Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Madness (1982)

Book Review from the October 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Authors take sides on the Falklands, edited by Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson. Publ. Woolf. 1982. £1.95 paperback. £4.95 paperback.

Over the past few months the frenzied jingoism of the Falklands War has been dropped from the national press in favour of more traditional entertainments such as the Royal Baby, the World Cup, the latest slaughter in the Middle East and the "Battle at Home" against the health workers, who not only insist on working hard to care for people, but also bother  the government by wanting to be paid for it.

The Falklands War exposed both Labour and Tory as hypocrites, with Thatcher claiming that about a thousand people died for the sake of the "British" citizens of the Falklands, many of who are prevented from even coming to Britain by the Nationality Act, and the "inveterate peacemonger" Foot fighting to be first to send the gun-boats out. But quite aside from these aspects of the conflict, there is an underlying question which must be answered.

The murderous destruction of the Falklands War, like that of all wars today, arose out of the particular form of society in which the world is divided into nations, competing for profit in the world market. In each of the these countries there is a small class who own and control the factories, mines, offices, hospitals and other means of production, and there is a majority class who have to work in those places to survive. The owning class possesses without having to produce, while wage and salary earners produce accumulations of wealth which they do not possess.

Wars are fought by workers, but over the interests of employers. National sovereignty, lucrative markets, mineral resources and trade routes are matters of concern for those who profit from them. Despite the rhetoric about fighting fascism, defying aggression and loving freedom from governments who scorn democracy, thrive on violence and fear the freedom of their electors, wars are not fought over such ideals. The question is, are workers to defend our own interests by uniting across national boundaries to end war and the system which causes it, or are we to continue to be blinded by the ideology of nationalism?

In Authors take sides on the Falklands a number of writers have been asked whether they supported the government's action in sending the task force, and how the conflict should have been solved. A number of them. including Magnus Pyke, James Cameron, Peter Cadogan and Christopher Hill, put their faith in the United Nations to deal with these awkward little arguments over control of territory which naturally flows from a system of society based on property and profit. This hope is well answered, though, by John Papworth, who says that "the UN is an international league of warmongers and it is as unreasoning to expect it to secure the abolition of war as it is to expect an international league of the Mafia to secure the abolition of crime". This elite band of learned academics, imaginative visionaries and humanitarian philosophers come out with the same murderous rubbish which the Sun put more bluntly in its articles about killing "Argies". Piers Paul Read talks about the "Latin temperament", and Margaret Drabble, while recognising that the war was a modern form of "bread and circuses", says that she is patriotic enough to have been "embarrassed" by what happened.

Brian Aldiss, Kingsley Amis, D. M. Thomas, Arthur Hailey, Muriel Spark and Melvyn Bragg all support the idea of workers in British uniforms killing workers killing workers in Argentine uniforms because an Argentine ruler took over some land which was largely controlled by Coalite through the Falklands Islands Company. They see the senseless slaughter as unfortunate, but necessary, because to them the present way of running society is the only way possible and must last forever, even though it has existed for only a fraction of past human life on earth.

Roald Dahl, in between writing pleasant stories to entertain and amuse innocent young children, had this to say:
Today, excessive socialism seems to have nurtured a flabby and idle breed of people who would rather compromise than fight. I would fight. Thank goodness there are some left who would do the same.
H. J. Eysenck, who is supposed to be an expert on intelligence, wrote:
I think the British government's response to the Argentine annexation of the Falklands Islands was entirely justified, and executed with exemplary determination, courage and competence.
Literary critic G. R. Wilson Knight obediently confessed that since these exemplary cases of burning alive young conscripts to the Argentine forces were ratified by all three parties in Parliament, he would not "presume to register any complaint". Keith Waterhouse "supported our response — but not its supporters". The historian Hugh Thomas says that "In the end, the British action was exemplary and I supported it with all my heart". The astronomer Patrick Moore wrote: "Of course the Government acted correctly". Spike Milligan, for all his war jokes, seems to think that the only ridiculous thing about war is the idea of trying to get rid of it:
I am for the Government's response to the Argentine annexation of the Falkland Islands . . . Utopia only exists in the mind . . . the only way to end wars is to have them (p.79)
and Alan Sillitoe hopes that by the time his reply to the questionnaire gets printed the Falklands Islands will be "back where they belong—under British administration".

There are a few contributors who are more realistic. Peter Fryer points out that "compared with the real problems facing humanity, which set of robbers control a tiny bit of land in the South Atlantic is a pseudo-problem". Michael Bogdanov asks:
A choice between an exocet and a hospital, a sea-king and a school. What sane person would not opt for welfare before war?
Michael Horovitz quotes Ghandi, when asked what he thought of western civilisation: "I think it would be a very good idea". More representative, however, is David Holbrook, who thinks that the Falklands campaign was "a form if 'useful hate', forced upon us by circumstances", or Arnold Wesker who, after eight points of qualification, makes point nine, that "The Task Force had to be sent", and point ten, that:
I'm driven to the desperate and uncomfortable conclusion that depressing and tragic though it is for the price paid, the task force have no alternative but to fight on until occupying Argentine forces surrender (p. 107).
The painful dilemma which so many of these writers seem to be suffering, between dislike of destruction and acceptance of a global system of competition rooted in violence, is being solved by them at the moment by suspending their dislike for destruction.
Clifford Slapper

Glorious Aldershot (1985)

From 'The Place Where I Live' series from the May 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Welcome to Aldershot — Home of the British Army" — so says the large sign on the side of the main A325 Aldershot by-pass. The town has been the "Home of the British Army" for the past century and a half and, as a native, I am supposed to be proud of this distinction.

Aldershot and the surrounding area can be described at best as plain, and at worst as a shoddy haven for the capitalist property developers whose architectural eye-sores spring up like noxious fungi in a town which has one of the worst housing problems in Hampshire. Many of the shanty housing estates are owned by the Ministry of Defence (there is not a great deal in Aldershot which is not owned or controlled by the MoD) and it is here that Our Boys and their families are expected to exist. Naturally, if and when an occupier of one of these salubrious shoeboxes is discharged from Her Majesty's Armed Forces he is unceremoniously discharged from the house — and while he is homeless the house is often left empty.

Apart from the squalid housing, Aldershot has another unique distinction, indeed attraction: it has more monuments, plaques, memorials and obelisks commemorating and glorifying war and death than any other town of comparable insignificance. Rarely does a week go by without the army-barmy Colonel Blimp reminiscing in the pages of the local rags about the glory days of mass slaughter, and how Our Boys sorted out Johnny Gaucho in the Falklands.

The jingoistic hysteria whipped up over the Falklands three years ago certainly had the desired effect in Aldershot; many young soldiers based in the town sacrificed their lives in order to protect the interests of capitalism and to advance the political prowess of Thatcher and her battalion of yes-men. Even today the patriotic drivel still abounds in Aldershot with all the reactionary gusto of 1982. A story in the Aldershot News (29 March) told of a group of ex-servicemen who bought some plots of land on East Falkland from the Coalite Group to sell them to the soldiers who fought in the war as " . . .  a perfect patriotic souvenir of a great moment in British history". On payment of just £12.00 the purchaser "  . . . will be allowed to plant trees, raise the Union Flag, place a plaque or wander freely on the site". Just in case the unwitting buyer cannot afford to travel 10,000 miles to admire his tree, flag and plaque he is compensated with a nice gold certificate, confirming his acquisition of a piece of wind-swept, sheep-shit-covered rock.

But what really stuck in my throat was the following quote from a soldier:
. . . we feel there are hundreds of soldiers who fought in the Falklands who will want some tangible memory of their war. (my emphasis)   
Whose war? All wars are fought, not in the interests of those conscripted to do the fighting but of those who own and control the means of living. Workers from various countries are merely used by their masters as expendable pawns in their campaigns to secure profitable  trade routes, natural resources and markets. When the majority wealth producers — the working class — understand and want socialism we can then abolish war by abolishing its cause — capitalism. In a socialist society there will be nothing to fight over because everything produced will be freely accessible; disputes over natural resources, trade routes and markets which lead to war in capitalist society will not arise.

The resources currently squandered in the pursuit of fighting and preparing for war would, in a socialist world, be diverted into the production of socially useful things such as houses, food, hospitals and medicines. Aldershot will certainly be a very different place — no barracks, no slums, no more monuments glorifying mass slaughter and no more silly road signs.
John Armstrong

Capitalism: the hate machine (1984)

From the November 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

The army exercise Operation Lionheart, which took place in West Germany in September, was said to be the biggest war game since the end of the Second World War; altogether, some 131,000 NATO soldiers were involved along with their air-forces. These forces were divided into the Blues, representing the West, and the Orange, representing the Russian enemy. The purpose of the exercise was to test the West's responses to an invasion by Russian forces and the battlefield was West Germany right up to the Iron Curtain border. According to a report on BBC Radio Ulster, Soviet observers were to be present and 31,000,000 will be paid in compensation to German farmers for destruction resulting from the war game.

It might be a neighbourly gesture to have the Russians along to observe how the West proposes to slaughter them in the next war. Doubtless NATO's eastern guests will reciprocate with a military junket of their own and, in the best neighbourly traditions of propertied society—which imposes on the guests the need to surpass their hosts when their turn comes to throw a party—they will give an impressive display of killing capacities.

War, the threat of war, and the consequent need to give priority to "defence" budgets, has always been a feature of capitalism. In the past, it was aberrational, with periods of peace-mongering and disarmament high on the system's agenda. Armaments are financed by taxation and, directly or indirectly, taxation is a charge on capital; in the past, considerable segments of capitalism have lobbied for arms cuts and reduced taxation.

Since the Second World War that has all changed. The "defence" industries have become deeply interwoven into the fabric of the system and there are few large industries today — and, especially multinational industries — that are not associated with "defence" in one way or another. It is probably impossible to calculate the number of human lives that are bound up in some way with the killing and destruction business. Sivard estimates that they total almost a hundred million, while other estimates put the figure far in excess of this. Apart from the millions engaged in "defence" forces, and their reserves, there are further millions producing armaments, making uniforms, providing food and catering services; there are construction crews, scientists, surveyors — the whole range of occupations and professions. The aircraft industry, the shipbuilding industry, engineering, furniture industry, office equipment, telecommunications, together with such utilities as gas, electricity, coal—it would be difficult indeed to think of an industry that is not involved in some way with war and preparation for war.

Throughout the world, the nations representing the opposing power blocs are now permanently engaged in preparation for war. Vast arsenals of fabulously expensive war materials are continually being rendered obsolete, superseded by newer, more expensive, more threatening and more terrible weapons of mass destruction. In the countries concerned, the staggeringly vast amounts of wealth devoted to weaponry — often in the face of cuts in social welfare and in health care and in education — must be justified. What justification can a government and its pensioned news media give for such organised lunacy?

The only justification that can be given is the need for "defence" — no government has a Department of Offence. But even that will not suffice as a general excuse. The government must identify the potential enemy and, further, must provide evidence of the enemy's evil intent — evidence commensurate with the appalling outpourings of the "nation's wealth" on armaments. In other words, throughout the most technically developed countries of the world today there is the permanent need for preparing people psychologically to face up to the prospect of war; the definite need to inculcate hatred, distrust and fear of an identified potential enemy.

Imagine two families living in close proximity to one another adopting this attitude. Both sets of parents continually tell their children that the other family are preparing to harm them and that they must procure the most deadly weapons they can lay hands on to protect themselves. Every day, the parents upbraid their children with the warning that their neighbours are intent on destroying them: the neighbours are deceitful, untrustworthy, evil, heavily armed and constantly intent on destruction.

If such hatred and fear were constantly pumped into the children of both families is it not likely that, at some point, they will come into conflict? And, if the consequences of that conflict led them into court, can you imagine the comments of the bewigged buffoon who presides over the administration of capitalism's strange and ambivalent "law and order"?

Of course, this analogy is incomplete in that it fails to explain why two normal families should adopt such an attitude to one another. In the case of capitalism the answer is to be found in its unceasing, relentless competition for markets, for natural resources, for trade routes and the need to maintain military forces and strategic areas for the defence or acquisition of these markets.

Additional to these dangers is the permanence of war preparations, the vast expenditure on which needs injections of hatred and fear. Thus, the separate national segments of world capitalism need a Hate Machine — a combination of capitalism's politicians and the leaders of its institutions, together with its obedient media of mass communication — constantly poisoning the relations between peoples and creating the fears and insecurities essential to the popular acceptance of war and its vastly expensive preparations.

Whatever other deadly lessons capitalism's captains may have learned from the war game Lionheart, they can be satisfied that it is a valuable input for the Hate Machine. It will have served to show the boys at the front, the "nation" and the whole "free world" who the enemy is going to be; who to hate, to fear and distrust. If it is completely successful, it will have the added advantage of showing just how unpatriotic are those enemies of our civilised way-to-life who would dare to suggest that the wealth used to set up and carry through Lionheart might have been spent on building a couple of thousand houses or on saving the lives of the thousands who died of hunger or hunger-related diseases within our civilised capitalist world during the 22 days of Lionheart.
Richard Montague
(Belfast Branch, World Socialist Party)

INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL (1949)

From the December 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

"When I dipped into the future as far as human eye can see."

Every generation produces at least one writer who sets upon paper his visions of the future. As early as the 13th Century Roger Bacon is reputed to have visualised a "horseless chariot." Tennyson in his "Locksley Hall" foresaw aerial warfare. Early this century H. G. Wells dreamed up all kinds of weird and wonderful phenomena which if nothing else, at least made an intersting film.

Many of these writers use this medium, as did Plato with his "Republic," as a vehicle for their own political and philosophical ideas. 1949 has produced two novels of the future which are in reality no more than their respective authors' views upon contemporary events.

For Aldous Huxley, "Ape and Essence" is a second attempt. His first, "Brave New World" with its pre-determinism and Malthusian belts was a sensation twenty or so years ago. Since then apparently this peculiar mystic of the Californian coast has developed and now instead of seeing the highly complex press-button society of the "Brave New World," he sees, as did Jack London fifty years before, the complete destruction of civilisation as we know it. Only with London it was the plague; with Huxley it is the atomic bomb.

About fifty years after the third world war has destroyed the rest of the world an expedition from New Zealand lands on the coast that was Los Angeles. One of their number is captured by the inhabitants whom he had found engaged in exhuming the corpses for their clothing and jewellery. He learns of the results of an atomic war. Machinery is unusable. Human beings instead of having a permanent potency have an animal-like sexual cycle. All the breeding takes place during a fortnight's orgy which is opened by the assassination of all deformed children and their mothers by a castrated high priest. Women are degraded and known as vessels of evil. In short, good has succumbed to evil to such an extent that their god is the devil and the sign of the cross has been displaced by the sign of his proverbial horns. The whole story is written in the form of a film script which enables the author to introduce many side issues, one of which is the picture of baboons leading humans resembling Einsteins, symbolising the degradation of the intellectual.

Summing up, if one can see through the thick clouds of erotic pipe dreams which seem always to surround the author, the warning that he issues is not a new one. It has been used to justify every war and struggle in history—that it is a battle between good and evil, though the purveyors of this argument are always careful not to define or describe the terms they use. Huxley presents what will happen if this particular form of evil triumphs. So children, gather around Uncle Aldous and his happy band of intellectuals, and lay down your lives that his "goodness" may live to fight again.

George Orwell, the other crystal gazer, takes us but thirty-four years hence to the world 1984, and thus his book his titled. He too had previously attempted satire with his "Animal Farm."

By 1984, Orwell visualises the world resolved into three states, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, who are all conducting long-distance wars against the other. The scene of the story is Great Britain, now known as Airstrip 1 of Oceania. In this society there are still two classes, Party members and "proles," and although the latter are in the majority they live as they do to-day and count for very little. The Party members are dominated by one "Big Brother" who is quoted, heard and pictured but never seen. In every one of their homes there is a television on reverse which conveys to the Party all that each member does and says. The language spoken is "Newspeak" in which no word has a definite meaning. For example, "war is peace," and "strength is weakness" are phrases they use. It os the intention of the Party to crush all individuality and permanency of ideas.

The hero, Winston Smith, is a member concerned with erasing contradictions in the Party's propaganda. He meets a young woman, a section leader in the Women's Anti-Sex League and they become involved with a secret revolutionary organisation led by one Goldstein. At the same meeting they become attached to each other—a crime against the State. They have clandestine meetings in the "proles" quarters and speak of the happiness to be found amidst the bug-ridden slums where they live as normal human beings. Unfortunately they are captured and Smith, like thousands before him, is tortured both physically and mentally until he is convinced that he loves "Big Brother." With the juggernaut of the State continuing uninterrupted he can only hope that one day the "proles" will rise and alter things.

Analysing the book, it seems that George Orwell fear the centralisation that is the trend of present-day society. We have seen the dictatorship of Germany which, with its lack of "left wing" jargon, was old-fashioned, and the more fashionable Russia, and now, with the advent of the Labour Government and nationalisation, to say nothing of the expulsion of Platt-Mills, Zilliacus and company. Orwell fear the same trend in Great Britain. His "Newspeak" is aimed at the new illiteracy wherein masses of words lack any different meaning. He offers no solution but hopes that one day the masses will rise. If his hope is to be fulfilled, then surely the masses would have been powerful enough to prevent that state of affairs arising in the first place.

Yet in spite of their difference of approach there is a great deal of similarity between the two writers. They both use the symbol of the sex instinct to portray the crushing of what is generally mis-named "human nature" — in other words, that the advancement of scientific discovery is making man less and less a conscious organism and more and more an appendage to a machine. Both of them are struggling in a mental morass. Huxley, having started with the post-1918 cynicism, has dabbled in psychology and all the other fads of the inter-war years and finally, along with his contemporary T. S. Eliot, arrived at the conclusion that God is the answer — that there'll be pie in the sky when you die. What a lie! Orwell, like so many of the other self-styled left wing intellectuals has finally decided that the system in Russia is not all that he thought it was and is now groping in the dark for some new axe to grind, and for the moment is content, instead of offering false hopes to issue unmerited warnings.

But both of them are agreed on one point—the need for intellectual leadership, and like every other advocate of this will-o'-the-wisp, they are the boys for the job—the figurehead in whose wake the masses will rally.

What tripe! As members of that mass let us do a little crystal gazing of our own and inform these two worthies that leaders, whether they style themselves as practical or intellectual, are no more than reflections of the ignorance of their followers. Just as the gods and hobgoblins are fading as men solve more of their problems, so will the need for leadership die when men decide exactly where they want to go. Gradually they are finding the correct road. As slumps and wars grow more frequent, each one more vicious than its predecessor, more and more are rejecting the excuses and finding the cause. With the cause comes the cure. When there are enough of us with that understanding, the Huxleys and the Orwells will be left at the post. Men will march forward together not to a 1984, or to destruction, but to a new society where all men and women can live full and happy lives.
Ronald. 

Seventeen and Counting (2015)

Book Review from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

David Harvey: 'Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism'. Profile £9.99.

We’ll not state all the proposed contradictions here, just list the three kinds that David Harvey identifies. Foundational contradictions (such as those between use value and exchange value, and private appropriation and common wealth) are at the very heart of capitalism, essential aspects of it. Moving contradictions are continually changing (for instance, between competition and monopoly, and inequalities of wealth and income) and dangerous ones threaten capitalism’s existence. This last category includes the relation to the natural world and, because of the ubiquity of alienation, to human nature: capitalism will simply become unacceptable to the majority of the population. 

Along the way some interesting points are made. One is that, despite the supposed emphasis on competition, monopoly is in fact central to capitalism, since the capitalist class exercise a collective monopoly over the means of production. Yet potentially monopolisable skills, such as computer programming, are countered by increased avenues to acquire them, thus undermining the chances of relatively high wages for workers who possess these skills.

Other claims are less convincing, though. There are frequent references to the existence of a class of rentiers, who own the land, mineral rights, and so on. However, it is not clear whether these are claimed to constitute a separate class of owners, or just a sectional interest within the capitalist class. The landlord class are described as unproductive, in contrast to ‘productive capital’.

But it is particularly in regard to what he means by the end of capitalism that Harvey is unclear and inconsistent. There is an early reference to ‘the utopian aim of a social order without exchange value and therefore moneyless’, but this is quickly dropped, apparently in favour of Silvio Gesell’s bizarre idea of money that goes out of date and so cannot be accumulated as happens now. Harvey also advocates what he calls ‘revolutionary reform’, which involves reducing the inequalities of wealth and income to the extent that the reproduction of capital is threatened. But he hardly makes any case for this, and capitalism can after all operate with far less inequality than currently exists. 

The final chapter lists seventeen ‘ideas for political praxis’, one for each contradiction. These are something of a hotch-potch, though: abolish all inequalities except those implied in ‘to each according to their need’, and introduce equal entitlements to health care, housing, food security and some others. In place of the class division of capitalism there would be associated producers freely deciding what to produce and how. Yet there would still be some means of exchange (Gesell-style money, perhaps, but why?). Maybe the proposals here are not intended to form a consistent whole, but they do not equate to socialism. After all, it would be easy enough to advocate a moneyless society without exchange if the author shared our conception of future society. 
Paul Bennett

Why I joined the SPGB (1975)

From the November 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the nineteen-thirties it was commonplace for meetings to be held at street corners. Many sites became well-known. There were fewer cars and no TV. The audiences were attentive, asked questions and took part in discussion. Many workers became interested in politics at such meetings. I was an example. Apart from a critical attitude to Religion, as a youth, I took most things for granted.

It was in 1933 that I first stopped to listed to a meeting. I was eighteen years old. When I heard the speaker say we were "slaves" I stayed to hear more. I may have heard words like "capitalism", "socialism", "wage-labour" before but never thought much about them. The speaker urged workers to organize themselves as a class and end the system that exploited them and was the cause of their poverty". This impressed me as I had often wondered what gave other people the right to order me about, so I was in the right frame of mind. I stayed until the end. I bought a pamphlet for 1d called From Slavery to Freedom and that title suited me fine. I could use a bit of freedom. It gave me an inkling as to what Socialism was all about. I went back to Rushcroft Road time and again. Meetings began to act like a magnet. I was drawn to them. I was out every night listening and learning. I was soon familiar with the various parties. Amongst them the SPGB and I listened to their speakers. It was one of them that I heard the first time. I had become a "Political Animal".

However, if there was a wrong turning, I took it. I was going to have to learn the hard way. I was attracted by the rallies in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square which were always "Against Fascism". I got the idea that this was helping Socialism. This was unfortunate as I was going off at a tangent. But I wanted action. I wanted to be in the middle of things.

At the time of the Spanish Civil War, whilst crossing Westminster Bridge, our long rambling columns were confronted by arm-raised lines of BUF (Mosleyite) supporters. There were thousands in our demonstration and we outnumbered and out-shouted the "Blackshirts". We held up clenched fists in reply to the "Hitler salute". With our chanting and banners proclaiming "Arms for Spain" we felt we had won a victory for the forces of "peace and socialism".

In 1936 I joined the Labour Party because I considered it "the mass party of the working class". I was not sure what they meant, but it sounded fine at the time. Anyway I was only joining to help turn it into a genuine socialist party. My fellow members were reformists and I was going to win them over to socialism. I now regarded myself as a sound revolutionary. I did not entertain any doubts on that score.

I soon found myself engaged in other activities. Soon after becoming a member of the LP I came into contact with the "Militant Labour League" and joined. They were one of several Trotskyist factions. I was in fact a member of a party within another party. The atmosphere was very conspiratorial. Secret meetings were held regularly to decide strategy. The object was to try and get control of local Labour Party Branches. The so-called Communist Party was playing a similar game. According to the MLL the basis of socialism had been laid in Russia in 1917 by the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky, but Stalin had betrayed the October Revolution, usurped power and built up his bureaucracy. The USSR was a "degenerated workers' state". The object of the League was to defend the basis of this "workers' state", build up a fourth International, work for world revolution and overthrow Stalin, at the same fighting against the Labour leadership in Britain. We sure had plenty to get on with. But we were not deterred: we were Bolsheviks ready for any task. With the "deepening of the crisis of world capitalism" the working class would rally to the Vanguard of the Masses. That was us. We were all set to win the "leadership" stakes.

We did not bother to explain to other workers what socialism was. That was a waste of time. The workers would trust and follow us. We would raise the right slogans at the right time and we were the right leaders. Had not the mantle of Lenin and Trotsky fallen on us? The tasks in the "coming period" was immense. Programmes dealing with "perspectives" were constantly issued. We would be dealing with world-shattering events. Hitler came to power because of false leadership of the German workers. Victory for the world working class would come, under the Banner of the Fourth International. Each of us saw himself as a potential Trotsky directing Red Armies all over the world. We did not have long to wait for events to start moving. "The death agony of capitalism" started getting under way, or so we thought, when World War Two began in 1939.

During the war, at a conference, all the groups united to form the "Revolutionary Communist Party". We listened to a recording of Trotsky's voice. Delegates were overcome and had tears in their eyes as they heard the "Old Man's" voice. We, the self-appointed leaders, then all shook hands and sang the Internationale. The ruling class did not have time to tremble, however, for this new party sank soon after this emotional launching. All the "perspectives" were wrong. None of the forecasts of world revolution materialized. It was the RCP that collapsed and not capitalism. There was no turning of the masses to the vanguard, and there was no death agony of capitalism.

Disillusioned, it came to me in 1945 that the workers of the world were not class-conscious. They did not want Socialism. I had to adjust my thinking. After the dust settled it was clear the post-war world was not going to be different. The working class supported capitalism and it was going to continue. At the end of the war it was "back to work" as usual for wages. The only crisis that occurred was if workers could not get their old jobs back.

My pipe-dreams were coming to an end. I could not agree with the Trotskyist slogan "For a Third Labour Government". I refused to vote for it at the 1945 General Election. I left the Labour Party and, at the same time, broke with Bolshevism although this was regarded as "impossible". It was like breaking out of a stifling prison and coming back into the real world.

I avidly started reading the SOCIALIST STANDARD again. In the light of bitter experience, I had to re-learn all the fundamentals of Socialism. I listened again to what the SPGB had to say. Hearing their speakers was like a breath of fresh air. I went to their lectures and classes. I was thoroughly routed in arguments about Russia. I felt confused when members of the SPGB asked me what a "workers' state" was; why did the Russian workers pay themselves wages? Did Karl Marx write a book called Capital or a book called "Dialectical Materialism"? And much else besides. Understanding, at last, the materialist conception of history I was able to refute the "workers' state" nonsense, and beginning to see the Trotskyite so-called "theories" were ridiculous.

I never met one Trotskyite who advocated the abolition of the wages system or understood its implications. No-one ever spoke about production solely for use. They do not know the difference between the common ownership of the tools of production with democratic control by the whole of society and what they call "nationalization under workers' control". The followers of Trotsky are anti-working class because they distort the meaning of Socialism. They hinder the spread of genuine Socialist knowledge.

I could see now how wrong I had been been, and I had much to learn. Despite my mistakes I had not turned sour about Socialism. I applied to join the SPGB and was accepted in 1946. Socialist understanding expands when you become a member. I recall meeting again in the Camberwell branch our late Comrade Frank Dawe, whom I had known very slightly over the years. He had asked me what I had been up to, and I told him. He gave me a quizzical smile and said: "You have been doing what I call 'boring' in the Labour Party. All you do in fact is to 'bore' in at one end and then 'bore' out again at the other, without achieving anything. Put it down to experience!" That just about sums it all up.
J. C. Gormley