Saturday, July 9, 2016

For Members Only (1952)

From the September 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man
Thus wrote Francis Bacon about the end of the 16th century.

Every year, the agenda for our annual conference carries a number of items for discussion. Any controversy that arises, whether it be a matter of internal organisation or the application of socialist principles to some problem of the moment finds its way into our conference room. There it gets analysed, investigated, debated and argued—to the full extent of the time available.

Every member of the party cannot be at the annual conference to hear or take part in the debates. Amongst those who do attend are many who would like to speak but are deterred by the limitation of time or their own failings as public speakers. Thus, many a valuable contribution may be lost to our discussions. We are going to remedy that.

Next month will appear the first issue of “Forum,” the S.P.G.B.’s internal journal. It will be the paper that hundreds of members have waited for. In it, any and every member of our party may express his point of view on the various controversial issues that arise in our ranks from time to time. The columns of “Forum” will be kept lively with the heat of debate as members flay the pants from one another in arguments and discussions. Out of the battles of ideas will emerge modified and clarified points of view. Here is our opportunity to become “Full,” “Ready,” and “ Exact.”

It is our intention to publish monthly, in this new journal, three or four feature articles expressing controversial points of view, written by their most able exponents. In following issues will appear replies from those who wish to pick up the gauntlet.

You, who have views on the advisability or otherwise of contesting parliamentary elections—here are bones for you to pick in the first issue of “Forum.” How many of you will want to have a crack at the author of "The Nature of the Socialist Revolution.” also to appear in issue number I? And the title, “Trade Unions,” will cover many of the much discussed issues that arise whenever the subject is broached amongst a group of S.P.G.B’ers.

In addition, we shall include items of party news, suggestions for reading and for study, and any matter that will be useful and interesting to members of our party.

Francis Bacon was a wise guy. He made some pithy remarks. Such as:
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
Forum” is going to be a paper that will be chewed, digested and enjoyed.

S.P.G.B’ers and members of Companion Parties overseas! You must not miss the first issue of our new paper. If you get hold of a later issue and find yourself in the middle of a red-hot discussion on a topic of vital interest, and you have missed the beginning, you’ll want to kick yourself. So make sure of No. 1. Send your order in at once. Order through your branch or take out a subscription. Do it now, or you may leave it too late.
Internal Party Journal Committee.

Fairly Equal (2016)

Book Review from the July 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

'The Great Divide', by Joseph Stiglitz. Penguin £10.99.

Stiglitz is a kind of dissident establishment economist, a Nobel Prize winner and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, yet who is in some ways at odds with conventional views. This volume consists of shortish essays from publications such as the New York Times and Vanity Fair, with some extra material. Most deal with the United States, but there is also some discussion of other countries, including China, Scotland and Mauritius.

The central theme is inequality and its consequences, though strangely there are no references to Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level. As an example of the extent of inequality, an article from 2012 notes that the family that owns Walmart has wealth of $90bn, equivalent to that of the poorest 30 percent of the US population. In three years of recession, median wealth declined by 40 percent, and workers are on average worse off than their parents were. In the first three years of the so-called recovery, 95 percent of the increase in income went to the top one percent. There is no equality of opportunity in the US either, as the life chances of a child are dependent on their parents’ income and education. The children of the poor suffer disproportionately from asthma and learning disabilities.

Among the consequences of a high degree of inequality are greater instability, lower growth and less aggregate demand. This is because the very rich consume less, as a fraction of their income, than lower-income individuals. So a less inegalitarian system would supposedly lead to a more buoyant economy and almost everyone being better off. Moreover, the current astonishing levels of inequality are not inevitable but the result of deliberate policies, including the growth in importance of the financial sector.

Stiglitz sees the present system as an example of ‘phoney capitalism’, where ‘losses are socialized and profits privatized’ and markets are not truly competitive (a position more usually associated with the ‘right’ than with the ‘left’). Corporate welfarism means the banks and so on are bailed out by the government, but those who own them still make big profits and their top bosses still get massive bonuses. He is particularly opposed to what economists term ‘rent seeking’, which includes preferential tax treatment, government subsidies and the profit from controlling a monopoly. It is a zero-sum activity, devoted to gaining a bigger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the economic pie, and just leads to an increase in wealth at the top of the scale.

As for the kind of society he wants instead, Stiglitz says we should choose both capitalism and fairness. He prefers a far more equal system and rejects austerity, which weakens demand and so discourages investment. Inequality stifles growth, and committing resources to education, infrastructure and technology will be a way of ‘putting America back to work’. With bland views like this, it is little wonder he is on the Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee (with Thomas Piketty).

One essay here is entitled ‘Of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent’. Nothing Stiglitz says suggests that he stands for a society where things will be different in any significant way from this.      Paul Bennett

Party News Briefs (1952)

Party News from the September 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Delegate Meeting will be held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, on Saturday and Sunday, September 6th and 7th, commencing each day at 11 a.m.

A Social and Dance will be held at Conway Hall on the Saturday evening commencing at 7 p.m. Full details regarding this appear elsewhere in this issue.

Indoor Propaganda Meetings will be held fortnightly at Denison House, Vauxhall Bridge Road, commencing Sunday evening, 5th October, at 7 p.m. Every effort will be made to ensure that these meetings are successful and members are urged to note the dates and interest as many as possible to attend. The hall is a pleasant one, easily accessible and has been booked until March, 1953, and affords an excellent opportunity and scope to propagate the Party’s case. Branches will be making their own arrangements to publicise these meetings as much as possible. The members who cannot attend branch meetings will be noting the dates in order to invite non-members to attend.

St Pancras Town Hall has been booked for a Sunday evening meeting on 12th October, when another Challenge meeting will be held, similar to the successful May Day Challenge meeting. Other political Parties have been invited to send a representative to address the meeting.
Phyllis Howard

To All Members: The Internal Party Journal (1952)

Party News from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Party members will know by now that the first issue of the Internal Party Journal is to appear in October. It will appear regularly each month. The decision arises directly out of the expressed wishes of Conference.

The committee responsible for the publication is governed by terms of reference laid down by the E.C. The matter to be published will include articles on controversial issues, educational matters, book notes and guidance on courses of study, letters from correspondents, and general information about the activities of Socialists at home and broad. Judging from letters from comrades abroad it seems that even E.C. reports are as welcome as refreshing rain in a desert. The Journal, we know, will be very welcome. A comrade from the U.S.A. writes that it is a “tremendous step forward," and expresses the opinion (and hope) that it will be open to contributions from comrades in the companion parties. We hope that the views and opinions of members of all the companion parties will find expression in the Journal, and that it will provide a new link between us all to help to break the remoteness of distance. The new venture will demonstrate that Socialist principles are the stronger where varying opinions about their interpretation and application can be argued out sincerely and without fear.

The first issue in October will contain, apart from other matter, four main articles: “The Nature of the Socialist Revolution,” “Is Parliament the Road to Socialism?” “Trade Unions,” “Is the Time Opportune for Socialists to Contest Parliamentary Elections? ” Each issue will contain main articles as well as correspondence dealing with previous articles.

The price of the Journal has initially been fixed by the E.C. at sixpence. Early reactions suggest that the demand will be good and the possibility of it being sold at a lower price or of producing a larger Journal is not ruled out. For the time being it will be a four-page production about twice the size of our Election Specials.

Branches are asked to give the effort their full support and to endeavour to contact each member with a view to selling a copy to each member. Branches are also asked to let H.O. know at the first opportunity the number they will require of the October issue. Comrades out of touch with branches are advised to take out a quarterly, six-monthly or an annual subscription and to write H.O. accordingly.

This is the paper the membership has asked for and it should be taken by the whole Party membership.

Party News Briefs: Provincial Propaganda, Islington and Forum (1952)

Party News from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Provincial Propaganda Tour. The Executive Committee have approved preliminary arrangements for a Provincial Propaganda Tour during August. Comrades Lawler, Coster, May and D’Arcy are visiting Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, and Comrade Cash is going to Glasgow for two weeks. Help from members in these districts will be welcome and we suggest that the secretaries of the branches concerned be contacted for further details.

It is hoped to send speakers to Nottingham for weekend meetings and following Comrade Lawler’s fortnight in Birmingham, to send week-end speakers from London to follow on.

Bloomsbury Branch will not be holding meetings during the month of August as Conway Hall will not be available. From Thursday, 4th September, the branch will hold its meetings on the first and third Thursdays in each month as ’ previously instead of weekly as at present

Islington Branch are holding a weekly Speakers’ Class under the guidance of Comrade F. Terry. Four meetings have already been held and the six members who have regularly attended have found the class interesting and instructive. The branch suggests that other branches might find the scheme worthy of consideration. 

Denison House Meetings. The Propaganda Committee have the Executive Committee’s approval of arrangements to hold fortnightly Sunday evening meetings at Denison House from October 5th to December 14th and then during the first three months in 1953. Bloomsbury, Ealing and Paddington Branches have already offered to assist in running these meetings and it is hoped that really good results will ensue.

St Pancras Town Hall—It was considered that the May Day Challenge meeting at St. Pancras Town Hall was a success and arrangements are in hand to book the same Hall for a similar type of meeting for Sunday evening, October 12th. When dans are more advanced details will appear in the Socialist Standard

The Internal Party Journal. Members’ attention is drawn to the notice elsewhere in this issue announcing the launching of the new Internal Party Journal in October. This is something that has been “in the air” for a long while and now that it is shortly to appear it is up to all who are interested to give it full support. A lot depends on effective planning in advance of the first issue, and members will greatly help this work by making their decision about getting it as soon as possible.
Phyllis Howard

Party News Briefs: Summer School and Ealing (1952)

Party Notes from the July 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Head Office Forum will be held on Saturday, July 12th, at 7 p.m., subject, “Socialism in Backward Countries.” Forum is to consist of Comrades F. Evans, D. Fenwick, C. Groves, G. McClatchie and W. Read. A. Turner will take the chair. This should prove a very interesting discussion so please make a note of the date and time.

Summer School Week-end was held on Saturday and Sunday, June 8th, and 9th, at “Treetops,” Farley Green, Surrey. Sixty members and friends were present and despite showers on the Sunday, all appeared to have enjoyed the week-end. F. Evans gave a lecture on Economic Geography and a discussion was opened by A. Turner on “Socialist Propaganda—is our approach too Negative?”

A Social was held on Saturday evening. All expenses were met with £1 surplus.

It is hoped to arrange an autumn week-end school at “Treetops,” and if members who are interested would contact the Central Organiser it will enable him to make preliminary arrangements as a minimum number of visitors must be ensured before he can book the camp.

Provincial Propaganda,—The Executive Committee is making arrangements for a comrade to visit the Manchester/Liverpool area for four weeks in August. It is also hoped to run regular fortnightly meetings at Nottingham throughout the summer. The meetings already held there have proved most satisfactory. 

Ealing Branch is slowly but surely increasing its efforts after a period of comparative inactivity. At the time of writing three debates are due to take place, one of which is in June with the Ealing North Liberals. The other two come later in the year with the Peace Pledge Union and George Schwarz, of the Sunday Times.

Members are once more rallying in support of the outdoor stations at Ealing and Richmond. This year’s season has had an encouraging commencement with good results. It is also proposed to hold two seaside propaganda trips, one of which is to Southsea on June 22nd, and the other to Hastings on August 17th. Ventures of this sort have in the past proved very fruitful, some excellent meetings having been held.

Just recently the monthly canvass of the Socialist Standard has been recommenced with promising results to date. Efforts are also being made to get the sales of the Party’s journal boosted in local newsagents and outside railway stations.
Phyllis Howard