Friday, February 6, 2015

A New Magazine (1962)

From the December 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nothing that is new can be dismissed out of hand. If that sounds like a truism, it is at least one that bears and needs repetition. Ignorance and prejudice still stalk the world, and the untried, the unknown, are ruthlessly annihilated.

The approach of the Socialist is completely opposite to this. Our approach is and always must be scientific. In that spirit then, we examine yet one more journal, amid the welter of journals that fill the bookstalls, which claims to spread enlightenment.

October saw the launching of New Society, described as the social science weekly. The general layout is excellent, while the actual printing is a model to many of its contemporaries. Some idea of the range of subjects can be seen in a few of the articles in number one. "Softening the Sack" deals with redundancy and job security. "New facts on Teen-Age Marriage" with considerable detail. Barbara Wootton contributes "Socrates, Science and Social Problems" — a plea for the scientific approach to social problems. The Home Secretary is interviewed by editor Timothy Raison on his approach to crime, and Robert Bierstedt, head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of New York University, gives a report on the various papers read to the recent meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Taken in all, there is much to interest and inform. But a word of warning. The leading article endeavours to explain the aims and methods of New Society, thus:
We shall not ignore ideas and theories; indeed we see their interpretation as one of the principal challenges to us. But we aim above all to link the study of society with practice; to tell the manager what the psychologist has to say, to make the town planner aware of what the social anthropologist is revealing, to inform the local government official or councillor of the trends revealed by the demographer, to enable the magistrate to know what the criminologist has to offer and—in each case equally important—vice versa. The experience of the practitioner and the research of the academic are complementary, and our contributors will be drawn from both groups.
We can be under no illusion then, of the path that will be taken. However scientific the approach may be in intention, the sciences must be kept within the bounds of the existing social order—capitalism. This makes a mockery of the very name of the science and means that just one more hunter joins in chasing a will-o-the-wisp, for we know that the problems of society can only be solved by the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Nevertheless, there will be much worth studying in this journal if the early issues live up to their promise.
H. J. W.

Court On Camera (2015)

The Proper Gander Column from the February 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Watch some of ITV’s output during weekday afternoons and you’ll feel like you’re being punished for having nothing better to do. One such guilty displeasure is Judge Rinder, the UK’s version of American ratings magnet Judge Judy. A TV studio has been turned into a mock-up courtroom, complete with a public gallery, clerks, and a non-authentic gavel. The cases are real; the sort heard in small claims courts. Someone is trying to get their money back from builders for unfinished work; someone else is trying to get an ex-friend to repay a disputed loan. Presiding over the court is Judge Robert Rinder, who grills each claimant and defendant, then decides how the situation should be resolved.

The programme carefully doesn’t dwell on the lack of legal weight the judge’s judgements have. Instead, it’s all about how waspish he can make his remarks. Judge Judy’s amiable-as-barbed wire approach has been replaced by Rinder’s prissy sarcasm. He very much enjoys playing to the camera, grabbing hold of each defendant or claimant’s mistakes and wringing out a chuckle or a gasp from the studio audience. Trust and generosity are often dismissed as ‘stoopid’, while among his other witticisms are ‘listening doesn’t mean I’m believing’ and ‘I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing near you’. Rinder’s attitude reminds us that the law is there to put us ‘in our place’. Blot out his snarky wisecracks, and the programme gives a sad picture of how the way we relate to each other often boils down to a financial transaction. So, when money isn’t paid, relationships get broken. For all that Rinder aims for a common sense resolution, the contracts and rights of ownership involved are often ridiculously convoluted. Society tangles us up in these knots and then, as even Rinder acknowledges, the law can’t repair the damage caused to friendships and families. What the show does is package this hurt into what’s meant to be entertainment.
Mike Foster

Obituary: Jim Glitz (1982)

Obituary from the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with great sadness that we report the loss of our comrade, Jim Glitz, who died of a heart attack on 10 March. Jim joined the Hackney branch in 1946 and in recent years was an enthusiastic contributor to the activities of Islington branch. Our comrade was an outspoken opponent of all upholders of privilege, including the "leaders" on the left wing who believe workers are too stupid to do their own thinking. Working in the kitchen of London's most fashionable resting place for parasites, the Ritz Hotel, Jim was able to observe at first hand the sickening class division of capitalism. "Glitz of the Ritz", as he was nicknamed, was a remarkably compassionate man, whose respect for all living beings and hatred of callousness marked him as a real socialist. I travelled with Jim on several speaking tours and was struck by his single-minded dedication to revolutionary change and his constant willingness to lend a hand whenever practical work work was needed to be done. Jim Glitz's repertoire of jokes will go down in history as among the worst on record; but his skill as a chess player will not be forgotten easily by the numerous members who tried, but failed, to win against him. Above all, Jim will be remembered by his comrades as a principled socialist who, compared to the idle capitalists who employed him, was a giant.