Monday, February 3, 2014

What's the Russian for "blackleg"? (1985)

From the November 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Conservatives who fell for Thatcher's conveniently distorted version of "Victorian values" may be gratified to learn that the Russian government recently commemorated one of that country's great exponents of hard work and dedicated patriotism.

In August 1935 a mining team in the Donbas, led by Alexei Stakhanov, cut 102 tons of coal in one six-hour shift. (Or so it was reported; some accounts doubt that it happened at all, or was any more than a propaganda stunt dreamed up by the Stalinist rulers of the time.) This tonnage was about 14 times the norm of the shift (in Great Britain, output per man shift was then about 1.15 tons) and it resulted from Stakhanov devising a more efficient division of labour for his team, separating the processes of cutting coal from that of propping the shaft and assigning each to different workers.

This achievement was immediately welcomed by the Kremlin as an example to other Russian workers, who were being urged to give their all to the Stalin government's drive to overtake the production of western capitalism. Anyone who matched Stakhanov's feat was named, in his honour, as a Stakhanovite and the movement was quickly given official blessing. In November 1935, Stalin himself told the First All Union Conference of Stakhanovites that they were:
. . . a movement which is smashing the old technical standards, because they are inadequate, which in a number of case is surpassing the productivity of labour of the foremost capitalist countries, and is thus creating the practical possibility of further consolidating socialism in our country . . .   
Within six months, some industries had as much as a quarter of their workforce in the movement. All over Russia, workers were hailed as heroes of the tractor factory, or heroines of the cowshed or the beet field. The apex of achievement was to be graded a member of the Brigade of Socialist Labour, or even better—such was the Kremlin's distortion of the dictionary of socialism—the Brigade of Communist Labour. There was, as we might expect, rather more to it than that, in this country which was supposed to be "consolidating socialism" the Stakhanovites were motivated by the established capitalist incentives of material advantages. They were rewarded with special bonuses which could yield a wage ten or 15 times the basic, with better housing, recreational facilities and the like.

The official version of the movement was that it was a spontaneous expression of devotion to the concept of socialism in one country and a selfless determination to see it triumph over the hostile capitalist world outside. It is nearer the truth to say that the Stakhanovites were deliberately encouraged by the Party as a pressure group for a general increase in productivity—or in other words a general intensifying of exploitation. (In other countries, another name for them might have been blacklegs). Far from being spontaneous, the Stakhanovites were carefully selected for stardom and then, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, set up with specially favourable working conditions to give them the best chance of turning out higher production statistics. Managers were naturally keen on the idea, which reflected well on them, and were not above a little  illicit adjustment of the books (just as production control managers in this country have been known to fiddle quota to ensure the highest possible production bonus) in order to have some of their workforce admitted to the ranks of the movement.

The Stakhanovites came into this because, by averaging their production against that of the rest of the workers, it was possible to impose an increase in production norms—to demand that more be produced in the same working time. During 1936, norms were raised in every industry—for coal they went up between 22 per cent and 27.5 per cent; for iron and steel between 13 per cent and 20 per cent; for textiles between 35 per cent and 50 per cent; for building between 54 per cent and 80 per cent; and so on. Like a mass panic, the preoccupation with production quotas took hold and spread, and norms proliferated until there were literally millions of them laying down how much Russian workers should turn out in a given time. It is easy to imagine the glorious complexities this must have created for the bureaucrats, the smug satisfaction of the Stakhanovites, but what fear and anxiety for the ordinary workers. It is less easy to imagine how this elitist, exploitative insult could have been passed off as socialism, as a society where each will produce according to ability and consume according to need. In any case the norms were often as crazy and illusory as the propaganda behind them; during 1937/8 some 60 per cent of Russian workers could not meet their quota, let alone come up to the Stakhanovite standards.

This harassment, on top of what workers expect as the everyday burden of exploitation, was imposed on the Russian workers with scant opposition from, and often with active support of, their trade unions. During Stalin's rule (and of course it is still so today) the official line was that, as Russia was a workers' state, the workers did not need to be protected from it. The unions role was to lubricate their members' exploitation by stimulating production, organising something chillingly called "socialist competition" in the workplace, ensuring that the contributions kept coming in for the "voluntary" state bonds. Seventeen years elapsed between the 9th and 10th congresses of Russian trade unions, during which time the screw of exploitation was tightened by measures such as the abolition of the seven hour day and the laying down of harsh penalties for absenteeism and lateness.

In spite of everything, the Russian workers did not take the Stakhanovite insult lying down. There was much resentment at the attention paid to them, when their apparently higher production was due to unusually favourable conditions and in any case resulted from the joint efforts of their anonymous, unhonoured, work mates. There was anger also at the privileges reserved for the Stakhanovites. In the time honoured tradition of Luddism, there was some sabotage of production and some cases of assault, even perhaps of murder, of Stakhanovites. Reality was, then, nastily different from Stakhanov's airy boast that "For the Soviet people work has become a pleasure".

For fifty years, Stakhanov's image has persisted as an example to the rest of the workers to co-operate enthusiastically in their being robbed of the fruits of their labour. Russian television, commemorating the movement's anniversary, emphasised the continuing usefulness of the Stakhanovite principles and Donetsk miners agreed to put in some extra work as their contribution to the celebrations. Gorbachev recently warned industrial officials that they would be sacked if they did not find new ways of increasing output instead of relying on injections of state investment. "We cannot and will not support those leaders who are oriented towards previous ways, old fashioned norms" he said. Hard work; moderate wages; patriotism; a devotion to the interests of the class which represents us; these are, and have long been, of value to the capitalist class throughout the world. That is why Thatcher launched her campaign about "Victorian values". It was why the employers in this country welcomed the hysteria of "I'm Backing Britain" in the 1960s. It is why the capitalist media praise the "common sense" of the workers who volunteer for wage cuts and harder work so that their employers' profits may survive.

These similarities between Russia and other, avowedly capitalist, states can be explained only on the understanding that all of them operate under the same social system. Whatever superficial differences there are between one country and another capitalism, with its social structure based in ownership by one class and exploitation of the other, exists in Russia just as in America, Britain, Germany, Japan . . . And no class in human society can hope to achieve its emancipation by tightening the screws on itself.
Ivan




THE COMMUNE IN PARIS (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

MEETING IN LONDON.
[Specially reported THE SOCIALIST STANDARD]

The thirty-fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Paris Commune was celebrated by a well attended meeting at Sydney Hall on Sunday, 19th March. The meeting was organised by the Battersea Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, and was creditable alike to the occasion which it commemorated and to the members of the Branch responsible for its organisation.

Comrade Crump presided, and after a short opening address called upon H. Neumann to deliver the first speech.

Neumann said that in honouring the memory of the men and women who participated in the struggle in '71, they were honouring some of the bravest pioneers of the movement of the working-class. The event known to history as the Commune of Paris was one of the most glorious, if saddest, in the annals of the proletariat. It showed the heroism of which the working-class was capable, while at the same time it demonstrated the fiendish brutality, the incredible cowardice and the all pervading treachery of the dominant class. Thirty or forty years ago, of course, the workers of France were in a different position to that which obtains to-day. Then Socialism was understood but by a few, but dim as was their perception of the nature of the class-struggle, confused as were their notions as to the economic reconstruction of society, the workers who in Paris in '71 raised the red flag over the Hotel de Ville and proclaimed the rights of labour, gave unmistakable evidence of the powers that were latent in the proletariat. When, through the incompetence and treachery of the French bourgeoisie, Paris had been occupied by the Prussians, the discontent of the metropolitan populace was great, but that discontent, though great, was ill-defined. Nobody, or at any rate no considerable section of the people, knew precisely what ought to be done, but when the corrupt Thiers government sought treacherously to disarm the National Guard, that is to say the working-class of Paris, some of the doubts were solved, and the workers, in successfully baffling the attempt to steal their cannon, were first thrown on the defensive and afterwards brought to a position when they had no alternative but, on the flight of the cowardly Theirs and his minions to Versailles, to set up the Commune and assert their rights such as they understood them to be. The working-class government of Paris under the Commune lasted only a few months. It was easy enough to see now that the Commune was doomed from the outset; but though the Commune failed and was deluged in a sea of blood, the lessons to be derived from the struggle were of first importance. They had heard a lot of talk nowadays, even from some professed Socialists, about the necessity of proceeding to revolution via reform, but let them learn a lesson from the Commune. How often had the Commune sent representatives to the capitalist government at Versailles for the purpose of establishing truces or entering into negotiations for the adjustment of their differences? Did not the working-class of Paris ask brother Capital at Versailles to arbitrate ? And what was brother Capital's reply? Thiers said there was to be no negotiation: he wanted the unconditional surrender of Paris. Surely if there was any truth in the contention that reforms were to be got from the capitalist class, here was an occasion on which a great opportunity was afforded to that class of granting "palliative" measures, and avoiding bloodshed; but what occurred? The material interests of the masters were threatened by an armed section of the working-class, the class-feeling and class-hatred of the bourgeois for the proletaire were aroused, and instead of granting reforms the capitalists waded ankle deep in the blood of the Parisian workers. Let the workers prepare themselves in the school of revolution to deal with the impending collapse of capitalist society.

F. C. Watts spoke next. It was a good thing to hold these Commune meetings. To many, even. the word "Commune," meant upheaval, anarchy and bloodshed; but to Socialists the Commune signified the fight between the working-class and the capitalist-class. They acted wisely and well. Schemes were set afoot for opening the disused factories, by handing them over to be worked co-operatively by the workers, and schemes for forming communes in other parts of France were promoted, but owing to the superior force of circumstances these and other proposals did not fructify. The Commune, however, was a great example of the international solidarity of the working-class. One of the, soldiers of the Commune, while at his post on a barricade, was asked what he was dying for. "Human solidarity" was the answer. That brave worker, dying for the brotherhood of man, was an example of what the Commune stood for. The Commune showed more clearly than any other movement that when the working-class really stand for their own, when they Commune, far from implying crime, denoted the absence of crime, for while the Commune held sway, a man or woman was safer in Paris with the Communards than in Versailles with the French Government, with its forgers, swindlers, and nondescript hangers on. Crime there was, but not on the part of the workers. The charge of incendiarism had been made, but when the working-class, driven to desperation, burned the public buildings, they did so because the Versailles Government cared more for the public buildings than for the lives of the people. The difficulties the Commune had to face were hardly appreciated. They were fighting their own countrymen outside the walls, with spies and traitors within, but notwithstanding these difficulties the Paris Commune, in many respects, really menace the interests of the capitalist-class, that class will use every means to crush the working-class movement. The capitalists resolved that they would crush the canaille and wipe out the whole breed. But though they succeeded in crushing the Commune, they failed in wiping out the working-class movement, which was immeasurably stronger to-day than it was then. The working-class movement, though it vigorously asserted itself in '71, did not, of course, begin at that time, for in '48, while not near so ripe as that movement was in '71, they became troublesome to their masters, and instituted the Social Republic. A quarter of a century produced changes, for in '71 the working-class to a certain extent realised that not alone must the political machinery be controlled but that industry likewise must be controlled. They realised, moreover, not fully perhaps, but anyhow more fully than before, that the master-class and not the foreigner was the enemy. As Karl Marx had said, there must fee no truce between the working-class and the master-class of France and of every country, and as heralding that great coming struggle of classes the memory of the Commune would always be cherished by the working-class.

A. Anderson, who followed, said that viewed from the standpoint of the working-class there was no revolution in '48, nor could it be said that there was a revolution 'in,'71. The upheavals of these periods were certainly not working-class revolutions, for despite the fact that the workers took part in these movements, their objective was not the advancement of the material interest of the working-class, and the Social Revolution would be a failure unless the Socialists saw to it that they had behind them the well organised support of the working-class. To get an example of what a revolution really meant that movement which culminated in France in 1789 would have to be studied. Then the whole of society was stirred to its roots by social development acted upon by the litterateurs and champions of the rising middle-class. Prior to '89 the bourgeoisie had diffused that knowledge which was necessary to dispel the old ideas of property, and by an educational propaganda the peasants through their material interests were enlisted on the side of the new order. The peasants burned the castles and the leases of the feudal aristocracy, whose reign was speedily brought to an end. The Voltaires and the Rousseaus of the middle-class had well prepared the ground and the bourgeois revolution triumphed. With regard to the working-class, they were not a political force at all before '71, and the Commune marked the baptism of fire of the working-class in the political field. The events associated with the Commune showed clearly that the capitalist-class is the most cowardly class that ever figured in the world's history,. They fled from Paris to save their skins, while the working-class were compelled to rise and take hold of the reins of government. A great deal had been said about the shooting of hostages—it had been said there was a bloody week, a bloody month. But it took longer than a week or a month to satisfy the ferocity of the capitalist-class, for between January '71 and January '72 the number of insurgents arrested by the Thiers government was 38,578: of these 10,131 were sentenced to imprisonment, and 23,121 were shot. Let the revolutionists of to-day teach the-workers that while for their own ends the Liberal and Tory sections of the capitalist-class were playing with them, to deceive and decoy them into supporting capitalism by promises of reform here and promises of reform there, when the workers determined to fight for their own cause they would be shot down just as mercilessly as were the men and women of the Paris Commune. The Commune failed because the moment had not struck for the Social Revolution, and before that could be brought about a large amount of educational work must be done. The working-class must realise that it is not by putting men into power over their heads and imagining that in that way a revolution would be brought about from the top, that their emancipation would be accomplished. The working-class revolution must commence with the working-class itself, intelligently organised and well-disciplined. Then and now the heart of the people was sound, but revolutions were not questions of the heart, a revolution was a question of the brain. The duty of the hour was to educate the working-class into a knowledge of its power and mission, to clear away the confusions created by Liberalism and Toryism and thoroughly discredit the pretensions of spurious Labourism and alleged Socialism, The flag of the Commune was the heirloom of the working-class, and if the banner of Socialism was let fall by one organisation, another party must spring into existence to rear it aloft. The Socialist Party of Great Britain guarded the flag-in this country, and had never compromised. Let its members go forward with good cheer and carry the ensign of freedom into every town and hamlet in the land.

J. Fitzgerald then mounted the platform, and referring to the statement frequently made by capitalist writers, to wit that in establishing the Commune the workers had chosen the wrong time, said that this was a favourite argument of the upholders of capitalism. When the workers tried to better themselves, they were always told it was the wrong time. In fact never had the-workers done anything that was not done at the wrong time. In 1830 the capitalists were compelled to give the workers some political power, and in 1848 the workers had political power, and weapons to defend it. The men of property never relished the idea of seeing arms in the possession of the men of no property, and the reason was obvious. Theirs saw that if the capitalists of France were to continue as the dominant class, the working-class must no longer have arms, and it was decided that the National Guard must be disarmed. These arms were not the property of the government, as they were paid for by public subscription : and moreover at the surrender of Paris to the Prussians it was clearly stipulated that they were not to be given up. But Thiers ordered them to be seized, and in the night a detachment of the military marched on Montmartre to steal the cannon of the National Guard. The-attempted governmental theft was discovered just in time, and the Parisian working-class-refused to be disarmed. That was the beginning of the revolt. The working-class, however, had not then realised that the only people the working-class could rely upon were the working-class themselves, and so they were looking for help and counsel from some middle-class men who only succeeded in muddling matters. The establishment of the Commune came as a surprise to the rest of France, for when the Commune issued a manifesto to the other towns, the people in the provinces said they did not know the men who signed the manifesto. This in itself was sufficient evidence-that the ground had not been prepared, and even in quarters where perhaps assistance might have been expected the Paris workers were sadly disappointed. The radical left, the men who were "coming our way," were determined to help the working-class, and to-day should a crisis involving similar grave issues be prehistory would repeat itself, and the are "coming our way" would be found wanting. Let the Socialist working-class beware of these men. From the Commune many important lessons were to be derived, the first being the unreliability of any section of the capitalist-class . Secondly it showed clearly that the working-class ought to look askance at the students, the class that provided the material for future "intellectuals," for during the struggle in '71 the Latin quarter, the students' quarter, went over to Versailles, whence they heaped opprobrium on the working-class. We were told by "Social-Democratic" papers to-day that the students in Russia were aiding the working-class, but the converse would be nearer the truth. The Russian revolution now in progress was a middle-class revolution, and it was misleading to say that it was a working-class revolution. He (the speaker) found all doubts on the subject vanish when he heard that the students in Russia were in the movement. Another point to be noted in connection with Commune was the fact that the working-class had not half enough hatred nor half enough organisation. The working-class will learn yet that the class struggle is war to the knife against capitalism, a war which allows of no parleying with the enemy. Thiers demanded the unconditional surrender of Paris, and to-day in like language, The Socialist Party of Great Britain demanded the unconditional surrender of the capitalist class. Organisation was of prime importance, for without a sound organisation of the working-class there would be another Commune—another wholesale slaughter of the workers. He had heard someone once say that what they ought to do is to wait for a while and then "make a rush for it." Make a rush with what ? Without organisation nothing could be done. Again, they had been told by some by worthy people, even by a man of the stamp of Morris, that the soldiers would fraternise with the people. Did the soldiers fraternise in '71 ? No, they did not do so, nor would they do it to-day, for the soldiers of capitalism are kept apart from the people, and do not sympathise with the people. The soldier as a rule only learnt to obey orders and would shoot when told. The Commune also showed the nature of the "religion" of the disciples of Christ, as the treatment of the wounded by the Sisters of "Mercy" testified. Finally, the utter uselessness of "humanity" in dealing with the foes of the working-class was shown during the Paris struggle. Let them realise that there would be no successful revolution of the working-class until that class had studied well the economic and political history of the workers; until the memory of the working-class is well stored with a knowledge of what has been done to them by the ruling-class. Cluseret, who in a manifesto told the Paris workers that without military organisation the workers could be relied upon to defeat the best strategist, was a dangerous fool. Let them beware of the of to-day, and learn above all that there was no hope from "Labourism," "bogus Socialism,", or any other manifestation of capitalist politics.

E. J. B. Allen, who spoke next, wished to draw the attention of the workers to the fact that when the Commune rose, the capitalist-class who were previously divided, united against the working-class. The French capitalist government did not kill all the working-class because then the capitalists would have to their own work. In addition to the lack of organisation shown during the Commune, there was also the fact that the working-class did not understand its mission, but if the Commune was a failure it still stood as a beacon light for the workers of to-day. Let the watchword be "No compromise," for any movement that compromised was doomed to failure. 

C. Lehane said that it was indeed fitting that at meeting held to honour the men and women of '71 should be called together in Sydney Hall, the premises of the Battersea Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Battersea would go down in the annals of the Party as the Montmartre of the Socialist movement in Great Britain. As in '71 with the attempted seizure of the guns at Montmartre the Parisian working-class had the first brush with the enemy, so in 1904, with the passage of what was known as the "Battersea resolution," at Battersea, the working-class, of London exchanged the first shot with capitalism and all the forces of reaction. Well he remembered that engagement, for he was present when Ernest Allen, the previous speaker, who commanded the Battersea Battery on the 15th of May last, fired that well directed and penetrating shell which spread such confusion among the ranks of the enemy. As a result of that shot, The Socialist Party of Great Britain sprang into existence to fight and win the battle of the working-class. It had been pointed out that when the Commune issued a manifesto to the provinces calling upon them to act, the answer came that the manifesto was signed by unknown men. The manifesto issued on behalf of the "Battersea Meeting" calling for the formation of The Socialist Party of Great Britain was also signed by "unknown men," but he, the speaker, trusted that the response to that manifesto from provincial Britain would be more cheering and more decisive than that which came to the Paris manifesto in '71. Let the Socialists in the provinces rally to the support of those who in the metropolis were doing battle on behalf of the working-class of Great Britain and of the world. At the present time they should not calculate on any chance luck or happy accident, but they should go forward steadily with the work of organisation. Depending on the soldiers' to fraternise with the people in the hour of need was trusting to chance, for it was only a chance. Let them remember the "fraternising" that took place at Mitchelstown and at Featherstone. In Ireland the military police sent their billets-doux in the shape of bullets and in England the soldiers sent their love-messages at long range. The butchers of Featherstone served the soldiers with bullets capable of cutting through 35 inches of solid elm, and the capitalists would yet have reason to believe the workers were wooden-headed if they did not recognise that in the last resort they had nothing to rely on but their own well-disciplined strength.. Let them learn the coalescence of the French and German capitalist governments against the workings-class of Paris in '71, that the "patriotism" by which reactionaries tried to keep asunder the workers of all countries, was only a snare, and let them realise that the development of the economic forces demanded international action on the part of the working-class. International solidarity to-day transcended geographical boundaries, for rivers were bridged and mountains scaled by mankind in its onward march.

The meeting, having given hearty cheers for the Commune of '71, the Social Revolution to come, and The Socialist Party of Great Britain, was brought to a conclusion by the singing of "the International."


Communist Party's racist policy (1981)

From the February 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

"STOP IMMIGRATION, official and illegal" is one of the campaign slogans for the French presidential elections next April of . . .  Georges Marchais, General Secretary and candidate of the French Communist Party (PCF). Those who imagine that a party calling itself "communist" must have some internationalist sentiments, however vague, will be surprised at this, but not those who know anything of the history and present policy of the PCF. The PCF is also in favour of the French H-bomb and has plastered walls throughout France with a poster saying "Produisons français" )"Produce French") and its anti-Germanism has to be seen and heard to be believed. So it is not really surprising that they should also have adopted a narrow, nationalist policy with regard to immigration.

On this issue their policy is virtually identical to that of the French government: no more immigration, encouragement of immigrants already in France to go back where they came from, more or less equal treatment for those who despite this still choose to stay. When Lionel Stoléru, the French Minister of Labour, declared on a visit to Metz in October that "there is no question of admitting a single new foreigner into France"(Républicain Lorrain, 15 October 1980), he expressed a sentiment the PCF echoes, only they accuse him of not being tough enough, of allowing illegal immigration to continue!

Two PCF councillors from the Paris suburb of Ivry-sue-Seine, interviewed in Le Monde of 4 November, were asked "You want a reduction in the number of immigrants. So you and Mr. Stoléru are in the same battle". They replied "He talks, but there are no measures". As if to confirm that this was not just the opinion of two low-ranking officials in a sensitive area, the next day the Political Bureau of the PCF repeated his view in an official declaration on "The Housing of Immigrant Workers" which was published in full in L'Humanité, the Party's official daily paper, on 6 November:
These workers have been called to France by employers and a government greedy for profits. Today, the government states that immigration must be stopped otherwise new French and immigrant workers will be thrown out of work. This is in their mutual interest. But M. Giscard d'Estaing's government and his Minister Stoléru do not do what they say. They contribute to the organised illegal entry of workers with no social rights with the aim of depressing the rights of French workers. We insist that these practices be ended and that the traffickers who engage in them be repressed. 
There are about 4 million immigrant workers, with their families, in France. Most of them are from Portugal, Spain and Italy but an appreciable number are from North Africa, especially Algeria, with a few from other former French colonies—Senegal, Mali—as well as refugees and others from Indo-China. There are also people from France's remaining colonies in the West Indies (Guadeloupe and Martinique) and the Indian Ocean (Réunion) who are not officially immigrants since they are French citizens but in the popular mind are nevertheless still regarded as such. Prejudice against immigrants in France is directed overwhelmingly against Arabs and black people.

The immigrants in the Paris area have tended to settle, or rather have been forced by economic necessity to crowd together, in the poorer traditional working-class districts on the outskirts of Paris. Many of these districts have PCF mayors and it was from these mayors that the pressure came to launch the current PCF anti-immigration, not to say anti-immigrant campaign. The Secretary of the PCF federation in the Val-D'Oise department, Pierre Blotin, declared at a press conference at the beginning of October that "the rate of immigrants in the communist towns of Val-D'Oise is unacceptable and dangerous" (Républicain Lorrain, 10 October 1980). He complained that employers purposely directed immigrant workers towards PCF run towns rather than to better-off areas run by the other parties. The PCF leaders in the Val-de-Marne department on the other side of Paris took up this claim, alleging that the government's Prefects were also involved. But the prize in this anti-immigration auction must go to Lucien Lanternier, PCF mayor of Gennevilliers, just outside central Paris. He went so far as to organise a demonstration to demand that immigrants be housed in a empty block of flats up for sale in the nearby, posh suburb if Neuilly!* Interviewed in L'Humanité on 4th November, under the heading "Why Shouldn't Neuilly also Receive Some Immigrants?", he explained:
I learnt that the town of Neuilly, whose social composition is known to everyone, was going to put up for sale a large complex of about 30 apartments. I immediately wrote to the mayor of Neuilly as well as to M. Stoléru and the Prefect, for the sale to be suspended and for the apartments in question to be reserved for the rehousing of immigrant workers with large families who only aspire to live in decent conditions. M. Peretti [the mayor of Neuilly] informed me that he would meet me on 29 October but two days later, by telegram, he refused any meeting. He thus closed, with the agreement of M. Stoléru, the door to our propositions. The policy of racial and social segregation practised by the government and the elected representatives of the Right can thus be judged from the facts. This attitude is part of the Giscardian apartheid which wants to concentrate the immigrant workers in working class municipalities while certain towns and fine quarters are reserved for financial magnates and the rich. 
This is rather like the National Front in Britain demanding that Pakistanis be housed in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London rather than in Tower Hamlets! And of course it is pure demagogy on the part of the PCF mayor, though it could easily have back-fired since many "native" French workers from Gennevilliers might also have liked to be rehoused in Neuilly. The PCF mayor had in fact found a very clever way of indicating to those who had elected him that he understood their sentiments of "Arabs Out" and "Blacks Go Home" without actually having to utter such words himself. For on paper the PCF (like the government) is opposed to racism, but actions such as that of the mayor of Gennevilliers clearly show that the PCF is determined to exploit anti-immigrant feelings to pick up a few cheap votes in the coming presidential elections. Unlike in Britain most immigrants in France don't have the vote; only those from colonies like Guadeloupe and Martinique do. But in any case the PCs of these islands are not urging their supporters to vote for Georges Marchais, for a quite unrelated reason admittedly (they want independence from France).

Although the PCF avoids crude expressions of anti-immigrant prejudices it sails as close to the wind here as it can. The Politbureau statement published in L'Humanité openly states at one point that the interests of French workers must come before those of immigrant workers:
Communist elected representatives employ considerable efforts to harmonise the interests of all. Immigrant workers recognise what has been done in the municipalities run by communists. But in no way can this be done to the detriment of French workers (our emphasis).   
This, no doubt, is why the statement went on to say "we approve the communist elected representaives who limit the global volume of social aid to immigrants". In other words, when it comes to distributing the meagre aid for the destitute for housing, schooling, and so on immigrant workers must expect to be treated by PCF-controlled councils as second-class citizens. "Britons First" as the National Front in Britain would say.
Adam Buick

*Since this article was written the British press has reported yet further escalation in the PCF anti-immigrant campaign. Paul Mercieca, PCF mayor of Vitry-sur-Seine (Val de Marne department), in a bid to prevent some African immigrants being transferred to his town from a nearby non-PCF controlled area, went so far as to arrange for the vandalisation of the hostel set aside to receive them. (see The Times, 29 and 30 December 1980).

Who Benefits From 'Benefits Street'?

The TV Review column from the February 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

Benefits Street (Channel 4): yet another tawdry docusoap which reveals how some people just leech off others. The real parasites here are, of course, the programme-makers – feeding off the lives of the people they film.

The show follows some of the residents of a terraced street in an area of Birmingham which has the highest unemployment rate in Britain. Their lives are tough enough, struggling on low incomes and with little room for manoeuvre. But on top of that, now they also have to deal with the stigma and furore caused by the negative way they’ve been depicted.

Some of the participants told the press they were given the impression that the show would focus on community spirit, rather than life on benefits. They have also said that the programme-makers bribed them to get the shots wanted, including complaint-magnet footage of people buying drugs and preparing to shoplift.

Benefits Street doesn’t benefit the participants who now feel cheated and humiliated, nor the viewers manipulated into making distorted generalisations about benefit claimants. Instead, it’s the TV companies who have cashed an unusually large giro. The second episode had over a million more viewers than the first, which, with 4.3million voyeurs, was already Channel 4’s most-watched show for over a year. Extra publicity has come with all the controversy. Hundreds of complaints have been made to Channel 4 and Ofcom, and thousands have signed an online petition for the show to be dropped.

Sadly, the row has been a distraction from scenes in the programme which should prompt more debate about capitalism’s failings and how they affect people. For example, a group of Romanians are left destitute (and unable to claim benefits or state assistance) after escaping from their gangster boss.

The producers of Benefits Street have maintained that the programme is ‘fair and balanced’, but in reality it’s as fair and balanced as a broken see-saw. The editing, title and format of the show aim to exploit, rather than express the participants’ struggles. The producers have been taken in by the prevailing mood among the elite to demonise those victimised most by capitalism.
Mike Foster

Rats, hypocrites and bastards (1995)

Editorial from the January 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every Labour MP is entitled to make one valid observation, even though most of them decline the opportunity. Aneurin Bevan described the Tories as being "lower than vermin" - a verity which should have had the average rat rushing for his libel lawyer. Churchill described the Tort Party as "organised hypocrisy" - until he left the Liberals and joined it with the conviction of a true-blue hypocrite. Major called them "bastards", so proving that nobody gets everything wrong. And Tony "Dim-But-Nice" Blair reckons they're bloody good blokes and why can't the Labour team be a bit more like them?

Socialists say that Tories are unashamed defenders of the indefensible: a social system which puts profits before needs. The only good Tory is a repentant one.

The thwarted effort to increase VAT on domestic fuel was but the latest in a catalogue of callousness only remarkable for its relentlessness. Will these people stop at nothing in their bid to squeeze more profits out of us? Will the Pope say mass!

Now the gathering swine are dividing, snorting their disdain towards one another like the overfed pigs in Animal Farm. Major hangs on to his Commons majority backed up by a combination of Ulster pig farmers who think he's the least demonic traitor to deal with the catholics and a backbench filled with estate-agent-mentalities who treat power like steamers treat a crowded underground train.

Never for decades has a government looked so incompetent at pretending to be in control of capitalism. Meanwhile Blair's Labourites perform the politics of impersonation, seeking further and further to ape the rhetoric of capitalism's apologists.

There is only one way out of this sorry mess. It is time to look at what the Socialist Party has to say. The case for production for use and not profit can never have demanded more of a hearing. We are not expecting it from the mass media which is tied to the dinosaur fighting of the parliamentary circus, when it is not chasing princesses round their gyms to give the punters a quick flash in return for the millions paid to the wretched Royals.

Look, there is an alternative. There's no point in saying that nothing can be done. Something can be done to change all of this. Help us make it happen.