Thursday, May 23, 2019

Party News Briefs (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow Branch at the start of the year found itself in serious difficulties in that it had lost, by transfer to Kelvingrove Branch, a proportion of its active members. The extent to which the branch faced up to the problem is evidenced by the increased general activity and the fact that 17 propaganda meetings were held in the quarter January-March. Included in this total are three addresses to other organisations and two debates, one with the 'Workers Open Forum' on a question of Parliament and the other with the 'Church of God ’ on the question 'Socialism or Religion?'

With this renewed extension of branch activities there is solid reason for taking a bright view of further development. Immediate plans include a literature sales drive and a rally to be held on May Day (May 7th) in the commodious and popular Cosmo Cinema.

A further attempt is being made to encourage the hitherto coy Labour and Tory M.P.s in the West of Scotland to debate with a representative of the S.P.G.B. Some years ago challenges were sent to every M.P. in Glasgow, and one Tory M.P. accepted. The “firebrands ” of yesteryear, the McGovern crew, lacked the grace to even acknowledge receipt of the challenge. This time the Glasgow Branch members hope to be luckier.

Leyton Branch is holding a MAY DAY rally at Coronation Gardens in Leyton High Road on May 1st at 7.30 p.m. The branch is operating a scheme to send the Socialist Standard together with a list of local activities, with details, to ex-members and everyone who may be interested. The interest of some old members has been rekindled and a number of other contacts have become interested. The branch is continuing its fortnightly lectures at the branch meeting place. During May they will be held on the 2nd and 4th Monday evenings.

West Ham Branch has appointed its own Parliamentary Committee. An attempt to build this committee on a ward basis was not encouraging. Now, four enthusiastic members form the committee and are getting everything set in preparation for the next election fight. In particular the committee is considering means of effecting economy of effort and finance in the next campaign. The regular meetings at the Cock Hotel commenced on Sunday, the 16th of April.

Our Summer School this year will be held at Tree Tops Holiday Camp as it was last year. The camp is to be booked for Saturday and Sunday, June 10th and 11th, and accommodation to be arranged for 75 students. The same sports and social facilities that were available last year will again be at the disposal of all visitors as well as the school lectures and discussions. It is proposed that one discussion shall be on the subject of methods of fighting elections. Full details of all arrangements will be announced in the next issue of the Socialist Standard. In the meantime, those who wish to be assured of accommodation at the school should contact the Central Organiser.

Head Office Library is in a state of flux. Old and less useful books are being eliminated and, as far as possible, are being replaced by new ones that are beneficial to borrowers. The Librarians are trying to duplicate or triplicate the books that are used at the Economics classes. The pamphlets department of the library is being enlarged. Members and friends who have spare copies or early Party pamphlets are urged to subscribe them to the library.

The Socialist Party of Ireland members who visited us during our Annual Conference period sold over 200 copies of their recently issued manifesto. Three of them spoke in Hyde Park on Sunday, April 9th, and a comrade from Cornwall spoke at Lincolns Inn Fields on Tuesday, April 11th. All of them acquitted themselves well and are congratulated by London members who listened to them.

Collections at our Conference amounted to £45 13s. 1d. First day collection was £11 10s. 6d., second day £5 18s. 6d., and third day £4 16s. 9d. The collection at the rally on Sunday, April 9th, was £23 7s. 4d. Details of income from catering, raffles and the Saturday evening social and dance are not yet available.

The Literature Committee reports an increase in the number of Socialist Standard subscribers following the inclusion of a subscription form in a recent issue of our paper.

A History of the S.P.G.B. and companion Parties has engaged the attention of the Executive Committee following a recommendation from Conference. An ex-member, now resident in South Africa, made the suggestion that such a history should be compiled and his letter was read to the delegates at the Conference. The Executive Committee considered that such a work would be extremely valuable but that it would require full time work by some comrade who was in a position to collect and collate all the material. As most of the members who are best situated to devote themselves to such work are already engaged to the full in Party work, and as the E.C. was unable to delegate the task to anyone, the matter is held in abeyance.

Ballot Papers for the annual election of our Party officers are to be printed. The Executive Committee has decided to implement the Conference recommendation to send out these ballot papers direct to every member from Head Office instead, as at present, sending them to branch secretaries. Each ballot paper will be accompanied by a pre-paid postage, addressed envelope for its return to the Ballot Committee at Head Office. This practice will operate next year commencing with the election of officers for 1951.

The Amendments to the Declaration of Principles proposed by the World Socialist Party of United States was duplicated and sent out to our members some time ago. Our companion Party in America was requested to send us a reasoned statement for the proposed change. This has been received and is also to be circulated to the membership of the S.P.G.B. The letter received from the W.S.P. of U.S. states that the proposed amendments have been rejected by the members of that party through a referendum, but as the matter is likely to be raised again it is considered advisable to keep all our members informed.

Our Dagenham and Romford branch was dissolved some months ago following the decline of the branch due to its members being dispersed around the country during the war years. Some of these members have now returned to the south Essex area and an attempt is to be made to re-form the branch. All such members and anyone else interested are requested to contact Comrade F. Johnson at “ EREHWON,” The Mount, Noak Hill, Essex, or Comrade W. Waters at Head Office.
W. Waters.

Misery From Surplus: Profit From Disaster (1950)

Editorial from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the end of the war a battle of words has been going on between those, like Lord Boyd Orr, who were alarmed about the danger of world starvation through growing population and low production of food and those who said that it was merely a short-term deficiency that would soon right itself. Among the optimists the lead was taken by the Express group of newspapers whose editors scoffed at the “prophets of disaster.” In this wordy warfare the early battles were won by Boyd Orr’s army and he succeeded in impressing his views on many Governments and international agencies but lately the tide has turned and the Express is now celebrating its victory. A Daily Express editorial (12th April, 1950) fires the following salvo at Boyd Orr: —
  “At this moment the United States Administration has 76,000,000 lb. of dried eggs in store and does not know what to do with them. It has 50,000,000 tons of potatoes. It is the embarrassed owner of a wheat surplus sufficient to bake 12 loaves for every man, woman, and child in the world. It has enormous surpluses of butter, prunes, dried milk, cheese, rice, and countless other articles of food. The American Government is at its wits' end to know what to do with those stocks of food—particularly the perishable varieties. Almost without noticing the transformation, the world has swung from the shortages of wartime to sufficiency—to abundance—to glut! How foolish the calamity howlers look in the new age of food plenty!”
The Express goes on to appeal to the Minister of Food to get rid of rationing, bulk purchasing “and every other barrier between the British housewife and the world of plenty.”

It all looks very simple and unanswerable but in fact both of these schools of thought are wrong, they both leave out of account the world of capitalism that we live in. As they see the problem the world sometimes has too much and sometimes too little, or there is too much in one part of the world and too little in another—a food surplus in America and starving millions in China; not to mention the harassed British housewife whose votes the Conservative Express wishes to win at the next election. The real barrier between people's needs and the things they want but can’t afford to buy is a class barrier. Neither in China nor anywhere else do the wealthy go without food or other things they want but in America itself, as another correspondent reports, “American housewives would take up the surplus at cheap prices. But sale to them below the current high price levels in banned. . . Millions of poor Americans are deprived of cheap food.” (People, 26th March, 1950). Thus correspondent reports the recent discovery of 100 children who were starving in Arizona; “The cold weather had thrown their fruit-picking parents into the ranks of America’s 4,684,000 unemployed.”

The crazy situation is one of those necessary results of capitalism. Food stuffs and all other articles are produced for sale in order to make profit, not with human needs in mind. If there is more produced than can be sold at profitable prices to those who have the money to buy, then prices fall and production is curtailed. In the crisis of the nineteen thirties we were told that the unemployment of industrial workers was due to the low world prices of food; the farmers were facing bankruptcy and could not buy industrial products. Then in the years immediately after the second world war we were told that the austerities imposed on British and other industrial workers were due to the excessive world prices of foodstuffs due to scarcity. The high prices encouraged more food production and now we are facing another glut which will again hit food producers. It was to ward this off that the American Government introduced the policy of paying high prices to American farmers and of putting their produce into store, with, as a result, the Gilbertian situation that has now arisen. The Manchester Guardian (14th April, 1950) has the following comment on it.
  “Nature is after all turning out not too unkind to the United States Government. The problem is the surplus of crops such as wheat, which under the price- support programme the Government has been having in effect to buy from the American farmers in order to build up stocks that cannot be sold. To prevent its financial commitments from growing still heavier the Government a few months ago got the farmers to agree to sow 15 per cent less winter wheat than they did the year before. But then the weather proved exceptionally good; it seemed likely that after all the crop from the reduced planting would be almost as high as last year’s. Lately, however, dry weather, dust storms, and insect damage in the south and centre of the Great Plains have come to the rescue. This month’s official crop report estimates that the harvest will after all be 15 per cent smaller than last year’s. The issue is still, of course, in doubt. A wickedly smiling Nature in the next few months may force the estimates up again; on the other hand, the insects and the rest may remain obliging.”
One of America’s problems is too many potatoes. The Government pays the farmer the guaranteed price for his potato crop on the farm, then the farmer pays a trifling price to the Government and buys them back again, but only on condition that he does not sell them in the market but uses them as animal feeding stuff. He can if he likes let them rot. Some potatoes are painted with blue dye so that they cannot illicitly be sold to the public for human consumption.

The truth is that capitalism can produce a surplus in terms of the market, the final result of which will be a cutting down of production, but it never has produced enough of all the things human beings need to satisfy their requirements.

The powers of production reached under capitalism could, if fully used and if devoted to human needs instead of being largely wasted on armaments, etc., satisfy all the requirements of the human race. But to allow them to be so used would wreck the complex and delicate marketing and profit-making organisation of the capitalist system.

The Shape of Things to Come (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

An American invention, “Maddida,” the mechanical foreman, may open the way to robot factories, producing goods without human help, according to its inventor.

Maddida—its name is short for “magnetic drum digital differential analyses”—is a computing device which can take information from other machines, interpret it, and run the machines, says Reuter from New Brunswick.

Mr. Heyd Steele, 31-year-old physicist, who showed the machine at Rutgers University, said Maddida could do the work of a full aircraft crew, and handle 4,500 additions to eight-place decimals per second, working to an accuracy of one part in a million.

Maddida is the size of a pin-table. If the foreman should go wrong, a robot “doctor,” also shown at Rutgers, can diagnose the trouble. The above was a news item in South Wales Evening Post (29.3.50).

This news should be most encouraging for the unemployed, for would-be foremen, and other aspirants for promotion.

However, under a condition of Socialism such inventions will be welcomed.

Then each labour-saving device will mean more leisure for the community, and not, as now, longer dole queues, or other pleasantries of Capitalism.
P. J. Mellor.

To the Electors of East Ham (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the recent election campaign many workers who attended our meetings in the East Ham South constituency passed such remarks as “The case put by the S.P.G.B. is sound, BUT . . .” or “I would support you IF . . . .” Such statements imply a recognition that Socialism, offers the only remedy to present-day social evils together with a vague doubt as to how or when it can be established. The IFs and BUTs show that the full significance of the Socialist alternative, the means by which it will be achieved and its place in the process of social evolution has not been completely grasped. The West Ham Branch wants to clear away all doubts, its wants to prove our case to the hilt. So it offers the facilities of its meetings to all workers in the area to help them clear away the cobwebs from their political thinking. Branch meetings are held at the Salisbury Road Schools (behind the “Earl of Essex” at Manor Park) every Thursday evening at 8 o’clock. A discussion follows every business meeting and special meetings of an educational nature are being arranged. All East and West Ham workers who attend will receive a warm welcome and will have all their questions answered in a comradely atmosphere. Don’t wait until the next election to get the “low down” on the many political sharks who will then be seeking their prey and cadging your vote. Get them in line and learn how you can take your place in the struggle to end wars, the wages system, class society and all the consequences that you abhor.

Annual Conference (1950)

Party News from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

What a difference our conferences are from those of other organisations. Our conferences are the means by which the membership exercises democratic control over the Party. All delegates come with the instructions of their branches. These they have to obey whether they agree with them or not. Now look, for example, at a Trade Union conference. This is opened with a flourish by the Presidential address. In this address the struggle of the workers on the industrial field is generally secondary. Rather the President deals with Government policy in foreign affairs, or, as in more recent times, gives support to such anti-working class measures as wage-freezing. The conference is then studded with speeches by the “stars” and the ordinary delegates find it difficult to get a word in. Our conferences belong to the Party and the Party runs them. They provide a vivid example of democracy in action.

A very wide range of subjects was covered by our conference this year. Literature, Party funds, propaganda and electoral action were among subjects that received careful consideration. The Party literature was discussed at length, the present literature being critically examined and also receiving support. Finally the conference recommended to the Executive Committee that they should explore the possibilities of. publishing a weekly paper.

On electoral action the conference expressed its wholehearted support of this form of activity. The delegates were obviously undeterred by the small number of votes received at the last election, not expecting larger votes at the present stage of working-class development They recommended to the Executive Committee that, providing the next General Election did not take place until May, we should place at least two candidates in the field.

Another item of interest was the question of Head Office premises. It appears that our present tenancy of our Head Office premises is somewhat insecure. A member of the Premises Committee suggested that we should consider purchasing premises, and, while no action was taken on this, it will undoubtedly engage the attention of the Executive Committee.

During the conference greetings were given by Comrades A. Fahy and M. Cullen of Dublin and J. Kane of Belfast from that most recent member of the Socialist world family. The Socialist Party of Ireland. Greetings messages were also read from South Africa. New Zealand, and Austria, the message from Austria being particularly encouraging, telling as it did of the activities of a group there.

On the Saturday evening members and sympathisers unbent in a dance and re-union. After this, no one could say that Socialists are always severe, stiff-lipped revolutionaries. We do sometimes let our hair down.

On the Sunday evening the conference was concluded by a rally in the Conway Hall. There was a large audience who listened attentively to J. Kane, J. Higgins, C. Groves and H. Young. Kane dealt with the struggle in Ireland, Higgins with some aspects of our Party history. Groves with high lights of the conference and Young talked about Socialism and Science.

We had a very good conference and we come back into the struggle with renewed vigour, determined to put an end to the vile system we live under now, and establish a world in which men can live as men and not as lower forms of animals. 
Clifford Groves.

Puzzle Corner (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you do not know who spoke the following words of wisdom you will find the names below. Remember them when these people or others of their kind make you promises in order to enlist your support

(1) “Capitalism is now, we are told, well on the road to permanent recovery; all talk of breakdown, of impending wars and revolutions is now happily out of date; an epoch of peace and plenty is opening out before us. What are we to say to scientists who give way to such 'wishful thinking’? A dozen times now the cycle of boom, crisis, depression, recovery, boom, crisis has gone through its phases, and as each crisis has passed into depression, and then as symptoms of recovery have appeared to lighten the depression, the shallower prophets of capitalism have told us at length, but now for ever, all was well. Do they still believe it? Certainly we cannot.
  “Unfortunately, however, as we have seen, whatever else may happen upon this uncertain planet, the establishment of a planned stable and high-wage-paying Capitalism is impossible.

(2) “It is impossible for the capitalist system to give to the workers the rewards that are promised under a policy of social reform. It is impossible . . .  to carry out a policy of getting as much as we can out of Capitalism, it will lead to a fresh crisis in Capitalism as arose in 1931, and we shall find that the force of economic power still residing in the hands of the capitalists will again be called in to defeat the workers' Government.”

(3) “Unlike the investors of capital, the investors of labour cannot cash in on any accumulation of wealth they have helped to create'.
   “It is doubtful if this injustice will be remedied within a capitalist structure."
W. Waters.

Puzzle Corner Answers.
(1) Mr. John Strachey, M.P., Minister for War in the present Government, in his book “The Nature of Capitalist Crisis,” pages 19 and 354.
(2) Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at the Labour Party Conference at Southport in 1934 (page 159 of the conference report).
(3) Mr. Arthur Deakin, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, writing in “Tribune,” May 14th, 1943.

An Inspector Calls (1950)

J. B. Priestley
From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently the B.B.C. broadcast a play by J. B. Priestley entitled “An Inspector Calls.” It concerned an influential capitalist and his family who are visited by a police inspector, who is enquiring into the tragic suicide of a young girl.

It would appear that all the members of the family had at one time or another known this girl, and, it became apparent as the inspector questioned them, that each one had in some way contributed to the circumstances that led to her miserable end.

The capitalist had employed her in his works but had dismissal her for her part in a wage strike. His daughter had been responsible for her dismissal from her next job in a gown shop, and his son had discovered her on the streets where poverty had driven her, and left her pregnant and destitute. Finally the wretched girl turned in desperation to the local charitable institution for fallen women. But alas! even this miserable crumb was refused her, largely due to the vindictive and respectable spouse of the capitalist, who happened to be a prominent and influential member of the committee.

The police inspector then reveals himself as a moralist in disguise and proceeds to denounce this family, who, hidden under a veil of respectability, were capable of so shamefully treating a fellow human being. This attitude, the bogus inspector claims, will bring dire and terrible results to society unless people do not quickly have a change of heart. If only the wicked capitalist had not victimised the wretched girl for striking for more money, if only the young man had contained his sensual desires, if only people would stop persecuting others and learn to live harmoniously, man helping man instead of kicking each other in the posterior on every available opportunity—and so on, the world would be a better place. This is the gist of the moralist's attitude towards human behaviour, assuming all the time that it is man and not society which decides his relationship with his fellows. The Socialist recognises that man’s relations to man are dependent on very material conditions. In other words, our behaviour, our morals, even the way in which we amuse ourselves, can be related to the method which society employs at the present time to produce and distribute the things we need.

Man is not born with an inherent instinct to perform all the most insidious and diabolical cruelties to his fellow creatures. The capitalist does not oppose workers’ demands for higher wages and better conditions because of a desire to see millions of people squirm in poverty, filth and degradation. His economic position dictates his policy and if he ignored the rules he would soon find himself ousted from the markets by more astute members of his class, and possibly flung into the exploited class himself.

It is the capitalist system with all its ridiculous contradictions and anomalies that puts class against class, race against race and nation against nation. It is the capitalist system that twists and perverts people’s sense of values so that they are shocked and disgusted at an unmarried mother but accept and condone the mass murder and butchering of millions of helpless people.

You do not need to delve into the mysterious labyrinth of the human mind to discover the reason for man’s inhumanity to man. The fault lies not in man but in man’s inability at the moment to understand and grapple with the economic machine which dominates his whole outlook and relationship with his fellow beings. Once man has discovered the real cause of his problems, there is no power on earth that can stop him sweeping away capitalism and introducing a new form of society based upon different economic laws.

This will not only abolish man’s persecution of man but also the economic problems of war, insecurity and want. These things are the root of all the mental phenomena and disarrangements which our psychologists and moralists would have us believe can be cured and finally abolished if only we could learn to control ourselves a little better.
G. L.

That's Different (1950)

A Classic Reprint from the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

A man with an ax flew by Socrates, chasing another man :

“Stop him! Stop him!” cried he of the weapon. “He’s a murderer!”

But the old sage wasn’t taking any chances, and jogged along imperturbably.

“You fool!” quoth he of the ax. “Why didn’t you stop him? He’s a murderer, I tell you!”

“A murderer! What’s a murderer?”

“ Fool! One that kills, of course.”

“Ah! a butcher.”

No, idiot! That’s different. One that kills a man.”

“ Oh! Ah, a soldier.”

No! No! That’s different altogether. One that kills a man in times of peace!”

“A hangman!”

No! No! No! That’s different. One that kills a man in his house!”

“ A doctor, then!”

No! No! No! No! No! That’s different”

Running along after him (2,000 years after) comes another man with flaming eyes : “Stop him! Stop him!” he cries, pointing to something he sees, or thinks he sees, ahead of him. “Stop him! He’s a Socialist!”

“A Socialist! What’s a Socialist?”

“Why a believer in state industries, of course.”

“ Oh. I see? The railways, post offices, customs, drains, and all that.”

“No, that’s different! I mean competing against private enterprise.”

Oh! schools, universities, and the like.”

“No! No! That’s different. I mean state trading. The fellows that expect everything done for them by the state! A loafer that wants to share the earnings of the industrious workers!”

Ah! Ah! A nobleman who has inherited land.” 

“No! No! That’s different. I mean—.”
Sydney Bulletin
(The above is reprinted from the Socialist Standard, September, 1909).

While Capitalism Lasts (1950)

From the May 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the socialist worker asserted that the condition of the working class in capitalist society grows steadily worse, his work-mates just can't make it out. They compare certain aspects of their way of living with those of their fathers or to their earlier days and disagree. The socialist explains that the difference between the conditions and ways of living in the past and those at present make it very difficult to draw any comparison. It is a very controversial question, whether it is preferable to listen to “Wilfred Pickles" and “Ignorance is Bliss” whilst living under the constant threat of the H-bomb or to be without the radio and occasionally hear the distant rumble of cannon; to succumb to some illness because there are no such things as M. and B. tablets or to live to be shrivelled up by an intense heat many times greater than that existing in the centre of the sun. The Socialist viewpoint is that the only way to estimate the progress made by the working class in society is in relation to the wealth they produce, or in relation to the wealth they could produce with the existing productive forces. From this aspect, what they receive in relation to what they produce, the standard of life they have compared with what they could have, the working class are worse off than they ever were. When workmates hear this they say, “Well, I suppose, looking at it that way, you’re right, but things are a bit better.”

They can't have their cake and eat it. Two Labour weeklies, the “Tribune” of March 5th, and the “Forward” of March 11th, quoted Mr. John Kenney, Chief of E.C A. Mission to Britain, in his report to U.S. Congress as a tribute to the Labour Government’s achievements:—
  “The voluntary policy of restraint in seeking wage increases followed by the Trade Union Congress has resulted in wage increases of slightly over 1 per cent, during 1949, even in the face of a higher cost of living caused by devaluation and a 5 per cent. increase in industrial productivity.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)
An achievement in the interests of the capitalist class, but, for the working class, a smaller share of the wealth, in relation to what they produce.

And just to make doubly sure that there is no doubt to which camp the Labour Government belongs, the further statements from the report are helpful: —
  “About 20 per cent. of her total resources available in the present fiscal year is being devoted to capital formation.
  “By greatly increasing her total production and by diverting an unusually large part of it into investment, Britain, with foreign assistance, has been making good these war-time losses, and is now approaching the pre-war level of capital. This programme of capital formation is a real stride towards economic recovery.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)
Capital is wealth used to extract profit. Profit arises from the difference between what the workers produce and what they receive, in other words from the exploitation, the robbery, of the working class. So more capital formation means more working-class exploitation.

Do the parties of Capitalism offer any change to this continuing deterioration of the position of the working class in society? In their election manifesto both Tory and Labour pledged themselves to increase production and lower costs. Labour maintains this can be done better by nationalisation and controls. The Tories claim that free enterprise and a minimum of State interference is the better method.

For the working class, increased production means working harder, and lower costs means less wages, at least less wages in relation to what they produce. While Capitalism lasts these conditions will remain. The only alternative is to study socialist propaganda and equip yourselves with the knowledge necessary to abolish Capitalism and establish Socialism.
Jim Thorburn

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Fat of the Land (1975)

From the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Even a newspaper like The Sun should be asked to explain itself at times. On 22nd November its editorial said: “Britain’s future is bleak, sombre and perilous . . . the British are fat, lazy, complacent — and deeply in debt”.

Who are “Britain” and “the British” in this statement? Clearly, The Sun does not mean everyone. Harold Wilson and Edward Heath are both fat, but they are not deeply in debt with bleak futures. Denis Healey is fat. So is Reginald Maudling. The Houses of Parliament are full of fat people, and they are only outweighed by the Institute of Directors. Nobody supposes, however, that these are the target of The Sun's unkind words and its sombre warning.

What it means is the working class, and it’s a funny thing how the idea of a working man being fat is equated with national disaster. In the late nineteen-fifties a report that 5 per cent, of working-class children were obese was greeted in much the same way as Noah received the forecast of rain. The proper, acceptable proletarian physique is thin as a whippet, with only muscular development in the working parts. Anything above that is degeneracy, and doom to the rate of surplus-value. Haven't you ever wondered why they put weighing-machines in public places everywhere ?

The Sun was in fact commenting on, and supporting, a report on “Britain’s plight” by the Hudson Institute of America: experts say poverty is on the way. On the same page, pronouncements to the same effect by James Callaghan, the Labour Foreign Secretary, were reported :
Britain is teetering on the edge of a plunge into poverty . . . Mr. Callaghan said: “I hope we are touching bottom. I hope we don’t go further down—but the indications are not good.”
On 5th December similar forecasts and warnings were given in a review by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. According to this, in 1975 prices will rise still higher and unemployment will grow. Both teams of “experts” had plans to urge. The National Institute thought import controls would prove necessary; the Hudson Institute would remedy things by “a new national six-year economic policy” run by “Britain’s best economists and administrators”.

The latter scheme is presumably to ensure that, whatever happens, the fat and the thin remain distinguishable. How little use it would be otherwise is shown by one of The Sun's remarks:
Leadership—or lack of it—is one element, of course. We are all of us unfortunate to live in an age of political pygmies.
But perhaps we are already beyond the stage where we could be rescued by inspired leadership.
Which is saying that things have come to a crisis under unimpressive dolts, but would be no better under geniuses.

The fallacy of all this is treating the impending crisis as an abnormality. Words like “doomsday”, “peril”, “saving Britain” and “the Dunkirk spirit” imply it to be a millennial catastrophe; but that is only a way of calling for more sacrifices from the workers. The reality is that the crisis is a normal phenomenon of capitalism.

It has nothing specially to do with Britain, with policies adopted by governments in this country or the attitudes of trade unions. It is in fact world-wide. Other countries have trade crises and large-scale unemployment (how does the Hudson Institute, which attributed Britain’s problems to the “lazy, complacent” population, explain the depression in America ?).

What is most normal of all is working-class poverty. Callaghan’s talk of a “plunge” into poverty is, for the majority of the population, like warning someone standing on a cigarette paper that he’ll fall. What kind of “plunge” for the homeless? or the pensioners, the unemployed, the low'-paid who cannot afford to buy newspapers? It recalls the Liberal speaker in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists frightening his hearers — “men wearing broken boots” and “toil-worn women” — about the “Black Ruin” of Socialism, and the author’s comment:
It never occurred to any of these poor people that they were in a condition of Ruin, Black Ruin already.
Because of the perennial cry that “we” must wake up and (vide The Sun) “fight to make it all right”, it is useful to bear in mind that British industry was highly prosperous when that episode was written.

The 1975 outlook for the working class is bleak and sombre; not for the reasons given by the “experts” (whose predictions are only guesses), but as the perpetual situation under capitalism. It is worth pointing out that in the post-war years Socialists have been told repeatedly that capitalism has changed or is under control, and a major slump could not happen again. Will you believe us now, please ?

One other statement made by The Sun needs explaining. It said:
For too long we have deluded ourselves into thinking that "redistribution” of wealth—i.e. soaking the rich— was the answer to our problems.
The “delusion” has been spread by the reformists of the Labour Party, which The Sun supports. The “plain fact” that insufficient wealth is produced is the consequence of capitalism, which Labour and The Sun support. Socialists have for over seventy years exposed these phoney remedies and pointed to the only solution to the problems.

The plain fact is that there simply isn’t enough wealth to redistribute.
Robert Barltrop

Our cover illustration is of the successful Socialist Party meeting held in Trafalgar Square in September. With acknowledgements Suomen Kuvalehti, Helsinki.

A New Year Message (1975)

From the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

I had thought of writing up Mrs. Margaret Thatcher and her hoard of processed peas and baked beans. But does she warrant room in our journal for what after all is only a “shadow”? Anyway, by the time this is in print it will be 1975. A New Year and the beginning of the fourth quarter of the twentieth Century.

Doubtless Old Moore’s Almanac will map out the year ahead. “Trouble for a Royal Family; the death of a prominent Statesman; floods; dissent in the Labour and Tory Parties.” Events that repeat themselves year after year, and apart from the first and the last, there’s not much you can do about it.

We can prophesy that despite the claims of Wilson’s government to be building a “Socialist society”, Capitalism will continue through 1975, and for ever and a day, unless you are prepared to do something about it.

It is a constant source of amazement to us that you are content to put up with a world of stark contradictions. Don’t you think it just a trifle odd (to put it mildly and not rouse your hackles) that you spend your life either working or worrying about a job, and then at the end of it all, you’ve nothing to show? Don’t you think it a little crazy (mutterings: “these Socialists are a funny lot”) that everything carried on in this world of capitalism is first of all subjected to a financial yardstick? Don’t you think it just bloody stupid (“I know these Socialists are prejudiced”) that people should starve in the midst of potential abundance?

Socialists claim that capitalism has gone on for far too long. And only because you are willing to support it, and help it along. You read the papers; listen to the radio and watch the box like us. Frankly, what is your reaction when you listen to all that old chat about recessions, inflation, deflation, Common Market etc? Don’t you feel like putting your foot through the screen and saying to “hell with it all”? This at least would be a, healthy, if expensive reaction, but it doesn’t go far enough.

We want a different type of world — a new way of life. We think this earth and its riches should be at the disposal of the whole of mankind. That it should be used to meet our needs and not wasted on a market economy. A way of life based upon co-operation for the common good.

But we can’t get it without your assistance. After all, you will be running the world of Socialism, so you’ve got to know something about it and what is involved. You’ll need to take an intelligent and active interest in politics before you take the eventual plunge to strip the capitalists of their ownership and herald a new society.

In short, it’s well past time that you cast aside your political blinkers and joined up with the SPGB in the only worth-while task. We can promise you hard work; a fulfilment not to be equalled, and the comradeship of a group of men and women who put principles before expediency.

During the next week or two, many people will wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. They do it out of habit. They and you know that 1975 will be much like 1974 — if anything more harrowing. We can do nothing about your prosperity but we can offer you a Happy New Year in the ranks of the SPGB helping to make known the Socialist idea.

Of Mrs. Thatcher, I feel she has possibly lost her chance of leadership of the Tories for a mass of tinned foods. But then, she’s only a grocer’s daughter in a pretty hat.
Cyril May

In The Year ?? (1975)

From the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
The old man said, if he knew then
What he now had known
Sooner, would he have helped the seeds of socialism to be grown
He regretted being foggy minded
Being ignorant, being blinded
All that he’d been told about man's nature, about mans greed
Now he knew, it was only man’s behaviour indeed
It was only capitalism that had stopped him thinking
Stopped him reasoning, stopped him becoming a human being 
We listened in awe to his stories
None of them were fiction !
Of days when the world was full of contradiction
Of love and destruction
Of society and loneliness
Of plenty and destitution
He told of the few that advocated socialism
And their task of breaking out of a prism
That held ignorance, fear and superstition
A fuller, better life they said could be
Now it’s fact ! it’s true !
And we can vouch for that
Us children sitting on this comfortable mat
Our heads are not filled with crazy notions No forces at work to sway our emotions
Intelligence and co-operation is what we use
We come and go, we are free, you see ! 
I ask you now, who will you be
The old man ? though happy now but full of regret
Much sooner, his freedom was his to get
Or us children with lots of life ahead
No chains of slavery, all work and bed.
David Wright

50 Years Ago: Wise Martians? (1975)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some few months back our astronomers directed their telescopes upon our beautiful celestial neighbour — the planet Mars. Several claimed to have discovered overwhelming proof of the existence thereon of sentient beings. Their difficulties were recognised even at a distance of hundreds of millions of miles, and they had overcome them in a highly ingenious way . . .
But one significant thing seemed to escape the reflections of our astronomers. All their observations implied that the Martians viewed their planet as a coherent whole, a common possession. None was guilty of the lunacy of suggesting that the Martians were divided into separate jealous, warring gangs, each gang sub-divided into toilers and parasites. It is not impossible, of course, but all our scientists’ suggestions tacitly recognised that works of such magnitude, directed to a common end, would naturally be the work of beings who had risen superior to the stupid divisions with which we are familiar. Then let us take a celestial leaf from their (possibly non-existent) book, and view our earth as a common heritage. Let all take part in the winning of wealth from Mother Nature’s storehouse. Then let all share in the result of a co-operative mutual effort. Let us banish slavery, poverty, ignorance and wretchedness to the limbo of forgotten things. You have nothing to lose but your chains: you have a world to win.
(From an article A Happy New Year by W. T. Hopley. Socialist Standard, January 1925.)

Letters: The Middle Class (1975)

Letters to the Editors from the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Middle Class

Although when the SPGB refers to the working class it means all people who receive a wage or salary in return for their labour-power, most people still think in terms of the “working class” to mean industrial blue-collar workers and the “middle class” to mean white-collar workers.

These two “classes” appear to represent two different outlooks on life or two different ideologies, e.g. attitudes towards thrift, private education, health and morality. These different attitudes appear to be represented by the Labour and Conservative Parties and appear to be incompatible. As capitalism’s problems become more intense the confrontation between the two sets of ideas and therefore the two “classes” will also become more intense. This is what most people think of when they hear the term the class struggle or class war.

What is the SPGB attitude to the above and how does it argue to convince the two “classes” that they share the same enemy? Since I assume you believe that Socialism can only come about when the majority of both “classes” and not just one understand and want it.
David Bird

Though, as you say, large numbers of people believe there is a “middle class” and they are in it, it has never been defined successfully. It is not necessarily white-collar occupations: income, education and an assortment of traditions add to the confusion.

We do not agree that “middle class” equals Tory and manual-worker equals Labour. Certainly some industrial areas, such as South Wales and Lancashire, have strong pro-Labour majorities and some allegedly “select” areas nearly always elect Conservatives. But the opposite is also true. Some of the most dependably Conservative areas are rural districts with a lot of poverty-stricken farm workers, while “quality” papers for the “middle class” frequently favour Labour (e.g. the New Statesman, and see “The Observer Guide to Voters” in our last issue).

You ask how we can convince them that they are all one working class. We go on expounding the working-class position, of course—but capitalism is unable to avoid making the exposure, in any case. There are large sections such as teachers and civil servants who not many years ago would have thought trade-unionism and strikes beneath them. Eventually they have had to act as, and line up with, engineers, building workmen and the rest; and begun to discover that they are not different after all. Editors.


While offering my congratulations for the extremely interesting special issue of the Standard on China, I’d like to make a few points to supplement what is said in some of the articles.

To deal with the first article first. I believe the present Chinese view is that the “socialist revolution” began straight away in 1949; I think the Chinese have changed their minds on this matter, since they used to claim, as the article states, that only in the mid-fifties did the changeover to “socialism” begin. To be pedantic for a moment, concerning the name of the Chinese party: the Chinese language only permits a word order equivalent to the “Chinese Communist Party”, but not “Communist Party of China”. This article gives a very useful account of Party control mechanisms, but I feel that it would also have been pertinent to give an analysis of who the “privileged” are: it’s not sufficient to equate them simply with “the Party”, since many lower-level Party members are just dogsbodies.

I’d agree with the article on Chinese history that far more research is needed before drawing conclusions. In the meantime, here are a couple of considerations: firstly, I think there’s plenty of evidence to show that in Imperial China it was not the state that built or managed public works (including irrigation works); rather it was the “local élite” or “gentry” (call them what you will) who stepped into the power vacuum that existed between the all-but powerless village headmen and the local magistrate. It’s easy to overlook how small the local bureaucracy was in comparison to China’s size; each magistrate had to administer such a large area that he couldn’t possibly be responsible for much of what went on in it. Secondly, it’s just not true that “manufacture and trade belonged to only three or four well-populated areas”, unless the qualification “large-scale” be added. Probably every village had its own market town within walking distance, where the peasants would go to transact business with itinerant tradesmen. It’s been suggested that marketing systems played a a vital rôle in China’s rural social structure, and that to a large extent the marketing area defined the peasant’s social horizon.
Paul Bennett,
London E.2.

Concerning the name of the CCP, we think you miss the point. It is not the possibilities of Chinese syntax, but the reason why whatever it is is universally translated into other languages as Chinese Communist Party instead of Communist Party of China. Editors.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Thoughts of two M. A.s (1975)

From the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

For anyone who wants to see anti-working-class propaganda at its crudest, we recommend the press statement issued on 9th December by the “National Campaign for Discipline in Schools”; providing it is held at arm’s length with a clothes-peg over the nose.

The signatories, and apparently the Campaign’s only members at that date, are “Revd. Valentine Fletcher, M.A. (Oxon)” and “Fred Naylor, M.A., M.Sc. (Cantab)”. They begin by referring to violence, vandalism and bullying in schools and profess to want “to help individual parents and to rally support for heads of schools and their staffs”; but their real motives emerge after that. They are concerned with
  The perilous state in which the nation finds itself, and a realisation that the problems in our schools are those of society as a whole.
They name three causes of the “perilous state”: progressive education, sentimental egalitarianism, and Marxism. The last is written-about incomprehensibly but with repeated allusions to a conspiracy to destroy. “Sentimental egalitarianism” means rejecting the “natural inequalities among individuals”, and deeming “all opinions and all values . . . of equal worth” as against “a hierarchy of values—than which there is no greater anathema for the egalitarian”. And they end:
  The problem of authority in the schools is clearly related to that of authority in other areas of society, especially in industry and within the trade unions.
What there is nothing about, in some 2,500 words purporting to deal with schools, is education. Nor is there anything to explain what the authors have in mind as “discipline”. If they argued that daily whackings produce better arithmetic, their intentions would at least be clearly stated.

But their Campaign is not of that nature at all. Though the weak ploy is to enlist people’s concern about bear-gardens in schools, they are appealing to others like themselves who would like to see “equalitarianism” and dissent squashed and blind obedience enforced—in society as a whole.
  The Campaign believes that all who stand for law and order, and the progressive betterment of society by democratic means should join it in restoring sanity to education and halting the rapid movement towards the breakdown of society.
Translated from the oily, equivocal language of university theses (“custodianship of a transmissible set of moral values”) that means: Put the lower orders in their place. In due course, the lower orders will have news for Messrs. Fletcher and Naylor. In the meantime, anyone who sees or hears of this document can perform a useful service by exposing what it is all about.
Robert Barltrop