Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Enoch Powell & War (1976)

From the January 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Enoch Powell is no friend of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. His divisive views on race are enough to make any self-respecting Socialist shudder. Yet amongst politicians he is undoubtedly one of the more coherent defenders and theorists of the present social set-up. His opposition to government spending, for example, does not extend to the police or prison services. He is in no doubt that crime is an unavoidable part of competitive society and maintains that economies in this field can only hamper the smooth running of that system. On inflation, too, he is uncompromising. He fully understands that inflation is caused by governments having an excess of paper currency printed, an explanation given (although Enoch may not realise it) by all Socialists since Marx.

In a recent edition of the BBC’s Any Questions Mr. Powell “came clean” once again, this time on the subject of war. He expressed the view that, with nations obliged to defend their interests against possible attack by outsiders, all grandiose, well-meaning schemes to disarm or to abolish war were pie-in- the-sky; the best governments could do was to stave off for as long as possible the wars that were bound to break out sooner or later. This is a bold, objective description of conditions in the world today and we must congratulate Mr. Powell for his frankness and lucidity. What he might have added, however, is that a nation’s interests are rarely susceptible to objective interpretation. The recent tension in the Spanish Sahara is a case in point. It arose from three different nations each claiming to defend its legitimate interests. In reality the three groups are after the mineral wealth which possession of this territory would give  them. And here is the rub, for it is competition for the earth’s resources that causes confrontation and armed conflict. Do we infer from this that people are greedy or anxious to grab from others? If so, it is not natural but depends on circumstances and is not what happens in the case of wars. In modern wars leaders use the insecurity, ignorance and frustrations inseparable from competitive society to persuade the led to fight and slaughter their fellow human beings in the “national interest”, which in reality is the interest of the ruling class.

Enoch Powell is simply acknowledging what we have said: in a commercial, nation-divided world, war is inevitable. If the politicians are unable to avert wars, it is quite simply because they are committed to looking after a system that breeds them.

What is our alternative? We suggest a truly united, wholly democratic world with no nations, no money and with the satisfaction of human needs as its first priority. Impossible? We don’t think so. All that is in fact needed to bring it into being is peaceful political action by a convinced majority of ordinary people.
Howard Moss

Marx and Dictatorship (1932)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent (London, E.C.1) asks the following question:—
I notice that you class yourselves as "Marxists." How can you explain the following to be in accordance with S.P.G.B. principles. It is taken from Marx's criticism of the Gotha Programme.
The question, therefore, now arises, what transformation will the State-system experience in a communist society? . . .  Between capitalist society and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding with this there will be a period of political transition, during which the State can be nothing other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. (Italics mine.)
Can you explain what Marx meant by the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat? Does not the above quotation show that the S.P.G.B. is at variance with Marx and Engels?


Reply.
One of the questions put by our correspondent was answered by Engels himself in his introduction to the German edition of “The Civil War in France.” The introduction was written in London in 1891, on the 20th anniversary of the Commune. Translated into English, it was published in 1920 by the New York Labour News Company in a pamphlet called “The Paris Commune."

Engels’ introduction, after surveying the events of the Commune and the lessons to be drawn from it, concludes with the following words:—
The German philistine has lately been thrown once again into wholesome paroxisms by the expression “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Well, gentle sirs, would you like to know how this dictatorship looks? Then look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Commune was an instance of majority control based upon democratic elections. There was no suppression of the newspapers or the propaganda of the minority, and no denial of their right to vote. The Communards, having once obtained control of the State, set about democratising the machinery of legislation and administration. For example, they filled all positions of administration, justice, etc., through election by universal suffrage, the elected being at all times subject to recall by. their constituents. They also paid for all services at the workmen’s rate of pay.

This contrasts in a marked way with the Dictatorship in Russia—a dictatorship not of the proletariat, but of the leaders of the Communist Party.

In Russia the electoral system is not based upon universal suffrage and democratic elections. Many persons, for political reasons, are deprived of the right to vote. In proportion to population, the Town Soviets send to the District Soviets five times as many delegates as are allowed to the Village Soviets. The elections are not direct (as in Great Britain and most countries), but are indirect. That is to say, the All-Union Congress of Soviets is not elected by the electors at first hand, but is elected from Regional Congresses, which in turn are elected from District Soviets, which are elected by the Village and Town Soviets. The power of recall, owing to the devious route it has to follow, is impracticable.

Opposition propaganda and newspapers and opposition candidates for election are suppressed. The persons who are disfranchised are subjected to severe economic disabilities. It is made difficult for them to obtain food and lodging, and various rights are denied to them. (Recently there has been some alleviation of their condition.) 

It was for years the rule that Communist Party members did not receive more than a fairly low maximum rate of pay, in this copying the Commune to some extent. It is reported now, however, that this rule has been relaxed since the middle of 1931, when the Russian Government announced a large-scale extension of the policy of inequality of pay among factory workers. It has also to be remembered that Communist Party members have been, and still are, privileged in being able to buy goods at specially low prices.

The Russian Government has for years practised inequality in the payment of those workers and officials who have not been members of the Communist Party and who, therefore, have not been affected by the rule referred to above.

The S.P.G.B.'s view on the transition period after the workers have obtained control of the machinery of Government is in line with that of Marx and Engels, and is opposed to the miscalled “dictatorship of the proletariat" in Russia.
ED. COMM.

Alcoholics numerous (1966)

From the February 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Attention has been focussed recently on the “problem drinkers”. Somebody has been counting their cost. In the December issue of Business, the Management Journal, it is claimed that the annual cost of alcoholism to British industry is £61 millions in absenteeism alone. It is claimed that of the total working population, two to three per cent are “problem drinkers”. The same percentage is given also for America.

It is a typical piece of commercial cynicism to measure and describe a problem in money terms. Officially, the most disturbing aspect of widespread alcoholism is not the tragedy of people who require opiates to fortify their existence, but the loss of £61 million. Indeed, it is this loss that qualifies alcoholism as a problem.

Of course, employers will never rest in their attempts to find the ideal labour force. Workers are besieged by exhortations to be conscientious, sober, hard working, honest and thrifty. In short, workers are asked to practice all the so- called virtues of moral and political conformity which assure their maximum exploitation as wage slaves. The curse of capitalism—for the capitalists—has always been that the units of labour power comprising the working class are also human beings. Regrettably they are not merely machines with brains; they are emotionally volatile, physically vulnerable; they give under pressure.

Addiction to alcohol is found at all levels of industry and commerce. The executive, the manager, the clerk, the shop floor operative. The kind of drink varies with the income bracket, from wines and spirits, beer, cheap wines, down to the cheapest of all, methylated spirits. The meths drinker has reached the stage of total degeneracy, a derelict hulk, rather than a vital human being.

The meths drinkers are the most pathetic of all, lost in a twilight world of doped unreality. With personalities destroyed and contact with fellow human beings broken down, they are interrogated in decrepit cellars by naive social workers. Why were they sleeping rough? Had they no accommodation at all? Had they any money? Had they jobs? In their cases, the National Assistance Board is interested, again counting the cost of subsidising the unemployable.

It is typical that blame for alcoholism should be put on the individual. The very phrase “problem drinker” emphasises not the plight of the sufferer but his nuisance value. For the heavy drinker, alcohol becomes the buffer between his sober self and an intolerable reality. Alcohol in fact becomes a substitute for living. For the man who needs alcohol to see the day through, his drinks are the terms on which he is prepared to adjust himself to an existence that he despises. Though he may not be aware of it, alcohol is the repudiation of a life to which he sees no alternative. Unfortunately the disease easily generates its own momentum, sometimes ending in a complete personal capitulation to the meths bottle.

Nevertheless to the conventional moralist, the individual is completely in the wrong. In those who are worried about the money cost of alcoholism, there is no criticism of society. It is the individual who must conform; if he does not or cannot, then at best he is lazy or weak, lacking in the necessary will to make the adjustment.

Alcohol is only one of the substitutes that men grasp in their flight from reality. There are others. Suicide and mental illness are equally results of the emotional stress that capitalist society imposes on humanity. The existence of all these problems is part of man’s unconscious protest against a society that not only denies his needs but actively destroys him.

The term “social workers” is an exquisite euphemism for individuals who are attempting to minimise the cost of capitalism’s worst effects. Even so, their work is useful in documenting the incidence of such problems as alcoholism. To put these facts in perspective it is necessary to clear away such concepts as "problem drinkers”, “social misfits”, etc. This phraseology by itself places the onus of responsibility on the individual. It fails to relate the incidence of alcoholism to the social pressures bearing on the individual. It implicitly encourages the view of the individual as a failure rather than a possible victim. In fact, by endorsing the status quo, this view of the problem guarantees its continuance. The use of phrases like “social failures” partly contributes to the problem. Surely it is this background of successes and failures, the empty competitive values of propertied society from which people seek a refuge in drink.

In the short term, the incidence of alcoholism will probably increase. Capitalism cannot avoid a continuing ferment of discontent, albeit generally expressed in negative ways, through hate, violence, cynicism and even despair. Paradoxically, this may form a background for building up useful knowledge about where man’s true interests lie.
Pieter Lawrence

Democracy (1992)

From the April 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most of us were not taken in by talk of "defending democracy" when the Great and the Good went to war with Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait. We had the strongest suspicion that it had more to do with the supply and control of oil, especially as “our” side declared common cause with such great democracies as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Then it emerged that, far from being a democracy, Kuwait's political system was one of the most autocratic, elitist dictatorships with no democratic pretensions whatsoever. Kuwait's rulers—in comfortable exile—promised that, when restored to power, they would introduce democratic reforms; granting civil and political rights not only to the incomers who keep the whole system going, but also to their own women.

The first anniversary of the “liberation" has passed and. as one Palestinian worker put it: “The intolerance towards non-Kuwaitis has become worse than it was before” (Independent on Sunday, 23 February). In the elections which are due in October only “First Class” men (those descended from men who were resident in 1920) will be allowed to take part. The promise that all citizens of the emirate, including women, would be given the vote will be ignored. A demonstration by women trying to register was given no support.

On this first anniversary too, the horrendous damage done to the civilian infrastructure in Iraq as well as the much greater number of civilian casualties—vehemently denied at the time—are being admitted. During the war we saw repeatedly on TV the “smart” bombs which made it impossible to cause indiscriminate damage; now it is admitted that only one in ten was smart and the other nine were as subject to human error as any other weapon. Still with us, too, are the civil unrest fomented in the north of Iraq in attempts to topple Hussein and Saddam's vengeance which is meted out to Kurdish and Shi’ite minorities.

The lesson which must be learnt is that the dogfight for markets and economic advantage under capitalism will always be cloaked with grand phrases such as the “Fight for Democracy". Wars are never for the sake of democracy but are all about shares on the world market and profitability.
Eva Goodman

Ethics and conflicts (1978)

A Letter from America from the January 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ethics: the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. More and more is this word ethics becoming a commonplace in America. Switch on your TV or radio and you frequently catch discussions by politicians, business people, or youngsters aspiring toward a business or a political career on that subject. How much of a percentage of profit is within the bounds of ethics? How far may a political office-holder go in private business operations without being guilty of conflict of interest? And so on.

In passing, it is noteworthy that such concerns do surface among a population which—according to some members of the scientific community and most defenders of a competitive as opposed to a cooperative society— are naturally greedy and inherently inclined to get the better of one another. Interesting indeed that a system that legally enshrines the warning: caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) seems unable to suppress outraged reaction to certain consequences of that philosophy. Particularly now, in what has been called the post-Watergate era, are politicians who make up the several branches of the Federal Government fair game for investigative reporters and watchdog organizations. (Prime target today seems to be Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, quite possibly the second most powerful person in the US political scheme and, ironically, one of the first to “put the finger” on then President Nixon and to bring him down in disgrace. He has been a suspected link in the favor-buying activities in Washington of the South Korean CIA and he is currently being exposed in a personal “conflict of interest” operation; in brief, using his high office as a means of feathering his nest in a private business deal.)

The population, most of it working-class, is expected to be concerned about such matters. “It is our money they are squandering and appropriating . ." we are told by the petitioners for Congressional codes of ethics. And the reaction, generally, to the efforts of the crusaders for honest government falls into an expected pattern: (1) Agreement, “let’s put a stop to it!” or (2) a shrug of the shoulders and an attitude, expressed or silent, “what difference does it make? They’re all thieves!” All too infrequently is the petitioner confronted with the real world by a socialist who “tells it like it is”.

Whose Money?
The fact is that it is not our money and it is not the sort of crusade that those who must work for a living should interest themselves in. But it makes more sense to understand why this is so rather than to merely shrug it off as normal thievery. For with understanding can come desire to do something intelligent about ending the social arrangement that really does create our problems. It is not the illegal or shady operations, the conflicts of interest, by business people or politicians that bring us our miseries. The loot involved here is not working-class money but part of the surplus-value that has been legally expropriated from us in the honest operation of the capitalist system. “But see here!” they complain. “All that throwing around of Government money means that we have to pay more for everything.” Just like the effect on prices of shoplifting, according to popular propaganda. Any sort of thievery or extortion or conflict of interest forces prices upward, they argue.

But this is nonsense, as reflection should show. Prices are not determined, arbitrarily, by purveyors of merchandise. In the long run, they reflect the socially-necessary labor-time in the commodities and they are certainly affected by the state of the world market and by supply and demand. Merchandizers know that competition prevents them from marking prices up, at will. But there is another side to this question.

Can one imagine the effect on prices were illegal activity of all sorts to end? “Crime stocks” would plummet, bankrupting those companies involved in producing the variety of equipment used in combatting crime; unemployment would soar to all-time record highs; the sharp increase in Government moneys needed to augment social agencies would bring ruinous levels of inflation. Viewed from that angle (“conflict of interest”) violators, ordinary swindlers, and thieves of all sorts are performing a useful function in stabilizing prices to some extent, at least. So bourgeois economics would say . . .

So the question that should bother working people is: does it really matter to those whose lot it is to produce and surrender their surplus-value that a percentage of the loot is hi-jacked from the original expropriators? We think not. And as far as ethics is concerned, the very concept arises when the moral principles desired are not operable. Would you welcome a world in which mankind lives and works in harmony, where the interests of each are the interests of all, where conflict of interest is impossible? Such a world is possible but not before we get rid of world capitalism.
Harmo, WSP, Boston.

Stalinism, Russia and the Jews (1957)

From the June 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

In August 1939 the Soviet-Nazi pact of non-aggression and co-operation between Russia and Germany was signed. From this date the position of the Jews in the Soviet Union became most difficult. The Soviet government did not allow the Russian Yiddish Press to mention Nazi atrocities against Jews in Europe; and, more important, when the Germans did make their attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, millions of Jews had not been warned or evacuated from the areas of Western Russia and Eastern Poland, annexed by Russia. Of the situation at the beginning of the war between Germany and Russia, David J. Dallin, the well-known Menshevik writer and commentator, wrote in his book, The New Soviet Empire:—
“The fury of the German occupation was directed primarily against the Jews and against members of the Communist Party. But the Soviet radio and press chose to say nothing of this. They sought to create the impression that die Germans were out to exterminate everyone alike. And so, while Berlin was maintaining a strict silence about its gas ovens, its concentration camps, and S.S. atrocities against Jewish women and children, the Moscow government also kept quiet. The motives may have differed, but the result was the same. Neither the Russian nor the Jewish population of Russia knew what the German war held in store for them" (p. 115).
At the beginning of the war 60,000 Jews were massacred in Riga; 12,000 in Minsk; 10,000 in Pinsk; 7,000 in Kerch; 6,000 in Vitebsk, and so on. But by 1942 the Soviet government began to show a great deal of interest in the Jews. It encouraged their nationalistic and religious feelings. It formed the “Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee." But in areas overrun by the German armies anti-Jewish feeling, encouraged to a large extent by the Germans, began to show itself. Dallin, in his book, The Real Soviet Russia, says that under the German occupation, especially in the beginning, dozens of Russian pro-Nazi newspapers were started, in which they welcomed,"on behalf of the intelligentsia"and “ on behalf of the Russian people," the liberation from Bolshevism and “Jewish rule." (p. 209). And directly after the war Mr. M. Philips Price, M.P., who visited the Soviet Union, kept on hearing in Kiev, in the Ukraine, that “these Jews are here again." (Russia, Red or White, p. 68). The Jewish population was—and still is—large in Kiev. Before the 1917 Revolution the Jews in Kiev, as elsewhere in the Ukraine and Western Russia, were mainly engaged in small trades, general dealing and petty business. Today most of their businesses and shops are nationalised and the Jews are found in large numbers as civil servants, clerks in state enterprises, etc. They were to a large extent the backbone of the Stalinist bureaucracy before the last war.

After the War
Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda had had a profound effect on sections of the Soviet people, and this strengthened Jewish nationalism, Zionism, and the desire for a national homeland. Later Jewish feeling in Russia was further stirred by the actual creation of the State of Israel. And the Soviet government feared that the establishment of the State of Israel would encourage Zionism or "Jewish bourgeois nationalism," as they called it, even more in the Soviet Union itself.

From the end of 1947 the fight against "bourgeois nationalism" was on. It was conducted by the Stalinists with much violence, particularly in the Ukraine. "The first admission about the emergence  of Zionist tendencies in the post-war period," writes Walter Kolarz," was made in September 1947, during the plenary session the Union of Soviet Writers of the Ukraine, where 'the existence of nationalist Zionist views in the work number of Jewish writers’ was unmasked." (Russia and Her Colonies, p. 168). Later on, in 1949, the Yiddish almanac, Der Shtern, was banned for “ideological mistakes." The Jewish publishing house, Der Emes, the Jewish newspaper, Aynikeit, and the Jewish theatre were all closed down in 1949; and the Jewish anti-Fascist committee was disbanded.

Stalinist persecution of the Jews continued for some time. In 1953 many Soviet Jews were disturbed by the so-called “Jewish doctors plot." Communists in Russia, Britain and elsewhere denied that there was an anti-Semitic campaign in Russia. But since Stalin's death they have changed their minds. They are now admitting much of the truth.

Communist Party Report
In October 1956 a delegation from the British Communist Party visited the Soviet Union. They have summarised their findings in the official Communist journal, World News (12/1/57).

The report states that prior to Stalin's death rumours began to spread that all was not well, and that well-known Jewish writers and “intellectuals" in the Soviet Union had disappeared. After the Khrushchev revelations at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union specific charges were made in Folkszjtyme, a Polish Jewish workers' paper, “that could not be ignored, for these charges were consistent with the kind of accusations which Khrushchev had levelled against Stalin, Beria and the security police.” The report continues:—
“The charges specifically named a number of Jewish writers, artists and intellectuals as having been tortured and physically destroyed, particularly during the period 1948-52, and this included the whole Jewish anti-Fascist Committee which had done yeoman service in helping to mobilise Jewish support of the Soviet Union during the darkest days of the war."
The delegation found many difficulties in their search for information, but they found a certain amount of negative information at the Lenin State Library, where there was a Yiddish and a Hebrew section containing 15,000 and 70,000 items respectively. But: “It turned out that there is nothing in Yiddish later than 1948, when publication of Yiddish papers and journals must therefore have ceased."

The Soviet Encyclopedia, which in its 1932 edition devoted 160 columns to the Jews, had in its 1952 edition only four columns.
“The biographies of many eminent Jews had been removed. Marx was no longer referred to as a Jew  . . .  For example, Heimland, a Yiddish journal, was in the library up to the volumes of 1948 and no later. The collected works of Halkin and Vergelis, Yiddish poets still alive, were there up to 1948."
But, as the delegation reports, that year seemed to be marked out as a significant date.

The Black Years
It was through personal conversations by one of the delegation, H. Levy, that the delegation found out that the years 1948-52 were known by Soviet Jews as “The Black Years"—a period during which many Jews disappeared; when many more were dismissed from their jobs; when Jewish writers and poets and artists were arrested and charged with treason; when Jews were executed and murdered, and Yiddish disappeared from the street and the market place.
   “Conversations with the relatives of cultural workers who had been liquidated seemed to suggest that the procedure was invariable. Those arrested and charged in secret were prominent political or cultural workers. Shortly after his arrest the immediate relatives of the arrested man would be deported to some distant place and there set to work often at low wages. Finally, the husband would be shot, perhaps after torture, to try to force him to confess or incriminate others . . .  and this procedure was carried out by the security police under the direct authority of Beria, with the agreement of Stalin himself, who had apparently become convinced of Beria's genuineness in seeking out the class enemy . . .
   It is unnecessary to give chapter and verse as proof of these crimes. They are known, admitted and accepted as fact in the Soviet Union today, and no attempt is made to deny them. Since the Twentieth Congress many facts stand out as evidence of a changed attitude and therefore as indirect evidence of the terror that proceeded it." 
Life for the majority of people in the world today is not a particularly happy one—it is a life of general insecurity, of wars and of want. But, because of historical and social circumstances, life for many of the world’s Jews has possibly been more insecure, more unhappy. They have been the victims of periods of persecution and unspeakable atrocities; of mass murder in concentration camps and gas chambers, and of periodic pogroms. For the Jews of Russia, before and after the 1917 Revolution, the picture has been much the same: periods of relative tranquillity followed by pogroms, persecution and the like. For our part we would point out, however, that the solution of the “Jewish question” does not lie in a “Jewish Home”; a State of Israel or a Soviet Birobidzhan; or even mere assimilation into the non-Jewish working-class.

The problems that confront the Jews of Russia— and elsewhere—and other religious and social minorities, can only disappear when the vast mass of people have become socialist in outlook—in a truly Socialist world: not the sham Socialism, or Communism of Russia, and elsewhere we see today. 
Peter E. Newell


About Books (1953)

From the July 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Plato, Aristotle and others of their day spoke about Greece and the Greeks, they did not include the slaves; when historians of the 18th and 19th centuries wrote about Americans, they gave no heed to the negro slaves. Likewise today, when there is so much blather about the Elizabethan age, our super-patriots and political quacks refer only to the upper crust of the late 16th century society, not to the Toms, Dicks and Harrys who had to strive to earn a meagre living by the sweat of their brows. Not only are the humble workers not mentioned, they are not even considered. A picture of prosperity and regal pageantry is painted against a background of period architecture and costume, with farthingales, ruffs and fancy pants much in evidence. To have painted against a background of masses of hungry, oppressed serfs and workers would have spoiled the colourful effect, and destroyed the object of the painting.

We Socialists are inoculated against this “Elizabethan fever,” but living daily in the very heart of the epidemic it is hard to avoid becoming slightly infected. So we find ourselves pulling books from the bookshelves and reading about the age of Elizabeth I. Some most illuminating reading we can assure you.

We passed over the history books that deal with such world-shattering events as the gallantry of Sir Walter Raleigh in spreading his cloak over a mud puddle for his queen; the cool, casual courage of Sir Francis Drake, finishing his game of bowls whilst the Spanish Armada was in sight, and the heart-flutterings and hand-holdings of Good Queen Bess and her noble lovers. We selected books that told of the domestic tragedy of a certain Joan Wynstone who, on February 6th, 1575, was whipped and branded as a vagabond, on July 26th was saved from being hanged by being set to service to her husband, and on October 3rd, having run away from the husband, was caught and hanged. We browsed into books that gave records of the rates of wages paid and the cost of living during the years of the reign of Elizabeth I. And we read how many a noble lord, whose descendants were privileged to be inside Westminster Abbey on June 2nd this year, laid the foundations of the family fortunes by indulging in practices that would have brought a blush of shame to the cheek of an 18th century highwayman, and by investing in schemes that to this day give off a strong smell of working class blood and sweat.

For the benefit of anyone who may wish to follow our example and try to get a true picture of the conditions of life for the vast majority of people during the reign of Elizabeth I, we will list a few books.

First there is a book that is completely lacking in sensational writing but crammed from cover to cover with facts and figures of rates of pay for workers in various trades in different parts of the country at different times of the year, together with details of the cost of necessary commodities, fluctuations in price with their causes, and comparative figures with other periods. It will not be possible to buy this book now-a-days but it can be obtained from public libraries. It is entitled, "Six Centuries of Work and Wages” by Professor James E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. The book was originally published by Swan Sonncnschcin and Co., Ltd., but there have been many editions. It has, as its subtitle, “ The History of English Labour,” and that is just what it is.

In another book by Thorold Rogers there appears an interesting statement.
"... from 1260 to 1540 poverty was a distant risk in England.”—(“The Industrial and Commercial History of England,” page 10.)
This very concise statement throws the poverty of Elizabethan days into bold relief in contrast with the nearly three centuries to which Mr. Rogers refers.

Another book that tells a very gruesome story of working class suffering is “An Economic History of England, 1066 to 1874,” by Charlotte M. Waters, published by Oxford University Press. The author deals, interestingly and with numerous illustrations, with the causes of working class poverty during the latter fifty years of the 16th century; the break up of the feudal system, tenants turned from their land by landlords who enclosed large tracts for sheep farms, bands of feudal soldiers dismissed from their service, manufacture replacing handicraft, etc. A very, very useful book indeed.

If one would thoroughly understand that period of change that culminated with the English revolution during the 17th century and was at its highest tempo during the reign of Elizabeth I, one should read “Thomas More and his Utopia” by Karl Kautsky published by A. & C. Black, Ltd. Sir Thomas More died in 1535, two years after Elizabeth I was born and twenty-three before she succeeded to the throne. He cannot be classified as an Elizabethan, but Karl Kautsky, in writing of him and his work, devotes a large portion of his book to sketching a background of the social conditions of the 15th and 16th centuries in order that his readers may see the life of More in its proper perspective. So, we get a splendid history of the times and conditions under which the poor of the Elizabethan age lived.

To keep the list as short as possible we will mention only one more work, a well known one; “Capital” by Karl Marx. In Volume I of this great work, part VIII, Chapter XXV111, entitled, “Bloody Legislation against the expropriated from the end of 15th Century. Forcing down Wages by Acts of Parliament,” Marx tells of the cruelty of the oppressive working class legislation of the period and gives us chapter and verse of a number of the acts that were passed and enforced.

Other books dealing with this period of English history can be traced through the bibliographies in the ones we have mentioned should anyone wish to study the period in greater detail. There are also constitutional histories, political histories and social histories of recent publication dates that will help to build up a complete picture of the age.

When one realises that the Elizabethan period was a time of acute class struggle between the rising capitalist class and the decaying feudal groups one is better able to appreciate the works of men like William Shakespeare 1564-1616, and Miguel dc Cervantes, 1547- 1616. Both of these men, although they probably did not understand the social events that were taking place around them, at least saw those events and wrote about them. In novels, poems and plays they joined in the popular ridicule of the expiring feudal aristocracy. Shakespeare lampoons them with his Sir John Falstaff and Cervantes does likewise with his Don Quixote.

There are numerous works of Shakespeare to be had now-a-days and there is a cheap issue of Don Quixote published by Penguin Books at 8s. 6d.

Equipped with the knowledge contained in these books we can better understand what our masters desire when they prate about the second Elizabethan age being as glorious as the first. They are not interested in our living conditions. They are looking with shining eyes to the prospect of expanding trade and commerce, to enterprises that produce such astounding profits as did the Levant Company and the East India Company, to support and encouragement by the state, and to a docile and disciplined working class. That is what they mean when they talk of the Glory of Britain, that is what all the flummery and speech making of the coronation period indicate.
W. Waters

Between the Lines: Choose your prison (1989)

The Between the Lines Column from the March 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Choose your prison
Libertarians who support capitalism tie themselves into knots. The Late Show With Clive James (BBC2. Friday 10 February had a debate between two psychiatrists, Anthony Clare and Robert Szasz. The latter, who wrote the compelling book, The Myth of Mental Illness, contends that psychiatrists diagnose bogus diseases when they say that people's minds are ill. Clare offered an eloquent defence of psychiatry, although it did not convince the present writer. Szasz is a strange combination: a man dedicated to the eradication of the state's right to drug and incarcerate people in the name of making them better, while at the same time a passionate defender of the so-called free market. What this means is that Szasz s answer to workers who feel depressed or are victims of other mental problems is that they should go and buy counselling. It must follow that those unable to buy the talking therapy which will relieve their anguish must be left to suffer. In the course of the discussion Clare put it to Szasz that "mentally ill" people need to be placed in care for their own safety. It is almost certainly true that some people do require protection against what they might do to themselves or others. And what remedy did libertarian Szasz offer? The state should build more prisons in which to lock up such people.


Individualism?
We live in a society of individualism, or so we are told by the minority who can afford the luxury of escaping from the crowd Channel Four's three-part series, The Big Company, gave the lie to that capitalist myth. The series showed just how modern companies encourage their workforces to feel part of the business. IBM workers were trained to repeat the company motto: ‘World Peace Through World Trade ". Huxley's Brave New World, with its mindless, logic-twisting slogans, came readily to mind. At another big company called Herman Miller the workers making furniture are made to feel that every company product is a matter of pride to them. One poor fellow, busily making leather chairs for executives to swing about on, boasted proudly that after ten years employees are given a leather chair to take home. A company called Amway. which goes in for a kind of pyramid selling just the right side of the law. holds conventions at which employees scream like devotees of new religions as they are informed that Mr. and Mrs. Shnortel of Wyoming have won a gold star for selling more rubbish than the rest of them. Three gold stars and you go for a sail on the company yacht. We were shown the chairman of Apple addressing a convention of his cheering wage slaves. He informs them that Apple is going to challenge IBM for a share of the world computer market. Hooray! IBM have had it their way for too long. Cheers; hooray! A film is shown depicting IBM as a backward, anachronistic company, whereas Apple employee are all sun-tanned Californian go-getters. The sun-tanned go-getters rise in ecstasy. A public relations man from IBM says that his team is really the best and then shows a film demonstrating that his company's employees are the most faithful in the world. What is the difference between working in the Russian Empire as a cog in the state capitalist wheel, carrying out other peoples Five Year Plans, and working for an equally bureaucratic and monolithic giant American business corporation in which you, the worker, are just one more profit-gathering ant? To be sure, ants are told they're free. But then again, there is a horrible tendency for free ants to be trodden on.


Sun TV
On Wogan (BBC1. Friday 18 February) the man being interviewed was Rupert Murdoch. Here is a list of questions which Tel Boy did not ask: How do you feel about the printers sacked by you who were beaten up by the police (now facing criminal charges) when they were picketing at Wapping? How worried are you by the fact that the soft porn displayed in your newspapers makes many women feel frightened to go out at night, for fear of assault by rapists who expect all women to be consumable? How do you feel about the tradition of outright political lying which your newspapers go in for? How do you justify the capitalist idea of the self-made man when you inherited a multi-million dollar publishing company at the age of just twenty-two? Instead, Murdoch was given an easy ride and a free plug for his new venture, Sky TV. Murdoch said that he was proud of The Sun and hoped that Sky would be as good. Say no more.
Steve Coleman