Saturday, April 16, 2016

Applying the logic of capitalism (1984)

The Letter From Europe column from the June 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the end of March the PS-PCF coalition government in France announced a plan to “restructure" the steel industry involving the closure of a number of steel works, including some relatively modern ones built just before the steel crisis broke in 1974 and the disappearance of over 20,000 job opportunities. Particularly hard hit will be the Lorraine region which had already suffered considerably from the cutbacks announced in 1979 under the previous. Openly pro-capitalist government of President Giscard and his Prime Minister Raymond Barre.

This plan represents the shattering of yet another illusion entertained by the PS and the PCF before they came to power: that a government can expand an industry simply by an act of political will. Certainly, if it is prepared to make the money available. a government can get a nationalised industry to produce more, but what it cannot do is ensure that this extra production is sold which after all is what production is all about under capitalism.

Two or three years' experience of governing capitalism has now taught the PS (if not the PCF) that the aim of production under capitalism is not to provide jobs for workers but to produce goods to sell at a profit. "It must be understood”, declared the Minister of Industry, Laurent Fabius, on television on 3 April, “that we can't produce steel if it can’t be sold". Answering questions in Parliament two days later the Prime Minister. Pierre Mauroy, admitted that the government was planning to close some relatively modern steel plants but explained “Even a modern investment is no use if the products it turns out have no market and if they can't be sold" (Republicain Lorrain, 6 April). In fact Mauroy was already on record as having exclaimed in 1982: “Don’t count on me to manufacture steel that won’t be able to be sold!” (quoted in the Republicain Lorrain, 4 December 1982). Socialists of course never did. though a number of now very angry steelworkers seem to have done.

The reaction was such that Mitterrand himself had to descend into the arena. At a press conference on 4 April, after restating a basic truth that if France was to survive in the battle of economic competition its "goods must be produced of equal or better quality than the others and at at least equal prices”. Mitterrand declared that "the margins of enterprises must be restored" (adding hypocritically, “I didn't say profit’’):
Money must be made to put into investment by choosing technologies that pay and by helping enterprises that take risks.
As a matter of fact the PS-PCF government has been pursuing a deliberate policy of restoring the profit margins of enterprises since the middle of 1982 when, as a first step towards this, it imposed a four- month wage freeze. At the same time the Minister of the Economy, Jacques Delors, openly stated the government's aim:
A recovery of gross operating revenues of enterprises is needed to restore a dynamism to our economy.and without a minimum of transfers of the national wealth to these gross revenues the minimum conditions for investment will not be met (Republicain Lorrain, 28 October 1982).
Figures published recently by the French statistical office indicate that this policy has been successful. Whereas in 1981 gross profits of enterprises fell in real terms, in both 1982 and 1983 they rose by more than the rate of inflation. Thus Delors was able to proudly declare in a recent newspaper interview:
In two years of “financial policy", since we had to start there, we have transferred to enterprises the equivalent of 1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (Libération. 13 April 1984).
This represents about 40 billion FF (about £3.4 billion), not bad for a government which came to power on a programme of redistributing wealth to the workers rather than the capitalists! Since “financial policy” is only a euphemism for "austerity”, most of the cash which the government has tranferred to enterprises has been at the expense of social benefits, wages and salaries and. through the wages saved by sacking workers, of employment.

As Le Monde (18 April 1984) put it in a headline which says it all, when it reported the March unemployment figures: “THE GOVERNMENT IS GIVING PRIORITY To IMPROVING THE SITUATION OF ENTERPRISES TO THE DETRIMENT OF EMPLOYMENT: The number of unemployed has increased more in 3 months than throughout the whole year 1983”. Another strange achievement for a government which was elected to power on a promise to give priority to the fight against unemployment.

The previous government under Giscard and Barre also took steps, with the same success, to increase the profits of enterprises, but the depression continued. For increasing the amount of cash at the disposal of enterprises does not mean that they will automatically invest it in production. Companies will only do this if they think they can sell profitably what will be produced; in other words, if there is a profitable markets for their products. Otherwise they will simply hoard the money, or rather, lend it out at interest to banks or the government. Commenting on Barre's disappointment in 1979 that "the improvement of the funds and profits of enterprises has not brought about the expected investment boom”, the French newsweekly, L'Express (8 September 1979), noted:
You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. A head of an enterprise will not buy machines without outlets for the products which they will turn out.
Precisely, and Mitterrand's re-adoption of the policy of taking steps to increase the cash in the coffers of enterprises will no more automatically bring about a revival of investment than Barre was able to. In fact the figures for 1983 show that enterprises have not been using the extra cash the government has helped them to acquire to invest, since investment by enterprises actually fell by 4 per cent that year.

Mitterrand's PS-PCF government is in fact doing all that any government of capitalism can do in the circumstances: giving priority to profits and "restructuring” (which means sackings) while waiting for world capitalism to move on to the next stage of its economic cycle. This is in stark contrast to what the PS and PCF said they would do before they came to power in 1981 but capitalism is a system which no government can control, even less reform so that it works in the interest of wage and salary earners. On the contrary, capitalism can only work against those interests and governments have in the end no choice but to go along with this. The utter failure of the reformist PS-PCF government in France is yet another confirmation of this.
Adam Buick

Great Expectations (1984)

Editorial from the May 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

A working principle for many of those whose job it is to observe, and comment on, human behaviour is that people respond roughly in accordance with others’ expectations of them.

This leads to certain expectations about behaviour. For example, children from "broken” homes are presumed to exhibit symptoms of rejection and a low level of self-esteem. These symptoms are displayed in behaviour which invites further rejection and that confirms the person’s low self-esteem and so leads to further behavioural problems . . .

Other typical symptoms are oppositional responses—a persistent disagreement with others’ opinions and a refusal to meet reasonable requests—and a promiscuity in affections—a readiness to attach to any stranger who shows them the slightest interest. Oppositional behaviour provokes anger and frustration, which reinforces the child’s stubbornness. Promiscuity is received by the stranger as a response to their own charm and winning ways with children; their gratitude encourages the child to repeat the behaviour.

Another example is the case of the football hooligan. Many football clubs have a reputation for being supported (if that is the word) by fans (if that, too, is the word) who take pride in their name for violent intolerance towards anyone connected with the other team. There is, of course, a large element of fantasy in this. Plentiful graffitti claim that some great city, some concentration of the economic and political might of capitalism, is really ruled over by a handful of bored skinheads who huddle together on Saturdays at a particular spot on some football club’s windswept terraces.

Part of the attraction of a football mob for the impoverished and aimless workers is the sense of belonging which it offers in its tribal welcome and attempt at exclusiveness. There is also the perverse gratification in the tribe’s assault on the presumptions of property society. A gang of young supporters at an away game may get a thrill of power, when they move towards the stadium through streets which seem, to their imagination, as tense and as shuttered as in High Noon. It beats the workaday office or factory—or the dole queue—any day.

These are interesting speculations, as far as they go—which is not very far. Socialists are interested to widen and extend the field of observation and to comment in more fundamental terms. Pressures such as behavioural expectations are really part of the intellectual and moral superstructure of capitalism, inseparable from this society’s basis of private property in the means of wealth production and distribution.

Expectations must operate within the pattern set by capitalism. Families are "broken" only because they have fallen apart from the mould into which they have been compressed by the demands of capitalism. Under other social systems, with other demands and other moulds, capitalism’s "broken" family might be a coherent and stable unit.

The compression which capitalism exerts is principally on the working class to comply with their degraded social standing. Workers must accept that throughout their lives they will depend for their living on the sale of their labour power, on their own exploitation. They must come to terms with the fact that they will be alienated from the products of their labour, with all that that means in terms of social alienation. They will be subjected to persistent insult as they work to the demands of a production line, or wend their way through traffic jams of other frantic workers, or stuff themselves into rush hour ’buses and trains. Their home, perhaps the realisation of a dream, will be one of a mass of identical boxes on some prairie-like estate. They will die, as they lived, in poverty leaving their children—other workers to go through the same experience. And with all this they are expected to respect the class which exploits them, even fight and die in wars to protect the interests of that class.

Against that drab catalogue, what has the socialist to offer? What expectations do we have of the working class? To begin with, there can be no optimism for social progress until the workers come to understand their class position, what it means and why it is their lot to hold it. They must be enlightened to the mechanism of their exploitation, how it happens, whose interests it is in and how it causes their poverty. From that knowledge the workers must realise that they should not support their masters’ interests and they must assert their international unity, substituting their own consciousness and participation for blind faith in leaders.

In that climate the ideas of revolutionary socialism will flourish and dominate. Socialism will be a world of communal ownership of the means of life, which means production for use, free access to wealth, human harmony and a massive release of the people’s talents and energies. At present, under the expectation that the workers will repeatedly re-fasten their chains by electing capitalism's representatives to the seats of power, socialists could be excused if at times we are appalled at the task before us.

But the human race has always chosen to survive and. even if in sluggardly fashion, to progress. Under capitalism, decadent and obstructive, survival and progress means the revolution for socialism and that is what socialists work for and look forward to.

Great expectations? No more than sober reality.

Death on an empty stomach (1984)

From the April 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

RESULT OF RIOTS IN TUNISIA: AT LEAST 120 DEAD (Headline in Libération, 11 January).
MOROCCO: 150 to 200 DEAD ACCORDING TO SPANISH RADIO (Libération, 23 January).

How is it possible, in an age of potential plenty, when Common Market Ministers are discussing how to get rid of butter mountains, milk lakes and other food “surpluses", that on the other side of the Mediterranean people are rioting against increases in the prices of basic foodstuffs and being shot down for doing so?

The answer is that we are living in a society which is geared not to serving human needs but to producing goods, or rather commodities, to be sold on a market with a view to profit. In these circumstances food, and indeed everything else, can only be obtained in exchange for money. Until now the governments of the countries of North Africa have heavily subsidised food prices as a means of keeping the cost of living — and so wages — down. But. in the current world capitalist crisis, this has become too expensive and the International Monetary Fund has put pressure on these governments to economise as a condition for continuing to bail them out. The governments of Tunisia and Morocco — and indeed of other countries subject to similar pressures, such as Brazil and Egypt — have thus been faced with the problem of how to further decrease the already low standard of living of the mass of their populations.

The Tunisian government chose to try to increase basic food prices in one sweep: prices of bread and other cereal products were to be doubled from 1 January 1984. It is doubtful whether the government really believed they could get away with this, since a similar austerity programme had already led to riots and deaths in January 1978. In other words, they were testing the situation. If the price increases were accepted without too much trouble, then so much the better; but if the protests proved to be too strong then, after shooting down some rioters, they could be withdrawn and re-introduced gradually over a longer period. In the event this was what happened, leaving, according to a provisional estimate of the Tunisian Human Rights Defence League, at least 120 people dead. Naturally the members of the government who decided and carried out this cynical test remain in their comfortable villas enjoying the best things in life.

Not that a more gradualist approach would necessarily have avoided riots (or will in the future) since this was the policy adopted by the Moroccan government, to no avail since riots broke out there too. The petty king of Morocco, Hassan II, was particularly upset by these riots in the Northern part of his kingdom as they coincided with the Conference of Islamic Heads of State in Rabat at which emirs, sheiks, tin-pot dictators and other nonentities were entertained in an extravagant style which reflected the contempt in which they hold the people they exploit and oppress.

Riots are endemic in this and similar relatively underdeveloped parts of the world. In May and April 1980 there were riots and deaths in Tizi-Ouzou in neighbouring Algeria and in June 1981 hundreds of people were shot down in Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco. Rioting is in fact one of the few means of defence that these populations have against their repressive governments, be they republics (like Tunisia) or monarchies (like Morocco). But it is clear that all this does is slow a downward movement. In the end they cannot win. For them, as for workers in other more developed countries, the only way out is the establishment of world socialism.
Adam Buick

Israel — another capitalist state (1984)

From the March 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

The establishment of the State of Israel aroused a variety of misguided responses. Zionists regarded it as a secure homeland in which the future of the Jewish people would be free from the problems of their tragic past; anti-semites saw Israel as a country populated by wealthy Jewish businessmen who, fed on the rich cream of American investments, would live in isolated prosperity. Rival Arab nationalists condemned the crimes of Israeli militarism, forgetting the barbarous actions undertaken by their armies. not least against fellow Arabs. So the history of Israel has been confused by much hypocrisy, with Zionist and Arab butchering each other — one in the name of Judaism, the other in the name of Islam.

One myth propagated for many years by supporters of Israeli nationalism was that when it came to running an economy there could be none more successful than a Jewish state. Despite this hope on the part of those many Jewish workers who have invested their hopes and lives in Israel that country, like all others, is a part of the world capitalist system and will not escape its inevitable crises.

A report issued in January by Israel's National Insurance Institute states that half a million Israelis — or one seventh of the population — are living below the poverty line, making the Israeli working class one of the poorest in the industrialised world. Indeed, the situation is worse than the NII report suggests, because the official poverty line in Israel is lower than in most advanced capitalist countries. An adult has to earn a gross monthly income of less than £87.50 in order to be regarded by the government as “in poverty". A married couple with nine children earning £490 a month or more is regarded as being above the poverty line.

Among the officially poor Israelis are 280,000 pensioners or welfare benefit claimants. It is interesting to speculate how many of these are Jewish workers, of European origin, who went to settle in Israel after the war in the sincere hope that at last they would be free from insecurity. Even more revealing is the fact that 220,000 of the officially poor are employed, but receiving wages which are so low that their incomes are below the poverty line. This does not say much for the effectiveness of the Israeli equivalent of the TUC. the Histadrut. which has failed to push up the price of labour power for 220,000 of its members even to the level of official subsistence.

The number of officially impoverished Israelis in 1984 is 100 percent higher than in 1979. This is related to the massive inflation caused by Israeli government policy over the last five years: in 1982 the rate of inflation was 131.5 per cent. The recently released 1983 figure was 190.7 per cent. Interestingly, the inflationary policy has been pursued in Israel by an extreme right-wing government.

The economic crisis has led to the government abandoning its old promise to retain full employment. Many immigrants to Israel are now out of work; this is ironic because a number of them emigrated from Europe in order to escape from such problems. As ever, when capitalism is in a fix sections of the working class are singled out for special hardship. In Israel the so-called Oriental Jews (who are not West European and whose skins are conspicuously darker than other Israelis) are complaining that they have had to take the worst effects of the recession. Overtime payments in most Israeli industries have either been reduced or stopped. An Israeli doctor is quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying:
My father is a German Jew who lived through Germany in the 1920s. He has often told me about the inflation during the days of the Weimar Republic, when a man had to take his salary in bank notes in a suitcase in the morning and spend it by lunchtime, or it would become worthless. I fear we may be approaching that situation here. Except that suitcases are becoming too expensive!
Israeli trade unionists are trying at present to strike for better wages. Civil servants, postal and railway workers have tried striking but their employers, far from acting in the spirit of Zionist solidarity, have refused to meet their demands. The government minister in charge of making sympathetic noises in the direction of the poor, Aharon Uzan, has stated that the government intends to increase welfare payments but, with inflation increasing at record levels, he would need to increase them weekly if the standards of those below the poverty line are even to stand still.

So, Israel is just another capitalist state. The Zionists who thought they could create a land of security for all should go and talk to the destitute Jewish workers of Israel. The ignorant anti-semites who imagined that every Jew drove a big car and smoked fat cigars should look at the slums in which their fellow wage slaves live. And before the Arab nationalists gloat at the failure of Israeli nationalism, let them ponder on the fact that while Arab oil billionaires are loafing in palaces their subjects are dying of malnutrition or living on paupers' incomes. The prejudices of capitalism are once again being struck out by the hard truths of experience.
Steve Coleman

February horrorscope (1984)

A Short Story from the February 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Good news and bad news. First the bad news. You are diagnosed as having a serious illness which will kill you in six months unless you are prepared to sell your house and car, your home computer, and all your furniture in order to pay for an expensive operation in a Swiss clinic. Now the good news. A team of British surgeons have just perfected this operation which can be obtained on the National Health Service.
P.S. There is a seven month waiting list.

A tall stranger appears on your doorstep today, but don't rush into something you might regret. Be ruled by your head rather than your heart. Before opening up to him ask yourself these relevant questions: have I paid the television licence? Did I reconnect the gas-meter?

You will have trouble at work today. It is discovered that you have sent a letter to a local paper complaining about the fact that the management have nice soft toilet paper while you grubbers on the shop floor have to make do with torn up pieces of the Sun. You are immediately branded as a red mole and suspended. The media has a field day. You are denigrated, castigated, and generally regarded as a not nice person. (You should be grateful that hanging wasn’t re-introduced.) After all. what better use could you find for the Sun?

Turmoil in the home. You are visited by a burglar who contrives to separate you from the rent money secreted behind the biscuit tin, along with the twenty-pence pieces nestling in the coffee-jar. He also takes some of the family heirlooms, including the picture of the green Chinese lady, and the three plaster ducks.

A letter bearing bad news arrives today. Don’t even open it and you’ll feel all the better for it. Throw caution to the wind and tear it up. (You can always get reconnected when you pay the bill.)

A slight bit of bad luck. You arrive back at work after your winter holiday week only to discover that the owners have dismantled the factory and scarpered. (Who says that you can’t take it with you?) This means that not only do you no longer have a job, but you don't get any redundancy money either, in spite of your twenty-eight years' service. Ah well, it never rains but it pours. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and for you this comes in the form of a consolation prize in a corn-flakes competition: a bike. Unfortunately, while out foraging for a job you fall off and break your ankle. Stay in bed.

You receive a summons to appear in court as a witness at the trial of six policemen accused of attempting to murder an innocent bystander by filling him full of holes. You tell the court how you saw the policemen sneak up on the victim who was bending down to tie his shoelace, and empty their guns into him. The judge remarks that anyone can make a mistake and commends the officers for remaining cool while reloading for a second volley, in spite of the potentially threatening gesture the suspect made by twitching his left ankle. He also recommends the policemen for bravery citations. You get six months for perjury.

A marvellous time for you, the very pinnacle of your life. Your child is one of the seven and a half thousand children whose stories have been selected to be published in a bedtime book of fairy-tales to be presented to Prince William. (And with a bit of luck your husband could be one of the lucky handful of unemployed hired to lift the bloody thing.)

You are in a spending mood and Asda are doing a real bargain basement in collapsible nuclear fallout shelters at the amazing knockdown price of £39.50. This gets you the nuclear family (no pun intended) size shelter which can be assembled in forty-five seconds flat. (It can be de-assembled even quicker.) It comes complete without groundsheet allowing you quick and easy access to the soil enabling you to dig your own private little loo (and also to dispose of anyone foolish enough to stick their face out beyond the mock whitewash sides). There is also a compact little pocket complete with zip, to store all those little necessities that you might require after all the fuss had died down, like money, a first aid kit, or even some cyanide capsules.

You are developing some strange habits. Asking questions and reading papers that don't have page three cuties. No good w ill come of this. Leave the thinking to people who can decide what's good for you. After all, if everybody started to get these ideas into their heads, where would it all end?

Was Big Brother necessary? (1984)

Editorial from the January 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before the publication of George Orwell’s 1984, a Big Brother stood for affection and security; after the book came out the words represented fear and repression. In the super state Oceania, Big Brother was everywhere, his face staring out from posters, in the Thought Police and the Young Spies, in the telescreens and in the overwhelming fear which held everyone — party members as well as proles — in terrified compliance with Big Brother’s wishes.

The telescreens both received and transmitted images so that when they were operating — which was most of the time — it was just as if there was another person in the room, bullying, wheedling, directing. The hero (if that is what he was) of 1984, Winston Smith, is well aware of the telescreen; whenever he is within its range he is careful to compose his face into an expression of calm optimism and he is abused from the screen by the instructor in the compulsory early morning exercise period when she observes that he is not trying hard enough to touch his toes.

The Young Spies were the offspring of devoted, or frightened, party members. They zealously hunted down anyone they suspected of being an enemy agent, sifted the conversations of parents and friends for subversive thoughts, made shrill demands to be taken to the public executions of prisoners of war. The Thought Police were an elite, insinuating themselves in every intellectual nook and cranny, waiting like spiders at the centre of a web to pounce on deviants. Their victims were taken to the Ministry of Love where, through physical torture and subtle psychological pressures, they were persuaded to betray everything and everyone they had believed in and instead to avow their undying love for Big Brother.

Whenever there was a change in the line-up in the perpetual war between the three world states, the people accepted that the current ally had always been on "their" side. They gratefully applauded what they really knew to be spurious claims to have over-fulfilled production plans. They experienced a cut in the chocolate ration as an increase and all the while they babbled and shrieked against Emmanuel Goldstein, the arch enemy of Big Brother. They lived and died, in fear and apathy, on the three principles of Oceania: War is Peace; Ignorance Is Strength: Freedom is Slavery.

Such conformity must have been achieved only through an enormous, comprehensive and costly state operation. Somewhere at the apex there must have been also an elite within the elite, a ruling class in whose interests the rest of the population were held in such terror. But there is one question which Orwell did not ask. Why did it all happen? Was there a need for such a vast machinery of repression? What would the people have thought anyway, without the telescreens and the Thought Police and the rest?

The answer may be found when we consider how much of 1984 is reality today. Many politicians have represented themselves as, if not actually Big Brother, something very alike to him. During the last war Churchill's face looked out at us from huge posters, his features set in grim protectiveness. Harold Wilson once said that he would like to think of himself as the nation's family doctor. Margaret Thatcher poses as our Big Sister, firm and organising and forcing us to be taken care of by her.

Capitalism communicates through its own Newspeak in which important words take on a meaning almost the opposite of what they should be. Words like "freedom" in the mouth of Reagan; “disarmament" as spoken by Andropov; “economic upturn” as described by Thatcher; “socialism” as alluded to by Mitterrand. English workers have come easily to accept that their "enemies" in the last war are now their "allies” — defenders of “democracy” now. As they attest at elections, millions of workers freely put their living in the hands of a few political leaders on the grounds that these leaders, like Big Brother, know best. The rulers of Oceania could hardly have asked for more.

This conformity, this acquiescence in their own degradation, is given by the workers in conditions of comparative political freedom. In Britain, and many other advanced capitalist countries, workers can openly discuss ideas, form trade unions, political parties, protest campaigns. A socialist party, challenging the very basis of capitalism, can exist without any significant threat. Yet the working class use this freedom. which could be applied to establish socialism, to give their allegiance to capitalism and all its deceit and cynicism. There is no need for a Big Brother to force them; the workers do it all for themselves.

This does not happen through any tendency to cussed self-damage. All social systems erect a moral, legal and intellectual superstructure suited to the interests of the ruling class, like a shrub whose foliage and blossom is fashioned by the soil in which it stands. But at the same time a social system develops a conflict between its mode of production and its social relationships, which can be resolved only through changing those relationships. Day by day, the experience of capitalism works to convince the world's workers that problems such as war and poverty will be eliminated only through a radical, fundamental change in society — by revolution.

When that idea is sufficiently widespread the working class will need a political apparatus to implement their will for a revolution. That apparatus will be the socialist movement which, when socialism is established and its historic function has been fulfilled, will go out of existence. Until that happens, socialists everywhere work to speed the change in ideas, to increase the pressures of persuasion on the workers that a classless, moneyless, povertyless, peaceful society is the only way to eradicate all that is feared and hated and despised in modern — that is capitalist — society.

Socialists are not Big Brothers and do not wish to be, for there is no use in trying to lead or cajole or terrorise the world's people to socialism. We struggle to raise political awareness, to alert the workers to the need to replace capitalism with socialism and to the fact that socialism must come about through our own conscious action. In the socialist revolution, and the society which will follow, the world's workers will be sisters and brothers together in a co-operative, abundant, peaceful and free human family.

Party News (1983)

Party News from the December 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was a fine, sunny Friday morning in September and this was my usual afternoon for selling literature at the junction of Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street. Picking up my portable literature stand I made my way to Central London and arrived at my usual place at 11 o'clock. I set up my stand in front of the big, yellow sand-bin which is part of the local scenery. Hundreds of people hurried along the street and I studied the expressions on their faces as they passed by. Most had looks of intense desperation, as if they were thinking that unless they could get to where they were going in time all would be lost for them. Time moved on; nothing sold as yet . . . more time went by. It was 2 o'clock and in spite of numerous requests for directions to Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum and various well-known book shops, I had sold nothing; I had not made contact with anyone who was interested in discussing, supporting or opposing the idea of socialism.

I decided to walk slowly around the sand-bin and then, if no buyers approached, I would call it a day. After four trips around the bin my peregrinations were arrested by a tall, broad-shouldered, well-dressed young man who towered above me. "Hello", he said. "I have been a supporter of the Party for some time and was a fellow student of some of the members at college". He asked for a copy of the Marx Centenary special issue of the Socialist Standard. Feeling triumphant, having at last broken my duck. I handed him the Standard and, to my great surprise, our young friend insisted on making a £10 donation to the Party.

An interesting conversation followed, during which I sold another Standard to a passer-by. After a while our comrade had to continue on his journey across London and I decided that I would continue selling for another half an hour. Even without another sale, my efforts so far will have been worthwhile. Then, another surprise: I saw coming towards me the familiar figure of a former Party member (now living in Africa) who had done great work as a propagandist in the past. Result: another sale of literature and a very pleasant conversation, during which 1 made further sales to some other interested people.

It was now well into the afternoon and there were more people about. It was Friday afternoon and, as workers made their way home after a week of employment, it seemed to me that their faces looked more relaxed. Perhaps this impression was reinforced by the fact that I was able to sell many more Socialist Standards after 4 o’clock. I then decided to call it a day: a very successful day.
Harry Walters

All realists now (1983)

Editorial from the November 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years ago Labour MPs elected a young leader who described himself as a pragmatist. When Wilson became Prime Minister, it was quickly made clear that pragmatism had a particular meaning for him — that his government would try to run the affairs of British capitalism in accordance with the needs of its owning class and not by any reference to inconvenient, grass roots theories. Under Wilson and later Callaghan Labour was indeed pragmatic, for they fought the British working class over wages, they broke strikes with troops, they cut services, supported the American war effort in Vietnam, they introduced racist immigration laws . . .

Since those pragmatic days we have had another government, which assures us it is realistic. There is, the Tories assert, no other way than to behave roughly like their Labour predecessors in office — hold back wages, cut social services, fight a war in the Falklands. . .

And now the Labour Party, in the first contest under its new system of popular voting in the party, has elected a leader who says that he also is a realist, although he has coupled the word with patriotism and socialism, which shows that he has a truly pragmatic disregard for the dictionary of politics. The battle between Thatcher and Kinnock promises to be a clash in which victory — which means the majority of votes of politically ignorant workers — will go to whoever can lay claim to the greater degree of hard-headed realism.

Well if they are all to be realists now it is fair to ask what the word means. For the Labour Party, after its crushing defeat in June, there is one obvious and immediate interpretation. “We can’t” right-wing realist John Golding shouted to their Conference. "afford any more to fight elections on a like it or lump it basis”. Golding was not the only speaker to urge the delegates to consider first the need to win votes; Labour is a party which forms its policies, not on political principles or on confused pioneer notions about a radically different society, but on what the voters will support. Power is their priority. This might upset some of the party members who joined under the delusion that Labour stood for socialism and it would certainly confuse workers who voted Labour on the promise that it would lead to a more equal social system and who find their living standards under attack. But all that is a small price to pay in the cause of realism.

Kinnock is not just a realist but a realist of the Left, which means that his “realism” has dawned only after he has trodden a familiar path from left-wing bluster to the point at which he must concede that a more "moderate" attitude is likelier to win power. Like pragmatic Wilson in 1963, Kinnock’s first announced priority is to be Prime Minister, as soon as posssible. In his first speech as leader he talked of the need to “produce our way to prosperity” (alliteration is a habit of Kinnock’s; it is in fact popular with a lot of politicians — it often goes down well with reporters and helps to conceal the emptiness of the words) as if the poverty of capitalism’s peoples has something to do with the level of production. In deference to his waning reputation as a firebrand of the Left, he needed to mention the word socialism, describing it in typical obscure fashion as “. . . real patriotism. when the sick, old and young and poor have their just share of the wealth of this massively prosperous country” — as if socialism is not a world society of free access but a re-adjustment of some workers’ poverty.

Behind these fine words and ringing declarations, and beyond the sycophantic ovations they provoke, the gruesome reality of capitalism persists. As only one expression of poverty, in this country during the coming winter old workers, whose usefulness to the ruling class is at an end, will die from hypothermia. Thousands of workers in this country are homeless, millions live in festering slums, millions more in homes which are slums but escape the official definition of slumdom, millions live in cramped and jerry-built neurosis manufactories which are called homes. War is a continuing threat, backed by an international nuclear arsenal which could quickly paralyse human society. Tens of millions die each year because they can’t get enough to eat to stay alive. The "realism” of Thatcher and Kinnock has no relevance to these problems. To assert, in the face of all the evidence, that capitalism can be made to work in the interests of the majority is not realistic; it is to propagate a cruel fantasy.

The efforts of socialists to expose that fantasy are hampered by the workers’ reluctance to recognise where their interests lie. In the last general election, for example, the best manifesto was that produced by the Socialist Party of Great Britain; it was the only one to analyse the problems of modern society and to point to the conclusion that socialism is the only solution. Yet fewer than one hundred workers voted for the case in that manifesto; the rest preferred the discredited fantasies of the Tory, Labour and Alliance parties.

The vital work of the socialist movement is to encourage the workers to face the reality that their problems can be solved, and they can live a full, humane life, only through a social revolution which will overthrow the society of class ownership of the means of life. When these are the property of the entire human race there will be a world free of war, poverty, repression, of the tensions and ugliness which we live with today. In socialism human beings will work and live together in harmony for the common well-being. Social relationships will be fashioned by the basis that wealth will be produced for its usefulness to people and not for the profit of a minority. In an unprecedented freedom, humans will be able to discover their true abilities; there will be a veritable explosion of creativity and people will look back on capitalism, with its wars, its poverty, its fear, its posturing leaders and its compliant, suffering people, as a black nightmare.

To attain that condition, the world’s workers must look beyond the deceits of the leaders, to confidence in their own ability to run society in the interests of the majority. They must grasp the fact that capitalism is decadent, reactionary and repressive and that progress lies with the revolution for socialism. All the evidence encourages this conclusion; the ideas of socialism fit in with what we know of history, with the facts of our experience now, with all reasoned prospects for society tomorrow. Socialism will work and bring a humane world because it is based on reality. Socialists are the true realists.

Nuclear options (1983)

Book Review from the October 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nuclear Power, Walter C. Patterson. (Pelican, 1983).

Ever since the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in Chicago Pile Number 1 in December 1942, nuclear technology has never been far from controversy. The first public display of nuclear power came in August 1945 with the destruction of Hiroshima by a bomb made with the fissile isotope of uranium. From the outset the inherent connection between the civil and military uses of the atom was recognised. The British Maud Committee, convened to examine the feasibility of a “uranium bomb" in 1941. and the 1946 Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy, realised that the civil and military applications of nuclear technology were interchangeable and interdependent. If that was not enough to contend with, nuclear technology has given rise to such controversies as reactor safety; the effects of low-level radiation; the disposal of high-level waste; the economy and reliability of nuclear power stations compared to coal-fired stations; and, of course, the nuclear arms race which has continued unabated since 1945. In the new edition of Nuclear Power Walter Patterson condenses all these problems into about two hundred pages and in doing so provides a very useful summary of nuclear power issues.

Many of the controversies that surround nuclear technology make little sense without an understanding of the fission process itself and the nuclear fuel cycle. Part One of Nuclear Power is devoted to the technicalities of nuclear fission, such as how plutonium is produced in a reactor. There are chapters on how a nuclear reactor works; the different types of reactors favoured by the world’s nuclear industries; and the nuclear fuel cycle which, as Patterson notes, “gives rise to many of the most controversial aspects of nuclear technology". In this respect Patterson’s book remains one of the best introductions to nuclear technology, a fact which was reluctantly conceded by the then Chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, Sir John Hill, a few years after publication of the first edition in 1976.

Patterson’s description of the development of the H-Bomb, however, is a little misleading. In the 1940s. the H-Bomb was widely referred to as the super bomb. On page 113 Patterson states:
The Americans are commonly credited with having detonated the first thermonuclear explosion . . . but it was in no sense an H-bomb. It was an explosion of a large-scale experimental installation, nearly sixty tons of delicate equipment.
The Americans in the "Mike” shot of 1952, referred to above, used liquid deuterium as the thermonuclear fuel. This material has to be stored under high pressures and very low temperatures involving complicated pressure vessels and refrigeration plants; this would explain the enormous weight of sixty tons. However, the Mike shot was a superbomb since it was made possible by a small fission explosion which ignited a large fusion explosion. Patterson states that “the Soviet thermonuclear explosion of 12 August 1952 was a true H-bomb, portable and droppable". Although it was a thermonuclear device, or as the Russians would say “one of the types of thermonuclear bomb”, it was not a superbomb. It used lithium deuteride as its thermonuclear fuel which is considerably easier to handle than liquid deuterium. The Soviet test ignited a fairly small amount of thermonuclear fuel with a comparatively large amount of fissionable material producing a yield in the region of 200-400 kilotons — much less than the American fission bomb test of November 1952. In March 1954 the Americans in “Operation Castle" detonated a superbomb, codenamed “Bravo", fuelled by lithium deuteride which had a yield of 15 megatons. Hie Russians tested their first superbomb in November 1955, but it only produced a yield of 1.6 megatons.

One thing, however, is clear: the development of nuclear technology is subject to the limitations imposed by the type of society in which it exists. For example, in the chapter entitled “Nuclenomics” Patterson outlines the intense economic competition of the major nuclear supplier states to sell nuclear technology to the developing world. Indeed the competition between the United States and the Europeans represents the conflicting interests of different sections of the capitalist class over sensitive nuclear technologies and materials, like complete reactors and uranium fuel — commodities like any other of capitalism's wealth.

Nuclear power produces dangerous long lived waste products, but it is not the only dangerous technology. The emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, for example, may have equally damaging environmental consequences. Other industrial processes produce highly toxic chemical wastes which are dumped into the world's seas and rivers.

In his concluding chapter, “The Nuclear Horizon”. Patterson states:
We stand today before an abundance of potentialities and possibilities, the options are still open. Within the present generation they will almost certainly be foreclosed. The decisions now impending will affect not merely global energy supply and demand. but the entire organisation of our global society . . . Before we commit ourselves and our descendants to a nuclear future, it is vital that we concur in understanding the nature of our commitment.
It is, however, not a question of nuclear power or no nuclear power; but rather one relating to the entire re-organisation of society when the abundance of possibilities and potentialities is translated into reality.
John Walker

Health vs Profit (1983)

Book Review from the October 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Political Economy of Health (Lesley Doyal with Imogen Pennell), Pluto Press, 1979 (h/b £10, p/b £4.95)

This interesting and well referenced book provides an analysis of health in Britain, public health, medicine and the development of British capitalism; the role of capitalism in determining health patterns in underdeveloped countries and the effects of colonialism on the health of indigenous populations; sexism within the National Health Service. The basic assumptions that health and illness are predominantly biologically determined, that medicine is a value free science and that scientific medicine provides the only viable means for mediating between people and disease are all questioned.

The conflicts between health needs and capitalist pursuit of profit are well illustrated: where improvements have occurred it is usually because of political expediency or because it is profitable to do so. The public health reforms initiated by the 1848 Public Health Act which reduced deaths from cholera by improving sanitary facilities were motivated by fear of the spread of epidemics to the rich, the escalating cost of poor relief to families made destitute by disease and the risk of Chartist agitation against the wretched conditions endured by the working class.

There are statements that socialists disagree with: " . . . we can assume that under socialism profit would no longer be the criterion for making decisions about production or consumption. Very different goods could then be manufactured. possibly using alternative technologies, with labour organised in less damaging ways, and income more equally distributed”. Although the first part of the statement is sound there will be no money in a socialist society and, therefore, no income to distribute.

The 'Inverse Care Law’ described by Julian Tudor Hart is incompletely quoted on page 197. "In areas with most sickness and death, general practitioners have more work, larger lists, less hospital support and inherit more clinically ineffective traditions of consultation than in the healthiest areas; and hospital doctors shoulder heavier case loads with less staff and equipment, most obsolete buildings, and suffer recurrent crises in the availability of beds and replacement of staff. These trends can be summed up as the inverse care law: that the availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served". The omitted crucial final sentence is "This operates more completely where medical care is most exposed to market forces and less so where it is reduced”.

The book shows how colonial exploitation caused malnutrition by enforced changes in traditional methods of agriculture, exacerbated by the cultivation of “cash crops" such as tobacco or coffee. Diseases such as yellow fever, leprosy, hookworm and yaws were carried from West Africa to the Americas as a result of the slave trade.

The exploitation of women as health consumers and employees is argued. However, one feels that the authors are on less certain ground when they state: "It is difficult to articulate the medical model of women in any systematic way. It is not spelled out in textbooks, and must be constructed from an examination of the nature and content of medical education and medical practice”.

The influence of medical staff in the status-oriented and sexist National Health Service is examined with its emphasis on high technology and curative medicine at the expense of resources allocated to long-stay hospitals and preventive medicine. Private medical schemes are organised by employers as incentives and rewards for managerial staff during periods of wage restraint. As the authors state: “the continued existence of private practice makes it possible for overall standards in the NHS to be reduced without affecting the health care of the decision makers themselves".

Although socialists will find points of disagreement in this book the authors have produced a readable, well researched book rich in valuable reference material. The Political Economy of Health should be read by all socialists engaged in health care and may well become a standard reference work by which future books on health care are judged.
Carl Pinel

Housing crisis (1983)

From the September 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why is there a housing crisis? How can there be a housing shortage with so many houses left empty and unused? Why, with stockpiles of bricks, cement, timber, and roofing-tiles are houses not being built in sufficient quantity? Why, after centuries of progress in construction and building technology and the passing of masses of housing legislation by successive governments do poor dwellings continue to be built and unhealthy, uninhabitable older buildings still stand?

It is important to understand — and this is equally true for housing as it is for the distribution of wealth generally — that progress is relative and must, as Marx argued, be judged in the light of the resources and wealth of a society at any one time:
A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But if a palace arises besides the little house, the little house shrinks into a hut. The little house now shows that its owner has only very slight or no demands to make; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilisation, if the neighbouring palace grows to an equal or even greater extent, the dweller in the relatively small house will feel more and more uncomfortable, dissatisfied and cramped within its four walls.
(Wage Labour and Capital
But the housing market is so irrational and unplanned that even those who own and control the industry cannot now make a profit without the state helping them out. Subsidies, tax-relief and other forms of government inducements are all intended to make the housing market profitable enough for capitalists to invest in. At the general election the Conservatives said they would give more money to housing associations and strengthen the council tenant's “right" to buy. The Alliance said that they would retain the tenant’s “right” to buy and increase the amount of money housing Associations receive “by seeking to attract private finance”. Labour said that it would immediately increase by half the total housing investment programme for local authorities and promised a national action programme to repair, improve or replace run-down estates. But the electorate has heard these types of promises for decades: each successive government has said that it would solve the housing crisis. In 1933, the Minister of Health, Sir Hilton Young, thought “five years" sufficient. A similar view was taken in 1954 by the then Minister of Housing. Harold Macmillan. In 1971 it was to take the Conservative government ten years to get rid of all the slums.

Engels, writing in the nineteenth century, wrote of the housing crisis in these terms:
The so-called housing shortage which plays such a great role in the press nowadays, does not consist in the fact that the working-class generally lives in bad, overcrowded and unhealthy dwelling. This shortage is not something peculiar to the present, it is not even one of the sufferings peculiar to the modern proletariat in contradistinction to all earlier oppressed classes. On the contrary all oppressed classes in all periods suffered rather uniformly from it. To put an end to this housing shortage there is only one means: to abolish altogether the exploitation and oppression of the working class by the ruling class . . . The housing shortage from which the working class suffers today is one of the many evils which result from present-day capitalist production.
The problem remains the same today as it did for Engels. Yet, what has the injection of state finance into the housing market meant for the standards of the working class generally? For those living in council housing it has meant inhuman and insensitive high-rise units or other forms of high-density housing which have caused condensation, excessive heating-bills, violence, suicide and misery. For those members of the working-class forced to take out mortgages the situation is little better. Much of today's private sector housing is built at extremely high densities, often on poor land.

These houses are built neither to alleviate the very real problem of housing shortage nor to transform their “owners” into quasi-capitalists. They are built solely in order that the speculator and the house builder can squeeze the last penny-worth of profit out of a small site. Some rooms are so small as to be unusable for the routines of nuclear family life and bare fences box in tight, private patches of earth with little or no aspect.

Furthermore, due to the economic recession even the minimum of repairs can no longer be afforded. Paint flakes off badly fitted doors and windows, condensation and damp occur and noise transmission is universal. Thus the 1981 report of the English House Conditions Survey showed that there were 18.1 million homes in England but that 1.1 million were unfit to live in, another million lacked basic amenities, a million required repairs of more than £7,000 each and another 2.9 million needed repairs worth more than £2,500. The report went on to show that the total number of dwellings in serious disrepair increased by about 22 per cent between 1976 and 1981.

Recently, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities said that there were serious structural defects in 1.5 million council homes that would cost about £10 billion to repair. In building terms this means that a third of the entire public sector housing could start to deteriorate quickly during the next decade.

In contrast, the Observer magazine recently published an article on how the capitalist class were housed. Their main example was a Georgian house near Reading which was on the market for £2,000,000. It was, according to the estate agents, a little more than 35 minutes from Harrods with the additional advantage of being surrounded by 110 acres of its own land. A Mr Ramsey, of agents Kinnold, Franke and Rutely explained that capitalists like to see everything they control and control everything they can see. The owners have a gate-keeper to shut the gates behind them, eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms — obviously a result of Thatcher’s Victorian dictum that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. The house contains a “Complex" comprising the obligatory sauna and whirlpool bath, child's playroom, a billiard's room, a disco, and a tropically heated 40 foot swimming pool.

The working-class should not delude themselves in thinking that there is anything basically different between rented and mortgaged accommodation for the quality and quantity of both types are, in the end, determined by the very same market. Both depend on the conditions under which those with money, land and materials are prepared to lend, invest or build in the housing market. Those with capital to invest do not mind whether it is used to build council houses or houses in the private sector; they participate in the housing market to make a profit. The market determines what is available and at what price — which means that the capitalist class gets the housing they want and profits come before the housing needs of the community.
Richard Lloyd

Overturning machismo (1983)

Book Review from the August 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Latin American Women (Olivia Harris. Ed.) The Minority Rights Group (London. 1983).

This report from the Minority Rights Group aims to draw attention to problems experienced by Latin American women "in the context of economic instability and class difference". It makes no pretence of being comprehensive but is a valid insight into some of the problems facing working class women in Latin America.

The report is highly critical of the ideology of machismo, which attempts to emphasise a demarcation of sexual characteristics. In this ideology housework is a female occupation and men who undertake it are labelled effeminate. Man is seen as authoritarian, exercising control of female kin whereas woman is submissive, dependent on the male and devoted to family and home. Some aspects of the report are limited in their criticism of this problem. Suzana Prates in her essay "Women's Work in the Southern Cone. Monetarist Policies in Argentina. Uruguay and Chile" writes of the repression of trade unions and the lowering of the real wage. Women have been forced on to the employment market to supplement the family income and Prates complains that "unless there is some change in the burden of responsibility women carry for housework and care of their children, additional employment will merely increase the burden”. But the real problem is not so much that women have an unequal share of domestic responsibilities but that their absorption into the labour market is a means of exploitation of them as members of the working class.

Guillermina V. de Villalva in "A Throwaway Work Force? Women in the Mexican Border Industries" argues that there was a massive incorporation of women into the workforce because “their low wages guaranteed the profitability of the new enterprise”. This is accounted for by women's docility arising out of their lack of trade union consciousness and their willingness to work extremely hard.

The report is torn between an indictment of the exploitation of women as workers and their subversion within the home. The reality is that the ideology of machismo is being exploited by the forces of capitalism. Virginia Guzmán in "Women of the Lima Shanty Towns, Peru" argues that “. . . women end up with the least stable work because it has to be combined with their responsibilities in the home". During a period when there is increasing male unemployment, women are used as a cheap substitute. Prates argues that the effect of male unemployment is to force wives into paid employment but that this is in the area of " . . . unskilled and part-time or temporary jobs . . . (because] women . . . have to combine housework with earning something to survive".

The report ought not to look simply towards the equalising of domestic relationships but to recognise that the ethos of machismo allows for the division of the working class on sexual grounds. Women are a cheaper clement of the working class, which their non-participation in union activity will exacerbate. The real issue is the suppression of the working class by selectively exploiting its weakest members. It is not a question of male versus female in the same way as it would not be between a cheaper immigrant workforce and an indigenous population. The need for maximum profits will ensure that if there is a section of the working class who can be more efficiently exploited then that exploitation will take place.

Women in Latin America should recognise their working class status and participate in trade unions to resist the erosion of wages that is taking place. It is true that the ideology of machismo must be overturned but that can only be done through the conscious recognition of working class interests regardless of sexual differences. It is in the interests of the capitalist economy, because the survival of capitalism relies on the division of the working class among themselves, that ideologies such as machismo exist.
Philip Bentley

Imperial hangover (1983)

Book Review from the August 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tariq Ali: Can Pakistan Survive? (Penguin. £2.95.)

When the British ruling class decided that its continued exploitation of South Asia was best done outside a formal imperial framework, the region was divided into two states along religious lines. Thus in 1947 Pakistan came into existence, divided into two parts separated by a thousand miles of India. The history of "independent” Pakistan since that time is the subject of Tariq Ali’s latest book.

The British authorities left behind a model of repression which was enthusiastically emulated by the military rulers who took their place. In February 1946, for instance, over five hundred workers had been shot as a general strike in Bombay was put down. Post-independence Pakistan was still tied closely to the British economy, as a producer of raw materials whose small industrial sector was largely owned by British capitalists. If Pakistan as a whole remained a kind of colony, though, East Pakistan became subordinated to the politically-dominant West. Raw materials from East Pakistan brought in foreign exchange, which was used to develop West Pakistan industry, which in turn had a captive market in the East. Such conflicts of interest resulted in the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, and the establishment of Bangladesh.

The political history of Pakistan has been of a succession of military dictatorships interspersed with periods of closer approximation to capitalist democracy. The first proper general election was scheduled for March 1959, but the ruling bureaucracy was aware that it faced defeat in any free vote. Six months before the elections were due, the army took power in a coup, ushering in ten years of military dictatorship under Ayub Khan. A rigged election was held in 1965, and in 1969 Ayub, who could no longer rely on his own army officers obeying orders, resigned in favour of Yahya Khan. The long-promised elections of December 1970 showed the party of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to be the strongest in the West, while in the East the Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman received overwhelming support for a platform of an effectively autonomous Bengal. This could not be tolerated by the rulers in the West, and in March 1971 their army invaded the undefended East, killing tens of thousands. The ultimate outcome, however. was the disintegration of the country, the East becoming the separate state of Bangladesh.

In the former West Pakistan, the army handed over in December 1971 to Bhutto, as the only politician who enjoyed sufficient support to keep the country together. Despite being an elected prime minister, Bhutto showed himself to be no less repressive than the military dictatorships that preceded (and followed) him. He presided over another civil war, this time against the inhabitants of the Baluchistan Province. But this brought the Pakistani army back into the centre of politics and so paved the way for Bhutto's downfall. In 1977, after rigging the general election, he declared martial law in three cities; then in July of that year the army staged another coup and Zia-ul-Haq took over power. Bhutto was imprisoned and then executed on a trumped-up charge. The Zia dictatorship has now been in power for six years; the President has declared that elections are "un-Islamic”. The regime has been given a boost by the Russian invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan, which has enabled Reagan, Thatcher and their ilk to represent the reactionary dictatorship as a "bastion of the free world”.

Politically, then, it has been a pretty sordid third of a century. The economic and social developments have been no more attractive. Pakistan in 1947 was very underdeveloped, with industry accounting for only six per cent of total output. State subsidies and protection enabled a much larger industrial capitalist sector to establish itself, and trade unions were suppressed as a means of keeping wages down and profits up. The degree of concentration of power and wealth was remarkable: in the mid-sixties, two-thirds of the country's industrial capital was in the hands of twenty families! Bhutto nationalised a number of large companies — Ali correctly describes this as state capitalism (perhaps Trotskyists are beginning to learn something after all). What effect did this state-controlled capitalist expansion have on those whose labour produced the new wealth? Ali quotes an economist writing in 1980:
After over 30 years of high economic growth, only 29 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water. The adult literacy rate is 21 per cent . . . Less than 30 per cent of the population has access to adequate health services or adequate shelter. About 33 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. i.e. have a level of per capita expenditure that fails to satisfy even the minimum needs of the average individual.
The ordinary workers and peasants have clearly benefitted little if at all.

Surely the lesson of all this is that "independence" is no answer to the problems of colonies and other underdeveloped countries. The appalling social conditions of Pakistan cannot be solved by any government of Pakistan, however nationalistic or radical. The problem of backwardness is a global one and requires a global solution. Tariq Ali’s plea for a “voluntary Federation of South Asian Republics" is no contribution in this regard. Readers will find his book a useful guide to Pakistan’s problems, but for a way out they will have to turn to the ideas of world socialism.
Paul Bennett

Human robot (1983)

From the July 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The revelations contained in a double-page article in the Sunday Times of 17 April under the emotive title “Diary of a Human Robot”, were eye-openers to those who believe in the romantic Western version of Japanese industrial relations — open-air exercises followed by hard, dedicated work, rooted in strongly loyal “family” feelings and carried out in a pleasant, healthy atmosphere with calm efficiency. Kamata was a seasonal employee at the Toyota Motor Company and these extracts show how he experienced his job.

On Kamata's first day he becomes familiar with his new surroundings; his dormitory sleeps 1344, and the neighbouring building, which holds a further 2528 workers in a similar layout of dining room, bath, social room and small meeting room is named the Refreshing Breeze Dormitory.

Rank system
The dehumanisation of the Toyota worker begins in earnest with the issue of his uniform and stripe of rank, the colour signifying the person's status. And then:
After everyone has received a uniform, we have our photograph taken. I sit in front of the camera holding a piece of cardboard with the number 881 8639 on it like a prisoner. The company informs me that this number will be used instead of my name for all official business. Thus, I am formally hired as a seasonal worker by the Toyota Motor Company.
This should not come as too much of a surprise, since it is an open acknowledgement that the capitalists are not concerned with a person as an individual, but solely with his or her ability to work; the capacity to be exploited at the point of wealth production is the salient feature of a working person.

Kamata soon learns that the work is not as easy as it looked when performed by practised hands:
The slowness was entirely imaginary. Before I can even fasten one gear, my body is pulled to the next station. I try my best to hurry, but it’s impossible. I struggle, I fumble, then I find myself intruding on the next guy’s area. The next box is already waiting, carried there by the conveyor belt without my noticing.
The 45-minute lunch break necessitates a 100-yard dash to the canteen, and of this time, 10 minutes has to be set aside for replenishing the stock of parts for the next session. The smoothly perfect mechanisation of the work procedure is illustrated on shift change:
Already, the man on the next shift is waiting for me to finish — As soon as I put my hammer down, he picks it up and begins precisely where I left off. A baton pass, and neatly done
and it is enlightening to read the author’s epilogue, where he writes:
When I left Toyota, assembly time at the main plant for transmissions was one minute 14 seconds. This had been shortened by six seconds while I worked there, and production had been increased by 100 to 415 units. Returning seven years later I found that assembly time had been cut to 45 seconds and production raised to 690 units. This increase was achieved solely through accelerating the work pace.
During his stay, the journalist participates in a “safety” meeting which
. . . consists of chanting in chorus safety slogans that the team chief reads to us. This continues until he reaches one that says, ‘Let’s work with plenty of time and energy in reserve’. He decides to miss it out. saying. “That's impossible. We’re always pressed for time”.
This philosophy is admirably illustrated two months later by a serious injury in his own plant, and a fatality in another:
The worker was repairing a machine (naturally he had to do it on his lunch time). He got caught between a beam for replacing parts, and the machine. There was no-one to hear his calls. He was dead for an hour before they discovered his body.
The serious injury in Kamata’s own plant is greeted with concern by the general foreman and team chief, since it could lead to a reduction in their bonus payments. Kamata sums it up: “Who could have invented a system like this?"
Paul G. Robinson

Jobs and the depression (1983)

From the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

A common factor in all the depressions of the last two hundred years has been factories reducing output and sometimes closing down permanently, with consequent mass unemployment. When recovery comes, total production increases to new, higher, levels but it does not follow that all the industries that have declined in the depression will share in the recovery. Some old industries go on shrinking, others disappear, and new industries take their place. This is very marked in the present depression.

Since 1979 production has fallen by over 10 per cent, a record number of companies have gone bankrupt, the number of workers in employment has fallen by two million and unemployment has grown by the same amount. But within these overall figures big changes have taken place in particular industries.

In manufacturing industry as a whole, employment fell by 1½ million between 1979 and 1982, but 600,000 jobs had already gone in the previous six years. In the “metals” (which includes steel) the total in employment fell from 518,000 in 1973 to 442,000 in 1979, and to 300,000 in 1982. Labour and Tory governments had expanded capacity for producing steel only to find that other countries (Japan was one) had increasingly met world demand. Output of crude steel in Britain, which was 27½ million tons in 1970, had fallen to 21½ million in 1979, and is now down to 13½ million tons. Further cuts are planned, both for Britain and the other EEC countries.

In motor cars the number employed dropped from 741,000 in 1979 to 541,000, and in shipbuilding from 171,000 to 138,000. Textile jobs fell by 150,000. Exceptionally among manufacturing industries, the numbers employed in the field of electronic computers, radio, radar and electronic capital goods has gone up from 143,000 in 1979 to 168,000. Looking outside the manufacturing groups, building workers in employment have gone down from 1,295,000 in 1979 to 1,037,000, though some recovery is now expected. The mining and quarrying group has, so far, not declined greatly — from 349,000 in 1979 to 326,000, but the number of jobs in the coalfields likely to disappear as uneconomic pits are closed will much exceed the jobs in new mines about to come into production. Coal output has been falling for half a century. It was 227 million tons in 1938, when miners numbered 782,000 and 125 million tons last year, with 257,000 miners.

In contrast to the productive industries, the number of workers in employment has increased between 1979 and 1982 in some “service” industries. In catering and hotels the number has gone up from 933,000 to 964,000, and in "Professional and Scientific services" (which includes education and health) from 3,763,000 to 3,768,000. The biggest increase has been in insurance, banking and finance, up from 1,261,000 to 1,326,000. The number of merchant seamen has fallen from 75,000 to 50,000, with 3,500 unemployed.

Since 1965, under an Act of the Labour Government, all workers who lose their jobs because it has ceased to exist, are entitled to statutory redundancy pay related to length of continuous employment, age and pay. Some employers pay above the statutory amounts and in some instances there are separate and more favourable arrangements, as for example a maximum of £22,500 for some dockers and £25,000 for some steel workers. It is these exceptional amounts that are noticed in the press, but figures published in the Employment Gazette (March 1982) covering 1,427,000 workers give an average statutory payment of only £1,069. The Ministry says their figures are incomplete and they do not know how many of the unemployed actually receive redundancy pay, but it is clear that most of them do qualify. The number of reported redundancies rose from 186,000 in 1979 to about 500,000 in 1980 and 1981, fell to 400,000 in 1982. and was 25,000 in January 1983. The redundancy scheme has had some unforeseen consequences. Some employers, including nationalised industries, faced with trade union opposition to proposed closures and redundancies, have gone over the heads of the unions with offers of comparatively generous redundancy pay, which the workers have accepted against union policy.

The Thatcher government has more than once announced false signs of recovery from the depression, but recently the Confederation of British Industry and some economists have reported rather more reliable indicators that sales and production have begun to increase. But if and when this upward movement grows it does not mean that unemployment will at once begin to fall. In the present depression, as in previous ones, workers have become unemployed partly through falling sales and the resulting fall in output, and partly through employers getting a larger output from the workers still in employment. The unemployment due to decline in sales and production will fall as trade recovers, but that due to increased output per worker will not be similarly affected.

Before the depression the annual average increase of output per worker was about 1¼ per cent. A writer in the Sunday Telegraph (2 April 1983) estimates that output per worker is now increasing at about 3 per cent a year, from which it follows that "the demand for labour will not increase until national output grows at that rate (3 per cent) or more”. Other information shows that many companies are confident that they can increase output substantially without at present taking on more workers. The prospect is, therefore, that when trade improves the total number of unemployed will, for some considerable time, not decline, and may even go on increasing.
Edgar Hardcastle