Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Zollverein (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the April 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
During the 19th century, even before Germany became a single state in 1871 and was still divided into kingdoms and duchies large and small, there was nevertheless a considerable degree of economic unity. This was achieved through the ‘Zollverein’, under which the states and statelets who joined committed themselves to two things – a common market, or customs-free trade with other member-states, and imposing the same tariff on imports from outside the union.
Zollverein was translated into English as ‘customs union’. When in 1957 six European states – Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg – established what they called the ‘European Economic Community’ it was popularly known as the ‘Common Market’ after the free trade area established behind the common external tariff. The common external tariff had another consequence. It meant that the EEC was a single trading bloc vis-à-vis other states and trading blocs. In 1973 the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined this common market/ customs union and trading bloc.
Some of the EEC member-states envisaged going further, seeing the common market as a step towards economic and monetary, and eventually, political union. This aim was formalised in 1993 when, under the Treaty of Maastricht, the EEC changed its name to ‘European Union’. This also introduced the aim of removing non-tariff barriers to trade within the area such as differing safety, environmental and technical requirements by establishing common standards and regulations and so a frictionless market called ‘the Single Market’ (as a step beyond a merely tariff free ‘common market’).
In the referendum in Britain in June 2016 a 52-48 majority voted ‘leave’ in answer to the question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ But it wasn’t clear what this meant in practical terms. Did it mean simply leaving the EU and its political institutions but still staying in the customs union (the minimalist interpretation, which would put Britain in the same sort of position as Norway) or leaving the customs union too (the maximalist interpretation)?
Ever since, both the capitalist class and its political representatives have been divided on the issue, with a sizeable majority of actual capitalists in favour of staying in the customs union (they never wanted to leave anyway). Their political representatives are more evenly divided, with ironically the Labour Party being closer to the majority capitalist position than the Tories.
The government itself wants to leave the customs union so that Britain can negotiate trade deals on its own. They believe that they will be able to negotiate better deals for the capitalist class than as part of the EU trading bloc. This remains to be seen as one of the original capitalist reasons for being in the EEC was precisely the calculation that a big trading bloc would have more clout in trade negotiations than going it alone. The first test will be what sort of deal an independent UK will be able to negotiate with a big trading bloc like the 27 remaining EU member-states will still be.
As socialists, who have no concern with what is in the best interest of the capitalist class, we can sit back and watch the show.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Death of an Old Revolutionary Hero by George Bernard Shaw (1905)

Blogger's Note: Yes, I know it could be said that Shaw's short story is a dig against the Impossibilists of his day, but I don't mind; the pages of the Socialist Standard of Shaw's day were always filled with well-aimed kicks against Shaw and his fellow Fabians, and if you can't take it, don't dish it out.
   Though the short story dates from 1905, I found it in a GBS short story collection of which dates from 1934. 
From The Clarion of the 24th March 1905.
So old Joe Budgett of Balwick—Stalwart Joe—is dead at last. The Socialist movement has seldom mourned a more typical thoroughgoer than dear old Joe. We all knew him; for he quarrelled with every one of us at one time or another; and yet is there one who is not sorry to lose him? Those who witnessed that simple funeral at Balwick last Thursday morning, when the remains of a poor workman in a cheap pine coffin were borne through the pelting sleet to their last resting-place on the shoulders of Robert Blatchford and H. M. Hyndman, Sidney Webb and Harold Cox, Jaurès (who had come from Paris expressly to pay this last sad duty to the veteran of the International) and myself, Mr Gerald Balfour and Lord Lansdowne, must have asked themselves what manner of man this was to receive a tribute from persons of such diverse views, and so far removed from him in social position.

Joseph Budgett was a heavily built man; and even at 90—his age when he died—he was no light weight. My heart was heavy as I helped to shoulder the coffin; but I confess that poor Joe seemed heavier still by the time we reached the grave; for we were not trained to the work; and there was a good deal of sugaring among the bearers: Harold, for instance, did nothing but shelter from the sleet under the pall after the first ten yards; Jaurès and Hyndman argued in French instead of attending to their work; Blatchford, after the manner of highly sympathetic literary geniuses with a strong susceptibility to incongruous humor, was so convulsed with suppressed laughter that his quiverings rattled Joe’s bones over the stones without contributing anything to their support; and if it had not been for Webb and myself (Fabians doing the practical work as usual), Joe Budgett would never have got to his grave; for Gerald Balfour and Lord Lansdowne were too far forward to get their shoulders properly under the coffin.

Lord Lansdowne was evidently taken aback to find that there was to be no religious service (Joe having been an uncompromising atheist); but he spoke very feelingly at the graveside. “It was part of the tragedy of this man’s career,” he said, “that in all the seventy years of active political life during which he agitated ceaselessly on behalf of his own class, he never found either in the Liberal party or in the irregular groups which pretended to represent Labor and Socialism, that incorruptible spirit, that stainless purity of principle, that absolute integrity, aloof from all compromising alliances, which his honest character demanded as the sole and sufficient claim to his support. He regarded the Conservative party as an open enemy; but he rightly preferred an open enemy to a false or half-hearted friend; and so, if we never gained his theoretic approval, we at least always had what we valued far more: his practical support.”

It was at this point that the accident of which so much has been made befell Blatchford. The account of it in the evening papers was much exaggerated. It is true that the editor of The Clarion broke down and covered his face with his handkerchief. It is also true that in an attempt to hurry away from the graveside with his eyes full of tears he tripped over the sexton’s spade; but he did not fell into the grave, nor was an impression of the name-plate found on his person afterwards. The capitalist press naturally strives to belittle and make ridiculous the obsequies of a political opponent; but I cannot help thinking that it might have shewn better taste than to choose a funeral for a display of its cockney facetiousness.

The rest of the speaking has been so fully reported in all the Labor papers that I need not give any account of it here, except that Webb’s advice to the Progressive Municipalities to make Free Funerals a plank in the program of Municipal Socialism was quite practical and sincere, and was not, as The Deptford Times asserted, a thinly veiled threat of wholesale political assassination.

A good deal of misunderstanding has been caused by the report that the reason I did not speak was that Mrs Budgett said it would be a mockery for a man who had done his best to kill her husband to make a speech over his grave, and that Joe would turn in his coffin at the sound of my voice. Now it is quite true that Mrs Budgett actually did say this, and that I took no part in the speaking in deference to her wishes. But the three Labor papers who have rebuked Mrs Budgett for making her husband’s funeral the occasion of an attack on the Fabian Society are quite wrong in their interpretation of her remarks. She was not thinking of the Fabian Society at all. The truth is, I once did actually try to kill Joe; and as it happened a good many years ago, and he forgave me handsomely—though Mrs Budgett could never forget it—I may as well do penance now by describing the affair exactly as it happened.

I was quite a young Socialist then; and when I heard one day in spring that old Budgett was passing away whilst the earth was germinating all around, a lump came into my throat: the only one I have ever had. I got used to the news later on, because Joe began dying when he was 75, and never got out of his bed from that time forth except to address a meeting or attend a Socialist Congress. But, as I have just said, I was a young hand then; and an intense desire to see the old revolutionary hero before he returned to dust took hold of me. The end of it was that I found myself a couple of days later at his cottage at Balwick, asking Mrs Budgett whether he was strong enough to see me. She said he was not, as his heart was in such a state that the least excitement or any sudden noise might be fetal. But when she saw how disappointed I was, she added that he was so mortal dull that a little company would perhaps do him good; and so, if I would promise not to talk to him, and be careful not to make any noise, she would let me up for a while. I promised eagerly; and we went up together, she warning me not to trip over the high sills or dash my head against the low lintels of the sturdy old oakframed cottage, and I doing the one at every door in my anxiety to avoid doing the other.

This is perhaps the best place for me to say that Mrs Budgett struck me even then as being extraordinarily devoted to Joe. In fact, I dont think she ventured to regard him as anything so familiar as a husband. She had known both toil and sorrow; for she had had to keep Joe and bring up a family of five by her own exertions. As a boy, Joe had been apprenticed to a bigginwainer, and had served his time and learnt the trade; but when a little thumbed and blackened volume containing Shelley’s Queen Mab and Men of England, and Tom Paine’s Age of Reason, came in his way, and he heard a speech from Orator Hunt, the famous Man in the White Hat, he threw up his bigginwaining and devoted his life to the cause of the people, entrusting all his business affairs to his faithful wife, who never let him know want. In course of time he almost forgot his trade; for I remember on one occasion, when William Morris, in his abrupt way, said to him “And what the devil is a bigginwainer?” Joe was quite at a loss, and could describe it only as a branch of the coopering. The consequence was that Mrs Budgett had to work pretty hard as a laundress; but she did not mind hard work: what weighed on her was the curious fatality that the five children all turned against Joe. They became strong chapelgoers and moneymakers, and made their quarrel with Joe an excuse for doing very little for her, because, they said, they did not want their earnings wasted in encouraging him. So there had been sorrow and strife enough even in that little household.

Joe was sitting up in bed when we entered; and I was struck at once by the lion-like mane of white hair, the firmly closed mouth with its muscles developed by half a century of public speaking, the serene brow, clear ruddy complexion, and keen bold eyes of the veteran. He gave my hand a strong hearty grip, and said, in tones that were still resonant (for he had not then acquired the senile whistling utterance that pierced the ears and hearts of the International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam), “Do I at last see before me that old and tried friend of the working classes, George Bernard Shaw? How are you, George?”

Although I was not then old, and had no other feeling for the working classes than an intense desire to abolish them and replace them by sensible people, Joe’s cordial manner encouraged and set me at ease. He invited me to sit down; and before my trousers had pressed the chair he was deep in a flood of reminiscences.

“I served my apprenticeship to the revolution,” he said, “in the struggle against the Reform Bill of 1832.”

Against it!” I cried.

“Aye, against it,” he said. '“Old as I am, my blood still boils when I think of the way in which a capitalist tailor named Place— one of the half-hearted Radical vermin—worked that infamous conspiracy to enfranchise the middle classes and deny the vote to the working men. I spoke against it on every platform in England. The Duke of Wellington himself said to me that he disapproved of revolutionists in general, but that he wished there were a few more in the country of my kidney. Then came Chartism with its five points to fool the people and keep them from going to the real root of the matter by abolishing kings, priests, and private property. I shewed up its leaders, and had the satisfaction of seeing them all go to prison and come out without a single follower left to them. Then there was Bright and Cobden trailing the red herring of Free Trade across the trail of the emancipation of the working classes. I exposed them and their silly lies about cheap bread; and if I’d been listened to, no Englishman need ever have wanted bread again. Next came those black blots on our statute book, the Factory Acts, which recognized and regulated and legalized the accursed exploitation of the wives and children of the poor in the factory hells. Why, when I took the field against them, the very employers themselves said I was right and bid me God-speed in that campaign. Then came a worse swindle than the Reform Bill of 1832—the ’67 Bill, that gave just a handful of votes to a few workmen to bolster up the lie that Parliament represents the people instead of the vampires that live by plundering them. Didnt I get this scar over my eye from a stone that hit me while I was speaking against that Bill? But it became law for all that; and it emboldened the capitalists so much that they brought in the Education Act to drive all our children into their prisons of schools, and drill them into submission, and teach them to be more efficient slaves to make profits for their bloodsuckers. I spoke against it until I lost my voice for a whole month; and the people were with me too, heart and soul. It ended, as all double-facedness ends, in the Compromise. But thank God—not that I believe in God, but I use the word in a manner of speaking—I never compromised; and I never will. I left the International because it would not support me against the school Bastilles. And it was high time I did; for the International was a rotten compromise itself—half mere Trade- Unionism, and the other half a little private game of a rare old dodger named Marx—not Harry Marks, you know, but Karl— a compromise between a German and a Jew, he was: neither one thing nor the other. Then came the Commune of Paris, that did nothing but get the people of Paris slaughtered like mad dogs, because, as I pointed out at the time, it was too local, and stood for a city instead of for all the world. That put an end to everything for ten years; and then Socialism came up again with all the old mistakes and compromises: the half-hearted Chartist palliatives, the stooping to use the votes that the capitalists had bribed the people with, the pushing middle class men and autocratic swells at the head of it. I soon saw through Hyndman, and went with Morris into the Socialist League. But Morris was just as bad: all he wanted was our pennies to publish his poems—John Bull’s Earthly Paradise and such tosh as that—in The Commonweal. I turned the League against him at last and took The Commonweal from him; and then he shewed his true nature by leaving us without means to pay the rent or publish the paper. Nothing came of it but another Reform Bill in 1885. I said, ‘Does it abolish the registration laws and establish Universal Suffrage?’ ‘No,’ they said. ‘Then have nothing to do with it,' I said; and I spoke against it and agitated against it as I never agitated before. But the spirit of the workers was broken: they submitted to it like sheep. I took to my bed then, and never came out of it until the Dock Strike of 1889.”

“That roused you, did it?” I said, ambiguously; for I was now alive to the danger of jumping to any conclusions as to which side Joe might have taken.

“Could I lie here and see the people led away by a renegade like John Burns?” he exclaimed. “Oh what a degradation that was! what a spectacle of crawling slavery! to see freeborn men begging for sixpence an hour instead of insisting in a voice of thunder on the full product of their labor! That was what Burns’s pretended Socialism came to when he was put to the test. Sixpence an hour! But I expected no more. I saw through him from the first, just as I saw through Francis Place, and Fergus O’Connor, and Bronterre O’Brien, and the hypocritical Christian Socialists, and George Odger and Charles Bradlaugh and Hyndman and Morris and Champion and the German wirepullers, Bebel and Liebknecht. Self-seeking humbugs, talkers and compromisers all of them. None of them thorough, none of them genuine right through. The Dock Strike was nothing but a conspiracy between Cardinal Manning and John Burns to get Manning made Pope and to get Bums into the County Council. From that day I resolved that Burns should be driven from the cause of the people if my tongue and pen could do it. I’m organizing the Socialist opposition to him at Battersea—the genuine real Socialist opposition—and we’ll have him out at the next election, when the Albert Palace is replaced by flats full of Conservative voters.”

“You are working for the Conservatives, then?”

“Young man: I have opposed the Tories all my life; but theres one thing I hate more than a Tory; and thats a traitor.”

“Are all the Labor and Socialist leaders traitors?”

“Traitors! What puts such a thought into your mind? There are hundreds of true men who ought to be leaders, and will be when the people come to their senses. But the men that put themselves forward as leaders—that organize strikes and tout for votes and win elections are all traitors and self-seekers, every man of them. It’s the so-called unsuccessful men—the martyrs of the movement—the men that stand up for the people against everybody—mark that, against everybody: those are the real men, the salt of the people’s cause, the glory of the revolution."

He paused to take a sip of Liebig from a cup his wife had brought him when we came in. He did it just as a speaker who is getting hoarse takes a sip of water on the platform. As his historical reminiscences had by this time come pretty well up to date, I thought he was done; but he suddenly switched off from history to moral exhortation.

“Look at me!” he said, “going on for eighty, and as sound as a bell, except for this complaint in my heart, brought on by its bleeding for the people and by overwork on the platform. Thats because I am a teetotaler, young man. And why am I a teetotaler? Because the cause of the people has been drink to me and stimulant to me and courage and warmth to me. Have I ever taken money for my principles? Never. The exploiting classes have offered over and over again to finance me. But I have never accepted a penny.”

“Except from your wife,” I remarked, thoughtlessly.

For a moment he was completely taken aback. Then he said, with indescribable majesty, “Never. It is a foul lie; and whoever told it to you lies in his black throat. Prove to me that my wife has ever accepted a farthing from any oppressor of the people— that she has ever possessed a coin that was not earned by her own honest toil—and I will never look on her face again.”

“Thats not precisely what I mean,” I said, rather lamely; for I perceived that he had missed my point; and I rather doubted whether an explanation would mend matters. But he went on impetuously, being constitutionally a bad listener.

“My wife is a crown of rubies to me,” he said, with feeling. “But I have always kept her out of the rough and tumble of political strife. It has broken me up; but at least I have shielded her from it.” Here he wiped away a tear. “And when I think,” he went on, “that there are men who are at this present moment plotting to give the vote to middle class women and deny it to my wife, I feel that I could rise from my bed like a young man and fight with my last breath against it as I did against the abomination of 1832.”

“All or nothing is your principle," I said.

“Thats it,” he responded in a ringing voice, aglow with enthusiasm. “All or nothing.”

“Well,” I said, “as it is quite certain that you wont get All, you are practically the propagandist of Nothing: a Nihilist, in fact.”

“I am not ashamed of the word Nihilist,” he said. “The Nihilists are my brothers.”

“To change the subject,” I said: “is it really true that your heart is so bad that a sudden noise would kill you?”

“It is,” he said proudly. “You could snuff me out like a candle by knocking that cup of Liebig’s Extract over on to the floor.” 

I looked round. A grandfather’s clock ticked peacefully in the silence; for Joe, having reminded himself of the Liebig, was now drinking it; and even he could not talk and drink at the same time.

“Mr Budgett,” I said, rising, “I am not a Nihilist; and it is perfectly clear to me that nothing will ever be done as long as you are about. So here goes!” And I pulled the grandfather’s clock right over.

It fell with an appalling crash, striking as it fell until its weights thundered on the boards. Terrified at my own deed, I looked fearfully at the dying man. But Joe did not die. Instead, he sprang out of bed and said, “What the — — are you doing?”

I thought it best, on the whole, to drop from the window and make for the railway station. Next day I sent him £2—all I could spare—to pay for repairing the clock. But he sent it back to me with a letter of some thirty pages to say that he could do without a clock, but not without his self-respect.

That was why Mrs Budgett objected to my speaking at the funeral.

I confess, now that advancing years have mellowed my character, that I was wrong in trying to kill Joe. One must live and let live. He bore no malice whatever for the incident, and used to refer to it with the utmost good humor, always ending up with the assurance that he did not take me seriously, and knew that my real object was simply to give him a hearty laugh.

His end was undoubtedly hastened by his efforts to turn the Labor movement against the new Bill for the Enfranchisement of Women; and he was proud to number a Countess among his converts. He almost lost his temper with me because I said that I should support any Bill that would make a start by giving a parliamentary vote or seat to even one woman, though the property qualification were a million sterling. “All or nothing!" he said, with a fervor worthy of Ibsen's Brand.

The governing classes keep the mass of people enslaved by taking advantage of their sloth, their stupidity, their ignorance, their poverty, their narrowness, their superstition, and their vices. They could not enslave Joe by such means. He was energetic and clever; he was as well read as most cabinet ministers; he was sufficiently fed, clothed and housed (by his wife); he was a universalist in his breadth of view; he was an atheist; and he had practically no vices. And yet the governing classes tied Joe up with the principles of absolute morality tighter than they could tie a hooligan with a set of handcuffs.

After all, the principles of absolute morality were made for this very purpose; so Joe was hardly to be blamed.
George Bernard Shaw


50 Years Ago: Machinery (1962)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Machinery, says the Liberal, has deepened the working man's chest and increased his stature by shortening the hours of work. When he says ‘shortened hours' we promptly ask ‘compared with when?’ and as promptly comes the answer: 'In comparison with the hours worked in the hungry forties’, or ‘when my grandfather was a lad’.

To compare present hours of work with the length of the working day in that transitional period when capitalism was in its birth throes (with the aim of extolling the difference), is an inane procedure.

Thorold Rogers has shown the comparative leisure of the workers under the system of ‘small production'—with that we need not deal. If we take our case at its worst and compare hours of work today with the hours toiled in the early years of capitalism, we find justification for our case. We find that side by side with the shorter working day has come a quicker pace, a more rapid rate of production, a faster consumption of working-class brain, nerve and muscle. Whether it be in the sphere of production—at lathe or loom, or in distribution on train, tram, or taxi, the working pace is fierce.

Even if we examine types of work where steam-power cannot be applied —office executive and the like—we find mechanical appliances such as calculating machines, typewriters, dictating appliances, etc., adding to the intensity of the workers grind.
From the Socialist Standard, January 1912.

Crisis in the aircraft industry (1965)

Editorial from the March 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

The aircraft industry is giving British capitalism perhaps its biggest headache for a long time. Once was when it enjoyed a leading reputation, both in the civil and military spheres, but over the past few years it has been hit by a series of crises. In a severely competitive market the gap has been rapidly narrowed until today it faces the threat of almost total eclipse by its American rivals.

This fact, accepted by government and opposition alike, stood out starkly in the Commons debate on February 9th. It was matched in its starkness only by the government’s avowed intention to cut its already heavy losses, pare the industry down by several thousand workers, and divert skilled manpower to other and more profitable ventures, particularly in the export field. "We are determined not to leave skilled labour lying idle,” said Aviation Minister Jenkins during the debate, although only time will tell just how far this intention is realised.

The present structure of the aircraft industry is something which was largely imposed on it by the capitalist class as a whole. Large amalgamations were pushed through at the behest of previous governments in return for a guarantee of a certain amount of support and protection. Whatever the intentions were, however, it seems they did not prevent the industry floundering, and the days are gone when our rulers are prepared to throw more large sums of good money after bad. There will be a link-up with France, Holland and U.S.A. in the development of future projects, obviously a cost-saving move among other things. 

As usual in any upheaval of this kind, workers are the ones to suffer, and already thousands of redundancies have been declared. Men who entered the industry as youngsters, when it was the up-and-coming thing, are having to face the prospect of retraining for other employment, with the possibility of lower wages and conditions. Most of them have been engaged on military aircraft of one sort or another, and it is one of the bitter ironies of the situation to see them demonstrating in favour of these instruments of death and destruction in a quite understandable attempt to save their jobs. Clearly, one worker’s livelihood is another one’s obliteration—one more example how capitalism pits workers remorselessly against their brothers elsewhere.

But protest as they may, there was no sign that the government would relent. After all, the capitalist class is not in business for the benefit of its workers, and if better value for money can be had by pulling out of one industry and investing in another, then this is what will be done, unemployment or no unemployment. "Value for money,” was a battle cry of the Labour Party for some time before their recent return to power, and there is every sign that they will be just as ruthless as anyone else in their effort to attain it. Already they have said that the firm of Short Bros, must go, and future contracts with other companies may carry much stiffer "fixed price” provisions—something which will give employers an added incentive to resist wage claims.

An interesting comment on the essential similarity in the ideas of all capitalist parties was given on February 10th by the Hawker Siddeley chairman Sir Roy Dobson. In a slashing attack on the Tory party, he said they “would have liked to have done” what the Labour government was now doing, but instead “just waffled” when they were in power. But apart from this anyway, the Commons debate was notable for the closeness of views on both sides. And not one whisper of dissent was heard when Mr. Jenkins uttered a cardinal fact of capitalist life:—“We can afford to make products only if others buy them.” This is what is really behind the wrangles over the aircraft industry today, the textiles industry yesterday, and who knows what tomorrow. And workers will always get hurt in the process, for capitalism is a very hurtful system.

Rising Star? Do We Need Another One? (2018)

The Greasy Pole column from the March 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
The relationship between Ministers of the Crown and the civil servants who are employed to carry out their wishes has often been a matter of agonising delicacy. For example there was a minister in a Blair government who was faced with a crisis in the NHS while one of his top officials had been hiding about a thousand unanswered parliamentary questions while coming into the office at weekends to falsify the figures on the matter. As one minister put it: ‘Everyone thinks they are white knights and that we are the villains whereas the truth, which we all know, is that many officials are useless’. But then there was the Labour minister who was more concerned about the size and temperature of his morning coffee than about any of the vital matters preoccupying his office. Distinct from this, at present there is the Home Office, absorbed in such sensitive issues as crime and immigration, which manages to work in a more relaxed and considerate style. In charge there is the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who comes from a family of wealthy financiers, which did not prevent her in 2008 winning a poetry prize in her constituency local paper which included the lines: ‘Loving you is so exciting. But why dear heart, did you not mention, What we’ll do for contraception?’ Rudd was recently said to be in a relationship with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Tory MP for Spelthorne and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but this was not officially assessed as damaging in the same way as the recent cases of what became known as ‘inappropriate behaviour’ among politicians.
Quiz
So far there is no record of any poetry being written about Kwarteng. His parents were students who came from Ghana in the 1960s and he was born in London. When he was eight he was placed in an expensive private boarding school – which he said he ‘loved’– and from which he blossomed into a King’s Scholar at that emphatically costly breeding place for the aristocracy, Eton College. A fellow student there described the place as ‘a competitive intellectual hothouse…but everyone said that probably the greatest brain of the lot was the guy with that extraordinary name’. It became something of their history at Eton that when Kwarteng was later being interviewed for a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was so graciously confident of the outcome that he could reassure the nervous young tutor not to worry about his clumsy handling of the matter because ‘you did fine sir…’A memory which must have endured for him – for example when he was a member of the Trinity College team in the TV programme University Challenge and he was broadcast referring to a memory lapse by blurting out ‘Oh fuck, I’ve forgotten!’. Which provoked a flood of complaints, typically in a piece called Rudiversity Challenge in, of all places, Page Three of The Sun. The entire episode took on a rather different reputation when the Trinity College team ended up as National Quiz Champions which contributed to Kwarteng sprouting a reputation as an exceedingly brainy performer but also as an extremely charming one. He began to work as what is known as a financial analyst which, as the various crises typical of capitalism flooded around and across the world, provided hopefuls such as Kwarteng with opportunities to venture into journalism and authorship.
Dry
A succession of books and other material were published in his name or as a contributor. This was all very satisfying for him except that his views on what was happening, and why, did not reveal any original thinking about remedies or even original versions of the problems. In Thatcher’s Trial: Six Months That Defined A Leader he varies between denouncing her government’s 1981 Budget as designed 'to produce three million unemployed’ and lauding her as a leader who ‘. . . fought passionately for absolute values in a world which seemed diffident and uncertain of purpose’. One of the sour fruits of his co-authorship was a diagnosis that ‘Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world’. As an enthusiastic economic ‘dry’ in his tome Gridlock Britain he defines himself (as a member of the Transport Select Committee) with a belief in the effects of working markets, and demands road pricing as against tax-funded free roads which he rejects as part of his version of a moribund ‘socialism’.
Spelthorne
So it was that Kwarteng came to explore the possibilities of using his talents in party politics, by offering himself as an electable representative of some parliamentary constituency. The first of these was Brent East. This was an ethnically diverse, busy area of London which was held stolidly from 1974 to 1987 by Labour’s Reg Freeson and then, when Freeson died, by the unsettling Ken Livingstone. The next Member in Brent – Paul Daisley – died in 2003 which resulted in a by-election from which there emerged as winner the Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, who was able to benefit from the stress and anger of the reaction to the attack on Iraq, which continues to roll on. Kwarteng was third at the bottom of the poll, which did not deter him from turning his attention elsewhere, to the constituency of Spelthorne which lies near the airport at Heathrow. Additionally attractive to him was the fact that in the 2016 Referendum Spelthorne was emphatically in favour of Brexit.
Obama
He was selected to stand for the Conservative Party and won with a majority of 10,019, which was increased with each successive election until it reached 13,425 in 2017. By then it seemed appropriate to the Tories that they might recognise the talents of this persistent wrangler and Kwarteng was made the PPS for the nationally prominent (but, unlike Kwarteng, anti-Brexit) Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, where his practised skills in trying to ignore the inhuman ravages of capitalism were busily engaged. Meanwhile the Tories seem to be relieved that his relationship with Amber Rudd should be accepted as ‘workplace’ – which at least distinguishes it from those previous embarrassments among their parliamentary colleagues. Although what the burdened Honourable Home Secretary thinks about him being known as the ‘British Obama’ has not been revealed. The government of capitalism comes in many shapes and sizes but with the unvarying object of protecting the interests of their ruling class through imposing and managing the repression and exploitation of the subject class. 
Ivan

Trade War (2018)

Editorial from the April 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Donald Trump fought the Presidential campaign pledging to put ‘America First’. Soon after taking office, he pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade deal and plans to cancel the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal between Europe and the US.
On 8 March, Donald Trump appeared to fulfil an election promise to steel workers by slapping a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminium. Canada and Mexico are, for the time being, exempt. However, if during the renegotiation of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they fail to make the concessions that Trump wants, then they will also be hit with these tariffs. Trump justified these measures on the grounds of national security and so-called ‘unfair’ trading by America's competitors. Other countries have threatened to retaliate.
These measures also face opposition within the US Republican Party and some US capitalist interests, such as the aviation sector and car manufacturers, which risk having their profits squeezed by the increased cost of steel. Trump's economic adviser, Gary Cohn, an opponent of these measures, has quit.
The general view seems to be that a maverick president has defied the natural order of free trade that has taken place between nations for decades. However, trade protectionism is nothing new in the history of capitalism. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the new American nation state used tariffs to protect its nascent industries from foreign competition. In 1930 the US government introduced the Smoot-Hawley bill, which raised tariffs over a wide range of imports. After the Second World War, when the US emerged as the dominant global power, it supported a liberal trading regime which opened up global markets to US capitalists. However, since the 1980s, its enthusiasm for free trade waned as its economic supremacy was challenged by emerging powers like Japan. Both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush attempted to raise tariffs.
Britain and the European Union have also employed trade protectionist measures, such as subsidising their export industries. Britain, like the US, was in favour of free trade when it was the top economic power in the nineteenth century. However, in the early twentieth century, when facing increasing competition from rivals such as Germany and the US, it sought a more protectionist trade policy.
Donald Trump's move has to be seen against the backdrop of a global overproduction of steel and the more difficult world trading conditions since the 2008 financial crisis. He is attempting to reassert US capitalism's dominance over world markets and check the rise of Chinese capitalism and keep the European Union in its place. It has little to do with the wellbeing of the American working class. Trade wars are usually cloaked in the language of protecting workers' jobs. Workers should not be fooled by this.
Despite the attempts by global organisations like the World Trading Organisation to regulate world trade, capitalist nations will invariably use their economic clout to gain advantage over their rivals, and on many occasions, back this up with the threat and even use of military force. In this light, to talk of ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ trading practices is a nonsense.