Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Truth About the Popular Front (1936)

Editorial from the September 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amidst the heated argument for and against the formation of a "Popular Front" of Liberals, Labour Party and Communists in Great Britain, one very significant aspect has been entirely overlooked. Having their eyes fixed on the question which appears to them to be so important at the moment, the advocates of uniting the parties on a strictly limited programme of popular demands have not noticed that their action is a tardy admission of a fundamental mistake made by the British and Continental workers 30 or 40 years ago. At that date, more especially in Great Britain, the workers were faced with two great capitalist parties, the Tories and the Liberals. Because the latter represented very largely the interests of industrial capitalists, they had stood traditionally for democratic government against the earlier undemocratic rule of landed property and the small number of ruling class families. With the extension of the franchise to the workers, both Liberals and Tories had to busy themselves with questions of social reform. Nevertheless it was the Liberals who were associated, more or less justifiably, with the two ideas of democracy and social reform, and for many years before (and even after) the formation of the I.L.P. and Labour Party the notion persisted that the workers must look to Liberal governments for the defence of democracy and the extension of reform legislation. Mr. Lloyd George’s campaigns for political and social reforms in the years before the War were a case in point.

Needless to say, the results were disappointing for the workers. Capitalism cannot be made to work satisfactorily from the point of view of the exploited class. It was therefore inevitable that more and more workers should turn their attention to other methods of securing working class emancipation or at least relief from the worst evils of capitalism. It was here that a disastrous mistake was made. What was the need of the times? Two answers were given to that question. The Labour leaders said, “ Form a new party of democracy and social reform," which meant in effect forming a new Liberal Party. The S.P.G.B. pointed this out and warned against it. We said—and who will dispute it now?—that unless the new party was to be a Socialist party, composed of Socialists and fighting for Socialism, the workers might just as well go on as they were. Why spend a lifetime breaking up one Liberal Party only to form another ?

Events have proved us right, but they have done something more. Without realising it, the advocates of the Popular Front are trying to undo their own handiwork. They are trying to reconstitute a great mass party, able to win a majority at an election, and based on the two pillars of democracy and social reform! They are trying to reconstitute the great Liberal Party which they smashed to form the Labour Party.

Their argument is a plausible one. “Things are bad for the workers economically," they say, “and democracy is in great peril. Let us then unite to save the latter and introduce social reforms to relieve the former." But who put democracy in danger? In recent years it has been the Communists above all others, yet they are now most vociferous in demanding a United Front to save it. It was the Russian Communists who set the modern fashion of seizing power and installing a dictatorship. It is undisputed that Mussolini, and after him Hitler, learned much from Lenin in the technique of seizing power and holding it by force, supported by mass propaganda and political suppression.

It was the Communists who, year in and year out, derided democratic Government, poured scorn on Parliament and the whole parliamentary system, preached Minority revolt and civil war, and in every way idealised the method of violence. Everywhere that their propaganda penetrated they left a trail of hostility to parliamentary methods and a liking for the pseudo-progressive system of armed force and dictatorship.

Let there be no mistake about this. When Mr. Gallacher, for the Communist Party, writes, as he did in Forward (25th July, 1936), that the Communists did not mean “military violence or military revolutionary action," Mr. Gallacher is a liar. The original basis of the Communist International (the “Twenty-one Points") prescribed an “armed struggle," and “heavy civil war" was the favourite catchword. But we have more recent evidence from Communists, indeed from Mr. Gallacher himself. At the 1929 Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mr. Harry Pollitt made a speech in which he explained to his fellow Communists that “only through armed insurrection can the workers gain power” (see report in Manchester Guardian, December 2nd, 1929). At the same conference, Mr. Gallacher, who now pretends that armed revolt was not intended, said this: —
   They had talked of a Revolutionary Workers’ Government, but did they realise what was implied? Would the organisation of the workers for the revolutionary Government be a legal one? The task of fighting for a revolutionary Government would be a task of bringing the workers out on to the streets against the armed forces of capitalism.”—(Worker's Life, December 6th, 1929.)
While the Communists are explaining away the above proclamations of their intention to stage armed revolt, let them also try to justify, if they can, their complete somersault with regard to association with the Liberal and Labour parties. Mr. Gallacher now declares his willingness to work with the Liberals. Only a year ago, at the 7th World Congress of the Communist International, when G. Dimitrov presented a report on “The Working Class against Fascism,” that report specifically mentions the need, while supporting the Labour Party, to oppose Lloyd George, the Liberal leader. (Report published by Communist Party of Great Britain, p. 36.) Even more amazing, however, is the change of front towards the Labour Party and Labour Government. At the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain, held in November, 1932, a report was considered called “The Crisis Policy of the Labour Party, the T.U.C., etc.” In this interesting declaration of Communist policy we read that the policy of the Labour Government in 1929-1931 was not only “capitalist” but also “Fascist,” and that “the Labour Party took decisive steps towards strengthening the dictatorship of the capitalists during the Labour Government.” Also that, while opposing the means test in words, the Labour Party “supported the attacks of the National Government upon the unemployed.”

Then we are told that “parliamentary democracy” is a “sham” which the Communists must expose, and that: —
   Any party which accepts parliamentary democracy, however revolutionary its phrases, is an instrument of the capitalists.
Lastly, the Report tells us: —
   It is unmistakably clear that a third Labour Government is not a “Lesser Evil” than a National Government, or a Tory Government, or a coalition between Labour and capitalist parties.
We are not here concerned with the accuracy of the statements then made by the Communist Party—many of them are absurdly inaccurate—but only with the fact that the Party which held these views now pretends to be enthusiastic for Labour Government, democracy, parliamentary methods, etc. They want now to save us from Fascism, and tell us to do it by supporting the Party whose policy when in office was a “Fascist policy.” They want to save democracy and fight dictatorship (yet their masters created and glorified dictatorship in Russia), and their method is to have another Labour Government, although they say that the last Labour Government helped to strengthen “the dictatorship of the capitalists.” They want to save democracy, although as recently as 1932 they declared it to be a sham.

In short, the Communists are what they have always been, fickle, unscrupulous, superficial in their judgment of working class questions and an unmixed danger to the interests of the working class and the Socialist movement. True they do not belong to the conception of a reconstituted Liberal Party (whether called Liberal, Labour or Popular Front) which could gain a majority on a programme of democracy and social reform. But neither do they belong to the conception of a Socialist Party, for democracy is essential to the progress of the Socialist movement. They are unwittingly an instrument of reaction, unable to assist in saving democracy in the present, and equally unable to use democracy for the promotion of the Socialist movement.

The Importance of Marxism—(continued) (1940)

From the June 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

The school of Political Economy that directly preceded Marx is that of Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ricardo (1772-1823).

Both exponents expressed the interests of the rising English industrialists, and as such were apostles of free trade. Marx has called all the economists I have mentioned “Classical Economists” (in contradistinction to many of his superficial and apologetic contemporaries, whom he has dubbed “Vulgar Economists”) because they really endeavoured to analyse the mechanism of capitalist society. All of them were, however, essentially bourgeois, and regarded capitalist society as an eternal order of things.

Adam Smith, in his “Wealth of Nations” (1770), correctly distinguishes between “value in use” and "value in exchange.” He points out that the things which are most useful (water, air, etc.) generally command little or nothing in exchange. Smith claimed that the “natural price” of an article (what we have called “average price”) is the centre of gravity around which the market price fluctuates. This "natural price” is governed by the labour taken to produce a commodity.

He, too, was inconsistent in his views, for he often confused the price of an article with the price of labour (labour-power) and sometimes imagined that prices were regulated by wages, profit and rent.

In his “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” (1821), David Ricardo established the proposition that the value of a commodity is regulated by the quantity of labour necessary for its production. Ricardo, however, failed to solve the problem of surplus value because he did not see that what the worker sells to the capitalist is his labour power—not his labour. Moreover, Ricardo did not clearly differentiate between surplus-value and profit. 

Incidentally, whilst on Ricardo, it is interesting to notice what he thought of a contemporary “Vulgar Economist,” Thomas Malthus.

We have already alluded to “Vulgar Political Economy” as a school of thought which rehashed current views that were favourable to the capitalists and, instead of attempting to analyse, accepted appearances.

In this connection, Malthus’s economic views are even popularised to-day. His notions on population based on these views finds an echo in Nazi Germany, where Hitler proclaims his need for more “Lebensraum ” (living space).

In a letter to McCullough, dated May 2nd, 1820, Ricardo writes: —
  I have read his book—at present I feel a real difficulty for I confess I do not clearly perceive what Mr. Malthus’s system is.
And in a further letter, dated August 2nd, 1820: —
   Since I have been here I have been .giving a second reading to Mr. Malthus’s book. I am even less satisfied than I was at first. There is hardly a page which does not contain some fallacy.
The Ricardian Socialists
Ricardo’s formulation of the labour theory of value, including his classification of society into three classes (landlords, capitalists, workers), provided the groundwork for Utopian Socialism. The premises of the latter was: As labour is the source of all value, then to labour should all values rightly go.

This commendable proposition from a moral standpoint must not, however, be confused with Marxism. Scientific Socialism is most certainly based on the labour theory of value (we shall explain this in greater detail later) but not on moral implications which can be deduced from that theory. Notwithstanding the ethical basis of their Socialist teaching, the writings of the Utopians are full of illuminating points, which reveal to a remarkable extent the characteristics of the capitalist economic order. It is timely to revive the memory of those outstanding thinkers, who, in the early part of the nineteenth century, exercised a profound influence on the mental development of the founders of Scientific Socialism—particularly now, when most of their works are practically unobtainable.

The Basic Fallacy Underlying Utopian Socialism
Whether we take Robert Owen, Thompson, Hodgskin, Bray or Rodbertus, we shall find underlying each of their writings a basic economic fallacy. This fallacy is associated with the view that what the worker sells to the capitalist is in reality his labour—instead of, as we know to be the case, his labour-power.

The Utopians contended that the worker is robbed in the process of exchange, inasmuch as the capitalist buys his labour but does not pay for it at its full value. Let us illustrate their contention by giving an example: —

A tailor, shall we say, has worked fifty hours for his employer, during which period he has produced suits to the monetary value of £10 (we assume that the raw material, etc., have also been made by him). The value of his labour, i.e., his product, is therefore, expressed in terms of money, equal to £10. In this case the Utopians would have reasoned, quite wrongly, “The tailor has sold ten pounds worth of goods to his employer (his labour). The latter, however, because he owns the means of production, takes advantage of his position and pays the tailor, say, only £5 for the goods—thus perpetrating a fraud in exchange.”

This reasoning led the Utopians to the view that it was necessary, in order to abolish the possibility of fraudulent exchanges, to make the workers possessors of their own means of life. It was essential, they held, to establish communist settlements, in which every worker who laboured for a definite period would be entitled to exchange the goods he had produced for other articles embodying an equivalent amount of labour. Only in such communist settlements, they maintained, would the fraudulent transaction of an exchange of more labour for less labour, practised under capitalism, no longer be possible.

It would take us too far afield to dwell on the intricacies of their communist Utopias, many of which were tried and failed. Suffice it to point out that the Socialism of the Utopians lacked scientific content for the following three reasons: —
(1) Because of the undeveloped conditions of capitalism in which the ideas arose.
(2) Because the Utopians were under the illusion that Socialist society had always awaited discovery and did not grow out of particular circumstances.
(3) Because of the Utopians’ misunderstanding of the way in which the workers are robbed and, consequently, their inability to grasp the mechanism of capitalist production.
Moreover, when all these factors have been taken into consideration, Utopian Socialism still remains valuable for its brilliant critique of bourgeois society. Let us now examine this critique.

ROBERT OWEN (1771-1858) is generally classified as the founder of English Utopian Socialism. Owen was originally a factory owner and actually arrived at his Socialist conclusions as a result of studying the conditions in his own works. His advocacy of Socialism and his struggles to improve the conditions of life for the masses resulted in his becoming outlawed by supporters of capitalist society. Owen’s life and work have, however, been so ably treated by Engels in “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” that we cannot do better than refer the reader to that excellent pamphlet. In this review we shall deal in detail mainly with Owen’s disciples.

WILLIAM THOMPSON (1785-1833) was a native of the county of Cork. He was a friend of Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, and to a considerable extent under the influence of the latter’s radical teachings. Thompson's principal work is an “Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most conducive to Human Happiness (1824),” a book that runs into some six hundred pages. The essential theme of this work is that rent, profit, etc., are wealth forcibly and unjustly appropriated by the capitalists from the workers. But let Thompson himself speak: —
  "But as long as the labourer stands in society divested of everything but the mere power of producing, as long as he possesses neither the tools nor machinery to work with, the land or materials to work upon, the house and clothes that shelter him—as long as any institutions or expedients exist by the open or unseen operation of which he stands dependant, day by day, for his very life on those who have accumulated these necessary means of his exertions; so long will he remain deprived of almost all the products of his labour, instead of having the use of all of them/' (Page 590. Longman, Hurst Ed.)
And how are going to alter this state of affairs ?
   “In the usual course of things then the productive labourer is deprived of at least half the products of his labour by the capitalist. . . .  No doubt if the productive labourers acquired knowledge, and could trace the immense abstractions made under the name of profits from the products of their labour, they must see the injustice of such an arrangement and endeavour to become themselves possessed of all the articles under the name of capital or of the means of commanding the use of such articles necessary to make their labour productive. . . .  As long as two hostile masses of interests are suffered to exist in society, the owners of labour on the one side and the owners of the means of labouring on the other, as long as this unnatural distribution is forcibly maintained—for without force wielded by ignorance it could not be maintained—so long will perhaps as much as nine-tenths of obtainable human production never be brought into existence, and so long will ninety-nine hundred parts of attainable human happiness be sacrificed."(Pages 160-175.) 
Remember that the above was written over a century ago!

And shall we appeal to the capitalists to introduce Socialism?
   "The excessively rich as a class, like all other classes in every community, must obey the influence of the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed, must acquire the inclinations and characters, good or bad, springing out of the state of things surrounding them from their birth. Having always possessed wealth without labour they look upon it as their right and their family’s right always to possess it on the same terms.” (Page 211.)
In concluding this review of economic theory before Marx, mention must be made of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), who accepted the labour theory of value but attempted to compromise between Vulgar Economy and Utopian Socialism.

The Utopian Socialists, notwithstanding their shortcomings, were men of outstanding intellect and clarity of vision. But as Utopian Socialism is itself a detailed subject we must reserve a discussion on it for our next article.
Solomon Goldstein

Robens admits it again (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lord Robens, the chairman of the National Coal Board, has again stated that the nationalised coal industry is run on state capitalist lines. He told the annual conference of the National Union of Mineworkers in Douglas on 9 July:
  In 1961 the Tory Government produced the White Paper called "Financial and Economic Obligations of Nationalised Industries". With this, the old Morrisonian concept of the socialist philosophy of public ownership gave way to State Capitalism; which even the return of a Socialist Government did not change.
The last Labour government (which Lord Robens as a member of the Labour Party supported) was not socialist. Nor were the nationalised industries run on socialist lines up until 1961. Herbert Morrison’s philosophy was merely that these industries should subsidise the private sector rather than try to make profits themselves. Oddly enough Morrison once himself denounced one public corporation, the Port of London Authority as a form of capitalism (Daily Herald, 30 July, 1923)

One World (1970)

Book Review from the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Buckminster Fuller Reader. Edited by James Meller. (Jonathan Cape. 48s.)

Socialists devised the slogan 'One World" as a concise description of the society we are striving for. Socialism means that the whole world will operate as a single productive system where goods and services will be produced so that people can use them freely without resorting to buying and selling. It also means that the people of the world will be united on the only solid basis for achieving this end—by the resources of the world (the means of producing wealth) being owned in common and democratically controlled by mankind as a whole. "One World”, then, represents an entirely different vision of the future to such schemes as the “United Nations" or "Internationalism” which, as their names imply, are attempts to improvise a patchwork from the fragments which capitalism makes of the world.

The American scientist Buckminster Fuller, whose work over more than forty years has brought him recognition as an architect and industrial designer, is not a socialist. But his understanding of what industrialisation has done to the world, and the potential abundance it gives rise to, has led him to a number of conclusions which are similar to ours. Since the problems which face mankind are "whole- world problems", since culturally and scientifically we are all enrolled in a "One World University”, given the "world-girdling air transport and communication services”, what we are rapidly being confronted by is a “constantly shrinking ‘one-town world’."
   Any who have looked at the jet plane schedules know that they can fly to the furthermost points around the earth from where they start in less than twenty hours, so that within the day they can reach the furthermost point of the earth. Projecting for only five years, you find the speed is such that you will be able to leave your home any morning, go to any part of the earth to do your day’s work, and come home for dinner. And if our definition of a town is a place where you work and sleep, then in five years from today we can have a one-town world. What has been a theoretical and idealistic concept will be stark reality.
Because of industrialisation, “wealth is now without practical limit.” Traditional ways of thinking of consumption (‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’) are completely outdated. "You can now have your cake and eat it. The more you eat. the more and the better the quality of the cakes to be had by further production.” “It is complexly clear that ail men now may be successful in living in a progressively satisfactory enjoyment of total earth”. At last we have the ability to "make man a success on earth” and the sequelae of a step like this do not escape Professor Fuller. “If this is successfully done, the Malthusian and Darwinian frustrations will be completely irrelevant. There will be enough to go around, and the politicians will have no mandate to build weapons.” “There is a dawning awareness that I am saying something realistic when I say ‘Reform the environment, don’t try to reform man’.”

The trouble with Buckminster Fuller and other brilliant men like him is that while their scientific training and technological expertise make it clear to them that “we will soon have to design the overall industrial network for making the world work for all humanity”, politically they have never climbed out of their cradles. True. Professor Fuller dismisses what he calls "gold capitalism” (“as obsolete as the stone hammer") and even his rejection of socialism is fair enough (“Socialism was one of yesterday’s ways of dealing with inadequate wealth”)—because by 'socialism’ he simply means either a state capitalist system or government intervention in the American economy. What he doesn’t call into question, however, is capitalism’s motive force—the production of goods for sale on the world markets in order to realise a profit. As long as this is the priority which production is he is dedicated to proving to be technically feasible is bound to remain a dead letter.

The Buckminster Fuller Reader is a useful anthology of his speeches and writings over the last forty-odd years and is only marred by the fact that it is unreadable Professor Fuller’s prose has to be seen to be believed. Sample sentence — "Environment embraces a complex of non-simultaneously occurring but omni-integrating, or inter-stimulating and therefore inter-regenerating mutations of man’s integral, internal, metabolic regeneration organisms on the one hand, and on the other of his external, invention realised metabolic regeneration organism which we think and speak of as industrialisation.” If that whets your appetite there is a copy in the Socialist Party’s library.
John Crump

Problem Solved? (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

"A crime against humanity" is how The Ecologist in 1991 (May/June) described the depletion of the ozone layer, caused by chemicals (most notably CFCs) used in the production of fridges, air conditioning systems and solvents. Yet with the arrival of CFC-free aerosols on British supermarket shelves the problem is now widely thought of as solved. This view, aside from its willingness to forgive capitalism for over thirty years of avoidable ozone depletion, is complacent. A global solution to the problem is far from secure.

In 1992 in Copenhagen an agreement was reached by 37 nations and the EU to speed up the phasing-out of four major ozone depleting chemicals. CFCs would be banned in these counties from 1 January this year. Yet many developing countries did not sign and had only agreed to a phasing-out of CFCs by 2010. Global CFC emissions still totalled 360,000 tonnes in 1995. This was a significant reduction from the 1 million tonnes m 1985, but still represented an important problem. Meanwhile, some CFC producers, for example in Russia and China, were prepared to by-pass international law, as CFC smuggling started.

The HCFCs now being widely used as replacements for CFCs are also ozone depleters, albeit less intense and with a shorter atmospheric lifetime than CFCs. HCFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases. A report from the United Nations Environment Programme advised that HCFCs are "best reserved for applications where there is no other technically feasible substitute" (The Science of Ozone Depletion, Friends of the Earth. June 1991).

There are useable alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs. Ozone-friendly hydrocarbons are now widely used in European-made refrigerators and air conditioners. Mixtures of soap,water and other harmless chemicals can replace CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances in cleaning solvents. ICI and Du Pont, the world’s main producers of CFCs and now of HCFCs, have attempted to discredit these ozone-friendly alternatives over the past twenty years but they are now widely agreed to be viable (Back to the Future—CFC Alternatives, Greenpeace International, December 1994).

Du Pont and ICI, like any company, need to get a return on their investments. But, as The Ecologist pointed out in 1991, an immediate introduction of ozone-friendly substitutes would have caused DuPont and ICI to "lose the huge profits they hope to make from patents and licencing fees on HFCs and HCFCs". This was why, according to Environment magazine (July/August 1993), these multi-national corporations argued the need for a slower phase out of HCFCs "so that businesses would be able to recoup their research, development and capital investments”.

The Copenhagen agreement was committed to reducing HCFC emissions by 99.5 percent by 2020 — this slow phase-out suited the producers of HCFCs, especially the US who use HCFCs to produce most of the world s air cooling systems. Meanwhile, developing countries are free to increase their use of HCFCs until 2016 when, according to the Vienna Convention, they will freeze their HCFC use at 2015 levels. The Treaty’s technology assessment panel had wanted a freeze from 2006 to discourage industrial nations from dumping obsolete equipment that use HCFCs in poorer countries. The New Scientist pointed out that this concession could result in a massive increase in the use of (HCFCs) over the next few years before a ban comes into force so as to maximize the 2015 limit" (December 16 1995).

Achieving even this target will be no easy matter. The commitment of developing countries such as India and China depends upon whether developed countries pay for them to introduce ozone-safe technology. This could lead to further problems because there is no agreement on how much money would be sufficient. It remains to be seen whether developed countries honour their pledges of funds. There is certainly room for doubt — only 85 per cent of their pledges to help phase out CFCs have been met so far.

The international response to the ozone problem is seen by many as a success. This assessment tells us more about how little real global co-operation we can expect under capitalism, where belated, partial solutions are all that, at most, ever emerge.
Dan Greenwood

Running Commentary: Peace in our time (1982)

The Running Commentary column from the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peace in our time
Violence, mayhem and murder are essential features of today’s social structure. Yet, we are frequently encouraged to believe that we live in a generally peaceful society which is only spoilt from time to time by erratic outbursts of barbarity. So, while the number of people who perish from starvation is equivalent to one Hiroshima every three days, the picture of the world we receive from, for instance, the newspapers is one in which things are all right except for a “Policeman Killed in Bolton’’ or “Street Disorders in Toxteth”.

By the same token, the propaganda of a groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is deceptive because it tries to concentrate anxiety and horror of violence solely against particular instruments of violence rather than the reasons for organised violence being used. Even without Pershing missiles, the SS 20’s, Trident and Polaris, society organised on the basis of private property would still be torn with aggression.

Last month the number of people around the world who were involved in wars of the old-fashioned death-producing kind came to about 701,600,000. (Sunday Times, 21/3/82.) This figure represents about one person in six across the face of the globe and embraces forces not all that short of those taking part in the Second World War.

But we are assured by smiling politicians, priests and teachers that we are now enjoying “peacetime”. The figure of over 700 million who are involved in wars is most probably an underestimate, as the Foreign Editor of the Sunday Times observed, ". . . when the battleground is effectively sealed off, as in East Timor, there is always a risk of losing a few tens of thousands through unreported genocide”.

Across the world people are taking part in organised brutality: in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Philippines, Angola, Iraq and Iran, the Spanish Sahara, Kampuchea and Chad. And now, spokesmen for British capitalism like John Nott and Michael Foot (who one Tory MP described as truly “speaking for England” in a recent parliamentary debate on the crisis of the Falkland Islands) are busy stirring up nationalistic sentiments in preparation for the possibility of members of the working class in Britain being ordered to go and murder our counterparts from the Argentine.

For the havoc of war to continue, a majority of people must remain gullible to the fallacious ideas that we are naturally aggressive and that we better our condition by fighting the battles of our rulers. Socialists reject these fallacious beliefs and organise for a society of human cooperation.

A place of his own
Good news for the homeless is that there is a desirable property down in Kent going for a bargain price. It would suit the larger family, whose children are doing fine arts or history at school. Plenty of space for outdoor activities and for leisure time socialising. Sounds good.

Hever Castle, in the lush countryside around Edenbridge, includes 3,145 acres of farms, houses, a pub and woodlands. The Castle itself has an abundance of priceless works of art and historical knick-knacks like a Milanese suit of armour made for Henry II of France, worth about £600,000.

The owner of this lot, Lord Astor of Hever, shrinks from the prospect of developing the “commercial” side of the estate in order to remain solvent. Since 1963 he has graciously allowed workers to pay to shuffle round and admire bits of the estate, which was anyway built from their exploitation. Farther than that he was not prepared to go.

Aristocrats are, after all, supposed to be above such sordid worldly preoccupations as making money. “Here 64 years ago I learned to walk. Here too I learned my ABC. Here too are buried my father and mother” lamented Astor to the reporters who hurried down to Hever when the plans for the sale were leaked to the press.

But the Lord is in even worse plight. When Hever is sold he must take refuge at his other home in Scotland. With over 14,000 acres this is even bigger than Hever but the house has dry rot and in April it was still snowing there.

Workers who are thinking about making a mortgage application to buy Hever had better check on the price. So had those who feel sorry for the homeless Lord Astor. Including the contents, the place is likely to go for about £14 million. And that’s a bargain price. The estate agents have not evaluated the misery and stress of the exploitation which went into every square inch of it.

Cleric’s tale
Who noticed that Billy Graham—who prefers to be known as Doctor Billy—has recently been over here on another crusade to convert us all to religion? Gone are the days of overkill publicity and mass hysteria in his meetings. Now our Billy is just another god-banger trying to smooth over the inconsistencies in his propaganda.

Interviewed on the Radio 4 programme Sunday a couple of days before the start of this latest campaign, Graham tried sweatily to unhitch himself from the “Moral Majority” movement, saying that it is not a religious organisation but a political one. He also said that “Moral Majority” accepts people who are not necessarily Christians—some Jews, even atheists.

Well most of the spokesmen for “Moral Majority” claim to be Christians—Born Again Christians, no less—and in 1980 were strong supporters of Ronald Reagan (who also thinks he’s born again, which must be nice for everyone). Perhaps this association with an increasingly unpopular president is what Graham is really trying to separate himself from.

Graham gloomily forecast a nuclear catastrophe in as little as five years, unless the nations of capitalism (which is not how he put it) lay down their nuclear weapons. During his thirty-odd years as an evangelist nuclear weapons have increased vastly in number and power of destruction. Yet Graham has been silent on the matter, except to hint that American nuclear weapons were not too bad because they kept at bay the evils of “communism”—by which he means the Russian bloc of capitalist powers. Has born-again-Billy had a change of heart, then? We’ve got five years to find out.

On the same day that Graham was being interviewed, another—but rather different—cleric was having his say on television. Don Cupitt, author of Taking Leave of God, is no pulpit-pounding believer in the divinity of Christ, the infallibility of the bible or of life after death. That doesn’t leave much for him to believe in; Cupitt manages it by accepting most of the advances of scientific knowledge into areas formerly explained in religious terms and then re-organising his faith to fit in with what’s left. And that amounts to little more than an indwelling concept of god and a selection of quotes attributed to Jesus as “a guide for living”.

Clearly, Cupitt and Graham have a theological difference, which shows up as a choice between stubbornly holding fast to discredited ideas—and so becoming even more alienated from people at the intellectual sharp end of capitalist society—or of altering basic religious concepts to the point at which they virtually disappear. And that shows up that religion, whether of the conservative-born-again, or the swinging age of technology, variety is a denial of reality and a hindrance to anyone concerned with building a better world out of that reality.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Revolutionists in London (1970)

Book Review from the June 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revolutionists in London: A Study of Five Unorthodox Socialists. By James W. Hulse. OUP 48s.

This book deals with five political rebels living in London in the second half of the 19th century: Stepniak the Russian Nihilist, Kropotkin the Anarcho-Communist, Bernstein the revisionist, Shaw the Fabian and Morris who came nearest of them to being a revolutionary socialist. Hulse is disappointed in the conventional histories of Socialism, Communism and Anarchism: “They are usually so technical, so preoccupied with institutional and doctrinal disputes.”

Yet we are not told how else the subject can be dealt with. After all people who set out to change the world (revolutionaries) arc bound to be concerned with questions of theory and organisation. As a result the book does not have anything to offer to anyone interested in the development of the theories of scientific socialism. Not that the subjects of Hulse’s study are likely to be much help. Although wary of theory contact with it cannot be avoided, as in this passage:
Morris found it necessary to make the break because Hyndman’s faction was too authoritarian, too wildly militant, and too opportunistic — in short, too Marxist.
A description no doubt that fits some of to-days would-be Marxists as well as the Social Democratic Federation from which Morris and his associates were breaking away to form the Socialist League.

Had Hulse gone into theoretical matters a little deeper he might have concluded, as we do, that Marxism is the opposite to what Hyndman and the SDF, made of it. It is concerned with basing its action on political principles deduced from a scientific study of society, organising democratically as a political party to win over majority support for Socialism. That has nothing to do with authoritarianism, wild militancy or opportunism.
Joe Carter

Political Notes: Any Advance? (1982)

The Political Notes column from the April 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Any advance?
There are certain promises without which no political manifesto is complete. For example there is the housing problem: not so long ago there was a kind of auction going on between the Labour and Conservative parties, with each trying to outbid the other in the numbers of working class homes they were going to throw up 300,000; half a million . . . Where would it have ended?

Well of course for the working class there is still a problem of housing, but this now is to some extent overshadowed by another—the issue of unemployment. This is particularly susceptible to an auction, in which the promised figures are always falling.

The first bid comes from Peter Shore, who is likely to be Chancellor of the Exchequer if there is another Labour government in the near future. Shore has easily forgotten his time in the last Labour administration—how they were quite unable to control the economy and were reduced to watching helplessly while unemployment rose. “The task,” he now says with the confidence of a born auctioneer, “. . . is to cut unemployment to below the million mark . . .  we shall need over the lifetime of the next five-year Parliament to create at least 2½ million jobs.”

Next to raise a finger is Roy Jenkins who, by the time these notes appear, will know what the voters of Hillhead think of his bid. In fact it is a pretty cautious one; Jenkins promises to create only 600,000 jobs and to cut unemployment by only one million, although this within two years. Perhaps Jenkins is cautious because he is still smarting over the memory of his own failure to control unemployment when he was Labour’s Chancellor.

There is no reason to believe that this auction has any sounder basis that that over housing. If it were that easy to abolish unemployment, of course Shore and Jenkins would have seen to it when they were in office. They were unable to do so because the economy of capitalism can’t be controlled: its problems can't be abolished or even, very often, moderated. It is not possible to “create” jobs, to conjure away unemployment.

The vital question is, how long will the working class encourage the auction to continue?

Whom did Butler serve?
When the Tories twice turned down the chance of making R. A. Butler their leader—and so Prime Minister—it seems we had a narrow escape from being governed by one of the greatest men in the entire history of the human race.

Just look at some of the tributes paid to Butler, when he died last month.
". . . great intellectual qualities . .  .” (Lord Home)
“. . . one of the finest politicians of his generation.’’ (Ted Heath)
". . . one of the outstanding minds in politics in this century." (Enoch Powell)
“. . . always had it in him to be Prime Minister. . ." (Harold Wilson)
Butler will be remembered for his work on the 1944 Education Act, which the working class were very grateful for because it contrived a more efficient way of schooling them for their life of wage slavery.

Another of his notable achievements was to regroup the Conservative Party after their crushing defeat in 1945, to push through a reassessment of their programmes and to recast their image. In some ways this was a curious business; workers strolling out of a Saturday evening were often startled to find one of these new look Tories speaking up for capitalism on a platform at a street corner. Some things, they might have reflected, can be taken too far.

But Butler’s schemes worked and when the Tories came back to power in 1951 it was to be for a very long time. It was then that Butler illustrated so well the basic affinity between the two big parties of capitalism. His policies as Chancellor were so alike those of his Labour predecessor, Hugh Gaitskell, that The Economist coined a new word for them—Butskellism.

Butler’s place in the history of politics will be that of a man who worked with surpassing skill and devious imagination to persuade the workers that capitalism does not have to be the degrading, insecure, murderous society that it is. He stood to gain much by this, as he was himself a very rich member of the ruling class.

No worker should mourn his end; their task is urgently to organise the death of the society of class privilege which Butler so slyly represented.

Golden anniversary
In the days when Macmillan’s wind of change was sweeping across Africa, the new state of Ghana was widely admired as the finest example of the alleged benefits of alleged freedom from colonial rule.

Ghana, which had been called the Gold Coast, had a lot going for it; apart from anything else there were rich natural resources in gold, bauxite, timber and cocoa. It was ruled by Kwame Nkrumah, the supposedly incorruptible hero of supposed freedom fighters everywhere.

And then things began to go wrong. Nkrumah’s life style was anything but that of a humble voice of the world’s oppressed peoples. He lived, remotely, in a castle which stood as a derided symbol of the deposed colonial power. Symbolically too, one of his ministers raised a storm by buying himself a massive gold-plated bed.

It was not long before Nkrumah’s personality cult developed into a dictatorship, corrupt and—as many dictatorships are—ramshackle. Prestige projects collapsed into disarray; factories stuttered along on a trickle of raw materials. Food and other essentials were in desperately short supply. Ghana was in chaos.

In 1966 a military coup overthrew Nkrumah but this did nothing to lessen the corruption until, 13 years and several other coups later, there was touch of farce—a coup led, not by a general but by a lowly Flight Lieutenant with the demotic name of Jerry Rawlings.

Last month Ghana celebrated—if that is the word—25 years of independence (again, if that is the word). As an embryo capitalist state it is bankrupt and exhausted. Rawlings has a classical remedy; only “hard work” (by which he means more intensive exploitation of the Ghanaian workers) can save the country (by which he means the ruling class there).

It has been a quarter century of corruption, terror and confusion an object lesson to those who mistakenly believe that there is anything for a country’s people to gain from changing one set of oppressive exploiters for another.

The "Hungry Forties" and Now. (1912)

From the June 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Liberals, when discussing the present condition of the working class, or upholding their social reform legislation, are very prone to point to the “hungry forties,” and the condition of the working class under Protection.

While admitting the badness of the condition at that period, we might also ask ourselves: “Are we so much improved since then ?”

The so-called saviours of the working class— the Liberals to wit— have held the reins of Government for the major portion of the last sixty years, and the Conservatives have been in power for the remainder of the period. Starvation and misery were rife in the forties, no doubt, but are they appreciably less in evidence to-day?

Do not forget that wealth is produced twenty times as fast as it was in 1840, owing to the development of machinery. Yet where do the workers stand?

Let us take a few statements from capitalist economists and statesmen.

Mr. Chas. Booth “There are 32 per cent. of the population of London living on 6d. per day.” 

Mr. Seebohm Rowntree:—“8.5 per cent, of the families of York have incomes of less than 21s. per week ; average family, six persons.”

Mr. D. Lloyd George, M.P.:—“ You have got, side by side with most extravagant wealth, multitudes of people who cannot consider even a bare subsistence as assured to them. What do I mean by a bare subsistence? I don’t mean luxuries. I exclude even comforts. I mean that minimum of food, raiment, shelter, and practically the care which is essential to keep human life in its tenement of clay. The wolves of hunger prowl constantly round millions of doors in the land.”

Mr. C. F„ Masterman “What was the use of building cathedrals and great central halls of worship when under their very shadow life was being upreared under conditions more intolerable than the world had ever seen.”

Mr. L. G. Chiozza Money .—“I do not think it is generally realised that during the last 15 years the wages of the British workman have fallen. The Board of Trade knows nothing of a certain class of boot workers who earn twelve shillings in a seventy hour week.”

30,000,000 people of the United Kingdom own no land.

Seven London landlords draw £14,640,000 per annum in ground rent.

Can anything be worse than this? Are Free Trade and Protection worth talking about? Is not there some deeper cause of the workers’ poverty? Is it not time that the working class awoke to the fact ?

Our duty is plain. Why are we poor? Because we are robbed by the capitalist—whether by a rack-renting landlord or a sweating company. We are robbed of a large portion of the wealth we produce.

Britain, with all its vast resources, belongs to a few people. These few own our jobs; owning these they own our lives.

We, the workers, provide the finest of clothes and wear the shoddy. We build the palaces and live in the slum. How long will we stand this producing for profit instead of for use? A baker does not produce bread to feed people— be produces it for profit. Profit is his incentive, not use.

The working man or woman who depends from week to week upon wages is face to face with hunger and misery as soon as employment ceases. Why should there be starving people in a land of plenty?

When our masters talk upon wages or work they speak not as Liberals or Tories, but as exploiters. The workers send the masters or their representatives to Parliament, where they control the armed forces which shoot you down when on strike for better conditions. Remember what Liberals and Tories have done at Peterloo, Belfast, Featherstone, Llanelly, Liverpool, and Mitchelstown. Give up your blind faith in the Liberal and the Tory; use your political power for the benefit of your wives and your children, yourselves and your class. Study Socialism and find out what it is, not from your masters’ hirelings, but from the Socialists.
J. Cushing

Marx and Darwin (1983)

From the March 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two figures dominated the nineteenth century — Charles Darwin, the Englishman, and Karl Marx, the German. Both men achieved fame through the written word, although neither was a great public figure or great orator. They never addressed large public gatherings, except once when Marx spoke to the Congress of the International Working Men's Association at The Hague. Darwin would have been horrified at the very thought.

Marx and Darwin were the original “back-room boys", interested only in science and books. In The Origin of Species, Darwin disposed of all religion; in Das Kapital, Marx put paid to capitalism. These two books circulate today in more editions and more languages than ever before. Marx was the seer of the future whose writings explain the rise, evolution and destiny of human society; Darwin was the discoverer of Evolution — the process of tiny variations resulting in basic changes and new species. Revolution and Evolution are complementary, resulting in scientific socialism.

Both thinkers were the products of their own peculiar and very diverse social backgrounds. Darwin came from a prosperous family, his father being the most popular physician in Shrewsbury. Marx came from a long line of distinguished Rabbis and his father was the local recorder in the Rhineland town of Trier on the banks of the Moselle. Both men spent a care-free childhood and youth in the bosom of comfortable families and indulged in the usual student larks — Marx being gated for rowdiness in a pub, and Darwin declaring that he drank too much at Cambridge. They were of different builds. Marx, although described by his son-in-law Paul I.afargue as "of powerful build, with broad shoulders and a deep chest", was no athlete. Darwin was tall, slim, and a crack shot and expert horseman. Both, however, were tireless walkers.

Both Marx and Darwin were at loose ends following their college careers. Darwin was reluctant to become a country parson. as his father wanted. Marx did not want to follow his father's footsteps and become a lawyer. Marx was forced into journalism and subsequently acquired the editorship of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne in 1842; Darwin became a naturalist. Both professions were somewhat precarious, but Darwin never had any money troubles while Marx never had anything else.

Both were dedicated family men. Marx married relatively early on leaving Berlin University. Jenny von Westphalen was a beauty with a remarkable intellect, a woman to whom the poet Heinrich Heine would submit his finest lines. She had a remarkable father, Ludwig von Westphalen. descended from the Dukes of Argyle. But this aristocratic upbringing was not the best qualification for the appalling deprivation that Marx’s family were to suffer in the slums of Soho and Kentish Town. Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgewood, grand-daughter of the famous potter, and settled at Downe House in Kent with ten servants.

Both men were inspired by previous writers: Marx by the German philosopher Hegel, Darwin by the geologist Charles Lyell. But Marx's militant materialism proved too much for the German academic authorities and he was forced to emigrate to Paris. He had early acquired the habit of long spells of night work, copying out the classics by candlelight and teaching himself French, English and Italian with phrase books and dictionaries. Unfortunately Darwin never read the copy of Das Kapital sent to him by Marx. Instead he read Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population and swallowed it whole, writing “At last! I have a theory on which to work”. Malthus had ascribed a geometrical increase to human societies and an arithmetical one to food supply; Darwin transferred the first to the animal world to become “the survival of the fittest" — thus turning Malthus on his head.

Both men had their champions. Frederich Engels kept the Marx family alive and wrote a series of articles which Marx signed to earn one guinea a time from the New York Herald Tribune. He later even accepted the alleged paternity of Marx’s illegitimate son by Helene Demuth. Darwin was championed by Thomas Huxley, the ex-naval surgeon who had also made lengthy voyages aboard H.M.S. Rattlesnake. He was popularly known as "Darwin's Bulldog".

In their style of writing Marx and Darwin differed greatly. Darwin carefully built up an irrefutable weight of evidence, piling fact upon fact. He concluded The Descent of Man thus:
  For my part, I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who bared his breast to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the mountains carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs, as from the savage, who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
On the other hand. Marx has never been excelled as a political polemicist and creator of powerful and rich language. In The Civil War in France, for example, he writes:
  Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will forever be celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators History has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priests will not avail to redeem them.
 And Isaiah Berlin says of the Communist Manifesto that much of it is written in “prose which has the lyrical quality of a great revolutionary hymn, whose effect, powerful even now, was probably greater at the time" (Karl Marx, 1964).

Darwin was the most conciliatory and accommodating controversialist, devoting whole chapters to recapping the attacks of his opponents and stating quite frankly that their refutation faced him with great difficulties; succeeding, nevertheless, in doing so brilliantly. Marx, however, was frequently exasperated by the absurdities of criticisms, most of all by those from people claiming to be his supporters. These included his sons-in-law Jean Longuet and Paul Lafargue, who he described sarcastically as “the last Proudhonist and the last Babeufist”.

Darwin’s ideas of the future never get beyond his dreams of a Eugenic Society and "the prosperity of the Arts by the Accumulation of Capital". Important though his work was for the establishment of truth and the refutation of religious dogma, it was nevertheless Karl Marx who transcends all thinkers by the audacity and confidence of his prediction of socialist society.

Global Capitalism - The Facts (1996)

Party News from the January 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party Research Department has recently been considering how, as a movement, we can be more organised in our effort to get up-to-date facts to support our case against capitalism. Our new project aims to build upon the strong tradition of Socialist Party members and supporters conducting independent research into the many aspects of capitalist society and the case for socialism, firstly, we are starting a more systematic way of getting information and secondly we will present the results in regular reports. The reports could be used by socialists as a source of facts for leaflets, posters, letters to the press, articles, debates, etc.

We have prepared a research plan which includes some of the most important themes that are touched upon by the socialist analysis of capitalism. On each topic there is the potential to find recent statistics and examples to illustrate the socialist case. If you are interested in helping please write to the following address for more information.

Research Department, Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

Who Will Do The Dirty Work? (1953)

From the December 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the common questions put to the Socialist, and a question that troubles many who are sympathetic to Socialism, is “Who will do the dirty work under Socialism”; that is who will be coalminers, sewermen, dustmen and the like. The question is based upon the assumptions that there is work that is dirty, that this work will always have to be done in the way it is done today, and that it is only done today because the doers of it are forced to do it in order to get a living.

Before answering the question let us look at the subject a little closer. First of all let us see if we can define what is meant by dirty work.

Is it handling dirt? A doctor and a sanitary engineer handle a considerable amount of dirt with the object of preventing the spread of disease—so does a sewerman, a dustman and a sweeper. Think of the work doctors and nurses do not only at home but in plague and disease-ridden areas, the horrible conditions in which they have to work and the horrible work they have to do. Yet no one suggests that a doctor does dirty work but most people are convinced that the sewerman, the dustman and the sweeper does do dirty work. Why?

Is dirty work that which makes a man dirty? A motor engineer gets dirty with the object of ensuring the smooth running of machinery—so does a stoker in the bowels of a ship. Yet whilst no one suggests the one is doing dirty work they accept that the other is. Why?

Is dirty work working amongst foul smelling material? A chemist does so with the object of improving the quality of food—so does a fish curer. Yet the latter is doing dirty work and the former is not. Why?

Is it the nature of the work itself that makes it dirty work? A bacteriologist works among decayed food with the object of improving hygiene—so does a dishwasher in a restaurant Yet again one is dirty work whilst the other is not. Why?

Is work that injures your fellow men that which is dirty? If that were true just think who would come under it! Soldiers, producers of poison gas, munition workers, producers of atom bombs, politicians, monopolists (including Governments), lawyers who defend the predatory, financiers, advertisers who take in the innocent, those who tell fairy tales about heaven and hell and tell children they must believe them or be damned for all eternity, and hosts of others who immerse themselves in the dirt of Capitalism. Yet who but the socialist would claim that these people are doing dirty work? Why?

Fine gentlemen and dainty ladies move happily amidst the odours and the manure of racing stables without any feeling that they are doing dirty work, but they would be astonished at the suggestion that it was not dirty work to shift that manure. Why?

An airman risks his life and gets coveted in oil and grease breaking a record and he is treated as a hero. A coalminer risks his life and gets covered in coaldust bringing coal to the surface for the good of mankind and he is treated as doing dirty work! Why?

Now that we have cleared the ground a bit let us answer the “ Whys? ”

“Dirty work” has nothing to do with the work itself or the dirtiness thereof. A man will shift manure on to his garden and his friends will look on admiringly and proffer advice; but if he shifts manure for a living it is quite a different matter. It is not just “menial” work for what is more menial than the politician kissing babies and smirking at their mother, the shopkeeper fawning on his customers, the financier kow-towing to the lenders of money, or the clergyman accepting a tip at a funeral? No! Generally speaking the work that is looked upon as “dirty work” is that which is laborious, ill-paid, offers no opportunities for the ambitious, and provides the only opening the less fortunate can find of earning a living. People of all kinds of social status willingly do the same kind of work when the aim is satisfaction, pleasure or prestige; it only becomes dirty when it has to be done for no other end than gaining a living. The term is tied up with wage slavery and those that perform this work are by that fact branded as lower than their fellows. In other words dirty work is solely a product of Capitalism because it leaves the worker where he is, tied to the tread mill of monotonous labour with faint hope of relief. The phrase has only a disparaging social significance; a significance that at one time in the past applied to all forms of labour. Thus with the passing of wage-slavery the phrase will have no meaning.

We can now answer the question by placing it in its proper perspective in the light of the foregoing remarks.

Under Socialism no work that is necessary for the good of mankind will come under the heading of dirty work. People will do it as wholeheartedly as doctors and nurses work today in battle and plague-stricken areas. When industrial areas, cities and swamps have been cleared; when people can live wholesome and healthy lives with plenty of fresh clean air; when the rush and tear of life has departed, then most of what is regarded as dirty today will have disappeared. Quite apart from this, when all the people stand upon an equal footing towards each other the snobbery that attaches a label of nastiness to some forms of human activity will disappear; no one will be afraid of his neighbour looking with scorn upon the work he is doing. Finally nobody objects to doing work that is dirty when he knows that it is necessary in order to obtain some desirable end, that he can clean himself afterwards, that he is not bound to do it all his working days, and that no stigma attaches to it.

The answer to the question then is a simple one. Under Socialism everyone will take part in all the necessary social work and no one will worry a bit.

A Socialist dictionary (1981)

From the September 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

1) ANARCHISM: Strange specimen of philosophy which fears power itself more than capitalism. To the anarchist the termites are the state, the police, the prisons, the family . . .  all forms of repression rather than the system which breeds them. Though claiming to be revolutionary, most anarchists support reforms.

2) BALLOT ELECTION: Socialists see the ballot as a crucial weapon for the working class to use to gain political power. When we become a majority, socialist delegates will be elected to Parliament with a mandate to abolish the wages-prices-profit system and replace it with common ownership.

3) CAPITALISM: A worldwide social system which evolved from feudalism. A minority class owns the means of production yet produces no wealth; and a class that lacks that ownership produces everything. Production under capitalism is purely for profit, not to meet human needs.

4) CAPITALIST: A member of the class that monopolizes the means of producing wealth and lives off profit, rent or interest.

5) COMMUNISM/COMMUNIST: Often confused with state capitalism, in which the means of production are owned by the state. Communism is synonymous with socialism, a system of common ownership and democratic control with production solely for use. Wealth is taken freely, in quantities self-determined by each individual. One who adheres to this doctrine is a Communist. The Communist Party and the left wing are therefore not communist.

6) DEMOCRACY: Rule by and for the people. Today wealth is created by most of the people, yet owned by very few of them. Socialism will be democratic in that production will be geared towards satisfying society’s needs, while ideas will be given the fullest opportunity of expression.

7) JOB/EMPLOYMENT: The producers of wealth—the workers—are also the non-owners. So their existence is determined by their selling of labour power (their ability to work) to the capitalist class for a wage or salary. Wherever there is employment there is capitalism, and vice-versa.

8) MATERIALISM: The doctrine that matter is the primary substance of all things. Materialism explains all existence in evolutionary terms, even Humankind’s social organisation, known as Historical Materialism. The antithesis of Materialism is Idealism, which because it stresses ideas as the basis for all existence and processes sees everything upside-down.

9) RELIGION: Not just idealist, but even sillier. Suggests all life was created by one god, or several of them, and is a force which controls us or judges us. “Goodness" or “badness" in life determines reward or punishment in the after-life. God is normally on the side of the country that supports it financially and has proven to be a very untrustworthy source of help to the sufferers in wars and miseries. Not only has no god been found, but the socialists hope they’ll positively go away so the workers will focus their attention on themselves.

10) RIGHT-WING: Like the Left-Wing it suggests that capitalism can be run in the interests of all, generally on condition that there is minimum state interference. But they don’t mean the state shouldn’t fight wars when profit demands or that the state should stop interfering with workers’ struggles for higher standards of life.

11) SCHOOL: A place where children between the age of four and eighteen years learn how to respect authority, and how to become useful workers (or capitalists, depending on the school). The appalling quality of this education is such that when children don’t like the outside world they'r being trained for, they have to look for the SPGB to learn how to get rid of it.

12) SOCIALISM/SOCIALIST: A system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth. Production not for profit, but for use. There will therefore be no money, wages, prices, nations or social classes. A socialist is an adherent of socialism, which clearly the Labour Party, SWP and so on are not.

13) STATE: The machinery of government (armed forces, police, judiciary system) which operates in the interest of capitalism, of profit, of those who live off profit. It is supported by taxes, a burden on the capitalist class (not the working class, who must receive enough money to reproduce themselves as a class anyway). When the world is socialist, states will no longer be necessary as the interests of each individual will be maintained by social organisation itself (free goods, free speech, freedom of movement).

14) STRIKE: The essential weapon of the working class in a world of owners and non-owners. Recognising the limits of industrial action, however, will induce the majority to resort to a political alternative.

15) TRADE UNION: Organisation of the working class to resist the encroachments of capital. It can bargain, it can strike, but it can’t bring socialism. Trade unions are significant historically since they reveal the potential power of a united working class. Time for such a majority in the SPGB working not for higher wages but the end of the wages system itself.

16) WAGE:/SALARY: The object of our work in capitalism—our source of income. The wage is actually a rationing device which allows us just a small proportion of what we have produced. There will be no wages in socialism because common ownership means free access to wealth.

17) WAR: A nation’s resort to violence to procure or protect markets, raw materials, trade-routes or political prestige. Yet we workers do the killing and the dying despite having nothing to protect. We have nothing to lose and a world to win—so let’s abolish the market system which causes so much misery.

18) WORK/WORKER/WEALTH: Work is the application of our mental and physical energies to raw materials. In capitalism the wealth-producers are working in order to live. Isn’t it time we abolished class, and therefore employment. and established a society in which we labour for our individual ends, and for society (both synonymous interests then as the contribution to society will create the abundance we may draw from freely)? Let’s end this mad system and replace it with a society of common ownership

Changing Lives: 200 Years of People and Protest in Sheffield (2018)

Exhibition Review from the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1795 local militia fired on a crowd in Sheffield, killing two people and injuring many others: this is the earliest example mentioned in an exhibition at the city’s Weston Park Museum. In 1819 fifty thousand attended a meeting to show solidarity with the victims of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, while in 1840 Samuel Holberry attempted to organise a Chartist uprising in Sheffield, but he was betrayed to the authorities and imprisoned; a bust of him is displayed.

And so the protests and struggles continued, from the Sheffield Women’s Suffrage Society (formed 1882) to the gay-rights campaigning of local resident Edward Carpenter. In the last century Sheffield and surrounding areas played an important role in the fight for access to the countryside; G.H.B. Ward, one of the main organisers, referred to the ‘gentle art of trespassing’. The miners’ strike of the 1980s naturally gets a lot of attention, but so does a less well-known but even longer-lasting strike, at the Keeton engineering firm from 1986 to 1994 (38 workers were sacked after a secret strike ballot).

More recent protests covered here include current campaigns against the council’s tree-felling policy, and anti-Trump posters, one of which announces, ‘Gi ’Oer Tha Gret Wazzock’ (wazzock is a dialect term with a pejorative meaning).

At the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield city centre is an exhibition ‘Hope Is Strong’, which is claimed to explore ‘the power of art to question the world we live in’. Sean Scully’s ‘Ghost’ is a painting of the US flag, with the stars replaced by a gun. The most powerful piece here is Jeremy Deller’s installation ‘The Battle of Orgreave’, dealing with the most notorious confrontation of the miners’ strike, and making it quite clear how the government had it in for the miners and their union. 
Paul Bennett

China - Mouthing it again (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

The eyes of US foreign affairs experts will be fixed firmly on Taiwan during the coming weeks. For this is when nine months of tension between Taiwan and China is expected to come to a head. Taiwan is not fully recognised internationally as an independent state and has no seat at the UN. Many in Taiwan believe this will end during March when the island holds its first all-party elections—elections that could sour Taiwan’s relationship with China to the point of a military strike by the latter should the former opt for independence.

China claims that Taiwan is a Chinese province and has no right to seek independence. Many argue that such a claim ended in 1949, when the Kuomintang took refuge in Taiwan under the protection of the US following defeat by Mao’s forces. Military rule soon followed and was only lifted in 1989, with something resembling liberal democracy appearing during an election held in 1992.

Taiwanese capitalists, many recruited by President Lee Teng Hui, believe Taiwan’s economy is incompatible with that of China and that the years of prosperity they have experienced since the Vietnam war will flounder if the two are re-unified. For Taiwan’s capitalist class, the status quo must be maintained, not least because China is Taiwan’s second biggest export market after the US. Tight import restrictions also mean China in return experiences difficulty exporting to Taiwan. This has resulted in a 1995 trade surplus of $24.20 billion.

China’s sabre-rattling began many months ago and seems to coincide with international calls for Taiwanese independence. In the past six months, China has tested missiles, carried out military manoeuvres and announced that a region of coast feeing Taiwan is a "war zone". In recent weeks it has announced plans to recommence nuclear missile tests.

Taiwan, though overly “confident" it can hold the People’s Liberation Army at bay during a conventional war, nevertheless takes China's threats seriously and has appealed to the US for arms.

The US, which established a military base on the island in the 1950s, has been ambiguous in its response to pleas for help from its former “unsinkable aircraft carrier". When US/Sino relationships soured in 1979, the US withdrew from the island and abandoned a joint defence treaty. However, the US is still, committed under the Taiwan Relations Act, to providing arms of a “defensive nature".

Chinese sabre-rattling appears to be aimed as much at the US as it does Taiwan. With presidential elections coming up in the US later this year, China is hoping that the US will not risk coming to the aid of Taiwan for fear of upsetting US voters— the desired result being that this realisation will force Taiwan to succumb to Chinese calls for re-unification.

In early January Chas Freeman Jr, the US Assistant Secretary of Defence, returned from a trip to China with news that the PLA was making preparations to launch one missile per day for 30 days at Taiwan. In all probability this is hype, aimed at intimidating Taiwan and forcing the US to re-think its policy on Taiwan.

Freeman went on to relate how one Chinese official pointed out that the US care more about Los Angeles than Taiwan, and how another asked if the US were prepared to sacrifice the "millions of men" and "entire cities" over Taiwan that China would.

Not wishing to have been seen internationally as having turned the other cheek, the US responded by sailing the US Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and five support ships through the Taiwan Straits—the first time a US warship had been near the Chinese coast in 17 years. The upshot has been a slump in share prices in Taiwan, though nothing yet near the 40 percent stock exchange dive when China first began its threats.

All of this might sound familiar—it should. Last March it was the Philippines who were on the receiving end of Chinese threats when China vented its spleen over the disputed Spratley Islands, or rather the oil reserves beneath its reef. Neither is Taiwan alone in trying to extricate itself from China’s territorial claims. The island is in fact one of ten neighbouring states upon which China has irredentist claims.

While the world awaits the outcome of all, this in the Far-East, Socialists remain aware that none of it is to be taken lightly. All, too often small territorial claims—which at the end of the day mean big profits for the real disputants—lead to war. The 20th century is punctuated throughout with such instances, none of which has benefited the working class, the primary casualties in the globo-political search for profit.

The fact that the Chinese capitalists have threatened to expend three million lives over a tiny island, when all China could have a share in a world of abundance and free access with no cost to life, shows that the case for Socialism has never been more pressing.
John Bissett