Monday, February 1, 2016

The Match that did not bring the Explosion (1934)

From the November 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

An incident which happened on October 8th in Marseilles brings to mind, somewhat vividly, the assassination at Sarajevo, in July, 1914, of the Archduke Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria. On October 8th King Alexander of Jugoslavia was assassinated whilst on an official visit (a peace mission, so it is said) to Paris.

The news of the assassination came with dramatic suddenness, and the Press, which was caught unawares, commented on the news with restraint. Later, however, the Press generally went to some trouble to assure its readers that "History was not repeating itself." Candidus, in the Daily Sketch on October 10th said : "The mind of everyone will instinctively go back to the murder of the Archduke at Sarajevo, which led to the Great War. But I do not apprehend any political results from this murder, except that it certainly will not encourage a more liberal policy in Croatia.” He goes on to say : "The trouble of Sarajevo arose out of the fact that one nation was anxious to make an excuse for war. No nation has any such interest in this murder."

What is surprising in the above statement is that at the moment an "excuse” for war is not wanted and the implicit suggestion that if an "excuse" were necessary the convenient assassin and assassinated would appear.

There arc still some workers who believe that the last war was caused by the murder of Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria, at Sarajevo, and who would perhaps have believed the same regarding the assassination of Alexander had another excuse for war been needed. Indeed, our masters would foster the illusion that nations become engaged in war with each other, involving death and injury to millions of workers, because of such an incident.

At present the whole Press reminds us with frequency that there is a state of tension existing between certain countries in Europe, and that at any moment some incident such as the assassination of King Alexander would result in another European war. In fact, some newspapers, such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, are almost every day urging the Government to drastically increase armaments (to preserve peace, of course!).

The answer of the Socialist to war or the threat of war, is clear and unambiguous: summed up in a phrase in our manifesto to the workers, issued in September, 1914, it is: " hat there is no interest at stake justifying the shedding of one drop of working-class blood."
A. G. A.

Working-Class Politics and the "Labour Daily." (1912)

From the May 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The question of a Labour daily newspaper has been so much to the front at odd times within the past few years that we cannot be surprised that one has appeared. It is an independent journal so far as organisations are concerned, although it has a backing among many prominent trade-unionists and quasi-Socialists. Its first editorial article was quite promising. It said: “However much we may deplore the antagonism of class interests, we cannot escape its consequences. The conflict is going on all the time," but subsequent announcements, sad to say, have more than nullified this. To take its leading articles as representing its own opinions, we have had the most contradictory positions advocated in successive issues.

In No. 1 we were told that "Bound to no particular section of the movement, the ‘Daily Herald' is the mouthpiece of all phases of industrial, political and social activity. While giving general support to the policy and programme of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, we do not claim identity with them.”

In No. 3 we were told of the futility of political action of any kind, and the theory of Anarchist “direct action” was advocated, as will be clear from the following extracts:
“And they all know, as we know, that the centre of politics has shifted; they all know, as we know, that the question whether or no a capitalist parliament sits in Dublin is of no account beside the question whether or no the Irish railwaymen are coming out on strike. They know the game is up. There is no need to insist on an obvious fact, but we may he forgiven for expressing a certain amount of mild jubilation. The real problems of the day, the fate of an industrial system, the task of remodelling it before it falls in ruins about our heads, are pushing the old peddling political problems of the day off the stage  . . . The fight for freedom is to take place in the workshop and the street, and not on the floor of the House of Commons. Parliament sits in its cave, like the giant of Bunyan's fable, snarling through its toothless gums. What the democracy is considering is how the worker can organise himself for co-operative production without the aid of Parliament, even with the forces of the governing clique arrayed against them."
In No. 4, on the occasion of the East Nottingham bye-election, its readers were advised to keep the Tory out by voting Liberal. The exact words had better be reproduced. Here they are:
"Mr. Dobson has done nothing, within our recollection, to entitle him to this amount of consideration at our hands. But there it is. The Labour electors have to choose between two evils, and our advice to them is choose the lesser by voting for Mr. Dobson."
In No. 5 we get back to the Anarchist position, and the advocacy of the general strike. “Combination can abolish the whole miserable picture, and substitute a united army which would, without doubt, sweep everything before it.” “ A sectional strike might possibly bring about a few minor reforms, but it would be more likely to end in disaster. It could not for a moment be expected to solve the really vital problems with which we are confronted. But imagine for one moment the effect of complete consolidation."

In No. 8, on the occasion of the bye-election in the Forest of Dean, the Liberal is taboo, and we are invited to turn him out. On the former occasion the reason for voting Liberal was to keep the Tory out, therefore it obviously follows that in order to turn the Liberal out of the Forest of Dean it is necessary to vote Tory. "At present the Forest of Dean is unrepresented—or rather it is represented by an echo of Mr. Asquith and the party caucus. We invite the Dean miners to turn the echo out."

It can be seen from the above that within the compass of eight days the new Labour daily has put up a record for boxing tbe political compass. The quotations given show how in so many words it has flitted from supporting the Labour Party to non-political economic “direct action." From that to supporting the Liberal candidate, while its next advice it to support the Tory candidate. Inconsistency has never gone further.

The fact is the "Daily Herald” has no politics and no policy. It wants to make the paper a financial success; that is its first and only consideration. Its educative effect upon the working class is altogether a secondary consideration. The opinions of the workers are indefinite—ergo, the opinions of a paper to be acceptable to all must be similarly indefinite. The working-class position politically has not so far been stated, although on occasions it has been glimpsed. The political game is up, we are told, and the fight must be in the street. The political movement of the workers organised on the basis of their class position has never been tried, and what is the use of the completest industrial amalgamation in the street when the trained armed forces of society are controlled by the enemy? Are we to assume that because our opponents use the power of society, organised and controlled through the Parliamentary machine, for their class purposes in that struggle recognised in the “Daily Herald's” first leader, the same power is to be left in their bands without our making an effort to capture it? Because labour hacks sell out is that to say working-class representation is impossible? Because the political machinery has been corrupted by its long abuse by capitalism. is it to follow we can afford to ignore it in a struggle in which it must occupy the central position?

Let the “Daily Herald” expound the truth, and urge the organisation of the working-class politically for the capture of the machinery of government in order to overthrow the capitalist system; let it emphasise the necessity for an organisation for that purpose, and the insufficiency of all the parties that have been tried. If it follows that line it will arrive at the position of the Socialist Party. It may lose customers, but it will have gained truth.
R. H. Kent

The Worker (1959)

From the April 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Mediterranean shores, on the sands of Waikiki, on Caribbean Waters, these are among the places where the worker is to be found. But not in great numbers and not stretched out on his back. He will be found in these places in just those numbers that are required to wash, clothe, feed and minister in other ways to the wants and comforts of people who have neither the need nor the urge to look after themselves.

There are places where the worker can be found in far greater numbers: the swamps of Florida, the forests of British Columbia, the auto plants of Michigan, the mining camps of Ontario; places that he is far more accustomed to, where the produce of nature is moulded into things useful to man; far places, near places, places of dirt and smoke, and smoke and sweat and work.

The worker is a handy sort of person to have around. Without him the Mediterranean shores would lose most of their splendour, the waves would wash over Waikiki unsung by travel agencies, the waters of the Caribbean would abound in ocean life undisturbed by intrepid sportsmen. Without him there would be no smoke over Pittsburgh, no satellites over Moscow; no grandeur in Rome, no pomp in London; no magnificence in Washington, no bull in Ottawa; no joy in the hearts of those who live without working.

To ensure that he creates an abundance of the finer things of life for other people and a sufficiency of other things to care for his own needs, in the way of food, clothing and shelter, plus a bit extra for tobacco and the raising of a family to take his place in production when he grows old, and also to ensure that this state of affairs be protected to infinity, that is the fondest aim of those in whose care rests the destiny of society. That is the blessed eternity that the owners of the world and their spokesmen dream and yearn and sigh for. What finer world could be envisaged than one in which the workers work happily on simple fare and the non-workers live happily on the rest ?

Somehow this doesn't sound just right, docs it ? Somehow it seems that somebody is getting away with something, that there should be a better set-up than one in which the workers wind up with rations while people who do nothing useful live on the fat of the land. Yet that's how it is.

There is a lot said in high places about talking turkey to the Russians and hanging one on the nose of some other foreigner. There are grandiose plans in governing circles for intercontinental guided missiles and improved types of atom bombs. There is much said about foreign trade, tariffs, agreements and embargoes. The world we live in treats the wealth of the owning class with the greatest reverence. It has to be guarded by every means, shifted here and shifted there, moved within the terms of international understandings, cared for and catered to in every way that will benefit the owners. And these antics are all assumed to be in the interest of the whole community, the theory being that what is good for General Bullmoose is good for everybody. But after everything has been done according to plan, it still works out that the worker finds himself by the palm trees, the rolling waves, the silvery sands, for no better reason than to work. Either that or he is trespassing.

It doesn't have to be like that. But if someone thinks that maybe the other fellow will do something about it, he had better move back to the beginning and start thinking some more. The other fellow has too many things to do. He has a world in his lap, placed there by the worker. How can he enjoy to the full the bounteous produce of labour and at the same time concern himself about its grubby producer? Besides, what can be wrong with a world that is so full of wonderful things and places—and so much time in which to enjoy them ?

Thoughts like these are hard to counter. There is logic in the other fellow’s position—logic for him. But it could be different for the worker. This kind of logic doesn’t help to build up his supply of caviar or contribute to the upkeep of his coach and four. He needs more. And when he has gotten down to some serious thought and study and found out what really goes on in society, there is no doubt whatever about the outcome: he will know what needs to be done and he will know who has to do it.

He will know that the reason he and his family and his kind receive so little while the other people mentioned receive so much is that he and his kind are members of the working class, having no share in the ownership of the means of production and distribution and forced in order to live to work for these other people, the members of the capitalist class. He will know that the workers are forced to do this because the capitalists own the means of production and distribution and will allow their operation only on condition that it brings them a profit. He will know, too, that this profit comes from the amount of wealth produced by the workers in excess of their own essential needs and that the capitalist class exert constant pressure to increase this excess and so their profit, even to the extent of lowering the subsistence level of the workers. Knowing this, he will also know that the only way for the workers to rid themselves of the shackles of subservience and want is to transform the means of production and distribution from capitalist property to common property, introducing at last a condition in which human needs will be satisfied unaffected by the restraints, dictates and diversions of an owning class.

And since the class ownership of the means of life is protected for the capitalists by their control over the government, the worker will know, too, that he and his fellows must become organised in a political party designed to bring about the necessary transformation. Then he will join the Socialist Party.
(Reproduced from a Leaflet published by the Socialist Party of Canada.)

Council Communist (2016)

Book Review from the February 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Marxism in a Lost Century: A Biography of Paul Mattick', by Gary Roth. Chicago. Haymarket Books, 2015

This biography will be of special interest to many readers of the Socialist Standard. While Paul Mattick (1904–1981) never joined the World Socialist Movement (WSM), his views were sufficiently close to ours for him to be a major contributor of articles and book reviews to the Western Socialist, journal of the World Socialist Party of the US, from the late 1940s to the late 1950s.

Mattick’s life spanned eras and continents. In his youth he participated in the grassroots upheavals in Germany that followed in the wake of World War One as an activist in the movement that came to be known as ‘council communism’ (Rätekommunismus). In 1926 he moved to the United States and settled in Chicago, where his main involvement was with the unemployed movement that developed in the early 1930s. He was a prolific writer in several genres – journalism, fiction, and travel writing as well as social criticism and political economy.

It is convenient to consider the book in three parts. Chapters 2–4 portray the life and activity of the young Mattick in Germany. Chapters 5–9 focus on his activism in the US in the late 1920s and the 1930s. The main theme of the remaining chapters is Mattick’s tireless efforts to develop and disseminate his ideas.

Paul Mattick grew up under harsh conditions in the poor family of an unskilled worker, first in rural East Prussia (now in Poland) and then in Berlin. He left school at the age of 14 to become an apprentice toolmaker in the Siemens concern. At about the same time he became politically active – first in the Free Socialist Youth, the youth group attached to the Social Democratic Party, and later in the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (German abbreviation – KAPD), a ‘left communist’ breakaway from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Chapters 3 and 4 provide a valuable account of the formation, evolution, and decline of the KAPD. The KAPD and like-minded council communist groups in other European countries opposed both the classical social-democratic model of the parliamentary party and the Leninist model of the vanguard party (‘the revolution is no party matter’). As their name indicates, they envisioned workers’ councils as the organisational vehicle of revolutionary action.

In contrast to the KPD, which quickly came to depend financially and politically on the Bolshevik regime, the KAPD maintained an independent outlook and developed an analysis of the new state-capitalist system emerging in Russia.

During the first few years after his emigration Mattick was preoccupied with the practical problems of adapting to life in a new country. He found a provisional political home in the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or ‘Wobblies’).

From 1932 onward Mattick played a prominent role in the effort to organise the unemployed in Chicago, who at the height of the Great Depression accounted for 40 percent of the city’s workforce. He worked through the Workers’ League, an unemployed affiliate of the Proletarian Party – a group that (like the WSPUS) had its origins in the Socialist Party of Michigan. Mattick and his colleagues – a word he preferred to ‘comrades’ – based their organising work in the network of abandoned storefronts that unemployed workers took over and used as local ‘relief stations’ (with kitchens and sleeping quarters), meeting places and print shops.

Mattick also succeeded in creating a fairly small but active group of council communists under the name of the United Workers’ Party, with a journal entitled International Council Correspondence.

The author devotes a great deal of space to the efforts made by Mattick over many years to interest left-wing editors and publishers in his writings. With few exceptions, such as the Western Socialist, the influence of Leninism within the left made these efforts fruitless until the New Left finally came to his rescue in the late 1960s. The West German student movement in particular began to show an interest in Mattick as a living link with the country’s ‘revolutionary’ past.

Mattick was in touch at various times with numerous left-wing scholars who he hoped would help him gain public recognition and get his work published. The author provides considerable detail about these interactions. However, it is disappointing that for some reason he ignores Mattick’s close relations with the WSPUS and its members during the period when he and his family were living in Boston.

There is also some scattered information about the content of Mattick’s writing – not as much as the reader might wish but as much as can reasonably be expected in a biography. Special attention is rightly paid to Mattick’s main contributions to Marxian political economy. Best known is his critique of Keynesian economics, which finally appeared in book form in 1969 under the title Marx and Keynes: The Limits of the Mixed Economy. Mattick showed that government intervention could modify the workings of capitalism only temporarily and within definite limits.

Mattick also had a persistent interest in the theory of the business cycle and capitalist crisis. Here he was greatly influenced by Henryk Grossman, whose work The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System happened to come out just before the stock market crash of 1929. Grossman’s analysis relied heavily on the schema at the end of the second volume of Marx’s Capital and the first section of the third volume, and stressed the crucial role played by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, as well as constraints on an ever-rising mass of profit. Following Grossman, Mattick believed that capitalist crisis does not automatically lead to socialist revolution but does create an ‘objectively revolutionary situation.’ However, Grossman – a member of the Communist Party of Poland – had concepts of revolution and the post-revolutionary society very different from those of Mattick.

Besides its political and theoretical content, Roth’s biography of Mattick is of great human interest. It tells us a lot about what life was like at various times for working people in both Germany and the United States. The book is worth reading for that alone.
Stefan

What does progress mean? (1994)

From June 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Scientific breakthrough!
American scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington have recently found a way of attaching living embrionic brain cells to computer silicon chips.

In a race with Japanese researchers, they are trying to create living computers. Biological engineering and micro-electronics - two of the most rapidly-advancing branches of technology - have been brought together to begin an entirely new line of development. It is a brilliant piece of work.

Rapid progress
But news like this makes most people a bit uneasy. Not only does it seem slightly sinister - like Frankenstein - but similar developments are coming thick and fast these days. Genetic engineering, satellite communications, smart bombs, tissue culture, laser surgery . . .  The speed of change is high - and rising.

Granny is lost
The older you are, the more difficult it is to adjust to accelerating change. Thousands of old people born into a world without cars or electric lighting are bewildered by the disappearance of old things and the welter of new ones. They regard young people as bizarre, unpredictable and dangerous.

To the 18-year-old, 80-year-old people are not just older and slower. They can seem quite alien. This (as well as easy robbery) is one of the reasons for attacks on old people.

We are different
We have become a different sort of people from our parents and very different from our grandparents. The family structure which used to keep children in prolonged contact with their grandparents has almost gone. And so the generations have ceased to feel they have anything in common. This is one of they ways our attitudes have changed. The religion-backed taboos against sex outside lifelong marriage have collapsed in what has really been a very short period of time. Many people have still not come to terms with it. And we are still changing.

No-one is in control
To call for a "return to Victorian values" (Margaret Thatcher) or "Back to basics" (John Major) is therefore to show just how little you understand the society you live in.

It shows, also, how worried our politicians - who represent the interests of the wealthy employers - how worried they are about the way society is developing. And it shows they don’t control it.

Capitalism perverts progress
Computer-controlled production systems may well increase profits, but they also impose pressure for social change because they confirm the possibility of producing plenty for everyone with less and less work.

The capitalists want the profit, but they don’t want to lose their ownership and control of society’s livelihood. So their politicians try desperately to hold back any idea of radical social change.

As a result, we still get changes, but they are distorted. Divorce, child abuse, rape, vandalism, violent crime, drug abuse, resurgent nationalism, terrorism - are all reactions to a society which is changing rapidly but still bottled up inside the class oppression of capitalism. The majority of the population are deliberately kept poor or insecure by the money system so that we have to work all our lives for them.

The industrial and agricultural - and military - potential of society is advancing all the time. But the power structure - the economic and political organisation of society - is stuck back in the 18th century. We are inventing the most terrifying weapons so that they can continue to defend their wealth against their foreign competitors - and ourselves - at the cost of our lives.

Redirecting progress
This is not progress for us. The change we desperately need now is a change in the structure of society itself. A change which will give us freedom from their domination and exploitation. So that we shall have control of the technology and science we develop. Control of the production and distribution we need to live on. Control of change itself.

Only we can make this sort of change. We are in the immense majority all over the world. We produce and manage everything already. The capitalist class and their power structure contribute nothing. But they consume over half the wealth we produce.

This sort of change cannot be gradual. Their governments are spending billions a year holding back social change, limiting democracy, preventing freedom. They have got the world - all of us - by the throat. What are we going to do about it?
Ron Cook

After Tiananmen (1990)

Editorial from the June 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

It takes guts to stand up against a brutal dictatorship. One year ago in China those who exhibited such courage were slaughtered on the streets. They paid the price for expressing dissent in what is absurdly titled a "people’s democracy”.

Since then much has happened. The Chinese state-capitalist bosses still hang to power, but their counterparts in Eastern Europe have discovered that the strength of workers is greater than the arrogance of so-called Communist state bosses. With the exception of the Leninist rulers of Russia and Albania, the pseudo-socialist rulers have been ousted throughout Eastern Europe. Events have occurred which socialists, only one year ago, would have been called utopians for predicting. The Berlin Wall has disappeared; genuine elections have taken place where one-party rule used to exist; inside the Russian Empire workers are joining independent, non-state-controlled trade unions—even the army has formed one, pledging itself not to fire on the workers in the event of an attempted military coup.

The explosive developments of the months since the Tiananmen massacre demonstrate the rapidity with which historical change can take place. It has also shown the power which arises from peaceful, democratic, organised action by workers who will no longer tolerate the conditions under which they are living. No doubt the first workers on to the streets of Leipzig or Bucharest were called utopians by some doubters—surely they did not really imagine that they, mere unarmed civilians, could defeat the might of the militarised state-capitalist regime. But they did. History once again proved the cynics and doubters to be wrong.

The unsuccessful struggle in China was not futile. The victory of the state bosses left blood stains which will give rise to workers’ consciousness. Those who were murdered are not forgotten—after them will come other Chinese wage slaves who will complete the task of removing the Deng dynasty.

But what has the “success” of the East European workers amounted to? Greater democratic freedom exists now than before the workers demanded it. That gain is not to be sniffed at by workers in the West. Apart from the greater opportunities to express themselves and organise, the workers of Eastern Europe are still the victims of a dictatorship: the Dictatorship of Capital.

Do the Poles now own Poland or the Hungarians Hungary or the Rumanians Rumania? Will the Russians own Russia if the Communist Party is dislodged, or will the Lithuanian workers own the wealth of Lithuania once they leave the Russian Empire? Of course not. The means of wealth production in these countries still belong to a small minority of the population—the composition of this minority may have changed (although in Poland and Hungary many of the old state bosses are now buying up the private capital), but they are still the exploiting class.

As long as the profits of the bosses are the product of the legalised robbery of the wealth producers the workers are not free. To be a wage slave in Britain is less like being a prison inmate than being one in China, but the compulsion to work in order to make the bosses rich is the same for both.

It is the capitalist system which is the enemy. It is only by establishing a classless, stateless, propertyless global society that real freedom will be won. The struggle of workers in Britain to get rid of the profit system can only strengthen the struggle of our fellow workers in China, just as the heroic actions of our fellow workers in Tiananmen Square will serve as a permanent reminder to us of the ability of workers to stand up and be counted in the most difficult of circumstances, and the ruthless resolve of our class enemies to destroy dissent.

The Great Difference (1928)

From the May 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Being a verbatim report of a conversation on a Tube platform between a youth of 18 and another of 21, upon a highly technical and abstruse subject.

The Younger: "What’s this about Ilford, Bill?”

The Older: "Why, the blinking Conservative has got in again.”

The Younger: "Oh, but what is all the excitement? What does it mean, 'Ilford Election Sensation’?”

The Older: "Well, the Tory has got in but the majority is about 10,000 down.” 

The Younger: "Did you vote, Bill?” 

The Older: "No! I wasn’t old enough when the register was made up."

The Younger: "I don’t know a great deal about politics, Bill. What is Conservatism?”

The Older (after profound thought): "Conservatism? Why, its the Nobs, that’s what it is, its the Nobs.”

The Younger: "And what o’ Liberalism, Bill?”

The Older: "Liberalism? Well, they used to be for Labour, see, before the Labour Party came in, but now the Labour Party is in, they ain’t so much for Labour now.”

The Younger: "And the Labour Party, what do they stand for?”

The Older: "Well, the Labour Party, they’re all for the working man, see. Take your own case, for example, you’re working 44 hours a week, ain’t you. Now, then, if the Labour Party hadn’t been in you would have been working 48.”

The Younger: "I see! The Labour Party go all out for the working man, eh !” 

The Older: "That’s it. Besides, my father has always been for Labour and I reckon what’s good enough for him, is good enough for me.”

The Younger: "Oh, yes ! That’s about right, Bill. Hullo! here’s our train.”
W. T. Hopley

Jimmy Hill - A Man for all Seasons (2016)

The Action Replay column from the February 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jimmy Hill, who died in December at the age of 87, grew up in South London and played football for Fulham FC, a first division (as the top league was then called) side. A busy inside forward, his beard and ski-slope chin made him look like a buccaneer. Fans called him a rabbi and other names but always in banter. He became a folk hero at Craven Cottage.

A knee injury forced him to retire in 1961. Staying in the game he transformed lowly Coventry City from third division underachievers, into a progressive and family friendly football club. He changed Coventry's kit into sky blue and started up Sky Blue train specials to away games and Sky Blue children's parties. He understood and developed inclusiveness at Coventry City FC, before the word became part of every politician's lexicon.

However, it was his leadership of the Professional Footballers Association from 1955-61 which dramatically affected the game. In successfully opposing the maximum wage of £20, the foundations of the modern game were laid.

How things have changed. Wayne Rooney reputedly earns 30k per week for plying his trade. No longer is football a working man’s game.

Hill was a gifted speaker - persuasive, eloquent and logical. He understood the grievances of his fellow professionals and his irrefutable arguments often convinced the authorities of the necessity for change.

In 1967 he became Head of Sport with London Weekend Television and reinvented football on TV by introducing the role of the pundit. In 1973 he switched to BBC becoming the front man on Match of the Day remaining a forthright commentator

Hill’s final contribution was to his beloved Fulham. In 1987 he spent ten turbulent years as Chairman. Plans were mooted to merge with Queen’s Park Rangers and sell Craven Cottage for housing. Adroitly utilising public outrage he steered the club through this passage and other crises.

Many eulogies have stemmed from ex-professionals regarding Jimmy Hill’s contribution to football. Peter Schmeichel, a former Manchester United player is the most fitting. He describes Jimmy Hill as one of 'the most important people in football history', adding 'on so many levels we owe you.'
Kevin.

Blind! (1920)

From the June 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a wail that breaks upon our hearing;
    A mournful whisper borne upon the wind;
A sightless army through the night is steering,
    Blind! Blind! Blind! 
Eyes that are blind to life and life's awakening,
    What do you seek and what expect to find ?
A world new-born without your aid in making ?
    Blind! Blind! Blind! 
’Tie you yourselves who must through toil and sorrow,
    Loosen the chains your minds and bodies bind.
Think you that we can build the new tomorrow?
    Blind ! Blind ! Blind ! 
When you shall rend the veil that seeks to blind you,
    When to the winds your old-time dreams are hurled,
Then shall you break the fetters that now bind you
    And win the world.
F. J. Webb

Wrong Note (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been sent a publication called Socialist Voice, issued by the “Workers’ League”, with a request for an opinion. This is easy. It is rubbish. It is a re-hash, a dreary repetition of the same old Leninist-Trotskyite nonsense of the CP in 1920. Its pages are filled with reports of the “industrial struggles” in the mistaken notion that strikes lead to Socialism.

Even one of its own contributors, Mr. Collard, points out that: “The view held by many on the left that industrial militancy by itself raises the level of class-consciousness fails to recognise that sectional struggle generates sectional interest”.

These lefties usually reveal a poor knowledge of facts. Thus, R. Kirkwood’s article on “How they built the Party in 1920” is a Stalinist fairy-story. We are told that there has only been one “partly successful” attempt “to build a revolutionary party in Britain”. This, says Kirkwood, was the Communist Party. He could not be more wrong. From the day of its inception the British CP was reformist through and through. Grovelling pathetically to the Labour Party to be allowed in, with the longest list of “immediate demands” (reforms) ever put before the British electorate. It was completely corrupt, run on Russian roubles.

What R. Kirkwood and the Workers’ League have never understood is that unemployed marches do not lead to Socialism. If they did, we should have had it round about 1930. A revolutionary party is committed exclusively to Revolution and cannot support reforms — which are anti-revolutionary.

May we suggest that the Workers’ League, which wishes to “contribute to the debate”, obtain a little more knowledge before doing so? A good start would be The Communist Manifesto and Value, Price and Profit. Although good old Marx said in the C.M. that “the real fruit of their battles lies in their ever-expanding union” (i.e. the workers), he obviously expected them to learn from their defeats enough to form a political party with the watchword “Abolition of the wages system”.

So far thisSocialist Voice” is a bad case of laryngitis.
Horatio

Where there's muck . . . (1985)

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


These days. life out in the sticks, as a townie might put it. is not all it has been cracked up to be. To get out of bed in the morning and open the window only to be assailed by noxious vapours which invade one's nostrils with the venomous intent of an angry rattlesnake is no joke. (It has been averred that, to the unwary, the experience can be nearly lethal.) Unfortunately, to stagger back again from the bed. handkerchief clutched to one's livid face, in order to slam shut the greenly-misted window panes is of little use either: the room—the house!—is by this time uninhabitable. Even the flies lie dead along the window-ledges, and the dog, eyes streaming and lungs heaving, gazes out pitifully from his corner in the kitchen.

OK, so I exaggerate. However, it's not so very far removed from the truth. The name of the game is "intensive farming". Gone are the days of straw-bound manure pitch-forked from the back of a horse- or tractor-drawn farm cart. Nowadays it's a matter of chemically treated slurry sprayed over the valley-bottom in a manically determined effort to maximise production at whatever cost in environmental pollution to the local inhabitants and to the flora and fauna of the meadowlands. Moreover, the machinery by which this disgusting operation is carried out not infrequently deposits a film of slurry on the road surfaces which, particularly in wet weather, constitutes a very real risk to road-users. (Being a so-called National Park, the Yorkshire Dales hosts large quantities of tourist traffic. Then there are the limestone juggernauts which roar along roads never built to accommodate such monsters.) Of course, farming up here in the Pennine uplands is a vastly different affair from that obtaining on, say, the level plains of Norfolk or Lincolnshire. The lushest and most valuable pastures are to be found along the valley floors, which are divided and sub-divided by dry-stone walls. These grasslands provide pasturage for cattle and sheep, both of which are to be found grazing on the higher ground also. There is no arable farming here to speak of. The Duke of Devonshire is the most considerable land-owner around these parts and consequently not a few of the farmers are his tenants. The farms are often small and the parcels of land worked by the it individual farmers are often separated from each other by considerable distances, sometimes miles. The latest problem for Dales farmers is the government's acceptance of the EEC's 20 per cent cut in the so- called milk quota — an obscenity indeed when one considers the unmet need for milk which exists in this country alone, to say nothing of the world at large.


After agriculture we have tourism and the holiday trade — caravan sites, camping grounds, holiday cottages, coach tours, pony trekking — even hang-gliding for those willing to risk their necks seeking out the thermals pushed up by the rocky escarpments. There are the fabulously exclusive grouse-moors of our masters, and the somewhat more accessible fishing reaches along the banks of the Wharfe and the Skirfare. the Nidd. the Ure and the Swale. High up in the air may sometimes be glimpsed the odd hot-air balloon, usually advertising something or other. Above it. higher yet. may be seen—and heard!—reminders of more sinister things — vicious manifestations of capitalism's wars to come, as they rip the sky open in their passes over the hills.

Of course, the cash nexus is all. There are, not unnaturally, many exceptions to the general rule — civilised little organisations which cater for special interests: the occasional art-clubs, botanical groups, field societies, local folk-museums and so on. run by those who live in and respect the Dales and Dales people. But for the most part the Dales reflects a cash-consciousness as pronounced as that to be found in any other part of the country. Housing here is formidably expensive — so much so that many young indigenous Dales people cannot afford to live in their own "home" districts. Consequently, they are obliged to seek accommodation in the towns to the south of the Park. One effect of this state of affairs is to raise the average age of the local population, which must be detrimental to the elderly themselves. Who among us wishes to live in the elephants' graveyard which the Dales villages threaten to become?

Quarrying is capitalism writ large. The major conglomerate operating in Wharfedale happens to be the building services group. Tilcon (the Tilling Construction Company). One of the largest in the UK. its quarries division alone comprises some sixty sand, gravel, limestone, whinstone and granite quarries, spread throughout the British Isles. The concrete division comprises over sixty Trumix plants sited from Scotland to the Potteries. The Group also embraces a mortar division, a putty plant, plaster and perlite units. North Riding Garages, the Slater and Acey Transport companies, and the Scottish Brick Company, of over twenty brickworks, owned jointly with the NCB. also fall within its purlieu along with much besides. The existence in the area of this major capitalist undertaking, together with other considerable quarrying interests, is more or less taken for granted, despite strongly expressed objections to their vast appetite for more hillside to open up. and notwithstanding the inconvenience caused by the heavy traffic generated. One explanation for this acquiescence is that at least some employment is afforded in a district in which jobs are as rare as that other Dales rarity, the Slipper orchid.

This acceptance goes hand in hand with an even readier tolerance of the nomenclature "National Park" as applied to the Yorkshire Dales. A true national park on the one hand, and the massive extraction of limestone on the other, must be mutually exclusive. And of course activities such as intensive farming and exclusive house-building would likewise have no place in a national park. For a national park is, or ought to be, a natural wasteland, an area of countryside which has been allowed to revert as nearly as possible to its original condition. So we can discern a kind of hypocrisy here which, while speaking of the shadow of an ideal, seems quite incapable of coming to terms with the substance of capitalist profit-making.


Visitors to the Dales often illustrate this contradiction by their own illusions as to what the Dales are about. They will wander at will over what they consider to be freely accessible land, little realising that it is privately owned. (It is only fair to add, however, that much of the most elevated ground —usually unsuitable for agriculture or grouse-shooting — is freely accessible.) There are statutory footpaths, of course, although even these must be watched with the utmost vigilance since some local landowners have no compunction whatsoever but to remove or wire up the stiles. Nowadays. as a result of recent farmer-orientated legislation they are even allowed to run bulls over fields across which footpaths are routed. The truth is that the so-called National Parks in this country are, for the most part, private property in one form or another. Moreover, it is private property of a highly lucrative nature. Despite recent EEC legislation, land ownership is still more than just a comprehensively subsidised and very profitable means of wealth-accumulation. It is also one of the most effective hedges against the inflation which has done so much damage to those of us who are obliged to sell our labour- and brain-power in order to live.

Reference has been made to the quarrying interests which are taking such huge bites out of the limestone hills here, and the capital expropriation is vast indeed. The visual impact is, however, devastating. Visitors moving up-Dale from Skipton, the nearest town of any substance, must, on reaching Swinden quarry and limestone workings, wonder what they're in for round the next comer. This enormous apparition, thrusting sky-wards like some ghostly rocket launching site, casts its white pall over everything — trees, fields, barns alike, for many hundreds of yards around. It constitutes a monument to the capitalist system, symbolising the philistine greed of powerful entrepreneurs who, as we ought to have learnt by this time, will stop at nothing in order to protect and enhance their interests.

However, let's not end on too pessimistic a note. Much of the Yorkshire Dales remains more or less as it has been for centuries. In many ways those of us lucky enough to live here, despite the disadvantages, have much to feel thankful for compared with our brothers and sisters of the industrial areas to the south and east. And perhaps this good fortune is all the more reason for finding ways of getting the socialist case over. After all, it is a simple enough matter to pull on a pair of boots and climb to the bleak and windy heights with only the bird-calls for company. Up here, at least, one is enabled to think of the larger issues and to find ways of expressing them. What's more, it doesn't cost anything—yet!
Richard Cooper






Capitalism is Not the End of History (2016)

Editorial from the February 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Across the world capitalism holds centre stage. Its cruelties and iniquities are too numerous to count, yet almost everybody imagines it is here for good, and for our general good, and that it represents the last stage in human development, in fact, that it is the 'end of history'. All one can do is to press for minor reforms, for no major change is deemed possible or even desirable.

In the wings, however, a new society is waiting. It is not supposed to exist, but it is there just the same, the next stage of history, the one that comes after capitalism. It stands impatiently in the shadows as the world grinds on regardless. This society is different in one basic respect from all that has gone before - it is based not on material scarcity but on abundance.

Global abundance of material resources is a new concept for most people, yet the practical obstacles are disappearing fast, and have already disappeared in the case of food, shelter, water and energy. In a world of abundance, why bother to buy and sell? Why bother to have wars over buying and selling? Why bother to have hierarchies of rich people making poor people's lives a misery? Why bother with 'cheap' options like pollution? Why bother with money, that carrot we wear ourselves out chasing? In an abundance, the only issues need be: how to put our collective resources to best use, and how to make the decisions fairly and in a way which involves everyone.

This social upgrade - which we call World Socialism - is a revolutionary advancement for the human species which will make 21st century capitalism look like the Dark Ages, yet the debate is not yet out in the open. Hardly anyone dares conceive of a society after capitalism, so powerful is its hold on the collective mind. But we dare.

The Socialist Party is like no other political party in Britain. First, because it doesn't want power for itself. In the new society we advocate, there will be no power structures anyway and our organisation would cease to exist. Second, because we have no leaders or followers and think instead that collective decision-making - democracy - is the only suitable way to operate a free society. Do you know of any other organisation that can say this? We doubt it.

So what's the catch? The catch is, we will not lead you and we can't do all the work for you. You have to be your own leader, else democracy is meaningless. So if you're prepared to stand up for yourself, don't wait for other people to do it first - get in touch with us and help out. Capitalism is doing everything it can to destroy the idea of World Socialism before it can get off the ground. All that has to happen, for it to succeed, is for you to do nothing.