Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Remarkable Behaviour (2012)

Arthur Wharton.
The Action Replay column from the February 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

We’ll not comment on the recent developments in football: one Premier League player suspended for eight matches after being found guilty of racist remarks to an opposing player, one facing a criminal charge, and another apparently being racially abused by a spectator. But there’s no doubt that racism has been a problem in sport, and continues to be so. Athletes, administrators, commentators, spectators – any can be responsible for racist views, language and actions.

In the past racism in sport went well beyond name-calling. US baseball operated a de facto ban on black players till as late as 1946. It was sometimes described as a gentlemen’s agreement, and this was not an ironic use of ‘gentleman’. In apartheid-era South Africa, rugby union was essentially a game for Afrikaners, while football was the game played by the black population.

In this connection it is instructive to look back at the career of Arthur Wharton, born in Ghana (then known as the Gold Coast) in 1865. He came to England in 1882, broke the 100-yards world sprint record, played professional cricket and then played professional football for Rotherham and Sheffield United (he is often claimed to have been the world’s first black professional footballer). But he never enjoyed any kind of fame, and after retiring from sport worked as a miner, dying in poverty in 1930.

Such experiences might make a few phrases uttered in the heat of a match seem like small beer. And it’s hardly original to say that sport simply reflects the wider society. But there’s clearly still a long way to go in overcoming racist ideas.
Paul Bennett

SNP Hypocrisy (2012)

Editorial from the February 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Politicians on both sides of the border are getting worked up over a referendum on Scottish independence and the media are encouraging the rest of us to get involved. But why should we?

It is of no concern to workers in Scotland whether they are governed from London or by a separate independent government in Edinburgh. This is because the cause of the problems they face is the capitalist economic system of production for profit, not the form of government. And the capitalist economic system would continue to exist in a politically independent Scotland.

The only people to benefit from Scottish independence would be the local politicians, who would be able to award themselves grander titles and grander salaries. For workers on these islands there is a precedent in Ireland, which broke away from the UK in 1922. Can anyone claim that this has made any difference to the position of workers there?

In Scotland’s case not even the local capitalists would benefit. An independent Scotland would have no choice but to stay in the EU and so could not erect tariff walls to protect its capitalists as the Irish government did for a while to try to protect the fledgling capitalist class there.

The fuss, however, does illustrate two general political points. First, about how referendums can be manipulated to try to get the result the organisers want. Wily politician that he is, SNP leader Alex Salmond knows that if the vote is a straight yes or no on independence, the chances are that he will lose. So he wants to put two questions to the electorate,. One on independence. The other on increased powers for the Scottish Parliament, which he knows would have a better chance of being carried. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has made the same calculation and so is seeking to impose a vote on independence only.

The second point is about the relationship between declared goal and immediate aims. It’s a question that concerned the pre-WWI Social Democratic movement too. As well as having socialism as their ‘maximum’ programme they had a ‘minimum’ programme of reforms to be achieved under capitalism. As a result their support came to be built up on the basis of these reforms rather than socialism, and they ended up becoming, in practice, capitalist reform parties, with socialism as a mere desirable long-term aim. Eventually that was dropped too.

The SNP has got itself into a similar situation. Its long-term aim on paper may be Scottish independence but it has built up its electoral support on the basis of being a better administrator of political affairs in Scotland than the Labour Party. Its voters will not have voted for it because they want Scottish independence – which is why Salmond lacks the courage of his convictions.

We don’t want or care about Scottish independence (any more than we care or support a “United Kingdom” or an “independent Britain”) so it’s not our business to advise those who really want this how to best go about getting it. But we do want world socialism and do know that the way to further this cause is to advocate it and it alone and not seek support on any ‘minimum’ programme of reforms.

That way, support for a socialist political party will be support for socialism and not for something less. When a majority for this has evolved, socialists would have no fear of a referendum on the single question of “Capitalism or Socialism?” and would not want, would in fact indignantly reject, a fall-back, second question on, “Do you want a reformed capitalism?” Unlike Salmond, we’d say bring it on.

50 Years Ago: Homeless in London (2012)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last November, the Press and the politicians suddenly noticed that in London the number of homeless families was increasing.

The London County Council Housing Department estimates that within a year the number of homeless will grow from the present 3,000 to 5,000, perhaps more. Every week there are about 45 families seeking temporary accommodation. The Council is only able to fix up about 36 a week with permanent shelter.

Since the war 30,000 homeless families have been provided with temporary shelter by the L.C.C. In 1957 there were 280 homeless families in L.C.C. centres. Between 1958 and 1960 the number fluctuated between 410 and 435, and in November, 1961, it rose to 641.

Social workers who cannot understand why this should happen have persuaded the L.C.C. to appoint a committee of enquiry into the problem, and are awaiting its findings. They take the view that it will soon be impossible for anybody to live in London, except as a Council tenant, if he is earning less than £18 per week.

Who are the homeless?

They are not the aged, infirm, or the so-called problem families who are attended to quite separately. They are the young working men and women who, if they had their own accommodation, would be ordinary working men and women like most Londoners. The husbands work, mainly in unskilled jobs, and earn an average of £10 or £12 per week.

(. . .)

If we look a little deeper than the Press and politicians, the first thing to be noted is the age of the problem. In fact, it goes back to the beginning of modern capitalism. Many writers have exposed it in the past, all the reformist political parties and politicians have at some time stated that they had a solution to the problem. Still it persists.

It is a strange thing how all these well-intentioned people overlook one thing. The investigators have all commented on the fact that these homeless families all live on low wages so it is the families with low incomes who are liable to be homeless. The rent is too high, the income is too low; they cannot afford, or to use the jargon of the market, they do not constitute an effective demand. Poverty is the word, and the present increase in the number of homeless in London is due to just that. The whole question of housing or lack of it, not only in London, but throughout the world, is part of the problem of poverty.

(Article by R.A., Socialist Standard, February 1962.)

Pass the Port (2012)

The Action Replay column from the January 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then international sport can be a form of politics too. National sports teams are often used to increase a country’s prestige and influence or to make some political point.

Probably the most notorious example was the ‘cricket test’ proposed by Norman Tebbit in 1990, and supposedly failed by many British people of Asian descent. So someone whose family was from Pakistan might support Pakistan against England (even if they supported England when they played, say, Australia). It was never quite clear what this was meant to show, apart from Tebbit’s own nastiness.

In fact, a closer look at the concept of a national team can tell us quite a bit about the notions of nationalism and patriotism. Bahrain, for instance, has acquired a set of Olympic-class athletes by granting citizenship (and plenty of money too, no doubt) to established stars from elsewhere (such as Morocco and Ethiopia). Switching national allegiance for sporting reasons is not exactly rare, and even the current England cricket team (strictly, England and Wales) contains a number of players who started out as South Africans.

Even when the country was split between East and West, a combined German team competed at some Olympic Games. Ireland is represented on a thirty-two county basis in hockey and rugby union, but Northern Ireland and the Republic go their separate ways in other sports. The North competes alongside England, Scotland and Wales in football, for instance, and at the Commonwealth Games, but not at the Olympics, where a combined Great Britain team takes part.  

So the concept of ‘nation’ in international sport is pretty fluid. Not that any of this stops nationalists claiming that sporting success for ‘their’ country shows how superior its people are.
Paul Bennett

Clueless (2012)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the first things George Osborne did on becoming Chancellor in May 2010 was to headhunt a whizz-kid economic forecaster to head a new Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). For Osborne’s 2010 budget the OBR forecast that GDP would grow by 2.3 percent in 2011. It also made forecasts for the years up to 2015. We commented in this column in August 2010:
  Long-term predictions are even less reliable. Even so, the OBR has indulged in this, predicting (and we record the figures for future reference) that in 2012 growth will be 2.8 percent, in 2013 2.9 percent, and 2.7 percent in 2014 and 2015. This is not worth the paper it’s written on. It’s like the Met Office predicting a barbecue summer in two years time.
In his Autumn Statement on 29 November Osborne revealed that the OBR had gone back to the drawing board and come up with some new figures:
  They expect GDP in Britain to grow this year by 0.9% – and by 0.7% next year. They then forecast 2.1% growth in 2013, 2.7% in 2014, followed by 3% in 2015 and 3% again in 2016.
Given the unpredictable nature of capitalism, the chances are that the figures for the years after 2012 will turn out to be just as wrong.

The day after the Autumn Statement, there was a one-day public sector general strike. For the occasion, the Morning Star, which is close to the “Communist Party of Britain” (the nearest thing to the old “Communist” Party), brought out a special, free edition. It contained an article by Jerry Jones, the economic expert of the Morning Star and CPB, which revealed that those at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Osborne are just as clueless.

The CPB claims to be Marxist but Jones’s analysis was not based on Marx’s view that what drives the capitalist economy is investment by capitalist enterprises in search of profit. He argues that, on the contrary, capitalism is motivated by “economic demand” as if it were a system geared to what people want to buy; and that the current economic crisis is not a lack of profits but a lack of paying demand.

From this faulty analysis his faulty conclusion follows: that the state should invest in new productive activities, so putting money into workers’ pockets and increasing economic demand that way. This is Keynes rather than Marx, but where’s the state to get the money to invest? Easy:
  The fact is that governments could simply tell their central bank – the Bank of England in Britain’s case – to print the money or its electronic equivalent and hand it over to the government to invest.
Jones himself then poses the question: “But doesn’t ‘printing money’ cause inflation?” He answers “No” on the grounds that the “true cause” of inflation is not “too much money floating around” but is “always insufficient supply, or investment, to meet growing economic demand.”

But, in the end, this is the same thing. The price of any good will go up if the paying demand for it exceeds its supply but, since paying demand is generated in production, the only way that total demand can come to exceed total supply (Jones’s assumption) is by it being inflated by the government “printing more money” (more accurately, printing more money than the economy needs).

The inflationary policy advocated by Jones might temporarily induce some increased production but would eventually lead to “stagflation”, as it did when tried in the slump of the mid-1970s. The Morning Star’s Keynesian reformism is not a viable alternative. Only socialism is.

Neither London nor Brussels, but World Socialism (2012)

Editorial from the January 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

No wealth is produced in The City. It is a place where the proceeds of working-class exploitation transformed into rights to a property income are the subject of trading, speculation and gambling. Around this has grown up a whole range of “financial services” – wheelers and dealers of one kind or another – vying for a share. In short, it is entirely parasitic on those parts of the world economy where wealth is actually produced by those working there.

So – apart from the fact that the Conservative Party has always been committed to defending the interests of The City, going back to the time when it was the place through which the loot plundered from the British Empire was channelled – why did Cameron make such a fuss about defending The City “from Europe” and expect people to think that this was a good thing? After all, is not The City the habitat of the same bankers that the media has been vilifying since 2008? It is, but they’ve got him over a barrel just as they had the previous Labour Government.

According to the Times (12 December), the financial services sector (not just The City) makes up ten percent of UK GDP and contributed £53 billion as taxes for the upkeep of the government. In addition, The City achieved a “trade surplus” of £36.4 billion, a measure of how much surplus value produced in the rest of the world it sucks in. Clearly, The City is an important part of the British capitalist economy which no government can ignore. But The City is not the only section of the capitalist class.

There are also the businesses producing for export. It was precisely to further their interests by gaining them free access to a wider European market that Britain joined the “Common Market” in the first place. They still benefit from the single market with its common standards and regulations and do not want Britain to withdraw from the European Union. To placate them, Cameron has had to make it clear that the government has no intention of doing so.

He did win the plaudits of his backwoodsmen, the Eurosceptics, but they represent small businesses producing for the home market (and financed by some bigger businesses in the same position). They want a referendum on withdrawal, which they expect to win. It is precisely because they could well do so that no government is going to hold one. They are not there to govern on behalf of small businesses but of Big Business.

This is a dispute between different sections of the same capitalist class which should be left to them to settle for themselves. No working class interest is involved. We don’t care whether or not there is a referendum on the matter and, if there is, wouldn’t take part in it except to write “World Socialism” across the ballot paper. As socialists we refuse to pander to petty nationalism but work to promote a world without frontiers where the Earth’s resources have become the common heritage of all.

Need to end capitalism (2012)

Book Review from the January 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

What every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism. By Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. Monthly Review Press. 2011.

Overall the book contains a very good analysis of the causes of the world’s environmental problems which it is claimed are largely attributable to the global economic system of capitalism. Bearing in mind the book is aimed at environmental activists and those concerned with the problems associated with global warming, climate change and the general degradation of the state of the planet, the authors are spot on with this early statement: ‘It’s essential to break with a system based on a single motive – the perpetual accumulation of capital and hence economic growth without end.’  

The chapters unfold neatly revealing the depths of inequality between rich and poor, individually and collectively, including the relative size of their ecological footprints. A clear case is presented as to the illogicality of an expectation that capitalism can be organised a different way to be made ‘green.’  The growth imperative of capitalism is explained and linked to its antagonism to the health of our environment in that what’s good for economic growth is bad for the environment and vice versa. The wide spread of capitalism’s ever expanding reach and resultant damage is comprehensively covered, including the imperialism of land grab, resource wars, water as an urgent resource problem, the exploitation of aquifers adding to annual sea level rise, damage as a result of careless but deliberate exploitation and externalities in their many guises. How appropriately the authors suggest amending the well known phrase, ‘the tragedy of the commons’ to ‘the tragedy of the private exploitation of the commons.’

When it comes to how we should deal with the causes and what is promoted to achieve the break with the system based on the perpetual accumulation of capital and economic growth without end, however, things take a turn for the worse. The final chapter is a disappointing list of rules, regulations, what could, should and must be done to put people and the environment before profit.  It’s disappointing because these demands are all reformist based. Having read this far it must now be plain for readers to see that without first dismantling the very economic system that the authors have so successfully discredited right up to the final chapter there is no way that anything will change for the better, neither for people nor for the environment. Capitalism has been reformed many times and in many different ways and still it continues to progressively worsen the environment. If socialism is to be achieved it has to mean much more than transitional reforms to a democratically planned economy.
Janet Surman

Marketing crap (2012)

Book Review from the January 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Born to Run. By Christopher McDougall. Profile Books.

Hundreds of scientists recently convened in London to untangle half a century of sports and leisure propaganda that more supportive shoes are better. Running is one of the most natural things human beings can do; it is as good for you as long periods of sitting are bad for you. It is as vital to our sustainability as a species as is breathing, eating and reproduction. Christopher McDougall was puzzled, then, to learn from podiatrists that recreational running is blighted by injury. His research led him to write this best-seller which spawned the movement that is challenging the supportive shoe orthodoxy. The journalist for Men’s Health tells the tale of his time with the Tarahumara tribe from Mexico.

“In Tarahumara land, there was no crime, war or theft … Fifty-year-olds could outrun teenagers, and eighty-year-old great-granddads could hike marathon distances up mountainsides. Their cancer rates were barely detectable.” They did no stretching or warming up, partied all night and got drunk on beer the night before a race. The races could last two days.  Some runners could do 300 miles or 12 full marathons back to back. When the Tarahumara were introduced to Leadville 100 mile Ultramarathon in Colorado in 1993, they revolutionised ultra-running and broke records, a 52 year-old Tarahumara runner finished first, a 46 year-old Tarahumara runner finished second.

The barefoot movement that the book has spawned simply contends that supportive shoes encourage unhealthy habits. These include heel strikes rather than toe strikes, and pronation which causes knee injury.  The book stops short of asking why the lucrative trainer industry has ignored or suppressed this evidence and sells bad running shoes. The answer is that some scientific studies and research is in the interests of capital to sponsor, and other studies are not. As cultural theorists such as the Frankfurt School have observed, the culture industry does not just fail to meet needs, it actually creates false needs and artificial desires too.

Since the co-founder of Nike (and champion sports coach) Bill Bowerman liked to claim responsibility for the popularity of recreational running with the publication of Jogging in 1962 then the industry ought to be responsible even on its own terms. Eventually even Bowerman concluded Nike were “distributing a lot of crap” in order to “make money”.

Although the scientific consensus now is inconclusive, trainer companies have already started selling shoes with minimal support to simulate the effect of going barefoot. So in the trainer industry, just as in capitalism generally, no crises are permanent, just unnecessarily wasteful and extremely destructive.

Parliament and Power (1954)

From the December 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently the I.L.P. published a pamphlet “The Way To Workers’ Control,” which is a reprint of chapter 6, section II., of the book “Workers’ Councils ” by Anton Pannekoek. In an introduction the I.L.P. states:—” This pamphlet is necessary as an antidote for those who have stressed the importance of the Parliamentary struggle. It is important to remind M.P.s who believe that their power rests on a mathematical majority of seats that real power exists outside Parliament (and the courts, as Sir Hartley Shawcross found when he tried to prosecute the dockers in February, 1951).” They also state:— “We believe that the tasks of a political party today do not preclude Parliamentary action. It is our view and, we believe, that of the author, that Socialist policy should not be determined by Parliamentary expediency ...”

There is also a new journal, “Revolt,” published by so-called Marxist Groups, which is putting forward old ideas which have helped to mislead the working class in the past.

We therefore once again have to refute the idea that Socialism can be established before the understanding and acceptance of it by the majority of the workers. Despite all the defeats, hardship and bloodshed experienced by workers in trying to oppose the powers of the State machine by force, these so-called Marxist Groups are once again advocating methods which, if put in effect, could only lead to further defeats. Despite all the experience they have to draw upon, they appear to have learned nothing from the errors of the Anarchists and Communist Parties.

The S.P.G.B. has since its foundation stressed the need for the working class to organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government in order that the machinery of government, including the armed forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation. The importance of Parliament as the centre of power is dealt with in our pamphlet “Questions of the Day.

What does the I.L.P. mean by the statement “That Socialist policy should not be determined by Parliamentary expediency?” Gaining control of Parliament to introduce Socialism is not Parliamentary expediency. When we of the S.P.G.B. have contested an election we have always put the Socialist case. We have always requested the working class not to vote for the Socialist candidate unless they understand and accepted Socialism. It is the I.L.P. whose election campaigns are determined by Parliamentary expediency, it is the I.L.P. which fails to put the Socialist case to the electors, it is the I.L.P. which puts forward what they believe to be vote catching reforms only to find that the majority of the workers believe that the Labour Party is more likely to obtain these reforms. The I.L.P. is wrong in stating that real power exists outside Parliament.

Power and the Law
Clearly the strongest power in the State, wherever it resides, cannot be limited by law or anything else, since otherwise it would not be the strongest. Parliamentary sovereignty in Britain means that the validity of an Act of Parliament cannot be called in question in any court of law. There is no legal limit to the power of Parliament in Great Britain and consequently no court of law can ever declare, as can an American court with an Act of Congress, that an Act of Parliament is unconstitutional and therefore cannot be enforced.

Sir H. Shawcross, as the Attorney General in the last Labour Government, did not fail in his attempt to prosecute the dockers, because the power of the courts was greater than that of Parliament, but because he was in too much of a hurry. The Labour Government could have changed the law, it had a majority in the House of Commons, but it was bound by previous laws which it had not changed. The Labour Government knew that if they did change the law it would have to bear the consequences in the next general election.

E. S. Heffer, writing in issue No. 2 of the paper Revolt, states: “The lessons of the 1926 General Strike must be learned. During that revolutionary upsurge, the workers created their own embryonic State organs, when the Trades Councils were in varying degrees transformed into Councils of Action. Parliament, as such, was powerless, and it was only the reformist spinelessness of the leadership of the T.U.C. and the Labour Party that led to defeat.”

This is nonsense. Parliament was not powerless, it still controlled the posse, it controlled the armed forces and, as many workers found, was prepared to use all the powers of the State to defeat the General Strike. Talk of defeat because of the leaders of the T.U.C. and the Labour Party, is an old, old story. Who elected these leaders? Who supported them after the defeat? The fact that the working class had the need of leaders showed that they did not know what to do but were prepared to follow leaders. It is, too, in odd explanation to give that the all-powerful upsurge of the workers was too weak to overcome a handful of leaders.

Up to the present the mass of the workers have lacked political knowledge and have voted for people instead of principles. The members of the so-called Marxist Group and people with similar ideas on “revolutionary action ” have never grown up, they are like children playing at revolution and no doubt enjoying themselves for a time, then, when things go wrong they blame the leaders.

With regard to Parliamentary action Marx and Engels had no doubt about the position as the two following quotations show.
  “The working classes will have learned by experience that no lasting benefit whatever can be obtained for them by others but that they must obtain it themselves by conquering, first of all. political power. They must see now that under no circumstances have they any guarantee for bettering their social position unless by universal suffrage which would enable them to send a majority of working men in the House of Commons (“The Ten Hours Question” by F. Engels).”
   “But universal suffrage is the equivalent for political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat form the large majority of the population, where, in a long, though underground, civil war, it has gained a clear consciousness of its position as a class, and where even the rural districts know no longer any peasants, but landlords, industrial Capitalists (farmers) and hired labourers. The carrying of universal suffrage in England would, therefore, be a far more Socialist measure than anything which has been honoured with that name on the Continent.
   “Its inevitable result here is the political supremacy of the working class.”
From an article by K. Marx on the Chartists, New York Tribune, August 25th, 1852, Marx was too optimistic as to how the workers would use their votes. Unfortunately the workers had not a clear consciousness of their position as a class. They still have not. But at least Marx and Engels recognised the necessity of capturing the political machinery and the necessity of gaining a majority in the House of Commons. This is something the members of the so-called Marxists Groups have yet to learn. No doubt they recognise that the majority of the workers would not elect their candidates if they contested an election. But the answer is not to belittle the powers of Parliament but to propagate Socialism. This is the method of the S.P.G.B. We know that once the majority understand and accept Socialism the powers of government will soon be conquered by the working class.
D. W. Lock

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Reflections on the Dock Strike (1954)

From the December 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

With Capitalism the class war is never calm for very long. We started this year with an article on the Railway Workers strike and here we are at the end of it reflecting on yet another outbreak of industrial strife.

Now that things have quietened down a bit and Dockland is back at work, let us soberly take a look at a few of the facts which present themselves.

We are always being told by politicians and Press that the Capitalist class are the “Captains of Industry,” or “The backbone of the Nation,” without whom none of us could survive for long.

A strike such as the October dock strike shows in no uncertain way who the useful people of society really are. When Lord Do-nothing and Lady Do-less, our employers, are yachting on the Mediterranean or roughing it in Monte Carlo their absence goes unnoticed but when the dock- workers walk out on strike, chaos reigns.

Of course “now” is never the time to strike according to the Capitalist Press and they can always find plenty of excuses why pay claims are unfair or a strike to improve conditions is “crazy.” However, they always remain silent on the embarrassing question that if the working class who produce ALL the wealth are not entitled to it, how is the Capitalist Class which produces NOTHING, entitled to any?

One fact is obvious, the strike is the only real weapon the workers have on the industrial field, and while they remain a class of wage slaves the right to withhold the sale of their labour power when the conditions for its sale are repressive must remain.

Compulsory overtime is a repressive condition.

The persuasive powers of the Capitalist Press will always try to divide the rest of the workers against the strikers; this is an old game, but there are signs of workers getting wise to it. The strength of the workers when on strike lies in their solidarity and, looking to the time when they really wake up and organise politically with us for Socialism, a solid, world-wide, Socialist working class would hold every trump in the pack.

According to The Observer for 31st October, 1954, “Some £6 to £7 million worth of imports and £5 to £6 million of exports were held up daily.”

This paper also tells us that industries ranging from toy making to motor cars and from dairy produce to rubber manufactures, in places as far flung as Australia, New Zealand and Malaya, have been hit. Although some workers are said to have had “overtime cuts,” in general the pain comes from the loss of profits and the dread that the employers may “never regain the business loss.”’

It is interesting to note that the troops were not used during this strike, due to the peculiar way the strike developed and it looked as though the dockers were going to return a week before they actually did. All the necessary preparations were made, orders had been sent out to various military headquarters but to avoid jeopardizing the chances of a settlement, the orders were not proceeded with.

No Government hesitates for long to use the armed forces. Tory, Liberal and Labour Governments have done so in the past. Any party running Capitalism has in the name of Capital to keep the system going. In this connection we might cast our minds back to the methods used to smash the strike in East Berlin; we then witnessed the spectacle of the Daily Worker upholding the brutality while the rest of the British Capitalist Press (for their own reasons) showed “sympathy” for the strikers. We find them all out in the end.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has no hidden “motives,” our tongue is not in our cheek; any improvements or gains the workers can obtain under Capitalism they, as the sole producers, are more than entitled to.

However, in conclusion, let us make it clear where we stand. We maintain that the strikes and lockouts, the wars and hardships of Capitalism arise, directly out of the fact that the means of living are owned by the few, the many are therefore a propertyless-class who must work for wages in order to live. The antagonism between employers and workers will know no end while the wealth of the one is derived from the exploitation of the other.

THE VERY EXISTENCE OF WAGES AT ALL shows the economic enslavement of the working class to be a fact.

All the dairy produce of New Zealand, the car factories of Australia, the rubber plantations of Malaya, together with the rest of the land, mills, mines, factories and means of transport constitute what belongs to the Capitalist class and through our work keeps them wealthy and us poor. Only when these things are held in common by all mankind, when the wages system is abolished and things produced solely for use instead of profit, will the need to strike be gone for ever.
Harry Baldwin

The A.B.C. of Anarchism (1955)

From the December 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is Anarchism?
Anarchists say that [it] is the negation of governmental authority and State interference in the life of the individual and of the community as a whole. Anarchists claim that anarchism is a condition of society where all live “in freedom"—a "free" society. As we shall see later this “free" society envisaged by anarchists can mean almost anything.

To the anarchist the cause of most of the evils that beset us today is the existence of government and a coercive state apparatus. The anarchist does not seem to see the State as part of a private property society; as something that has come into existence with the emergence of private property relationships; as an (undesirable and coercive) effect of present-day society. .

The State and Government are THE CAUSE of all our troubles, they say.

Many, but not all anarchists hold that forms of parental, educational and religious authority cause or contribute to the problems of general—and particularly sexual—neurosis. Most, but not all anarchists oppose all forms of external authority—although there are a number of Catholic anarchists in America, and possibly elsewhere, who accept the authority of Rome.

Many kinds of Anarchists
Although most anarchists envisage and desire a future state of society which they call Anarchism (from the Greek word Anarkia, “a condition of being without government") there are many schools of anarchist thought —almost as many as there are anarchists

Some anarchists are Pacifists, whilst others are advocates or defenders of various kinds of violence. Thus, Alexander Berkman in his A.B.C. of Anarchism (first published in America as What Is Communist Anarchism?):—
  "Yes, Anarchists have thrown bombs and have resorted to violence . . . under certain conditions a man may have to resort to violence." (p. 11).
In all fairness tojthe anarchists, bomb-throwing is now no longer popular among anarchists—particularly the British ones.

Many anarchists combine anarchism with syndicalism—the theory of the General Strike and industrial action as a revolutionary method. They are known as anarcho-syndicalists. Whilst followers of Peter Kropotkin—the “Anarchist Prince” (there are no anarchist princes in this country, only Knights!)—and later Alexander Berkman, both Russians, are usually known as “Communist- anarchists" as they also advocate the common or collective ownership of the land and the means and factors of production. Their method of achieving their object is usually through the general strike. It is syndicalist in method, and Communist in objective.

The anarcho-syndicalists advocate the workers’ control of the factories and workshops in which they work, i.e. the coalmines would be controlled and run, and owned, by the coalminers, the railways by the railway men. etc.

As stated above, there are very many kinds and varieties of anarchists and anarchism. Not all anarchists are Communists or Syndicalists. Some are Individualists, other Mutualists. Even today Max Stirner has his advocates, and Proudhon is not yet forgotten.

Whilst Communist-anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists advocate the general strike, or the overthrow or smashing-up of the State, the Individualists and Mutualists do not believe in revolution. They think that our present society will gradually develop into anarchy—almost like the Fabians! The Individualists also uphold the right of the individual to own private property. They advocate “free" competition—truly an utopian bourgeois concept!

Practice what they Preach?
Although all anarchists claim to be opposed to government, the use of the ballot, and the so-called Western and Eastern ways of life, this does not prevent them, when they think fit, supporting these governments, institutions, or “ ways of life."

For example, the well-known Belgian anarchist. G. Emestan. writing in Freedom (1/3/52). said:—
  “The rearmament of Western Europe it necessary. and victory of the West in case of war it desirable: let us be frankly and sincerely with Truman."
Or more important, the support that the anarchists gave to the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks.

From the beginning the Socialist Party said that the Russian Revolution was a “bourgeois” revolution; that it would not and could not emancipate the workers and peasants of Russia from poverty and exploitation; but that it would result in a new class society—a society of new rulers and oppressors. But not the anarchists.

Most of the anarchists all over the world supported both the February and October “revolutions” of 1917.

Nowadays, like the followers of the late Leon Trotsky, they say that the revolution was “betrayed”; it failed. Alexander Berkman, in his A.B.C. of Anarchism, supported both the 1917 revolutions but admitted that “ the masses lacked both consciousness and definite purpose”! But. the following admission of Emma Goldman, another well- known Russian anarchist, should damn the anarchists for all time. In “Trotsky Protests Too Much” (published in Glasgow by the “Anarchist-Communist Federation ”) she wrote:—
   ‘‘During the four years’ civil war in Russia the Anarchists almost to a man stood by the Bolsheviki, though they grew more daily conscious of the impending collapse of the Revolution. They felt in duty bound to keep silent and to avoid everything that would bring aid and comfort to the enemies of the Revolution.” (p. 15).
When it suits them anarchists will support any movement or form of government, democratic or totalitarian.

But it was not only during the first few years of the Communist Government in Soviet Russia that some of the anarchists supported its leaders. Writing in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, Felix Morrow in his book, “Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain,” shows us how low anarchists can sink:—
  “Currying favour with Stalin, the Anarchist leaders had been guilty of such statements as that of Montseny: 'Lenin was not the true builder of Russia, but rather Stalin, with his practical realism.’ The Anarchist press had preserved a dead silence about the Moscow trials and purges, publishing only the official news reports. The C.N.T. (Anarchist 'trade unions’) leaders even ceased to defend their Anarchist comrades in Russia when the Anarchist, Erich Muehson, was murdered by Hitler, and his wife sought refuge in the Soviet Union, only to be imprisoned shortly after her arrival, the C.N.T leadership stifled the protest movement in the C.N.T. ranks. Even when the Red generals were shot, the C.N.T. organs published only the official bulletins." (pp. 127-8).
At this time prominent anarchist leaders in Spain were helping the Republican Government in its war with Franco and the German and Italian Interventionists. Anarchist leaders, like Montseny, were either—or had recently been—members of the Central Madrid or Catalan Governments. And the Government had, for some time past, been receiving war supplies from the Soviet Government.

Anarchists in Spain
Ever since the days of Bakounine and the break-up of the first Working Men’s International, the anarchists have been most numerous in Spain—probably the most backward nation in Europe; which, perhaps, explains why the anarchists are so strong there.

The majority of anarchists in Spain were also members of the C.N.T. (ConfederaciĆ³n Nacional de Trabajo— the National Confederation of Labour). Its leaders were also often prominent members of the F.A.I. (FederaciĆ³n Anarquista Iberia—the Anarchist Federation of Iberia).

According to Felix Morrow the C.N.T. leadership was sympathetic to the Russian Revolution, and in fact sent a delegate to the Comintern Congress in 1921. Although supposedly opposed to politics and political parties, Spanish anarchism had, in the F.A.I., a highly centralised Party apparatus, through which it could maintain control of the C.N.T.

In the February, 1936, election in Spain the anarchists, who had in the past, abstained (anarchists are supposed to be opposed to any form of voting) voted for the Popular Front. The “left” parties increased their vote by about a million over the 1933 election. D. A. Santillan admits that this can, to a great extent, be put down to the anarchist vote. Santillan was a leading member of the F.A.I., organiser of the anti-Fascist militias in Catalonia, and later an anarchist minister in the Catalan Government. In his book, “Porque Perdimos la Guerra,” he says:—
  “We gave power to the Left parties, convinced that in the circumstances they represented a lesser evil.”
We seem to have heard this “lesser evil” argument before somewhere!

Afterwards anarchists entered both the Madrid and Catalan Governments. On November 4th, 1936, four members of the C.N.T. entered the Caballero Government.

Supposed opponents of war, government, the ballot box and “ democracy,” the anarchists in Spain—and elsewhere—have supported all these things.

They are neither consistent nor logical. They are both opportunist and utopian.

In Britain, unlike Spain and elsewhere, they are of little consequence, but their views are similar. Their groups afford a welcome to frustrated “intellectuals” who are tired of government interference and State authority; (the continual docketing, the red-tape, and conscription, that is part of our lives under present-day Capitalism.

Unlike the Socialist the anarchists do not have a definite set of principles—in fact they are governed by expediency—or a practical objective—socialism.
Peter E. Newell

Monday, December 10, 2018

Oil — The Prize in the Middle East (1955)

From the December 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are two delusions that cloud the minds and paralyse the hands of those who mistakenly believe that Capitalism is evolving into Socialism. One is that the so-called Welfare State has changed the old order at home. The second is that World Capitalism has been humanised into giving up the naked struggle for raw materials, strategic bases and markets. This is supposed to have been brought about by the United Nations organisation. A glance at the Middle East should help to blow away this dangerous self-deception.

Fahoud is the name of the spot in the Arabian desert that is the centre of the drama being played out with repercussions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean lands, and Fahoud spells oil. Mr. Noel Barber, correspondent of the Daily Mail told the story in the issues of 31 October and 7 November.
  “A year ago no white man had ever been there. Today, under the lea of a great escarpment—with the nearest natural water-hole more than 100 miles away—there lies a small cluster of huts and tents, and by the side an airstrip. It is Fahoud, a name you can find on no map. In it live a sturdy band of lonely men, Britain’s advance force in the war for oil that daily gathers momentum in the Middle East. . . . Fahoud pinpoints the struggle for oil being fought by vast concerns in Wall Street and the City, by diplomats in Geneva, and in clashes between troops patrolling the tenuous desert boundaries. It is the battle between the Saudis and the British, between America and Britain for mastery in the world’s richest oilfield." — (Daily Mail, Till 155).
As Noel Barber says of his report: “ It is a story that might have been written 60 years ago, when ‘ outposts of Empire’ were fashionable.”

He points out that British and American interests clash. American oil companies are closely connected with the ownership and development of the concession oil fields in Saudi Arabia, while British companies, and the British Government, are associated with the Aden Protectorate, the Sultan of Muscat and the Sheikh Abu Zhabi, “lifelong friend of Britain.” Three years ago, Saudi Arabia sent in troops to occupy the Buraini Oasis, hitherto occupied by the Sultan of Muscat and Sheikh Abu Zhabi. After attempts to settle the dispute by arbitration had broken down. Sir Anthony Eden announced in the House of Commons on 26 October that “native troops, commanded by British officers, had reoccupied the Buraini Oasis after a skirmish with Saudi Arabian forces who marched in three years ago.” (Daily Mail, 31/10/55).

The vital importance of the oasis is that it commands Fahoud, centre of the new oil fields.
  “For if the Saudis had established themselves in Buraimi they would certainly have controlled a much larger share of the Oman Desert and the eastern end of the Empty Quarter. That would have meant the end of Fahoud for us.”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
Here are some of Noel Barber’s observations, written after his visit to Fahoud and neighbouring areas.
   “Every move in the tangled drama of the Middle East has its roots in oil. An American geologist is discovered with Saudi troops pottering about in the Aden Protectorate. The British move into the Buraimi Oasis. The Saudis sign up with Egypt. The Czechs supply the Arabs with arms— all are linked with the measureless wealth lying in the black lakes below this inhospitable terrain." — (Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
And he notes that the new, rich oil fields meant not just large quantities of oil, but more profit for the British companies.
   “Now the battle for oil takes a new turn—the struggle for oil showing a larger profit. This is the natural reaction since the oil royalties in Arabia were stepped up to 50 per cent. In this new war British interests hold the whip hand. Any oil found from, say, Buraimi down to Aden will yield a far richer profit than oil pumped out of the hinterland. That is the real reason for Britain’s tougher attitude, for sending 1,000 crack troops to Aden, for appointing Air Vice-Marshal Lawrence Sinclair to command the R.A.F. at Aden”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
Of the occupation of Buraimi the Mail wrote
  "The incident was small in itself, but it can be taken as an earnest of Britain’s determination to protect her oil interests at all costs.”—(Daily Mail, 31/10/55).
Thus speaks unregenerate Capitalism; and the workers of all countries who may be called upon to pay the cost with their lives should draw the right conclusion while there is yet time.
Edgar Hardcastle

An Earlier Bombardment of Egypt (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Egypt was under Arab and Turkish control for twelve hundred years up to 1873, when it secured independence from Turkey, but was still under British and French financial control. The Suez Canal, built by de Lesseps, was opened in 1869. In 1875 the British Government bought the Khedive's (Viceroy of Egypt) shares in the canal in order to safeguard the route to India. It was the beginning of the partition of Africa amongst the European powers, chief of whom were Britain, France and Germany.

Of this partition, Major-General Fuller has this to say in his book War and Western Civilisation:
  “From 1870 onwards a veritable crusade was carried out by European nations in the name of Gold, every banker, statesman and merchant swearing on his cheque book for his personal profit to ‘civilize’ such portions of the world as could not defend themselves against the white man's rifles and cannon; for ‘progress’ to these people was synonymous with ‘conquest’ Having since 1815 freed themselves from autocratic government, their one intention was to force the absolutism they had rejected down the throats of all peoples who happened to be any colour except white. As regards aggression, the years 1870-98 are only equalled by the age of Genghis Khan. Between 1870 and 1900 Great Britain acquired 4,754,000 square miles of territory, adding to her population 88,000,000 people: between 1884 and 1900 France acquired 3,583,580 square miles and 36,553,000 people; and in these same years Germany, a bad last, gained 1,026,220 square miles and 16,687,100 people.” (Pages 133-134.)
In 1882, under the influence of this “crusading” spirit, an Anglo-French squadron of ships was lying off Alexandria with steam always up. In Egypt a nationalist movement of revolt against European influence was being worked up by Arabi Pasha (an Egyptian officer) after the fashion of Nasser. Admiral Seymour, the commander of the fleet, learnt that the forts opposite them were being covertly strengthened and extensively armed. In the meantime rioting broke out in Alexandria and Europeans were attacked.

The Graphic newspaper for July 24th, 1882, published a supplement covering the Egyptian crisis. Of the Suez Canal it made the following remarks:
  “The safety of the Suez Canal was another source of anxiety. Alarming reports were circulated of 5,000 disaffected soldiers being on the watch, of Bedouins haunting the banks, and of explosives being stored in lsmailia. Many of the officials left, and the Egyptian Ministry were asked by M. de Lesseps to secure the protection of the traffic. Ragheb returned a vague reply, hardly calculated to allay the anxiety, which was heightened by the rumour that Arabi intended to blow up the Canal on the first sign of British hostile intentions.”
How familiar it all seems! British and foreign consuls warned their nationals to leave the country, and the authorities, one by one, removed their official property and staffs aboard ship. On the morning after the removal was completed Admiral Seymour sent an ultimatum to the Egyptian Ministry giving them twenty-four hours to surrender the forts for disarmament, under penalty of bombardment. Now let us quote the Graphic’s account of what happened:
  "The day passed without sign of submission, much to the evident satisfaction of the British officers and crews, and by 4 a.m. on the 11th inst., the order was given to prepare for action. Whilst the vessels took up their positions the men watched eagerly for signs of life in the forts, as they feared that the Egyptians would bolt without fighting, and on seeing the soldiers grouped in the defences,' a smile of grim satisfaction pervaded all faces.’ Hopes of the encounter were, however, damped by the appearance of the Felicon, bearing some Turkish officers, who announced that they had been rowing about all night to find the Admiral. They brought a Ministerial letter offering to dismount the Egyptian guns, but Admiral Seymour replied that the time for negotiations had passed, and gave the order to commence.”
The forts were subjected to an intense bombardment and in a few hours reduced to shapeless masses. A panic was produced in Alexandria, and the Egyptian army retreated after looting the shops.

The bombardment of Alexandria was followed by the subjugation of Egypt and the Sudan and the vision of territorial control right down to the Cape.

‘Contemporary Capitalism’ (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Contemporary Capitalism by John Strachey (Victor Gollancz Ltd).

Mr. Strachey has never lacked a cause or a pen to wield on its behalf. He has both a talent for remembering and reproducing what others have told him and later forgetting what it was really all about. In turn he has been a currency reformer, I.L.P.’er, a Left Book Club writer of fairy tales for political innocents about “the Socialist one-sixth of the world,” an alleged Marxist, a Keynes admirer, a Labourite, and Minister in two Labour Governments. Such has been the evolution from half-baked theorist to hard-boiled politician.

That such a varied diet of ill-digested theories has induced intellectual heartburn, explains the burping Marxism in his latest book, Contemporary Capitalism. Although Mr. Strachey has arrived at political respectability, he fashionably sowed his wild oats in Communist heresy, and he has skeletons in his cupboard. We find them grinning at us at times through his book, in the guise of Marxist revisionism. Like all revisionists, he comes not to revise Marxism, but to destroy it.

Mr. Strachey pays lip service to Socialism, but it has never meant for him anything else than the vague Labour notion of “the good society,” currently expressed in the utility utopia of “The Welfare State.” That Socialism is a working-class issue, embodying a different social and economic organisation with a different set of human values, is for Mr. Strachey the seventh veil of political mystery.

Actually his book on present day Capitalism is largely an echo of the past whose font was Edward Bernstein, one of the founding fathers of Reformism. His work, Evolutionary Socialism, is the watershed of Marxist Revisionism. Like Mr. Strachey, Bernstein “came to bury Marx, not to praise him.”

Briefly, Bernstein believed that the growth of the credit system and the rise of trusts and cartels would lead to the economic regulation and control of Capitalism. Not only would cut-throat rivalry and anarchy of production disappear, but alongside this the social democrats would seek to organise the working-class politically and transform the State in the direction of “true” democracy. Thus he maintained that democratic pressure and the exercise of ethical principles would gradually transform Capitalism into a humane and civilized society. The subsequent evolution of Capitalism shattered the facile and optimistic assumptions of Bernstein. Capitalism without tears was his version of Socialism. It is also Mr. Strachey’s.

Only on one issue do Mr. Strachey and Bernstein disagree. One of the main points of Bernstein’s revisionism was a denial of the validity of the “Law of the Concentration and Centralization of Capital.” Mr. Strachey not only accepts this “law,” but argues that it has effected what he terms “a social mutation.” The essence of this “mutation,” we are to understand, is that in an economy of large and few units a point is reached in the increased size and decreased number which allows the managers of the remaining units lo affect prices instead of being affected by them. (Page 26).

We are further told (Page 29) that “in any sphere of production where firms are large and few, they can by their power to affect prices, affect the level of their own profits.” Capitalism, argues Mr. Strachey, has lost its regulator, the impersonal force of the competitive market; it has been or is being replaced by the conscious decisions of groups of men who, by tacitly refraining from competitive pricing, may move prices within limits. We are not told what the ceiling of these limits is, but one gathers from Mr. Strachey that it can be pretty high.

Mr. Strachey’s conclusions seem to be then that throughout the large units of industry the margin between costs and selling price can by agreement among the various groups be so arranged as to realise a profit above the average or norm. It follows then that if the ability to affect prices so as to obtain an above the average profit, or what is known as maximum returns, characterises extant capitalist society, then maximum profit must constitute a profit norm.

But it is a Marxist axiom that the distribution of profits can of itself add nothing to the sum of values produced by the social labour force. Ruling out that the extra profit is a deduction from working-class wages, the extra profit of some concerns can only come out of the pockets of other concerns. There can be then no such thing as a prevailing law of maximum profit, for it is fairly evident that as the power to raise prices spread from point to point of the economy, what some capitalists gained on the “selling” swings they would lose on the “buying” roundabouts. The net result would tend towards an equalisation of profit, even though the price structure of the economy would be distorted.

It is true that firms do use monopolistic advantages to seek monopolistic gain. But if that be the measure of this “mutation,” then mercantilism was a greater mutation than present society. It is the nature of capitalists to seek maximum gain. Even in laissez-faire capitalism they sought maximum gain, through any device or resources which gave them superior competitive power. Because the accumulation of capital is the most compulsive feature of capitalist society at any time, capitalists will use all available means to produce and reproduce their capital. That monopolistic practises have become one of these means in their attempt to do so, is itself a normal and logical development in capitalist society.

There is a widespread belief among the uninformed, among whom Mr. Strachey must be counted, that the British Economy is in the iron grip of a relatively few powerful concerns. The belief does not tally with the facts. In the first place, big monopolies compete against each other. Also the power of these big monopolies acts as a restraint on any one of them seeking abnormal returns. And even if a monopoly does seek to obtain super-profit, it faces the danger of other giants entering the field. Even those concerns that are suppliers of particular products often meet with fierce competition from substitutes.

Again, powerful organisations of sellers bring into being powerful organisations of buyers, and strenuous price-haggling results. Not only do big buyers play one supplier off against another, but they are prepared to “roll their own” if the prices of supplies are too high.

It is true that big monopolies make big profits, but in relation to their huge capital turnover, their rate of profit may be no more, even less, than that of many smaller concerns.

Mr. Strachey, conscious perhaps of the weakness of his claims, drags his economic nets and brings in cartels to illustrate his social mutation. Indeed, they are the only attempt at evidence he offers. It is true that cartels flourished during the period between the wars, especially in certain important British industries. They were enabled to do so by the connivance of the Government of the time and by protection duties. These cartels did not exemplify Mr. Strachey’s “conscious regulating power of Capitalism,” but the desperate plight to which world conditions had reduced many sections of British industry.

Cartels, which Mr. Strachey makes his strong suit are the weakest form of monopolistic organization. Their chief function is to combat price-cutting in times of bad trade. Even so, there are always temptations for some firms to sell below the cartel price. Also price-cutting takes place in cartels by the granting of long-term credit facilities, quantity discounts, free delivery, etc.

Neither does it necessarily follow that restriction of output and price manipulation by cartels allow of extra profit because restriction of output can keep low-cost firms back and preserve high-cost ones. Thus the spread-over cost will be considerable and profit margins correspondingly reduced to approximately competitive levels. In times of good trade the rules of cartels will be much less stringent and in some cases ignored.

Mr. Strachey also includes in his mutation what is termed monopolistic competition. This is an alternative to price-cutting by the use of effective selling methods, although even then price-cutting takes place in the form of adding extras and variations to the product.

Monopolistic competition confers, however, no power on firms to affect their own profit levels. Huge staffs of salesmen, highly decorative labelling and packaging, the costly and constant advertising in press, radio and television, greatly enhance total costs and thus reduce profit margins. So far from monopolistic competition being some conscious form of regulating Capitalism, it only too clearly reveals what compulsions are attached to the realisation of surplus value and the vicious and antisocial channels they often take. To say that a variation of competition from the cut-throat to the monopolistic is a transformation of Capitalism is like saying; that if knuckle fighting is replaced by boxing gloves with horse shoes in them, fisticuffs will be mutated, although the participants will still be mutilated.

That Mr. Strachey should really think that changes in the realisation of profit constitute a transformation of Capitalism is enough to make the pages of Marx’s Capital curl up at their edges with laughter.

Capital is not, as Mr. Strachey seems to think, something which people are free to use as they choose. Capital is an historically conditioned form of wealth, expressed in the class ownership of society. And the motives and objectives of the owners of capital are prescribed for them by this form of control. That is why the basic law of Capitalism is the self-expansion of capital via the production and reproduction of surplus value. It is for that reason that the owners of capital today compete not only on a bigger scale, but with more ferocious intensity than did their 19th century counterparts. To preserve and reproduce capital to an ever greater degree has for its owners the same overriding compulsion it always had.

Mr. Strachey, like many Liberals, sees in State economic intervention stepping stones to Socialism. He is indifferent to the fact that the expansion of Capitalism necessitates State participation. He talks glibly of the State taking over key controls, but is careful not to suggest the old Labour nostrum of nationalisation as the universal remedy. Nor does he offer any evidence to show how State possession of key controls will alter or affect the primary objectives and aims of Capitalist society.

He is dazzled, or appears to be, by the attempts of social reformers to come to terms with the class conflicts engendered by Capitalism. He believes with Bernstein that State power can be shared between the classes with an ever greater degree of power going to the exploited class. It is this which gives him and others the illusion of great democratic victories. For Mr. Strachey the State is a means of class reconciliation and collusion where in reality its intervention—via social reforms—is an attempt to soften the tension of class conflict. That the dismal failure of Social Democracy to realise its own limited social ideals provides itself the key to the real nature of Capitalist society is a lesson not yet learned by Mr. Strachey.

For someone who once claimed to be a Marxist, even though a “Moscow one,” his efforts to see State activity and intervention as something socially new is laughable. In actual fact, State activity is socially old, and whatever class society one examines in the past, one will always discover the State functioning very actively and significantly to guarantee and further the interests of a particular set of property relations.

Mr. Strachey in his political adventures has certainly gone a long way but in the opposite direction to Socialism.

(Other aspects of Mr, Strachey’s book will be dealt with in a later article)
Ted Wilmott

Manifesto on the Suez Crisis (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The monster of war has raised its ugly head again, and once more the workers have been called upon to take up arms and risk their lives in their masters’ quarrels. Still erecting monuments to dead heroes of past wars the governments mock them by engaging in the preliminaries of what may be another shambles on behalf of capitalist self-interest.

The usual flimsy pretexts were broadcast to cover this most brutal and bloody of all the consequences of the present exploiting system. The victims of the past are forgotten in the fervour of conquest for gain.

The hypocritical blustering of the warmongers is matched by the feeble and contradictory protests of the alleged anti-war and peace committees, the reformists, and other deluded groups, all thrown into confusion when faced with this calamitous product of the workings of international Capital.

The invasion of Egypt
At the end of October the British and French Governments, on the hollow pretext of stopping the war resulting from the Israeli invasion of Egypt, launched a massive air attack on the latter country as a prelude to landing troops along the Suez Canal. The real objects of this aggression were transparently clear. It was designed to regain control of the Canal from the Egyptian Government, protect resources of oil and the holdings and profits of the oil companies in the Arab countries, as well as to safeguard the French Colonies in North Africa. It was a naked clash of capitalist interests; the Egyptian capitalists, backed by Russian arms, trying to establish their dominance in the Middle East, and the British and French imperialists trying to hold on to what they had filched in earlier wars.

The rival slogans of “national sovereignty,” “international rights,” “restoring peace,” etc., only thinly disguised the sordid motives of the different ruling class groups and, failing to get the backing of other governments in the United Nations, the British Tory and the French Labour Premier contemptuously defied the body to whose principles they pay lip-service.

Guilt of the Labourites
This act of aggression was repudiated as an outrage by the British Labour Party, their spokesmen uttering hysterical denunciations of “power politics “; making tearful pleas for the soldiers thrown into battle against their will; and pleading for the peaceful settlement of international conflicts. Their speeches reeked of hypocrisy! It was the Labour Government that imposed conscription for the Tories to make use of, and they who prepared the way by launching the £1,500 million a year rearmament programme, the biggest peacetime massing of weapons of destruction ever known in British history. The Labour Opposition who say that British soldiers should not be used in this war have supported every major war in the lifetime of their party, including the Korean War in which American Capitalism fought against Chinese and Russian State Capitalism for control of Korea, and where altogether over a million soldiers and civilians lost their lives.

Hypocritical Communists
The Communist Party vied with the Labour Party in condemning the invasion of Egypt while, at the same time, contorting themselves to condone and justify the bloody slaughter in Hungary where invading masses of Russian tanks shot down workers who were trying to improve their miserable conditions and get rid of the ruthless Russian domination. While Russia and the United States condemn Britain and France for invading Egypt, Britain and France condemn Russia for invading Hungary; could hypocrisy and cynicism go further?

Futility of the United Nations Organisation
The resolutions passed by the United Nations Organisation figure prominently in the battle of words about the invasion, and the Labour Party contrasts the Korean War, which they and the majority of the United Nations endorsed, with the present Anglo-French aggression, which is condemned. The contrast is completely misconceived as indeed is the whole propaganda which claims that the United Nations is an organ which can prevent war and therefore deserves working-class support.

War is caused by the commercial rivalries that are necessarily engendered by world Capitalism. Each country builds up armed forces to maintain its position in the capitalist world, and no group which believes it has a vital interest at stake will be deterred from using its armed forces by United Nations resolutions. In 1950, when South Korea was invaded, the American Government, believing its position in the Pacific to be jeopardised, at once moved its armed forces into action. The decision of U.N.O. to endorse military sanctions against the invaders was taken after the American Government had acted; had the vote gone the other way the U.S.A. would have fought the war just the same. Other examples are the Indian Government’s military occupation of Kashmir in spite of a U.N. decision that a plebiscite should be held to determine whether that territory should go to India or to Pakistan. Egypt likewise defied the U.N. vote about allowing Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.

The United Nations (like the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier) was set up because the politicians dared not face their war-weary peoples without being able to offer them something that would deceive them into thinking that their sacrifices had not been in vain. The United Nations is a capitalist institution useless to the working class.

The farcical nature of U.N.O. extends also to the British United Nations Association. The Association condemns the British Government’s action, but among the prominent men who are its Presidents and Vice-Presidents are Eden and other Tory leaders!

Capitalism the cause of war
Capitalism is an exploiting system under which the workers—the mass of the population—produce the goods that are sold to provide the profit out of which the owners of the means of production and distribution accumulate their riches. Profit, the surplus left over after the expenses of production and distribution have been met, is the mainspring of the system. In order to obtain this profit goods have to be sold at home and abroad. This necessitates markets, trade routes and sources of supply. It is over these that Capitalists quarrel and finally plunge into war. So it is today. The main source of the present crisis concerns oil—the lucrative “black gold” so urgently sought after, protected and fought over on the diplomatic field as well as on the battlefield.

International working-class unity
All this points to the necessity of international working-class action to abolish the cause of war. Unfortunately, the workers are still at loggerheads internationally and are a prey to all sorts of emotional upsurges that do not bring them any fundamental relief. They will only unite when they understand the cause of and remedy for war as well as for the other evils they suffer. Only when the workers do understand and unite against Capitalism in all the countries of the world for the purpose of achieving Socialism, the ownership in common of all that is in and on the earth, will war vanish from the human horizon.

True to the stand taken by our Party in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 we repeat from our 1914 War Manifesto words to guide working-class attitude to war and inspire action to achieve Socialism:

November 6th, 1956.

(The above manifesto was issued as a leaflet early in November)