From the July 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
There has never been, such a non-issue as the Common Market Referendum. One assumes it will have been already forgotten by the time this piece sees the light of print. However, much as I have tried to avoid this abysmal nonsense, I accidentally heard a bit on the BBC in the small hours worth remarking on. The speaker was that horny-handed, r-dwopping son of toil Roy Jenkins, Home Secretary, son of a miner who found the royal road out of the pits and clearly taught Roy a thing or two. (A very usual story, of course.)
This pro-market man was saying, somewhere in darkest Manchester, in unctuous tones: “Those who oppose the market never tell us: What alternative is there?”
Now before Das Kapital there was Das Bible and somewhere in that less scientific work, we are told that the voice of god is not in the earthquake or the thunder but in a still, small voice. This came to my mind when in response to that clearly rhetorical question I heard a still, small voice from the back of the hall: “Socialism.” It was the voice of the SPGB. Because none of the myriad frauds who call themselves socialists (including Jenkins) would dream of saying that Socialism is the answer to society’s ills. They busy themselves with every quack nostrum to fit every issue and never even think of Socialism as a here-and-now solution. Only an SPGBer or supporter could come up with the startling idea: Socialism is the answer.
And what did Jenkins say to that? About the only thing he could — that an interrupter of a speech was not a democrat, etc. which got him a bit of cheap applause, and had the additional merit of evading the point.
Jenkins would not even think that his use of the term “interrupter” to refer to one who dares to answer a question he himself poses is the negation of democracy. (How can he think at all, his brains clearly being in his r’s?) Nevertheless, the still, small voice was undoubtedly encouraging. I fancy its owner will read this tribute. And that some among the radio listeners will have had food for thought.
On the same day there was something more about Socialism — all the pundits forever talking about it, but never the slightest sign that anyone knows a damn thing. This was in an advert, in The Guardian plugging The New Statesman. The advert, was for an article by Paul Johnson, former editor of the paper, and the advert, itself is now produced:
A BROTHERHOOD OF NATIONAL MISERYTrade unionism is killing socialism in Britain and it is time socialists did something about it. The essence of socialism is not its method but its universality. It teaches that the wealth of society should be administered in the interests of all. It is not a programme for industrial workers or any particular group of workers. It is not a programme for any class. It does not believe in classes. It is against sectional interests which organise themselves to exploit the rest of the community. Socialism expresses the essential unity and common humanity of society.
Now Paul Johnson is a quite amiable idiot (unlike his successor as editor, Crossman) and gibberish like the above has enabled him to get hold of a goodly share of “the wealth of society”, to the extent of its being worth a para, in The Observer describing his two houses etc. recently. But can anyone make head or tail of the jumble above? The SPGB's description of Socialism in the Declaration of Principles has appeared in every issue of our journal since it was first formulated by socialist workers long before most of us were born. When our clear and ringing tones are compared with the New Statesman mixture of the impossible and the incomprehensible are we, with our still-too-small voice, not entitled to feel proud?
The first sentence of the NS advert, is breathtaking in itself. If the unions are killing Socialism, it can only be because Socialism is alive. That is a simple proposition which would appeal to Dr. Johnson, about whom his ludicrous namesake recently wrote a bestseller. But Paul could not have seen the obvious. He cannot believe that we have Socialism already — even the NS can’t be that daft. Anyway, he seems to have heard that Socialism will have no classes. He obviously knows that that doesn’t apply in Wilson’s England.
For the benefit of our ignorant pundit, the position on trade unions that real Socialists have always advocated is perfectly clear. They perform a necessary function within the capitalist system by enabling the workers to resist exploitation as much as possible by fighting the battle of wages and conditions — a never-ending struggle. (They do not exist to eliminate exploitation, of course, because that’s what employment is all about.) It is not only ludicrous to talk about the unions killing Socialism. It would be equally stupid to envisage them killing capitalism. That is not their purpose (nor are most trade unionists Socialists as yet). Capitalism is ripe for the killing indeed. But the deed will be done only by an organized majority of working-class Socialists. If these Johnsons would only read the Socialist Standard they would be less likely to display their ignorance, and do less damage to the cause of Socialism.
L. E. Weidberg