Tuesday, January 30, 2018

50 Years Ago: The policies of the Liberal Party (1978)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Report of the Liberal Party Industrial Enquiry has at last appeared, but is should be called “The Capitalists’ Whitewashing Programme”. From beginning to end it tails attention to bad conditions but never once does it enquire into the cause. The remedy proposed is more of the conditions that caused the evils. More capitalism. Empire Development — of Capitalism. More shareholders — in Capitalism. More Free Trade in goods — and labour power. Less taxes for the industrial lord. Cheaper coal. More roads, and similar pills for the economic earthquake.

All these quack doctors can suggest is that the workers should buy shares where they work and get a share in the profits in large concerns, and when jobless they can work on the roads or in the forests — developing capitalism for the capitalists. They tell us that ownership is far too concentrated, and while they report thus, the Liberal capitalists, like their Tory friends, are busy amalgamating, centralising, combining and trustifying modern capital in more powerful concerns, whether like Sir Ernest Benn in the publishing world or like the Brunners in the chemical industry.

The Labour Party are angry because the Liberals have pinched their policy and put it in the Liberal Report. The MacDonalds and Hendersons say the Report embraces much of Socialism, but any Socialist who looks into the Report to find the Socialism will wear his eyes out in vain.

From an editorial “The Liberal Industrial Fraud” published in the Socialist Standard in March, 1928.

Technology and Socialism (1978)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The writer of the article "Technology and the working class” (November Socialist Standard) says, "Progress is not a matter of finding new things which could transform existence. It is the development of society’s capacity to let them happen.” This of course is far from telling us what progress means. Modern society has developed the capacity to allow many technological inventions to happen and operate, but that does not necessarily mean progress, does it? If the hand mill gives us society with the feudal lord, and the steam mill society with the industrial capitalist, in what sense does the writer call this progress? A change from hand mills to steam mills does not necessarily constitute progress, no more than does a change from gunpowder to atomic bombs. No-one can of course dispute that there has been scientific progress, because this is verifiable. But has scientific progress made man any happier and kinder to his fellow man? One can hardly talk of any progress here at all. Man’s life on earth seems to be what it has always been, that is, quite short and very rarely sweet. Progress means a lot of different things to different people, and after 6,000 years of human history we do not have very much progress to boast about, do we? And in regards progress to Socialism, we can safely say there has been no progress there at all. Socialism has been a non-starter since the publication of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. It is true of course that Marx saw technology as a precondition of the change from capitalism to Socialism, but the progress in technology has had a rather sinister effect on the working class. In that it has turned the workers into robots. And how do you possibly expect robots to establish Socialism?
Ian Campbell
Dundee


Reply.
Surely there are ways in which scientific progress has made men happier. Take the development of medical knowledge, for instance—many diseases which were once rife are now things of the past. You refer to the human lifespan as “quite short”, but it is now about twice as long on average as it was in Marx’s day. Standards of medical care and hygiene are far higher today than in any earlier period of history.

Technological innovation throughout human history has created a situation where the productive forces of society can produce an abundance of goods. It is the existence of a profit-motivated society, capitalism, that prevents most of the benefits of technological progress form reaching the working class. The article made the point that products based on technological inventions are either too expensive for most workers, or else their quality is reduced to make them marketable. Other inventions are put to utterly anti-social ends under capitalism—atomic and nuclear bombs, for instance. In Socialism there will be no criterion on which to base the use made of technology other than that of benefit to society as a whole.

The workers have certainly not been turned into robots by technological progress: it has rather led to them acquiring sufficient skill, knowledge and critical awareness to take over the running of society when they have become convinced of the possibility and need for them to do so.

50 Years Ago: The Failure of the Labour Colleges (1978)

The 50 Years Ago column from April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

In July 1925 we wrote on the significant action of the National Council of Labour Colleges in joining its old enemy, the Workers’ Educational Association, in an education scheme sponsored by the TUC. We pointed out that the acceptance of money from the trade unions to cooperate with such bodies as the WEA and Ruskin College meant the passing of the independence of the “Movement for Independent Working-Class Education”.

Time has justified our warning. The “Plebs League” has ceased to exist as an independent body and three years later others, including men in the NCLC itself, are recognising the truth of what we then anticipated.

In particular the NCLC, as we long ago pointed out, cannot hope to receive trade union money if at the same time it exposes the part played by Labour and trade union leaders in supporting the capitalist system and its ways. The NCLC had to choose and it chose the money in preference to the independence.

From an article “The Failure of the Labour Colleges”, Socialist Standard, April 1928.

Diary of a Capitalist (1978)

From the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard
   We print below some excerpts from a journal, giving the private thoughts of a member of the ruling class (not always the same as their opinions for public consumption, which is what you can read every day throughout the British press). We hope to print further extracts from time to time. 
Sunday. My new Rolls-Royce drophead is going splendidly. It’s very good value for £45,000. As the Rolls- Royce adverts used to say a few years back, if you have a Rolls everyone can see you’ve got good taste. So I’ve proved I’ve got that, all right—£45,000 worth of it.

I keep the Rolls mainly for business journeys, for example going up to town to my head office. As chairman of the company, I have to travel in a certain style. The car is kept smart by a firm I’ve found in the City, run by an ex-chauffeur (Sunday Telegraph, 15.1.78). They take your Rolls in for a day and give it a good service and clean, right down to hand-polishing the radiator and putting saddle soap on the leather upholstery, for £100; then, after that, they come and pick the car up one day a week and keep it up to standard, for only £45. They think one good going-over per week is enough to maintain a Rolls as a credit to its owner, and it’s dirt cheap at only nine fivers a week.

My butler and I parted company today—I found him reading a rag which said we should abolish the wages system! As I said, how am I going to get people to produce the goods which make my profits without a wages system? I’ve put an ad in the paper for another one, offering £7,000 a year and car allowance, which is what a decent butler gets nowadays (domestic situations, The Times, 20.1.78).


Monday. Dropped in at an interesting press conference this morning, held by the Independent Schools Information Service. Its director claimed that many manual workers—he instanced miners, a machine operator, a fairground worker, a policeman, and a postman—send their children to independent schools. “We reject the epithet ‘bastions of privilege’,” he said (The Times, 17.1.78). There are, of course, independent schools and independent schools. They range from the very expensive, with highly paid staff and lavish equipment, and a pupil-teacher ratio as low as six to one, to the ramshackle institutions which offer worse premises and lower-paid teachers than most state schools, and which only survive because of snobbery among some parents. The really posh public schools charge about £2,000 a year, so my two sons set me back some £4,000 annually. I don’t think we need worry, at those prices, that our boys at Eton are going to be swamped by proletarian brats; and if there was a risk they’d put the price up.


Tuesday. Another bit of news in the paper: it appears that the workers regularly go hunting, besides sending their children to public schools. The Master of the Cotswold Hunt denied the other day that fox-hunting is an upper-class sport. “That’s an outdated belief. We have many working people who come to the hunt on Saturday afternoons” (TV Times, 26.1.78).

The MFH’s forthright words made me sit down and work out how much it costs me to go fox-hunting. I bought my hunter—not a bad piece of horseflesh—for £2,000. Then there’s the saddle, £100, and bridle, £50. The clothes cost me about £400—a couple of hunting jackets (£100 each), breeches £50, whip £10, handmade boots £100, top hat £20. On top of that the horse costs £30 a week at livery stables, plus about £100 a year for shoeing, and then there are vets’ fees, rugs and blankets, and so on. Besides all that the stable charges for transport, though one could always buy a trailer for £500. Then the fox-hunter mustn’t forget his, or her, “evening dress wear for the important social side of the hunt” (as the TV Times puts it); and this isn’t the ordinary evening dress outfit I put on for dinner every night, but a special rig-out I keep specially for hunt functions. The Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt, for example, has distinctive evening dress with scarlet facings, and the East Kent prescribes “evening dress—scarlet, buff silk collar, white silk facings”.

I suppose most people suspect that hunting in the proper style, like sending your children to good boarding schools, is only for the rich; but this propaganda to the contrary helps to keep the poorer people happy, which is good for capitalism.


Wednesday. Had a bit of trouble today at one of the factories owned by the family holding company. The workers are asking 15 per cent more pay. They say prices have gone up 10 per cent in the last year, and an increase of 15 per cent, after tax and other deductions, means (for all except the very poor) only 10 per cent more take-home pay. So they needed 15 per cent merely to regain the same position they were in a year ago (ignoring all the losses they have suffered as prices have gone up each month, though their wages remained stationary). They had the nerve to point out that our profits went up 35 per cent on last year’s (just like the Barclay’s Bank profits, Daily Telegraph, 24.2.78), so we could easily afford 15 per cent more pay.

I went down there, and called the union representatives in to a meeting. I said I had every sympathy with their claim, and in normal times (of course, “normal times” never come, but they were too polite to mention it) I would naturally agree to restore their nominal pay so that in real terms they wouldn’t have to take a cut in the wages they agreed this time last year. But, I said, it just couldn’t be done. The national interest, I said, demanded sacrifices from us all (especially them, though I didn’t say so aloud!), and I was naturally obliged to support the Government, which had laid down only 10 per cent wage increases. I gave them all the usual stuff —law and order must be upheld, respect for our democratic institutions, light at the end of the tunnel, putting this old country of ours back on its feet, the regular load of clap-trap—and in the end they had to accept the 10 per cent. I’d worked hard for it, though. I had a meeting with one of the head-office boys in their union yesterday—plush London hotel, slap-up meal, brandies ad lib, cigars on the house—and finally he agreed we would all have to tighten our belts. At least his members would. So he came down to the factory today and backed me to the hilt. You put the Labour Government in, he kept telling the shop stewards: you aren’t going to turn traitors now, are you?—the usual trade-union leaders’ line. So we got our agreement signed and sealed, and the factory hands got back to their proper job of building up my profits, for lower real wages than they agreed last year.


Thursday. More trouble today. One of the small companies owned by the family trust has a chain of provincial hairdressing shops. At one of these shops the staff were turning nasty. An assistant had found out that employers are supposed by law to pay the wage-rates set by the wages council for the industry, and began complaining that their pay was below even the wages council’s low figure, which starts at £26.50 for a forty-hour week. He’d read somewhere about the Low Pay Unit’s report that twenty-four in a hundred hairdressing employers pay below the minimum legal figure (The Times, 3.2.78). So I went down to sort it out. The trouble-maker began spouting at me about upholding law and order, and our democratic institutions and so on, so I shut him up a bit sharpish. I told them I’d close the place down completely if there was any more trouble (they don’t belong to a union, so we can be a bit more direct in our methods). There’s nothing like a million and a half people in the dole queue to make the others see reason! So back to work they went.

I’ll have to watch that agitator, though. He had some cheek, quoting law and order at me. He’ll have to realize that law and order is intended to help people like me keep him in his place: not the other way round. 


Friday. Marvellous meal this evening at the Inn on the Park’s Four Seasons restaurant. Normally a meal for two there costs about £26 (The Times, 7.2.78), but this week four chefs from Maxim’s in Paris have come over to superintend the cuisine, so dinner for my girl friend and me this evening cost £60. The girl friend said if the hairdressing assistants who were so awkward yesterday saved their entire week’s wages, they could almost afford one meal at these prices! We had a good laugh about it over the Filets de Sole Albert.


Saturday. Bought the wife a new coat—ocelot fur, with lynx border, £3,000 (Sunday Times, 4.12.77). And booked a three-week cruise in May for the two of us to the West Indies, £1,392 (Daily Telegraph, 24.2.78). It’ll make a nice break.

I turned down a four-week art treasures tour to Bali, Java, and so on, which would have been £2,496 for the two of us (Sunday Times, 4.12.77). One doesn’t want to be ostentatious in these hard times.
Alwyn Edgar


50 Years Ago: Unemployment in Australia (1978)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

While Australia is being boomed abroad — by emigration touts — as a paradise for the workers, and thousands are flocking to her shores in search of work, in the capital cities the unemployed are marching the streets, registering at the Government Labour Bureaus, and sending deputations to the State Governments asking for sustenance or work.

All the old fallacies that have done service this century are being trotted out by the pen-valets, politicians and other hangers-on of the capitalist class. Free trade and protection hold pride of place although in circumstances in which either of these fiscal policies is in operation unemployment still remains a problem. According to Stead’s Review, June 1927, the figures submitted by the League of Nations demonstrate that the percentage of unemployed in Australia was greater than in any other nation associated with the League.

When the Labour Government came into power in Victoria it set out valiantly to deal with unemployment, but after six months unemployment is worse than ever. The Premier’s (Mr. Hogan’s) explanation is that the sole cause of the unemployment problem is the adverse trade balance.

From “A Letter from the Socialist Party of Australia”, published in the Socialist Standard, May, 1928.

Obituary: R. B. Gill (1978)

Obituary from the May 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have learnt of the death in a car accident of our Comrade Ray Gill, who last December emigrated to Australia. Doctor Gill joined the Party in 1974 and subsequently wrote a number of informative articles on the National Health Service for the Socialist Standard. Our Australian comrades will share our regret at his untimely loss.

Marx, carbuncles and all (1978)

Book Review from the June 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx without Myth by Maximilien Rubel and Margaret Manale (Blackwell)

A very good biography of Marx, which recounts fairly and without eulogy his personal and political activities year by year, is Marx without Myth by Maximilien Rubel and Margaret Manale (published by Basil Blackwell in 1975). What makes it so good is that the authors recognise that Marx stood for “a classless, stateless and moneyless society” and point out that, right from his first socialistic writings at the end of 1843, Marx held that mankind could only be emancipated through the abolition of money and the State.

Marx maintained this view for the rest of his life even if, as Rubel and Manale point out, “he was not always able to reconcile his conduct with his theoretical views”. For instance, he was obsessed with the Russian threat to Western Europe, an obsession which led him to very questionable cooperation with Tory journalists like David Urquhart and Maltman Barry. As late as 1877 Marx was writing anonymous anti-Russian articles in the Tory press! But then we have never been committed to endorsing everything Marx said and did, even though we do owe him a tremendous debt as the man who first provided a scientific basis for the case for Socialism.
Adam Buick

A useful introduction to Marx (1978)

Book Review from the June 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx's Capital by Ben Fine (Macmillan)

Subject to certain reservations dealt with below, Marx's Capital by Ben Fine (Macmillan’s Studies in Economics, Paperback, 76 pages, £1.50) achieves what the author set out to do and should serve as a useful introduction to the three volumes of Capital.

The author, who is Lecturer in Economics at Birkbeck College, describes his work as both introduction and interpretation. His method is to summarise and simplify, in his own words, various aspects of Marx’s economics, including the labour theory of value and surplus value, commercial and interest-bearing capital, rent of land, crises and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. On the last of these he writes (p.57) that it would be nonsense “to hypothesize a long-run tendency of the rate of profit to fall in the sense that over a period of one hundred years the rate of profit must have become lower”, and he stresses the relationship of a short-term fall to the cycle of booms and depressions.

He warns readers that his book must not be regarded as a substitute for reading Capital itself. Its merit is that, by clearing away some popular misconceptions, it should make it easier for the student to understand what Marx was getting at in his detailed treatment.

Marx’s Capital begins with an outline of the materialist conception of history and an account of the way Marx moved on from his early Hegelianism. It reminds the reader of the impossibility of separating economic theory from the class basis of society. Other economists’ attempts to explain profits are briefly dealt with, including “abstinence theories” and “marginal productivity” (pages 31-2).

In the treatment of Marx's economics a serious defect is that, although present-day inflation is several times referred to, there is no mention whatever of Marx’s explanation, based on the labour theory of value that inflation is caused by an excess issue of inconvertible paper currency. As the author can hardly be unaware of Marx’s explanation the possibility is that he rejects it (as some rather obscure remarks suggest), but he makes no attempt to disprove it or to offer an argued alternative explanation.

His treatment of the very low post-war unemployment is equally unsatisfactory. He writes (p.76) that capitalism has changed, as evidenced by the fact that “capitalism since the second world war has enjoyed an unprecedented boom, free from the shattering crises . . . that characterised the earlier laissez-faire period . . ."

Several things can be said about this. Did capitalism in general enjoy an unprecedented post-war boom? In the four years 1948-1951, for example, unemployment was at depression levels in several countries. The average for the four years was over 9 per cent in Belgium and 8 per cent in Germany. In Italy it was continuously over one and a half million.

As regards low post-war unemployment in Britain all that was unusual was that it lasted as long as it did. It was always normal for unemployment to be low in periods of expansion, and in the second half of the nineteenth century there were several periods of 3 to 5 years when the average was less than 3 per cent.

Nor is the enormous belief in permanent boom a new one. Kautsky, in his “Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx” (p. 230), after noting that there had been a belief in permanent depression, wrote:-
From 1895 to 1900 we had again a period of economic prosperity, which led not a few optimists to the opposite assumption, viz. that the period of crises had passed away.
Mr. Fine’s book was published first in 1975. If he had waited till unemployment rose above 1,600,000 in 1977 we may guess that he would have worded differently the passage quoted earlier.

The book contains two mentions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the first a quotation from Marx, in the Foreword, and the second on the last page. It reads:-
   The future will herald a new era founded on the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The author does not go into the question of what Marx meant by the phrase or explain what he (the author) means by it (the dictatorship in capitalist Russia?) or give his reasons for believing that it is a way to the classless society, Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

50 Years Ago: What is Capital? (1978)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Exploitation gives the key to an understanding of capital. Today the workers as a class are born, and remain, propertyless; they therefore do not own capital which is a form of wealth. Capital is the accumulated wealth of the capitalist class. It is useful for further production, but with only one object — that it may absorb the further unpaid labour of the workers, and thus produce . . . surplus value, the source of rent, interest and profit. Not the means of wealth production in themselves, but the class relations under which they are used to obtain surplus value, realised through sale in the world market — make them capital.

Bodies like the Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party do not stand as we do for common ownership, which would mean the abolition of such class relations. The ILP (Forward May 12 1928) asks:-
When and where any socialist ever pretended or suggested that we could dispense with capital. Socialists propose that capital should be publicly owned.
Socialists do nothing of the kind. By public ownership the ILP means nationalisation or government ownership, a condition under which the capitalists would still collectively own their property as bond-holders, while the workers would still be exploited by receiving wages which presuppose unpaid labour.
From an article “What is Capital”, Socialist Standard July 1928.

Italy's political killers (1978)

From the July 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Red Brigades carried out their first killing in June 1974. In Padua an armed commando entered the local Party offices of the MSI, the Italian neo-Fascist movement, handcuffed together the two men they found there, one a Party official the other an ex-member, and then shot them both twice in the back of the neck. Two years later, again in June, they shot dead a top magistrate together with his bodyguard and chauffeur, and last year, in April and November, they killed a Turinese lawyer and the assistant editor of the daily newspaper, La Stampa. So far this year their victims have been a magistrate, a police marshal, two prison officers and of course Aldo Moro and his five-man bodyguard. Add to this half a dozen kidnappings (the first in 1972) and scores of bombings and armed attacks on individuals, most of them since the kidnapping of Moro in March, and we have a picture of political violence paralleled in few of the economically advanced countries of the world.

Not of course that the Italian State is in danger of imminent collapse. As we pointed out last month the Red Brigades are a small isolated group with no support to speak of among Italian workers. Far from “striking at the heart of the State”, as they put it, they are impotent to do it any real harm and will ultimately find the massive resources and means of violence at its disposal more than a match for them.

This however is something they themselves do not see. They quite clearly consider themselves a real threat to the State and a potent ideological force among Italian workers. A mixture of jobless intellectuals and individuals from very poor backgrounds, many of them disaffected Communist Party supporters, they issued, in the 55 days that elapsed between the kidnapping of Moro and his killing, 9 communiques in which they tried to justify their activities and explain their position. Their theory as stated in these communiques, all of which were published in the Italian press, can be summarised as follows: — The old liberal nation-state is dead and has been taken over by the “imperialist states of the multinationals”. At the head of the “hierarchical chain” of this multinational imperialism (or the biggest links) are the USA and West Germany with other lesser states such as Italy forming smaller links in the chain and carrying out faithfully the directives coming from above. To pursue its economic interests and at the same time to crush the developing proletarian revolution this multinational imperialism has recruited a “politico-economic-military personnel", “imperialist executioners who massacre the militants of the IRA, the RAF (the German Red Army Faction), the Palestinian people and the Communist guerillas of South America”. Hence the need for revolutionaries to put their strategy in a European, not just a national focus. Italy too has concentration camps in which “there are hundreds of Communist prisoners condemned to the slow death of centuries of prison”. Therefore the Italian slate, “the Italian branch of the greatest multinational of crime the world has ever known”, must be the target of revolutionary violence and the designs of the “imperialist bourgeoisie” must be upset by attacks on this “politico-economic-military personnel” which it has created and which is its expression. In a class-divided society “the Italian proletariat possesses an immense potential of revolutionary intelligence, an infinite amount of technical knowledge and practical capability which, by its own work, it has been able to collectively accumulate, a will and a disposition to struggle which decades of fighting for its own liberation has forged and made indestructible. Upon this stands the whole basis of our organisation: its growing strength is built on the solid foundations of the Italian proletariat and avails itself of the incalculable contribution that its best sons and vanguards make to the building of the Communist Party in struggle”.

This then is the “thinking” behind the Red Brigades’ War against the Italian state. And all the signs are that they see their analysis as original and striking. Yet if we remove some of the more fanatical rhetoric and a few of the contemporary references what we are left with is far from original. It’s a hotchpotch of ideas, slogans and expressions of wishful thinking common to and oft-repeated on the political Left for nigh on a hundred years.

Firstly the theory of “multinational imperialism” when looked at closely boils down to the old notion of capitalism being a carefully planned conspiracy on the part of the ruling class. Certainly capitalism is a fertile breeding ground for conspiracies, political, economic and other kinds, and Italy probably has more than its fair share of them. But to suggest that the whole system is run on a conspiratorial basis is to attribute to the capitalist class and their servants in government powers and controls they do not and can not have. Capitalism depends on the impersonal workings of the world market. It is not run by governments in collusion. What happens is that governments accommodate themselves to conditions created by the market sometimes consulting and acting in concert with other governments sometimes going it alone, but in all cases, and even in the context of an international organisations like the Common Market, acting in what they see as the broad long-term interests of their own national capitalist class. Capitalism may indeed have become more international than ever before but foreign investment is welcomed or otherwise by a government according to its capacity to increase that country’s competitive position in the world market.

The second part of the conspiracy theory propounded by the Red Brigades is that there is afoot an international bourgeois plot aimed at crushing proletarian revolution. As so many leftists before them the Red Brigades refuse to face the harsh reality that the vast majority of workers do not at the present time want revolution in any shape or form. They delude themselves that a mass revolution of which they themselves will be the leaders is just waiting to be touched off and that the ruling class has got together, in this case internationally, to prevent this from happening. The fact is that when the majority of the population of the advanced world want revolution, nothing the ruling class can do will prevent them from having it. At present the authorities have the workers as their willing allies and even if they do possess the complex secret apparatus of repression the Red Brigades talk about, it is for use not against a mass workers’ movement but against small violent minority organisations like the Red Brigades themselves.

Picking off members of this apparatus, the so-called “politico-economic-military personnel”, i.e. rich or prominent individuals, is also an old trick and, as history has shown, quite futile. It is based on the “Great Man” theory of history whereby leaders not conditions are seen to determine the course of history. Since the death of Lenin and Stalin’s rule in Russia leftists have argued that if only Trotsky had triumphed over Stalin things would have been different. Different perhaps they would have been in their details but Trotsky’s own blood-stained record leaves little doubt of his capacity for a ruthlessness to which the conditions and the need to develop state capitalism in Russia would have forced him. The conditions create the men, not vice versa. And if one man disappears another is always on hand to take his place. This, it seems, is a lesson lost on the Red Brigades. Their murder of individuals such as Moro may bring them notoriety and give them a small place in history but its impact on historical development will be infinitesimal.

Lastly the self-confessed “vanguardism” of the Red Brigades. This desire to lead has been a characteristic of all small left-wing groups since the last century. The Red Brigades correctly see society as class-divided but imagine that a small group of determined individuals can lead a revolution against the capitalist class and take the working class with them. They would no doubt argue (they frequently make reference to the theory and practice of Lenin) that this idea is confirmed by the Russian experience of 1917. But what Lenin did in Russia was to set himself up as dictator of those he had led and establish a brutal state capitalist regime as far removed from Socialism as could possibly be imagined. The consequence of violent minority revolution has always in fact been violent minority control. If the Red Brigades—and given the totally different conditions from those existing in Russia in 1917 this would be nothing short of miraculous—were to take over in Italy, the result would be the same. The only kind of revolution truly possible in Italy, as elsewhere in the advanced world, is Socialism in which there will be neither leaders nor led. It will be a majority democratic revolution without the need for violence and will change the basis of society from production for profit to production for use, from world competition to world cooperation.

All sorts of theories have been advanced to explain why Italy is suffering from the violence of these would-be revolutionaries more than most other countries. Sociologists have been at it, so have politicians, historians, psychologists, et al. Insufficient reforms, the Communist Party’s shift to the centre, high unemployment, inefficient education system, traditional Italian leaning towards extremes Italy’s late and rapid development in the industrial field not being matched by progress in its infrastructure, social services, etc: these are all reasons offered to account for this phenomenon. And there is probably a good deal to be said for many of them. But when looked at closely none of them is a cause but an effect of the system of society in which we live. The effects of capitalism itself, which is the real cause of political violence in the world today wherever and whenever it takes place.
Howard Moss