Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Taken To Taskers (2015)

The Proper Gander Column from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
How many of us get through the working day’s frustrations by dreaming about how better our jobs would be if the boss wasn’t around to make all the decisions? For the staff at the workplaces featured in Channel 4’s Running The Shop, this wish comes true, for a few weeks while the cameras are on them, anyway.
The show’s format sounds like it was ‘thought showered’ by a focus group mashing up The Fixer and Don’t Tell The Bride with The Apprentice. But apparently it came from ‘inspirational entrepreneur’ Hilary Devey, whose ‘brave solution’ for floundering companies is for the senior managers to take a temporary break and allow the employees to manage themselves and implement their own ideas. The programme treats this as a ground-breaking notion, as if no-one else has ever thought that workers are capable of running organisations.
The first episode visits Taskers The Home Store, which flogs furniture, appliances and DIY goods to the folk of Aintree. Its mission statement: ‘give people a BMW, charge them for a Ford’. Managing Director John Tasker is very hands-on, and keeps everyone else’s hands off all the important decisions. So while he’s away, the staff enjoy the opportunity to put into practice their new approaches to advertising, and different product ranges. Without being held back by hierarchies, they find more confidence and creativity in working together. Unfortunately, their motivation has to come from wanting to keep Taskers financially viable, and getting their boss’ approval when he returns, rather than doing a good job in and of itself. But squint a bit, and you can see something of what work could be like – people freely discussing ideas and democratically deciding what to do. Hopefully, later episodes will see the staff getting ambitious enough to think about how changing the workplace’s structure would be even more rewarding.
Mike Foster

Labour Government Wasn’t the Way to Socialism (2015)

From the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
July, seventy years ago, saw the election of the first majority Labour government in Britain. Here’s what we said at the time in the Preface to our pamphlet Is Labour Government the Way to Socialism published in January 1946. We also republish a leaflet produced in Belfast, summarising what that government did to the workers.
The end of the Second World War saw the election of a Labour Government in Great Britain. There have been other Labour Governments, in 1924 and 1929-31, but this time the Labour Government was returned with an overwhelming majority of M.P.’s in the House of Commons. On the earlier occasions the Labour M.P.’s were in a minority and the Labour Government was consequently dependent for its continued tenure of office on the support of the Liberal Party. For this reason supporters of the Labour Government pleaded that Labour Party policy had not had a fair trial; it had always to be modified to please the Liberals. Consequently when things went wrong, the failure of the Labour Governments was excused on the ground that they were ‘in office but not in power.’
This time no such excuse can be pleaded. As a Labour M. P., Mr. Garry Allighan pointed out in an article in the Daily Mail (31stJuly, 1945), ‘This time there can be no alibis.’ ‘Labour has no alibi left,’ he wrote, ‘If it fails to produce the goods – full employment, all-round national prosperity, international concord, health, homes and happiness for the whole people – it can fall back on no excuse.’
The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not support the Labour Party or Labour Governments. The S.P.G.B was founded in 1904 by working men and women who were convinced that Socialism is the only hope of the working class. Labour Governments cannot solve the workers’ problems. In 1924 and again in 1929 we placed on record in our official organ, the Socialist Standard, our certainty that the Labour Government just entering office was bound to fail, not because it was a minority government but because the whole idea of Labour Government is based on a wrong principle. We saw those two governments come to an inglorious end, as we knew they must, but the lesson was not taken to heart by the workers. This time there can be no good reason for failing to draw the correct conclusion. The Labour Government which entered office in 1945 cannot solve the problems facing the workers of this country. No matter how able and sincere the M.P.’s and members of the Labour Party may be they cannot succeed in making the existing social system work in the interest of the great majority of the population, the wage and salary earners.
To say this is not, however, a gospel of despair. The workers’ problems can be solved, but only by abolishing the capitalist system of society at one sweep and establishing Socialism in its place.
This great task can be brought to fulfilment, but first it is necessary to understand why “Labourism” is not and cannot be the means of doing it.
It is the purpose of this pamphlet to explain why ‘Labourism’ must fail and why Socialism will succeed.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, S.P.G.B. January, 1946
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LABOUR GOVERNMENT AND THE WORKERS (1960)

Your Labour candidate will advise you that you can improve your conditions of life by voting Labour. His Party, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, are at one with the British Labour Party. Below we give some details of Labour Government in Britain:

(1)     Used CONSCRIPT TROOPS to BREAK strikes.
(2)     Imposed a "PAY PAUSE" and "INDUSTRIAL CONSCRIPTION".
(3)     Used (in peace time) a wartime Order, 1305, in an effort to have striking trade unionists JAILED.
(4)     Had workers RESISTING BLACK-LEG LABOUR sentenced to IMPRISONMENT and FINES under old PROPERTY-PROTECTION ACTS of 1875.
(5)     Agreed to, and tried to justify, the dropping of the FIRST A-Bomb on Hiroshima.
(6)     Safeguarded the interests of British capitalism by nationalisation of bankrupt industries.
(7)     Sent British troops to AID DUTCH IMPERIALISM, and IMPRISONED and BANISHED African leaders.
(8)     Imposed the FIRST CHARGES on the "free" Health Services.

This is but a small part of Labour's black record when it waged war against the workers in the interests of British capitalism between the years 1945 and 1951. We challenge our Labour opponents to deny or "explain" these terrible happenings.

In this Election the UNIONIST AND LABOUR candidates stand for the MAINTENANCE of CAPITALISM. Only the WORLD SOCIALIST PARTY challenges the capitalist system and proposes an alternative―SOCIALISM.

BEFORE VOTING YOU HAVE A DUTY TO CONSIDER THE SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE.

Printed by the Cranmour Press, 49a Mountjoy Street, Belfast 13, and Published by the World Socialist Party, 185 Donegall Street, Belfast 1.

Labour's Strange 'Revolution' (2015)

Editorial from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

Labour's electoral victory, 70 years ago this month, was a strange sort of revolution.

Since 1940, the Labour Party had been in power as part of the wartime coalition. 1945 saw them merely increase their share of the political cake. Clement Attlee, for instance, previously Deputy Prime Minister under Churchill, moved up a step. Similarly, Herbert Morrison, who had run the home front during the war, continued to run the home front during the peace. Morrison, Home Security during the war, stepped into Attlee's shoes as Deputy Prime Minister.

Amongst rank and file Labour MPs elected in 1945, there were dozens of majors and lieutenants - the officer class – and not a single private. The very ordinary elite remained quite firmly in control of the political establishment.

Labour's crowning glory of '45 is seen as the creation of the so-called welfare state, in particular the National Health Service.

Although associated with the Labour Party, in fact all capitalist parties supported the drive for reorganisation of 'social security' – the provision of housing, health and education, and of unemployment and old age payments. Beveridge, whose report formed the basis for the social security reforms after 1945, was a Liberal. The Education Act of 1944, which established free compulsory secondary education for all, was the work of the Tory 'Rab' Butler.

To the capitalist class, it was evident that the existing system needed reform. A patchwork quilt of measures enacted over a century was unsystematic and hence inefficient – particularly in cost terms. Loopholes existed through which workers could gain more than they 'needed'.

And the welfare state also brought them benefits. The war had revealed serious flaws in the health of the 'nation'. The British Tommy, with his rotten teeth and pigeon chest, became an object of derision. This was a bad for fighting - and for working when peace returned. Something had to be done. In 1943, arch-capitalist Sir Samuel Courtauld freely admitted that social security 'will ultimately lead to higher efficiency among them and a lowering of production costs'. Healthy workers make healthy profits.

The welfare state, the promise of a 'better world' tomorrow was also a carrot, an incentive to increase production – and killing – during the war. The Beveridge Report honestly declared 'each individual citizen is more likely to concentrate upon his war effort if he feels that his Government will be ready in time with plans for that better world'. It was a promise that had to be fulfilled to avoid social unrest and conflict.

However, like all reforms, the measures that constituted the welfare state were always viewed by the capitalist class as subject to requirements. As early as 1951, the Labour government introduced the first charges on its own supposedly free National Health Service.

The welfare state and the NHS may have benefited the workers, but that was not the intention. The intention was to maximise profits, to increase the welfare of the capitalist class. So far as revolution was involved, the reforms were an attempt to avoid it.