Saturday, January 23, 2016

Recent Socialist Activities (1992)

From the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the title "Missed Opportunities. Shattered Dreams”, over two days last 16/17 November, the Socialist Party held a successful weekend of lectures and discussion on the lessons of 20th century politics.

On the Saturday, Dave Perrin opened with an account of the founding of the Socialist Party in 1904, the arguments between socialism or reforms at the turn of the century, and our early prediction that the election of so-called working class governments on reform programmes could not lead to socialism or to solving working class problems.

This was followed by Adam Buick dealing with the record of Labour governments during the years between 1929 and 1979. This showed how the Labour Party, through the fatal trap of reformism. became hopelessly enmeshed in the problems of running capitalism in the only way it can be run, that is, against workers and in the interests of the capitalist class.

On Sunday, Steve Coleman dealt with the elitist nature of Leninist politics and the contempt with which the leaders of Bolshevism regarded the abilities of workers to solve their problems. The so-called workers’ revolutions in Russia and Eastern Europe had been vanguard-led coups which had only led to state capitalist tyrannies.

The final discussion took up the ways in which reformist governments have steered the 20th century through a sequence of raised hopes followed by failure and disillusion. Pieter Lawrence pointed out that in all history no other century had seen as many deaths from war, poverty and disease. These had been the disastrous consequences of continuing capitalism during years when the socialist alternative had not been taken up. Despite this, because the spread of capitalism had resulted also in the growth of a common class interest amongst workers across the world, and such developments as world-wide communications, the means of building a strong world socialist movement have never been so close to hand.

Dick Donnelly reviewed the position of socialism in the 1990s and the gains that could arise from the new situation that exists. Now that the Labour Party had abandoned any pretence to be socialist, and now that the "Left” was unable to defend the late Bolshevik tyrannies in Russia and Eastern Europe, the political ground was more open to a better understanding of the genuine socialist alternative. There are now no mass parties that could possibly excite anybody looking for a change in society and this presented the Socialist Party with great opportunities.

Another education conference—this time on Democracy—is being held at the Socialist Party's Head Office in London on Saturday 1 February. For details see the Meetings Page.

Unemployment and the Labour Party (1975)

From the April 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Quarterly Economic Review of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, published on 14th March, is like a doctor’s report on a hopeless case. Summarized, it says that inflation ought to diminish as unemployment rises; but this shows no sign of happening, and instead both appear to be continuing. Measures against unemployment will cause inflation to rise, and it will fall only when unemployment reaches the level of pre-war depressions.

It must be said at once that all this is a prediction based on an attempt to state a “law” of relationship between inflation and unemployment (and to enable the Institute to urge the Government to adopt a tougher wages policy). Of course no such “law” exists. What we are offered is a shot-in-the dark prediction as scientific as Old Moore’s for the current month, that turtle farms will prosper. But its fearfulness (“Bleakest Warning Yet”—The Guardian) is in the word “unemployment”, and that raises an interesting question. Why is unemployment such a frightful prospect?

No member of the working class would have any difficulty in answering. It means life reduced to the barest minimum. It means being treated contemptuously by clerks and officials of so-called “social services”. It means a loss of self-respect: having skills and the urge to work, and being condemned not to use them. However, one of the great promises of the Labour Party for most of its existence has been that it would remove these stings and make unemployment tolerable. As we are under a Labour government, it is worth looking at what they have said on this subject in the past.

Will Take Care of You
In 1921 a special Labour conference adopted “work or maintenance” as the party’s policy. In The Book of the Labour Party (Vol. 2: Economic Policy) published about 1925, W. Milne-Bailey wrote:
“Work or maintenance”, then, has been the Labour slogan . . . Therefore whether we consider the individual’s own well-being and happiness, or his responsibilities to a family, or his position in and value to the community, we reach the conclusion that either work or maintenance must be guaranteed.
While there was a “frequent demand” among Labourites for unemployment pay to be the same as wages ("work or full maintenance”):
. . .  It is usually held that there must be a difference between benefits and normal wages in order to supply an incentive to the individual to make every effort to find work. At any rate, there can be no quarrel with the Labour principle that maintenance must be adequate.
Similar arguments were put forward in America. In 1921 Professor E. R. A. Seligman, in a debate in New York “that capitalism has more to offer to the workers of the United States than has Socialism”, described the insecurity of wage-earners as “that very great evil” and went on to say:
[It is] entirely susceptible of being eradicated by the same principle that we have applied to accidents, that we have applied to many other evils, namely, the Insurance principle . . . We have already today in the unemployment insurance law of England the faint beginnings of a movement which I am convinced will spread within the next three or four decades like wildfire throughout the world.
(Debate published in “Little Blue Books” series, Haldeman-Julius, Kansas)
Another advocate, Bernard Shaw, stated the case thus:
And when the business of insurance is taken on by the State, and lumped into the general taxation account, every citizen will be born with an unwritten policy of insurance against all the common risks . . . Our minds will no longer be crammed and our time wasted by uncertainty as to whether there will be any dinners for the family next week or any money left to pay for our funerals when we die.
(Everybody’s Political What’s What, 1944)
The boldest claim for what “work or maintenance” and “the insurance principle” would mean in practice was made in a 1938 Labour Party pamphlet called An Easy Outline of Modern Socialism. The author was Herbert (later Sir Herbert) Morrison. Under “socialism” —that is, the Labour regime—when workers had to be laid off, these periods would “frankly be regarded as holidays, or as opportunities for education”. The worker would have “security, he would get sufficiency”.

With such plans made on the workers’ behalf, why should they fear unemployment in 1975?

Realities
Of course these promises were made against a background in which partial insurance schemes were combined with Poor Law legislation; they were part of the campaign for state-controlled “social security”. It is important to realise that there were practical purposes for capitalism behind the apparent humanitarian concern. Milne-Bailey stressed Labour’s belief that better maintenance in unemployment would “result in an immense stimulus to production” and also be a safeguard against revolt. To some extent the latter has been true; the teeth drawn are not those of unemployed workers as such, but of left-wing organizations which exist on “militancy”.

Now we have been living under the Welfare State for nearly thirty years, and the fear of unemployment remains. There is something bizarre in trying to imagine Wilson and Healey in the present crisis telling the working class they might be given “holidays or opportunities for education”; or Labour-supporting trade-union leaders assuring their members it was all O.K. because they would get security and sufficiency if unemployed.

The conclusion should be plain. Reform simply cannot remove a problem which is in-built in capitalism. All that the administrators and economists have to show from their plans is an acute dilemma. Shaw’s “common risks” remain because they are not accidents but characteristics of the society in which we live. Security and sufficiency are realizable—on the condition that capitalism is replaced by Socialism.
Robert Barltrop

A tale of two cities (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

"The flight of the poor from the countryside into the cities shows every sign of continuing to the end of this century. But like so many previous waves of urban migrants, very few will find the streets paved with gold; often all that awaits them is hand-to-mouth existence in an overcrowded shanty or slum." The writer is not talking of industrialising England of the 19th century but - in this case - Sri Lanka. The street children of Colombo cannot even aspire to such meagre shelter, where a recent survey showed that some 2,000 children and one-parent families live literally on the streets; their number grows daily. Some of these are so poor that they are forced to put their children into institutions as the only way to get them clothed and fed. Unemployment is high and heroin addiction a major problem among the young unemployed.

Nearer home migration has been in the opposite direction but results are very similar. The purpose of building Kirkby, seven miles from Liverpool and set in open spaces, was to attract people who'd lived in poor housing conditions in the city and in that the planners succeeded. However, today unemployment runs at 50-60 per cent for adults and a frightening 90 per cent of young people are on the dole. "Lack of [money] is one of the cruellest causes of social deprivation, which leads to marital stress, sometimes family break-up and increased isolation."

The facts and quotations above are taken from the September 1987 issue of The World's Children, magazine of the Save The Children Fund. Against this desolation and deprivation suffered by children throughout the world dedicated, often voluntary, Fund workers attempt alleviation, education and schemes of self-help. When also reading that the number of refugees world-wide is 13½ million, half of whom are children, it is easy to realise that even by the most effective use of income from their appeals to the consciences of governments and the "better off", together with the most devoted hard work, the dent which can be made in the misery of these deprived millions will be minimal. Of course, every life saved or reclaimed to a less miserable existence even under capitalism is worthwhile. There is no question that those who work in the Save The Children Fund and other relief organisations are contributing more to the wellbeing of society than manufacturers of armaments or the administrators of capitalism. However no-one should be misled into thinking that they can solve the problems of the system which gives rise to this poverty, deprivation and misery.
Eva Goodman

How far have we come? (1966)

Editorial from the May 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Day and the fortieth anniversary of the General Strike on May 4th focus attention on the position of the trade unions and what they are able to achieve within Capitalism.

The Socialist party supports the working class in their struggles to improve their living standards through higher wages and better working conditions under Capitalism. Even so, we constantly point out to workers the narrow limitations of their trade union activity. Al best, and then only under favourable circumstances, trade union pressure can win marginal wage increases. Often, trade union activities are a line of defence achieving only a marking time in living standards. In unfavourable circumstances caused by general unemployment or the decline of a branch of industry, trade unions are almost helpless against the economic forces of Capitalism.

Socialists want to emphasise these points. In spite of many years of trade union action, the problems of workers in their struggles to gain a living remain basically the same. Workers are still forced into strike action or the threat of it as their only weapon in the economic war called Capitalism. In spite of years of talk about industrial harmony and an incomes policy, strikes, restrictive practices, guerrilla tactics are still an aspect of the social chaos wrought by the continuing antagonism of class interests. These conditions of life will go on as long as Capitalism exists.

These undeniable facts of modern life underline the urgent necessity for Socialism. They underline the limitations of trade union action and the necessity for workers to widen their political horizons to include taking over the means of production.

The ownership of the means of production is the key to the whole question. The struggle for higher wages and better conditions or against redundancy or wage reductions, all stem from the class ownership of the means of production that is inseparable from Capitalism. In supporting Capitalism politically by voting Labour, Liberal or Tory, workers endorse the economic disadvantages under which they arc now forced to struggle. Their vulnerability is due to the fact that they live from week to week or month to month from the sale of their labour power to the owners of industry—of the means of living.

The last forty years, indeed the last one hundred and forty years, will show that the trade union movement has been useful to the working class. Even so we must ask the question how far have we really come? The answer is surely that poverty, frustration and misery still abound. Capitalism is still the same commercial jungle as ever it was. Society is still torn apart by conflict and made ugly by privilege and exploitation. The necessities of life which Socialist society would take for granted are still under Capitalism a meagre offering for which workers must devote a lifetime of struggle.

The millions of trade unionists in this and other countries arc part of the labour force on which society’s wealth depends. In unity with the socially useful wherever they may exist, their task must be to create Socialist order in the place of Capitalist chaos. They can cater abundantly for their material needs. They can grow the food, build the houses and make the clothing. But they cannot do this as members of the working class selling their labour power on the market to exploiters. This is the pre-condition of their enduring poverty where trade unions remain necessary.

After Spywatcher — What? (1987)

From the November 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Will anything of lasting value come out of the Spycatcher affair? That was a question I asked myself on a hot evening in August. Along with many others I was packed into Bristol's Watershed centre to listen to readings from the great forbidden book. One well-thumbed copy was to be raffled at a pound a ticket. Another was to be given away by a local magazine, to the winner of a competition in which you had to image yourself a loony right-wing security agent bent on destabilising the Thatcher government: what rumour would you circulate? The Chair of the meeting reported apologies from a host of celebrities who were on holiday. It didn't matter that the TV cameras weren't here, he said (with only a hint of disappointment in his voice). We still roasted under the spotlights because a trade union camera was recording the proceedings.

The event itself had been preceded early in the morning by a warm-up bout between local MP William Waldegrave and a representative of the National Council for Civil Liberties on Radio Bristol. The NCCL representative had spoken in indignant and stirring tones about censorship and freedom of speech, but without any qualifications. This enabled Waldegrave to complain that the NCCL itself believes in censorship (because it supports the Race Relations Act's embargo on incitement to racial hatred). That point went unanswered, as did the counter-accusation against Waldegrave, that he ignored the seriousness of the charges made in Wright's book by echoing the government line about secret service officers' lifetime obligation of confidentiality. Never mind, a discussion was promised after the readings that evening. That might be worthwhile even if the Waldegrave view was almost certain to go unrepresented.

The readings themselves were entertaining if unremarkable. We can be fairly sure that all the interesting charges made in the book are now already in the public domain, and all that remain are the trimmings. So we heard about the familiar alleged plot to subvert the Wilson government. Khrushchev's vanity, the madness of the alleged plots against Nasser, and the dangers posed for secret service infiltrators of left-wing groups by the promiscuity of their members. The book was well-written and clearly very funny, usually unintentionally. I checked on the safety of my raffle ticket and kept my fingers crossed.

Came the discussion. The Chair suggested, at inordinate length given the tight time schedule, that we confine our attention to four main areas. Alas, he spoke with more insistence than clarity, and when I compared notes with a friend after the meeting we could still only discern three. The first person to emerge from the darkness and brave the spotlight and microphone said he was an ordinary person who belonged to no groups and had never spoken to more than half a dozen people in public. He was just upset to be told he couldn't read the book. A number of journalists spoke with convincing passion on a matter which affects them to a greater degree than, and in a different way from other people. There was the inevitable contribution from a member of the Smash The State Tendency, prompting early departures from the hall. "Thank you. comrade", said the Chair icily. But mainly it was "Thank you, Brian", 'Thank you. Dawn", as a succession of figures, doubtless familiar with one another, made their points

A CND representative reminded us of the extent of surveillance over members and conveyed successfully how upsetting it could be to be on the receiving end. A pleasant man from the Green Party said they were entitled to their paranoia too, and told of delayed mail and phones which didn't work around election time. Well, yes, problems suffered by tens of thousands at other times too. But then, as we all know by now, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. A lawyer pointed out cases where the public interest had been held to outweigh any duty of confidentiality. We were urged to support NCCL and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

Towards the end of the meeting the Chair remarked on the unanimity of the opposition which had been expressed to the banning of the book and invited anyone to speak in favour. No one did. The MI5 man (for he was surely there, and surely a man?) kept silent.

My own feeling was that the set pieces we had heard did little to advance understanding or to place the Wright Affair in a wide enough context. To be sure, more than one speaker reminded us that the dirty tricks of secret service agents go on under Labour as well as Conservative governments, that it was a Labour government which pushed through the Prevention of Terrorism Act in ten days, that it was under a Labour government that the ABC trial took place. And we had been urged to look at the broader political issues, and agitate for more accountability. But accountability in what form, and to whom?

Justified feelings of outrage had been expressed, but it was outrage of a very limited kind. Something had been done which was unfair by the rules of the game, but no one questioned the nature of the game. Did the speakers think there should be a secret service at all? If so, how far did they think it would be compatible with its effective functioning to demand that it be publicly accountable? If not, did they recognise that paranoia notwithstanding, other foreign powers had agents who got up to dirty tricks which might affect us? Were they all, as they seemed to be, content with the minimal degree of genuine accountability which elected representatives are subject to? If so, how much control could that possibly leave us, the ordinary members of the public, over "our” security services? If not, what ideas might they have for moulding a more adequate set of democratic institutions than those associated with twelve crosses in a lifetime? Without the raising of fundamental questions like these, there will be many more Peter Wrights and many more undetected dirty tricks.
Keith Graham

The Rich Get Richer (1987)

Book Review from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Rich Get Richer, John Rentoul (Unwin £4.95).

Who got the highest income from dividends in 1985/6? The answer is David Sainsbury, with over £13 million. And the table of the top ten dividend "earners" contains three other Sainsburys. That same year the highest so-called salary was paid to one William Brown of Walsham Brothers: £1,268,583. Lonrho boss Tiny Rowland had to get by on a salary of £392,285, though that was merely pocket money alongside his £8 million from dividends. The richest family in Britain is not, as you might think, Queen and Company, but probably one of the Grosvenors, Vesteys and (of course) Sainsburys, each of them worth over a billion pounds.

Such are among the figures and information provided by Rentoul, who gives a useful guide to the extent of inequality and to the background and life-styles of the parasitic super-rich. His main point, as the title implies, is that inequality has widened under the Conservative government, though any changes have surely been so small as not to affect the overall picture in any way.

In 1983, the richest 10 per cent of the population received 24 per cent of the total income, while at the same time 20 million people were living on or just above the degradation of the Supplementary Benefit level. With regard to wealth rather than income, the situation is rather different, with the top 10 per cent owning 53 per cent of all wealth. But the starkest contrast is seen by taking even smaller figures: the top one per cent own 21 per cent of total wealth, and an estimated 20,000 ultra-rich own four per cent.

Rentoul claims that there are not two nations nowadays, but three: the "haves", the "have nots" and the “have lots". He argues that (before Thatcher took over) there had been for 50 years or so a trend towards greater equality, with considerable proportions of wealth being transferred from the top one per cent of the population (who had three-fifths of personal wealth in the 1920s) to the remainder of the top half. The bottom half have stayed where they were, owning virtually nothing. He suggests at various points that the "haves” (or "middle class") have many shared interests with the "have lots" rather than the "have nots".

But the overwhelming majority of these "haves" are members of the working class who, like all workers, rely on the sale of their labour power to live and who would be able to survive for only the shortest of periods without working for wages. The altered distribution of wealth does not mean that the members of the capitalist class (those who live off dividends and so on) have become less rich in absolute terms - far from it; it simply reflects the growth of "home ownership". But "owning" a house does not take you out of the working class. Nor is there any significance in the fact that a larger proportion of the population than ever before own shares. Most people's shareholdings are tiny and the top one per cent of the population own three-quarters of all privately-held shares.

We need not dwell on Rentoul's reformist ideas for eliminating poverty, which leave untouched the class monopoly of the means of production. But his book contains useful information to counter the ideas of anyone who believes that the idle rich don't really exist.
Paul Bennett


The future for South Africa (1994)

Editorial from the April 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party has always strongly supported struggle against class and racial oppression in South Africa. We welcome the trend towards democratization of the political process in that country. It is an important step on the road towards genuine liberation for the great majority.

At the same time, however, we are all too aware of the risk of political complacency, born of euphoria. More than ever, now is the time for questioning, for a frank and honest debate about the future. The cultivation of illusions today will sow the seeds of disillusionment tomorrow. In a country where racism and reaction are still in the wings, the abolition of apartheid notwithstanding, this is a risk fraught with danger.

So there is nothing to be lost by constructive and tolerant criticism, and much to be gained. Mistakes made now could prove difficult, if not impossible, to undo later.

There are still some on the left in South Africa who cling to the illusions of a now discredited Leninist ideology. At the time of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the Socialist Party stood virtually alone in declaring its opposition to the Bolsheviks on genuinely Marxist grounds.

We predicted then that that revolution would usher in, not socialist emancipation, but the brutal dictatorship of a state-run capitalism. Though scorned at the time for sticking to our principles, rather than courting popularity for its own sake, events since have thoroughly vindicated what we said then.

On the other hand, the collapse of the state-capitalist model of economic development has prompted many in the liberation movement to openly embrace the market. But the politics of so-called "economic realism" are similarly doomed to failure.

Attempts to "woo big business", to make common cause between the interests of capital and those of labour are bound to founder on the reality of class struggle. This should be particularly obvious in a country like South Africa.

The legacy of massive structural inequality cannot begin to be tackled through the market mechanism which works to concentrate wealth in fewer hands, be these black or white. Between the hammer of the state and the anvil of the market, the working class will continue to suffer rampant exploitation and grinding poverty.

It does not have to be like this. There is an alternative which, in fact, has far more in common with the best traditions of African communalism, and which looks beyond the state or the market for the real emancipation of the great majority.

There can be no national solution to the struggles of workers in South Africa because capitalism is itself international. Their struggles are closely linked to the struggles of workers here in Britain and elsewhere; our fate is bound up with theirs.

The Socialist Party therefore urges our fellow workers in South Africa to seriously consider the socialist alternative.

What we seek cannot be brought about by putting our trust in leaders, however enlightened; it must arise from the self-organization of ordinary people, conscious of that alternative, and determined to make it a reality. Together, we can make it a reality. In so doing, we will have nothing to lose but our chains; we have a world to win.

The Easter Rising, 1916 (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

An account of the famous Easter Rising, fifty years old this month, from a member of the World Socialist Party of Ireland

On Easter Monday fifty years ago, a group of men stood on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin.

Their leader, Patrick Pearse, read out the proclamation of the Establishment of an Irish Republic. This was one of a series of incidents which startled Dubliners on that Easter Monday morning, when columns of uniformed and armed men took control of several buildings in the city. The rebellion was being carried out by members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army.

After getting over the initial surprise, the British Military Authorities counter-attacked, and Dublin became the scene of bitter fighting. The Rebels resisted all attempts to dislodge them from their positions until a gunboat sailed up the river Liffey and opened concentrated shell fire on the G.P.O. By Friday night the Post Office building was on fire and untenable. On Saturday, Pearse surrendered.

Courts martial were immediately set up to try the rebel leaders. All those who had taken a leading role in the rebellion were sentenced to death by shooting. On 3rd May, the first three were executed, among them Patrick Pearse. The executions continued at regular intervals until protests from English newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian and such persons as George Bernard Shaw, persuaded the authorities to call a halt. In all fifteen of the leaders were shot; the remainder had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Among these who were executed was the labour leader and self-styled “socialist,” James Connolly.

Connolly was born in County Monaghan* and, while still very young, was taken by his parents to live in Glasgow, where he grew up. In Scotland, as a young man, he joined the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party. Returning to Ireland, Connolly founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896. He applied himself in an effort to bring about a wedding, so to speak, between Irish Nationalism and his “Socialism.” At the International Socialist Conference of 1900, he claimed separate voting rights for Ireland and a seating at the Conference distinct from the British delegates. Later, he went to America where he took active part in the Industrial Unionist Movement with Daniel De Leon. In the meantime, in Ireland Arthur Griffith—the owner of a Nationalist journal, The United Irishman founded a movement called Sinn Fein. Griffith advocated Irish men and women buying only Irish manufactured goods. He claimed that this would create a demand which, in turn, would create a supply; this would grow into an Irish economy and then the Irish Nationalist members of Parliament would withdraw from the British Parliament and form their own National Parliament in Dublin.

At this time also there was a revival of interest in the Gaelic language and in Ireland’s past history among the young “intellectuals” of Dublin. Prominent was the young school teacher Patrick Pearse.

In the year 1910, Connolly returned to Ireland where he joined with James Larkin in the building of a militant Trade Union, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. This Union catered chiefly for the unskilled worker. Conditions of employment and the wages of these workers were very bad.

The Transport Union began a series of lightning strikes in an effort to force better conditions from the employers, who in turn began to organise resistance to the Union's tactics. In 1913, the Chairman of the Federation of Employers, William Martin Murphy, owner of the Dublin tramways and the daily newspaper, the Irish Independent, launched an attack in his newspaper on some workers then on strike. The Union replied with a boycott on the Independent. Murphy began organising the employers against the Union. He led the way by dismissing union members from employment in the tramways, and had the workers of Jacob's biscuit factory locked out. When union members tried to prevent strike breakers from working the police joined in the fray. Two workers were clubbed to death by them during a public meeting in Dublin.

The full significance of the class-struggle became very apparent and, in Dublin, the voices raised against the strikers made some very strange bed-fellows. The Dublin Castle authorities with their police and “Orange Order” magistrates were joined by the Nationalist employers and the Roman Catholic hierachy in condemning the “anarchy” of Larkin and Connolly. Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein and one of Ireland’s leading “liberators” (at a later day), demanded that the authorities make use of the military and “drive them back to work at the point of the bayonet.” Great hardship was suffered by the families of those on strike or locked out. An appeal for aid was made by Larkin to trade unionists in Britain. In response a food ship was chartered by the British Trade Union Council and stocked at cost price by the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Workers in Britain offered homes to the hungry children of the Dublin workers. The first party of about three hundred children were on their way to a ship at the North Wall Docks, when they were turned back by a hymn-singing mob led by priests. These good Christians were not concerned about the hunger of these children, but about the state of their “souls” in the homes of the “godless” English workers. After lasting for about six months the strike and lock-out wore themselves out to an inconclusive ending.

The more extreme wing of the Irish Nationalists openly sympathised with the workers in their struggle. This created a loose alliance between this wing and Larkin and Connolly. As a result of the struggle the labour leaders decided that the workers should be organised as an army to protect themselves in future struggle. This gave rise to the formation of the Irish Citizen Army. To collect funds Larkin went to America, leaving Connolly in sole charge in Dublin.

The majority of the Irish people living outside Dublin were hardly aware of the labour troubles in the city. They were mainly concerned with the long awaited Home Rule Bill. This had been promised to the Irish Nationalist Party leader John Redmond by the British government for his support at Westminster. The passing of the Bill had been delayed by the organised resistance to it by, the leaders of the Orange Order in Ulster. These Unionists were led by a Dublin born barrister named Edward Carson. A covenant pledging resistance to Home Rule was signed by over half a million people in the North of Ireland. Also, a volunteer force of eighty thousand men, called the Ulster Volunteers, was raised and armed. When Carson threatened a march from Belfast to Cork the British Government grew alarmed; they issued orders for the British army at Curragh Camp to prepare for military duty in Ulster. This started a mutiny in which fifty-seven high ranking army officers tendered their resignations rather than fight against their “brothers” in Ulster. (A rate significant difference in attitude to that which they showed towards the workers of Dublin when they were fighting for better conditions). At this time John Redmond formed another volunteer force called the National Volunteers to Defend Home Rule. Then started a period of gun-running into Ireland as the rival factions began to prepare for civil war. At this time the Citizen Army started arming and drilling.

Before the strife could commence, a new and major event took place; World War I broke out. The Home Rule Bill was postponed and Redmond called for volunteers for the British Army “to fight for the freedom of small nations”. This caused a split in the ranks of the National Volunteers. A small section insisted that “England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity”. This section was led by a group called the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was a secret society dating from the days of the Fenian movement. The majority of the Volunteers stayed loyal to Redmond but the other section formed a rival force known as the Irish Volunteers. Connolly, speaking for the Citizen Army, said “The war of nation against nation in the interests of royal freebooters and cosmopolitan thieves, stands as a thing accursed.” He also declared, “We serve neither King nor Kaiser—but Ireland.”

As the war in Europe dragged on, Connoly’s paper The Worker's Republic began to grow more and more insurrectionary. In the meantime leaders of the Irish Volunteers laid their plans for an armed rising at the earliest opportunity.

In 1915 the body of an old Fenian leader, O’Donavan-Rossa, who had died in America, was brought to Ireland for burial. The extreme Nationalists staged a huge funeral through the streets of Dublin and a long oration was given by Patrick Pearse in which he stated, that “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

To establish a German connection, Sir Roger Casement sailed for Germany. Connolly had by this time developed the idea that the masses in Europe would get tired of the endless slaughter of the World War and would rise in a popular revolution. He reached the conclusion that a revolt in Ireland would spark this off. Shortly before Easter Week 1916 a German ship carrying twenty thousand rifles left Hamburg for Ireland. At the same time, Casement left Germany in a submarine, also bound for Ireland. He landed on a lonely stretch of the Kerry coast and was arrested almost immediately. The rebels failed to make contact with the arms ship and after waiting about for three days the German ship was discovered by British naval destroyers and was scuttled by its crew to avoid capture.

Meanwhile Pearse and his fellow officers of the Irish Volunteers had taken Connolly into their confidence and told him that they were going to launch a rising on the Easter Sunday. They planned to do this under cover of a joint week-end route march and military exercises in conjunction with the Citizen Army. When they informed the nominal head of the Volunteers, Professor Eoin McNeill, of their intentions they gave him the shock of his life. The Professor decided that the Rising would fail and in order to prevent it taking place he sent orders to the Volunteers all over Ireland cancelling the week-end manoeuvres. This had the effect of preventing all Volunteers except those immediately under the command of Pearse and his followers taking part in the Rising. Connolly, who was whole-heartedly in favour, brought the Citizen Army fully into the Rising.

After the Rising, on May 13th, Connolly, who had had one of his legs amputated through wounds received in the fighting, was sat in a chair and shot by a firing squad.

The executions of the rebels was applauded in the House of Commons in London by John Redmond and other members of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Murphy, the employer’s leader, had called in the Irish Independent for the execution of Connolly.

To-day, fifty years after, all the Irish political parties, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, employers and so on, are commemorating the event. They are staging a Nation-wide Three Ring Circus.

The plain facts about modern, “free” and Republican Ireland are—fifty thousand unemployed, several thousand more living under the spectre of unemployment; thousands of old age pensioners trying to live on £2 a week; over one million people who have had to emigrate to England to find work. Perhaps the crowning event for 1966 was the Free Trade Agreement which the Irish Government signed a short time ago with the “Ould enemy,” England!

Connolly claimed to be a Socialist and it is claimed by his present-day followers that he died in an effort to create a Socialist Republic in Ireland. But from his life we can see that he was not a Socialist, just another social reformer. He believed that once Ireland had achieved political freedom from England, social justice would follow. What the Easter Rising did lead to was the establishment of a new capitalist state and the emergence of a new native ruling class, holding sway over the lives of the Irish working-class.

The Irish Republican leaders blamed the dreadful social conditions in Ireland on British rule when in fact these conditions are part and parcel of the Capitalist system of society all over the world. To end them, calls not for a National revolution, but rather for the organising of the working- class all over the world, to replace Capitalism with Socialism.
Timothy O'Sullivan


* Connolly was in fact born in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh, Scotland, but the confusion may have arisen in the article because -  according to Connolly's Wiki page - ". . .  [Connolly] gave his place of birth as County Monaghan in the 1901 and 1911 censuses."

Who is for Freedom? (1988)

From the March 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Democracy is perhaps one of the most distorted concepts in modern political language. The ruling elite of almost every country will claim that the political system which they preside over is a democracy. Certainly the fact that countries such as the USA and Russia, who claim to have totally different systems of government, both also claim to be democracies does seem to make the concept somewhat difficult to define. Such difficulties are multiplied when a brief look at these two countries reveals that the democracy in the USA is limited to the opportunity to vote once every few years and furthermore the choice they have is between two parties which can hardly claim to be basically opposed to each other. In Russia the people are not even given this pretence of political choice, there being only one party to vote for.

The liberal individualist interpretation of democracy stemmed from the liberal tradition based on the “rights of the individual”. According to this theory political authority stems from individuals in society pursuing their own interests. The individual, it is argued, should be released from as many constraints as possible, the role of the state should be that of a referee guiding the competition of individuals in society. This concept of democracy developed in line with the economic theory of laissez-faire as it calls for a minimum of government interference in private and social life and individual enterprise and responsibility. Thus the whole theory is very much connected with, and places very strong emphasis on, private property rights.

This view of democracy, which in theory places much emphasis on individual rights and on liberty and equality, is in reality all about the liberty of the minority at the expense of the majority. Individual rights, or the lack of them and the influence people have over political decisions, stem from how society is organised at its economic base; how wealth is produced and distributed and at this level there is tremendous inequality. This point was emphasised over thirty years ago by Robert Lynd who stated:
Liberal democracy has never dared face the fact that industrial capitalism is an intensely coercive form of organisation of society that cumulatively constrains men and all of their institutions to work for the will of the minority who hold and wield economic power . . . (Robert Lynd, quoted in R. Miliband - The State In Capitalist Society).
The class in society who hold power, (those who own and control the means of production), have ultimate control over the lives of those who have to work for them in order to gain access to the necessities of life. Between these two classes there exists an unequal distribution of wealth and it is through their dominant position in the economic sphere that the owners of wealth production control political power. For supporters of liberal democracy to talk of individual rights and liberty and equality when in reality these can only be enjoyed by a small minority, is to degrade the very concept of democracy.

The pluralist conception of democracy is in many ways an updated version of liberal democracy, replacing the individual with the group. The pluralist theory argues that by organising themselves into groups people have more chance of influencing government decisions. Government policy is thus seen to develop out of a process of bargaining and compromise between different interest groups and the government is seen, in the main, as a referee to ensure that the participants play to the rules of the game. Supporters of pluralism believe that any form of direct democracy is an impossibility in modern industrial society due to its size and complexity; in modern society, they argue, it is not possible to involve large numbers of people in the decision making process and still achieve a consistent, coherent and stable policy making process.

But a group’s ability to turn a desire to act into reality must in the end depend on their access to economic resources. Influence is needed to be able to gain entry to government agencies, political parties and the media. Groups with these kinds of resources can be mobilised for political action but they are likely to be the ones who already wield economic power and who would therefore be already favoured by the existing set up. The only way such a system could operate on a democratic basis would be through the equal allocation of resources to all groups irrespective of their position in society. Within the confines of an economic system where the need to accumulate capital must override all other interests such an idea is completely utopian. Furthermore a fairly recent example of a conflict of interest between labour and capital shows that the state cannot be viewed as a neutral body. The 1984-5 miners’ strike from the point of view of capital was all about making that industry profitable. The fact that people needed coal to keep themselves warm is completely immaterial to a system dominated by the need to accumulate capital. The idea of keeping unprofitable coal mines open to provide employment is quite unthinkable. What in this dispute was the role of the state? Did it act as a referee between the two sides to ensure fair play, rather like a tennis umpire keeping his eye on John McEnroe? To the misguided supporters of pluralism we must point out that far from allocating the NUM equal financial resources, the same state which spent millions of pounds putting forward the interests of capital, in this case represented by the state controlled National Coal Board, through the courts relieved the NUM of hundreds of thousands of pounds of their funds and imprisoned many of their members.

In opposition to the pluralist theory of democracy, elite theorists put forward the view that all important decisions should be taken by a single ruling elite rather than through a process of competing interest groups.

Elite theorists argue that in advanced industrial society direct democracy is impossible; they have therefore replaced it with what they see as a form of representative democracy. However in the elite model, representative democracy itself has been substituted, as an elected elite appoint a second elite which becomes even more powerful. An example of this is the British parliamentary system where the leader of the party elected to form a government appoints the cabinet, which makes all the major decisions. In fact, in this example, this elite is appointed by one individual. Whether an elite is open or closed makes no difference in terms of democracy. For even if it is open it will only recruit from a section of society which has gone through an educational and socialisation process which will have conformed them to attitudes that are acceptable to the existing elite.

One point stands out above all others; until a society has been achieved where all men and women have free access, on the basis of self determined need, to the products and services to live a decent life free from want and thus stand in equal relation with each other, then democracy in its true sense is an impossibility. Therefore the basis of establishing a free and democratic society is a majority political and social revolution where people organise worldwide to convert the means of production and distribution from private or state ownership to common ownership, thus abolishing the class relations of capitalist production. Once democracy is an inherent feature of the material base of society, the level at which the means of life are produced and distributed, then a host of possibilities are revealed. We do not know what conditions a socialist society will inherit from capitalism or have any idea as to the level of technology at the time when a socialist majority has been established. In addition, at the present time, when socialists are in a tiny minority, it would be quite undemocratic to lay down in detail what a socialist society will look like. Rather we should consider the possibilities which flow from the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution.

Common ownership and production for use would mean that all members of society would have free access to all goods and services on the basis of self determined need. Co-operation would replace competition and coercion, people themselves would decide how best they could serve society. Alongside common ownership would run a system of democratic control, which would require that all information be freely available to all members of society.

To opponents of socialism, it is utopian, not allowing for “human nature”. However capitalism has made such a society practical by developing the means of production to the point where the potential exists to produce the necessary requirements of life in abundance. Socialism could use such potential, while production for the market acts as a brake on improving the society we live in. It has yet to be proven that humans are naturally greedy, selfish, and act out of only self interest. Indeed the evidence is that previous societies were based on communal ownership, where production, albeit primitive, was organised for the common good. The problem in forming a democratic society is not one of “human nature” but of human conditioning.
Ray Carr

A loose cannon on the gun deck of state (1987)

From the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The fantasy of Rambo merged with real life as Oliver North took the stand during the Irangate hearings. Given the box-office success of the film it was perhaps not surprising that Ollie was such a hit with a sizeable proportion of the American people. According to opinion polls at the time, only 58 per cent of the population thought he was telling the truth (nevertheless a better credibility rating than his hapless boss, Ronald Reagan, who only managed to convince 22 per cent of people that he was levelling with them) but that was unimportant compared to his style and the image he projected.

After all here was the real life embodiment of countless celluloid all-American heroes. The super-patriot defending liberty and the American way against the ever-present threat of "communism": "I saw the idea of using Ayatollah Khomeini's money to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters as a good one. I still do. I don't think it was wrong. I think it was a neat idea". The man of action who took it upon himself to personally defend America from the evil empire because Congress, the State Department, even the Pentagon and the CIA. were too clogged up with lily-livered, dithering bureaucrats to "get things done". The veteran of Vietnam who believed that loyal soldiers like himself had been winning the war but had been stabbed in the back by politicians in Washington, and were now suffering the same fate in Central America. The upstanding Christian and family man whose wife. Betty, is his "best friend" and who is able to resist the temptations posed by his attractive secretary. Fawn Hall: "Ollie North has been faithful to his wife since the day he married her". The controlled and disciplined serviceman with the penetrating gaze, who only hinted at the passion that motivated his actions by the catch in his voice as he spoke of his love of his country and by the misty look in his eyes as he told of the security system installed to protect his family from the terrorist. Abu Nidal. The defiant patriot who. while admitting to lying, shredding documents and engaging in cover-up, nevertheless managed to persuade people that he was doing it. not for personal gain but for the greater good: "I did a lot of things and I want to stand up and say that I'm proud of them". The man who was bewildered by the accusations now being levelled at him: "I realise that there's a lot of folk around that think there's a loose cannon on the gun-deck of state at the NSC. That wasn't what I heard when I worked there. I've only heard that since I left. People used to walk up to me and tell me what a great job I was doing". A man who was now prepared to vindicate himself by telling all: "I came here to tell you the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am here to tell you it all". It was an impressive performance. But although this was real life we had, nonetheless, entered the realm of fantasy and myth.

Firstly there is the myth of patriotism; the myth that persuades workers that they have a country that is worth defending, fighting and even dying for. In fact the working class, world-wide, has no country. Despite differences of nationality, culture, race and language we share a common interest as workers. That potential for global working-class unity is constantly undermined by the propaganda that teaches us to regard “foreigners" as the enemy, whether in economic or military terms, and encourages us to give unthinking allegiance to a nation-state whether it is America, Britain, Russia or wherever, in which we have no stake and which is run, not in our interests but in the interests of the small minority who own and control the means of producing wealth and the weapons of destruction. It is these people who, by invoking patriotism through the use of national flags and anthems, uniforms and pageantry, persuade workers to go to war with each other, to maim and to kill.

The second myth is that of America as the "land of the free". Margaret Thatcher, in a recent visit to America, contributed to this myth when, in a pep talk to the American people, she described the US as "the flagship of freedom and she must sail into the sunset". The metaphor might have been a little obscure but the message was clear: Americans are a free people and only the American system — a combination of free market capitalism, the rugged individualism typified by Oliver North, and "democracy" — can protect that freedom and that of the western world from the evils of "communism". Oliver North apparently believed this myth to such an extent that he thought that any means — whether illegal or not, sanctioned by Congress or not — should be used since they were justified by the end.

But the American people, like workers everywhere, are not "free". They are chained by necessity to wage slavery, forced to sell their ability to work in order to live. Some are wealthy, many live in poverty and insecurity. None experience the true freedom that can only come when workers are in control of their own lives able to make decisions for themselves about all the things that affect their lives; when we work voluntarily for the good of the communities of which we are a part, rather than to profit the capitalist class. In this society of true freedom there will also be real democracy, rather than the sham that exists in America and other capitalist countries today, where workers are given the vote but that is the extent of their influence. Instead, power is handed over to politicians and leaders who, while paying lip-service to the idea of democracy, then engage in the kind of sordid political horse-trading that the Irangate enquiry has brought to light.

The third myth is that of the "hero" — the individual engaged in a selfless struggle, unconcerned by fears for his or her personal safety, to defend liberty, country and family. Oliver North played this part to perfection even though what he was actually talking about bore no resemblance to the myth. What he actually described was an ill-conceived (even in capitalist terms) plan to sell arms to Iran, even though America had only recently taken a stand against countries which supported international terrorism, in order to secure the release of American hostages and thus improve the political standing of the administration — nothing terribly selfless about that. At the same time the profits made on the arms sale (or "residuals" as North termed them) were to be used to fund the Contra guerrillas, by all accounts a ramshackle bunch of drug dealers, mercenaries and reactionary desperados. But North was not acting entirely from principled motives in this regard since substantial sums of this money managed to find its way into his bank account and apparently paid his grocery bills. Finally, the image of Oliver North, the hero, begins to look even more tarnished when we remember that his decision to come clean and tell all only came about because he was promised limited immunity from prosecution.

Oliver North's testimony contributed to a myth accepted by both the Senate investigation committee and a majority of people in America, who do believe that America is the land of freedom and opportunity, the best of all possible worlds, under attack from “communism". While the details of North's testimony — who knew what, and when — were examined, and questions were asked about the legality of some of his actions, no-one questioned either the system or the ideology that creates characters like Ollie. A system that concentrates economic, political and military power in the hands of a few people who use it to defend their interests both at home and internationally and an ideology that encourages belief in heroes — whether it's North or Reagan, Rambo or Superman. Many American workers no doubt believe that North was justified in engaging in illegal, covert actions, some may even regard him as a hero for precisely that reason, but North, the fantasy hero, and the actions of others like him, could lead American workers into a bloody war, whether it is in Central America or, as looks more likely, in the Middle East. (It would be irony indeed if the Arms North sold to Iran were now to be used against American ships in the GuIf). It is unlikely that even those who are attracted to the fantasy North represents would welcome the real life experience of another Vietnam.
Janie Percy-Smith

Man should matter most (1966)

From the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent years have been times of vigorous protest. The Bomb and World Poverty have been two issues which have sparked off great indignation and organisations such as CND and Oxfam. However, the ability of CND to sustain its enthusiasm has undoubtedly waned. CND has been an organisation built up around what seemed to be a simple answer to a clear-cut problem. On analysis, however, CND undoubtedly asked more questions that it could itself answer. Involvement in its activities was its own invitation to doubt and further criticism. CNDers became embarrassed by the irrelevance of their narrow protest, the Bomb, to the problem of war in general. Other questions they began to ask were—should they act politically, what form of political group or party should their protest take?

At the same time, members of Oxfam have been expressing their own doubts. Inevitably as the years begin to pass, the idea has begun to grow up that Oxfam cannot as a charity organisation begin to solve the problem of world hunger. These doubts were made clear at a recent discussion week held amongst young people at Sibford, Oxfordshire. As one speaker expressed it—“it’s no use feeding 100,000 beggars in Calcutta if next year you still have 100,000. You can't go on just handing round the rice bowl every day and changing nothing."

Also put up at this conference was the idea that Oxfam must adopt a political view. “The choice is crucial—to become just a fund-raking organisation or to accept that we're involved in social change and take steps to facilitate it. We've got to evolve."

The briefest glance at the enormity of the problem of world hunger compared with the efforts of such organisation as Oxfam is enough to show that these self criticisms are amply justified Two-thirds of the world's population have a diet inadequate to sustain good health. Even if aid to under-developed countries were to be increased a thousand times, a figure far beyond the most hopeful dreams of Oxfam, the basic cause of world poverty would not be touched.

But inadequate diet is not a problem which only exists in underdeveloped countries. In the industrialised countries of Europe and America, this kind of deprivation also affects such people as low-income workers and their families and old age pensioners. A recent enquiry by the London School of Economics found that 500,000 children in Britain were deprived. The constant references to the so-called richer nations tends to conceal the facts of poverty in western countries.

These then are the effects of the problem, and until the nature of the problem is defined it is impossible to begin to overcome it. The varying degrees of material deprivation from which the majority of the world's population suffer is due to the failure of world capitalism to provide for human needs.

World capitalism as the dominating system of production and distribution can never be rationally organised in such a way that it serves the needs of the community. Private ownership, economic exploitation and the distribution of commodities through a marketing system with a view to making profit form the barriers that prevent man from making the fullest possible use of his labour, technology and natural resources. This is the nature of the problem of poverty.

Any attempt to deal with world poverty within the framework of capitalist society is bound to fail, since it accepts all the pre-conditions of the problem. The priorities of capitalist society are privileged properly rights and the pursuit of profits.

This is not to say that man has abandoned himself completely to the anti-social values of property society, and the existence of such movements as Oxfam is evidence of this.

The dramatic pictures of starving children who are nothing but hollow-eyed walking skeletons, never lose their effectiveness in moving men to indignation. The tragedy of it all is that in the main, victims are appealing to other victims for charity. The truth is that the working communities of the so-called rich nations are preoccupied with their own struggles, and to appeal for money from men who are harassed throughout their own lives with the difficulties of supporting families and making ends meet is to illuminate the hopeless futility on which charity is based. It must he said that the activities of Oxfam run the risk of being quite ineffective in dealing with poverty, but at the same time, creating the general impression that something is being done.

The 15 million pounds per year private aid collected in this country, even taken together with the larger amount of overseas development aid made available by the government, is a refined irrelevancy in relation to the problem. The task is straightforward. Men mutt produce much more food. This is made to appear difficult because the attempts now being made are conditional upon a profit making system.

Oxfam are right to now question the effectiveness of their own efforts. They are right to begin to think that political action is necessary. But even now, will their ideas develop along useful lines? Some sections of Oxfam are now in favour of bringing pressure on the government to increase overseas aid. The economic difficulties of the government at present completely rule this out. But even if this were not so, no amount of overseas aid that might he practical on behalf of the British or any other government could improve the situation to any appreciable degree. The only effect of this kind of operation would he to further delay real solutions. Any idea that accepts the economic conditions of capitalism is self-defeating.

Inevitably, the idea of birth control has also cropped up. The ability of the so-called theory of over population to divert men's minds from the real causes of poverty seems inexhaustible.

We must constantly draw attention to the contradiction inherent within capitalist society. The problem of hunger cannot be isolated from world poverty maintained year after year by the economic barriers of capitalism. This is not a technical problem: it is not a problem of overpopulation. It is a question of the kind of social priorities that people choose to accept. If it is to be capitalism, it will be production and distribution geared to the private accumulation of wealth by a privileged minority. It will mean economic recessions, unemployment, the curtailment of production at a time when humanity desperately needs more wealth. It will mean that technology will be stifled by the limitations of investment programmes. It will mean that the price mechanism and the market will sometimes result in the stockpiling or destruction of food whilst people are starving. It will mean the waste involved in war and commerce.

If it is to be world Socialism, it will be the common ownership of the means of producing wealth. It will mean the free application of human labour to the earth's resources with the most efficient utilisation and further development of technology. It will mean a productive system built up on relations of social equality and adjusted to the idea that man matters most.
Pieter Lawrence

Division in Japan (1986)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors.
Might I make one or two comments on Ian Ratcliffe‘s interesting article on capitalism in Japan (Socialist Standard, May 1986)?

Unemployment is said to be low in Japan, but it all depends on what you mean by "unemployed". Unemployment was reputed to be relatively low in France during the 1930s (for example, in 1932 there were 273.000 registered unemployed in France, compared to 2.817.000 in Britain and 5.580,000 in Germany). The point was that workers were only judged to be "unemployed" if they qualified for unemployment benefit. Since most workers without a job did not qualify, officially they were not "unemployed”.

Those who manage capitalism in Japan use similar methods to disguise unemployment. One technique among the many used is for companies to offload surplus workers and "set them up in their own businesses" (read "make them redundant”). It is no coincidence that 28.5 per cent of all companies in Japan are "one-man” or "family businesses" (compared to 8.6 per cent in the USA. for example). With a few pieces of machinery installed in the living room or garden shed, such workers engage in contract work (often for the company which formerly employed them) at piece-rates which often make it necessary to work for more than twelve hours per day. seven days per week, in order to survive.

Ian Ratcliffe mentioned the divisions which exist within the working class in Japan, but these are probably deeper and more damaging than even he implies. The media-created image of the Japanese worker who is guaranteed life-time employment and who receives a wide range of "benefits" from the company applies, at most, to about 30 per cent of the workforce who work for giant companies. (It is no coincidence that the rate of unionisation is 28.9 per cent, since trade unions are largely confined to this sector of the workforce.) The vast majority of workers are employed by small- and medium-steed companies, where pay and "benefits" are low. employment is insecure and unions are virtually unheard of. The results are that average wages in small companies employing no more than four workers are only 52 per cent of average wages paid by large companies employing more than 1.000 workers; bonus payments to workers in small companies are a mere 21.8 per cent of those received by workers in large companies.

Even within the giant companies, the workforce is divided. The main reason why large companies can guarantee employment to workers on the "permanent" payroll is that categories of "temporary" workers exist (some of them permanently "temporary"). Such "temporary" workers receive none of the "benefits" enjoyed by "permanent" workers, are not eligible for union membership, and have no long-term security of employment. Even for workers on the "permanent” payroll of giant companies (who are often regarded as an "aristocracy of labour"), life is far from rosy because for every one of them, there are plenty of less well-paid workers who are eager to step into their shoes, they can resist few of the demands which the companies make on them. To give just one example, most workers in this position dare to use only half of the average of 15 vacation days per year which are their due. The rest of their vacation allowance they give up "voluntarily".

As Ian Ratcliffe rightly makes clear, capitalism is a monstrous and degrading system wherever it is found. In Japan, as in all other countries, wage-earners find themselves manipulated, oppressed and exploited. The solution to the problems confronting workers in Britain certainly does not lie in aping the practices of Japanese capitalism. Rather, the solution to workers’ problems wherever they might be lies in a worldwide effort to achieve the objectives which have adorned the banners of the best sections of the Japanese working class: Chin Rōdō to Shōhin Seisan no Haishi ("Abolition of Wage Labour and Commodity Production").
Yours for communism.
John Crump 
Department of Politics 
University of York