The Sting in the Tail column from the February 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard
Tory Think Tankers
Run for cover, folks, there’s some mean-lookin' hombres in town and they're a-gunnin’ for one another!
A scene from High Noon or Gunfight at the OK Corral? No, merely that
Opposing Tory think tanks are set to wage a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party in the coming year. Party right-wingers led by the No Turning Back group are to demand fresh Thatcherite reforms, and the left-leaning Social Market Foundation will seek Keynesian intervention to end the recession.The Guardian (28 December 1992)
We know who the Thatcherites are but who are the Social Market Foundation? Remember David Owen and his "social market" guff? Well, the SMF are mainly ex-members of the Social Democrats who have joined the Tory Party.
So no blood will be spilled, only lots and lots of ink, but what a bunch of think tankers all these Tories are when the best they can come up with to save British capitalism are the failed ideas of Thatcher and Keynes with the arch-failure Owen thrown in for good measure!
The Dismal System
You would think that Sainsbury's plan to make its "biggest and best ever” cuts in food prices in January would have been widely welcomed, wouldn't you? No chance. Instead of Sainsbury's competitors accepting this challenge gladly, they all denounced it.
What about the City of London? After all, everyone has to eat, but the City feared that a supermarket price-war would reduce profits so the share-prices of Sainsbury, Tesco, Kwik Save and Argyll all tumbled. Capital doesn’t hunger for food, only profit.
True, consumers were happy at first but came January and "instead of massive savings, the much- anticipated price cuts brought disappointment to shoppers" (The Guardian 4 January). Capitalism may provide events which bring widespread pleasure but not very many.
Not Our Scene
All those who become Involved in the running of any social system based on private property will inevitably find themselves doing nasty things to people.
This particularly applies to capitalism: the holocaust, the bombing of cities and the cynical poisoning of the environment are obvious examples, but there are less dramatic crimes committed by governments every day.
Look at the Israeli expulsion of the 400 Palestinians or the Tories' callous pit-closure programme, but this readiness to inflict misery cuts right across party lines. Labour's record in office is a grim one and we have seen what Lenin, Trotsky and other "communists”all over the world have been prepared to do in defence of their power and privilege.
The truth is that all humans, even if they start with the best of intentions, are capable of such cruelty if they put themselves in the position of having to defend private property. And socialists are no different: it's just that we know better than to get ourselves into that position.
Appeal of Socialism
The whole thing about nationalism is its stupid delight in some accident of language, accent or local behaviour. The whole horror of nationalism is its resolve to hunt, maim and kill any creature in its way if such a creature doesn't share its particular language, accent or local behaviour.
Of course, every human being on earth today enjoys community. We all love to sing together. We all love to dance together. We are human.
This doesn’t mean that we kill those who are different. We enjoy differences. That makes us human. Politicians, generals and other functionaries of capitalism are without community. They exploit our fears to make themselves great. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq, India or anywhere else have our best wishes and hopes.
We are without nationalism, religion or racialism. We are socialists. We are in the process of becoming truly human. That is the appeal of socialism.
Accidents and Cost
As the people of the Shetland Islands count the cost of the oil spill It is worth recalling that like all "accidents" of this nature inside capitalism, cost was the major factor.
The ship was old because It is cheaper to buy an old ship - the ship needed repairs because it is cheaper to skimp on repairs - the route was through an area that could have easily been avoided but it was a cheaper route and of course the crew were ill-trained because that’s the cheapest way to run a ship.
Accidents will occur in socialism but they won't be accidents like the Shetland oil spill which wasn't really an accident at all. It was the logical outcome of trying to operate transport the cheapest and most profitable way.
We are indebted to a Scandinavian reader for drawing our attention to the following item that appeared in a Norwegian newspaper:
The Finnish communist party went bankrupt yesterday after having lost millions on the stock exchange . . . The economic trouble of the communist party is due to unsuccessful speculation on the stock exchange - capitalism's stronghold - with many hazardous investments. Among the more exotic investment objects was a fashion shop in Helsinki and a stable of racehorses called "The Hot Trotters"Aftenposten (16 November 1992)
This financial bankruptcy is of course matched by the complete Intellectual bankruptcy of all the Leninist parties.
The Dying Game
Socialists spend a great deal of their time pointing out how awful the buying and selling system of capitalism really is. But surely even the most dyed in the wool defender of capitalism must be concerned at the following information that appeared in The Independent (12 January):
Life assurers are paying out 10 times more on suicide than they were 12 years ago, raising fears that the way policies are written may be encouraging people to kill themselves to ease their dependants' financial worries.
According to a report published today in Money Week, the payouts on suicide-related claims, increased from £4.3m in 1979 to £44.6m In 1991.
The desperation that leads workers to committing suicide can only be guessed at. The crass ignorance that leads workers to support this crazy system can only be wondered at.