I am grateful to Martin Thomas for his response to my letter (Solidarity 439).Rather than seeking to avoid measures which would invite “a counter revolutionary reaction”, I was attempting to point out the very tight limits of social-democratic reformism, i.e. if you try and raise really serious amounts of revenue from the rich to pay for your reform programme, such a government will very quickly run into serious trouble. I wasn’t suggesting we reduce our ambitions for governmental power, but that these need to be much more radical and make at minimum very deep inroads into the wealth and the power of the capitalist class.
Martin draws a different analytical conclusion than Charlotte Zalens in her original article (Solidarity 436) where she pointed out the exponentially high incomes of those in the top 5%, 1% and the 0.1%. That doesn’t seem to fit with Martin’s assertion that “more income in total goes to that relatively large number of (middle classes) than to the few at the very top”.I do agree with Martin’s comment “that socialism is not a matter of the 99% versus the 1%”. As well as obviously including the whole of the working class (broadly defined as those dependent on a wage or salary to survive), the 99% must include all of the middle class and a significant slice of the bourgeoisie.
That type of cross-class alliance will never carry out a socialist revolution. We must aim to expropriate the whole of the capitalist class, not one section of it.If members of the middle and capitalist class can be persuaded that their survival and future is better in a collectivist and more equal society, then that is to the good, and we should actively seek to exploit competing interests and contradictions within those classes and to divide, disorganise and destroy their forces.
I would like to commend Martin on his article (Solidarity 438) which I think illustrates some of the best qualities of a lot of writing in Solidarity. In a very clear and lucid way, and making a number of very cautious assumptions and caveats, Martin shows that the working class in this country generates around £40,000 per worker of surplus value (over and above wages, benefits and pensions for workers, and the social wage on education and health), which is taken (expropriated) by the capitalist class as income, spending on the state and investment in capital, equivalent to around £1,000 billion per annum.This is an astounding figure and shows the technical affordability of even a very radical left wing manifesto. If, under socialism, productivity remained the same (likely to increase), we increased wages etc, public spending and investment in what would be socially owned means of production and in distribution, all by 50% (say), society will still produce a surplus of £130 billion, based on Martin’s numbers and assumptions.
This I think illustrates the sheer moral, economic and social bankruptcy of capitalism, the appalling inequality in wealth, income, power and opportunity.It is the reason why so many working people have such a desperate time in what is means to be the fifth richest economy in the world, and the potential immense power of socialism as a credible and compelling response to this.
Women need equality in law!
The writer in Solidarity 440 who argues against the attempt in India to ban the practice of triple talaq (where a Muslim man can divorce his wife by saying the word talaq three times) is, I believe, wrong.
Unless I misunderstand the argument, I think the writer takes a one-sided view of the importance of religious freedom, to the point of sanctifying in advance all practices done in the name of religion and religious tradition, no matter how oppressive.Granted, the Indian context is one where secularism may mask sectarianism.
The rise of Hindu nationalism is indeed worrying for the Muslim population and other smaller religious minorities. That the move to ban triple talaq is being promoted by right-wing Hindu groups and opposed by some Muslim women is important.However there are other bigger matters or principle here. That women should have equality in law is one of first principles of building a more gender equal society. If that equality contradicts religious practice (which in this case, as so often, is in any case disputed), equality comes first.
One cannot equate the unjustifiable banning of the burkha in Europe with the banning of the triple talaq in India. The burkha (or hijab or niqab) may be worn out of religious belief, or a sense of identity. Equally it may be worn out of a sense of duty or under the oppressive authorities of “elders”. Nonetheless it is, basically, a voluntary act.In contrast the triple talaq (informal divorce procedures) in India, as I understand it, allows divorcing men to evade making any financial settlement with their ex-wives. It leaves women and sometimes children vulnerable to destitution.
Women from all religious backgrounds and none must have equality in law. As long as marriage institutions exist, women must have the right to enter and exit them without any form of coercion.Obstacles to these basic rights are many — they include dowry obligations as much as the triple talaq. All of this must go.