Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’
The UK Election and Defence
’Mark Ferguson of LabourList wrote that today several papers had splashed on a particularly unpleasant and personal attack on Ed Miliband, the contending Labour Leader, from Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. Fallon’s claim that Miliband would get rid of Trident, Britain’s US controlled nuclear defence system, to do a deal with the SNP (the Scottish National Party) is nonsense. He has said on numerous occasions in the past two weeks (in his Paxman TV interview, in an interview with the People and in his leaked debate notes) that he favours continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.’
Surely this is another example of Miliband making the less principled choice—the same choice as that offered by the right wing Tories! The cost of these four u-boats, as Fallon significantly called them, and their accompanying nuclear armed rockets for the UK is enormous, and it is money the social services and the NHS could do with. I do not budge from my preference for Labour rather than five more years of Tory robbery, but Miliband needs to find some principles from somewhere, preferably from the British working class. Labour will not bring in the socialist millennium, but with Labour in power there is more probability of a determined push from working class activists and institutions moving us and Labour in the preferred direction. In the words of Robert Griffiths reporting to the CPB Congress:
The period up to, during and immediately after the general election is likely to prove decisive in helping us to assess whether the labour movement can and will reclaim the Labour Party or whether major sections of the movement will have to consider what steps should be taken to re-establish a mass party of labour, one capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting far-reaching reforms in the interests of the working class. In order to create the most favourable conditions for resolving this question, and to advance the immediate interests of working-class people, an upsurge is needed in mass activity and action. That is why it’s so important that we discuss the priorities and line of march of the trade union movement, the People’s Assembly, the women’s movement, including the National Assembly of Women, and the peace movement.
The electorate have been duped into believing democracy is a five yearly cross on a ballot paper, but it took centuries of mass struggle to get that far, and it does not mean the struggle has ended. As the General Secretary says, it is time to renew it, and that means working class families demonstrating on the streets what they expect of the party they have elected, and that they will not tolerate any more of the BS we have been given by parties of both complexions over the last 40 years.
Let us stand up for ourselves! We can begin now by demanding the waste of our taxes on pointless but hugely expensive “defence” systems should cease, or we shall be canvassing for a new socialist party not merely a new Labour Party leader.
In the discussion in The Washington Post following the items about whether Christianity is intrinsically socialist or capitalist in morality, mentioned below, the modern US capitalist oriented Christians so-called were flummoxed by the directness of their incarnated God’s message, and mostly turned to the Jewish scriptures or to Paul the Apostle for answers. They never seem to see any incongruity in citing pre-Christian Judaism against the direct words of God recorded as they fell from His own lips in the gospels, or the later teachings of a plain man trying his utmost to teach something quite different, while pretending to be preaching the same message as Christ, and succeeding so well that modern Christianity is Paulianity not Christianity!
Some of Jesus’s examples brook no opposition they are so lucid. That anyone should be bold enough to question anything so unequivocal, uttered from the lips of the man they are supposed to consider God, proves that they are not Christians. They are happy to contradict the clearest statements of the divine man! How can this one, for example, be contradicted by America’s megarich “Christians”?
Someone came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.Matthew 19:17-24
Since US Christians cannot understand biblical English, here is a step by step explanation:
- The man is seeking salvation, eternal life, entry into God’s kingdom
- Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments, listing the principal ones from the Jewish scriptures, but adding his own commandment which encompasses all others, “love thy neighbor as thyself”
- The man considers himself a law abiding Jew and has obeyed all the commandments since he was a boy, and asks whether that is sufficient
- To be saved people have to be near enough to perfection to satisfy the Judge, God, at Judgement day, so Jesus tells him that he has to give away his wealth to the poor, and become a Christian, thereby being saved—he would have “treasure in heaven”, eternal bliss
- The reward offered to those who are do these things is salvation, but the man prefers his gold.
- He leaves sorrowful, but unable to forego his material riches for eternal happiness
- Jesus explains how hard it is to get into heaven when you are rich—he says it is impossible because a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.
One commentator confidently proclaimed that this is not the whole story for Peter and the other disciples wonder how anyone can be saved if the rich cannot be. The gospels always show the apostles as being utterly devoid of brain cells, they are so lacking in comprehension. It is a deliberate device of the bishops who commissioned the gospels, because, if they were really so thick, then Jesus must have been thick to select them. Here they are depicted as thick to allow the bishops to be able to insert an ameliorating clause. It is that “all things are possible for God”. So the rich can be saved if God chooses to let them be. It is enough to satisfy the rich, who convince themselves that an occasional act of charity will suffice to get God on their side.
They have, of course, got the let-out clause upside down or inside out. The fact is that in Christian theology God is omnipotent and omniscient, and a few other things. Omnipotent means “almighty” or “all powerful”. It means He always has the final say. God is the Judge. He cannot be obliged to do anything under any conditions. That means that God’s promise is never certain! If God promises that all righteous people will be saved, it means that some of them will not be. That is why pastors are fond of saying that salvation is a gift. They use it as their excuse to deny that good deeds matter, despite the teachings of Christ that they do. It is certain that unrepentant sinners cannot be saved, because they will never be considered by the Judge. To be considered for salvation at all, people have to be perfect, that is righteous, free of sin, and, if they have sinned in their lives, they have to have repented, turned their lives around and not sinned again. The weight of the teaching of Jesus is that, having met the criteria he laid out, they will be eligible for a pass at Judgement, but it always remains God’s gift which He can always withhold, but probably will not.
The same holds in reverse. God is the Judge of sin, and although rich men face an almost complete ban from consideration for salvation, God might offer one or other of them an improbable gift of eternal life, and only God knows why He will do it, if He has a reason at all. But the underlying Christian belief, as it was with the Essenes, is that God is not capricious, so that what we can only call a gift, God has His reasons for it.
It is not a good bet to gamble that God will be benign to the rich man at Judgement Day when during His incarnation on earth, He said unmistakably clearly that for all practical purposes it was impossible for a rich man to get into God’s kingdom. So, gift or no gift, it remains true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.
If that is not plain enough for you capitalistic Christians, defending the rich, you ought to read this parable that Jesus told:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.
The rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot. Neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.Luke 16:19-31
It is hard to see how this parable can be read in any way other than the obvious and direct one that being rich can mortally damage your hope for an afterlife, if that is still any attraction to rich Christians. In the story related above, meant to be an actual incident in Jesus’s life, not a parable, the rich man is less attracted to the notion of being saved than he is to his bags of gold. So Jesus knew what the rich were like, and he even ends the parable of Dives and Lazarus by saying that even someone rising from the dead will not persuade them that riches are the “wages of sin”!
That turned out to be a true prophesy, and all of these US Christian apologists for the rich man’s economic scam prove it!
It has been amusing over the last few days reading, and even participating in, the debate in The Washington Post on whether Christianity should favor socialism or capitalism. The leading article From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity was written by Gregory Paul who argued in favor of Socialism but offered several hostages to fortune in introducing Ayn Rand into the debate, and implying that socialism was necessarily coercive. Two other articles followed refuting Gregory Paul’s argument. One was worthless, written by some Catholic member of the Discovery Institute, and another one, almost as bad but written I believe by a pair of evangelical lawyers, David French and Jordan Sekulow, was titled The Impossibility of a Socialist Jesus.
One of the points Gregory Paul made was that of the sharing of possessions in the first Christian community described in Acts. The act of sharing was so important to them that Luke, if he is the author, described how two supposed recruits, Ananias and his wife, Saphira, are struck dead for not sharing fully. They held back some of their wealth. The Christian lawyers claim the God killed the wicked pair for lying not for failing to share all of the money with the community. They say the notion of an honest lawyer is an oxymoron. It seems it is when it is a right wing preaching lawyer!
The ordinary US Christian is not noted for reading the book they value so highly, so they are easily fooled by right wing pastors and lawyers who cite things selectively. The full story of Ananias and Saphira starts at Acts 4:32, as follows:
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet. And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.Acts 4:32; 34-37
It says they all had their things in common. The apostles’ community had set its rules, and Ananias and Saphira broke the rules by trying to deceive the community. People joined voluntarily, but once they had, they had to follow the rules. That is true of any just society, surely. As Gregory Paul had said, these early Christians in Acts held everything in common, so Ananias and Saphira were holding from the group some of their wealth, thereby breaking the community’s rules. They need not have become Christians so could have kept their house as their own, or sold it and disposed of their money just how they liked, but they had joined the community of Christians and so were obliged to give up all their wealth. It is justice.
Capitalist societies are not just. In the UK a lot of unemployed young people have been rioting, and not a few employed people too. Why? They have no prospects, and they have just seen politicians and bankers robbing the public purse by billions without being severely punished, or even being properly regulated. When cheating is so transparent in society people get angry. It seems that Peter got angry with Ananias and Saphira, and as the group’s enforcer, dealt with them.
Desperate to avoid the obvious crime, breaking the socialistic rules of the apostles’ community, Christians like to emphasize that Peter in quizzing Ananias wanted to know why he had lied that they had given all the proceeds of their sale when they had not. The crime was lying, they say, not the deed of withholding. Well naturally withholding necessitated lying but breaking the community’s rule was the primary crime and the reason for the consequent lying. But Peter does not ask Saphira why she lied when she arrived a while later. He says:
Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
The Christian lawyers justify capitalism by justifying cheating, though lying is a capital crime in God’s eyes, it seems. Well capitalism depends on both for one necessitates the other. It is quite true that many people have tried to be honest dealers while practising capitalism, but ultimately it is impossible. Christian bankers, politicians and lawyers prove it, all too transparently, and, in the end, the oppressed masses will not put up with it.
The political idea of socialism might not have arisen until the nineteenth century, but it is an ancient economic system, and unarguably the one that the first Christians adopted!