting but would like to know more about the subject, an analysis of Bitcoin is a good place to start is HERE but digital 'currencies' have proliferated since then and our discussion looked more widely at the relationship between this and the 'real' economy of a crisis ridden capitalism. 

More info on crypto-currencies HERE and HERE

We hope to have a report on the meeting here soon.