Friday, March 31, 2017

Words and Deeds (1923)

From the January 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The time for words is past: now is the time for action.” This is an indispensable aid to the Labour speaker. Introduced with fervour at an appropriate moment by one of the "Billy Sundays” of the movement it never fails to bring the roof down. Any novice at a loss for something useful to say, on any Labour platform, in any quarter of the globe, can depend upon it for “loud and prolonged applause.” The effect of its delivery to an open-mouthed audience of several thousands in the Albert Hall, by that platform acrobat, Tom Mann, is truly wonderful. Don’t imagine, however, that it is something new. George Lansbury has been saying it as regularly as clockwork for twenty years for more; Tom Mann is now over seventy, and it must have been a commonplace with him in his early twenties; and no doubt Moses, by whom he sets his course, was hurling it at the murmuring Israelites in Egypt and in the Desert. Throughout the ages, and in any place where glib tongues have had foolish listeners, this shabby half-truth has been doing service.

Its very use is a denial of its accuracy; for if words were valueless these orators should not orate, and Tom Mann ought to give his gymnastic displays without marring them with speech. Again, to be precise, speech is a form of action. However, let us consider what is intended by those who use this phrase.

Do they mean that any action, just action itself is desirable? Obviously not, for the “actionists” are particularly loud and wordy in their denunciation of those workers, who as police and soldiers, under Government instruction, break the heads and scatter the brains of unemployed demonstrators. Clearly the kind of action is important, and we immediately find that the “actionists,” apart from numerous subdivisions, are divided by a theoretical difference into two main groups. On the one hand are the "realists,” the painstaking, sane and safe plodders of the Labour Party, whose "action” takes the form of administering capitalist laws on national and local governing bodies. They are oppressed with a sense of their responsibility and the need to go slow. They have heaps of fine ideals, but relegate them to the distant future, and devote themselves entirely to “practical” politics.

The other group are the Communists. They are in a hell of a hurry. They are incurably romantic, and aim at living dangerously. They scan the political horizon anxiously, searching for a cloud “the size of a man’s hand” which shall be the sign of the revolutionary crisis. They are like the Adventists, living in momentary expectation of the second coming of Christ; and they have some hopes. They resemble the other group only in this, that both of them are believers in doing things, and are infinitely contemptuous of mere theorising. Their actions, judged by results, are not brilliantly successful. They are always “turning over new leaves,” “formulating new programmes,” ‘‘moving with the times,”' and “learning from past mistakes.” The second of their immutable principles is summed up in another misleading saying, that “people who never make mistakes never make anything.”

The chief activity of the reactionary actionists, between 1914 and 1919, was supporting the war. They didn’t want the workers to have knowledge of Socialism, they wanted them to have practical skill in bayonet thrusts and the like; but there was a curious unwillingness to lead on the part of the hot-air leaders. Almost without exception, they were busy telling the workers to go and fight; but were not able to go themselves. Perhaps, this was due to their modesty.

In fact, on closer examination, the activities of this school appear to be mainly talk. They talk on Parish Councils, on Borough Councils, on County Councils, and in the House of Commons. The Labour leaders talk war in war-time, and peace in peacetime ; they talk big to their office staffs and they talk small at the King’s Garden Parties, they talk slop at brotherhood meetings and wildly at Congress. They never talk Socialism.

The other actionists took the field in earnest when the Russian upheaval occurred. They saw red revolution everywhere. They talked about it, and urged other people to begin it; except when they were run in. Then they assured his honour that there was a mistake somewhere, and appeared to be trying to give the impression that they were only collecting souls for Jesus, or something equally harmless. This they call tactics. Some people believe that the workers will be emancipated by tactics.

There was a constant stream of them travelling to Moscow to tell Lenin that England was hovering on the brink of revolution: none of them ever thought of doing a good deed by pushing her over. This may have been more tactics.

In those days they used to tell the tale about Communism in Russia. As this didn’t quite square with theory, and although they don’t believe in theories, they condescended sufficiently to try to show how Russia unaided could jump from Feudalism to Socialism. They did this in order to explain the fact. Of course, the fact never existed, and in due course Moscow permitted them to say so. Then they laid the blame on the apathy of the workers in West Europe, but Zinoviev has now unkindly exploded. this. A correspondent of the Observer writes (November 19th, 1922) :—
“Very significant also was Zinoviev’s speech at Petrograd at the opening of the Congress, which contradicted the popular Bolshevik theory that the New Economic Policy is due chiefly to the postponement of world-revolution. ‘We are now aware,’ said Zinoviev, ‘that the New Economic Policy was inevitable for Russia, even despite a successful world-revolution.’ ”
Nevertheless, these actionists are still “proving” their unsound theory. 

In practice, all the actionists talk and write just as we do. They do not act, because the capitalists won’t let them. They have, however, two distinct ways of looking at this fact. The Communists pretend not to see it, and by keeping up a terrific clamour of words they succeed for a time in persuading those who don’t know, even many of the master class, that they are making things hum.
The Labour Party, somewhat wiser in its generation, only chooses to do those things the capitalists permit. This keeps them frightfully busy, and although the products of their activity are nil, because the concessions they get are only those the capitalists would give anyway, they appear to be getting somewhere. This kind of people, now in the Labour Party, and previously as Liberals, have been doing their practical work for half a century, and except that the workers' position is getting steadily worse, they don’t seem to have reached anywhere in particular.

The capitalist class are able to prevent any action useful to the workers and dangerous to themselves, because they control the force which is the deciding factor. The Army and Navy, the police and the law are at their disposal. The power to control these forces is theirs, because their agents are elected to the House of Commons, the central governing body. These agents are elected by the workers. The workers elect capitalist agents because they want Capitalism and not Socialism. They do not want Socialism because they do not understand it. Conditions produced by capitalist developments are preparing the minds of the workers, but they will not obtain an intelligent grasp of socialist principles except through the spoken and written word.

We, and both schools of actionists, are engaged mainly in talking and writing; but we talk Socialism, they do not.

When the workers understand Socialism they will take the direct and simple steps necessary to give them control of the political machinery of society for the purpose of introducing Socialism. Until that time, the only useful action possible is the act of speaking and writing about Socialism.

We are Socialists.

We preach Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Exhibition Review: Art of Solidarity - Cuban Posters for African Liberation 1967-1989 (2017)

Exhibition Review from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
Cuban poster art
Art of Solidarity: Cuban Posters for African Liberation 1967-1989, International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, 13 January to 18 June 2017
‘Art of Solidarity’ is an exhibition of thirty two rarely-seen posters produced by Cuban group ‘Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (OSPAAAL)’. Posters were created using an offset method and silk screen techniques combining art, photographs and text. Each colour required a day to dry. Quite correct is the comment that ‘This created posters with striking images and strong political messages.’
It slightly glibly goes on to say ‘Designers used the imagery of both traditional and modern weapons to symbolise resistance and political power … Every poster by female artist Berta Abelenda Fernandez includes some sort of weapon from spears to bazookas often in a witty unexpected way.’ OSPAAAL itself used the logo of a clenched fist around a rifle.
‘Solidarity can mean many things ranging from military support to foreign aid. In the 1970s and 1980s, Fidel Castro sent over 60,000 troops, advisors and doctors to seventeen African nations in support of various liberation movements in Angola’, claims one description, adding ‘solidarity can also be expressed through public support, for example, posters’ and the critical role played by Cuba in ending apartheid. These definitions (of ‘solidarity’ and ‘liberation’) and connections might be more ambiguous than is implied here.
On the more unambiguous and positive side, and in contrast to Stalin’s enforcement of the ‘socialist realism’ art style, was Fidel Castro’s encouragement in 1977: ‘Our enemy is imperialism, not abstract art.’ And one writer notes that in the Cuban posters, ‘There are few examples of hero worship unlike Mao in China or Lenin in the Soviet Union.’ Writer Lincoln Cushing comments ‘the non-commercial mass poster was the direct fruit of this revolution, a conscious application of art in the service of social improvement.’ It would be hard to disagree that Cuban poster art was anything but flourishing, if the claim elsewhere that Cuba produced some twelve thousand posters specifically means differing designs rather than just prints.
Cuba’s historical links with Africa were real, as during the transatlantic slave trade some half a million Africans were transported to Cuba. There was also a respect artistically, that meant many posters incorporate cultural objects or references dispelling the idea that Africa had no history, art or civilisation prior to European contact. Posters were produced for Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Guinea and Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. However, it would be remiss not to mention here that multiple military interventions were made by Cuba in more than one African country.
Should you visit the exhibition, then plan to spare an hour for the film screening (on a loop) ‘Cuba: An African Odyssey’ (directed by El Tahri) and visit on one of the days of the free events (20/3, 13/4, 1/5, 15/5, 5/6). More images of these posters and information can be found in the book ‘Revolution: Cuban Poster Art’ (2003) and the website
As a final comment, as the influential African intellectual, the late Amílcar Cabral said on revolution in Africa: we do not want exploitation, even by black people.

Labour Government, Strikes and Arbitration (1947)

Editorial from the February 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The road haulage strike, which lasted for some ten days in the early part of January, brought out clearly the false position of the Labour Government and the impracticability of its policy.

Having undertaken the running of the capitalist system, the Labour Government is finding that it has got to do it in the only way it can be done. Capitalism will only work if the Capitalists can see the prospect of making a profit, so, in disregard of years of vaguely anti-capitalist propaganda, the Labour Government has had to come out in support of the "profit motive.” Having claimed it would raise wages, it urges the unions not to make wage claims, lest profits should all be swallowed up. It declared for shorter hours, but now says the time is inopportune. It condemned the use of troops in strikes, and has twice used them since it came to power. It declared that under Labour Government strikes were unnecessary because "impartial arbitration” would give all the workers wanted, but has repeatedly seen the workers defying unsatisfactory arbitration awards.

On the use of troops in strikes it is only necessary to recall the motion put forward by the Labour Party in Parliament on May 12th, 1939.

Moved by Mr. Shinwell, a Minister in the present Government, the motion would have freed conscripts from the obligation to “take duty in aid of the civil power in connection with a trade dispute, or to perform, in consequence of a trade dispute, any civil or industrial duty customarily performed by a civilian in the course of his employment.”

Faced with the road haulage strike, the Government used large bodies of troops to do the work of the strikers. Mr. Strachey, erstwhile left-winger and critic of the Labour Party, had the duty, as Minister of Food, of issuing the statement about the use of the troops. He assured the strikers that in using troops he was "not interfering in this industrial dispute” (Daily Express, 11/1/47) and hoped that the workers would not mind. That they did mind very much was soon shown by the fact that men not directly involved in the dispute stopped work as a protest, and by January 15th 35,000 road haulage strikers had been joined by 21,000 sympathetic strikers (Daily Express, 16/1/47).

Government spokesmen and the Capitalist Press made the usual reproach that the strike inflicted hardship on other workers. It certainly did, but then so does every strike in greater or less degree. If the argument is accepted as an over-riding objection it rules out all strikes; but what, then, is meant by the Labour Party’s own claim that it defends the right to strike?

One curious criticism of the strikers was made by the Manchester Guardian, which argued that the men’s grievances "are not substantial,” and “ there is no question of poverty or oppressive conditions of work ” (14/1/ 47). But if the matter in dispute was small, why did not the employers and the Wages Board and the Government promptly concede it? What about their responsibility for indicting suffering over a trivial matter? We can also imagine what the criticism would have been if the men had struck for something really substantial. Then the critics would have got hot under the collar about "unreasonable demands.” 

The Daily Herald did not agree with the Guardian. Their line (10/1/47) was that the strike was “a boiling over of bad blood which has existed for a long time; bad blood created by bad conditions of employment”; hut, argued the Herald, the men should have obeyed the Minister of Labour’s appeal "to go back to work at once and abide by the decision of the Board, with the assurance that it will be reached on the basis of a fair and impartial hearing of their claims.” This argument will not stand a moment’s examination. As the Board had already rejected the main claim and given what the Herald described as "only minor but nevertheless valuable concessions,” what reason could there have been for supposing that a re-hearing of the claim would have any other result, but for the pressure brought to bear by the strike? If the second hearing would have been different from the first, how “fair and impartial” was the first? Events proceeded to blow the Herald's case sky-high, for the men did not go back until a new, quicker-working Joint Industrial Council had been set up to short-circuit the Wages Board.

Lack of space precludes further comments. We will deal more fully with arbitration later. For the moment it is sufficient to say that the whole idea of arbitration as a substitute for strikes is based on an illusion, as the Herald itself once clearly realised. In an editorial (12/4/1924) the Herald pointed out that, "so long as the wage system exists,” and whether the workers are employed by a private employer of by the State, their capacity to "sell their labour-power . . . at a fair price depends on their capacity, through their trade unions, to refuse to work.”

The road haulage strike is just a further pointer to the impossibility of Labourism.

The American Miners' Strike (1947)

Editorial from the January 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Lesson for Industrial Actionists
There never was a better time than the present for the American miners to demonstrate just how much effect a strike can have. With little unemployment and an almost unlimited demand for coal they were as favourably placed as they have ever been or are likely to be. Yet they failed. They came out on strike to the number of some 400,000 on November 20th, and they remained out for 16 or 17 days, though towards the end the American Government claimed that the miners were drifting back to work in considerable numbers. When they returned to work it was on the same terms as when they came out.

The mines, though privately owned, have been operated by the American Government since last spring. John L. Lewis, the Miners’ leader, was demanding that the miners should receive for 40 hours’ work the same pay as they are at present getting for 54 hours, to compensate for the increased cost of living. Mr. Arthur Webb, American correspondent of the Daily Herald (November 21st, 1946), cabled:—“The Government wants to force Lewis to keep the men working and to enter negotiations with the mineowners for a revised contract, although the pits are still being run by the State. But Lewis says that the Government must agree to his terms before it hands the mines back to private enterprise.”

At that time, when the strike was just beginning, Mr. Webb was vastly impressed by the power of Lewis and the miners: “ For although the United States boasts that it is a Republic, it is still ruled by ‘King Coal’—and Lewis is the man behind the throne.” 

What was it then that caused this potentate to surrender? He surrendered to those who really govern America, the ruling class who are in possession of the machinery of government—the Democratic Party President, and the Republicans who gained a majority in the recent election and who backed the President’s action against the miners.

The strike is the workers’ only weapon under capitalism, a useful weapon but strictly limited when it meets the power of those who control the State. The President had applied for, and obtained, a court injunction holding that Lewis’s action in calling the strike was illegal. The court sharply backed up its order by fining Lewis £2,500 and his union £875,000 for contempt of court.

Faced with this what did the “man behind the throne” do? He paid the £2,500 into court and his union paid the £875,000 into court (Daily Herald, December 12th, 1946). And the next day, without consulting the miners, he ordered them back to work at least until March 31st, so that negotiations can go on with the Government or with the owners. In the letter to his members he informed them that the union representatives would “act in full protection of your interests within the limitations of the findings of the Supreme Court of the United States” (Observer, December 8th, 1946, italics ours). Political power had defeated industrial action.

The emancipation of the working class will not come by industrial action but only by gaining control of the machinery of government, through the vote, for the purpose of abolishing capitalism and establishing Socialism. The American workers, like the workers everywhere have not yet learned this lesson. At the recent American elections the great majority of them, being non-Socialists, voted for the two parties of capitalism, Republicans and Democrats. Neither represents working-class interests, though the self-styled leaders of the workers pretend that one party is less “reactionary” than the other and more deserving of support by the workers. Many trade unions helped the Democrats in the elections, while others helped the Republicans. The “Call" organ of the reformists “ Socialist Party,” offered as one reason why the Democrat, President Truman, went all out to break the strike that he was emboldened to do so by the recent electoral victory of his political opponents, the Republicans (“Call,” New York, November 25th, 1946). Yet Lewis, as the Daily Herald reports (November 21st, 1946), himself supported the Republicans and helped them to victory. It illustrates on the one side how the capitalists in rival parties unite when it is a question of defending their interests against the workers, and on the other the futility of the workers voting their exploiters into power in the hope that they will share in the benefits of their masters’ electoral victories.

No Alternative (2017)

Book Review from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

'S.O.S. Alternatives to Capitalism'. By Richard Swift. (New Internationalist Publications. 2016)

In this revised, second edition one-time editor of the New Internationalist Richard Swift surveys various attempts to counter capitalism over the years. He begins with USSR-style state capitalism (which he misleadingly calls state socialism) and Social Democrat parliamentary reformism. Of the former he makes the point that:
‘In retrospect it could easily be claimed that orthodox state communism was not really an alternative to capitalism at all but merely a transitional form of it that allowed certain large ‘backward’ societies, hitherto blocked in their development path, to move towards their own peculiar model of autocratic capitalism.’
As to the Social Democrats and Labourites, they evolved as mere alternative managers of traditional-style capitalism.

He goes on to dismiss Marxists for still talking about the class struggle, anarchists for living in the past, and Italian autonomists for being too vague (he could have added for being incomprehensible). What he likes are movements in the South (Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil) and indigenous communities resisting the impact of capitalism.

Despite the title, most of the book is taken up with describing opposition rather than alternatives to capitalism, and not so much to capitalism as such but to ‘untrammelled’, ‘rapacious’ and ‘unregulated’ capitalism. It is not until page 156 out this 184-page book that he makes the point that ‘people need to know what you are for rather than just what you are against.’

A valid point but, as in so many books like this, what is proposed is disappointing. In Swift’s case, ‘degrowth’ (reducing production and consumption), ‘bringing finance under control’, and a universal guaranteed minimum money income. There is no understanding that, to be able to control ‘growth’, whether to stop, increase, or re-orient it towards meeting needs – and to end what he had earlier called experiencing ‘the economy as a kind of external force disconnected from human will’ – ownership of the means of production will have to pass to society as a whole, with the consequent disappearance of the market and market forces.

All Swift comes up with about ownership of means of production is vague talk about co-operatives operating within a system where there is still finance and money incomes – which wouldn't really be an alternative to capitalism.
Adam Buick

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Must We Do? (1990)

Editorial from the August 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Something is clearly wrong with the world. We exist as isolated atoms forced to compete in a rat-race to obtain money to buy what we must have to live. There is no real sense of community, because we are not a community but a class-divided society. What people get depends on how much money they have. The rich get the best that money can buy while the rest of us have to put up with what we can afford out of our wage packet or salary cheque—if we have one that is; otherwise we are even worse off.

Problems abound. People are homeless or live in substandard accommodation while building workers are unemployed and construction materials pile up. People starve in one part of the world while farmers in another are paid to take land out of food production. Every day somebody is killed in one of the wars which are always going on somewhere. The major powers have stockpiled enough weapons to destroy humanity many times over. The air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink have all been contaminated or poisoned in one way or another by the processes employed by industry and agribusiness, while global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer, resulting from these same processes, threaten humanity with an alternative sticky end to nuclear annihilation.

All these problems have a single cause; the wages-profits-money system that is capitalism under which production is in the hands of competing, profit-seeking enterprises, whether these be privately or state owned. Those concerned about these problems should be working to eliminate their cause rather than on trying to deal with the symptoms. They should be working to build up a movement to take democratic action to replace capitalism with socialism. Not the fake socialisms that have been tried by Labour governments or in Russia but socialism in its true, original sense of a democratic system of co-operation to produce goods and services solely to satisfy needs not make profits. Within this framework of common ownership and democratic control these problems can be solved once and for all for the simple reason that there will be no built-in obstacles in the way of doing so—such as the need to minimise costs so as to maximise profits.

Attempting to deal piecemeal with one of the symptoms while leaving the cause intact—which is what organisations like CND, Friends of the Earth, Shelter, Help the Aged, War on Want and the others are engaged in—can never solve the particular problem they have targetted. At best, it can only alleviate it a little, for some of the victims. At worst, it delays the solution by encouraging the illusion that the problem could be solved within the present system.

Single-issue organisations are engaged in a never-ending battle to try to limit the damage done in one particular field by the profit system. But this is like running up a downward-moving escalator where "success" consists in staying in the same position rather than slipping backwards. This is sticking- plaster politics when what is required is radical surgery.

The solution lies in establishing a system of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by all the people. This is the only framework within which humans can control their own destiny instead of being dominated by some privileged elite or by the blind economic forces of the market. The technical means already exist to provide every man, woman and child on this planet with proper food, clothing, shelter, health-care and education. What stands in the way is the profit system. So let's get rid of it and achieve a world without hunger, poverty, pollution, war, oppression or exploitation—a world of co-operation, peace and plenty.

From SDP to SDP (1990)

From the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once upon a time a bunch of dull politicians had a dream. They were going to “break the mould” of British politics. They would create a "sensible" political party which would be neither left nor right, but would offer all things to all voters. They were “moderate” politicians, not "extremists". By this they meant that they would not be so fanatical as to allow principles to get in the way of their quest for power. The political "experts" had an instant love affair with these very “sensible” politicians. The BBC and ITV commentators never ceased to sing the praises of this “sensible" new party, the SDP.

The SDP won millions of votes from workers who were sick of the two main parties. Many voted for it with blind faith in its promise of something different. These gullible people were to be sorely disappointed. The SDP was just like the other parties. Last month the SDP shut up shop, buried in the rubble of its monumental promises to make politics look different. In reality, the SDP stood for the running of the capitalist system, claiming that it could run the market more efficiently than Thatcher’s Tories. The SDP was a Tory party with an arrogant doctor instead of an arrogant Prime Minister as its leader.

Writing in the Guardian on 30 May. Eric Heffer MP stated that “Labour has now become the SDP Mark 2". We shall leave Mr Heffer to state why he supports such a party while claiming to be a socialist. He might like to consult Tony Benn MP who has admitted that the recent Labour Policy Review document, upon which the next Labour manifesto will be based, is a thoroughly anti-socialist statement.

To the Socialist Party the political logic is clear: the SDP was a Tory Party Mark 2; the Labour Party is now an SDP Mark 2: it therefore follows that the Labour Party is simply another version of the Tory Party. Just as a vote to make Owen Prime Minister was no different from a vote for Thatcher, it is quite clearly the case that a vote for Kinnock is exactly the same as a vote for Thatcher. The victory of a Labour government in the next election will be a victory for the continuation of the market system—of profit before human needs.

Socialists can only be encouraged by the demise of the SDP. With that party has died the fraudulent claim that there is a cosy middle ground between naked, ruthless capitalism and the socialist alternative. Now the Labour Party—or, the “new” Labour Party as it likes to be called—is doing its utmost to revive that pernicious claim. Labour presents itself as the comforting, undisruptive, moderate party which can be trusted to look after Great Britain PLC on behalf of all the people, workers and capitalists.

Do not be deceived: there is only one way to run the profit system and that is with callous indifference to the misfortune of those who must be poor so that the capitalist class can be rich. The Kinnock mob, if they get their hands on power, will be loyal servants of the millionaire class and that will make them enemies of the wealth-producing majority.

As Owen climbs from the ruins of his own political failure he has more than a slight smile on his face. Just as one SDP is buried a new one has come to life in the form of the remodelled Labour Party. There is only one way to knock the smile off the faces of the two-headed Owen-Kinnock monster and that is for workers to refuse to squander their votes on such reformist opportunists and instead unite consciously and democratically for socialist revolution and nothing less.

Return of Labour? (1990)

Editorial from the May 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are memories so short? Or is that Thatcher has become so unsupportable that people will vote for anything just to get rid of her? Whatever the reason, the opinion polls confirmed by recent Labour electoral victories seem to be suggesting that another Labour government is a real possibility. 

As those who remember the Wilson and Callaghan prime ministerships of the 1960s and 1970s can testify, Labour governments have always ended up administering capitalism according to its rules. Attacks on workers as greedy wreckers for going on strike, anti-union laws, troops as strike-breakers, benefit cuts, hospital closures, unemployment, poverty and homelessness are not just features of recent Tory rule. They were features of Labour rule too—because, in the end, the capitalist profit economy forces governments to dance to its tune, by putting profits before people's needs. Capitalism controls governments, not the other way round.

Capitalism can only work as a profit system against the interests of the wage and salary earning majority. Any party which takes on responsibility for governing capitalism has sooner or later to recognise this. The Tory party always has, even when not in power. In the past Labour politicians have generally learned the hard way: by experiencing the failure of their reformist attempts, when in office, to make capitalism work other than as a system where profits come, and must come, first. Today's Labour Party, however, is no different from the Tories in recognising, even when not in office, that capitalism is a profit-driven, market-oriented economy that must be allowed to operate as such.

Just before last year's Labour Conference, John Smith, the shadow Chancellor, gave a remarkably frank television interview in which he made it absolutely plain that if Labour came to power again it would impose tough spending controls: priority would be given to restoring the profitability and competitiveness of capitalist industry. "If that means we have to postpone some of our social ambitions, then we may have to do so . . . We're all agreed that we cannot spend what we have not earned and we intend to earn it before we spend it. That will be the guiding light of the next Labour government" (BBC “On the Record”, 1 October 1989).

Since then Smith, in a bid to convince the capitalists that their interests will be safe in Labour hands, has taken this message directly to the City. Labour, he told one meeting of investment bankers, was determined to "maintain a responsible fiscal policy with prudent control over public finances, spending only as resources allow and as the economy can afford”. If resources were not available, "we have to scale down our spending” (Independent, 23 February).

So nobody should entertain the illusion that Labour will restore the cuts in spending on social and public services made under the Tories. We are being told that that will have to wait till profit levels have been restored. In the meantime, it's to be austerity as usual. Jam tomorrow, as it always is under capitalism, but never today.

Smith even said that there would be "no dashes for growth" under another Labour government. “Chancellors should be more concerned to avoid mistakes than engineer the miraculous. Economic management is largely about avoiding unnecessary shocks”. In other words, a future Labour government will aspire merely to hold the ring while capitalist businesses get on with making profits. No wonder the bankers were reported to have been impressed. This is what they were used to hearing from Tory politicians.

Smith is not just expressing a personal opinion, but official Labour policy summed up by Kinnock as "making the market economy work better than the Tories”. The “market economy" is a euphemism for capitalism, and capitalism can only work as a profit system. Making capitalism work means ensuring that priority is given to profit-making. The Tories have always understood this. Now Labour has too. Their policies have become indistinguishable from those of the Tory wets. In fact Kinnock, Smith, Hattersley and the others are Tory wets in all but name. Which means that the return of a Labour government would have even less significance than in the past. This time it would represent a mere palace revolution amongst open supporters of capitalism. Like Heseltine replacing Thatcher. Tweedledum taking over from Tweedledee.

Why capitalism must go (1991)

Editorial from the October 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in a world dominated by capitalism. A tiny minority—the international capitalist class—between them own and control all the major productive resources of society, the land, mines, factories, machinery, transport, media, communications, and the goods and services which these resources are capable of turning out. The task of actually producing this social wealth, however, is carried on by those on the other side of the class divide: the world working class, the vast majority who, because we are excluded from any significant ownership of the productive forces, must work for the capitalists for a wage or a salary in order to live.

The wages system is a form of rationing which limits our access to the wealth we collectively as a class have produced. In the long run our wages are eaten up in the struggle to make ends meet, which means we have to continually find or stay in employment—or stretch our meagre dole cheques—to try and support ourselves and our families.

The basic contradiction of capitalism is that whilst wealth production today is a globally inter-related activity carried out by millions of workers, who alone run society from top to bottom, the social relationships of class ownership restrict and subordinate our common social needs to the impersonal dictates of the market. With modern productive methods, such as computers and information technology, the world now has the potential to provide more than adequately for the material needs of the whole global population and to ensure a satisfying and creative life for us all. Yet if we look at the TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper, what do we continually see?

Vast social inequality and discontent; grinding poverty alongside conspicuous plenty; thousands of our fellow humans dying daily of starvation with millions more undernourished or in refugee camps; slums and dereliction in the inner cities; the chronic wastage and misuse of resources; the never-ending human cost of the ravages of war; the devastation of communities; the turning of workers into highly efficient killing machines; the ignorance and bigotry of racial hatred and nationalism.

Throughout the history of the capitalist system attempts have been made to address these problems, but today the problems are if anything greater than ever. For example, that of people dying from hunger in one part of the world, while in another part food is stockpiled or farmers are paid not to grow it because it can't be sold profitably. Socialists say that this and the many other social problems are the inevitable consequences of production for profit instead of human need, and that only a world socialist system of society can provide the framework for solving these problems by removing their basic cause once and for all.

We put forward the revolutionary proposition that everything in and on the Earth should become the common property of the whole worlds population, without distinction of race, sex or ability; that society should be run by and in everyone’s interest; and that the production of useful wealth should be directly determined by our common social needs and freely available to all without any market mechanism. It means a society where classes no longer exist because we would all have equal access to and control over the means for satisfying our needs. It means the end of national frontiers and governments, the end of wars and social conflict, and the start of a truly global society of harmony and co-operation with all our rich human diversity.

To give money or to abolish money? (1991)

Editorial from the June 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are being bombarded by pleas to part with pennies and pounds. Millions are dying. Over 125,000 Bangladeshis have been killed and a staggering ten million are now homeless. The suffering defies imagination. We are asked to donate money. In Africa the famine has become greater than it was in the disastrous mid-80's. 27 million might starve to death, half of them children. So, could we send some money? The Kurds, refugees from the ruthless Iraqi dictatorship, are freezing and starving. Jeffrey Archer organises a pop concert and we are asked to give money.

Money is not the solution. Starving people cannot eat money. Money is a feature of the property system that causes poverty.

In Africa they are starving because money exists. Crops must be produced to be sold for cash. The African farmers are part of the world capitalist system which tosses them crumbs with one hand and sends in the debt collectors to recover the loans from banks with the other.The civil war in Ethiopia, which makes worse the effects of the famine, is about which group of capitalists will control which territory.

“BANGLADESH'S REAL TRAGEDY IS POVERTY”. This headline appeared in the Guardian newspaper on 3 May. Those who died in the floods did so because they had to live on the most dangerous land.The Guardian quotes Dr Allister McGregor of Bath University: “These people are the very poorest, and they take the biggest risk. It is like living next to a precipice. If there is a flood, they are the ones who pay the highest price.They are constrained by their own poverty”.

Poverty is not a natural phenomenon. It is the result of a society where a small minority own and control the resources of the Earth and the vast majority must pay to have access to what is not ours. For millions who cannot pay anything at all the consequence is abject destitution and mass deaths. They are killed by the profit system.

Earlier this year the capitalist powers went to war over the control of oil. Many millions of pounds were raised. They orchestrated one of the most logistically sophisticated movements of armed men and women in military history. The task of killing Iraqis was completed in a highly scientific fashion. But when it comes to dealing with famine and disaster such skills are conspicuously absent. The charities call for greater “political will” to help the suffering. What they do not understand is that more important than the decisions of politicians are the calculations of economists, and the fact is that feeding the starving is not profitable.

The humanitarian concern of many workers shows that we are not the heartless beings that the “human nature” myth portrays us as. In fact, most of us hate to see our fellow humans suffer. Vast amounts of money are collected by charities. This may convey the illusion that something is being done. In reality, it is a drop in an ocean of unstoppable despair. Capitalism without pitiful poverty is not on the agenda.

In a world based on production for use all of the efficiency currently dedicated to industrial profit and war can be mobilised to help those who are the victims of disasters. Of course, in a socialist world the economic necessity to live in the most dangerous areas will not exist. The national frontiers, which are part of the cause of the plight of the Kurds, will not exist. Kurds, just like any cultural group that wishes to do so, will be free to live together. But most importantly, in a society where production is for use there will be a constant check kept on how much the world is able to produce, who needs what is available and how most efficiently to distribute it. The idea of food shortages will be inconceivable.

There is a simple choice: keep capitalism and starvation will remain on the human agenda for years to come, whatever the relief efforts; or go for socialism and not a single person need ever starve again. As you watch the TV pictures of those who scream from the pain of hunger it must become obvious which is the most practical and humane way forward.

The Communist Party—It's All Over (1991)

Editorial from the May 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Communist Party of Great Britain is dead—officially. The old Leninist house of illusions is closed for business. Throughout Europe the absurd myth of “the socialist countries” has been seen to be a fraud. The Russian Empire—“the socialist motherland” to those naive pseudo-communists—stands in ruins and rushes in panic towards the full embrace of the so- called free market. What point was there for the weary old CP to stay alive? Its principal illusion is exposed; its seventy-year purpose of proclaiming the existence of socialism in the state-capitalist countries of Eastern Europe has disappeared.

In the heady days after the Bolshevik coup of 1917 the CP was formed to propagate the elitist and undemocratic cause of Lenin's policy. The apparent success of the Bolsheviks and the huge claims about what was being done in Russia made the CP's appeal strong and intoxicating for the enthusiasts. Here at last, it seemed, was a party which not only talked about socialist revolution, but could point to one which had succeeded. All the British workers needed to do was to copy down the Leninist recipe.

In the excitement of those early days one thing stood out against the folly of Leninist faith. This was the voice of the Socialist Party. From day one we pointed out that the Bolshevik policy could not lead to socialism but to state capitalism. It could not lead to democracy but to the dictatorship of the vanguard. The Socialist Party did not need to wait until the years of Stalin when it was acceptable for Leftists to criticise the crimes of the Russian dictatorship—although even then the CP refused to say a word against “Comrade Stalin”, accusing the Socialist Party of being “fascists” for stating our hostility to him and his regime.

Over the years many sincere and dedicated workers’ lives have been thrown behind the CP cause. We do not deride or mock the sincerity and dedication of such workers—they thought that they had an answer. What remains of such militancy should not be allowed to evaporate into despair. Socialism has not been tried and failed. The truth is, as it always was, that socialism has yet to be tried. It is a vision of a new social system which the workers have yet to take up. The task of all socialists is to win over our fellow workers, of all lands, to the true cause of socialism: a world-wide community based on the common ownership and democratic control of everything in and on the Earth by all the inhabitants of the Earth.

The CP decided last month to fold up its tents. It is to continue as a pressure group called the Democratic Left. The shelf life of this new brand name is unlikely to be a long one. Several of the old-time Leninists refused to give up the ghost. They will continue to exist in some form or other, mouthing their Leninist cliches like monks reciting the Roman Catholic catechism.They will be the museum keepers of a dead ideology. Leninism R. I. P? No Leninism—the Red Fraud of the Twentieth Century.

The Socialist Party continues, continues its work, our principles as clear as ever. With the wars, the mass hunger, the environmental destruction and the urban decay of the profit system as our backing track, we are still singing the same tune.

No ideas please — we're followers (1992)

From the April 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

This has been the no-ideas election. It has been an insult to our intelligence. Whatever important right to make the working-class voice heard the Chartists of the last century were fighting for, it was not for this foul process of bribery by reform, propaganda by smear, and policy formulation by opinion poll.

But for the pitiful enthusiasts of either side—the Major minors and the pink-rosed tame Kinnockites—nobody believes for one minute that anything big divides the contestants for power. The pathetic Lib-Dems—less “preparing for power” than preparing for a dodgy deal with the highest bidder—and the half-cooked Greens with their dream of a green and pleasant capitalist land, are about as inspiring as a Heinz sponge pudding with ready-made custard.

The Communist Party, once destined to win a few hundred votes in safe Labour seats where life is so bad that Bucharest looked good, is no more, and apart from a few latter-day Leninist nuts the Left is left to cheer for Kinnock and hope that he dies painfully. The fact is that none of them, from Lamont’s lunatics to Lord Sutch and the avowed lunatics, have an idea worthy of more than three seconds’ contemplation.

If the electoral scenario has been bleak here, pity the American voters, the victims of seduction by such mindless wonders as Tsongas. Clinton, Buchanan and Bush. The only clear result so far is that most people who could vote won't, and those who do are motivated by opposition to the nonentities who are worse than whoever they have wasted their primary votes on. The prospect of a race between Bush and Clinton, assisted by multi-million dollar ad campaigns and enough balloons to give a birthday party for every starving African child, is as dull as it is wretched.

Both the British general election and the US Presidential race are cynical exercises in mass manipulation. This trickery is paid for by those who are concerned to tranquilise the political imagination of the majority. A sleeping working class, either abstaining from voting or abandoning power by voting for leaders, is an exploitable working class which represents no threat. The workers, who run society from top to bottom by producing and distributing all wealth, are many; the idlers who own and control the means of life are very, very few. This election is about ensuring that the many follow the few.

The great ideological crisis
The defenders of the profit system ought to be laughing right now. After all, do they not claim to have defeated “communism"? To be sure, the state-capitalist perversions of the profit system have been falling as fast as . . . well, as fast as British businesses, seeing as a comparison is required. And here lies the cause of the absent laughter by the profit system’s friends. How convenient it would have been for them if the bogus communist regimes had fallen at a time when capitalism was expanding—employment rising, businesses opening, banks doing well, the distinct stench of corporate corruption far away. But this is not the situation these political conmen must defend. Try as they might, it is hard for them to brush aside the tragedy of millions on the dole, record bankruptcies, house repossessions, kids begging on the streets, chaos in the NHS, BCCI, high interest rates facing workers in debt, growing racism, inner-city squalor and poll tax resentment . . . the litany of capitalist maladies is endless.

Cartoon by Peter Rigg.
Yet all of the electoral contestants defend capitalism as not only a tolerable system but the best one, and not just the best but the only possible one. Vote for more of the same, they implore, all else is utopia. Even the pitiful Labourites, once the advocates of at least the tiniest of radical dreams, is now so much in love with capitalism that the Bank of England is to John Smith what a brothel is to a sailor. Where once Labour leaders would lyingly speak of some kind of an alternative to the profit system (even though it was only the sterile state-capitalist non-alternative), now Kinnock asks no more than that he may be allowed to run capitalism better than the Tories.

Not only the politicians themselves, but the commentators and the professors have run out of ideas. They are like Chekhovian caricatures, awaiting the grinding completion of history in a soon-to-come, never- to-arrive moment of stabilised capitalism.

In contradistinction to the intellectual bankruptcy of those who profess to be the ideas-people. the situation within the wider world of material reality is everywhere pregnant with contradiction and change. The rapidity with which the dramatic overthrow of the state tyrannies in Eastern Europe and throughout the Russian Empire took place is proof of the electrical current that makes history live for those with the vision to be part of it.

The mess of nationalist conflict and the virtual economic collapse that faces the new "free" states could lead to anything— except stabilised capitalism. The war in the Gulf, fought at a time when the political "experts" of capitalism told us that the world was at last safer if not safe, has left a mass of unresolved problems. In Africa, where they starve while dictators spit at democratic aspirations, the struggle for change is far from dormant. In America an economic crisis, accompanied by deep and unhealable cultural divisions, is producing the greatest collapse of confidence in US history—one which the usually conservative BBC commentator. Alistair Cooke, predicted could end in civil war.

What a time this is to be alive. Who can resist the urgency of taking a stand, offering ideas and solutions? Only the mentally strangled, suffocated by the theme tune of Neighbours and tamed into a political consciousness which will follow the crook with the best advertising slogan, can sit back in passive acquiescence. If ever the age of political valium addiction should end, when could be better than now?

But not only do all of the electoral contestants stand for more of the same old failed system; they dress up their support with the most puny of Big Ideas. Major’s Social Charter; Ashdown’s Proportional Representation; Bush’s New World Order; Clinton and Kinnock’s New Deal for America/Britain (delete as appropriate and swallow the contents in case they cause a bush fire). Nothing less exciting could be offered. Never in the course of political history has so little been offered to so many by such prats—and at a time of such possibility.
A big idea
Here is a big idea: take the whole world and everything in it and let it he owned and controlled by the people who inhabit it. Let us no longer produce for profit hut solely for use. Let us do away with money and have free and equal access to available goods and services. Let us break down every national border and have a democratic global community, organised locally, regionally and worldwide. Let us stop tormenting ourselves with the nonsense that human nature makes us useless and foolish. Let us recognise that humanity is intelligent and co-operative and capable of living in harmony.

That is the vision. It is no utopia. It is realisable. It has never been tried. It offers a solution to the madness of having a world of potential abundance while millions starve and are deprived in a thousand different ways. It is a big idea. So big in fact that the little parties of capitalism — Labour. Tory, Republican, Democrat — can only deal with it by ignoring, distorting and ridiculing it.

The most exciting and empowering aspect of this big idea (call it World Socialism—call it Gladys if the word socialism offends you) is that it can only come about when the majority whose passivity gives leaders their power stop following and start uniting consciously and democratically.

Despite all the dishonest cynicism attached to this election, we do not dislike the ballot box. On the contrary, used by conscious men and women ballot boxes can be explosive. They can reflect the growing will, and ultimately the will of the overwhelming majority, against leadership and for World Socialism. When the workers of the world use their brain boxes and the ballot boxes, the consequence will be that the age of electoral following will end and John Major can go back to the circus.
Steve Coleman

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The coming election (1991)

Editorial from the April 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

The politicians are at it again. Over the next few months, urged on by the media, they will bombard us with promises, polemics and their own puffed-up personalities. We are supposed to be impressed and to vote for one or other of the parties on offer. Yet experience of past elections and past governments shows that it doesn’t really matter who wins.

Whichever party forms the government things go on as before. Inequalities of wealth and income survive; poverty, bad housing and hospital queues persist; unemployment goes up or down in accordance with the business cycle; those in work still have to struggle to keep earnings in line with inflation; pollution continues; international tensions and threat of war remain.

Despite the competing candidates, there will be no real choice in the election.The three main parties all stand for the same thing. They all support the minority ownership of the means of production, whether through stocks and shares or through state control. They all agree that the aim of production should be sale with a view to profit. They all insist that the majority of us should get a living by working for an employer and that we should have to buy rather than have access as of right to the things we need to live. In short, they all stand for capitalism.

Such differences as exist between them are merely superficial details over how this system should be run. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats may favour private enterprise capitalism slightly more than Labour, and Labour state intervention slightly more than them, but on basics they are agreed. For them there is no alternative to the present system of minority ownership and production for profit. They accept its framework and agree to work within it.

This is why their record in office is one of miserable failure to honour their promises. It is not because they are dishonest or uncaring or incompetent or self-seeking—though they may be these things too— that the politicians fail but because in seeking to make capitalism work to serve human interests they are trying to do something that just cannot be done. They are trying to make a leopard change its spots.

Capitalism is a profit-seeking system that can only work as that. It is a system governed by blind economic laws which no government can control or alter and which decree that profit-making must be given priority over all other considerations including meeting needs. All governments, whatever their original intentions, inevitably end up—Labour governments included—administering the system on its terms, giving priority to profits, restraining wages and salaries and cutting benefits and services, and generally presiding over the economy as it staggers through its boom-slump cycle. Governments dance to the tune of capitalism, not the other way round.

We in the Socialist Party decisively reject this approach to politics. An election in which the issue is which particular gang of politicians is to preside over the operation of capitalism is a meaningless irrelevancy. What is required is a fundamental change in the basis of society. Private and state ownership must give way to common ownership and democratic control. On this basis, class privilege is abolished and we all have an equal say in the way things are run. Production is directly geared to meeting needs and we all have free access to what we need. This—production for profit or production for needs—is the real issue.

Capitalism fails again (1992)

Editorial from the September 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the 1980s the poor got poorer. This is not Marxist dogma but official government statistics. The Households Below Average Income survey, published by the Department of Social Security at the end of July, showed that between 1979 and 1989 the number of individuals in households with less than half the average income (the official Common Market measure of poverty) rose from 5 million to 12 million. The number of children affected increased from 1.4 million to 3.1 million, a quarter of all children.

Since average income increased in the same period this does not necessarily mean that those at the bottom became poorer. Nor, whatever some claim, is this what Marxists say has to happen. But it can happen. And it did. In the 1980s the average weekly income of the bottom 10 percent, after payment of housing costs and in April 1992 money, fell from £70 to £66. That of the bottom 20 percent remained static at £81. But this average figure disguises the fact that, while the income of those over pension age increased marginally, those below pension age suffered a drop except for single parent households who got a measly £1 more.

Peter Lilley, the Secretary of State for Social Security, naturally sought to emphasise another statistic: that the average income increased by 30 percent. And it is true that in the 10 years average earnings went up more than prices. So (most but by no means all) people in employment did have more money to spend. But this doesn’t mean that they were better off by that amount. There was a price to pay.

During the 1980s competitive pressures forced employers, in the public as well as the private sector to cut costs, including labour costs. This meant getting more work done by less people. Workers were sacked but the workload remained the same or was increased. Those who kept their jobs had to work harder—more labour was extracted from them. This was the story in factories, offices, hospitals and educational establishments up and down the country. In addition, more workers were required to work unsocial hours. Another official government publication Social Trends, published by the Central Statistical Office in January, recorded that, while in 1985 44.3 percent of workers were forced to work at least one weekend a month, in 1990 48.5 percent were. Similarly, those forced to do shiftwork increased from 12.3 to 13.2 percent. All this amounts to a deterioration of working conditions.

But that wasn’t the only thing to get worse. Over the same period the level and quality of public services declined, as the central government, through such devices as “charge-capping”, took steps to pass on to local authorities the capitalist market pressures to cut costs. Everywhere the provision of libraries, creches, help for the elderly and disabled, adult education, sports facilities, and the like was markedly worse in 1989 than it had been in 1979.

Unemployment increased. Homelessness increased. Pollution increased. More people got into debt. Suicides, crime and drug addiction all went up. More sites of natural and historical interest were destroyed. Housing standards were lowered. Business got into the schools. Advertising was allowed on the radio. Need we go on?

Faced with these facts only a die-hard defender could claim that capitalism is a benign system which provides steadily rising living standards for the whole working class. Capitalism never has been and never will be like that. Those in work will always be under pressure to work harder while those not in work will never get more than a pittance. That is all capitalism can offer. Which is why it must be replaced by socialism—a society where poverty will be impossible since the overriding social aim will be to satisfy everybody’s needs, not to make profits.

Socialist Manifesto (1992)

Editorial from the April 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most people think that whichever government is elected it will make no real difference to their lives.

Most people are right.

Most people think that political leaders are dishonest timewasters.

Most people are right about that.

Most people think that the world is in a mess: millions unemployed, homelessness and house repossessions, kids on the streets, a collapsing health service, wars, ecological destruction, countless millions starving while farmers are paid to let food rot.

Yes, society is in a hell of a mess.

Most people think that little can be done to change it.

They’re wrong.

Society does not have to be like this. We live under a system where:
  • Production is for profit, not primarily for need.
  • The richest 10 per cent own over half of all personal marketable wealth.
  • The richest one per cent own three times as much as the poorest 50 per cent added together.
  • The economy is run to make the rich stay rich at the expense of the poor.

The world market can never be run in the interest of the majority of us who produce the wealth but do not possess the major resources. No tinkering with the profit system by any government can ever make it comfortable, secure and happy for the majority of us.

All of the politicians in this election are asking you to vote for them so that they can run capitalism—continue the mess—carry on putting profit before needs—piling on the misery. 

What we need is a new way of running society based on:
  • The common ownership of all resources by the whole community, not just a rich minority.
  • Democratic control of the community by everyone, without distinction of age, race or sex, instead of rule by unelected company directors or state bureaucrats.
  • Production purely for use, not profit.
  • Free and equal access to all goods and services—an end to the market and to money.

Only the Socialist Party stands for that alternative: genuine socialism.

A vote for the Socialist candidate means that:
  • You reject the policies of the profit system.
  • You understand and want the real socialist alternative.
  • You do not need leaders to do your thinking and run society for you.
  • You are going to vote for yourself—for a change.


Cuts, cuts and more cuts (1993)

Editorial from the December 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

In drawing up his budget Kenneth Clarke had a problem. As the man in charge of the finances of the capitalist state in Britain, he has to find the money to pay for the government’s activities. But because he couldn’t find enough, at least not without undermining profit-making, he has had to cut back on government spending.

Not that this was new. It’s been going on for twenty or so years now. Every Chancellor over this period has faced the same problem, and every one of them - Labour as well as Tory - has adopted the same solution of curbs on government spending. This has not been because they were uncaring or mean (though some of them tried hard to give this impression) but because they were forced to by the operation of the profit system.

Governments are entirely dependent for their finances on the profit-making sector of the economy. This is the sector where the profit motive reigns supreme. Where unless businesses calculate they stand to make sufficient profits they won’t employ workers to produce wealth. As governments are not engaged in producing wealth themselves, the only way they can get money is by taxing or borrowing from this sector.

So they have an over-riding financial interest in the health of the profit sector and in doing nothing that would adversely affect the profit-making, and profit-taking, that goes on there. This places clear limits on how much they can spend since to overdo it is to risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

This has always been the case, but the problem got worse when the post-war boom came to an end in the early seventies. Since then profits everywhere have been squeezed by the increased competition on the world market. So government spending, coming in the end as it does out of the profits of the profit-making sector, has also had to be squeezed. When Chancellors say they haven’t got the money to maintain public services at existing levels they are telling the truth. They haven’t. The cupboard really is bare.

Governments, not just in Britain but everywhere, have had to resort to drastic measures to raise money. They have had to sell off state assets to the private sector. They have undermined the integrity of their civil service by introducing into it the degraded standards of the marketplace and by hiving off whole sections to private business. They have considerably worsened the working conditions of public sector employees. And they have drastically reduced the scope and level of services provided by national and local government.

Some blame the "wicked Tories" for all this. But the Tories have essentially been the agents - the all-too-willing agents, it is true - of economic forces beyond the control of any government. Government spending has had to be squeezed over the past twenty years to allow the profit-seeking sector to retain more of the reduced profits they have been making. As the Tories have been in power for most of this period, they have had to do most of the dirty work. In other countries - France, Spain, Australia, for instance - it is the Labourites who have done this, apologetically perhaps but they have still done it.

The lesson is clear. The idea that capitalism can be reformed, by means of a growing public sector and an expanding welfare state, into a better system of society (an idea once entertained, believe it or not, by the Labour Party) has been utterly discredited and disproved in practice.

The fact is the profit system can never be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority of the population. It can only work as a profit system, by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. And governments have no alternative but to dance to this tune.

What we need is a peaceful, democratic social revolution to replace the profit system by one based on the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources. Then we can produce to meet our needs, not for profits. And society can accomplish its true aim: serving the welfare of its members by ensuring that we have no worries over satisfying our material needs.