Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Marx Memorial Library twists History (1968)

From the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Marx Memorial Library, in Clerkenwell Green, London, tries to present itself as a centre of “truly Marxist studies”. But it is incapable of maintaining even ordinary standards of historical objectivity. As the library is run by supporters of the so-called Commnist Party it is not difficult to understand why. We wish to draw attention to one example of how they twist history.

The January-March 1968 issue of their Quarterly Bulletin has an article on “Socialist Education and Propaganda before 1917” which seeks the reason for the favourable reception of the Bolshevik coup by many politically active workers in Britain. It argues that this reception had been prepared by over twenty years of socialist education and propaganda carried on by the Social Democratic Federation, the Socialist Labour Party, the Fabians, the ILP, the Clarion Fellowship, the Herald Leagues, the Labour Colleges and the Plebs League. No mention is made of the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain. We hasten to add that we would not want to claim any share of the blame for misleading workers about the Russian revolution and the Bolshevik regime. Indeed, it is a measure of the confusion spread by the above organisations that they did not provide workers with enough insight to see that Socialism was impossible in Russian conditions. All the Bolsheviks could do was to develop capitalism, which they did as state capitalism. In Britain the Socialist Party was alone, at the time and up till the end of the 1930’s, in pointing out this Marxian truth —a stand which earned us the undying hatred of the so-called Communist Party, reflected in this crude attempt to suppress the fact of our existence and intense activity before 1917 (including our clear opposition to the war right from its start).

We know this omission is deliberate as there is a reference to a series of articles entitled “The Socialist Movement in Great Britain” that the Times ran in 1909 (January 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19). The Quarterly Bulletin quotes the series on various organisations, including the SLP. Now the Times mentioned the SLP only twice and both times together with the Socialist Party:
   Another organisation worth noting is the Socialist Party of Great Britain; it is a political body which declares war on all other parties ’whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist’, and is distinguished by its revolutionary aims. So, too, is the Socialist Labour Party, which seems to be a sort of Scottish counterpart of the last, having its seat in Edinburgh. If anything, it is still more uncompromising and boldly demands a Socialist republic.
The Socialist Standard, along with Justice (SDF), Labour Leader (ILP), Clarion and the Socialist (SLP) is described as among the “more important journals”:
   If Justice is more violent than the Labour Leader it is as mild as milk compared with the Socialist and the Socialist Standard. These are penny papers representing the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Party of Great Britain respectively.
There follows a paragraph in which the writer discusses what he thinks the demerits of these two journals (for him, they have no merits!)

On this evidence, then, we accuse the so-called Marx Memorial Library of dishonestly suppressing the historical fact of the active existence of the Socialist Party before 1917, and we challenge them to deny it.
Editorial Committee

Radicals in North America (1968)

Book Review from the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Critics of Society: Radical Thought in North America, by T. B. Bottomore. Allen and Unwin 25s.

Bottomore first broadcast this as a series of talks on Canadian radio. He points out that “the course taken by social criticism in North America was quite different from that in Europe, because the society itself was very different”. The original colonies were formed by European religious and political dissenters. Statements on the rights of man, incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, contained some of the most radical 18th century ideas. Political democracy became established. Thus in American society at that time there were no great issues (slavery being the one exception), only individual grievances. As would be expected this situation did not give rise to any lasting school of criticism or reform movement.

After the Civil War there followed a period of immense industrial expansion. The mass immigration of the 1880’s began to supply the additional workers needed by industry. During the period from 1860 to 1910 the rural population of America doubled, but the town population increased almost sevenfold. These decades saw the inevitable rise of poverty, unemployment and other social problems. It was these social changes that led to a revival of social criticism, initially taking the form of Populism and similar movements. Symptomatic of this revival was the appearance of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty (1879) and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888).

Bottomore examines the subsequent development of North American social criticism down to the mid-twentieth century. In a separate chapter on Canada he deals with the formation of the New Democratic Party in 1961. According to him:
  "The New Democratic Party was founded with the support of socialist groups and trade unions. In the same year a new exposition of socialist ideas was published under the title Social Purpose for Canada.”
The NDP is not in fact a Socialist party. It was set up in opposition to the Socialist Party of Canada. No socialist groups took part in the formation of the NDP. Socialists would not, and did not, wish to be associated with the plans to patch up Canadian capitalism put forward in Social Purpose for Canada.

Of modern social criticism, Bottomore has this to say:
    “Another way of describing the present nature of social criticism would be to say that the critics of whatever social order they are confronting no longer see one big social problem, for which there is one big solution. Instead, they see a succession of more or less unique situations, each of which requires the critic to take a moral stand, to commit himself, but only with respect to that particular situation. There is no rule for dealing with all situations. Our age, therefore, is certainly an age of criticism, but also of exceptional confusion and disarray.”
Socialists take the view that it is impossible to solve the major problems of modern society in isolation. The social problems from which the working class suffer all have their roots in the very basis of the capitalist system. They can only be solved when the workers rid themselves of the confusion they share with modern “social critics”, equip themselves with socialist knowledge and establish Socialism.
DS


What is Black Power (1968)

Book Review from the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Black Power. Stokely Carmichael & Charles V. Hamilton. Jonathan Cape. 30s.

“Black Power” is an umbrella term for a whole range of political ideas and this short book is a readable account of what is probably the mainstream outlook. It contains little that is new but it is a compact statement of the aims and ideology of the bulk of the movement.

There is no point in repeating our analysis of “Black Power” which has already appeared in Socialist Standard (February 1968) but two points can be emphasised. The first is that although men like Stokely Carmichael loudly claim to “reject the goal of assimilation into middle-class America”, the fact is that—despite all their noise— their doctrine does fit in neatly with capitalist concepts. Thus:
  “Black Power means, for example, that in Lowndes County, Alabama, a black sheriff can end police brutality. A black tax assessor and tax collector and county board of revenue can lay, collect, and channel tax monies for the building of better roads and schools serving black people.”
Secondly, given the right time and place. Carmichael and his associates will attempt to tart up their theories with the usual pseudo-Marxist jargon. At the OLAS conference, for example, he argued that it was the people of “the third world” who were being super-exploited by Western imperialism and that white workers in the imperialist countries were in the ranks of the exploiting class.
    “The American working class enjoys the fruits of the labour of the Third World workers.”
    “The proletarian has become the Third World; the bourgeoisie is white, Western society.”
    “Thus did the United Slates anticipate the prophecy of Marx and avoid the inevitable class struggle within the country by expanding into the Third World and exploiting the resources and slave labour of people of colour.”
The basis for this line of thinking is the obvious fact that workers in the “underdeveloped countries” (and in the underdeveloped areas of the metropolitan countries) do have a lower standard of living than workers in Western Europe and the United States. But Carmichael then proceeds to the quite false assumption that there must inevitably be a direct relationship between poverty and degree of exploitation, that the more destitute a section of the working class is the more heavily it must be exploited. The influence of Lenin’s theory of imperialism is clearly very strong here but to drag in the name of Marx as a prop for this unscientific view is dishonest. In Capital Marx made it quite plain that he understood that there was no automatic link between low wages and intensity of exploitation. Apart from the often-quoted statement in volume I that “as capital accumulates, the lot of the labourer, be his payment high or low, must grow worse”, Marx deals with this issue specifically in volume III- in the theoretical section on the different composition of capitals.

Marx’s method here is to compare a European and Asian country and he suggests that in an advanced industrial state the rate of surplus value (the ratio of surplus value to wages) may well be 100%, i.e. the worker may well work one-half of the working day for himself and one-half for his employer. On the other hand, under more primitive conditions of production, it may well be necessary for a labourer to work for, say, four-fifths of the working day in order to produce an equivalent to his wages, leaving only one-fifth for his employer. In this latter case the rate of surplus value would then only be 25%.

However, this condition of the better-paid worker being more heavily exploited can be masked by a lower rate of profit in the European country, due to the different compositions of the national capitals.

But the point which socialists would stress is that it isn’t a question of which section of the working class has the edge on other workers in terms of being exploited, anyway. Working men and women all over the world are confronted by a situation where the international capitalist class monopolises all the important means of producing wealth. The only way out of this dilemma is for the working class to convert the means of production into the common property of a world socialist community. If the ideas of the Black Power merchants are theoretically unsound, this is a sure sign that, as a guide to working class action for socialism, they aRe equally bankrupt. Against the call for “Black Power”, socialists will continue to advance the slogan: “Workers of the World, Unite”.
John Crump




Art Under Capitalism (1968)

Party News from the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the end of May students of the Hornsey College of Art (which is the responsibility of the Haringey Borough Council) occupied the college buildings and declared a “Student’s Republic” with the aim of reforming the administration and art education generally. Their action has sparked off similar ones in other art colleges. Haringey branch gave out the following leaflet:
To the students of Hornsey College of Art.

We hope that your efforts to improve your working conditions, to raise the quality of your training and to obtain a more effective voice in college affairs will succeed.

The problems against which you contend are symptoms of a society which cannot effectively serve human needs based as it is upon the class monopoly of the means of production, and the profit motive.

This system has little time for the arts and the humanities. It is primarily concerned to employ the talents and energies of artists, sociologists, writers and their fellows, either directly in commerce and advertising, or in the control and manipulation of wage and salary earners — the working class. 

Even where good design is an integral part of the productive process it is often employed as a weapon in the struggles of companies and nations to capture markets.

Art is the Cinderella of capitalism. The capitalist class, as a class, have no use for it unless the work of the artist serves the needs of capital The value of Art as an authentic expression of human feeling and enjoyment, its evocation and communication of emotion and experience, past and present — all these functions of art fail to ring the bells on the cash registers of the bourgeoisie.

Only in a socialist society will the artist be free from domination by the values and pressures of a profit-seeking society. In a socialist society there will be no officials to set limits to what may be done in the sphere of artistic activity.

Today there is no Socialism anywhere. Nowhere is there full freedom of expression.

We in The Socialist Party aim at building a world community — without frontiers, based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production where things will be produced for use. A world without war, world hunger or racialism. A world that has no need of money and has abolished rent, interest, profits, wages and prices. A world fit for human beings in which the way of life would be:
From each according to his ability —
       to each according to his needs
We think such a society can be brought into being only when it is technically possible for abundance to be produced (as it is now) and when a majority of the population understands the implications of such a socialist reorganisation, desire it and take the necessary democratic action to establish it

We insist that any attempt to make such a revolutionary change, except by organised democratic political action will never succeed. We are opposed to the efforts of anarchists, Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists and other elitist groups which set out to disrupt the democratic process or to seize power following deliberate provocative actions aimed at manipulating masses of students and workers in the interests of the self-appointed ‘revolutionary' vanguards. Fortunately, although they do not share our revolutionary socialist view, most students and workers have sufficient political insight to reject the roles intended for them by these would-be leaders.

When your immediate difficulties have been overcome we look forward to hearing from students who might have found our views to be of interest. If you would like to have a speaker from our branch address you, we would be very pleased to make the necessary arrangements.

Yours for Socialism, 
Haringey Branch

50 Years Ago: Life Here or Hereafter (1968)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In season and out of season we preach Socialism: the possession by a community of workers the world over, of the things needful for human existence. The end of production for profit; the abolition of slave-jobs and subsistence wages; the end of commercial rivalry and the struggle for political supremacy on the part of rival groups of bosses; the end of the wholesale slaughter of the workers by the machines they themselves produce; the death of blinding superstition and the birth of rational hope; the end of all things capitalistic and the beginning of a real society; the beginning of production for social use, of co-operation for mutual welfare, of universal brotherhood; life, not death! 

Show us if you can, you idealistic praters, a fairer dream than this. Conjure up, if you will, a vision to be “realised" when we are dead and cold. We prefer to live now. Why rush to death? Why be butchered to make a capitalist victory? What can heaven hold that is half so sweet as the probabilities of this existence? 
From an article "The Consolations of Illusion" by E. Boden, Socialist Standard, July 1918.


The Review Column: Robert Kennedy (1968)

The Review Column from the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Robert Kennedy
One of the more remarkable things about the assassination of Robert Kennedy was the emotional identification with the dead man on this side of the Atlantic.

This was more than a matter of sorrow at the Kennedys’ tragic history; it was more than awe at the family’s glamour. Robert Kennedy was mourned as one who stood for the poor and underprivileged, for racial integration and a more humane society. He was venerated as a rich man who cared deeply for the common people.

Was this true or false?

Kennedy was first and foremost a politician—one who drove ruthlessly for the top. It is no new thing, for a man on the march to power to speak up for the underdog; the British Labour government, to give only one example, is full of such people.

This is the true perspective on the famous Kennedy crusade. The simple fact is that they have always played for votes; when Martin Luther King was arrested at a crucial moment in the 1960 election, the late President Kennedy did not judge the matter on grounds of Negro interests but on how many coloured votes he could swing by taking King’s side, and whether they would be enough to make it worth while.

Similarly, Robert Kennedy provoked much hatred— perhaps also that of his alleged assassin—by championing Israeli interests in the Middle East. This was a direct bid for the Jewish vote, both in the Californian primary election and in the vital state of New York which Kennedy represented in the Senate. 

The dead man’s record in office is no more sympathetic. In September 1961 he warned that America was prepared to use nuclear weapons. When the Berlin wall went up he favoured a military confrontation with the Russians. As he himself admitted, he was once a hawk over Vietnam.

On these, and many other, issues Robert Kennedy was not on the side of the common man; he was standing strongly for the interests of American capitalism, even if the lives of millions were at stake.

The assassination was a horrible and frightening affair but so is the capitalist system Kennedy stood for. His was just a single life; capitalism has killed millions.


Germs at Porton Down
The recent protests at the Ministry of Defence germ and gas warfare laboratory at Porton Down have had one rather surprising result. As if to show us that there is nothing harmful going on there, the plant will hold a number of open days, when we shall all be able to see as much of what the scientists are up to as the government thinks fit

Perhaps we shall be encouraged to make a day of it— take the family for an outing on a cheap excursion from one of the nationalised transport undertakings, picnic under the shadows of menacingly blank windows, take home a souvenir test tube of anthrax or botulism.

Very few people will be taken in by the open days. When they are shown the vaccines against disease which Porton Down produces, they will probably reflect that such results are inevitable. The laboratory was set up for one primary purpose—research into methods of waging war by administering gas and disease.

At the moment the likelihood is that gas and germ warfare has too may practical difficulties. So, at one time, did the nuclear bomb. We may be sure that Porton Down is working on the problem.

One obvious characteristic of biological warfare is that is would kill people without damaging property. To the capitalist class, who always find the destruction of modern war such a problem, this is a great advantage. It is enough of an incentive to keep the retorts at Porton Down bubbling until they come up with a weapon which can be used—and which will probably defy belief for its horror.

And this—this waste of human knowledge and skill and inventiveness, this preoccupation with the techniques of mass killing—is what modern capitalism has come to.


What a way to celebrate
Even those who have lost their illusions about the TUC must have been surprised at the way that professedly working class body celebrated its centenary last month.

In London, they held a great banquet, which could hardly be called a salute to the memory of the men who suffered so much to establish the right of combination. Even more, the banquet was devoured at the Guildhall which, as much as any building can, stands for the durable fortunes of the British capitalist class.

In the chair was the Lord Mayor of London, who did not come to his office by way of martyrdom but who is elected by a few other very rich men, mainly financiers and merchants.

Along the top table were the Prime Minister and Barbara Castle, both of whom are busily carrying on the anti-working class policies which the Labour government has followed since it took office and which the TUC has never seriously resisted.

Also there were the top representatives of the employers, officials of the Confederation of British Industry like John Davies. With the exception of George Woodcock, this lot were all got up in evening dress and the whole gathering glowed with ribbons and sparkled with jewels and medals.

Of course such an event would not have been complete without the Queen and she also was present; in fact the trade unionists and business men had only a narrow escape from having her husband there as well.

The Queen made a speech—a sort of primary school exercise on the history of the unions, loaded with whitewash about the callous persecution of the early unionists, hinting that it was all a misunderstanding and that the employers were on our side all along.

Anyone who could witness this without actually being sick might have wondered what the Tolpuddle Martyrs and their contemporaries would have made of it all. But the TUC has come a long way in a hundred years, even if it is in a direction never dreamed of by the pioneers.

Letter: Practical steps towards Socialism (1968)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

We would make our planet a better place to live at if we go on contributing our mite for making it a Socialist planet. Not mere seminars, forums or intellectual get-togethers on Socialism are enough, but some concrete steps towards Socialisation are required. In this respect I may, especially mention the establishment of certain villages and towns, on voluntary basis, based on socio-economic set-up, in which farmers and workers may work on mutually co-operative basis. Socialist schools and educational institutions may be set up to educate the people on the socialist principles. This I am suggesting, because it will facilitate our process of Socialisation. Moreover on a large scale basis, i.e. countrywide campaign, in the very beginning seems rather impracticable.

Remesh C. Sharma, 
Phagwara, Punjab.


Reply:
We are familiar with arguments like Mr. Sharma’s for setting up co-operative communities within capitalism as a means of gradually replacing it by Socialism. However, we do not think that this is a practical proposition for the industrialised world, with its various powerful states, we now have. The major problems of today are world problems and can only be solved by the establishment of a world community, without frontiers, based on common ownership with production solely for use, not profit. A Socialist planet, as Mr. Sharma puts it.

Small co-operative communities might provide a pleasant way of working and living for a few, but they can never be a solution to the problems of wage-workers who live in big cities and work in big factories and offices. To establish Socialism requires the building of a strong, worldwide movement directed at winning political power for Socialism, in each country. Winning political power before carrying out the social revolution converting the means of life from class to common property is essential. For class property is maintained and protected by political power. To try to by-pass the state, thus leaving it in the hands of the enemies of Socialism, would have disastrous results.

We agree with Mr. Sharma that discussion alone is not what is wanted. We say that Socialism is possible now, and act on this assumption by devoting our energies to preparing the working class to win political power. Frankly, we think that setting up communities within capitalism is a waste of valuable time and energy.
Editorial Committee

Southern Journey (1968)

Party News from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

To arrive in Jamaica at 10 o’clock at night in 90 degrees of heat and humidity after leaving London 10 hours before at 35 degrees is a shattering experience, but this disappears when a slight, bewhiskered Jamaican holds out his hand and says “Welcome to Jamaica, Comrade Edmonds”; when a tall, brawny lad with an infectious smile grabs your bags, puts them in his car and within minutes you are sitting in a beer garden being introduced to various people and discussion begins.

Such was our meeting with Cornrade Dolphy and Comrade Barry—I never did find out his other name. The following day we were allowed to rest and in the evening a visit to a club and we sit down to discussion again. Someone walks up. “Hello there, George”. “John,” says George, “this is Bill. He’s interested in the Party”, and so another participant.

The following day, we are picked up early by Barry and George and travel 80 miles into the mountains to talk to a sympathiser who accepted the Party’s case, but was sceptical about the here-after. As an ex-Roman Catholic, I was able to convince him—I hope—that it was fear that was his problem, and we parted with agreement. This was the pattern of the whole of our stay.

Jamaica of course is a country of Montego Bay with its holiday resort, writers and retired millionaires, whilst Kingston, where we stayed, is the commercial town with the poverty and unemployment very familiar in the Carribean area. The United Fruit Company has major control of the Island’s agrarian economy, which is primarily sugar, bananas and coffee. The Daily Gleaner spends much of its time acting as referee between the two political parties’ attacks on each other for graft.

I must here pay tribute to the late Comrade La Touche. They speak of him with much regard and he must have contributed to the growing group of Jamaica.

And now a different kettle of fish; Wellington, New Zealand. Seeing the Airport, we were confronted by a large sign “Trotts here tonight”. For a moment, I thought politics were very active. Unfortunately, it was horse racing and not Trotskyists. However, our welcome to Wellington was as enthusiastic as Jamaica if not as colourful. One cannot speak too highly of Comrade Ron Everson and the band of Socialists who are doing a job of work in New Zealand. I think a remark of Com. Everson will suffice to explain—“I retired from work”, he said, “I couldn't propagate Socialism and work.” This is indeed true. With the assistance of his wife, Amy, he carries out the work of secretary, literature secretary, organiser and chief seller of Standards and Westerns—indeed a full-time job. He also has a “room for Socialism” in his house in Wigan Street where every Thursday they hold classes, and it was enlightening to see a group of young Comrades with a group of older members. As Ron says, we are getting old —we need the young 'uns, and I think they have some excellent tutors and material.

We visited several old members including Comrade Rolfe Everson, who alas died since I arrived home. I also was introduced to the Dockers’ Club and gave a talk on War, Want and Waste. It should have lasted an hour, but as it was raining, most of the lads were standing by, so the meeting went on for four hours.
Johnny Edmonds

50 Years Ago: Decimal Coinage (1968)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

This little volume (Sterling Decimal Coinage. By Walter L. Craig. London. Effingham and Wilson 2/6) is an exhaustive enquiry into the matter of the adoption of a decimal coinage for the British Empire. The author’s reasoning is very cogent, and he incidentally shows how vested interests and official muddle-headedness and red tape stand in the way even of the capitalists doing the best for themselves.

Not that we are concerned about a decimal system of coinage. Its obvious efficiency as a labour-saver may be admitted, but is hardly likely to appeal to the unemployed clerk in the post-war days. Also, we are expecting to establish Socialism before Mr. Craig gets even a good start with his scheme to revolutionise the coinage, and under Socialism . . .  we shall have no use for either MILS or L.S.D. There will be neither giving or receiving of change, nor weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the too late discovery of a bad ’un. And if, as Mr. Craig says, the ha’penny has killed the farthing—poor mite! — Socialism will kill the damned lot.
From the Socialist Standard, June 1918.

Better late than never (1968)

Party News from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the 1966 General Election one of the Socialist Party of Great Britain candidates stood at Hampstead. The sitting Tory, former Home Secretary Henry Brooke, was also opposed by Ben Whitaker for Labour and a Liberal. We organised for the evening of Sunday 27 March a meeting to which we invited the other candidates to take up the Socialist challenge. None did, explaining either that they had a prior engagement or that they never campaigned on Sunday. Whitaker, however, (who presumably felt he had most to lose by the opposition of a Socialist candidate — he was mistaken, mind you, because Socialists do not vole Labour when there is no Socialist candidate) did send a representative. She was Constance Lever, a regular contributor to the journals International Socialism and Labour Worker. She said that she agreed with our banners around the platform--“Production For Use”, “Workers of the World. Unite" and “Abolition of the Wages System"—but went on to say that nevertheless workers ought to vote for Labour, not the Socialist, candidate. Whitaker, in fact, defeated Brooke and is now the MP for Hampstead. We recently heard that Constance Lever has left the Labour Party. We trust she is sorry for the part she played in helping Labour to power.

Labour Worker, by the way, is changing its name to “Socialist Worker”. They explain: "It is a measure of the complete capitulation of the Labour government to the demands of the bankers and bosses that the paper has to change its name to avoid any possible confusion with the Wilson anti-working-class administration”. We would say rather that it is a measure of complete opportunism to start a paper with “Labour” in the name when the Labour Party is popular and to change it when the Labour Party becomes unpopular.

Socialists in Haringey election (1968)

Party News from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Haringey branch put up three candidates in the Stroud Green ward, Hornsey, for the local borough elections on 9 May. 3.000 election manifestos were delivered in the ward, and another 5,000 in the rest of the borough. The Socialists were opposed by three Tories, three Labourites, one Communist and a student from the Hornsey College of Art.

During the campaign the Tory leader, Councillor Rigby, referred to Labour as “the Socialist Party”. We immediately sent off this letter:
   “We note that in a letter published in the Hornsey Journal and Wood Green Herald today you write about “the Socialist Party” when you obviously mean the Labour Party.
   You are perhaps aware that our organisation, which has been known as the Socialist Party since its founding in 1904, has been active in the area now called Haringey for many years, We did contest the Greater London Council elections last April under our own name, and we are contesting the Stroud Green Ward in the Haringey Borough elections on 9 May. You will appreciate that to refer to one party with the name of another, especially during an election which both are contesting, can only cause great confusion, and could even have legal repercussions.
   We request, therefore, that you please call the Labour Party “the Labour Party" and only use “the Socialist Party" if you wish to refer to our party. We would also request you make this known to your candidates and party workers throughout the borough.
   In order to clear up before election day some of the confusion your letter may have caused, we are sure you will not object to our sending copies of this letter to the local press."
Rigby acknowledged this letter. So if he does it again we can denounce him for dishonesty and for deliberately causing confusion. We also tried to expose one of the Tory candidates (since elected councillor) as a defender, and perhaps even an exponent, of race prejudice. The pro- Tory local press would not publish our challenge as the Tories were obviously out to get the “immigrant vote”. Lewis, one of our Tory opponents in Stroud Green, was in fact an immigrant from the West Indies.

The result was:
Lotery (C) 2,026: Stansall (C) 2.021: Lewis (C) 1,923; Wehrfritz (Lab) 604; Young (Lab) 576: Akerman (Lab) 572: Baker (Com) 122: Coles (Ind) 69; Buick (Soc) 52: Carter (Soc) 49: Lee (Soc) 49.

East Was East (1968)

Book Review from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Japanese Miracle Men by Ralph Hewins (Secker and Warburg, 70s.)

In this book Ralph Hewins gives the “great man” version of Japanese industrial recovery since the Second World War. The majority of his heroes are over seventy years of age. Their careers generally reflect the successes and failures of Japan in the commercial brawls of capitalism.

During the period covered by this book Japan has been dominated by America. At first America set about dismantling war industries and trying to limit the power of the ruling class by introducing American-style trade unionism and democracy. This tended to play into the hands of the pro-Russia “communists”. These measures were relaxed during the Korean War when Japanese industry became an important supplier of war materials to the American forces. From then on Japanese industry prospered and soon surpassed its pre-war outputs. High quality and technical innovation has now replaced cheapness and imitations, which were previously the hallmarks of its industries. They have gradually dominated Far Eastern trade so that an industrial nation such as Australia has become a satellite supplying raw materials.

Japan is noted for industrial relations based on paternalism, where the worker is expected to stick with his firm for life and the employer to hold on to his workers through thick and thin. Promotion is based on seniority which may explain the great age of Japan’s industrial elite. This is gradually giving way to the western pattern of management with promotion supposedly based on merit and the work-force kept in line with the demand of the market. Hewins’ “wonder-men" show the universal nature of capitalism when talking of wages and trade unions:
The trade unions are wrong. There is no object in dividing 10,000 yen among 10,000 people equally: it is better if one person conrols the 10,000 yen so that it can fructify.
Which typifies the philistine outlook of capitalists everywhere—and of Hewins, who eulogises them.
Joe Carter

White Collar Unionism (1968)

Book Review from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Union Character and Social Class by R. M. Blackburn, (Batsford. 55s.)

In Britain those who work for wages and salaries—employees, to use a neutral term —are popularly divided into “middle class” and “working class”, roughly those who work in offices and those who work in factories. Clerks tend to look down on factory workers, while they themselves are regarded as unproductive pen-pushers. Socialists say that all employees have a common interest as members of the same economic class, which we call the working class. So when we use the term “working class” we mean much more than the popular usage.

Trade unionism, and strikes, are things associated with the “working class”. But many in “middle class” jobs, because of their economic position as wage-earners, are under pressure to get together to discuss wages and working conditions with their employers. Only they see it as degrading to be in a Trade Union. How is this conflict between economic pressure and “middle class” values resolved? For resolved it is, as the rise in white-collar unionism over the past twenty or so years shows. Recently we’ve seen official strikes by teachers, airline pilots, post office and bank clerks.

In this book, Blackburn argues that in assessing to what degree trade unionism has spread amongst a group of workers, you must take into account not only how many are in unions, but also the character of those unions. Basically, how militant are they? To test this suggestion he examines economic organisation amongst bank clerks, traditionally regarded as the aristocracy of clerical workers. Bank clerks are in rival bodies: the National Union of Bank Employees (which is affiliated to the TUC, but not to the Labour Party) and various internal staff associations such as the Midland Bank Staff Association. Eight out of every ten are in one or other of these organisations (three in NUBE, five in the staff associations).

But can these staff associations be called “unions”? It is true that they were set up to keep NUBE’s predecessor (which had the respectable title of Bank Officers' Guild) out of the banks. Originally membership of these associations was compulsory and free (so they were financed by the employers). To call such outfits unions would indeed be wrong but, over time, both the union and the associations changed their character. The BOG joined the TUC in 1940 and became in 1946, on amalgamation, the National Union of Bank Employees. Wartime compulsory arbitration forced the staff associations to reform in order to qualify as genuine employee organisations: membership became voluntary and dues had to be paid.

This was a small step towards independence. In 1950 they got a sanction they could use against the bank employers: the right to take a dispute to outside arbitration. This they have done once or twice. However, the banks still prefer the less militant staff associations to NUBE. Only three recognise the union (Barclays, National and Williams Deacons) and the last two have no staff association. At the end of last year NUBE struck against the clearing banks for recognition. The only previous strikes had been in 1963, one against a Pakistan bank in London, and the other against the Trustee Savings Banks in the Provinces.

Thus the general trend towards white-collar unionism has gone on in banking as elsewhere. But it has taken the form not only of the growth of the declared union, NUBE, but also of the growing activity and independence of the internal staff associations. Blackburn’s book, though not meant for the layman, is an interesting study of trade unionism. It shows how the economic position of workers under capitalism forces them to set up bargaining organisations, and how these need not necessarily be associated with support for left-wing ideas. Indeed a recent NUBE General Secretary was a Tory and it is significant that it is the white-collar unions that have been least taken in by Labour’s appeal, on the grounds of loyalty, for wage restraint.
Adam Buick

Unions in the Civil Service (1968)

From the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
A branch committee member of one of the civil service unions describes how civil servants, too, are members of the working class:
Many workers have some odd prejudices about the civil service and those who work in it. They imagine workers employed to help run the capitalist state machine do less work, are higher paid and have better conditions of employment than any other section of the working class. Workers who believe this should ask themselves one question: Why do civil servants organise themselves into trade unions? The answer, of course, is simple. Civil servants, like other workers, are faced with the various problems involved in being a member of the working class. In fact, it is interesting to note that about 8 out of 10 non-manual workers in state employment belong to trade unions.

Most of the unions to which civil servants belong are called “associations" but this does not alter the fact that they have basically the same function as any other trade union, namely, to protect and improve the working conditions of their members. One such union is the Civil Service Clerical Association (C.S.C.A.) which, although affiliated to the TUC, is not (to the members' credit) linked with the Labour Party. It has about 160,000 members and covers workers employed in such jobs as Clerical Officers (some of the lowest paid workers in the country) and typists. Its members also include minority civil service grades such as Air Traffic Control Assistants and Teleprinter Operators.

You might think that working at an international airport like Heathrow is glamourous and exciting but the items which the CSCA London Air Traffic Control Centre branch deals with are all too familiar to workers in any job, i.e., wages, hours worked, fatigue breaks, etc., etc. Although the branch has about 150 members there is the usual disturbing problem of apathy and the branch is mainly run by the efforts of the active members on the branch committee. At the same time workers employed there do just as much grumbling and groaning as anywhere else, even about the supposed inactivity of the union.

In local union negotiations the class struggle which takes place between capitalist and worker tends to be obscured by the myriad of staff regulations and by the two sides being called the “official” and the “staff” side. But the official side can be just as uncompromising and obstructive as any other employer. In a recent “rate-for-the-job” dispute the union was demanding an allowance for workers doing a job previously done by a higher-paid civil service grade. The official side, in true capitalist fashion, delayed and side-tracked the issue for as long as possible whilst unrest grew amongst the workers. The deliberately complicated procedures for settling pay claims means also that rises are often subject to long delays which are obviously in the interests of the employers.

Despite apathy in the branch, active members are often aware of their position as wage and salary earners and a glance at the CSCA Conference Agenda confirms this. There are several healthy resolutions on pay, hours and strike policy.

The Parasites (1968)

From the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
Have you ever wondered where organisations like the British Council for Peace in Vietnam and the Movement for Colonial Freedom get their money from? A member explains how their supporters in his union branch use dubious means to help:
Before the First World War, Labour Party leaders hit upon a convenient way of financing their political careers: they paid themselves salaries out of union funds. Unfortunately for them, a railwayman’s branch secretary called Osborne, who as a Liberal objected to financing Labour MP's, took them to court and won. The courts ruled that unions could only spend their funds on industrial matters. But the 1913 Trade Union Act allowed the unions to set up separate political funds, providing they gave their members the chance to opt out. This contracting-out of the political levy lasted till 1927 when the Tories, after the General Strike, changed it to contracting-in. Labour changed it back again in 1946.

Many, but certainly not all, unions have political funds which they use mainly to affiliate to the Labour Party and to sponsor their own Labour candidates. Members of the Socialist Party naturally contract out of this levy. However, the local branches of some unions use money from the general, as opposed to the political, fund to finance obviously political organisations. This is easy where the branch is based on a geographical district rather than the place of work. Only a few members usually turn up and it is they who decide policy and how the funds are spent.

A case in point is a white collar union whose members work in scattered offices in the centre of London. Average attendance at the monthly meetings of this 300-strong branch is less than 20, and some of these are people who have retained their membership for political reasons as they are no longer employed, at least not in offices covered by the branch. Although none of the officers are members of the so-called Communist Party (the rule-book in fact discriminates against them) a hard-core of regular attenders are. It is easy for them to vote money to the various organisations they fancy. For instance, in one month last year they voted, from the general fund, £5 to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, 25s. to the Movement for Colonial Freedom, £2 subscription to Pensioners’ Voice and 10s to Voice of the Unions. At the next meeting they bought 8s. worth of MCF raffle tickets and donated £5 to the British Council for Peace in Vietnam, allegedly for an ambulance. Now the 1913 Act defines political expenditure, apart from election work, as money spent “on the holding of political meetings of any kind, or on the distribution of political literature or political documents of any kind”. Since they money they donate to AA, MCF or BCPV will obviously be used to help pay for meetings and leaflets this branch would seem to be coming very near to breaking the law. It is significant that some other unions, SOGAT at the national level for instance, contribute to the British Council for Peace in Vietnam and to Amnesty in Spain from their political fund. They take more care. But there is a reason why the Communists prefer to use the general to the political fund. Contributions to the political are very low (1d. a week in this union, of which half goes to the branch). At branch level, this money is used to affiliate to local Labour parties, so that the financing of “leftwing” groups on the scale practised just could not be sustained; it would break the political fund. One month, and this admittedly is exceptional, out of a total expenditure of over £46 more than £20 was spent on political donations; nothing was spent from the political fund, the balance of which was about £11.

What happens, then, is that a few hundred clerical workers contribute to the local branch funds believing it is going to be used for industrial purposes: to maintain an organisation to press for better wages and working conditions. Whereas in fact a handful of regular attenders use much of these contributions to finance “left-wing” groups. In a sense, this is the members’ own fault. It is only because they take little or no interest in union affairs that a left-wing clique, generally Communists, can take them for a ride. But there is another aspect: the cynical behaviour of the left-wingers who loudly shout about morality but use dubious means to get money.

This whole trick is repeated up and down the country and provides a considerable part of the funds of the left wing organisations mentioned.

Bitcoin-mania (2018)

From the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Bitcoin was set up in 2009 in accordance with a design drawn up by a person, or more probably a group of persons, calling themselves ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’. In a paper ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ (bitcoin.org/en/bitcoin-paper), he/they stated that:
‘A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.’
Libertarian money
What, you might wonder, is the advantage of such a system over the electronic payments systems such as Paypal and Visa that already exist? None as far as most people are concerned. However, those who set it up had been influenced by ‘libertarianism’ in its American sense,  such as anarcho-capitalists, ‘minarchists’ and other advocates of an unregulated market economy. They wanted a ‘cash system’ that was independent of the state and, also, didn’t want to involve a ‘financial institution’, in particular not banks, which, like the state, were accused of issuing unsound money by creating too much.
The basis of the system is a network of computers without a central server, all the computers being in direct contact with all the others. Hence peer-to-peer. The problem with such a decentralised, or, rather, non-centralised, system is how to verify that the person making the payment has not already spent the ‘electronic cash’ attributed to them. The innovation here was to apply ‘blockchain’ technology, as explained in the Pathfinders column of the December Socialist Standard:
‘When you make a Bitcoin transaction, the details are distributed across the entire network. To be sure the transaction is unique (i.e. not a 'double spend') it must be validated. To do this, the system triggers a competition in which freelance 'miners', acting somewhat like accountants, race to validate the transaction in return for a diminishing new-issue Bitcoin payment, which also helps to grow the currency at a controlled rate. Once validated, the transaction is then written into an encrypted public ledger as a permanent record or 'block'. This block is linked to previous blocks and in turn becomes the anchor or link to the next created block, forming an unbroken chain.’
The decision to call the validators ‘miners’ was another reflection of the ‘libertarian’ ideology behind the project. It was explicitly chosen to be like gold mining. As Nakamoto wrote:
‘The steady addition of a constant amount of new coins is analogous to gold miners expending resources to add gold to circulation. In our case it is CPU [computer] time and electricity that is expended.’
In this respect Bitcoin’s aim was to create the digital equivalent of a gold currency, to realise on the internet Ron Paul’s dream of a return to the gold standard.
It is not clear whether Bitcoin’s originators really intended their electronic cash to replace state fiat money or even just to compete with it. They seemed more concerned just to show that their ‘electronic cash’ could be created and that their system could work. If so, they proved their point; they did manage to transfer Bitcoins from one member of the network to another. A few caf├ęs and other establishments agreed to accept payment in Bitcoins but more to appear trendy than for business reasons. At first Bitcoin was little more than a toy for computer whizz-kids.
Bitcoins didn’t have a price until 2010 when it was made convertible into fiat money at the rate of 1 Bitcoin = 0.003 US cents. The first recorded purchase using Bitcoins is said to have taken place in May that year when a computer whizz-kid paid 100,000 of them for two pizzas. By the following year, however, it had achieved parity with the US dollar.
The money changers come back
Bitcoins have never been independent of state fiat money or prices expressed in it. The businesses that accept payments in Bitcoins price their goods or services by converting their fiat money prices into Bitcoin ones; when someone pays for an item in Bitcoins the business doesn’t keep them. In fact, normally they don’t even receive them (what use would they be to them?) as the Bitcoins go to a Bitcoin dealer who converts them into fiat money and pays that to the business. Not that, with the price of Bitcoins as it is, many will be using it to buy anything.
From 2010 people who were not part of the peer-to-peer network began to buy Bitcoins. But why? There was a feature of the system – disguising payers and payees – that was attractive to those who prefer to be paid in cash rather than by cheques. Not plumbers and other handymen but bigger fry such as drugs barons, arms dealers, money launderers and others wanting to avoid financial regulations. This is why Blackrock CEO Larry Fink recently described the Bitcoin price as ‘an index of money laundering’. At the moment North Korea is being accused of hoarding Bitcoins to use them to get round the latest sanctions. Secrecy didn’t have to be part of the system but was incorporated into it by the designers, either because they were ideologically opposed to the authorities knowing or because they wanted to replicate on the internet the equivalent of payments in cash.
Despite the original intention of Bitcoin being a system of payment ‘without going through a financial system’, that is precisely what you have to do to buy or sell Bitcoins. Bitcoin exchanges have grown up where you can buy Bitcoins with state fiat money and where you can convert Bitcoins that someone has paid you into fiat money. For a fee of course.
And the speculators too
Technically a Bitcoin is a token enabling you to access Bitcoin’s money transfer service. Bitcoins only exist as strings of computer code, and are intrinsically worthless. But so are fiat money’s notes and coins, only behind them is the state guaranteeing their face-value. There is nothing behind Bitcoins. Yet last year the price of a single Bitcoin overtook the price of an ounce of gold and reached $19,000 in December from less than $1,000 at the beginning of the year. No wonder people are comparing the current Bitcoin bubble to the Tulip-mania that swept through Holland in 1636-7. At the moment Bitcoins are being bought purely for speculative purposes to make a gain out of their rising price. Sooner or later the bubble is going to burst and some suckers are going to lose their money and could end up holding something worth less than a tulip bulb.
It is this aspect – as an object of speculation – that has led some commentators to describe Bitcoins as a ‘crypto-asset’ rather than a ‘crypto-currency’, something people can invest in that will hold or increase its monetary value over time. In any event a fluctuating price conflicts with Bitcoin’s original aim of being a payments system. There is an irony in this. Its creators wanted to create an electronic version of gold. They seem to have succeeded in that gold, having been demonetised, is now an asset subject to price fluctuation due to speculation. Real gold would of course be a safer investment as it will always be worth more than a tulip bulb because of the considerable labour time spent finding and fashioning it.
Ironically too, governments and banks have become interested in the blockchain technology behind Bitcoins as it offers a cheaper way of registering transactions (and not just financial ones) and transferring money. To get in on the act could be a more rational capitalist reason for buying and holding Bitcoins as, at some point, the system or a part of it might be sold as has happened to other inventions by computer whizz-kids.
Bitcoins are not the only tokens to access electronic services provided by a network of computers using blockchain technology. There are over a thousand other so-called ‘crypto-currencies’. Many are offshoots of Bitcoin and the exchanges that deal in Bitcoins deal in other such tokens as Litecoin, Dash, Ripple and the appropriately named Ether.
What a waste
From the point of view of satisfying human needs, all the human ingenuity that went into developing the Bitcoin system and all the computer time and resources involved in operating it have been so much waste. In a socialist society, based on the common ownership of the means of production and access to the products according to need, there would be no need for an electronic payments system, in fact no need for any sort of payments system since buying and selling will have been replaced by giving and taking, and so need for money at all. There would, however, still be a need for computing skills and computer technology. In socialism the skills and enthusiasm of the type of people who first developed Bitcoin could be put to much better – and more satisfying – use.
Adam Buick

Eine Welt — Eine Menschheit — Sozializmus! (1968)

Party News from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

This is the theme of the current (April/May/June) issue of the “Internationales Freies Wort”, the German language Socialist journal brought out by our comrades of the Bund Demokratischer Sozialisten in Austria and their friends in Germany and Switzerland. This special 6-page issue is directed at workers in West Germany. There are articles from Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, thus bringing out the international nature of Socialism. Other items discussed are the rise and fall of the German Social Democratic Party and Rudi Dutschke, the student leader and recent victim of an assassination bid. Also the third part of “Russland 1917-1967. Eine sozialistische Analyse”. Order your copy, price 1/- (postage extra), from the Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4.

Just Published (1968)

Notices from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The University Presses of Chicago. Columbia and Yale have republished Engels Revolution and Counter-Revolution and Peasant War in Germany with an introduction by Leonard Krieger and the title of The German Revolutions. The paperback edition is 22s.

When he was in prison in the 1850’s the Chartist leader Ernest Jones, a close associate of Marx and Engels and advocate of political action to establish a communist society, wrote some Notes to the People 1851-8. Merlin Press have brought out a facsimile edition of these notes in two volumes. At twelve guineas the pair this is obviously meant for libraries. But it is worth knowing that they are available.

Letter: Why Privilege and Inequality? (1968)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

It was with great interest, and amusement, that I studied your leaflet Introducing the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

There have been many, perhaps wise, men through the ages who have tried to solve social troubles with ideals of a euphoric Utopia. Your ideals, some of which appear to be admirable, are rather naive. In what society, capitalist or socialist, are you going to persuade people to agree with "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need”? It is only human that men should look after themselves and the ones they love first: “Charity begins at home". You will have to change man’s basic instincts before he will love everyone equally (including: himself).

If you are going to take away “profit, rent and interest”, where is the incentive to work? Indeed who decides on one’s capabilities and how hard one should work? Conversely, who decides on one’s needs? Without baying and selling it is extremely difficult to value something against other things; and not everyone agrees on the value of an item. This is proven in sections of the market which are cut off from natural values (whether due to government monopoly or private monopoly).

“It is no use leaving the job of understanding and acting to others”, you say. This is the very reason why the would-be beneficiaries of Socialism are at the bottom of the ladder—because they sit by and watch others. My father is a working man, but due to his own hard work and initiative he has introduced me to a professional life. Why, then, have others not done similarly? It is no use sitting down and grumbling about the salaries and profits of others. If you can do the well-paid job, then do it! If you cannot, then you must be lacking in some way. However, I am not really hard-hearted enough to say that all men are completely capable of supporting themselves. But we are discussing general policies for the whole community.

In any society the men who have what society wants of a man, will naturally gain the greatest respect. It is only natural that these men will be rewarded suitably to encourage them. Why are we all not rich? Because, for the main part, we are not all prepared to risk everything for the hope of profit. Society needs risk-takers. I admit that I am not a risk-taker, nor am 1 brilliant. Therefore I should not receive such a large income as those who are.

Surely, someone is always going to be at the bottom: men just aren't equal.
R. R. Tee, 
Northolt, Middlesex.


REPLY:
It is quite true that men just aren’t equal. We never said they were. Of course different people have different abilities. Socialists recognise in this in their Principle: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Which merely means that, in Socialism when the means of life are social property, men and women will play their part in producing society’s wealth as best they can and, no matter what their contribution, take from that wealth what they need. In fact, production, both today under capitalism and tomorrow in Socialism, is social. It is not a question of individuals working on their own, but of people co-operating to produce wealth. So how can one man’s contribution be measured, anyway? Socialists stand for social equality, for all human beings having equal access to wealth and being of equal worth.

Privilege and inequality in the ownership of wealth and exercise of power arise from the way society is organised. Mr. Tee disagrees and argues that they are natural and arise out of differences of ability among mankind: those who are able go to the top and those “who are lacking in some way” go to the bottom. But what is the test of ability? Why, being at the top! This tells us nothing. Surely ability has no meaning outside of society, for ability is ability to do something, and what is to be done depends on the circumstances. Mr. Tee suggests that society now needs risk takers, people who are “prepared to risk everything for the hope of profit”. Unfortunately, most people have nothing (save their lives) to risk. So this too gets us nowhere. It again begs the question, since before you can take risks you must have some wealth to risk. No, the real cause of social privilege and inequality is the ownership of the means of wealth production by a minority. This means the rest of society must work for them. Charity begins at work.

Socialists say that this society can, and should, be changed. The means for producing wealth should belong to the whole community, since this is the only arrangement that will allow them to be used to satisfy human needs. Production solely for use (without buying and selling) is only possible, given modern technology, on the basis of this common ownership and democratic control. Modern technology can provide the plenty for all that will allow mankind to organise the production and distribution of wealth on the principle of: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Mr. Tee has some unoriginal objections to Socialism. But, then, he admits he is not brilliant. First, there is “human nature”. Man’s “basic instincts”, he suggests, will not allow Socialism to work. But he does not tell us what these instincts are. The only clue he gives us is something about “looking after themselves and the ones they love first”. But Socialists are not preaching brotherly love as the solution to social problems (that is the doctrine of Christianity, one of the great props of class society throughout the ages). We advocate a change in the basis of society, a social revolution. One of the distinguishing features of homo sapiens is the ability to think abstractly, to plan his actions without reference to his immediate circumstances. Insofar as man has instincts these are merely biological needs like food, drink and sex. But this tells us nothing about how these needs are met. That is a question of social organisation. But since human biology has hardly changed in millions of years while human society has, it is no good trying, as Mr. Tee does, to explain society and social change by biology. Human nature (whatever it might be) is no barrier to Socialism. Indeed Socialism is, in the present circumstances, the only rational way to run society. For, with common ownership and production for use, man is in charge of his social environment and not, as under capitalism, at the mercy of economic forces.

What's the incentive to work in Socialism? Mr. Tee’s attitude to work is shaped by capitalist values. He has automatically assumed that work must be unpleasant and that therefore people must have some monetary incentive to work. Work is merely the expenditure of energy. For human beings it is both a biological and a social necessity. Human beings must somehow use up the energy that eating food generates, and if no wealth is produced society will die out. So the real question is: How is work organised? Under what conditions is it done? Under capitalism, most work is employment, done in the service of other human beings. It is done under discipline, rather than as free co-operation. It is often dull, even dangerous and degrading. And, as class society always, as Mr. Tee puts it, “respects” those on top (who don't have to work), there is a stigma attached to working. It is a sign of social inferiority to have to work. Socialists say that work can, and should, be made pleasant. Indeed, one of our strongest points against capitalism is that it forces most people to do boring work. But men and women can only control their working environment when they also control the means and instruments of work.
Editorial Committee

Finance and Industry: Tycoons in Sweden (1968)

The Finance and Industry column from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tycoons in Sweden
Capitalism is based on the monopoly of the means of production by a minority. In Britain, for instance, the top 1 per cent of the population owned 42 per cent of personal wealth in 1960. It has been argued by our Labour party opponents that this position can be changed gradually by means of penal taxation, nationalisation and other reform measures, so that capitalism would be transformed into Socialism. Things have not turned out that way. Labourites may claim to have had power when things have been at their worst, acting as a stop gap while the Tories take a breather. True, the Labour party have not had the twenty-five years of power Bevan claimed was needed to do the job. Ideas of gradualism are not confined to Britain alone. They are common to the Social Democratic parties of Europe.

In Sweden the Social Democrats have had power almost without interruption since 1932. The war which saw British industry run down gave an impetus to its Swedish counterpart. The “misrule” of their predecessors is long forgotten. There is no East of Suez policy to dog their footsteps. Nor do the gnomes of Zurich threaten the kroner. In fact this is the type of situation that Labour ministers, harassed by capitalism’s problems in Britain, would regard as ideal to bring about their gradual transformation. There is even talk of “Scandinavian socialism” (whatever that might be).

But consider this Daily Telegraph report of 15 February on a survey of the distribution of wealth in so-called socialist Sweden:
  Fifteen families control one-fifth of Swedish private industry . . .  In 94 of Sweden’s 232 leading companies whose record the committee scrutinised, the share majority was held by one person. In 96 it was held by two persons, in 81 by three persons and in 11 by four or more persons. The tendency for wealth and voting power to accumulate in the hands of a few has been steadily increasing since 1960, the committee added.
This government survey gives the answer to the gradualist argument. Under capitalism the tendency is for wealth to accumulate into a smaller number of hands, whatever type of party tries to run it.

Labour and Social Democratic governments have no role to play in establishing Socialism, where the means of production are owned in common and are democratically controlled by the whole community. This can only be done by workers organising consciously for the job in Socialist parties. The lesson of over thirty years of Social Democratic government in Sweden is there for all workers to learn.


Robbing Peter
The decision to close the Woolwich telecommunications plant of GEC-AEI in which 5,500 workers are employed does not mean that the new group is giving up this side of their business. Rather it is part of the rationalisation that is taking place. Production will be concentrated in factories in north-east England and in Scotland. Jobs are harder to come by in these parts of Britain, but the move is not being made out of philanthropic concern for the unemployed workers there. The work will be done in brand new factories, with greater productivity as 3,000 fewer workers will be turning out as much as the 5,500 at Woolwich now do. Another attraction is the regional employment premium paid by the government in these areas. So it is a case of transferring production from one [place] to another in order to cut costs so as to capture a larger share of the market and increase profits for the shareholders. It is a grim game of musical chairs where 5,500 people in London leave the work bench for the dole queue, while less than half this number leave the dole queue for the work bench in the north and Scotland—the music is played on cash registers and scored to the requirements of the balance sheet.

The affair shows that under capitalism it is the profit motive that dictates the line of action to those who try to plan it. It also shows that one set of planners can cause havoc to the carefully prepared blueprints of another. The regional policy of the government involves offering subsidies to attract industry to areas of high unemployment. They succeed with GEC-AEI and ruin the plans of the GLC who are having the new town at Thamesmead built to relieve the pressure on London’s housing. Prior to their takeover by GEC, AEI hoped to expand their Woolwich operations to provide 2,000 jobs. All the signs suggested that there would be plenty of jobs for workers from the new town in nearby Woolwich. Also a new housing scheme is going up on the site of the old Woolwich Arsenal. All this is going to mean people having to get jobs elsewhere in London, adding to the congestion of the already inadequate transport system.

Before workers in the north-east and Scotland take their new jobs for granted they should take heed of the Postmaster General’s dissatisfaction with the industry that will employ them, which is running late on delivery on over a thousand of its 1,700 contracts. The PMG threatened to place contracts for equipment overseas if this is not improved; This would mean that the brand new factories might not be needed after all.

Workers suffer insecurity under capitalism, with or without futile attempts at planning. The system cannot be planned, not even with computers, the planners might as well consult astrologers — if no more reliable it would at least be cheaper.
Joe Carter

50 Years Ago: The Age of Cant (1968)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Summing up the “Morality of Capitalism", what is the distinctive feature by which it is distinguished from that of other class-divided societies? It is undeniably that hypocritical taint which pervades it through and through, and which is seen in the glaring contrast which is presented between the moral theory professed and the actual moral reality practised.

This moral hypocrisy is the inevitable outcome of the social relations immanent in capitalism. It results from the antagonisms which exist in the system; partly from struggle between individuals and groups of individuals, but primarily from that antagonism which exists between the interests of the bourgeoisie on the one hand, and of the proletariat on the other.

Every activity of the bourgeoisie in its own interest must be undertaken, professedly in the interests of the workers, or more correctly, of ‘society as a whole’. For the ‘unity of society’ and of its interests is a cardinal dogma, in which the very existence of classes is often denied. ‘Democracy, Liberty, and Humanity’ have been the watchwords of the bourgeois society, but words only, for in their name more horrible and sickening atrocities have been perpetrated than in any previous period in history.

There is hypocrisy and deceit everywhere, from the lying and trickery of trades and the cant about ‘the honour of our public men', to the veneer of religious orthodoxy and the ‘love’ that in conventional belief cements the economic contract we call ‘marriage’. Verily our time has rightly been called ‘the age of cant’.
From an article "Society and Morals" by R. W. Housley. Socialist Standard, May 1918.

Is Labour Cracking Up? (1968)

From the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour government’s betrayal of its own policies has caused increasing disillusionment amongst its supporters. We recount here the effect this has had on a Labour Group in the North London borough of Haringey. Haringey council covers three parliamentary constituencies (Tottenham, Wood Green and Hornsey) and is Labour controlled.

For the 1966 Conference of the Labour Party in Brighton, Hornsey CLP chose M. Caffoor, from their youth section, as delegate. He intervened in the debate on economic policy to say that the Labour government seemed little different from a Tory one:
  We have a Labour Government which supports the rich shipowners against the poor £11-a-week, 57-hours-a-week seamen, and we have a Labour Government, comrades, which is now supporting a wage freeze . . .  By saying there must be a wage freeze they are saying to the employers, ‘You can have the money which the workers would have got' . . . We have economic policies which are going to result in unemployment; we have economic policies which are going to create a recession in the economy. These are not the sort of policies we supported in Opposition. These are not the sort of policies which we said to the electorate they should elect us on.
Then in February last year the council decided to cut its spending on buying houses (to rehouse people from the slums) by £472,000. Three councillors opposed this. One (Page) had the Whip withdrawn; another (Mrs. Dines) resigned it. The third (Norris) wrote in Labour Worker:
   Only a ridiculously small number of councillors opposed the cut, pointing out that if the Labour party fails to get satisfactory results on housing, which is the main social problem in Haringey, how long will the working class carry on supporting them at the polls? . . .  If socialists cannot achieve even small reforms and progress on vital issues through working on local councils, then they will turn their efforts to more rewarding political activities. This frustration, and from a relatively progressive borough shows just how bad the situation is (April 1967).
In April the council announced rent increases for its tenants. Twenty nine Labour party members, including three councilors (Page, Norris and Wigley), wrote an open letter of protest:
   We have always opposed the Labour Government's incomes policy and wage freeze. As long as the Labour Government intends to hold back wage increases such rent increases can only lead to a cut in the living standards of working-class people in the borough—just at a time when many families are facing redundancies and changes of job (Hornsey Journal, 21 April 1967).
Some of these later helped organise the Haringey Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations to resist the Labour-imposed rent increases. In a local by-election the HFTRA distributed leaflets which happened to bear the name of E. Wheeler. For this the Wood Green Labour Party expelled him.

In October two councillors (Page and Parker) resigned. In November another (Wigley) joined them:
  I entered politics to play my part in helping society to progress towards a life of security for all. However, subsequent events have shown me that our Labour Council does not share my enthusiasm (Hornsey Journal, 10 November 1967).
Wigley stood as a “People’s Candidate", with tenants backing, in one of the subsequent by-elections. Page was his election agent. He polled 498 votes against 831 for the Labour winner and 399 for the Tory.

In February this year two members of the Hornsey party's general management committee (Mr. and Mrs. Wells) resigned from the Labour party. Said Mrs. Wells:
   The last straw really was the recent economy measures, particularly the prescription charges which seemed to be the final proof of non-socialism in the Government (Hornsey Journal, 16 February 1968).
Meanwhile, those still left in the Hornsey party were considering a suggestion, pushed by the chairman (Caffoor) and secretary (Hinchliff) of their youth section, to break with the national party. Caffoor and Hinchliff wrote:
  The time has come when Labour Party members must stand and fight for democracy inside the Labour movement. This will not be done by passing anaemic resolutions, but only by the constituency Labour parties organising collectively against the repeated betrayal by the Labour Government of specific electoral policies of the Labour Party, and fighting for the implementation of these policies. This is why we shall be moving a motion at the Hornsey party meeting next month which calls for disaffiliation by all the constituency parties from the national organisation in the event of the National Executive Committee refusing to dissociate the Labour Party from those Government policies which contravene the declared policies of the Labour Party (Hampstead and Highgate Express, 23 February 1968).
But the night this was to be discussed another morale-shattering blow fell—Labour’s colour bar Commonwealth Immigrants Act. The meeting adjourned to lobby the Tory MP for Hornsey. To no avail. The racist measure went through. As a result two more councillors (Mrs. Dines and D. J. Ding) resigned both from the Council and the Labour party. Mrs. Dines pointed out:
   The Immigration Bill introduces two classes of citizens, one white and one coloured, and for this country that is the most foolish thing the Government could have done. Lots of people think the immigrants are inferior to start with, and this Bill is endorsing their views (Hornsey Journal 8 March 1968).
One of Labour's local council candidates, Ulric Thompson, an immigrant from Guyana, also withdrew in protest. Finally, at the end of March Councillor Norris gave up:
   I felt I could no longer support a party introducing measures which hit the working classes and which were not being resisted by the local party. As regards the two main parties, it's now a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee—they are both the same (Tottenham Herald, 22 March 1968).
And what did boring-from-within achieve? And don't let us forget that those who are now getting out of the Labour Party, in telling workers to vote for that party, must share some of the blame for its actions.
Adam Buick