Monday, May 8, 2017

The Strike and its Lessons (1912)

Editorial from the April 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

A million miners are out on strike. From the ferment around us one might think they were asking for the mines. Every foul epithet and calumny is being hurled at them by the hireling Press. It is they who are unpatriotic; it is they who are ruining the trade of the country; it is they who are bringing the people to starvation. No one suggests that the mine-owners, who cling so tightly to the last atom of profit which they can screw out of those who go down into the pits, are culpable.

Of course not. Is it not only fair and just that capital should have its reward? and who can say that the mine-owner is any too well recompensed for his risk and his labour? Not the capitalist papers, certainly.

These drew many fancy pictures of the fabulous wages and astonishing luxury of the miners, and marvelled that there was anything left for the owners at all. Yet within a week of the men ceasing work the Press rang with the cries of the miners starving wives and children, and Mr. Chiozza Money, M.P., showed from the Income Tax returns that in the last nine years the owners had made over 200 million pounds out of the unpaid labour of the workers!

It is stated that the granting of the minimum wage would only cost £50,000 a year, which is less than ¼ per cent. of the profit the masters take, and a very minute fraction of one per cent, on their capital. It is a pregnant demonstration of what the meaning of the word "patriotism” is on the masters’ lips, when they plunge the country into such misery for the sake of so insignificant a morsel of dividend.

Another lesson taught with irresistible force is the utter uselessness of the master class, for no sooner do the workers lay down their tools than production comes to a standstill. After this no one should have any doubt as to who produces the wealth of society, or should urge that we cannot get on without the capitalists.

Asquith and the Liberal Government have followed the usual course, hut so far without the usual success. He has called conferences at which he has paraded the true Asquithian bluff. But he had rather a difficult row to hoe this time, for the miners have not forgotten bow the railwaymen were "Lloyd Georged” into going hack to work with empty hands. After the conferences Asquith tried his trump card: Compulsory Arbitration in spite of the fact Mr. J. M. Robertson had told the House that countries which had Compulsory Arbitration suffered severely from “labour unrest.”

The next move on Asquith’s part was to bring in his Coal Bill. This was an audacious attempt to dish the miners by a fraudulent, hypocritical measure framed by lawyers to look a lot and give nothing.

It was a measure to legalise the “principle” of the Minimum Wage without stating the minimum. It provided for district conferences with a Board of Trade Chairman who would have the casting vote, and who was to decide the minimum if both sides failed to agree—a bright look-out indeed for the miners.

The trade union leaders—the Labour Party—voted for the Second reading of the Bill, simply asking the Government to give them some semblance of minimum figures on which they could lure the men back to work.

Mr. Ramsay Macdonald said they agreed with the principle of the Bill and would do all they could to get it through. But the Bill was a measure that called for the fiercest opposition of any workmen’s representative.

It was simply a dodge to get the men back to the mines with depleted funds, and therefore in a much worse position than before. That accomplished, it offered them nothing but delay, —the machinery for the fight for the minimum, with all the weapons in the masters’ hands.

Every loophole, every safeguard, was provided for the masters. So much so was this that Mr. Macdonald was able to point out to the Government that they need not be afraid to put the figures 5s. and 2s. in the Bill because there were safeguards in it by which the minimum could be reduced. According to the “Daily News" (March 23) he said: “Does the House understand what it is doing? It can put on the 5s. and 2s. and make these figures subject to sub section 4 of clause 2 of the Bill.”

This acceptance by the Labour Party of a minimum that was not a minimum was seized upon by the Government, and they immediately proposed another conference upon it.

It is easy to see the game both the mine-owners and the Government are playing, indeed, it has been hinted at in these words by the “Daily News” :
  “The owners are convinced that if the strike goes on . . labour as a whole will be bled white, and utter exhaustion will be the beginning of a long peace.”
The Government have been dallying and delaying in order to let starvation do its work. They know how slender are the trade unions’ resources, and that the masters can afford to sit in calm confidence amidst their luxury while the men stumble on to surrender.

The miners’ leaders, such as Brace, Edwards, “Mabon,” Harvey, and Stanley, are imbued , with the ideas of the master class. Above all , they want peace, peace at any price. Their security of their jobs and their position is their first and last consideration. Every device to humble the men and to weaken their position has been tried during this strike.

How treacherous they are the 1910 South Wales Miners’ strike showed. When the South Wales Federation ran out of funds the English Federation reluctantly came to their aid, but after five months the men’s strike pay was stopped, and Mr. Thomas Ashton, the secretary, bitterly denounced the strikers and helped to drive them back under a worthless agreement with the masters.

The majority of trade unionists, unfortunately, do not yet understand the bitter conflict of interests between the owners and the toilers — the Class Struggle. They, like their leaders, do not yet see the only remedy for them and theirs. They have to look beyond the details of the present system and take an intelligent part in that great struggle in which they are the unconscious participants. They must understand clearly that while the master class control the political machine they control their lives. They have possession of that power which orders the armed forces to butcher them when they attempt to take the wealth they have produced.

The workers must capture that political machine in order to take over the means of life for themselves to be owned in common, and used in the common interest. Surely the hardships and misery that strikes involve, so terribly out of proportion with what is gained by them, and so hopeless, must drive the toilers to seek a better way. The saner, surer method for a real and permanent triumph is for the workers to no longer submit to be “leadered,” but to learn their own politics, understand their own interests, realise their own destiny, and rely upon their own courage and strength and intelligence to bear them on to that destiny—their emancipation through Socialism.

Debate at Caledonian Rd. Baths (1912)

Party News from the April 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most successful was the debate organised by our Islington comrades between Mr. A E. Moise, of the North London Christian Evidence League, and F. Vickers, as champion of the S.P.G.B.

The hall was crowded to its utmost capacity, so that the doors had at length to be shut. Fully 1,000 were present. The collection realised £4 7s. 0d. and the sale of literature 13s. 6d.

Mr. Moise made the best of a bad case, but Comrade Vickers simply wiped his every contention away.
Sidney Hammond, Sec. Islington Branch.

The Fabians, Bernstein and Revisionism - Part 1 (1956)

From the January 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now and again old ideas turn up and, after some refurbishing, are presented as fresh discoveries. The old wine in new bottles is then described as the sole product of the very latest and most highly developed vineyards. The working class movement has been no stranger to this fraudulent or ignorant artifice, and many a reputation has been built upon the deception.

Since the Socialist movement began most of those who claimed adherence to it have been obsessed with the idea of a mass movement. Even most of those who claimed to be Marxist have hedged, compromised, and thrown principles to the winds in order to swell the numerical support for a movement that put Socialism in the forefront as its theoretical aim, and then took practical action that denied this aim. The result has been defeat, disaster and the submerging of much that was valuable.

Examples of this craving for a mass following have been the Fabians, the Bernstein Revisionists, Independent Labour Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, the Labour Party, the Communists and, recently, movements, like the one sponsored by G. D. H. Cole. Supporters of these movements have brought up old arguments and ideas as if they were newly discovered examples of progress.

As some useful lessons can be drawn from it we will describe the circumstances in which one of these movements, the Bernstein Revisionist Movement occurred. It produced a bitter controversy in the Social Democratic Parties at the turn of the century. What exaggerated the importance of the theoretical dispute was the fact that Bernstein had been a prominent advocate of Marxism for many years, was regarded as an outstanding leader of German Social Democracy, had been a friend of Engels and, along with Kautsky, had been appointed by Engels as one of his literary executors. True, he did not disclose the cloven hoof until Engels was dead.

The controversy was set going by a series of articles on Problem of Socialism, contributed by Bernstein to the German Social Democratic paper, the Neue Zeit, in 1897. A demand was thereupon made that the German party state its position with regard to his ideas, and particularly to his contention that the task of social democracy was “to organise the working classes politically and develop them as a democracy and to fight for all reforms in the State which are adapted to raise the working classes and transform the State in the direction of democracy.” 

In 1899 Bernstein published a book gaining a complete statement of his views. This book was translated and published in England by the Independent Labour Party in 1909 under the title Evolutionary Socialism, with an English preface by Bernstein. The quotations of Bernstein's views that we will give later on will be taken from this edition, although the controversy ranged round the original German edition.

To begin with, let us see what the views were that Bernstein held. Briefly summarised they were the following:
That the numbers and wealth of large and small Capitalists tended to increase and society to become more democratic. That class antagonisms were being modified by ethical and patriotic considerations. That crises were decreasing in size and frequency through a process of adaptation largely influenced by trusts, cartels and the like. That the Materialist Conception of History overestimated the economic factor; the influence of the economic factor was diminishing whilst the influence of ideological factors, including the ethical, was increasing. That Capitalism had undergone fundamental changes since the middle of the 19th century when Marx made his analyses, but, though true for the time of which he was writing, they no longer applied.. That the theory of surplus value was incomplete and needed the addition of the theory of final utility. That the workers have now become citizens of the country and therefore have a fatherland to defend. That as Germany is becoming more and more dependent upon products from the colonies, these colonies should be developed and protected. Savages have only a conditional right to the land occupied by them; the higher civilization of advanced countries can claim a higher right. That Socialism is a long way ahead and will only come by a process that is gradual and almost imperceptible; consequently we should not worry about the future but concentrate on the present, on the extension of the political and economic rights of the working classes and “In all Advanced countries we see the privileges of the Capitalist bourgeoisie yielding step by step to democratic organisations” (Preface, page XI). That the Social Democratic Party should form alliances with the Capitalist parties nearest to them.
These were the views that Bernstein put forward. The controversy that developed was two-fold. On the one hand it was concerned with Bernstein’s ideas, on the other it was a struggle to keep him in the Party, in spite of his heresies, on the ground of democracy. On the latter question Liebknecht made the following observations:— 
“No socialist, therefore, has the right to condemn attacks on the theoretical ideas of the Marxian teachings or to excommunicate anyone from the party because of such attacks. But it is wholly different when such attacks imply a complete overturning of our whole conception of society, as, for example, is the case with Bernstein. Then vigorous defence is in order.” (p. 38, “No Compromise, No Political Trading.”)
However, it is well to remember that all the participants in this controversy accepted the reform policies of the Social Democratic Parties. Where they differed among themselves was that some advocated a reform policy but, at the same time, insisted that the Party should remain independent. The muddled attitude of the German party is made plain by a report of the two conferences at which the Bernstein position was debated. The report is taken from the Social Democrat of January, 1902.

At a Congress at Hanover in 1899, after Kautsky and Bebel had bitterly attacked Bernstein’s views, Bebel moved a resolution that was carried by 216 votes to 21. The resolution began as follows:—
“That the party remains as heretofore on the basis of the class-struggle whereby the freedom of the working class can alone be effected."
But it finished up in this way:—
“The party, without in the least deceiving itself as to the character of the bourgeois parties, does not, on principle, refuse to co-operate with the parties of order from time to time, if the party can thereby obtain some definite advantage, whether for the purposes of election, or in the acquirement of political rights and freedom for the people, or in the event of obtaining some real improvement in the social condition of the working classes, or in the struggle against elements and measures hostile to the masses. . .  and has no reason to change either its principles or fundamental demands, or its tactics, or its name.”
This weak-kneed resolution in fact gave Bernstein his case for reforms and alliances, and he was not slow to realise it. He was precluded from visiting Germany, and consequently could not attend the Congress. As soon as the terms of the resolution were conveyed to him he telegraphed his willingness to vote for it!

The Congress resolution did not settle the question. The controversy went on though Bernstein took no part in it until the middle of 1901, when he delivered a lecture in Germany under the title “ How is Scientific Socialism Possible?” In this lecture he argued that “ to be purely scientific Socialism must cease to be the doctrine of a class, the expression of the class interests of the working class.” This lecture stirred up the flames of controversy again, particularly as the Capitalist press lauded Bernstein as one of their own men. Thus the question came up again at the next Congress, which was held in Lubeck. Bebel opened the attack upon Bernstein, and Bernstein, who was present this time, defended his ideas claiming that he had not attacked the programme, the agitation or the practical working of the party, but only the theory which could not conceivably injure the party, and that he could not recant any of his views.

Two resolutions were moved. The first, for Bernstein, was rejected. The second was carried by 203 votes to 31, and was as follows:—
  “The Congress recognises the unreserved right of self-criticism for the intellectual development of the party. But the thoroughly one-sided manner in which Bernstein has conducted his criticism in the last few years, while omitting to criticise bourgeois society and its leaders, has placed him in an equivocal position, and aroused the displeasure of a large portion of his comrades. In the expectation that comrade Bernstein will accept this view and act accordingly, the Congress passes over the resolutions [there were four demanding a formal vote of censure] to the order of the day.”
After the resolution was carried Bernstein rose and made the following declaration:—
  “As I declared to you at the Congress at Stuttgart, the decision of the Congress naturally cannot cause me to abandon my convictions. At the same time, the decision of the majority of my comrades is never indifferent to me. My conviction is that the resolution is unjust towards me, being based, as I have pointed out, on erroneous suppositions. But since Comrade Bebel has declared that the resolution contains no vote of censure, I declare that henceforth I will respect and observe the decision of the majority of the Congress in the manner due to such a decision.”
This ended the dispute over Bernstein's membership as far as the German Party was concerned. In the next contribution we will discuss the repercussions in England of the German party’s decision.

We will end this section by pointing out that the ideas Bernstein put forward were not original. He himself had taken them from the Fabians, about whom we will have something to say later on, but there were groups on the Continent holding similar ideas before he put forward his. One of these groups held a view which was described as Integral Socialism. A member of this group, Benoît Malon, published a book in 1891 entitled “Integral Socialism.” Malon was opposed to Marx’s conception of economic motives and class-consciousness, arguing that Socialism was an outlook not for the workers alone but for all humanity, and was inspired by spiritual as well as economic aims, directed at conciliation rather than antagonism of classes, and trying to obtain benefits for all who suffered hardships. An outlook that required the co-operation of the liberal elements in society and involved the moral betterment of the workers.

Believing that Socialism was gradually seeping into society Malon, César de Paepe and others of like conviction, were opposed to any drastic proposals that might interrupt this process and advocated state ownership and the usual multifarious baggage of reformism in their proposals for practical action.

The seeping Socialism must have seeped out as fast as it seeped in, because 60 years later the class struggle has not eased; the workers are still wage slaves of capital and the ruling class is still in the seat of power and opulence.
Gilmac.

(To be continued)



Fireproof death (1983)

From the October 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Consider these two recent events — the stories of Alice Jefferson and Anne Philips. Alice worked with asbestos at Cape Industries Hebden Bridge factory for nine months when she was a young girl. Thirty years later, (in February 1982) she died a very painful death from mesothelioma (asbestos cancer) leaving her husband and two young children. She had suffered from tiredness and breathlessness for the last eight years of her life. In 1980 when her husband was unemployed she had been forced to take her fourteen-year-old son with her to work because she was too weak to do her cleaning job on her own but she needed the money. Her pain was excruciating and despite the use of the addictive pain-killing drugs dicanol and heroin she still suffered sleepless nights of agony. (Labour Research, April 1983). Her death must have been a great release although a compounded agony for her family.

On the other hand, consider the situation of Anne Philips. She lives at a place called Gatcombe House in Gloucestershire which her mother bought for her as a present. It cost somewhere between £450,000 and £725,000 and stands in 750 acres of prime farmlands and woods with plenty of stable space as well as a lake and boathouse. Anne receives over £50,000 a year as pocket money — one of the larger giro cheques paid by the state. When it was confirmed that white asbestos was present in a farm drive leading to Anne’s mansion, members of the Health and Safety Executive were immediately sent to inspect the possible danger. Tests of air samples were swiftly undertaken by scientists and the results indicated that the asbestos fibre levels were, in fact, less than one hundredth of the levels currently permitted by law. The managers of the Gatcombe estate were nevertheless "advised by the Health and Safety Executive to consider ways of reducing the amount of dust thrown up from the road". (The Standard, London evening paper, 31 August 1983.)

Asbestos is used in many products. It is to be found in gaskets, seals, textiles and friction materials. It is also in cement products, spray and insulation board used in buildings for fire protection. It is a fairly cheap and therefore profitable fire resistant material. Because of the fire hazards of modern urban areas and certain legal requirements, the ruling class are prepared for its use by workers as "protection” in the institutions of working class life, but they are not so keen when it comes to their own dwellings. Although it has been known for a long time that asbestos presents a great risk to health, the substance has continued to be used by working people. The directors and shareholders in the construction industry have generally been more concerned about the size of their dividends than with the depth of their workers' lung scars.

A report of the Factory Inspectorate in 1898 spoke about the “evil effects" of asbestos. In 1930 the government commissioned an investigation into the effects of the substance and the analysis of the Merewether and Price Report showed a massive incidence of crippling lung-scarring then occurring in the asbestos textile industry. Richard Peto, Reader in Cancer Studies at the University of Oxford has stated:
The foregoing estimates suggest there will be a total of about 50,000 asbestos-induced deaths in Britain over the next 30 years or so. 50,000 deaths is so enormous that it is difficult to comprehend. For example, it greatly exceeds the likely number of murders during the same 30 year period . . . because it is so widespread, asbestos may well be the worst occupational carcinogen (cancer causing substance) ever. (Selikoff and Lee, Asbestos and Disease, 1978.)
There is a calculable risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease at places where the substance is used. For example, at the Hebden Bridge factory where Alice Jefferson worked there is a one-in-eight chance. 2,200 people worked at this factory between 1939 and 1970. Of those who have been traced, 13 per cent had developed asbestos-related diseases — that is 279 workers — and 107 had died as a result of their condition. (Journal of Royal College of Surgeons, vol. 12, p. 2917, and report of Dr. Bertram Mann.)

In September the Health and Safety Commission imposed much stricter controls on the use of all types of asbestos in this country and recommended bars on the import of the two most deadly types of the material. “All the medical doubts are now over" belatedly declared the chairman of the Commission, Bill Simpson (Guardian, 24 August 1983) who, we must conclude, is either not very quick on the uptake of medical evidence or is less than honest.

Since society has become aware of the dangers of asbestos thousands of people who have had to work with it have been sacrificed on the altar of profitability. There are safer substitutes for nearly all uses of asbestos, and in many cases the substitutes are actually better. A 1982 Home Office report for the Fire Brigade, on the performance of heat resistant leather as fire blanket fabric, concluded: “this material gave a superior performance to that of asbestos".

Asbestos-related deaths which are all now socially unnecessary are only a grave in the cemetery of needless human waste which is capitalism. Think of the thousands who die prematurely or are maimed in industrial accidents. One of these victims was labelled by the news media in June as “the bravest man in Britain" after he had walked over half a mile while carrying his dismembered left arm which had been torn off in a hay baling accident. The accident may never have happened had there been a £20 guard on the machine, but the boss was not keen to spend the money. Think of the thousands who die for want of medical apparatus like kidney machines while immense resources are channelled into producing better bombs. Over 100,000 people go blind each year because of simple vitamin A deficiency and unclean water.

The magnitude and persistence of these problems within capitalism (the global social system of minority ownership of the means of life) cannot be eradicated by a tireless assault of reform measures and "stricter controls”. It is in the nature of this system to act in the economic interests of the minority with general disregard of social factors such as the health, safety and welfare of the majority who produce all the wealth.

Imagine a society where those responsible for testing the safety of products had to conduct their experiments in badly lit rooms against the nagging pressure of the flowing sands of an egg-timer with £ signs on the glass tube; where the entire staff of the hospitals were working with one arm tied behind their backs. That is similar to the society we operate at present. Then imagine how healthy and efficient we could be if doctors, industrial researchers, scientists, nurses and hospital staff could have all the time and the best conditions and equipment that they wanted. Such a society is a possible and urgent necessity. In a socialist society, asbestos and similar hazards will be consigned to the morbid museum of murderous relics which, through inadequate research caused so much damage: the mountain of Thalidomides, Rowan Points, Ford Pintos, Osmosins, inflammable toxic furniture, lead based petrol and poisonous Spanish cooking oils. Grim mementos of an epoch before social sanity.
Gary Jay

Book Review: “Pheasants and Men". (1929)

Book Review from the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pheasants and Men.” By “Medicus.” Old Royalty Book Publishers. Price, 3s. 6d. 255 pages.

“Medicus ” is evidently a doctor in a rural area—“ Clayshire ”—which bears a marked resemblance to Lincolnshire. His aim in writing the book is to portray the mastery which the landowners exercise over the lives of all who live by the land. He knows his types and introduces a number of incidents which make interesting reading. It must, however, be confessed that the love episodes, dragged in to please the reader of modern romantic fiction, are too slight and are not handled with sufficient skill to make a very effective novel.

The story shows how an agricultural labourer holding ideas that are against the economic interests of his employer, the landed gentry, is hounded down and becomes a marked man, his means of livelihood gone. Louth, the man in the story, assaults one of his master’s foremen for an unjust accusation of theft made against him and having previously been suspected of rebellious ideas, he is prosecuted and heavily fined. His master dismisses him and he is unable to get further employment. The tenant farmers fear the wrath of their land lords, the “gentry,” and the owner farmers are hand-in-glove with them, so that Louth is refused everywhere.

The justices who try Louth are all the landed gentry from the immediate neighbourhood, and agree that Louth’s behaviour is a direct menace to their interests as a class, and he must be suppressed. They systematically hound the man from that time forth. Louth’s master, although a thoroughly gross and uncouth individual, is regarded as of the same class as the gentry because of his position as owner farmer and possessing great wealth. Lord Prentice, a good-natured, inept kind of man, secretly pays Louth's fine and gets him a job on the road. The rest of the gentry are upset at this, but cannot find out who did it. They succeed in getting Louth's wages cut down and nip in the bud the endeavours of his sons to obtain employment. Louth’s daughter Mary is taken on as a maid in Lord Prentice’s service and meets her affinity in Lord Prentice’s son John. This love affair is the “ thread of romance” described as* runntng through the tale. The cover itself, by a faintly suggestive picture, gives the book all the appearance of a novel by Victoria Cross, but the “affair” is quite decorous. The lady in her capacity as maid takes John his morning tea to his bedroom, sits upon the bed and feeds him with bread and butter, both murmuring sweet nothings the while. The “romance” finishes by Lord John marrying good little Mary in the approved Peg's Paper style.

Louth is left a legacy of three hundred pounds and rents some land from one of the gentry who let it to him with the express idea of watching this smallholding idea fail. Contrary to expectations, instead of Louth being once more humiliated, with the help of manures, etc., he enriches his poor land, keeps poultry, and he and his sons begin to make money. Then the landowner puts more pressure on him. He raises his rent and gets the assessment committee to raise his rateable value. This enrages Louth, and at the election Louth opposes Lord Prentice’s son John, and had it not rained would have won the day. The brain of the gentry, Scutton Mamby, goes mad, and as he was the magistrate who could always find a way to convict the most innocent of victims, the stuffing seems to drop out of the gentry and the story finishes by Mary being introduced by Lord Prentice’s plebian mother (she had been an actress) to her friends and assuring Mary that old Louth’s future was now assured.

The author, although no doubt possessing sympathy with the agricultural workers, does not clearly appreciate their social subjection. He points out that the people who make the laws also punish those who offend against them, and that it is the people who possess who make the laws. Thus Lord John enters Parliament as a property-owner and his father acts as magistrate to enforce the laws his son helps to make.

These facts, however, are very well realised by those who dwell in rural districts and the position is much the same in the towns, although perhaps not so apparent. Most labourers in the country realise that it it hopeless to take any troubles with their master to court. They know that the owner or tenant farmers are backed up by the magistrates on all occasions. It is not only, however, the gentry who are magistrates. The farmers themselves, especially when retiring, are often made J.P.’s and are worse tyrants than the former. They are more feared because, having been in personal contact with the labourer, they know just how to terrorise their victims. The labourers certainly do not, as the book suggests, go in such fear of the gentry as they do the farmers. So long as they keep out of court they rarely meet. The gentry to them are like their god, living behind iron gates instead of gold. The parson acts as high priest and intermediary between them. The author also gives one the impression that the farmers rather fraternise with the gentry, but this is hardly true. The farmers,, schoolmasters, publicans and tradespeople, usually have their own Buff lodges and hunting clubs, and their social activities, fetes and flower shows, etc., are sometimes graciously patronised by the gentry, who will deign to open any charitable show that is going to help the poor and take them off of their own doorstep; and then as graciously fade away again. The doctor and God’s servant are accepted as runners-up to them.

Louth, in the story, is supposed to possess more than the average intelligence of his mates. He, however, utters no revolutionary or enlightening speeches and really acts rather stupidly in not clearing out. when he came into his money and getting away from the people who had personal animosity towards him.

The only real points of interest to a Socialist are the facts which show how the laws are framed and administered in the interests of the possessing class. The book shows the severity of the game laws even on trifling thefts, but does not try to show that all the “Thou shalt not steal ” laws are based upon a society which allows one section of the community to possess and not produce,, and the other, the vast majority, to produce and possess nothing, eking out a miserable existence on an insufficient wage that makes stealing almost a necessity. 
May Otway

No Profit, No Care (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the May 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
'Elderly lose home care as providers pull out' read the headline in the Times (20 March), a reminder that under capitalism even basic needs are not met unless they can be paid for.
It must have seemed a good idea – to ideologically-motivated supporters of capitalism. Take running care homes for the elderly out of the control of local council bureaucrats and let the profit motive operate. So, the government came to require local authorities to farm out this service to private profit-seeking companies. These were invited to tender for the service and, if successful, would be given a contract paying them to provide the service which would include an element of profit.
The idea was that, as they would be able to increase their profits if they cut costs, this would act as an incentive to provide the service more cheaply than local councils had been doing. The principle was the same as taxation in Roman times when the collection of taxes was given to contractors who paid the state a fixed sum and then were free to tax people as much as they could get away with. The difference is that, today, the contractors are paid a fixed sum but are then free to reduce their costs, so making an extra profit.
It is applied not just to care homes, but to utilities, trains and buses, 'free' schools, and parts of the health service. This is not free market capitalism, but state-dependent capitalism, even crony capitalism where politicians campaign for 'privatisation' and the contracts go to those who had lobbied them.
The failure in 2011 of Southern Cross, then the biggest provider of care homes, had already shown that the priority was making profits not providing care. Southern Cross had been acquired in 2004 by a group of vulture capitalists who introduced a dubious scheme involving the care home buildings before getting out just before the property boom burst (in the meantime making pots of money). Commenting at the time on the failure, the Observer (11 July 2011) noted:
'Even during the best of times, profit margins in the care business are thin; as long as occupancy rates remain comfortably over 85%, a company that leases homes from landlords can make good profits. But below that level, it becomes harder to break even, leaving businesses vulnerable to relatively small changes in the trading climate'.
This is the other side of the profit 'motive'. If profits are good it is an incentive to produce, but if they are bad it's an incentive not to produce. This is what is now happening in the home care market. The 'trading climate' has changed; costs have gone up which local councils are not in a position to cover. The result, as the Times news item reported, is that 'dozens of care providers are going bust and a quarter are at risk of insolvency'. A spokesman for Mears, one of the largest care home companies, which had cut its losses and handed back its contract with Liverpool, was quoted as saying:
'We absolutely did not take that decision lightly, but frankly what choice did we have?'
What choice indeed. If you are a business providing a service for profit and are not making a profit then you don't have a choice. You have to stop providing the service. That's the way capitalism works. Profits before needs. And some people still think that this is the best way to organise the production and distribution of useful goods and services.

Sosialaeth: Y Byd Yn Un (1969)

From the July 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Erthygl Areiniol

Mewn byd sosialaeth fe fydd pawb a'u boced yn wag, fe fydd diweithdra drychynllyd a fydd phob masnach ar ben.

Dyna pam r’ym yn credu bydd yn syniad da, ond efallai bydd yn well i ni fanylu tipyn,

Ni fydd dim arian mewn byd sosialaeth. Yn wir fe fydd dim prynu a gwerthu ogwbwl. Bydd pobol yn rhydd i fyned i’r siopau a’r marchnadoeth a cymeryd beth y fynnent heb dalu ac heb ddogni. 

Gall byd gael ei gynal fel hyn oherwydd fod gennym yn barod y ffordd tegnegol i gynyrchu fwy nag sydd eisiau ar ddynion. Ar hyn o bryd arian sydd yn gweithredu fel math o ddogni. Os nad ydych yn gallu fforddio rhwybeth, mae rhaid mynd hebddo. Dyna pam mae pobol yn newynu a teuluoedd yn cael eu gorfodi i fyw mewn sylms a dyna paham mae dynion, bynywod a phlant drwy’r byd yn cael eu amddifadu au bywyd yn ddistryw. Nid effaith prynder yw’r system arianol ond y system arianol yw achos prynder. Mae yn eglur nad yw bwyd yn cael eu gynyrchu mewn digonedd i boblogaeth y byd, nid o achos fod gan ddyn dim ddigon o adnoddau i wneud hyn ond am y reswm nas gall dim elw i’w wneud allan o bobol newynog.

Mae sosialaeth yn golygu newid mawr yn ffordd y byd ac ei ddodi mewn arfeddiad pan fynn ffatrioedd, gweithiau glo, trafnidiaeth a siopau yn cael ei perchen au ddefnyddio er lies i boblogaeth yr holl fyd. Dyna pam yr ydym yn dweud fydd di-weithdra dychrynllyd mewn byd sosialaeth. Mae dosbarth o ddynion yn y gorllwin ac yn y gwledydd comiwnydd, yn yr holl math o weithredoedd yn prnu ein cryfder gan arian ac yn ein gorfodi i weithio iddynt eu hunain, yn cael ei newid i gydweithio yn foddlonol i bob gradd o gymdeithasau. Un o’r pethau cyntaf iw gwneud mewn byd sosialaedd fydd cael darfod ar waeth diflas, sydd heddyw yn gwneud bywyd mor galed, a’u newid i waith mwy pleserus a deniadol.

Bydd rhaid cael byd sosialaeth heb derfyniadau. Nid oes modd ei sefydlu mewn un gwlad nac mewn un man o’r byd. Mae hyn yn golygu dim prynu a gwerthu rhwng unigolion a dim marchnad gwhaniaeth wledydd. Bydd y byd eang mewn sosialaeth yn ymdrechu i gynyrchu beth fydd eisiau, a bydd pob math a bobol yn cael rhyddid i gymeryd beth bydd yn cael ei gynyrchu.

Dichon fod un neu ddau o’r cynnygion gwreiddiol i’r system wedi dyfod i’ch meddwl. Efalli eich bod yn meddwl fod dyn yn rhy ddioglyd ac ynrhy drachwantus i wneud sosialaeth i weithio, ac efallai eich bod yn meddwl fod popeth yr ydym yn awgrymu yn ddi-rhan i naturoliaeth. Mae sosalwyr yn wastad yn barod i resymu ac mae’n ymchwiliadau mor bell wedi ein arwain o’r diwedd i’t tyb fod sosialaeth nid ddim ond yn beth o da, ond y mae ei eisiau yn druenus, i esbonio y problemau sydd nawr yn ein poeni.