The Sting in the Tail column from the February 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
Getting Thatcher Out
Are Tony Cliff and the rest of the Socialist Workers Party dishonest or just barmy?
At an SWP meeting in Glasgow in December Cliff implored the audience to help "get Thatcher out".
When we asked if this meant that the SWP would, as it always does, urge workers to vote Labour at the next election, Cliff replied "We must always take sides in any struggle and if Labour Is even one per cent better than the Tories then we must support them".
Yet the SWP paper, Socialist Worker, on sale at that meeting stated:
We can recall again and again the record of past Labour governments which . . . turned viciously on working people as soon as they gained office.
and forewarned that
. . . it is perfectly possible that, regardless of intentions, a Klnnock government will be even worse In terms of its objective attacks on the working class than the Thatcher regime has been.
Any party which tells workers that and still asks them to vote Labour has to be dishonest AND barmy!
Getting Thatcher In
Mention of getting Thatcher out, do leftists ever ask themselves how she "got in" In the first place?
Back in 1974 their cry was "Heath out" and they got their wish when a Labour government was elected. But Labour inevitably got up the noses of so many workers that by the next election they would have voted for anyone, let alone Thatcher, to get Labour out.
So Thatcher's victory in 1979 was the product of the previous Labour government. Any future Labour government would be just as helpless in solving capitalism's problems and the Tories would claim that there really is no alternative to their policies and probably be given a mandate for even harsher policies than before.
The moral is; Electing a Labour government only gets you the Tories next time around.
Class Struggle in USA
They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there,You either are a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair.
These words are from a union song written in 1931 about the bloody struggle between the United Mineworkers of America and the Appalachian coal owners.
This struggle has continued until today when the Pittson coal company in Virginia has set out to break the union. 1,700 miners have been on strike for seven months because:
Pittson has rejected the union contract and cut-off health benefits to 1,500 widows, disabled miners and pensioners.(Billy Bragg writing in the Weekend Guardian 30 December)
The song also contains the line "And I'll stick with the union till every battle's won". A noble sentiment indeed, but workers' battles with capital can never be finally won by trade union action. Only their political action to end capitalism and establish socialism can do that.
Value for Money
The Times of 12 December brought the exciting news of two increases in income:
Britain's 55,000 pre-1973 war widows and their supporters have won the battle for a better pension . . . The rise will mean that all war widows will receive a pension of more than £100 per week.
The war widows' increase is the result of a 16 year battle by The Campaign for Equal Pay for War Widows organisation, who described the increase as "an enormous improvement and we are very grateful".
Mr. Michael Mates, chairman of the all-party select committee on defence called it "a quick, fair and generous response.
16 years is apparently Mr. Mates' idea of "quick". One wonders how many widows have died in these 16 years.
As for "generous" we wonder how he would describe the other increase reported in that day's Times.
Lord Hanson's pay topped £1.5 million In the year to end September according to Hanson's annual report.
It would seem that giving your life "for Queen and country" is valued rather less than staying alive as a company director.
When George Bush visited American soldiers wounded during the invasion of Panama, one man, paralysed by his wounds, handed him a small American flag and told him:
I want you to have this from them, and thank you for sending us.Guardian 2 January
Presumably "them" were the 23 American soldiers killed and the 323 wounded during the fighting, but needless to say it was Panama's workers who suffered most. Their dead are expected to exceed 1,000 and many still lie beneath the ruins of the barrios (slums) which were flattened by indiscriminate American firepower.
But what if that paralysed soldier had been an Iranian and Bush the Ayatollah? The exchange between them would doubtless have been presented by the media as an awful example of Islamic fundamentalism. Bush and the class he represents should be pleased by the Yankee-Doodle fundamentalism produced by America’s head-fixing industry.
"What's that, my boy, you hate being a wage slave? Well forget socialism, that's utopian nonsense. Consider instead Mrs. Thatcher's vision of the future - 'Every man and woman a capitalist', so show some enterprise and start a business!
Pay no attention to the fact that there were 16,562 business failures in England and Wales alone in 1988. Trade Indemnity, insurers against bankruptcy, estimate there will be 20% more in 1989 with a further increase in 1990.
The reasons? Well, there’s high interest rates, but this would be to your advantage if you started a bank.
Then business confidence is low, but isn't that precisely when capitalists like to take risks? And there's increased competition from Europe, but we British can always see off these foreigners, eh?
So, my boy, I expect you can't wait to get started on the road to fame and fortune. What's that you say? You've never heard a bigger load of utopian nonsense in your puff and you'd rather stick with socialism!
There’s no helping some people."
Genocide in Brazil
The Yanomami Indians live in the remote forest area on the frontier between Brazil and Venezuela. As their home is stripped for cattle ranches their way of life is fast disappearing.
The process has been accelerated by the discovery of gold in the region. It is estimated that there are only 20,000 of them left. Their future looks bleak as the Brazilian government, instead of honouring its promise to send in troops to clear out the 45,000 gold miners who have invaded the area, have announced that 256 square km. of the area will be set aside for mining inside the 2,000 square km Yanomami reservation. This was formerly 9,000 square km.
Every time a more primitive people come in contact with capitalism the result is disastrous for the tribal society. The murder of the Indians of North America in the 19th. century is being repeated in the Amazon in the 20th. century.
Inside capitalism the profit motive is all-powerful. As a whole culture disappears, supporters of market forces can reflect on the "improvement" of pulling down the forests and poisoning the rivers with the mercury the miners use to purify the gold.