Monday, April 25, 2016

And so to bed (1997)

The Last Word column from the May 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

I am in the middle of the tormenting exercise of buying a bed. I am, to use the vernacular of Capitalese, "in the market for a bed". I need a bed, so I have to buy it.

You might think that everyone is entitled to something as simple as a decent bed. After all, as the salespeople never cease to remind punters "you spend almost half your life in bed. so it pays to get yourself a good one”. No, a bed is not an entitlement. It is a commodity. You want it; you buy it. Can’t afford it? Sleep on the floor.The economic rules are really quite simple.

Just how many people have no decent bed to sleep on has never been quantified. It is not an issue for the philanthropists who worry about how many millions of people are starving to death. Beds arc regarded as being something halfway between a necessity (enough food to survive healthily: denied to about a third of the world's population) and what capitalism regards as luxury (a telly: so that you can sec pictures of people starving to death). The problem for the profit system is that the moment that anything is conceded to be a necessary entitlement there is a huge problem about who is going to pay to provide it. So, the countless children who go to bed each night on mud floors or shop doorways arc simply forgotten.

Buying a bed is a torture not very much better than being called in for questioning by the Turkish police or visiting a garden centre. In a caring world there would be counselling therapy provided for people in the process of purchasing a bed. Then again, in a caring world beds would not be for sale, but for use. Bed salespeople have the most miserable jobs, endlessly trotting out their mantra about the need for comfort—how much of life is spent in bed—the importance of a good mattress.

Most beds in most shops are complete crap, designed solely according to the measurements of the their purchasers’ poverty. No person with any real choice would sleep on the pieces of junk sold for £150 and less in the average furniture shop. Most people are unable to afford the very well designed, comfortable beds which sell for a grand or more. It is money, nothing more or less, which determines how well most people will sleep.

There is no doubt about it that, despite the tedium of the sales pitch, we humans do spend a staggeringly large proportion of our lives looking up at the ceiling. For a species so biologically unique in our upright stance, the amount of time that we are horizontal is quite remarkable. The horizontal position is the scene of some our most pleasurable moments. The ugly addition to the tabloid lexicon "to bed" (“BISHOP BEDS STRIPPER") has now pushed aside anachronistic euphemisms, such as "to make love". It is almost as if the furniture, not the human, has become the object of lust. (What was that the man said about "commodity fetishism?)
Cartoon by Peter Rigg.

Beds are now sold as if they are sports cars (which in turn are sold as if they are penis extensions). Not long into the recently encountered experience of bed-buying I was introduced to what is a ridiculously called "The Kingsize Bed". Precisely what size of bed does a king need-bigger or smaller than a farmer or a hospital porter or a computer programmer? One assumes that Henry VIII required reinforced springs; that George III needed straps attached to the side: that the heir apparent needs a visitor’s book attached to the headboard. What about a Serfsize bed or a Prolesize one—or, why not be really honest, and have a range called "Cheapsize" beds.There are beds on sale in Harrods which cost more than a terraced house in Burnley. If you can afford one it’s called "freedom of the market". If you’re living in a terraced house in Burnley and you have three kids sharing a room and sleeping on worn-out mattresses with springs sticking through it’s called a sick way of running society.

I now know the bed market pretty well. I know that the more you pay the better you will sleep. I know that futons are for fitness freaks, masochists and extremely poor people. I know that I am so exhausted of bed-hunting that I could now sleep on a park bench if it could be fitted with an extra-large sleeping bag and an overhead light for reading.

William Morris was right—as usual. Furniture, to be worth making, should be both useful and beautiful. Beds, chairs, wardrobes, bookcases, desks . . .  all that a decent society need do is produce them for use and make sure that they are the best and most beautiful which the variety of human desires might require. But the buying and selling system thrives upon the indecency of filthy commerce, turning everything (even a good night's sleep) into the basis of a fast buck.
Steve Coleman

The choice is yours (1997)

Editorial from the April 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now it is election time again we are being asked to give our support - critical or otherwise - to the massed ranks of competing politicians, all of whom offer a variation on the same thing - more capitalism. From the three main parties, to the Referendum Party, Militant and Scargill's SLP, the choice on the political menu is a simple one: how do you like your capitalism; raw. medium or well done . . . meaning tough?

Socialists argue that the only sensible response to such a skewed question is to reject it, putting in its place a more relevant one: do we wish to continue living in a society where the profit of the few comes before the needs of the many or do we wish to organise for the only viable alternative - a society where production is carried out solely to satisfy human needs and desires with free access to available wealth?

Those whose answer to this is to favour the latter option should cast their vote for the Socialist Party (if we have a candidate in your constituency) or simply write ‘Socialism' across your ballot paper if we don't, in protest against capitalism and the political parties who seek to maintain it. We say this because we are the only political party standing in this election which favours the genuine abolition of capitalism and the creation of a socialist society. All the other parties support the market economy in its various forms and offer leadership teams for the working class to follow. We say that the working class should organise itself independently without leaders, relying on strength of numbers and the inability of capitalism to deliver the goods for the majority.

We are not participating in this election because what passes for political democracy in capitalism is perfect - we are fully aware it isn't - but because we aim to use the election as a means of placing socialism and genuine democracy firmly on the public agenda, giving people a real political choice rather than the phoney one offered by the other parties.

As we write the election result itself would appear to be a foregone conclusion. Unless there is an unprecendented poll reversal, the Labour Party will soon form the next government. The Labour triumph will no doubt be followed by the usual post-election political honeymoon. lt will not be long, however, before the reality of the situation becomes apparent - that no government, no team of economic managers, can make capitalism run in the interests of the wage and salary-earning working class. When this happens we can only hope that the working class seeks out the socialist alternative to the madness of the market economy and the posturing of its political leaders.

Economic interests predominate (1997)

Book Review from the March 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Green Backlash by Andrew Rowell, Routledge, London, 1996.

If you have any doubts about the strength of the economic tide the world environmental movement are attempting to swim against, this book is worth looking at. Again, it is the environmental movement themselves who best illustrate the quagmire in which capitalism leaves them.

This is an intensely factual, encyclopaedic book, with all the accompanying pros and cons. Rowell sets the scene well, describing the "political influence" the environmental movement expected to enjoy as Clinton took power in the US. Of course this all seems like a bad joke four years later: "By the end of the 103rd Congress, the Clinton administration had a worse environmental record than either the Bush or Reagan administration”.

This political anti-climax is not itself what Rowell means by a "green backlash". Specifically, he is referring to the large network of anti-environmental organisations and campaigns which have sprung up to combat the environmental movement (most notably in the USA although Rowell looks at examples from around the globe). These often come in the guise of grass-roots campaigns yet are set up by the interests of big business or politicians.

From Nigeria to Newbury and from Greenpeace to Gingrich. Rowell has unearthed no end of facts. The main weakness of this comprehensive survey is the almost complete absence of any historical context. Yes, economic interests may predominate now but wasn’t this also the case one hundred years ago? Rowell very briefly mentions the fight-back of business against the gains made by workers earlier in the century but there is no meaningful comparison drawn.

Rowell does show how the "green backlash" arose spontaneously as a reaction to threatened business interests. So successful is he that (perhaps unwittingly) he removes the need for a theory of centrally-planned conspiracy. This again leaves us to question whether the book is not just rehearsing a familiar story, rather than exposing a new, 1990s phenomenon. 
Dan Greenwood

At the crossroads (1997)

From the February 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Of all the Arabic countries, Morocco is the nearest to Europe. It is just 16 kilometres south of the southernmost tip of Spain, across the Straight of Gibraltar. But immediately you step off the ferry from Algeciras, at Tangier you know that you are no longer in Europe, but in North Africa.

After 44 years of "protectorate”— that is colonial rule—Morocco became independent of France and Spain on 2 March 1956. The Hizb el-Istiqlal (Independence Party) and a number of other pro-nationalist groups, but excluding the Parti Communiste Marocain which was also pro-nationalist, had achieved their aim. The PCM. being good patriots, supported a constitutional monarchy and the reunification of Morocco with Mauritania; but this did not stop the Moroccan government from dissolving the PCM in September 1959. Morocco has been ruled by King Hassan II since 1961.

About the only kind thing that can be said about Morocco is that it is a "guided" bourgeois democracy, where opposition parties (but not "subversive" parties) are generally tolerated —and where Islamic fundamentalists have not, as yet, resorted to the kind of violence witnessed in adjacent Algeria. In Morocco the king rules with a Parliament, in which two-thirds of the deputies are elected by universal suffrage. and the remaining third are chosen by an electoral college of local councils, professional groups, employers' organisations and a few "tame" trade unionists. The iron fist of the state is generally covered by a velvet glove, although when I was there in 1981, I witnessed students who were demonstrating against the deposed Shah of Iran, who was in the country at the time, mown down by machine-gun fire from Moroccan troops.

French influence is still strong, although less than in the past. Nevertheless French companies have been responsible for much of Morocco's industrial development. Politically, however, Morocco has. and has had, other less transparent allies and friends.

In 1948, there were about 200,000 Jews living in Morocco: and up to Moroccan independence in 1956, 100,000 of them had left for Israel. But following independence, the new Moroccan government gave in to pressure from other Arab states, and forbade emigration to Israel. However, MOSSAD organised secret escape routes bribing Moroccan officials. In 1961, Israel asked France and the United States to intervene with the recently crowned King Hassan II. The king needed Western support, and so quietly co-operated with Israel, thus allowing more than 80,000 Jews, who wanted to go to Israel, to leave the country. Although Morocco was a member of the Arab League, and officially a supporter of the Palestinian cause, it nevertheless established close ties with Israel. MOSSAD helped Morocco organise its secret service; and in 1965, did Morocco a favour by assisting the Moroccan secret police assassinate their dissident, Mehdi Ben-Barka. Morocco and Israel, sometimes with Egypt, have quietly co-operated ever since.

In 1977 Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan UNITA nationalist leader, backed by South Africa and the United States, travelled to Morocco, where he met King Hassan. From Morocco. UNITA obtained a secure external headquarters in Rabat. Morocco offered Savimbi military training facilities, near Marrakech, for up to 500 men at a time; and Morocco provided UNITA with arms, and other military equipment, most of which came from the United States, over a period of many years. In 1981, Savimbi and other UNIT A rebels met senior State Department officials in Morocco to discuss United States plans for Angola. Morocco has, since independence, been a loyal but subordinate ally of the United States; and the CIA has always had a strong presence in the country.

Economic problems
The Moroccan economy has suffered severe drought in recent years, which has badly affected the predominant agricultural sector. Indeed, agriculture is still dominant. It is the principal source of employment, accounting for half the working population. Most of the farms are not economically viable, with only one percent of the farms having more than 125 acres. Most of the rest are under eight acres.

Since 1993, the government has been involved in a massive privatisation programme of what was largely a state-run, dirigiste, capitalist economy. Banking and foreign currency regulations have been lifted. From the capitalist viewpoint, the Moroccan government claims that it is a success story:
"International fluctuations in commodity prices have led the government to build up a more diversified economy by reducing reliance on agriculture and mining. It has been largely successful since the mining sector's share of GDP had declined steadily from 5.3 percent in the 1970s to 1.8 percent in 1994. Manufacturing has increased its share from an average 16 percent in the 1970s to almost 18 percent in 1990-94 period. The sector's share of total exports has jumped from 20 percent in 1986 to about one-third since 1992" ("Images”, Observer, 22 December 1996).
However, the economy is estimated to have contracted by five percent in 1995.

And how has this affected the majority of the people of Morocco, the workers and the peasant farmers? The Times (26 December) reports that unemployment is 20 percent, with those under 30 years of age suffering unemployment of more than 40 percent. Fifty-one percent of the population are still illiterate; and the per capita income in Morocco, North Africa's poorest country, is just £800 a year.

All this has resulted in thousands of poverty-stricken Moroccan would-be workers "illegally” going to Spain. Scores of them are detained every week, reports the Times. Last summer, 50 Moroccans were apprehended each day in Spain; and 1,300 were detained in June alone. Just how long it will take them, and many others, to realise that escaping the miseries of one country, Morocco, for the miseries of another, Spain, will not solve their problems, we cannot say. All we can say is that they will not solve them, in Morocco or elsewhere, within the framework of world capitalism.
Peter E. Newell

From 'Third World' to One World (1997)

From the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

For a long time, economists' expectations about what would happen to the "developing” or "third world” were shaped by an influential theory first put forward by the economist and MP David Ricardo in the last century. According to his theory of "diminishing returns”, national economies, as they grew, could be expected to slow down and eventually to come to a halt. The corollary of this was that the poorer nations could be expected to catch up because their rates of growth would be faster.

Ricardo, however, exaggerated any “diminishing returns" problem and did not take account of a number of important factors. Foremost among these was the influence which states can exert on trade patterns through protectionism, dumping and all the other long-used tactics of developed states, and the economic blocs which they form to protect their interests. Also, huge initial amounts of capital are required before a company can even begin to compete in many world markets, and the emergence of such companies is near impossible in small, poor nations.

History has forced economists to question the Ricardian theory. Average growth for 16 rich countries surveyed by the Economist (25-31 May) has slowed since the early 1970s in particular, but it is still above the average. As for the supposed faster growth among the developing world, "if there is any discernible pattern . . .  it is the opposite: poorer countries have tended to grow more slowly".

Interestingly, the UN Development Programme administrator, James Speth. believes "the world has become more economically polarised" and that “if present trends continue, economic disparities between industrial and developing nations will move from inequitable to inhuman" (Observer, 21 July). 

As a result, many of the world's poorest countries have seen average incomes decline and increased polarisation. The wealth of many nations has actually declined in recent years. Eighty-nine countries are reporting lower per-capita incomes than they were 10 years ago.

During the 1980s average real incomes were reported to have fallen by 10 percent in most of Latin America and 20 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. In many urban areas wages have fallen by as much at 50 percent.

The 1980s' decline in average incomes in many developing countries has continued in the 90s: in 1990, average per capita income fell by over 2.5 percent in Latin America and by over 2 percent in Africa.

The UN Human Development Report states that the poorest 20 percent of the world's population have seen their share of world income fall from 2.3 percent to 1.4 percent over the past 30 years (Guardian, 29 July). In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of families who are unable to meet their most basic needs has doubled in a decade (Fairer World Statistics). Furthermore. according to OXFAM projections, the future looks little brighter for the rest of Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America.

A World Bank report only tells half the story when stating that "flows of private capital to poor countries have quadrupled to $170 billion a year in the past five years. Over a third of the world's foreign direct investment now goes to them”. This investment was actually targeted at eight countries who receive two-thirds of this investment, while most others have been left by the wayside.

In stark contrast to the hopes of charity organisations such as UNICEF, overseas dcvelopment aid (ODA) can be relied upon even less as a substantial source of help for poorer states. In 1993, ODA fell 8 percent from 1992 levels to US$56 billion (20-20 Plan, UNICEF pamphlet).

The significance of all this is that it dispels the illusion of there being an inevitable and ongoing sense of progress within global capitalism. And any "progress" that does occur is sure to bypass the world's poorest. Ricardo got it wrong—inequality and uneven development are fundamental features of the capitalist system. Nearly 200 years after he wrote, this is more apparent than ever.
Dan Greenwood

The value of discontent (1966)

Editorial from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Private property society is a class-divided society. Because of this, it inevitably fosters hatreds and discontent. Take a look at any social system from primitive slavery onwards, and at some stage or another the signs of unrest appear as the under-privileged try to fight against the weight of oppression and misery heaped on their shoulders.

Modern capitalism is certainly no exception. It is based upon the ownership of the means of life by a small minority. The rest of the population work for them and produce the wealth on which the capitalist class can live in ease and comfort without the need themselves to work. For the majority, such a set up spells a life of drabness and insecurity, and a constant struggle to make both ends meet, so that it is little wonder that discontent is more or less a permanent feature of their existence.

In the early days of capitalism, the cruelties and excesses of the master class towards their workers was a big factor in the formation of trade unions and the agitation for reform that was so prominent a feature of 18th century history in England. The story of protest and struggle in those years makes bitter reading, and there are some who would say that we’ve come a long way since then. So we have. Yet who can honestly say even in the face of many hard won gains, that the need to fight is any the less?

The outward appearance of capitalism changes, but its basic constituents are unchanged, and just as surely because of this, it is very much a system of conflict and oppression. The hypocrisy and honeyed words of the Labour Government cannot mask this uncomfortable fact, which shows itself in so many ways, for example, the continuing struggle over wages and the horrifying threat of a nuclear war. In such a world of worry and strain, it would be surprising if the voices of discontent were never heard; indeed, it is precisely this dissatisfaction on which the politicians so cynically rely to get them to power and then try to get us to forget between elections. And after all, if workers were to sit down quietly and take all that capitalism dishes out to them, the prospect for the future would certainly be gloomy.

So the Socialist Party of Great Britain does not spurn discontent; in fact, discontent does at least show that workers are thinking about their problems and are groping for an answer. Unfortunately, however, such is the lack of Socialist understanding amongst the working class that the cries of protest take on a negative form of expression, and at times are channelled into support of ideas which are very harmful to workers’ interests—such as racialism, “national independence”, etc. Other protest movements suffer from the same failure to realise that the problems they want to solve are part of the bigger problem that is capitalism itself, and cannot be dealt with in isolation.

It is the Socialist who understands the severe limitations of the protest movements of today, and who, however much he may have sympathy with the feelings of their supporters, knows that they can never be really effective, because they ignore the cause of the ills they are trying to remove. At all times, Socialists put forward the case for a new world of common ownership and democratic control, trying to get workers to see their problems from this standpoint. Only when they do this will their discontent flow into constructive channels and the ultimate protest—that against capitalism itself—be lodged.

What the papers don't say (1): The tabloids (1999)

From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
This month we begin a two-part article on the capitalist press and its relationship to capitalism and capitalist politicians.
Anyone who takes any more than a passing interest in politics will know that the various media play an important part it. In the Top 300 Most Powerful People in England, published by the Observer last year, Rupert Murdoch (a man who does not even live in England), came second after Tony Blair. Anyone who is even remotely aware of the political leanings of the newspapers in Britain will know that the tabloid press had strong Tory leanings from about 1979 to 1992 and are largely now for Labour. As regards the last general election the Sun claimed that it was "The Sun Wot Won it". It is also common wisdom that one should not "believe everything you read in the papers".
So we, the working class, know that the papers are powerful, that they are political, that they deal in distortions of the truth. And yet, the overwhelming majority of us read the tabloid press. So why do we seemingly have an appetite for the lies and distortions of the popular press? Do we realise just how "unfree" our press actually is?
Although it is not the newspapers' job to tell the truth, they are not particularly there to tell lies either (though they do when the occasion demands). They exist, as does anything else in capitalism, to make profits for their owners.
When Murdoch broke the unions in 1986 by moving his entire operation to Wapping overnight, he began to refer to the newspapers of his News International stable as his "cash cows" (Jeremy Tunstall, The New National Press in Britain, p. 26). Piers Morgan, the sometime editor of the News of the World and now the "responsible" editor of the Daily Mirror, explained the situation very clearly: "I only judge a story on what sells and what doesn't" (Guardian, 30 November 1996). It is this element of the media that makes it at one and the same time the capitalists' friend, and also their enemy. The forces that generate the kind of copy we see in Britain and in other national papers around the globe are the same forces which also undermine governments' attempts to censor or to manipulate the media. Try censorship who dares: the media is a savage animal and it can bite your hand off.  
Before the mid-1960s the British press was relatively well behaved (from the point of view of the government). One reason for this was a hangover from the Second World War when newspapers were effectively self-censoring. Another important reason why the press did not attack governments as vitriolically as is the norm today was the widely held belief that in doing so you would inevitably alienate the section of your readership which supported the party you were attacking. Although certain papers have been readily identifiable as having certain leanings for some time, they have always had a significant minority who read the paper whilst voting "the other way".
Brown-nosing
The huge change in this view came when the Murdoch/News International group made the discovery in the 1980s that you could take an extreme anti-Labour stance whilst retaining millions of Labour voters as readers. This was done in a number of ways, such as rationing overt politics to one page of the paper (where the regular reader could avoid it) and by attacking currently unpopular and unsuccessful Tory Ministers. In this respect the Sun was entirely in the pocket of Margaret Thatcher. Larry Lamb was the editor of the Sun during the early Thatcher era, and he was rewarded with a knighthood for his services to Margaret Thatcher during the 1979 election campaign, along with John Junor of the Sunday Express and David English of the Daily Mail. Together, they made sure that pictorial coverage of Margaret Thatcher was six times greater than that of the Prime Minister James Callaghan, and who focused upon her in an increasingly presidential way. In the same way today Tony Blair receives almost ten times more coverage than the Tory leader (has anything to do with Blair's new cosy relationship with Murdoch?).

In the 1980s the tabloids made sure that the uncommitted voter received no informed election coverage. And it was they who generated the much-talked about "Maggie factor".
What happened to Margaret Thatcher was entirely new. Whilst the press had in the past focused upon Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald, and especially Winston Churchill during the Second World War, the presidential style of Thatcher's campaign was something entirely new in British politics. Her personal approval rating was always well above that of her party throughout her time in office (excluding the Poll Tax years). Throughout the 1980s the tabloid press went in for constant and consistently noisome brown-nosing which cemented Thatcher in the public mind.
This is not to argue for a kind of press-in-the-pocket-of-the-government conspiracy theory. This is not the case. The press is not necessarily in the pocket of the government; though the way they all climbed into Mrs. Thatcher's handbag in the 80s, and Tony Blair's trousers in the 90s might lead you to suspect otherwise. Recently we have seen how the press can bite the hand that feeds it.
When Thatcher was ousted, her replacement (John Major) was attacked vitriolically by the thenSun political columnist Richard Littlejohn (he is now a dreadful broadcaster). He was ferociously critical of John Major, indeed with the Tory government as a whole. He accused Major of being a political sleepwalker. "When you open your eyes you will find you are Prime Minister", he wrote in December 1992. As keenly as the Tory press brown-nosed to Margaret Thatcher, they attacked John Major.
Here a pattern emerges. We have already identified how the Sun vilified Tory ministers, and glorified Thatcher. Problems with policy, or, as in 1981 deep unpopularity of the government coupled with massive inner-city riots, could be ascribed to incompetent ministers. The glorious leaderine was, of course, untouchable. As a political tactic this is not new; the horrible 20th century of the Cult of the Personality, generally manifests itself in an absolution of the leader regardless of what their administration is doing.
This emphasis upon the individual has been an increasing symptom of the emptiness of capitalist politics. The emptier the politics, the bigger the personalities. It is usually explained by the simple fact that the political grandees are now more often in the limelight, and so need to be more attractive to win votes (the Kennedy factor). It is, of course, true that when the public is faced with a choice of politicians who will make little or no difference to their lives, they will chose the better-looking politician.
If, however, the politician that they were voting for was saying something which was going to make a difference to their lives, then it would not matter whether or not that politician had an ugly mug. We are not saying that Nelson Mandela has an ugly mug, but his face was for many years an almost invisible one. Did it matter what he looked like? Of course not. Opposition to a system which took away basic human rights was such a potent idea, that even as an almost invisible presence he commanded the support of the overwhelming majority of black South-Africans. However, in the absence of real politics people will vote for smooth--Tony Blair is; Michael Foot wasn't.
Political realignment
Although we saw a swing back towards Labour in the tabloids before the last election, the Financial Times had advised the voters to vote Labour the election before that. Senior figures in the world of business were expressing a deep liking for the new Labour Party well before the last election. As has happened in the past, the capitalist class was preparing itself to do business with Labour. They have normally done reasonably well out of Labour governments, and it would appear that the current one is equally "on message" as far as the capitalists are concerned.

The media moguls are, of course, part of this circuit of capitalists who see the way that the wind is blowing and consequently take a new tack. In the newspapers this can manifest itself in a political realignment of a paper. Since the press is not really selling opinions, or thinking through political questions, but selling a product; and that in reality there is no real difference to the capitalist class between Labour and the Conservatives, then such a "realignment" becomes very easy to imagine.
In this respect the broadsheets are different from the tabloids. They rely upon advertising income and not circulation for their revenue; consequently they are more at liberty to put forward their political opinions. However, for the tabloids the picture is much more confused.
When Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun in 1969, the paper (which had previously been the Daily Herald) "voted" Labour. Now it is no secret that Rupert Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher enjoyed a great rapport during the 1980s, especially over the way that Murdoch completely destroyed the unions in his move to Wapping in 1986. However, Murdoch had to be persuaded to have his paper "vote" Tory. It was not his liking or otherwise for the Tory party that swung the day (this is neither here nor there for a capitalist like Murdoch). No, what swung the allegiance of the Sun was the fact that of the three competing downmarket tabloids, the Daily Mirror already staked out a firm, partisan pro-Labour line. This left the other two players in the market being - the Daily Star, and the Sun.
Murdoch's rightward swing was simply a matter of market segmentation. In 1979, the Sun "voted" Tory for the very first time, subsequently the Sun executives only had to worry about the Daily Star. (They don't any more). They dealt with the Daily Star, not in the field of political ideas (if the Sun can be credited with any actual ideas), but in the field of bingo, and they trumped all the other tabloids with the most horrifically jingoistic coverage of the Falklands War. (Who can forget: "GOTCHA"?). Politics, war, bingo: it's all the same when you're a capitalist media mogul.
Rupert Murdoch served his apprenticeship in an Australian paper, and he knew that apart from wars and general elections, few political or foreign stories sell extra copies of newspapers. The big exception to this was the Kennedy assassination. So his first task as the owner of the Sun was to get rid of the foreign desk. Now none of the tabloids has any kind of foreign desk, and the mid-market papers have decreased the size of their foreign press contingent significantly.
For the down-market tabloids, the capitalists have decided upon xenophobia as the main structuring element of their foreign coverage. The mid-market papers such as the Daily Mail are less xenophobic but also carry very little non-British news. Please note that at no time has it been suggested that the reading public have no appetite for foreign or political stories: that's untested. The reason why these sections have been removed from the tabloids is that their inclusion does not increase the circulation of the paper. Why pay for expensive foreign correspondents, when you can have an equal number of readers with a staff of gossip columnists and horoscope writers?
Next month we conclude with an examination of the broadsheets.
Jacek Krause

Richard III (1956)

Film Review from the April 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

An introduction to Shakespeare through the film is a direct contrast to the poverty-stricken method taught in the Secondary Modern Schools. There we were told to like him because his works are classics. Instead we learned to hate him because of the laborious memorising of long passages of meaningless verse. Consequently the majority of working-men and women are indifferent to him.

With the advent of the film, that mallet of knowledge smashes the inverted bowl of ignorance.

Richard III, showing at Leicester Square, breaks down the barrier of the artificiality of the stage where the actors shout at the top of their voices in a most unnatural manner. This technique makes it possible for Sir Laurence Olivier to discourse as if he stood at one’s side. Briefly, the plot deals with the diabolical schemes of the then Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to become king. He expounded his attitude in the opening verse:
" . . . I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate the one against the other. . . .”
Written with class consciousness one might say:
“ ... We are determined to preserve the capitalist system,
And to hate the idle pleasures of the workers.
Plots have we laid, inductions dangerous,
By calculated religious, national and racial prejudice.
Brain-washing and vice anon,
In deadly hate set the workers physically and mentally
Within and without nations until the world itself;
At each others throats. . . .”
Or perhaps as Shakespeare himself would have applied his analysis to the self-preservation policies of Russian dictators and others.

That is the point about Shakespeare; he deals with human relationships within the private property system and clothes them with beautiful words and profound phrases. They are shrewd observations and will remain eternal. In a Socialist society they will prove a vivid insight into the minds of men and women governed by the private property complex.

The rest of the story deals with the carrying out of the power-seeking schemes, the killing of the king’s brother, the princes of the Tower and others. The planting of fifth columnists in the London crowd, hailing him king. A ruse not forgotten by the politicians of the present day nor by their verbal supporters, the journalists and the “camera-never-lies ” friends.

Eventually he meets his downfall at the battle of Bosworth, calling out with great effect, “My kingdom for a horse!"

The film is swift-moving and excellently coloured in conjunction with the wide screen process.

There are some exquisite scenes particularly the snow-covered landscape when the princes were being brought to London.

One cannot help mentioning Olivier because his fine acting dominates the film. The nearest to him, John Gielgud, was unfortunately given a minor role. The other actors, although good, still had that faint air of staginess, that is, a slight wooden demeanour whilst awaiting their cue.

Clare Bloom played wonderfully the difficult part of being consumed with grief as Lady Anne. The diction as a whole is clear. Later when one reads the play the hitherto dead words spring into life, voices of this actors within the mind speak their parts. Having reached that state one becomes an addict

This film is an exhilarating change from the usual trough of films dealing with blood and thunder and sordid glory.
William Falconer