Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jottings (1914)

The Jottings column from the March 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the whole of the Labour Party Conference, which lasted four days, the word “Socialism” was only mentioned once; that was when Mr. Bruce Glasier said they did not intend to discuss it!

Mr. Ramsay MacDonald told an interviewer on his return from India that the Conference “would be a record one as far as common sense was concerned.” Io the light of after events this can be taken as a reflection on the delegates. Mr. MacDonald told them to vote this way, and that—and they did !

* * *

One contemporary (“Modern Society”) wants to know: “Why did Mr. Ramsay MacDonald return from the Commission in India six weeks before the rest of the Commission left Bombay for home?” Well now, isn’t it obvious? Who could imagine a Labour Party Conference without Mr. MacDonald? What use is a ship without a rudder?

* * *

Speaking at Glasgow on the Sunday succeeding the Conference, he asked his audience "to realise that class feeling would not achieve Socialism. Class feeling was the mark of capitalism, not Socialism. Socialism united all classes and lifted them up to a common level of humanity.” (“Daily Citizen,” 2.2.14).

You will notice how he lets himself go on the question of Socialism outside the Conference, at which all reference to the subject was carefully avoided.

I wonder how many “classes” Mr. MacDonald thinks there are in society ? So far, Socialists have only discovered two—the working dan and the non-working class. Socialism would not “unite” these two—there can be no unity between the robber and the robbed—but would abolish the conditions which create a non-working class, thus compelling them to take part in the work of useful production or—starve. Socialism offers no other alternative. Socialism implies one class—the workers—not a combination of “classes.”

Whilst it is true that class feeling is the mark of capitalism, Mr. MacDonald has no right to condemn it as if it was something repugnant. It is the duty of Socialists to foster and direct it. Class action is necessary in order to achieve Socialism, but class feeling, born of class-consciousness, is the first essential. But Mr. MacDonald doesn’t think so.

* * *

  “I have been in Spain: once. I was there a night and a day, because I could not get a train to take me away sooner. I shall never go again. I prefer the niggers in the West Indies to the Spaniards. I think black devils are less loathsome than those of lighter hue.” (Robert Blatchford, “Clarion,” 23.1.14.)
  “I claim that men should not be classified as good and bad, but as fortunate and unfortunate; that they should be pitied and not blamed; helped instead of being punished. I base this claim upon the self-evident and undeniable feet that man has no part in the creation of his own nature.” (Robert Blatchford in “Not Guilty," page 10.) With his usual consistency! 

* * *

Christ as the saviour of mankind looks like getting left since Lloyd George took the field in his self-appointed task of redeeming mankind. In his speeches at Swindon and Bedford, the accounts he gave of the lot of the poor were so heartrending that one was tempted to express the fear that the country would not be able to stand another dose of the same kind without being washed away in a flood of compassionate tears, generated by the soul-stirring, heart-searching, and blood curdling oratory of the Liberal Messiah. Anyway, he chanced it—and to some purpose. And, if report speaks true, he hasn’t finished yet.

  Whether his visit to Glasgow immediately following the Labour Party Conference was only a coincidence I leave an open question. Certain it is that interest in the one quickly fell flat when it became known that the saviour was due in their midst. He said nothing new, of course. In describing the rotten conditions of this country he reiterated only what has been stated before and sniffed at. Liberals have constantly denied what Mr. Lloyd George is now hysterically affirming. Said he:
 “Take our cities, the great cities of a great Empire. Right in the heart of them everywhere you have ugly quagmires of human misery, seething, rottening, at last fermenting. We pass them by every day on the way to our comfortable homes. We forget Divine justice never passes by a great wrong, and you can hear, carried by the breezes from the north, the south, the east, and the west, ominous rumblings. The chariots of retribution are drawing nigh. How long will all these injustices last for myriads of men, women, and children created in the image of God—how long? I believe it is coming to an end." (Cheers.)
 So do we—but it won't be in the shape of a “Divine justice" personified in Lloyd George. When Socialists have pointed out the same facts (without the sloppy trimmings), they have been scoffed and jeered at as “agitators, humbugs, and discontents.” But coming from the lips of a Cabinet Minister on the platform of St. Andrew’s Hall—oh! what a difference!

  Apart from the disgusting spectacle of hew easy it is to gull and deceive these poor fools in order to capture support for another lease of robbery—it may yet possess an element of good. The awakening will be all the ruder! “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Yet I wonder how many of his audience remembered his words at Limehouse—“Deception is always a pretty contemptible vice, but to deceive the poor is the meanest of all crimes.”

  One thing: the Labour Party wont thank him for queering their pitch!

* * *

 In the course of a discussion at a meeting of the Carnarvon Town Council on the County Council’s proposed by-laws for regulating vehicular traffic. Sir John Roberts pointed out that some of the vehicles now used as motor-’buses were only ’bus bodies put on the chassis of old motor-cars never intended to carry on their axles the enormous weight of passengers which these ’buses carried.

 It is a common-place enough saying that human life is cheap—so common-place in fact that, although the sacrifice of human life is increasingly evident every day, it passes with the majority as something that is inevitable —something that is part of the order of things. Investigation usually reveals the fact that most disasters are caused through cheapness, both of material and labour, while experience shows the acquisition of profits to be the prime incentive.
Only the working-class as a rule travel by motor-’bus, so perhaps that explains the callous disregard of possible accidents shown in their construction.

* * *

  Mr. Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Co., of Detroit, has recently announced that he is prepared to divide his profits with his employees. He intends to reduce the working day from nine hours to eight, without reduction of pay. Indeed, the pay is to be increased—from 11/6 to £1 a day for all employees over the age of twenty-two. On the face of it, this looks like philanthropy with a vengeance, bat Mr. Ford has another name for it—good business.
  It would appear that the Ford Co. were going to be cleaned out of their profits, but that word “good business” gives us furiously to think.

  Hitherto the Ford Co. have paid low wages — and made big profits; now it is proposed to pay big wages and—lose profits ? Not on your life! Let me show you how it is done.

  Ford intends to increase his profits, and to do this he is figuring on getting absolutely the pick of the labour market by his “generous” offer. From the increased staff of 22,000 who will be employed he is expecting to get increased efficiency in every part of the trade. This means that he will specialize on each job. The very fact that an increased wage and a dividend are to be the outcome of their activity, will spur his employees to greater efforts than ever; even to competing with each other inside the shop, for the laggard is to be eliminated. It is expected that under this system the worker, being a “partner,” will boost it for all he is worth, and turn out more and better work than under the former system. Formerly the record for assembling a car stood at twenty six minutes. This is now going to be beaten — indeed, has been beaten, at their works in Manchester (Eng.)
Perhaps the following may be interesting:
  “In a little clear space in the centre of the assembling department, a bare frame lay surrounded by wheels, springs, axles, and, in fact, every article required for a complete motor car. A few yards further on, supported on wooden trestles, was a black enamelled four seated body. A horn screeched. Eight men hurried forward , and commenced to work furiously, but in absolute silence. Barely a minute had passed, but the front wheels (with tyres already attached) were on and the springs firmly fixed, while the back of the frame rested on two large jacks. The engine was next lifted into place. Two minutes later it was tightly bolted and the rear wheels and driving gear were in position. Seven minutes passed and the chassis stood on the ground complete in every detail. The body was lifted on, the wind screen fixed, running boards, mud-guards attached, and at the end of eleven minutes the car stood ready. With a cargo of six excited men the car was driven out of the factory and round the works. Later she was thoroughly tested with a good run into the country. The speed with which the whole assembling work was carried out was a revelation to all present, and was only possible with the perfect organisation which exists in the erecting of a Lord car from the beginning to the end. This perfect organisation of labour, it is claimed, is the only thing to account for the low price of the Lord car considering its power and general efficiency.” (Daily Mail," 24.1.14.)
“Perfect organisation of labour” ; that is the secret! Though each individual may get more wages than ever he got before, the fact will remain that he will have to work harder and still harder—or get out. By specializing and employing only highly skilled workers; by eliminating the slowest of these and speeding the rest up to a higher standard of skill and rapidity, Lord claims that the cost of the labour power will actually he less than before.

 Another point. Having regard to the fact that 10,000 men clamoured for jobs in one day at Detroit, what is to prevent this factor from operating against those who are “fortunate" enough to retain their jobs, by lowering the price of labour-power?

* * *

Parliament had hardly settled down to “business" when the Labour Party defined its position by once more saving the Government. The circumstances were exactly the same as have happened before—voting against their own amendment when the Tories tried to force it to a division. Readers will be familiar with the details, as great publicity has been the outcome. I only mention it because it is the sequel to a statement made by Mr. Macdonald on his return from India. Referring to the support they had offered the Liberals last session on the question of Churchill’s extravagance, and which was ignored, he remarked to an interviewer of the “Daily Citizen," “We can afford to let bygones be bygones, however, if they (the Liberals) will support us this session."

Not that we expect them to do anything else than support the Liberals; but unfortunately there are thousands of workers in this country who are deluded into supporting them, fondly believing that they are getting independent representation when such is not the case. Significant were the words of Mr. Philip Snowden at the Labour Party Conference. “So long as they had Labour members returned by Liberal votes, as nine-tenths of the Labour members were, they had no right to expect independent action from them in the House of Commons. It is clearly evident that there was no labour member in the House who did not know that he was dependent for his seat in that House on the good-will of those who belonged to the other political parties.”

Which is a damning admission, for it shows they possess a programme which can cater for all shades of opinion—except Socialist.
Tom Sala

Socialism and Charity (1933)

From the May 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard
“There is no nobler work than this. It is unthinkable that it should be hampered or curtailed through sheer lack of funds.”
These are the concluding words of an appeal by Kingsley Long in the Daily Herald (February 23rd, 1933) entitled “ Mother must be Saved!”

This appeal is for help for the hospitals. Its good work in saving the lives of numbers of women in childbirth is cited as being one direction in which the hospitals have fullest claim upon our sympathies and to which we should respond with financial aid.

What is the Socialist’s attitude towards charities ?

This can best be answered by another question: Why do the workers need charity? Because they have not access to all the things that could give them joyous and healthy lives (the sure preventative of most diseases). Our answer, then, is that all our spare time and money, which is very limited, should be spent on furthering the cause of Socialism, the sure and only cure for all the economic and most other ills which humanity suffers.

The objection to this, of course, will be that while we are waiting for Socialism, humanity still suffers. Whether we continue to devote our time and energy towards getting Socialism, or whether we divert them into charitable channels we shall still have the vast majority of the workers needing immediate help and succour, simply because, as a class whose sole possession is its labour-power, the workers depend upon the sale of that commodity, whether or not they live frugally or plentifully, or in semi-starvation. We have only to look in the daily newspapers to find hundreds of cases of want and necessity, which are a crying disgrace to a so-called civilised community.

The Star (February 18th) calls attention in large black lettering to the ”Ill Fed Mothers of Poorest London.” It is a report prepared by Deptford Public Health Committee. It says: —
It is clear that in the case of families in receipt of public assistance the amount of relief afforded cannot assure its recipients the minimum varied diet recommended by the Ministry of Health. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that there are many homes in which, after the rent is paid and allowance made for heating and clothing, there is an insufficient sum available for food.
Dr. Keith, the Medical Officer for Health, points out that the member of the family who suffers most when there is a shortage of nourishment is usually the mother, and adds: —
The signs of malnutrition are rather insidious. There is a loss of vitality, with mental depression, apathy, due, as the old-fashioned mothers express it, to “poorness of blood.”
Again, in the Daily Herald of March 29th, 1933, there is a paragraph dealing with building with money borrowed at a cheap rate of interest for slum clearance. At the beginning of the paragraph it mentions that the Poor Law Authorities have found that they can only just, by buying wholesale, manage to keep a child for 4s. 8d. in a Poor Law Home.

It then goes on: —
But the slum housewife does not buy wholesale. Nor does she have 4/8 per head for her children alone, apart from.the grown ups, after she has paid her rent. How, then, can she. keep her family in reasonable health when her husband's wage is £2 a week and the rent for the home, to house a family of two adults and five children is 16/- a week. Someone has got to be sacrificed, if the children are to be nourished, and it is usually the mother and the unborn children.
Here, then, we have indisputable examples of some of the causes of the mothers of the working class losing their lives in child-birth, i.e., lack of pre-natal care and nourishment. What a hopeless endeavour charity is. First of all you are asked to help the hospitals, and when the hospitals fail, as they must, against such odds, you have got to clean up the slums, get a living wage for the workers, abolish unemployment, feed the schoolchildren, and spread the knowledge of birth control. But stop, stop, the task is too Herculean. Getting Socialism will be far simpler and quicker. It is the direct method of solving the poverty problem. Terrible suffering is undergone by women in childbirth, and chloroform capsules have been used in a number of experimental cases, with great success, but so far the treatment is too expensive for universal use upon working-class mothers.

The position, fellow-workers, is this: We are living in a state of society wherein one class is a subject class and one a dominant class. The subject class, the workers, must sell their labour-power in order to live. The wage they receive may suffice to enable them to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, and have a family. All these things must be managed within the limited amount of the wage. In many instances it will barely cover a certain amount of actual necessities. All things other than these have to be provided by the State or by private charity, or are not provided at all.

Thus, no allowance is made in a worker’s wage f6r hospital treatment. He may never need it, but the State is prepared to assist in a limited way when he does. A worker cannot save for unemployment, but a good and beneficient State has made unemployment insurance compulsory because they cannot rely on voluntary help being given when they have to dispense the necessary maintenance. The State (that is, the capitalists who control the State) is prepared, sometimes, to supplement the worker’s wage, when and if absolutely necessary.

It is rather significant that on February 28th the Daily Herald reports that the Ministry of Pensions is economising by closing, or partially so, its hospitals and transferring their patients (relics of the last war) to already overcrowded voluntary or municipal Poor Law hospitals. Here we have an example of how workers in the better-paid positions, who sacrifice part of their earnings to help their fellows, only succeed in helping the State to curtail expenditure. The Press, Pulpit, and now the B.B.C., are pleading and cajoling the people to help these causes. They never have to make a good cause out of sewers or refuse dumps. Disease is no respecter of persons, and these vital health services are scrupulously attended to, because the master class would speedily be affected, in many ways, by lack of attention to these details.

Tear down the veil of lies, cant, and humbug, fellow-workers, and let your sympathies go only to a cause which is worthy of your support as a class, namely, Socialism.
May Otway

Obituary: Eva Goodman (2013)

Obituary from the August 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

Eva Goodman (1927-2013)

One of the most long-standing members of the Socialist Party has died at the age of 85. Eva Goodman became a member in 1947 at a time of intense activity for the Party, especially in the London area, when indoor rallies and outdoor platforms were common and attracted large numbers of people. Eva threw herself wholeheartedly into this activity, cycling to and between venues. She grew to be a commanding presence at conferences and meetings over the years, knowing exactly what she wanted to say and saying it without standing on ceremony, with clarity and humour and, above all, in a way that compelled the attention of her listeners.

Her family had been refugees from Hitler’s Germany and were lucky to find asylum in London just before the Second World War broke out. After the war, in 1946 and before joining the Party, Eva found employment at Marks and Spencer’s Head Office and worked there for 40 years until retirement as a packaging technologist. She was well aware of the fact that being a socialist and wanting a completely different kind of world, one of co-operation and economic equality, didn’t mean that you could, or should, exclude yourself from the world as it existed. You had to get by in capitalism, often with people who didn’t necessarily share your view of the world or your social and political aspirations. So, apart from gaining the respect and admiration of those she worked with, Eva cultivated many interests outside the Party such as opera, theatre, cycling (she was a member of the Cyclists’ Touring Club and cycling was one of her passions for much of her life) and, latterly, football. She was an enthusiastic member of Fulham Supporters’ Club, for many years being a season-ticket holder and rarely missing a match till ill-health kept her away.

Over the years Eva took on a number of important jobs in the Party. She was elected to the Executive Committee on many occasions, she was Secretary of her branch, Overseas Contacts Secretary, and Secretary to the committee that produces the Socialist Standard – whatever her roles were, she always carried them out with the utmost diligence and efficiency. One of her concerns was that, when the Party put its case in print – and in particular in the Socialist Standard – it should do so in the most effective and convincing way possible. To this end she conducted a persistent and persuasive campaign against what she called the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ – the formula words that all too often ended articles in the Standard. Her argument was that the Socialist solution should emerge clearly and naturally from the arguments in the article and not have to be tacked on at the end like some kind of ‘hosannah’. 

After she retired from employment, Eva carried on enthusiastically with Party activity but also became a volunteer teacher at Brackenbury Primary School in Hammersmith, assisting pupils with learning disabilities for a number of years and stopping only when the stairs became too much for her.

A large number of people gathered to say their final farewell to Eva at her funeral on 14th June, including her nephew who had travelled from Spain and spoke movingly about ‘a favourite who brought so much joy into my life’. She will be greatly missed by all her family members, including her partner, Melvin, and by so many others both inside and outside the Socialist Party.

'Crack Cocaine Style’ Gambling (2017)

The Action Replay column from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The trade body for bookmakers has criticised a report by MPs on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) after it called for the maximum stake to be reduced from £100 to £2. The recommendations came from the All Party Parliamentary Group as it came to the end of a six month inquiry into FOBTs, following growing concern about the harm being caused on Britain’s high streets by the machines. The high- stake, high- speed electronic casino games have been branded ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’ by campaigners, who argue that they are dangerously addictive (i newspaper, 1 February).
Carolyn Harris, leading the group of MPs involved, said ‘these machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of cash strapped families’, adding ‘there is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated.’
However, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) warned that such a move would be a ‘hammer blow’ to high street bookies and would threaten thousands of jobs in the industry (British bookmakers currently employ more than 43,000 staff). It demanded an immediate inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into the group of MPs, saying the body was a ‘front for vested commercial interests.’ Malcolm George, the ABB chief executive, commented that ‘Betting shops are closing at the rate of more than 100 a year and if the findings of this rigged report are implemented it could spell the beginning of the end for the high street bookmaker.’
The All Party Parliamentary Group are disappointed that the bookmakers have declined to participate. ‘We fear this is a reflection of their denial of the problems associated with FOBTs and reluctance on their part to speak to policy makers about appropriate regulation.’
Around £3.3bn was generated by the high street betting sector in the year to March 2016, according to the latest figures from the Gambling Commission. Over the same period online gambling operators generated £4.5bn, the National Lottery contributed £3.4bn and £1bn came from traditional casinos and contribute more than £1bn a year in taxes according to the ABB.
Evidently the gambling industry is a lucrative business with FOBTs becoming its new ‘cash cow’. Despite the human misery caused by this form of gambling the bookmakers will fight for FOBTs to be promoted in their betting shops with little if any regulation – yet another example of profits being more important than people under capitalism.

Trumps – or Trumpery? (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
In his speech when installed as President in January, Donald Trump declared that ‘from this moment on it’s going to be America first’, promising ‘Every decision on trade, on taxes, on migration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.’
Theresa May had also promised to put the interests of those from for ‘an ordinary working class family’ before those of the ‘privileged few’ when she became Prime Minister last July. Only she couldn’t proclaim ‘Britain First’, as that’s the name of a fascist party here.
But they are advocating different, even opposing, ways of trying to benefit workers. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was about preserving the jobs of American workers through protective tariffs against imports. May, on the other hand, sees the way as more free trade, more globalisation. In a rather fanciful interpretation of the result of the EU referendum, she told the annual January gathering of the global elite in Davos that Leave voters were people who ‘chose to build a truly global Britain’ (Times, 20 January).
This is not an interpretation shared by most commentators. They noted the high vote to Leave in areas where industries involving heavy manual labour – coal, steel, shipbuilding – had been shut down, precisely because it had become cheaper to manufacture these products elsewhere in the world. These voters were certainly not voting for the more of the same that ‘a truly global Britain’ will involve. That was the view only of a few of the leaders of the Leave campaign who were doctrinaire ‘free’ marketeers.
Free trade, i.e., more globalisation, certainly won’t help, almost by definition, those ‘left behind by globalisation’. But what about protectionism?
The demand for protective tariffs has been the kneejerk reaction of trade unions in industries in difficulty because of foreign competition. In his hunt for votes Trump echoed this view, with some success in areas where workers wouldn’t normally vote for a Republican business tycoon. He is making a big show of honouring this election pledge , declaring when he withdrew the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that doing this was ‘a good thing for the American worker’ (Times, 24 January). He doesn’t like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) either and will no doubt finally scupper the TTIP deal with the EU.
These trade agreements were in the interest of important sections of the US capitalist class – those wanting more security for their overseas investments, those wanting protection for their ‘intellectual property’, agribusinesses wanting to break into the EU market, and, yes, manufacturers wanting to move the production of some components to cheaper parts of the world.
Scrapping these trade and investment deals won’t be welcomed by a large part of the US capitalist class. If Trump really puts jobs for American workers ahead of the profits of its capitalists he will come unstuck, just as left-wing governments have found. If, as a result, capitalists make less profits they will have less to invest and there’ll be less jobs. So, expect only token measures (TPP was dead in the water anyway) and ‘U turns’. Not that protecting the jobs of some workers at the expense of other workers is a worthy cause.

Capitalism Doesn't Care (2017)

Editorial from the March 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

If there is one thing that capitalism is good at and that is generating crises.  A report by the charity, Age UK, has warned that  social care in England is facing collapse in certain areas. Increasing numbers of elderly people find themselves being denied the healthcare they need. Is this because there are not enough trained staff and care facilities available ? No, there are plenty of those. As ever in capitalism, the problem boils down to money, or in this case, the lack of it.

According to a report from the Nuffield Trust, Central Government funding for local authorities in England has been reduced by 14 percent in real terms from 2011/12 to 2014/15. At the same time, the number of people over the age of 85 has risen by a third.  As the amount of fees paid by local authorities for care homes has fallen and  staff costs have risen, many care homes  have been forced to close. The upshot is that many old people are having to stay in NHS hospitals. The Local Government Association estimates that there will be at least a £2.6 billion shortfall in the provision of social care by 2020.

David Hodge, the Conservative leader of the Surrey Council, was moved to call a referendum to raise council taxes by 15 percent to ease the financial shortages. However, this plan has since been abandoned and the council has settled for a rise of 5 percent.  Some suspect that a 'sweetheart' deal was arranged in that the government would provide more funds to the council if it dropped its plans for a referendum.

The crisis has fallen hardest on working class people from poorer areas. In more wealthy areas, greater income from business rates and more prosperous pensioners contributing to their own care have softened the impact of reduced funding.

It is not only elderly people who are affected, many disabled people have found themselves without the care they need and some have become more ill as a result.

Why are funds for social care being slashed ? The answer lies in the austerity cuts that the government have imposed in response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The government had to cut its own spending in order to improve its own finances and reduce the financial burden on businesses, so that they may become profitable again. The cuts, inevitably, had  to fall on welfare services. 

The leftists blame the Tories and call for more social spending. However, Labour governments in the 1960s and  1970s were compelled to cut their expenditure in response to the economic crises that they faced. In the 2010 General Election, Labour, like the Tories, pledged to make large public expenditure cuts.

The Junior Health Minister David Mowat, has suggested that families should do more to care for their elderly relatives. So, according to him, the crisis is not a social problem, but a case of selfish workers failing in their family duties.

This appalling treatment of working class elderly and other 'vulnerable' people reveals yet again that under capitalism profits must come before human welfare.