Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Passing Show: What it Means (1962)

The Passing Show Column from the January 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

What it Means
In The Times recently there was a reference to President Nasser’s nationalisation policy, under the name of "Arab Socialism"; and on the same day (27/10/61) there was a report of a speech by the President of the Senegal Republic in which he referred to “ the Negro-African form of Socialism.” So much confusion is caused by reformist politicians in every part of the world wishing to masquerade under false colours that it was not surprising to read (in the same issue) the following report of a meeting of the so-called “ Socialist International ” (which is in fact a collection of Labour Parties):
  A particularly able speech was made by a delegate from the Action Group of Nigeria, who, he said, had recently announced that they were going to embrace democratic socialism, and were now hotly discussing what that meant.
For the benefit of the Action Group of Nigeria, democratic socialism means nothing that socialism does not already mean. Socialism, being a system voluntarily entered into by society as a whole, and being without any coercive forces, is by definition democratic. In the same way, it is pointless to talk about Arab socialism or Negro-African socialism; one might as well talk about Birmingham Socialism or Tooting Socialism. Socialism is in its essence international, and knows nothing of racial or national differences.

All that is needed to complete the confusion is for the Labour Parties of the Common Market countries to join together and start talking about “Common Market Socialism.”


Apes
Reviewing a recent book (African Genesis, by Robert Ardrey) a Sunday Express writer triumphantly records the author’s conclusions about monkeys and apes (22/10/61):
  He shows clearly that their most powerful inborn drive is, first, for status; next, for territory (both family and tribal); and, only third, for sex. Thus such things in men as ambition, patriotism, and a yearning for a house of one’s own are not—as many fashionable thinkers have tried to make us think—an artificial product of an artificial civilisation. They are natural and inborn, especially in the higher animals.
Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept what Ardrey says about apes, his premises clearly do not support his conclusions. It would only be possible to reason in this way if man was descended from the monkeys or the apes: but, in fact (although this may be news to the Sunday Express) no scientist has ever maintained that this is so. What all scientists do now maintain is that man and the other primates are descended from a common ancestor. So what has to be explained is why man has left all the other animals far behind, while the monkeys are still swinging in the trees. And if the main interests of apes are, first, status, and second, grabbing more territory, that would go a long way towards accounting for the great gulf between man and monkeys. Men have developed in the way they have simply because they co-operated—they lived together amicably in tribes and owned property in common. As Engels says (in Chapter 2 of The Origin of the Family): 
   For man’s development beyond the level of the animals, for the achievement of the greatest advance nature can show, something more was needed; the power of defence lacking to the individual had to be made good by the united strength and co-operation of the herd. To explain the transition to humanity from conditions such as those in which the anthropoid apes live to-day would be quite impossible; it looks much more as if these apes had strayed off the line of evolution and were gradually dying out or at least degenerating . . .  Mutual toleration among the adult males, freedom from jealousy, was the first condition for the formation of those larger, permanent groups in which alone animals could become men.

No satisfaction
Who said this? "There were literally thousands of jobs in industry which gave no satisfaction to the worker and never could . . .  as a result among the great working class areas of the country” men were getting no "sense of fulfilment . . . from the tedium of their day-to-day jobs.” 

It was no Socialist, agitating for a new society; it was the head of the state-capitalist board which now runs the coal-mines—Lord Robens. He was speaking at the recent national conference of the Institute of Personnel Management. It would be difficult to think of a much stronger argument against our present form of society than this—that the workers get no sense of fulfilment from their jobs, which occupy so large and so central a part of their lives: yet here we have one of our leading operators of state-capitalism saying just that.

If Lord Robens really believes this, it is about time he thought of resigning his job and joining the Socialist Party, since that is the only way he can help to bring about a change in the situation.
Alwyn Edgar

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