Mar 02 2004

Intellectual property is theft!

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:58 pm

Alan Graham looks at the way capitalism has appropriated intellectual property and suggests some ways to fight back.

The main focus of socialist thought, including within the SSP, is about emancipating ourselves from economic exploitation such as poor pay and long hours, but before socialist thought can become the norm we must emancipate our minds from bourgeois indoctrination.

In this article I will address one area: that of Intellectual Property, arguing the idea that it is not just our physical bodies that are enslaved when we labour for the bourgeoisie but our minds as well. As my background is in computing, the examples given will mainly be from the computing world but it is the underlying principle that is of importance, not the examples themselves and there are numerous analogies in every area of capitalism.

All With Good Intentions

There are three main areas of intellectual property: Patents, Copyrights ©, and Trademarks (™, ®). Each of these was intended to protect the inventor of an idea from having it abused by someone who had no part in its design.

Patents: These must be applied for from a country’s patent agency. To be granted a patent an invention must be original, non-obvious and have a commercial value. Another condition is that an inventor must inform no one of his/her invention until a patent is applied for to allow it to keep its ‘original’ status and avoid the possibility of someone stealing the invention. A patent lasts for 20 years before others can reproduce the item. This is the opposite of a trade secret whereby a company/individual does not allow the workings of an invention to be made public giving them exclusive knowledge of its operations but no protection if a competing company creates and sells an identical item.

Copyright: This is the right to copy an item and lasts for 75 years after the death of an inventor. This is intended to grant an artist the exclusive rights to decide who can copy their work through licensing. For example this would stop a company from reproducing and selling an article without permission from the author. Copyright is automatically granted whenever something is created.

Trademark: This is used to stop the theft of a logo that would allow confusion between two companies. BT could not change their logo to be an identical design as Telewest for example, and no one could use the name British Tele-communicators and shorten it to BT to trade as a phone operator causing confusion between themselves and the ‘real’ BT (British Telecommunications). However Apple Macintosh can’t prevent a fruit company from operating under the name Macintosh Apples.

Each of these systems, although admittedly created to protect business, also were intended to prevent the exploitation of an individual’s creation by another company. The question is then: How well do they work?

Big Business Abuse

Patents

As stated above, the patent system was designed to only allow an invention to be patented if it is original, non-obvious and has industrial applications. When big business is involved in such a system the potential and, indeed inevitability, of the system’s corruption is certain. In 1979 IBM released the DOS filing system. Microsoft bought the rights to this from IBM in 1981 and patented it in 1986; the patent will run out in 2006. So the system previously existed, was on the market for 2 years before Microsoft bought it, and they had been selling it for 5 years before patenting it. The patent is still considered valid.

Trademarks

The most widely known example of big business exerting pressure over trademarks should be of great relevance to all Scots. McDonalds hit the headlines for demanding a shop called McMunchies cease using Mc as a prefix in case customers become confused between the companies. The backlash against this and other cases where food shops were threatened for using McDonalds as part of their name caused an infuriated response from not only the anti-McDonalds groups but by a huge array of groups including big business’ best buddy – the Tories! That is not to say that the reason for the Tories opposing McDonalds on this issue was right or indeed similar to ours, but just that opposition to the current system, with its inbuilt ease of corruption, is opposed by a wide range of people from different class interests.

Copyrights

As can be seen from history, governments support the theft of copyrighted materials until the benefit from selling their own copyrighted work outweighs the benefit from stealing copyrighted work. An example is Shakespeare’s work being printed in America without giving his estate any money at all. Once the US reached a stage where they had more to gain than lose from enforcing Intellectual Property laws they switched to enforcing them. The best recent example of which you can see now is with the RIAA and MPAA.

These massive conglomerates of the biggest media companies are suing everyone from 12 year old girls to 80 year old grannies for downloading music files whilst sending jackbooted thugs dressed in FBI style outfits to close down market stalls calling themselves the ‘music police’, which if anyone else was to do would be called impersonating a police officer. There are two major arguments against such authoritarian abuse and these are built into the copyright system itself: parody and fair use. Parody being where you can reproduce an artwork if the intention is to mock, not to imply yourself as the author of the original work. This would have stopped Microsoft from attempting to sue a Mr Mike Rowe for registering his domain name http://www.mikerowesoft.com and claiming its an infringement of their copyright.

Fair use is the ability to use the item as you wish. So you should be able to copy a CD you own onto a cassette or your PC. Whether you should be able to copy and give or sell to another person is a separate issue, one the RIAA do not admit exists. In their attacks the RIAA fail to distinguish between these two. DVD-John is another example. When DVD players for PCs first came out the software to make them work only supported Windows machines. DVD-Jon as he came to be known worked on software to enable his DVD player to work on his Linux machine. When he did so in 1999 at the age of 15 and released this code to the public for free he was immediately threatened with lawsuits by the MPAA. In January this year he won his appeal against their charges and previous victories and a blow was struck against the massive media companies.

The other major, and much ignored abuse is that a student at university, college or school may not own the copyright on any of the work they produce whilst in the institution. Part of the contract to apply for university or college includes signing away intellectual property rights to the University itself or the SQA. Similarly if you invent something, draw or paint, write a poem, an article or indeed a song whilst you are working for a company, the company is the owner of the copyright to the work. Something to contemplate the next time you doodle during a meeting!

Before proposing a socialist solution, I will give some examples of how the capitalist intellectual property schemes could be improved. This is not to present these as an alternative to a socialist solution, but to show the inherent nature of the capitalist system that rejects such improvements.

The Fairer Option

Patents is the most easily reformed system and that would be to just simply not to grant patents for items which fail to meet the criteria. Once this basic idea is established then patents can themselves be cleaned up so that the wording of the patent only reflects the item being patented and cannot be used to accuse a different but similar item of infringing upon it.

Copyright would be the most difficult to change. So entrenched are big businesses into the system itself that it would be difficult for capitalist government to climb out of their pockets and kick them from the decision making process. The first obvious step would be to fully allow parody and fair use within the copyright process. If an individual purchases an item they should be free to use that in whatever way they want without the copyright holder taking them to court. Ikea would not sue you for cutting the legs shorter on a table you purchased from them so why should the RIAA or BPI be able to sue you for listening to an MP3 file you made of the CD you purchased? If we are to be slaves to consumerism then the public must be able to decide the way in which they consume.

Trademarks are again easy to change, just disallow the registering of names or commonly used words. Orange, the phone company, have rights to use the word orange accompanied by an orange background. Perhaps we all missed the day when not only did they invent these two but first used them together.

An Alternative System for an Alternative Worldview

There are other ideas put forward by various groups about alternative schemes to be used now. Unfortunately they are under constant attack by the pawns of capitalism so it is my view that revolutionary as these proposed systems are, they can only be truly and fully utilised in a socialist society.

The two easiest systems to change are the trademarks and patents systems. Why would one person be allowed to stop another from producing a life-saving medicine? Why would a logo need to be exclusively used to promote a private business? The answer is that as these exist to protect a business tool, then they would have no place within a socialist society anyway.

Copyright is a different matter however. Copyright exists with a dual use: to prevent unauthorised reproduction and in effect profiting from a work and secondly to acknowledge authorship of a work. There is no reason to cease acknowledging the authorship of a song, poem, book, drawing or any other work. Being the author should not lead to monetary gain anyway; then being credited with your work should be reward enough.

Two such systems that should be analysed for their relevance are CopyLeft and GPL.

CopyLeft, much as the name implies is a stark opposite to Copyright. It is a system where an author allows their work to be reproduced on the condition that the work it is part of is also CopyLeft and that they are credited with authorship. Not surprising this is not a system that is developing overnight and it only spreads slowly through the farming out of articles to multiple magazines, journals and newspapers. As this is how socialists spread their literature and ideas, I would appeal to all socialists to declare their articles CopyLeft or at the least declare that this article can be reproduced and edited by anyone as long as I am credited as the author. We should, after all, be trying to allow socialist points of view to spread to the maximum audience in the maximum number of ways possible.

GPL is a similar paradigm that is used with computer software. When you buy a piece of software from a store you generally sign an End User Licence Agreement that denies you the right to modify the software at all. There is a move within the software developing community towards Open Source and free software. One aspect of this is the GPL. Any software that is released has the actual source code included so that anyone with the knowledge to modify it can do so as they wish. Under the sole condition that if they release their version, they release the code as well and give it a GPL licence.

Both of these systems are split into two camps of release it for free and release at a price but include the ability to modify and re-use. It does not take much thought to see how these types of ideas can be spread and modified from a socialist perspective. This can give rise to the freeing of knowledge, which is after all the root of power. From a socialist perspective it is not enough to just ignore the capitalist intellectual property laws (such as Cuba plans with the reproduction of cheap anti-HIV drugs for Africa), but we must carefully prise back every tentacle they have spread until we can implement a fairer democratic and free system where knowledge is available to all. The paradigm of the GPL/CopyLeft system can be implemented in literature, articles and other writings. Musicians can allow their music to be spread to as many ears as possible whilst allowing others to sample and remix their creation in a way that they themselves find appealing. We cannot emancipate our minds unless we first identify how our minds are enslaved.

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Mar 02 2004

Politics can be bad for your health

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:55 pm

Mary Ward argues why communists must take an holistic approach to health and health care.

In socialist circles, when you talk about campaigning around health issues, comrades, understandably, turn their thoughts to fighting to defend the NHS.

The cuts in provision, introduction of the mysterious internal market, the quangos that run our local health services, waiting lists, cuts and more cuts. The list goes on and we can understand why these considerations are uppermost in comrades minds.

Next we think of the horrendous figures relating to the physical health of those who live in this country. Premature deaths due to heart disease, smoking induced cancers or due to consumption of that other legal drug alcohol. Poverty takes its toll physically on so many people that we know, and postcode prescribing ensures that the working class are always at the end of the queue when it comes to diagnosis and treatments.

Yet we need to move our thinking forward. We cannot stay in an economistic mindset. As socialists we need to learn a holistic approach to health. I am not suggesting for one second that we ignore campaigning around traditional health issues – far from it. I pride myself as being a long-standing activist against cuts and closures. I mean that we need to define health in such a way that we demand not just what the capitalist system thinks we barely deserve but what is absolutely necessary to be fully human.

Eradicate the artificial divide

For a start, we need to stop thinking of health as an absence of illness but in terms of well-being. The artificial divide between physical, social and emotional health needs to be eradicated and questions relating to mental health and sexual health should not be seen as marginal but central to all our lives.

Whoa! I can hear it now. What is all this middle class namby pamby psycho-babble? Working class people need their illness treated and the waiting lists reduced. We need to fight PPP and hospital closures not indulge in peripheral nonsense.

Comrades, these issues are not peripheral, but integral, to a struggle to bring about a society where people are truly valued. That is about how we feel in emotional, as well as physical, terms and it’s about being able to express our sexuality and sexual needs openly and honestly. And mental health issues are class issues. Those living in poverty are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital for depression and three times more likely to commit suicide. Suicide rates in Scotland are among the highest in Europe, particularly for young men.

Let us consider the interconnection between the physical social and emotional. We all recognise that some illnesses can bring on depression; at a very basic level if we have flu we can feel down and easily upset. It also has an obvious effect on our ability to engage with others and to fully socially integrate. Imagine this effect extended to someone having HIV. Discrimination can make us socially isolated and depressed. This can have an effect on our immune system. Social isolation can exacerbate our feelings and who is in a position to say whether it is the physical affecting the emotional or the social affecting the physical etc. The three are, so clearly, inextricably linked.

Mental health issues have been to the fore lately in the media. Thanks to the very brave and open stance of Rosie Kane SSP MSP a dialogue about mental ill health has started even amongst macho (not just the men, by the way) socialists.

I an delighted to see two resolutions to SSP annual conference on mental health and the understanding that this is not about other people but about all of us.

The numbers of young people who exhibit self-harm from cutting themselves, to binge drinking, to eating disorders, to suicide is growing daily and the age at which this behaviour starts is getting younger. We must take these issues on board not just from the point of view of treatment but also from the perspective of prevention. An understanding of mental health and mental illness (two different but related things) is essential.

A nurturing environment is needed

The very adversarial nature of politics as practised in this country can have an extremely detrimental effect on people’s health. The capitalist ‘democracy’, we live under, values structures not families, and human relationships are daily sacrificed while trying to play the game. No wonder so many people are alienated from the political process. To take part in it is to subject ourselves and our families to a form of abuse.

We need to define what we expect from our politicians and undoubtedly people will make sacrifices but we need to construct a nurturing environment which supports out comrades not one which is prepared to see them fall by the wayside. Our elected representatives are our responsibility. We need to take on the role of boosting their resilience while they are working inside the enemy camp. Otherwise, we will be destined to have only a certain type of elected representative. We want healthy politicians who do not deny their emotional needs but who can understand the emotional needs of our class.

All aspects of health matter

Sexual health is an area many comrades simply refuse to discuss beyond the alarming rise in Chlamydia rates. Under the guise of privacy, questions of sexual liberation and orientation are glossed over. The extent of our conditioning in these areas is rarely discussed in any depth and many working class people feel that this part of their life bears no relation to politics. Well, for socialists that is rubbish. Every aspect of our being is affected by capitalism. It distorts our relationships and creates a barrier between men and women, which affects our lives in every area. A lack of understanding about our own bodies and our own desires leads on to a lack of understanding between partners and a lack of respect. The culture of our personal relationships is for me a reflection of our political culture. That is why we cannot turn a blind eye if comrades are involved in domestic violence or abuse (verbal, physical and emotional). We cannot ignore bullying or intimidating behaviour in political debates. We need to constantly work on creating structures and an environment of open democracy where minorities are heard and where people feel safe to express their ideas. It is bad enough out there without our political organisation simply mirroring the macho culture of capitalism.

Comrades, our health, in all its aspects, matters. We can lead the way in innovative social policies but we need to make sure we do not just stick to the parameters capitalism says are valid. We need to be considering education programmes for schools, which help build resilience, and self esteem. We need to promote positive mental health and we need to change behaviour, which has a bad effect on health. Physical emotional and social are all parts of the whole.

I passionately believe that health is a subject not just to be left to the health professionals. It is an area in which our practice has to be as robust as our theory. We need to educate ourselves and support one another while we strive for better health – physical, emotional and social. Remembering, however, that although politics can be bad for your health, taking control of your life, being part of the struggle and establishing close relationships with comrades can act as the best form of immunisation you can get.

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Mar 02 2004

Occupation is not liberation

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:46 pm

Reflecting on recent events at home and abroad, Nick Clarke examines whether the world today is a freer, safer place.

Freedom to profit

In the aftermath of the atrocities of September 11 2001, Bush and his ruling junta declared the start of the War on Terror. The subtitle for this crusade was to make the world a safer place, particularly for the freedom loving peoples of the world i.e. for global capital and its client states. The subsequent attack on the Taliban and the destruction of Afghanistan was about revenge. Although, it was less for the 3000 deaths at the World Trade Centre and more for the symbolism these attacks meant for the US military industrial complex. However, it was also about letting the world know that every corner of the planet must be open to US imperialism and the capital it serves. The freedom they are fighting for is the freedom to make profit. This doctrine provoked the attack on Iraq and a hundred other interventions – military and ‘diplomatic’ – around the world. Continued US state attempts to overthrow the elected left populist Chavez in oil-rich Venezuela shows that the excuse of ‘defence against terrorism’ is a sham. Similarly, the former death squad leaders of the notorious ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, who were prominent in the recent overthrow of Haiti’s populist President Aristide, also appear to have had clandestine US state backing for their efforts.

Meanwhile the ‘road map to peace’ in Palestine has hit a ‘brick’ wall – the so-called Israeli Peace Wall. ‘Apartheid Israel’ with its West Bank and Gaza Strip ‘bantustans’ now paves the way for something even more sinister – Palestinian ghettos, like Abu Dis, communities completely surrounded by Israeli policed walls, controlling all entrance and exit. Sharon’s government contains ministers who openly advocate a ‘final solution’, for the ‘Palestinian problem’ – mass ethnic cleansing. Israel is a state with an openly racist constitution; which illegally occupies Palestinian territory in defiance of UN resolutions; and is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Far from being opposed by Bush and Blair, Israel receives massive amount of aid, as a loyal ally of imperialism.

Today, 2½ years since 9/11, one year since the official start of Gulf War Two and in the shadow of the devastating Madrid train bombs, is the world a safer place? Even to the casual follower of current affairs and international politics that aim has been perversely thrown into reverse. This has been demonstrated by events internationally and in Britain. The recent attacks in Madrid, which killed over 200 and injured 1,000, have shown that Islamic supremacist forces have increased their capacity to strike.

The attack on the British embassy in Istanbul on November 20th, designed to coincide with Bush’s state visit to the UK, was a warning of what was to come. The most likely culprits for this and other attacks in Turkey are forces formed from the Turkish state backed death squads. These were created to suppress the Kurds. Just as many current Al Qaeda operatives, received their initial training and finance from US and UK security forces in the 1980’s; so these shadowy Turkish Islamic supremacists, were armed by the Turkish military, which has received massive US and UK political and financial backing.

The attack on Iraq and the continued occupation of that country by thousands of US and British troops have definitely made the world a more precarious place on two levels. Firstly, as a direct result of US and British foreign policy over the last 3 years, international terrorism has multiplied. Those who live outside the metropolitan countries have had their lives made hard, brutish and short over decades of European colonialism and then imperialism. Since 2001 those conditions have been exacerbated. Secondly, the limited but hard-won democratic rights and freedoms that those in the metropolitan countries, such as the US, Britain and France, have come to expect are being snatched back. Safety fears and scares are being whipped up to justify these draconian measures.

Tool of imperialism

As each day passes, new revelations appear that support the claims made by anti-war protesters that the only way we could have stopped the attack on Iraq was by direct action. The UN role as a tool of imperialism has been reinforced; useful cover if it obeys instructions but discarded and discredited when it starts to produce the ‘wrong’ answers. Recent revelations of the bugging of Kofi Annan’s office illustrate the contempt they have for this body. The UN weapons inspectors, lead by Hans Blix, sent into Iraq by the Security Council came back with the clear message that there were no WMD with a launch time of 45 minutes or even 45 days. Recently Blix has stated that no WMD have been found in Iraq since 1994! The only person across the planet left believing that there are WMD’s in Iraq appears to be Blair.

Not only are experts with a certain independence, such as Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, repeating their claims from over a year ago, but they have now been joined by some of George Bush’s own appointees. Greg Thirlmann, former director of Strategic Proliferation at the US State Department claimed that the Bush administration had seriously misled the American people over Iraq and WMD through twisted, distorted, simplified intelligence; Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former US Treasury Secretary, saw no evidence Saddam possessed chemical or biological weapons and claims Bush was planning the invasion of Iraq from the moment he became president; David Kay, head of Iraq Survey Group, having spent months looking has also stated that Iraq has not had WMD for years.

Despite their recent cries to the contrary, Blair, Straw, Hoon et al based their arguments for war, both in the House of Commons and through the media, on the threat of these mythical WMDs. Their evidence – the two disreputable dossiers – produced with thin or obsolete evidence and fleshed out with much spin, were exposed during the proceedings of the Hutton Enquiry. Hutton’s findings cannot go unmentioned: a pillar of the British judiciary acting as crutch to a wounded Blair government. His conclusions almost produced gasps of disbelief from government ministers. They couldn’t believe their luck that he had blamed the BBC and Andrew Gilligan for everything as a result of his unscripted, slip of the tongue in an early morning interview with Radio 4’s Today programme.

The pressure continues to build

The substance of Gilligan’s report was true. After Hutton’s exoneration of Blair, the pressure has continued to build. Poll after poll showed Hutton’s findings to be totally discredited in the eyes of the British public. Katherine Gun, a GCHQ whistle-blower, has hurriedly had her court case dropped, when her legal team asked to see the government’s legal justification for war. The Official Secrets Act was again defied when Claire Short went public over the bugging of the UN. To compound Blair’s discomfort, lawyer Michael Mansfield has lodged a case with the International Criminal Court accusing Blair of war crimes.

Instead of putting the Iraq war behind him, Blair has had to announce another enquiry, this time headed by another champion of truth and justice, Lord Butler. His restricted remit is to look at the role of the security and civil services in the lead up to the war, in other words the systems and processes. This is such a sham that even the Tories have withdrawn from it. Butler will go nowhere near examining any of the political questions such as the Attorney General’s legal justification for war. Butler, like Hutton, is another safe, dependable and loyal member of the British establishment who does not like to see the truth get in the way of expedient government and ruling class interests. So while Blair took the decision to go war against the advice of so many including the millions in the anti war movement, he will continue to pass the buck of responsibility hoping it won’t land on his desk. He is already trying to change the casus belli by taking the credit for the downfall of the tyrannical Saddam, but regime change had never been the Blair government’s public justification prior to the attack. Furthermore, as Milan Rai in his book, Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing, has made clear, it is only the thinnest layer at the top of Saddam’s regime – ‘the 52 cards’ – who have been removed. Many senior Baathist officials, with an atrocious record of human rights abuses, have been quietly rehabilitated by the occupation regime. Their ‘skills’ are still needed!

Chaos & devastation

While all this goes on in Britain, Iraq and ordinary Iraqis face devastation. The chaos and confusion created by the US/UK attack and occupation has allowed the Islamic supremacists of Al Qaeda to gain a cause and credibility in Iraq. Despite some US claims, informed opinion states that Al Qaeda never had any links with the secular Saddam regime. However, it seems that their co-thinkers are now descending on Iraq to fight the Jihad, not just targeting the forces of occupation or those they identify as collaborating with those forces, but trying to set the three main interest groups – Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, against one another. Indiscriminate massacres such as the car bombing of a Shia festival in Karbala and Baghdad will only increase the prospect of communal violence.

This movement co-ordinated by Al Qaeda stretches from Kashmir thorough Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, the Gulf States, Yemen and right through to north Africa. It is gaining a substantial footing in the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, through such organisations as the IMU. The current conditions in this area provide an ideal breeding ground for such a movement. The dire poverty of the entire population ruled by a small scab of extremely wealthy, politically corrupt and dictatorial elite. Perhaps the worst example is Uzbekistan, where President Karimov operates an excessively repressive regime tolerating no dissent. It is so bad that, in 2002, Britain’s ambassador there delivered a speech that included an open attack on the brutality of that government. He argued that Karimov’s human rights abuses, including the boiling to death of opponents, were as bad as those of which Saddam was accused. However, despite such a record, (some might say because of such a record) Karimov still enjoys the financial, military and political backing of Washington. Some reasons for this include the use of Uzbek territory by the US military during the attack on Afghanistan, the US plans for an oil pipeline from the region, the vast reserves of oil and gas waiting to be exploited by transnational oil companies and lastly it also gives them a ‘friend’ and a bridgehead in Russia’s backyard – an opportunity too good to turn down, despite the brutality. US attitudes to such tyrants justify the collective cynicism to Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ and his safer world catchphrase. When do ordinary Uzbeks get their share of the ‘freedom and democracy’ being championed by Bush, Blair and their disciples?

Hysteria

By riding shotgun for Bush’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, Blair’s government has undoubtedly made Britain a priority target for Islamic supremacist groups looking for their own revenge. Fear has been stoked up to the advantage of the British state to enable it to implement draconian and anti-democratic measures that interfere with many aspects of life in Britain. Hysteria is the Labour government’s new weapon in the war on freedom. Sheffield’s ‘loony-left’ council leader of the 1980s, David Blunkett (Home Secretary), appears to take great delight in being even more authoritarian and extreme than some of his most severe Tory predecessors. As part of the general xenophobia being whipped up around asylum seekers, Blunkett’s Home Office has recently endorsed the forcible repatriation of Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq, presumably on the basis that that country is now a stable, democratic bulwark in the Middle East. Tell that to the Iraqi trade unionists that have had their offices smashed up by the occupying forces, or the many that continue to die or are injured through the continual violence fuelled by the occupation, or those who have, or will, suffer from the tonnes of depleted uranium and cluster bombs that pepper the Iraqi landscape causing cancers and amputations.

Other measures being implemented or up for consideration in Britain include the detention without charge of terror suspects, with Belmarsh Prison being an urban, British reflection of the Guantanamo Bay gulag, the recruitment of more spies to MI5 and trial without jury.

In the last two and a half years the world has become a more dangerous place. The thirst of imperialism for markets and profit, particularly in the medium developed and developing countries has caused a backlash. In a large strategically important section of the world, this backlash has taken the form of Islamicisation. Angry, alienated and impoverished masses have had enough of living as the victims of western imperialism and their local client puppets. Today, the mosque and the mullahs seem to be increasingly offering a ‘solution’. Our role internationally must be to show that real freedom, democracy and a valued life are best achieved through the fight for socialism, which can achieve a genuine emancipation and liberation. In the imperialist countries the role of the socialist and working class movement is to overthrow the class that survives and expands by sending other people’s sons and daughters to fight their wars.

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Mar 02 2004

From Theory To Practice

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 2:43 pm

On page one we have printed our Slogans and Aims, but where do they come from and how are they to be put into practice? As a network we regularly review our tactics and strategy against developments as they unfold. The seven points that follow summarise where we now stand today. In this issue of Emancipation & Liberation we provide some of the background to the thinking that led us to the seven points.

1) We believe another world is possible – a genuine new world communism which emancipates us from all oppression and liberates us from all exploitation and forms a new sustainable relationship between humanity and the environment. We seek a society based on the principle of from each according to their ability; to each according to their needs, where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

Socialism is not the ultimate aim. It can either be a phase on the way to a genuine communism or a temporary high point reached before a descent back into capitalism. The state ‘communism’ of the 20th century proved to be no answer either, but a barrier to achieving human emancipation and liberation. There are no socialist ‘gods’ – we treat al contributions critically and place most emphasis on popular struggles against exploitation and oppression.

2) We advocate the abolition of all forms of slavery – wage, domestic, chattel and debt. Such a society will be judged by its ability to revolutionise all political, economic, social, sexual and personal relationships.

The task before us involves the complete uprooting of al forms of exploitation and oppression. Some parties, tendencies or groups merely focus their attentions on one aspect of the problem – emphasising economic solutions (winning better wages or more control over the means of production), attaining political power, getting the theory right or combating male domination. All forms of slavery are linked under capitalism. Therefore, the resistance arising against each needs to be linked in a common challenge.

3) We are revolutionary democrats. A new society can only be built by a revolutionary extension of democracy. The fight for wider democracy is the key to building support for a total transformation of society through mass participation.

Top down revolutionary changes have led to new ruling elites and new repressive regimes. The least harmful have effected some economic and social improvements but have not transformed all social relationships, leaving real political power confined to a minority. The economy, when planned, must not just be for the people, but it must be by the people.

4) We are principled internationalists. We view the continued existence of the UK with its unionist, imperialist and monarchist state and its anti-democratic Crown Powers and enforced partition of Ireland as the biggest obstacle to immediate democratic advance in these islands. Therefore the struggle for democracy today within Britain and Ireland necessarily takes the form of a militant republicanism. We are part of the international socialist republican opposition in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.

The history of the United Kingdom is a story of cooperation between an increasingly united British ruling class at the expense of the exploited and oppressed classes of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The UK imperial state with its Crown Powers gives this ruling class its continued strength. These Crown Powers give full sanction to the ‘hidden state’ with its armoury of repressive powers. Any serious challenge will soon come up against these powers as the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland found out. Only a popular republican struggle to confront the UK state and its powers can prepare the ground for a wider socialist challenge.

5) We fight for working class independence from the state and employers and for democratic control of all organisations formed to advance working class interests.

Elected-for-life trade union full-timers enjoy many privileges and have many more ties with the employers and state than their own members. They can not seriously advance working class interests, even if they started off wanting to. There is no chance of a few full-timers ‘doing it’ for our class. We need rank and file control and real democracy to ‘do it’ for ourselves. Neither can state controlled agencies, e.g. for women or ethnic minorities, seriously combat oppression. Independent organisations are needed for this.

6) We seek the unity of all genuine communists, socialists and socialist republicans in Scotland within the Scottish Socialist Party. We oppose all attempts to promote sectarian organisational advantage above socialist and working class unity. Within our party, the SSP, we advocate democratic discussion and debate; genuine comradeship and shared social and cultural enjoyment.

The members of the Republican Communist Platform have come together from varied political backgrounds. We have al had to learn to work together. We have all had to learn that we can sometimes be wrong; that our ideas can be revised without loss of face. We have gained enormously from each other. We have been involved in the SSA and SSP from an early stage; some as founding members. We have tried to encourage genuine debate and common work as the best way of bringing about real unity in the SSP. In debate this means being prepared to listen to uncomfortable contributions, rather than seeking the easy comfort of ridicule or pre-arranged voting down. We oppose the methods of petty sectarian point-scoring and bureaucratic manoeuvring. An organisation that can recognise when it is wrong is one that can learn, grow in strength and command respect. From the early days of the SSA the SSP has developed these methods of working but we will still be tested from time to time.

7) We promote an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy to counter the bureaucratic ‘internationalism’ of left Unionism and the separatism of left nationalism. In the current political situation we advocate a federation of socialist parties and organisations from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.

The SSP has mainly drawn together socialists from organisations from either a left unionist or left nationalist tradition. Much of the underlying divisions and tensions in the party reflect this. We oppose the top-down bureaucratic control sought by British unionists and the ‘go-it-alone’ separatism of the nationalists. We need a new strategy of ‘internationalism from below’. This seeks the widest level of cooperation between socialists and the wider working class of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as other socialists in Europe and across the world. Socialism is international.


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