Monday, November 13, 2017

The Other Policies of the National Front (1977)

From the August 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Everybody knows that the National Front opposes coloured immigration and seeks the repatriation of immigrants already here; but what about the other things the Front will try to do if ever it becomes powerful enough to influence or determine government policies?

To get a full answer to this question it would be necessary to consider a number of factors—why the Front was formed, the interests it represents or hopes to represent, its internal upheavals and struggles for leadership, the outlook of the present leaders and their view of British capitalism and its place in the world. Much information on these questions can be found in Martin Walker’s The National Front (Fontana/Collins paperback). On a more limited scale, a useful guide is the Statement of Policy the Front issued for the General Election in February 1974 when John Tyndall was Chairman, a post he has again occupied since 1975: remembering, however, that what vote-catching politicians set out in the prospectus is at best only an individual indication of what they are after.

A first question relates to the "image” the Front is trying to present of itself: a future government standing for patriotism, monarchy and national unity (only "trade union extremists and cosmopolitan finance” will be banned) and committed to democracy and the ballot-box. They stress their “newness” and how they differ from the Tory and Labour politicians who have brought politics into disrepute and failed to produce "national prosperity”. One interesting point is the Front’s indignation with the press and television for their "downright and deliberately false reporting”.

So how new is the Front’s programme, apart from its obsession with immigration? The answer is that it is mostly a ragbag of odds and ends adapted from the other vote-catching parties.

Don't bank on it
Of course the Front had to say something about capitalism and socialism, or rather pretend to say something.
The National Front is neither capitalist nor socialist in the sense in which those terms are usually understood. It takes a non-doctrinaire attitude towards all questions of private or public ownership, looking at each on its merits and purely from the standpoint of the national interest and utility.
It will be noticed that this deals only with the sham fight between state and private capitalism, and even on that issue it nimbly avoids committing the Front to either. It is designed obviously to attract voters from other parties without antagonizing anybody. But it inadvertently betrays one fact about the writer of it. Those words "usually understood” show that he was aware that Socialists repudiate the conception as a misrepresentation of the real issue between capitalism and Socialism. So what about the Front’s protest at misrepresentation?

The Front has something—or rather, two conflicting things—to say about inflation. John Clifton was their parliamentary candidate at Battersea South. In his election address he knew precisely what causes inflation: “Control the issue of currency—stop inflation.” But the Front will have none of this. It says that the greatest single cause of inflation is the actions of "private financial interests”. Perhaps John Clifton could explain to his party chiefs that the printing and issue of currency (excess of which is the cause of inflation) is solely in the hands of the Bank of England, not the commercial banks.

The Front has other proposals on finance. “The firmest public control of finance and banking” (nationalization of the banks?); only the Bank of England to have “the right to create new credit”; and the banks to be prohibited from “issuing loans in excess of money on deposit”. The only thing which is clear about this lot is that the Front (except perhaps John Clifton) shares with the Tory and Labour “experts” a belief in the supposed mystical power of banks to "create credit”.

Just to add to the confusion, it also envisages a "state bank” other than the Bank of England, which is to finance local government housing expenditure with loans "free of interest”. It is not explained how this bank will pay its way and how it will induce depositors to lend it money, since these deposits too will presumably have to be “free of interest”.

Reform Parade
The Front is anxious to remove any impression that it is anti-trade-union. It rejects the Tory belief that "inflation is caused primarily by wage-earners”; advocates fewer and stronger unions, upholds the principle of "the right to work”, wants profit-sharing, workers’ participation schemes and consultation between workers and management “on profits as well as wages”. It supported the miners’ wage claim in 1973, and the workers on strike in London sugar refineries (The National Front p. 147). It does, however, promise legislation against unofficial strikes.

Though the Front, like the Tory and Labour Parties, is fully committed to the perpetuation of capitalism, which means continuous unemployment rising in the inescapable depressions to peak levels, it promises Full Employment. This is to be achieved by leaving the EEC, keeping out most manufactured imports, and expanding farming "so as to enable Britain to supply the greatest possible proportion of her own food”.

The Front also proposes the creation of a new "white” Commonwealth as a “super-power”, to include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, but does not explain what those governments will find attractive in the limitation of their exports of wheat, wool and butter to this country through the expansion of home food production.

The Front is going to repudiate part of the National Debt, but not so as to harm "the ordinary small saver and bond-holder”. (Without a word of thanks to the Communist Party, from one of whose old programmes this appears to have been lifted.) There is to be a big build-up of armaments "adequate . . . to deter attack by any other power”, and with a cautionary word about the impossibility of knowing "who might be Britain’s friends and enemies”. One enemy the Front does identify is “International Communism”. Do the leaders really believe that the expansion of state-capitalist Russia has anything to do with communism? It seems from the Statement of Policy that they may at least be wondering about this, because they go on to say that “international monopoly capitalism is as great a menace to the freedom of the nations as International Communism”.

Education is to be looked after, taking account of “innate differences in intelligence between children”. Housing and local welfare will be adequately provided but an end is to be put to “Britain as a loafer’s paradise”. Criminals will have a tougher time and capital punishment will be restored for certain offences.

What of the Future
Almost all possible fields for vote-catching are catered for; which prompts the question whether such a programme will give the Front the leading position it hopes for. The answer is that, on its own, it won’t do so—and the leaders of the Front know this quite well. What they count on is that they will pick up massive support from disillusioned voters deserting the two main parties. At the moment their hopes from the Tory Party are small, but they have made some inroads in supposedly safe Labour constituencies. It recalls the way the Nazi Party became Germany’s largest party in the years leading up to 1932. It was largely at the expense of the German Social Democrats. They, like the British Labour Party, had been trying to make a success of capitalism and got submerged in the industrial depressions they could not do anything about. Not forgetting that the German SDP shared the idiocy of the British Labour Party in supposing that they could guarantee full employment through inflation.
In conclusion, an apposite observation made by the late Harold Laski nearly forty years ago, in Where Do We Go From Here?, about the way Fascism had grown in Italy and Germany :
Its influence grows because it is able to exploit every grievance of a diseased society. It is careful to have no coherent policy. It is luxuriant in its promises. It offers the assurance of a renewal of that national pride which has been humiliated.
Edgar Hardcastle

A criticism answered (2004)

From the August 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

The March, April, May and July issues of World Revolution, paper of the British section of the “left communist” group known as the International Communist Current (ICC) carried a long four-part critical article on the Socialist Party to coincide with our hundred years of existence and which described us “a group caught between sectarianism and opportunism”. The articles criticised in particular our attitude towards war, trade unions, political democracy and the development of socialist consciousness.

Before these criticisms can be answered, something needs to be said about where the ICC is coming from politically. Its basic theoretical assumption is that by 1914 capitalism had become “decadent” as an economic system in the sense that it had become unable to develop the forces of production any further. This claim is based on Rosa Luxemburg’s mistaken view that there was a flaw in Marx’s Capital, in that he had failed to recognise that a lack of purchasing power was built-in to capitalism and that therefore it had to rely on external markets to expand; once these had been exhausted – as the ICC claim had happened by 1914 – then capitalism would enter a period of economic stagnation and breakdown. (For a detailed argument as to the ICC’s mistake here see the article in the August 1980 Socialist Standard “World Revolution: Another Confused Group”.)

From this mistaken assumption, the ICC draws a political conclusion: that, after 1914, capitalism could no longer offer any lasting concessions to the working class, whether in the form of social reforms or in the form of increases in real wages. This means, according to the ICC, that working class living standards can now only be defended by revolution and that in fact the socialist revolution will develop out of the struggle to defend living standards, a quite inadequate, economistic conception of how socialist consciousness will develop.

When this analysis, and this conclusion, was first put forward by “leftwing communists” in Germany in the aftermath of the First World War it had a certain plausibility: this was a time of mass unemployment and roaring inflation there. But when it was revived by the political ancestors of the ICC in the 1960s, it made no sense at all. By then, despite the theory, capitalism had further developed the forces of production (by the application of, for instance, plastics, electronics and atomic energy); more social reform measures, in particular the so-called “Welfare State” had been enacted; and the real living standards of workers, at least in the heartlands of capitalism, had increased. To deny this was to fly in the face of the facts and to dogmatically cling to a disproved theory.

Two periods
A product of the ICC’s dogma that capitalism has not been able to offer concessions since 1914 is that the ICC divides capitalism into two distinct periods – pre-1914 and post-1914 – during which different, and in the event diametrically opposed, policies are appropriate.

In the ICC’s view, whereas after 1914 revolution has been the only way to defend working class living standards, before 1914, when capitalism was still expanding and so capable of offering concessions, these could also be defended, and improved, by pressure in parliaments to enact social reforms and by trade union action, which were both therefore worthy of socialist support. In other words, the policy of European Social Democracy of having, in addition to the maximum programme of socialism, a minimum programme of social reforms to be achieved within capitalism was justified. Hence what became horribly wrong after 1914 was right before 1914.

Thus we are criticised, for instance, for having completely written off the Second International in an article on its 1910 Copenhagen Congress. The ICC takes the view that before 1914 socialists should not have broken away from the Social Democratic parties of the time and that, in Britain, the “impossiblists” in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) should have stayed within it as a leftwing faction struggling for its reform programme to be achieved by mass action rather than through election deals and parliamentary manoeuvres. In short, the SPGB should never have been formed. Those who founded the Socialist Party should have remained within the SDF, which later became the SDP and then the British Socialist Party, and should have gone over, with the bulk of the membership of the BSP, to the Communist Party of Great Britain when it was formed in 1921.

The March article accuses the SPGB (and the Deleonist Socialist Labour Party, another impossibilist breakaway from the SDF) of making the same mistake that the ICC see William Morris and the Socialist League as having made in the 1880s, of rejecting “the struggle for reforms” and opposing “any support for reforms”. The Socialist League is even denounced for having taken up the position that the ICC now holds of rejecting “participation in parliament” and opposing “participation in elections”. What was then “sterile purism” is today a key revolutionary position, even a “class frontier”!

It’s the same with trade unionism. The early members of the SPGB are criticised for not taking a more positive attitude towards trade unions, for not seeing “the unions in a dynamic way, as part of the process of the class coming to consciousness”. The early members did in fact support trade union action on sound class lines and a large number of them were active trade unionists, but it is true that they saw such action, though part of the class struggle, as being essentially only defensive. This is still our position. But times have moved on for the ICC and, whereas they criticise us for not having been pro-trade union enough before 1914, they criticise us now (as in World Revolution 11 in 1977) for holding the view that . . . “the working class can defend itself through trade unions”. Instead, we ought to be calling, like the ICC, for the unions to be “smashed”.

If we in the Socialist Party take the same position on (not advocating) reforms and on trade unionism now as in 1904 this is not because we are committed to an “invariant dogma” as the ICC argues but because we don’t accept their particular argument that capitalism became economically decadent in 1914, and its corollary that very different policies were appropriate before and after that date. We do say, of course, that capitalism has become historically redundant, but this dates from when it had finished creating the material basis for a world socialist society, which would be some time in the last quarter of the 19th century. We can agree, too, that this justified a change of policy in some respects: the abandoning of the support Marx gave to measures and events that he felt would help capitalism create this material basis as rapidly as possible, for instance, in particular support for various nationalist movements and taking sides in wars. For our position on this see the article “Marx in his Time”.

The year 1914 was significant in that it was the year that the first world war broke out, thus confirming that capitalism had become the dominant world system and which ended by reinforcing this through the collapse of the last three dynastic states in Europe (Imperial Germany, Hapsburg Austria and Tsarist Russia). But significant as 1914 was, this was not because it was the date by which capitalism had become economically decadent in the Luxemburg/ICC sense and it did not require a change of socialist “tactics”.

Conspiracy theories
The April and May articles criticise our members for having opposed the two world wars as “conscientious objectors” which the ICC sees as a mere individual and even pacifist opposition. This is an easy, not to say cheap, criticism from people who have no doubt never faced the dilemma of what to do when threatened with coercion into being trained to kill fellow workers in a war. Some SPGB members in both world wars did refuse, as a matter of principle, the status of “conscientious objector” but most took the view that if the state allows this why refuse to take advantage of it? In fact, many SPGB members were able to carry on important political work for socialism precisely because of this, something which seems to bypass the ICC completely.

The suggestion that during the Second World War the SPGB, in the words of the July article, “was used by the ruling class as a safe channel for the questioning and anger produced by the war” is a typical example of the sort of other-wordly paranoid conspiracy theory for which the ICC is well-known. This is also exemplified by their credulous reliance in the same article on a pamphlet by a disgruntled ex-member of the SPGB which advances a conspiracy theory about “factions determined to take over the Party”.

What SPGB members should have done in both world wars was, apparently, to have worked to turn, as advised by Lenin, “the present imperialist war into a civil war”. This should have involved “illegal organisation and propaganda within the army”, which presumably means that socialists should have joined the army after all. But this would have been suicidal for the individuals involved (the quickest way to a firing squad for mutiny) and massacre for the working class (as happened in Dublin in 1916 when a section of the Irish nationalist movement tried to start a civil war in the midst of an imperialist war). SPGB members rightly rejected such irresponsible advice and adopted the correct socialist position of a plague on both your houses and not a drop of working class blood for either side.

Democracy and dictatorship
Whereas the ICC is all in favour of elections, parliaments and “bourgeois democracy” before 1914, after then all these became anathema to them. In fact, our refusal to denounce political democracy seems to be our worst failing in their eyes. “Through its defence of the democratic principle,” they say of us, “it actually reinforces one of the greatest obstacles facing the working class.”

Excuse us if we disagree, but we don’t regard universal suffrage and political democracy within capitalism as “one of the greatest obstacles facing the working class”. The vote is a gain, a potential class weapon, a potential “instrument of emancipation” as Marx put it. Despite Lenin’s distortions quoted by the ICC, Marx and Engels always held that the bourgeois democratic republic was the best political framework for the development and triumph of the socialist movement. This is another pre-1914 socialist position we see no reason to abandon.

Certainly, political democracy under capitalism is not all that it is purported to be by many supporters of the system and it is severely limited, from the point of view of democratic theory, by the very nature of capitalism as an unequal, class-divided society. Certainly, “democracy” has become an ideology used to give capitalist rule a spurious legitimacy and to mobilise working class support for wars. But it is still sufficient to allow the working class to organise politically and economically without too much state interference and also, we would argue, to allow a future socialist majority to gain control of political power.

If political democracy under capitalism really was the great obstacle facing the working class that the ICC claim, then socialists ought logically to work for and welcome its abolition even within capitalism. While the ICC stridently calls for other such (in its view) obstacles, for instance trade unions, to be smashed, it has not dared call for the workers’ vote to be abolished or for the smashing of ballot-boxes. However, Bordiga, who they quote with favour in the May article as a commentator on “the democratic principle”, did indeed take opposition to this principle to its absurd logical conclusion, arguing in an article written in 1948 that socialists “must gladly welcome” the coming of fascism on the grounds that it is supposedly easier to mobilise the workers when there’s a naked capitalist dictatorship than when this is disguised by a democratic façade. He even claimed that workers were less oppressed under fascism than they were under democracy (see “Force, Violence and Dictatorship in the Class Struggle” (Part III) in Communist Program 3 of May 1977). The ICC itself, in its July article, challenges the statement that “it is better to live in a society where there is some degree of democracy than in one where opposition to the regime is not tolerated”. It is thus rather the ICC, in toying with such ideas, not us, that is trying to spread dangerous ideas amongst the working class.

Of course political democracy is better, from a working class point of view, than political dictatorship. The point shouldn’t need arguing. We don’t deny that having a positive attitude towards “bourgeois” political democracy under capitalism has sometimes created theoretical and policy issues for us when it has been under attack (as between the wars) and when it has not yet been established (as in the former USSR’s empire). But it’s not a solution – in fact, it’s a cop-out – to evade the problem by trying to argue that there’s no difference between political democracy and political dictatorship, that they are as bad as each other, and that workers should be indifferent as to which one exists. Our position is that political democracy is a gain for the working class but that this does not justify socialists allying themselves with capitalist parties to get it or supporting one side in a war to supposedly defend it.

Consciousness
The ICC attributes to us a caricatured position of seeing “the development of consciousness as an accumulation of individual socialists”, as the conversion of workers one by one to socialism until there’s a “mathematical majority”, as if anyone could hold such an absurd position. Of course, as Marxists, we hold that socialist consciousness develops out of the workers’ class experience of capitalism and its problems.

If we use terms such as “majority” and “majoritarian” this is not because we are obsessed with counting the number of individual socialists, but to show that we reject minority action to try to establish socialism – majority as the opposite of minority. Socialism can only be established when through the experience of capitalism, including hearing the case for socialism (itself the distilled past experience of the working class), a majority (yes, but in the democratic rather than mere mathematical sense) have come to want it. For, despite Lenin and Bordiga, socialism can’t be imposed from above on a working class that doesn’t want or understand it. The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself. And of course, unlike the ICC, we don’t think that the seizure of power by the minority Bolsheviks in November 1917 was a “proletarian revolution”.

The ICC’s own conception of the development of socialist consciousness is not at all convincing. Because, as mentioned, they think that since 1914, and still today, capitalism is unable to grant any concessions to workers that will improve their living standards, they argue that socialist consciousness will arise out of struggles by workers to stop their living standards getting worse. Thus they see the task of socialists as being to get involved in such struggles and to try to push them towards revolution as the only way of winning them in the sense of getting an increased standard of living.

We have no objection to socialists getting involved in industrial struggles but without illusions, in particular the illusion that they can have a revolutionary outcome. The socialist revolution is not likely to start from some strike over wages spreading to the whole of the working class. Certainly, workers can learn from the experience of industrial struggles against employers that socialism is the only way out and, in this sense, strikes can contribute to a growth of socialist consciousness. But so can the many other experiences of the way capitalism works againt the interests of workers (bad housing, poor health care, pollution, wars and the threat of war, etc, etc).

The ICC’s obsession with strikes shapes their whole activity beyond abstract (very abstract in their case) propaganda. When a strike occurs they go down to the picket line with leaflets denouncing the trade unions and calling on the strikers to spread the strike – unsurprisingly with no success, since when workers are on strike they are generally concerned with getting a favourable settlement not with launching a revolution (and, despite the ICC’s theory, concessions today can still be extracted from employers).

Indeed, since the ICC is rabidly anti-union, sees no difference between political democracy and political dictatorship, and espouses an anarchist stance on elections and parliament, as well as having a penchant for conspiracy theories, we suggest that they are not in a position to give other groups any lessons in how to spread socialist ideas while avoiding the dangers of sectarianism.
Adam Buick

The Wages Trap (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the November 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
In June we commented on a claim made by novelist Fay Weldon that women going out to work had halved the male wage (which she mistakenly blamed on feminism). We noted that, while this was a wild exaggeration, once married women going out to work became the norm this was bound to have some effect on male wages. Married women bringing in an income would mean that employers would no longer need to include in a man's wages an element to cover maintaining a wife at home.
Under the headline 'Single-earner families sliding into poverty as wages stagnate', the Times (10 July) reported on a study which lent some substance to this:
'The income of families with stay-at-home mothers is no higher than it was 15 years ago, with half now in relative poverty, new research reveals today. An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the incomes of two-earner families were 10 per cent higher than in 2002-03 but those where only the father worked had stagnated. It said that the discrepancy was due to the disproportionate increase in women's wages while men's wages had barely risen. Over the past 20 years earnings of working fathers have been growing at 0.3 per cent a year on average but mothers' earnings have grown by more than 2 per cent a year.'
Over this period, then, male wages, irrespective of whether the man's wife was working or not, stagnated. This suggests that the reason will have been that employers no longer needed to pay to maintain a wife as she was earning her own income. This would not come about by the male wage being directly reduced but by it not increasing as they otherwise would. With a wage-working wife the total family income goes up (though there are the extra costs of paying for child-minding) even if the part brought by the man doesn't. On the other hand, men – and their families – whose wife was, contrary to the norm, not working for a wage suffer. In fact, according to the study, had it not been for the subsidy to employers that tax credits represent then their standard of living would have actually fallen:
'Researchers said that the only reason single-earner family incomes had grown at all since the mid-1990s was that benefit and tax credit payments to this group had doubled in the same period. Without this the average earnings of a working father in a single-earner couple were 6 per cent lower in real terms than in 1994-95.'
This illustrates the same point that if workers get an income from some other source – for instance, because their wife is working or because the state is paying them something – then the employer is relieved of paying this element of the cost to workers of reproducing their labour-power. Women staying at home do of course work – quite a bit – but they are not bringing in an income. If they were paid for this work, as the 'Wages for Housework' campaigners want, this would have the same effect as married women getting a wage from an employer.
What capitalism giveth with one hand, it taketh away with the other.

The Industrial Reserve Army (1977)

From the September 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the unemployed figure rose to 1¼  million at the end of 1975 the Minister for Employment, Michael Foot, said it was “intolerable”. Early in 1976 the figure became over 1,430,000; it has continued rising, and it is now more than 1,600,000.

Foot’s remark, foolish as it was, can be linked with an assertion in an article in the Daily Telegraph of August 3rd. The writer, Philip Vander Elst, said Marxists “ascribe every crime and every disaster perpetrated or caused by Western democratic politicians to the prior existence of private property and free markets, instead of recognizing that they usually represent a departure from the norms and values of economic liberalism”. This Tory view states the same as Foot implied—that depressions and large-scale unemployment are rare aberrations. Foot should try to explain why his “intolerance” of them cannot be put into effect; Vander Elst, why we do not attain a departure from the “departure”.

This is all moonshine. Unemployment is a norm of capitalism, and we have hardly ever been free from it. Up to 1939 the existence of a million unemployed, or 7½ per cent, of workers, was regarded as normal. From 1920 to 1939 the figure was continuously above that level, the peak being 2,745,000 in 1932. The only fall was in the immediate post-war period 1919-20, when it was 2.4 per cent, but in 1921 it rose to 16.6 per cent. After the second world war the figure again stayed low for a time, rose to 3 per cent, in 1947, and after 1960 started definitely to rise through a series of minor crises. In the third quarter of 1971 it was 5.6 per cent., and reached a million in 1972. The figures are for registered unemployed, and in 1972 it was alleged by Harold Wilson that the true number was “nearer three million” (Financial Times, 8th April 1972).

Certainly to many people, school-leavers in particular, the sharper growth of unemployment in the last few years has come as a shock. The press and politicians have encouraged them to think it is abnormal (what else could they say? the alternative is to acknowledge that this is how the capitalist system works). One way of looking at unemployment is to describe it as waste, putting men on the scrapheap etc. From the individual’s point of view, so it is, but Marx saw that a “surplus labouring population” has a necessary function for capitalism.
It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost.
He summed up the movement which governs employment and unemployment:
The course characteristic of modern industry, viz., a decennial cycle (interrupted by smaller oscillations), of periods of average activity, production at high pressure, crisis and stagnation, depends on the constant formation, the greater or less absorption, and the reformation of the industrial reserve army or surplus population.
(Capital Vol. 1, p. 646, Unwin ed.)
Marx was mistaken in believing the cycle was a ten-year one; but that is a side issue, and in all other respects the experience of the 19th and 20th centuries has borne him out.

Under capitalism, production is carried on exclusively for sale and profit. The wealth produced goes to markets, which may mean international dealings in capital equipment or, equally. High Street shops. As a market, none of these differs from the stallholder’s business. At one time trade is booming; he needs more goods and helpers, and thinks of expanding into other lines. At other times things are bad, and if they stay like it he cuts down his stock and his personal expenditure: thus, other businesses are affected in turn. How wide and deep the process goes depends on various factors, but this is the nature of an economic crisis and the depression which follows it. At the present time evidence of it is plentiful in closed-down shops, price-cutting, bankruptcies — and large-scale unemployment. This is the cycle which Marx described. In due course trade picks up again in the industries affected; the next boom is on its way, to be followed by the next crisis.

The reserve army is a permanent feature of capitalism. In the post-war period it has up to a point taken other forms, by successive extensions of the school-leaving age and earlier retirement. In 1973-74 19.8 per cent, of the population of Britain were full-time pupils and students, as against 9.128 per cent, in 1964-65 (EEC statistics). Nobody thinks of fifteen- and sixty-year-olds as unemployed, since they are exempted by law or agreement from working. But not many years ago the large numbers in these groups would have been among the unemployed, and they are still part of the industrial reserve. School students are always potential workers, of course, and in boom times workers may carry on after their retirement age.

Though unemployment as a social problem cannot be remedied, “solutions” are always to be heard. One of these is “job creation”, the idea that the Government can devise occupations and pay workers (or guarantee their pay) when industry and commerce do not need them. The reasoning is not simply that this would reduce the unemployment figures, but also that it would hold off discontent among the young in particular. If it were practicable on any scale, it would not be abolishing the reserve army but only finding barracks for them. In fact both Labour and Tory governments have done this to some extent by putting money into ailing companies (Leyland and Chrysler cars are examples, but there are several others) to “save jobs”; and by "regional policy” which failed expensively to check the growth of unemployment in the areas concerned.

It is noticeable that no “unemployed movement” has been built up in the present depression. The “Right to Work” campaign appears to have fizzled out (that may possibly account for the adoption of Grunwick as the left-wing’s Cause Célèbre). In the 1930s the National Unemployed Workers' Movement organized marches and demonstrations, and agitated over allowances with local committees. The capitalist class have learned from past experience, and the existence of the Welfare State today has taken some of the heat out of unemployment. Workers should learn to look carefully at proposed agitations; the NUWM run by the Communist Party was its chief source of recruitment when it was faring badly elsewhere.

Unemployment is intolerable, but not in the Michael Foot sense. The wages system itself is the barrier to the fullness of life; pushed out on reduced pay, the barrier is higher and thicker still for the industrial reserve army. There is an alternative — to get rid of the system, and establish Socialism.
Robert Barltrop