Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Passing Show: Implication (1963)

The Passing Show column from the March 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Implication
The recent work-to-rule campaign of the electrical power-station workers led to the usual press campaign. In the newspapers, a number of journalists and letter-writers said that the power workers should not be allowed to take any industrial action, such as striking or working to rule. Almost every prominent strike leads to similar suggestions. Even misguided members of the working class propose that workers (in other industries, of course, not in their own) should be forced to work. The obvious question which then arises—should the workers be forced to work on their own terms or on the employers’ terms?—is seldom answered in so many words, but the implication is usually plain: the workers should be forced to work on whatever terms the employers see fit to offer.

In a time of inflation, when workers have to take or threaten to take industrial action in order to try and keep their earnings abreast of rising prices, this proposal can usually be put in very reasonable-sounding terms: that existing wages and conditions should be maintained. In a time of deflation, such as occasions in the twenties and thirties, when prices are falling, it is the employers who often have to resort to industrial action to force wages down. And at those times the letter-writing brigade seldom suggests that lock-outs should be forbidden by law, and that employers should be compelled to continue employing their workers on the existing terms.

Moral right
But in the power strike, a number of newspapers went further: they made the astounding discovery that the public has a “moral right” to food, lighting and heating. And such is the lack of understanding of the way the capitalist system operates that this announcement went apparently unchallenged. Yet five minutes’ thought would show anyone the falsity of this belief. What would happen if you went into the baker's and told him you had a “moral right” to food, and that you had decided that sixpence was a reasonable price to pay for his ninepenny loaves? Unless you left the shop in a hurry, you would find yourself at the local police station being charged with a breach of the peace. Under our present system, to all intents and purposes, everything is bought and sold. No one has a “moral right” to be supplied with the necessities of life. If the seller of bread and the buyer of bread can agree on a price which the buyer can pay, then the bread changes hands; otherwise it doesn’t. Everyone understands this in practice; no one would go shopping believing anything else. And yet people can so far delude themselves as to write to the papers claiming they have a “moral right” to be supplied with food.

All the aces
Just as food, clothing, and so on, are bought and sold, so is human labour-power. Under our present system, men and women work for the capitalists because they are paid to do so. If the employer and employee can arrive at a bargain as to the price to be paid for a certain amount of work—a wage or salary—then the work is done. Otherwise it isn’t Admittedly in this process of bargaining all the aces are in the hands of the capitalist. For if the worker refuses to work for what the employer pays him, then he faces unemployment, and severe deprivation for himself and his family. The employer, on the other hand, can at least live on his money if no bargain is arrived at; that is what makes him a capitalist.

Both ways
Nevertheless, however strong one party to the bargain is, and however weak the other, a bargain—an agreement as to wages and conditions—there must be. And the very people who are now talking about "moral rights” are exactly the people who insist that this must be so. When one argues for Socialism, and suggests that men could operate a very much better system for supplying themselves with food, clothing and shelter if they did away with money altogether and worked on the principle of common ownership of the means of production, what an outcry follows! These “moral rights” people are exactly those who are first to deride the Socialist solution, and to insist that our present commercial system, where money is the god without which nothing can be done, is the best possible system. But as soon as they are put to inconvenience by the very workings of the system which they themselves uphold and vote for at each election—what a squawk they put up! They are like children who gobble down their share of cake and then cry because it’s gone. They want it both ways.

Massive attacks
It seems paradoxical, but the only members of the public who could justifiably complain when their lights and fires went off as a result of the power-workers’ campaign were the Socialists. Only those who have done their best to put an end to our present capitalist system, only those who have tried to bring in the Socialist alternative—only they could justifiably grumble at these further inconveniences and discomforts which the operation of the capitalist system makes inevitable. Of course, in practice, it is precisely the Socialists who have always supported the working class when they have taken action to maintain or improve their living conditions. The support of Labourites and Communists is never to be relied on: it depends on a dozen factors, such as whether there is a Labour or a Communist government, whether our capitalist class is making war on any other capitalist class, what the Russian ruling class is doing, and so on. Even when there is a Conservative government in power, many of our “progressive” politicians publicly join the massive attacks which are always mounted against workers who try to keep or even increase their small part of what they produce. Only the Socialist Party—as could be expected, since it is the party of the workers —can be relied on to keep the issue straight

Right to strike
A wage-worker has a number of advantages over a slave (although the slave at least doesn’t fear unemployment), but by far the most important one is that he has some degree of freedom. And of this degree of freedom, the most important element is his ability to refuse to work. The alternative is near-starvation, but still it means that he has some final retort against the capitalist who seeks to push him still further down into poverty. Judiciously used, the right to refuse to work, the right to strike, can serve in certain economic circumstances to defend or to improve wages and conditions. But this right to strike, this most important single factor which distinguishes the wageworker from the mere slave, this right is under constant attack from the capitalist state’s organs of propaganda. After reading and listening to such attacks, one has the impression that the worker has the right to strike only so long as he never uses it. Whenever workers use their right to strike, it always seems that —although, of course, the right to strike in general is quite a good thing—still this particular strike is for various reasons a very bad one, and should be ended immediately. It may be “the country's economic position,” it may be “the need to export"; it may be the particular industry the workers are employed in; there is always some reason why this particular strike is totally unjustified.

All these attacks spring from one source: the realization of the ruling class that the strike is one of the few effective weapons the workers have in the class struggle. Our rulers do not wish to revert, to slavery—the present wage-labour system is better for them in many ways: which is why slavery has been abolished in all capitalist countries. But it has this unfortunate aspect, that the workers are technically free to strike. Hence the continual propaganda against any groups of workers who exercise their right. For if they could delude the workers into never striking, the capitalists would be in the happy position of enjoying all the advantages of the capital and wage-labour system, without one of its very few (from their point of view) drawbacks. No wonder their newspapers, radio, TV, and pulpits never cease to attack strikes!
Alwyn Edgar


Mercenaries (1976)

From the March 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

If fourteen of them had not been shot for unwillingness to fight, the presence of a small number of British mercenaries in the war in Angola might well have been ignored. Their presence being made known through that episode, the result was disclaimers and threats by the government—and a study in capitalist interests being pursued.

Mercenaries are soldiers who fight for money alone, without pretending they are for good against bad. They are the “universal soldier” practically as old as war itself. In the period when feudalism was giving way to capitalism they were the nucleus of every army in Europe. The German Landsknecht and the Italian Condottieri were troops which plied for hire. With the development of the capitalist state, national armies took their place.

However, mercenaries have never disappeared. To a large extent they are produced by national armies. Speaking in the House of Commons about those who went to Angola, the Prime Minister said many of them were contacted through “lists of names of former soldiers”. Of one modern force of mercenaries, the Black and Tans recruited by the British government to serve in Ireland in 1920, a historian says:
[They were] for the most part young men who found it hard to settle down after the war, who had become used to a career of adventure and bloodshed, and who were prepared to try their luck in a new sphere for ten shillings a day and all found. They were the same type, and produced by much the same circumstances, as the Congo mercenaries of our own day.
(F. S. L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine, 1971)
In the 1939-45 war there were mercenaries on both sides. According to H. W. Koch in History of the Second World War (Vol. 7) there were 130,000 West Europeans, mostly Dutch, Flemings and French, in the German Waffen-SS as well as Russians and East Europeans. In The Big Lie (1955), a jingoistic account of Allied propaganda organization in the war, J B. White mentions Circassian mercenaries serving under the French in North Africa. Previously, in the Spanish Civil War, men were recruited for Franco from Morocco on the promise of pieces of land afterwards. Mercenaries have taken part in other more recent wars. Besides the Congo, they were employed in the Biafran war of 1967 and included air-pilots on both sides.

The distinction between mercenaries and soldiers in standing armies is a scanty one. Men do not enlist from patriotic or moral sentiments, but for pay and security spiced with physical excitement; in the past the Regular Army was recruited chiefly from the able-bodied unemployed. Discussing the legal position of the British mercenaries in Angola, a Times leader on 10th February said the existing law (the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870) “makes no distinction between fighting for money and fighting for a cause”. It would make no difference if it did. The British government’s alarm was not because these adventurers were deficient in lofty motives, but because they might imply a general British partisanship. The French government disowned mercenaries in the Congo for the same reason, and threatened to withdraw citizenship from them. What is “a cause”? In this context, a capitalist interest agreeable to Our Side.

In a speech in the House of Commons the Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Ennals, said: “The mercenaries by their irresponsible action, are not only acting against Britain’s interests, they are bringing more suffering to the people of Angola.” (The Times, 11th February). The mercenaries deserve contempt, but not in those terms. It is Britain’s interests, and those of capitalism all over the world, that are responsible for the suffering. In the Biafran war, while similar pious sentiments were expressed, about one-fifth of the Nigerian side’s military purchases came from Britain. The officers and advisers in the Nigerian army were largely British-trained.

The position over the sale of arms to developing states is summed up in a chapter “The Merchants of Death” by Philip Windsor in The History of the Twentieth Century, Vol. 8 (1968).
At present, practically everyone sells in the Middle East; the major European arms producers—Great Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium—are chipping away at the virtual American monopoly in Latin America. Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union have very large markets in South-East Asia. France and Great Britain sell what they can in Africa, and France is taking over the British role in South Africa.
Nor is this a nefarious conspiracy. It is normal capitalism : the production of commodities sold at a profit because of the certainty that normal capitalism generates wars inexorably.

“Mercenary” is a disapproving word, and mercenary soldiers characteristically are turned out and despised when their job is done. In this case it was sooner instead of later. There is another lesson here. People are often convinced by the idea of a “just” war; for instance, that the Second World War had to be, because of the Germans’ totalitarianism and their persecution of the Jews. In fact anyone who set out to fight on those accounts before his government found it expedient would have been dealt with as a trouble-maker. Governments carry out the compulsions of each one’s national capitalism. The workers kill and are killed, by order—until they see the reason, and decide they will have no more of it.
Robert Barltrop

Action for Socialism (1979)

Editorial from the March 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

The profit system is a spent force. The present method of organising human affairs is anti-social because all goods and services take the form of commodities. The great material achievements of the past two centuries have not served to substantially improve the lives of ordinary men and women, but to strengthen the power of the rich and privileged. Sale with a view to profit is holy law.

Capitalism makes the rich rich by keeping the poor poor. There is a class division arising from the minority ownership of the means of production and distribution. The working class receive wages and salaries in return for the use of their mental and physical labour power. The capitalist needs to buy this commodity — yes, labour power is also a commodity to be bought and sold, used and disposed of — because, during the course of production workers create values greater than the price paid for their labour power. This surplus value is the source of the profit which keeps the capitalist in his parasitic position. You can't have capitalism without profit and you can't have profit without workers who are willing to be exploited.

The working class is not coerced into accepting this exploitative relationship. Most workers share the view that the capitalist system is the best possible way of running things. The capitalists spend vast fortunes on maintaining this consent. The schools, the universities, the press, the radio and television, the Church — all of these means of securing social control: they are 'the opium of the people'.

That’s not to say there is total acquiescence. Workers complain about low wages, poor working conditions, bad housing, pollution of the environment, racial and sexual discrimination, the threat of war. Sometimes action is taken. In the case of wages and working conditions trade unions are formed, yet these can only win restricted, temporary gains. Other action takes the form of demands in which workers ask for legislative reforms from the owning class. Neither trade unionism nor reformism challenge the foundation of class society.

Different political parties promise to reform capitalism in different ways. In the industrially advanced countries the working class demonstrates its consent to being exploited by electing these thieves and liars into parliament. Whether the majority of workers vote Labour or Tory the role of the government will always be to arrange for the running of the system that exploits them. The army, the police and the legal system are there to look after things should anyone get in the way.

For the sake of profit-making, workers accept the most abject degradation. Children go hungry for the price of food; families are turned out on to the street because they can’t afford to pay their rents; workers kill each other in wars for markets that they will never profit from; people die painful deaths in under-equipped hospitals from diseases too expensive to cure; grown men beg in the streets for the price of a bed for the night. Meanwhile the Financial Times index serves as a barometer of the affluence of the few.

There can be no alternative to this misery which does not propose to end class division, exploitation and profit: the three-headed god of capitalism. The end of class division will be the result of the abolition of the ownership and control of the means of producing and distributing wealth by the rich. It will not mean State control of production, for the State, as a means of coercion, will be a relic of the past once there is no working class to control. The end of the working class must mean the end of exploitation, and production for profit. Once exploitation ends there will be no more production for profit.

That is what Socialism will bring to an end, but it is what Socialism can make possible that we need to consider. For the first time men and women will be free to discover their full potential, to develop their talents, acquire new skills and fulfil their pleasures to the full. Cost and legality will be an obstacle to no-one. Human beings will be able to co-operate, explore, create and plan in new and exciting ways. Democracy will become meaningful in Socialist society for the first time ever.

It may seem strange to realise that the working class has immense power under capitalism. Clearly this is not power over wealth: the wealth producers are treated with contempt, downtrodden, placed in poverty, alienated from their very humanity. But still they have one power which the exploiters do not. That is the political power to change the course of history. The consent of the working class is vital for the continuation of capitalism. As long as the working class place their faith in leaders of all kinds, it will be gratefully accepted. If, on the other hand, workers stopped trusting and started taking democratic political action on their own, there wouldn't be a thing the capitalist class could do to stop the transformation of society.

The Socialist Party was formed in 1904 by men and women committed to working class emancipation. They understood how the profit system exploited them and felt degraded and indignant by what they experienced; they understood that the system of exploitation would not be abolished by trade union militancy, by radical reform programmes, by enlightened leadership, by violent overthrow or by sitting back and doing nothing. The only way to make Socialism is to make Socialists. The larger the party of workers who understand the need for Socialism, the nearer that need will be to becoming reality. Every new member of the Socialist Party is a further nail in the coffin of the profit system. The process is slow. But those who join it can be confident in the understanding that they are engaged in a movement which will one day eradicate the suffering caused by the profit system so that people can construct a society fit to live in.

Whose turn to screw the workers? (1986)

The Letter From Europe column from the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you are reading this article after 16 March you will already know the results of the general elections in France: Mitterrand's so-called Socialist Party (PS) will have lost its overall majority in the National Assembly, the National Front will have won a parliamentary representation for the first time, the previous opposition leaders will be arguing over what to do, and so on.

But this is only the tinsel of politics. The real issue in these, as in all elections everywhere in the world, is whether or not the wage and salary earning class is once again to put political power into the hands of the capitalist class that exploits them. Unfortunately, given the level of political consciousness in France, as elsewhere, the result is a foregone conclusion: these elections are going to be won by the capitalist class. Their control of political power will be confirmed by the re-election of a National Assembly composed exclusively of politicians pledged to support the continuation, in one form or another, of the money-wages-profits system that is capitalism.

The differences between the contending parties — whether the so-called communist and socialist parties on the Left or the RPR. UDF or National Front on the Right — are purely superficial, a question of which particular gang, or combination of gangs of place-hunters is to have responsibility for managing the governmental affairs of the French capitalist class. In short, who — the Left or the Right — is to have the privilege of turning the screws on the wage and salary earning class in France.

At the last general elections, held in June 1981 following Mitterrand's election as President. the Left won a landslide victory and a coalition government dominated by the PS — but with the participation of Communist Party (PCF) Ministers came into office. It promised to restore full employment by nationalising the banks and a few key industries so as to be able to plan economic growth, which would also be used to finance improved wages and social benefits. Naturally, as was predictable from a knowledge of the economic laws of the capitalist system, it failed utterly to achieve these goals.

Administering capitalism
After an initial increase in certain social benefits for the lower paid, within a year — by June 1982. to be exact — the new government had imposed a wage freeze and cut social benefits. Despite the nationalisation of the banks and the conversion of a number of firms from private to state capitalist enterprises, unemployment continued to rise and poverty to grow, as the workings of capitalism made a mockery of the Ministry of Plan's paper projects to expand production in the face of the world-wide capitalist depression.

In the end. the new government settled down to administering capitalism in the only way possible: as a profit-making system operating in the interest of the profit-taking class. The PCF participated in this anti-working class administration of capitalism for a full two years after the government's U-tum in June 1982. since its ministers did not resign till Laurent Fabius took over from Pierre Mauroy as Prime Minister in July 1984.

The outgoing government — essentially composed of members of Mitterrand's PS — is fighting the election not on what it has done to honour the promises it made in 1981 (how could it?) but on the negative theme of "we were not as bad as a right-wing government would have been". Thus, in one newspaper advertisement comparing the rise of unemployment under the pre-1981 governments with what had happened since 1981, the PS declared that unemployment had "only" risen 38 per cent since it came to power — the reader was assumed to have forgotten that the Left government had come to power on a promise to reduce unemployment, not preside over its rise to over 2.5 million. And one televised debate between the Prime Minister. Fabius. and the main opposition leader. Jacques Chirac, turned into an argument as to which of them had been the more successful in holding down wage costs — Fabius claiming that his government had been more successful than that of Chirac in the early 1970s but forgetting the PS's promise to increase, not decrease, "popular consumption"!

Since the Labour Party in Britain has a programme of vote-catching promises very similar to the pre-1981 PS — basically, trying to plan the expansion of production by the same mixture of state control and increased consumer purchasing power — it is worth examining exactly why the Left-wing government in France failed so utterly and ended up trying to transfer money from the poor to the rich (from wages to profits).

Why reformism fails
The classic reformist programme of trying to correct the evils of capitalism in the interests of the workers has never succeeded because the system just cannot work in the interests of wage and salary earners. It is based on their exploitation and functions according to definite economic laws which are beyond the control of governments, however well-intentioned or resolute.

Of course, there are certain things which governments can do. They control the armed forces and the other means of coercion. They can pass laws and apply them. In the economic sphere they control the issue of the currency. But they do not and cannot control the economy. Certainly, they can pass laws and make plans concerning economic matters but this does not mean that these can be put into effect or that, if they are, they will have the intended results. Capitalism, as we said, is an economic system subject to its own economic laws which governments ignore at their peril. These laws can be summarised as:
★ capitalism is an integrated world economy; there is no such thing as the "British economy" or the "German economy" or even the "American economy". There is only the world capitalist economy, which exists in all countries.
★ as government activity does not of itself produce wealth, all the resources allocated by governments (whether on "defence", social reforms or subsidies to nationalised industries) have to come out of the profits made in the productive sector of the economy, whether private or state-owned.
★ the private sector of the economy is exclusively motivated by profit-seeking, since profits are the main source of the finance it needs to continue to engage in productive activity. Indeed, in the end, achieving a monetary profit is the only reason the private sector has for producing.
In a depression the government — whether left, right or centre — has to pursue a policy of austerity for the working class because the logic of the capitalist system demands that priority be given to profit-making by capitalist enterprises. As a matter of fact, even in periods of prosperity governments must abstain from taking measures that threaten profits. In times of slump, however, they must do all they can to restore profitability: they must cut back and restrain both their own expenditure (which ultimately can only come from taxes and other charges on profits) and the wages of the workers (which are a direct cost to enterprises).

It is because capitalism cannot function in any other way that the outgoing reformist government in France ended up pursuing basically the same policies as openly conservative governments in Britain. Germany and America. The political colour of the government makes no essential difference; what counts are the economic laws of capitalism which these governments are obliged to apply.

In time, as the world capitalist economy recovers, markets will gradually re-appear but there is nothing that any government can do to hasten the process. They can help industry prepare for the recovery by encouraging it to "modernise" — to eliminate the least efficient enterprises — but this is what tends to happen anyway in a depression, whether or not the government intervenes. So all a government can do — and all the so-called "Socialist" government in France did — is to work with the economic laws of the capitalist system. This has been the fate of all past and present reformist governments in the world which have set out to make the capitalist system function in the interests of the workers and will inevitably be the fate of any future Labour government that comes to power in Britain.
Adam Buick 

Populist pay-off? (1984)

Editorial from the March 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ronald Reagan’s announcement that he will run for President again this year may be seen as further evidence of the success of a re-emergent style in the deceptions of capitalism's politics. Not so long ago, left wing governments were fond of representing their job of running capitalism as a complex business, which could be confidently undertaken only by heavily qualified experts. So the governments of Harold Wilson were crammed with economists, ex-university dons and the like; by sheer brainpower, it seemed, the problems of slump, war, poverty and social conflict were to be made tractable.

Well that particular intellectual honeymoon lasted only so long, until the very reality of capitalism brought it to a sour and fractious end. Since then the British working class have been governed in, and have responded gratefully to. a rather different style. Whatever the true situation in the corridors of power, in public Margaret Thatcher shows a confidence which, she claims, stems from simple, eternally sound convictions about what is right and what is wrong. More properly called prejudices, policies such as rampant nationalism, the bare-faced screwing down of workers' living standards. tolerating no dissension, have done Thatcher no electoral harm. She has exploited the populist style to advantage and can get away with mouthing the most arrant nonsense. So far, the British working class have shown no resentment at being treated like naughty pupils in a rigidly disciplined school.

In the same way Ronald Reagan has made a thespian speciality of presenting issues to the American workers as innocent as possible of any complicating mental exertion. It is all very simple, in Reagan’s mouth. America is good, it is free, its people are industrious and ingenious and peace-loving. They are of course also staunch and courageous in the defence of all this goodness, freedom, industry and pacifism. They are told that the Kremlin is populated by evil beings whose obsessive ambition it is to destroy all that is good in America, through subversion or outright force.

There are of course some snags to this theory. One is that in every capitalist state the working class are nurtured on roughly the same Reaganist principles. Thatcher pronounces the word Britain in the same devoted way that Reagan does the word America. The workers in Russia are encouraged to believe that their rulers’ military power exists to defend peace and freedom and “socialism” against he "war-mongers" in Washington. It goes in the same way for Japan, Germany, China. France . . .

One other snag is that the earthy, populist appeal may bring in the votes but it does not match up with the facts. America possesses an arsenal of a power to reflect its standing as one of the world's mightiest states. By a press of the button (perhaps, in the case of cruise, two buttons) Reagan could unleash a destructive force to wipe out much of the settled life of modern society. What was left of it would probably disappear with any counter stroke. It is not credible that such a potential is kept in being to protect the workers' freedom to organise in unions, to openly discuss political ideas, to campaign for the modification — or, in the case of socialists, for the abolition — of capitalism.

In fact, if he ever experiences any moments of insight or candour, Reagan himself should concede this very point. His government, like its predecessors, is not famous for its defence of human freedoms in Central and South America, or in Korea, or Vietnam, or Africa, or in the Middle East. While at one time it may find itself in support of a state which can be described as a political democracy, at others it will give military and economic back-up to a government noted for its ruthless suppression of opposition. The motive in American policy in those spheres is not human freedom and welfare but the interests of the American capitalist class. In that cause mass murder, or starvation, or disease, or widespread destruction, or genocide, are all to be justified. This is not a policy peculiar to American capitalism; in the same way the so-called communists states have hands as bloody as any other.

It is no accident that politicians like Reagan and Thatcher can mouth about freedom and security while condoning dictatorships and mass killing. The key to understanding this situation is in the fact that each capitalist state machine operates in the interests of is ruling class. At one time these interests may require support for a "democratic” government; at others they may require an alliance such as that between Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany in 1939, or between Stalinist Russia and America and Britain in 1941, or between Britain and South Korea in 1950.

The world’s capitalist class have the common interest of exploiting the workers, and using the material resources of the world, to the point of maximum profit and accumulation of capital. Within the capitalist class there is a maelstrom of opposing interests which causes persistent international conflict. That is the root cause of the mighty arsenals which are held in readiness all over the world by every capitalist power of any consequence. The interests of the capitalists have nothing to do with human welfare; in their rivalry it is not only permissible, but vitally necessary, to plunder, destroy and murder.

This is the awful reality behind the hypocrisy of Reagan, Thatcher. Chernenko, Mitterrand and the rest. There is as much menace for the working class in a leader's relaxed, folksy style of communicating capitalism's cynicism as in the rantings of a Hitler. The workers throughout the world must reject them all, whatever their style, and build a new society for themselves — before it is too late.

Party News Briefs (1951)

Party News from the March 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Party Meeting on Premises
Nearly three hundred Party Members attended Holborn Hall on Sunday afternoon, February 19th, in response to an urgent request, at unavoidably short notice. Six hundred circulars were sent to members in London and the Home Counties with details of the meeting and extracts from reports on premises at Clapham were included in the circular.

The meeting lasted three hours and terminated when a resolution was carried by an overwhelming majority recommending the Executive Committee to purchase the premises at Clapham.

A collection of £16 was taken during the meeting and a retiring collection for the New Premises Fund realised £12 12s. 6d.

Conference
Comrades are reminded that Conference is being held at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 23rd, 24th and 25th. On the Saturday evening the usual Social and Dance will be held, and on Sunday evening a Conference Rally will be held. (See separate Notice in this issue of the Standard for full details).

Glasgow Branch
Glasgow Branch regrets to announce the death of Comrade Thomas Walshe.

Comrade Walshe was one of the oldest members of the Branch and during his association with the Party, spared no effort in the task of spreading the Case for Socialism.

Keenly interested in music, Comrade Walshe, up to the time of his illness, would discuss and lecture on music after Branch meetings.

The Party can ill afford to lose members of his kind. His death is a great blow to Glasgow Branch.

The Branch takes this opportunity of extending its deepest sympathy to his relatives and friends.

Hackney Branch
The Branch has received a letter of apology from Miss Sybil Morrison regretting her inability to debate on behalf of the Peace Pledge Union at the Bethnal Green Library. The proposed debate was arranged to take place on February 2nd. Owing to a bad attack of influenza and inability to find a deputy for the evening in question, she asked us to arrange another date; accordingly Friday, March 30th, at the same time and place has been-agreed upon, and those who were previously disappointed by the non-attendance of the P.P.U. representative are invited to be present on the new date.

This will be the last indoor propaganda venture of the Branch this season, previous to the re-opening of old, and possibly new stations in the large and populous area of North and East London served by the Branch.

West Ham Branch
After a slow start the winter season livened up with a visit of a University lecturer criticising the Materialist Conception of History which attracted more than forty comrades and friends.

Subsequent Branch lectures have been less successful but nevertheless promise well for the future. 1951 has already produced two new members and more are likely.

On January 24th an audience of ninety at East Ham Town Hall heard Comrades Carver and Young on “War and the Working Class,” and it is possible that more meetings will be held in this hall before the end of the winter.

One or two members continue canvassing with good effect.

Overseas
The Overseas Secretary reports that our Comrades in New Zealand have again, this year, had a tarpaulin - throw-in (what we should call a  "whip-round”), to provide us with another food parcel for our Annual Conference catering. The parcel is on its way and will be a great boon to our harassed Catering Committee in their endeavour to provide delegates and visitors to our Conference with suitable refreshments. We heartily thank our Comrades in New Zealand for their comradely and generous gift.

Thanks are also extended to the Comrades in Northern Rhodesia who have donated, via the Overseas Secretary, the sum of Five Pounds to Party Funds, and to the Comrade in South Africa who has sent One Pound towards the expenses of overseas propaganda.

The Overseas Secretary is anxious to contact any Member who may be contemplating a visit to Central Europe during 1951. Also, any member who is taking up residence overseas, or who may be going to do so, is recommended to communicate with the Overseas Secretary so that he can supply the facilities that he is now able to provide to ex-members living abroad.
Phyllis Howard



Socialist Speaker addresses Students of The College of St. Mark and St. John, Chelsea (1951)

From the March 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

The meeting was attended by thirteen students, who listened to an exposition of the Party’s Policy and Principles, and heard the definition of the word “ Socialism ” for the first time.

Ten question were asked in the following order. The answers are condensed for publication.

Q. How can society operate without money?
A. Money does not distribute goods. Transport does. Money impedes the distribution of goods by ensuring that they are supplied only to those with money. Socialism will distribute wealth freely.

Q. When socialists say “ people will work,” is it correct to infer some force will operate to make them work?
A. No. The incentive to work under Socialism will be individual self-expression and social responsibility.

Q. Why do Socialists envisage a Godless state?
A. Socialism is a proposal based on a scientific study of Society. It envisages a social system established by the conscious application of a human idea based on facts and therefore excludes the supernatural.

Q. If religion and social pressures are removed what will be the motive for existence?
A. We do not know of any motive for existence except existence itself. We leave such futilities to religion.

Q. When in the revolution, Russia abolished the use of money, chaos resulted; how does the Socialist explain that?
A. Chaos did NOT result from the Revolution, but the Revolution from Chaos. Russia (and Germany) did NOT abolish the use of money. With military defeat and economic collapse the state monetary system went too, its place being taken by local currencies and bartering expedients.

Q. From what the Socialist says, we must return to barter but surely this would lead to haggling and argument and so to wars?
A. From what the socialist says, we must NOT return to barter but go forward to Socialism. Barter is simply exchange without money. It pre-supposes private property which Socialism will abolish.

Q. On what grounds do Socialists base their faith in human nature?
A. Socialists have no faith. It is the nature of human beings to act rationally in their own interests; when they realise that their interest is a social one they will establish Socialism. The stimulus is growing dissatisfaction with the present material environment, capitalism.

Q. Socialists use the phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"; how will you decide who needs what, and surely inequalities will acrue, since needs vary so?
A. The only person who can decide personal needs is the individual involved. Personal need, however, is almost completely conditioned by social milieu. Socialism is not a proposal for equal individual consumption, but common or equal ownership of means of production. Equal amounts of the same things for everybody is characteristic of the working class under capitalism.

Q. What will be the purpose of society when competition for trade, etc., is removed, and also if Socialists are not concerned with good and evil and moral explanations of society; why do they say Socialist society will be the most ethical man has achieved?
A. Socialism will remove the basis of anti-social conduct by making it impossible to get rich. The absurd double standards of religious ethics which strive to apply ideal codes to a corrupt capitalist system will evaporate.

Q. Reading history shows that mankind has built great civilisations, that all have crumbled to dust; what prevents one thinking, then, that capitalism, too, may collapse and with it the production processes without which Socialism cannot materialise?
A. All preceding civilisations have contributed to the social evolution of mankind. Capitalism will not collapse, because until a majority are Socialists they will support it. They will not be able to abolish it without a definite idea of what is to replace it—Socialism.
Horatio.


Trade Unions in a trap (1978)

From the March 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the end of World War II there have been half a dozen periods during which the government has operated an incomes policy, sometimes a Labour government sometimes Tory; and in between periods of so-called “free collective bargaining”. When Labour governments have been operating the incomes policy Labour politicians have urged the Unions to co-operate on the ground that if they did not do so the result would be falling exports, heavier unemployment and rising prices and that this would bring in a Tory government and make things worse for the workers.

So how have the workers fared since a Labour government came to power in February 1974? Unemployment is up from 630,000 to over a million and a half and prices have nearly doubled. As wages have been “restrained”—that being the purpose of an incomes policy—and have risen less than the cost of living, the amount of goods wages will buy has been reduced and workers, even those in work, are worse off. Professor Alan Day (Observer 1 May 1977) estimated that after allowing for inflation the take-home pay of typical male workers in 1977 was 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, below the level of 1973.

Another consequence was the effect on profits. The gross trading profits of companies, which had fallen from £10,250 million in 1974 to £9,961 million in 1975, rose sharply in 1976 to £12,666 million and rose further in 1977.

The way the Callaghan government ran its income policy involved such notions as the use of troops to break the firemen’s effort to get more than a 10 per cent, increase, and the Minister of Agriculture “deploring” a proposed 12 per cent.-13 per cent, increase in what is one of the lowest-paid industries, agriculture. (Financial Times 3 Dec. 1977).

But at least the very low paid workers are protected by minimum wage legislation. Or are they? Those who accept this belief do so under the impression that the Acts are effective. In times of heavy unemployment many employers ignore the Acts and workers put up with it rather than lose their jobs. In the 1930s it was reckoned that as many as half the farmworkers were being paid less than the statutory minimum. And a similar situation in other industries has recently come to light. Recently the independent Low Pay Unit found that in 1977 nearly a quarter of employers in the retail, catering and hairdressing industries were paying “illegally low wages”. (The Times 3 Feb. 1978) And a TUC report found homeworkers receiving as little as £10 to £15 for a 30 or 40 hour week. (Evening Standard 26 Jan. 1978)

Among the employers are sub-contractors of H.M. Stationery Office employing homeworkers on Income Tax work at rates of 12½p to 25p an hour. (Daily Mail 3 Feb. 1978)

This is the workers’ life under Labour government. Would the past four years have been different if Mr. Heath had been re-elected in 1974, as Tories maintain? Demonstrably not. Tory policy at that time, including incomes policy, and currency policy was almost identical with that of the present government. What did happen at the end of 1973 was that capitalism lurched into the depression that is still with us. A Tory government could no more have prevented it than could a Labour government and the consequences of Tory government would have been much the same — higher unemployment, rising prices and falling living standards.

In 1945 the Tory Party declared that it knew how to maintain full employment and prevent depressions. So did the Labour Party and both based their belief on that monumental fallacy of the Keynesians, that busy factories and jobs for all can be guaranteed simply by pushing more currency into circulation (The Labour government has added £1000 million in the past 12 months). All this in fact does is to raise prices.

One change has taken place. It is that some leading Tories have at last abandoned Keynes, and if they get their way they say they really will stop inflation or reduce it to a very low rate. They could do it by curbing the note issue, as the government did in 1919. But anyone who supposes that capitalism without inflation becomes more tolerable for the workers has only to look at past history. There was no inflation for 100 years before 1914, and the depression of the 1930’s took place after prices had been falling for ten years.

The trade unions are in a tragic plight, of their own making. The unions’ function in capitalism is to try to defend or improve their members’ wages and conditions of work, and the TUC professes to co-ordinate union policies and actions. Yet repeatedly since 1945 they have taken on the role of holding down the wages they exist to push up. Even if it didn’t make a lot of difference in practice, since in a depression most workers would be lucky to be able to maintain purchasing power, let alone increase it, that policy inevitably creates confusion and obscures from the workers the real nature of capitalism. It is made worse by the unions’ policy of refraining from pressing the wage struggle in order to make it easier for a Labour government to deal with capitalism’s problems. Finally the unions and the TUC are as firmly tied as ever to the Keynesian nonsense. They think that they are exercising the option of running capitalism in a manner that will rid it of its major evils. What they are actually doing is to prevent the workers from making the decision that someday they will have to make, to get rid of their real enemy, the capitalist system of society.
Edgar Hardcastle