Sunday, May 29, 2016

Should the workers fight for Russia? (1928)

From the April 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before the Great War there were many workers in this and other countries who would have agreed without a moment’s hesitation that a working class movement should not support a capitalist war, and who, again without hesitation, rushed into the war when it came. This war, they said, was “different "; this was a “defensive” war; the workers must defend their homes, their wives, their liberties.

Since 1918 the vague sentiment against war has grown up again, and we are asked to put our trust in the illusory determination of the organised trade unionists to stop another outbreak. But those non-socialists who are most emphatic in their refusal to support another capitalist war are frequently to be heard expressing their willingness to fight for Russia, and their approval of the Russian military preparations. Thus the Sunday Worker (February 19th), shows a picture of a handsome Russian soldier in full fighting equipment, and under it the words: “Soviet worker in the Red Army ready to defend the factories and land of his class.”

We tell the workers of each capitalist nation that support for capitalist wars, offensive or defensive, is not in accordance with working class interests, for the simple reason that “their” country does not in fact belong to them but to the capitalist class. The factories and land of England do not belong to the workers but to their masters, and the same is true of Germany, America and other countries. What the workers have not got they cannot lose. What then does it matter to them if "their” country, which isn’t theirs at all, is taken away from the English section of the capitalist class by another section? Win or lose, the workers are still workers, and the kindly interest taken in them by English capitalists is precisely the same in kind as that of American, German, or any other exploiters, i.e., the desire to make a profit out of them.

So far the members and followers of (he Communist Party in this country would doubtless signify their agreement. But the next step in the argument is to consider whether Russian workers are in an essentially different position. Do the factories and land in Russia really belong to the Russian working class, and if not why should they defend interests which are not their own, but those of another class ?

Let us first take the land. In theory the land of Russia belongs to the State, as in this country all land is in theory held from the Crown; in fact the land belongs in Russia to the peasants as it belongs here to the landowners. Issuing decrees declaring that the land has been socialised is of no significance whatever except as an evidence of good intentions. The Soviet Government has not the machinery to carry out such decrees, nor the power enforce them. The consent of the peasants is unobtained and unobtainable, and the Government never did in fact seriously regard such a step as practical politics. No Russian Government would survive for a month if it endeavoured to dispossess the peasants of their land. They were the makers of the "revolution” and they would crush any Government which openly opposed their interests. Their seizure of the land preceded the Bolshevik coup d’etat and they will resist fiercely any change from Monarchists to go back or from Communists to go forward.

Mr. Arthur Ransome (Manchester Guardian, 2nd March) quotes from Pravda an article on this question in which it is shown from official records that whereas there were at the end of the Civil War between 15 and 16 million separate peasant holdings there are now 25 million. Peasant proprietorship is growing, not declining.

There are, it is true, some Soviet Government model farms run on up-to-date industrial lines and intended to undermine the barbaric individualism of the peasants and their methods of cultivation. As a means of raising the standard of cultivation they have had some success, but as the basis of social ownership of the land and a socially organised agriculture they are negligible. Out of a rural population of some 116,000,000 (see Statesman’s Year Book, page 1227) only “about 500,000 workers, of whom 45 per cent, are permanent workers, are employed in the Soviet farms and their dependent enterprises." (See Weekly Bulletin of the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee, 23rd February 1928). That is to say that less than one-half of one per cent, of the rural population are employed on these model farms. The value of the output of the State Agricultural Syndicate and the Sugar Trust is only 5.5 per cent, of the gross agricultural output in 1926-27. (See above Bulletin.)

The land in Russia belongs not to the working class but to the peasants. It is privately owned and controlled by them and cultivated on an individualistic basis for private profit. The Russian working class have no more direct interest in the defence of peasant proprietorship, than have the French workers in the defence of peasant proprietorship in France. Peasant proprietorship is economically backward and socially reactionary. As sellers of farm products, as purchasers of manufactured goods, as employers of wage earners or exploiters of the unpaid labour of their wives and children, and finally as owners of land, the interests of the peasants are in direct conflict with those of the working class and are directly opposed to the movement towards socialism. The Russian workers emphatically do not possess the land of Russia. Why. then should they fight to defend what is not theirs?
Now let us consider the factories. Do the Russian workers own the Russian factories and workshops, railways and steamships, and industrial capital in general? The answer is plainly No! The Russian workers are wage-earners as in this country. Some are employed by Russian and foreign private capitalist undertakings, frankly carried on for profit. Others, as in our Post Office, are employed in State capitalist concerns, their general conditions of labour being governed as here by the general standard of living of the workers and by the need of the Government to pay; interest on borrowed capital and foreign credits, and to run the concerns at a profit on ordinary commercial lines. It has even happened that wages in the Russian State concerns have been lower than in outside industry. This, however, is due to special circumstances and is hardly likely to be more than temporary. It has been explained in Russian official quarters as being due to the willingness of State employees to take lower wages in order to build up capital reserves for the expansion of State industry. Workers in private concerns have, on the other hand, been directly encouraged to, stand out for higher wages among other reasons for the purpose of crippling their accumulation of reserves.

Profit and interest only come from the exploitation of wage labour, and capitalism in Russia is no exception. That is not to question the sincerity or good intentions of the Bolshevik administrators of Russian capitalism. But whatever their intentions may be there is in essentials only one way of administering capitalism, that is in the capitalist way. The policy of the Soviet Government is dominated by the solid resistance of the peasants to any attempt at socialisation, by the need to produce manufactured goods cheaply and by the necessity of paying for the capital which they must borrow at home or abroad.

The peasants already complain of the fact that they are compelled to buy home produced manufactures at prices well above those ruling abroad. As their knowledge increases so they will press more and more strongly for the destruction of the State control of foreign trade, for the right to sell their products in the dearest market and the right to buy manufactures in the cheapest market. To meet this the rulers of Russia will in turn be compelled to introduce all the modern capitalist methods of speeding up in the endeavour to make their employees produce goods cheaply enough to compete with goods produced in Germany, England and elsewhere. The Russian workers are wage-earners like any others, living under capitalist economic conditions and exploited like any other wage-earners.

The issue of the Sunday Worker from which we quoted above gives very pointed evidence of this.

Under the heading “Big Chance for Investors,” it spreads the glad tidings that a Russian Government Railway Loan for £6,000,000 has been placed on the English market, offering a total actual return of over 11 per cent. The Sunday Worker says: “High yielding loans are usually not available for public subscription, especially with the security this offers. The profits on the railways last year would cover the loan four times.” Here we have our old familiar enemy capitalism in all its nakedness. The Russian workers have no more interest in defending Russian capitalism than we have in defending English capitalism.

But, we are told, surely the control of the Russian Government by the Bolsheviks makes a difference; as also the numerous and important improvements in wages and conditions of labour which have been introduced. Should the Russian workers not be willing to fight in defence of these gains?

Let us clear the air, by stating one or two facts. First, it is evident from the more reliable accounts that the condition of the Russian workers is better than before the war, as measured by the amount of real wages. Second, it can readily be admitted that the “sympathetic” and enlightened administration of the capitalist system can bring certain definite but limited gains to the workers. For example, it is plainly better for the workers to be protected by Factory Acts than not to be protected, and probably better to be scientifically exploited by a Ford or a Cadbury than to be brutally and unscientifically sweated by some unintelligent early Victorian who has not realised that it pays to have healthy and contented workers. But while this may be admitted to be true that is no sufficient cause for the workers to sacrifice their lives. In the first place, the difference of degree is small and certainly not worth fighting about, and more importantly, the workers will not lose these small advantages by any action or inaction of theirs, because the motive is not at all the welfare of the workers. The changes in methods of exploitation are due to the development of capitalist industry itself. It is not kindness but necessity which compels the factory owner to raise the standard of living of the coolie when he takes him from his field work and introduces him into the more exhausting factory system. Russia, whether ruled by Bolsheviks or as an adjunct of a British-American Banking trust, cannot compete with foreign highly developed capitalist industry unless it gives its wage-slaves approximately the same physical standards and inducements to work. Carrying the argument to its logical extreme, the conquest of Russia by America, might result in the Russians being forced to accept the American more developed system of intensified exploitation based on the payment of those higher wages of which we hear so much.

There is of course the possibility that the Russian Government might come to be controlled by a peasant party, openly hostile to and ignorant of capitalist industry and its needs. (This is in Trotsky’s view the present tendency.) Should that happen capitalist industry and incidentally the care of the workers as profit-producing agents, would be neglected. This is no doubt the reason why Factory legislation, health and unemployment insurance, etc., are so backward in France with its largely peasant dominated parliament, as compared with Germany. But that danger in Russia would point to the need of the workers endeavouring to protect themselves against the encroachments both of the peasants and of the capitalist class and not to the fatal policy of lining-up under the national flag in the pathetic belief that they have an interest in defending their "country.” Their county, like our "motherland” and the German “fatherland,” belongs not to them but to classes with interests opposed to those of the working class. The chief enemy of the working class is the capitalist class and the task of the Socialist is to overthrow the capitalist system in Russia as elsewhere.

In conclusion, it may be as well to point out that this is in no sense a condemnation of the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 Our criticism was and, is that they claimed to be able to achieve the impossible. Certain definite tasks lay before them and have been achieved. They brought Russia out of the war, exposed the purely capitalist nature of the conflict to the workers in both camps, and hastened the building of capitalism in Russia at a time when there was no other party with sufficient experience or determination to tackle so great an administrative work. They cannot, however, by legislation solve the fundamental conflicts between contending classes in Russia. They cannot permanently make the working class content with the capitalist economic system, and it would be better that they should recognise before it is too late that if they remain in office the discontent of the workers will come to be directed against them.
Edgar Hardcastle

Free transport or free access? (1971)

From the July 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Should travel on London’s trains and buses be free? Not so long ago this would have been, and was, dismissed as absurd. But now the GLC — which since 1970 has been in charge of London Transport — is looking at the idea. So is the London Labour Party, and economists, transport planners, passenger action groups, Tories, Liberals and even businessmen are amongst its supporters.

Many claims are made for free transport: It will leave most people better off financially. It will help solve the traffic problem. If train and bus fares were abolished, its advocates say, more people would leave their cars at home or at parking places away from the centre and use instead the trains and buses. This would relieve traffic congestion and allow a better bus service, which would encourage still more people to use public transport. The number of cars on the road would fall, reducing pollution and the need to build roads through residential areas.

Maybe, but where is the money to come from? “Free” transport is only free to the passenger at the time he travels. The cost of running the transport system has to be paid for even if no fares are taken. One way, since London Transport is now under the GLC, would be to finance “free” transport from the rates. But since most passengers will also be ratepayers might not people lose as higher rates what they gained as free travel? 

The advocates of free transport have an answer to this. They say that transporting people to and from work and the shops is unprofitable and has to be subsidised anyway and that fares-free public transport financed from rates or taxes could be the cheapest way of doing this if you take into account the present cost of the pollution, congestion and road-building caused by public transport’s great rival, the motor car. They also produce figures to show that the family man working in the centre of London would tend to gain from fares-free transport on the rates.

But even if the saving from fares is greater than the increase in rates this does not necessarily mean that people would be better off financially. Fares are an important item in the cost of living and it is the cost of living which largely determines the level of wages and salaries. Whatever reduces the cost of living will tend also to reduce wages. This would apply equally if fares were abolished.

This is obvious in the case of civil servants and others who are paid a special “London Allowance” to cover the higher cost of housing and travelling in London. Free London transport would narrow the difference between the cost of living in London and the rest of the country and would lead employers to seek to reduce this extra payment.

Thousands of booking clerks and ticket collectors would be made redundant, swelling the number of jobseekers and helping to keep wages down.

Those who claim that free transport would save people “considerable” sums of money are assuming that free services are an addition to wages. The opposite is nearer the truth: they are a hidden deduction from wages from which employers benefit the most.

If employers are to get a good day’s work they must pay their workers adequately. The wage packet or salary cheque must allow the workers enough to pay for the food, clothing, housing, travel and the other things they must have to keep themselves fit to work. If travel to and from work were free employers would no longer have to include in the wage packet any sum to cover travelling expenses. What to the workers would be a “free” service would to their employers be a wage subsidy.

Free transport under capitalism has little to offer wage and salary earners, but it would benefit some sections of the business world. If travel were free throughout the London area it would be no more expensive to shop in the centre than to shop locally, so the big West End stores would gain. If the cost fell on the rates then landlords and property-owners would be subsidising the big employers. Car manufacturers and road construction firms, too, would lose from a reform that discouraged the use of the motor car.

Within the context of capitalism any campaign for free transport would become a struggle between these various vested interests. If free transport ever comes it will be to serve such interests and not for the benefit of the wage and salary earners who use public transport. Nor is there any reason to expect the quality of the service to improve if fares were abolished, precisely because most passengers are workers.

There is nothing wrong with free transport as an idea. Far from it. Fares do restrict people’s freedom to travel; fare-collecting and ticket-issuing is a waste of manpower and machinery; transport in Socialist society will be run as a free service for people to use as and when they want to. But a distinction must be drawn between free transport as a reform within capitalism and free transport as part of Socialist society where all goods and services will be free.

Free transport under capitalism would be a deduction from wages and a subsidy for employers. Before people can benefit from it, the whole wages system must be abolished. The means of production must cease to be the class property of a privileged few and become the common property of the whole community. This, too, would create the framework within which the problem of the motor car and its pollution and destruction can be rationally tackled.

Once the means of production are the common heritage of all and are under democratic control, then the profit motive and the price system can be abolished. Wealth can be produced solely for people to use. People can have free access not only to travel facilities but to all the other things they need to live and enjoy life. Goods will not be priced, but will be available for all to take freely according to their needs.
Adam Buick

Congo Nationalism (1960)

Editorial from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa, it seems, is going to he in the news for a very long lime. The latest trouble spot is the Congo, where, after the attainment of independence from Belgian rule, there were riots which apparently involved murder and rape. One news agency has described Luluabourg, in Kasai, as like a “sea of flames.”

As a complication, the province of Katanga has declared its intention of remaining separate from the rest of the independent Congo. Katanga is an area possessed of tremendous mineral wealth—uranium, diamonds, zinc, iron, cobalt and copper are all there. Prior to independence, these resources were extensively worked by the powerful Union Miniere. If Katanga succeeds in asserting its independence, Union Miniere will probably be able to continue its operations; when this possibility became apparent, the company’s shares soared. The Congo as a whole has not for a long time been a profitable source of investment for Belgian capitalists and one of the few chances of recouping some of their losses lies in dealing with a separate state of Katanga.

The wealth of Katanga is vital to the Congo: it was intended that it should make the largest contribution to easing the new State’s economic difficulties. This is the sort of situation which has thrown up many a nationalist movement. Now, M. Tshombe has used the arguments of his rival M. Lumumba to work a double trick upon him —to build nationalism within nationalism. Even so, Katanga may have a hard time if it loses the services of the port of Matadi. If westward of Katanga there is a hostile Congo, M. Tshombe’s government may be forced to seek an outlet for the province’s commodities through the east coast ports of Dar-es-Salaam or Mozambique. Perhaps this is the basis of the rumours of a proposed alliance between Katanga and Ruanda Urundi.

The onlooking capitalist powers know that without Katanga, an independent Congo would be dangerously unstable. They also know that although this may suit some Belgian capitalists, it would not be acceptable to the other African states. Ghana is already showing a close interest in the dispute. Hence the concern of the United Nations and Mr. Hammerskjold’s warning of the danger of a war which may not he limited to the Congo.

All of this is sickeningly familiar. As the Congo struggles to establish itself among the other independent capitalist nations, so the problems of capitalism make themselves felt. The need to produce its goods as cheaply as possible and to sell them on the most favourable market —these will soon be the day-to-day concerns of the Congolese government and of any state of Katanga which may be set up. So also will the need to organise the most efficient exploitation of their workers. Already, the recent devaluation of the Congo franc is being interpreted as a measure to offset wage demands by the workers on the plantations. Doubtless, some of these workers will soon be organised into Congolese armed forces to protect the economic interests of their ruling class.

Much sympathy has been expressed for the victims of the riots and it is impossible to disagree with such sentiments. But this is not the first time that such things have been known in the Congo. It is only sixty years ago that the grisly excesses of the commissaries and agents of the Congo Free State were terrorising the natives. It is typically ironical that the victims of that savagery have not appreciated its futility and are consumed with the ambition for revenge. The Congolese, like so many others before them, have answered violence with violence.

The history of capitalism’s colonial powers is a horrifying story of brutal exploitation. Belgium has played her part in making that history. Yet the Congolese workers are wrong to believe that national independence is in their interests. As capitalism takes root in Africa, so will the social ailments of that system. The troubles in the Congo will probably be smoothed over but we know that they will be followed by others, perhaps somewhere else. For example, the Congo flared up just as the Nyasaland conference was nearing agreement in London. Where will the next eruption take place?

For this situation will last as long as the capitalist social system is in existence. The only way out is to establish Socialism, which will organise the world so that everyone, whatever their sex or colour of skin, has free access to the world's wealth and stands equally to the rest of humanity. There is no place for vicious exploitation in such a society.

That is the lesson for workers to learn, in Africa and all over the world.

Socialists and Day to Day Politics (1959)

Editorial from the May 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Other political parties are forever proclaiming their support for or opposition to some new proposal for changing the law. This is what day to day politics are made up of, and it is round these issues that elections are won and lost. The Socialist Party is unique in standing aside from that kind of contest. We fight elections solely on the demand for Socialism. We do not campaign for or declare our support of schemes of reform. We do not struggle to get this or that law amended or to prevent it from being amended.

Some workers who do not understand the Socialist case think that the Socialist Party’s attitude to reforms means standing aloof from the workers’ struggles. They are quite mistaken. It is a question of the Socialist being concerned with a different struggle, the fundamental struggle that has as its aim the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism.

The two aims cannot be combined. In order to achieve Socialism it is necessary to win over the workers of all countries to a recognition of the uselessness of trying to solve their problems by modifying Capitalism. What conviction would that message carry if the Party that preached it was at the same time telling the workers to postpone the idea of working for Socialism and devote themselves to working for reforms? Fifty years of Labour Party work for reforms has not brought Socialism one day nearer.

There is also a basically false idea behind working for reforms, the idea of rallying the supporters of Capitalism behind a proposal to reform Capitalism. To the Socialist, Capitalism is a class-divided social system; on the top side the owners of wealth and the means of producing and distributing wealth and under them the working class who produce the wealth. Any improvement that the working class may get under Capitalism they get at the expense of the propertied class.

The propertied class know this, hence their unceasing resistance to claims for higher wages; and every government knows this when it presses, as every government does, for “wage restraint.”

One factor there is that will move the propertied class to surrender some of their wealth. This factor is the growth of the Socialist movement. The Capitalists do not for long fear the leaders of reformist movements— they have been digesting them for generations. But when the Socialist movement grows in numbers, threatening the Capitalist class with the coming end of Capitalism, then the Capitalists will be anxious to make reform concessions, designed to gain a further lease of life for Capitalism by trying to entice the workers away from the Socialist movement. Paradoxical though it may seem to those who do not understand Capitalism, the policy of the Socialist, of standing uncompromisingly for Socialism, would incidentally induce the Capitalists to offer reforms, though their hope of thereby stopping the development of the Socialist movement would be an empty one.

Advertising: selling the system (1993)

From the December 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Statistics show that 85 percent of women have skin blemishes in one from or another . . .  All treatments at competitive prices" (advert in London Midweek).

"The ads have raised shamelessly corporate brainwashing to an entertainment art form" (unusually frank admission on Calgary Channel 7 TV).

Advertising is a central and indispensable feature of capitalism. Very obviously advertising aims to sell goods and services both to workers who collectively produce them and to capitalists who don’t but who have the money. Less obviously advertising seeks also to sell the system of which it is an integral part. In other words to convince us that to buy and sell things is the only possible way to run a society and meet our needs. Since capitalist industry is geared to mass production, time out for workers’ mass consumption is as much a necessity as their time in for production. We must be encouraged, even implored, to buy back what we produce. Need doesn’t count only purchasing power and the desire to purchase. Advertising offers itself as a means of efficiently creating consumers and controlling and consumption of products.

The goal of advertising has been stated as the creation of desires and habits. Desires are often not real needs, not things that enhance the quality of life, but "fancied needs", stupid but marketable items such as electric toothbrushes and expensive vacuum cleaners that get rid of invisible "bugs".

Advertising copy aims to make readers or viewers uneasy, to bludgeon them with the "fact" that decent people don’t live the way they do. Adverts constantly hammer away at everything that pertains to us: our bodily functions, our appearance, our self-esteem, and offer us something of theirs as an allegedly socially more acceptable substitute.

Satisfied customers are not as profitable as discontented ones. Advertising helps to make and keep us dissatisfied with our tasteless mode of life, discontented with the ugly things around us. There is something wrong with you, but help is at hand, the marketplace can offer you a solution to your problem. Not, of course, a complete or permanent solution because that would spoil the market for the next enterprising advertiser to minister to your other created wants.

S. Ewen, a pungent critic of advertising, writes:
"Advertising offers a commodity self; an appropriate popular, successful conglomeration of mass-produced breath, hair, teeth, skin and feet. Each portion of the body is to be viewed critically, as a potential bauble in a successful assemblage. You don't make friends, your commoditised smile ’wins’ them; your embellished hair, and not you. is beautiful."
In a society based on production for profit, not the meeting of need, advertising attempts to divert attention from what we can create and experience in co-operation with others anti towards what the market can supply us with at a price. We are invited to reject the possibility of an authentic life and to believe that we must accept a commoditised existence in the "real” world.

So there will be no advertising in socialist society, no market system to tell us what we want and sell things to us on its own terms. Production directly for use. for the satisfaction of self-determined but socially informed needs, will set the tone for the whole society. Advertising will be out. but information - fuller, fairer and without ulterior motive - will be in. We will want to know what society is capable of producing and we will want to know what people's needs are in relation to what society is capable of producing.

There is no reason why men and women should not be enthusiastic about, and therefore want to tell others about, what they can make or the services they can offer. Since time and effort are finite in any society we shall on occasion need some democratic mechanism to decide priorities. But such a mechanism w ill be a far cry from today's huckstering, class divided exploitative society. It really is time to see that capitalism has long passed its sell-by date.
Stan Parker

The Soul of Man (1993)

From the November 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few years ago I bought the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, which included an essay entitled "The Soul of Man under socialism". I was surprised to find that Wilde had political opinions as I was only familiar with Wilde the aesthete but this essay and his poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" showed his concern for the poor.

"The Soul of Man" was my first acquaintance with socialism and it was sometime before I became aware of the Socialist Party. At first I thought socialism meant the Labour Party (especially Tony Benn) but obviously now I realize how wrong this view is. Re-reading Wilde's essay shows that he equated socialism as a world without private property: "It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institutions of private property". He doesn’t state that socialism is a world without money, but as he so rightly criticizes charily we can assume he meant that the capitalist system should not be reformed only abolished: "Their remedies do not cure the disease; they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease".

Although written just over one hundred years ago it is remarkably apt for contemporary Britain as he says: "For what are called criminals nowadays are not criminals at all. Starvation, and not sin, is the criminals at all. Starvation, and not sin. is the parent of modem crime". This is far removed from the Victorian values which we still hear about, as is "sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less".

Anticipating criticism of this view, he says that "no Authoritarian Socialism will do", meaning it can’t be forced on people and can only be achieved when the majority want it:
"Socialism, Communism, or whatever, one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and ensure the material well-being of each member of the community."
This is as good a definition of socialism as we will find.

It is not just material well-being that socialism can bring but what Wilde calls individualism.

He waffles on about this a bit and about art but basically what he means is that each individual will be able to live fully meaningful and interesting lives. Under capitalism, this is only possible for a minority, in socialism everyone can fulfil their potential:
"One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all".
By "Soul of Man", I think Wilde meant the personality or "spirit” of humans which can be developed fully without the constraints of capitalist society. With the ending of war, hunger, poverty etc we can take for granted the material things of this world and concentrate on "not in what man has but in what man is".

Wilde sees machinery as vitally important for this type of society as it can do most, if not all, of the work, "At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man”. Wilde predicts that as machines will do the work this will leave man to enjoy:
“cultivated leisure - which, and not labour, is the aim of man - or making beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simply contemplating the world with admiration and delight."
Whilst a socialist world may still require plenty of useful work to be done, it is true that machinery can help humanity. Instead of studying new ways for us to kill each other, scientists can concentrate on developing things which would improve the quality of life for everyone. He sums up this view' with: "The state is to make what is useful. The individual is to make w hat is beautiful”.

Defining the State
He defines the state as "an association that will organize labour and be the voluntary manufacturer and distributor of necessary commodities”. To use the word state was a mistake as he didn't mean state as in government: "the state is not to govern”; therefore his "state" means humanity cooperating to provide what we need.

Despite certain reservations, this is still as a good an introduction to socialism, and is obviously still relevant today:
"They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not the solution; it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible."
Nigel Green

Cure for the fascist cancer (1993)

Editorial from the October 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is it about the BNP that makes most of us so sick to the stomach to think of it winning even a single council seat?

The BNP stands for the politics of hate and division. They hate blacks. They admire the Nazis’ attempt to wipe out the Jews. They despise homosexuals. They are unthinking, prejudiced bigots. They are only ever going to appear attractive to the embittered and the frustrated.

But they are a symptom, not a cause. It is all too easy to condemn the BNP, the NF and the assorted rag-bag of fascistic know-nothing nationalists and assume that enough has been said. The fascists are merely the flies which congregate upon the dung heap. Swat them and the stench of what gave rise to them still remains.

The BNP are not the only nationalists. All parties which tell voters that The Nation must be safeguarded are nationalists. The BNP encourages thugs who stab workers because of the colour of their skin. The Conservative government has an army filled with thugs who kill workers because of the flag they march under. Every government of the profit system condones the slaughter of workers by workers in the name of nationalism in time of war. Who are they to condemn the BNP?

The so-called anti-Nazis of the SWP give their support to fascistic nationalists in the IRA. They oppose giving a platform to the BNP but cheer "freedom fighters" who would blow up children in the name of "national liberation". Give all of these nationalists, however vile their talk and their deeds, the freedom to expose their obnoxious views in public. Do those who seek to ban them believe that workers are so stupid as to fall for fascist nonsense when it is countered in public by clear and logical opposition?

The few hundred deluded wage-slaves from the East End of London who gave the BNP their moment of victory last month are the products of a hope-crushing system of society called capitalism. Under this system profits always come before needs. So, houses which could be built to the highest standard for all the people are in short supply. The workers of the Isle of Dogs compete around the trough of poverty, blaming each other for getting too large a share of the squalid housing on offer.

In a sane society, where production is for use and not profit, people would not experience the falling out over who is to live in the impoverished environment of the slums - these would no longer exist.

The BNP is a product of the utter failure of all of the reformist parties - Tory, Liberal and Labour (backed up at election time by the SWP) - to make capitalism tolerable for workers to live in. Hopes have been frustrated to the point that the poison of cynicism has been imbibed. The same reformist failure has led to the same result, on a much wider scale, in France, and it is happening now in Germany. When capitalism not only fails to deliver the goods (as it inevitably does), but fails even to deliver the expectation that its promises will be met, nobody should be surprised that fascism is in the air.

The colour of workers’ skins is of no importance. Workers arc exploited because that is the only way for profits to be made - we are not exploited because of the colour of our skin or the colour of our eyes.

Workers have no country. We have a world to win. Only by rejecting the myths of national and racial identity can the world be won by and for all of its inhabitants. As knowledge of the real cause of our problems (capitalism) and the real basis of our strength (class unity) develop, the wretched appeal of the fascists will evaporate and the air will once and for all be cleared of the stench which has given rise to it.