Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Flitting hither and thither (1965)

Editorial from the February 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Despite many years’ experience to the contrary, working class men and women still cling assiduously to the belief that politicians flitting hither and thither to meetings in various parts of the world can solve the problems which capitalism produces.

This is an impression which capitalist politicians encourage and which some of them may even believe, at least at the start of their careers. It was the Labour Party who claimed in 1945, for instance, that they would stand a better chance of settling differences with Russia than the Tories, because of their better understanding of Soviet politics. But in the event, Mr. Molotov said “No" just as frequently to Ernest Bevin as he would have done to any Tory foreign secretary. Since those days we have had any number of international conferences, meetings of heads of state, not to mention sessions of that prime piece of organised post-war futility the United Nations. Yet capitalism has steered its usual bumpy course from crisis to crisis, at times drifting perilously close to the brink of another world war.

These are the things to bear in mind when considering the news that the British and Russian premiers have exchanged invitations to visit each other’s country this year. Mr. Wilson has expressed pleasure at the prospect; he told reporters he knew Mr. Kosygin well, and had had a long talk with him when last in Moscow. Which was no doubt intended to foster the idea that such cosy informality has the edge over the protocol of the conference table. Many people would agree with Mr. Wilson. They think that if direct and personal contact can be established—like friendly neighbours chatting across the back garden fence—international rivalry will ease and relations between the states improve in some mysterious way. But they are wrong.

When the Labour government took office last October, they were soon caught up in the whirl of international negotiations. Mr. Wilson went early to Washington and ministers were scattered about the globe at various conferences. Mr. Brown has recently been to Sweden. But they are not the only ones to go trotting around like this. At the time of writing, Chinese high-ups are busy getting neighbourly with Indonesia’s Sukarno, and it is only a few months ago that President De Gaulle returned from a visit to South America. It is the sort of move that statesmen are always making, but whether the discussions are informal or otherwise, they will be concerned with the interests of the particular capitalist classes involved, and not with those of the working class.

Wilson’s government, for example, have been trying to re-assess British defence policy and standing in Europe, and the Moscow visit is only a sequel to Washington last Autumn. It could be that there is a big re-alignment of powers coming as a result of China’s emergence as a nuclear power. Possibly Russia will draw closer to the West. The question of Britain’s entry into the Common Market may be re-opened (despite strong Labour opposition to it in the past), and some agreements may have to be re-negotiated. Still others may be scrapped altogether in the tussle to keep British capitalism in the running among the major powers.

All this will doubtless be represented as being cf vital concern to every one of us. There will be talk of “our” interests, “our” exports, “our” foreign policy, etc., when in fact workers have no stake in any of it. For most of us the wage packet is the limit of our horizon, and whether Britain is in or out of the Common Market will have no effect on that basic fact, any more than will the efforts of all the political leaders.

Leaders come and go, but capitalism outlives them all, bringing the usual trail of misery and destruction in its wake. Only a Socialist working class can do anything about that.

Lead kindly light (1965)

From the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Occasionally the Labour Party dares to refer to itself as Socialist. But what do they mean? A clue may perhaps be gained from A Faith To Fight For by Eric Deakins.

Deakins has a very simple view of society and politics. Societies are based on Ideals, and the art of politics consists in maintaining or changing the Ideal basis of society. Present day society, capitalism, is based on Immoral Ideals: Socialism is a society based on Moral Ideals. It has an ethical basis: it is
   A form of society based on the ideals of individual fulfilment, brotherhood, co-operation, tolerance, justice, charity, equality and service to the community.
The long-term aim of the Labour Party, says Mr. Deakins, is to realise these ideals. To do this it must appeal to the individual's Moral Conscience. Prompted by their consciences, individuals will come to realise that capitalism is immoral and will take steps to reconstruct society on a Moral basis. Mr. Deakins is, perhaps, not unaware that in order to gain power the Labour Party has pursued an opportunistic policy of fighting on a programme calculated to appeal to the individual’s Self-Interest rather than to his Moral Conscience.

Mr. Deakins' own personal Moral Conscience seems too reasonably well informed (though it is incorrect on the date of the Taff Vale judgement — 1901 not 1904) and has dictated to him a complete political programme including among other things: land nationalisation, reform of the the Lords, nationalisation of cotton, aircraft and shipbuilding, abolition of public schools, comprehensive schools, opposition to the Common Market and many other policies so well loved by the Labour Left-winger.

Mr. Deakins devotes a couple of pages to a criticism of the position of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
  The S.P.G.B., in its role as self-appointed custodian of the Socialist conscience. insists that Socialism will only come about when the workers recognise that it is in their economic interest to create a Socialist society. There are two grave dangers in this thesis: one being that it is wrong to direct a Socialist appeal to individual conscience, the other being that it ignores the implications of the term “workers.” To appeal to self-interest is to deny the ethical basis of Socialism, and so render its attainment impossible.
Let us clear up two simple points straight away. The Socialist Party does not appeal to individual self-interest but to the class interest of the working class. We say that Socialism is in the interests of the working class and that it is up to them to establish it. Second, Mr. Deakins implies that we are materialists in the "'parsons' sense, to the detriment of so-called spiritual values. This is so much nonsense. Socialism will create the conditions for all-round individual development, both practically and intellectually. Mr. Deakins should consult our pamphlet Art, Labour and Socialism by William Morris.

It is, however, true that we do not appeal to morality, that we deny that Socialism has any ethical basis. Socialism is a system of society and systems of society are not based on ideals, “good" or “bad.” A superficial look at history might suggest, for instance, that feudalism was based on Honour and capitalism on Selfishness. In fact, systems of society are based on the relations men enter into in producing wealth. In properly societies, that is societies in which access to the means of production is not free, these relations are class relations. The section of the community having control over access to the means of production are enabled to live off the  surplus labour of the producing class.

Such systems of exploitation would be unable to survive if the various means of social control did not back up the dominance of the privileged class. The state, as the centre of social control, is the most important of these means. The other means of influencing men’s behaviour and attitudes such as religion, morality, literature, art and so on, similarly operate to preserve the system. Thus Mr. Deakins is looking at things upside-down: ideals are not the bases of social systems, rather are they a part of the social superstructure.

When the mode of production changes enough to shift the centre of industrial control, a process is set is motion which sooner or later brings about a change in the entire social superstructure. A new class, brought to prominence by the economic change, organises itself politically to win control of the state. At the same time, new ideas appear in religion, morality and the like, reflecting the interests of the rising class. Eventually the institutions and ideas of the previous dominant class are swept away.

This is how social change comes about and there is no reason to suppose that the change from capitalism to socialism will be any different. The development of large-scale industry has socialized production and brought into prominence a propertyless working class quite capable of running the productive system without the owning class. To complete the change which this development calls for is the task of the working class. If this class is to triumph it must become conscious of itself and organise to capture political power. The task of Socialists is to help such understanding come about by appealing, not to morality or conscience, but to the interests of the working class as a class. Socialism, is thus a class issue, not a moral issue.

The emancipation of the working class involves also the emancipation of all mankind. The working class can free itself only by ushering in Socialism, a self-controlling world community in which production will be carried on purely and simply to satisfy the needs of the community.

The nonconformist conscience helped the capitalist class to power, but a refurbished and secularized version of it is of no use to the working class. Socialism cannot be instituted by a series of measures based on the dictates of conscience. It demands a change in the real basis of society, a social revolution.
Adam Buick

Churchill's birthday (1965)

From the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Here, it was obvious, was what they call a great man. Propped up, glassy eyed, at the window, flapping his hand at the crowd outside. Oozing in his senility, like the old Disraeli with his corsets and lacquered hair. Famous visitors came and went. An enormous cake was carried in, with sacks full of cards and telegrams. The flashlights popped and the television cameras whirred. Winston Churchill was ninety years old.

Most people were agreed that this was a remarkable achievement. Perhaps it was, in a way. An impressive feature of the many newspaper reminiscences of the old man in his hey day was the amount of hard liquor which he has put down. One article said that when he was Prime Minister, he drank champagne and brandy with every meal and sipped at tumblers of whisky and soda all through the day. A man of lesser constitution would almost certainly have been killed by such a deluge of alcohol.

Churchill’s consumption of drink is typical of the gusto with which he has lived his life, and it is this gusto which has been the subject of much recent hypocrisy. First, the business of those ninety years. It is too obvious that to be born into a family like the Churchills gives a person a built in advantage in their prospects of longevity because, everything else being equal, they are going to get the best of everything. The best food. A secure and comfortable home. The best education and, if they want it, an interesting job.

It is a different matter for the people who were cheering so enthusiastically outside Churchill’s window on his birthday and it is worthwhile to take a look at how they live. Their lives may be summed up in one word poverty, although it is a different kind from the poverty their parents knew, in the days when Churchill was a young man. They are, first of all, the people who make the wealth of the world. They design the factories where it is made, they plan its production and they work on the benches and assembly lines where the wealth comes rolling off. They transport the wealth all over the world. Some of them sit in offices, adding up how much profit their employers have made and how much they can hope to make in the future. Without these people, capitalist society would collapse.

But that is not likely to happen. Because not only do those people make the world’s wealth but they do their best to make sure that their employers get the profit which comes from production. Almost all of them are fervent protectors of property rights and readily join up, and if necessary die, to protect the property of one set of employers against the intrusions of another. Patiently, willingly, they trudge through their meagre lives bearing the burden of a parasite class which lives off their labours. They keep this class in luxury, so that one of its members can be a burbling old man at a window—yet rich beyond any dreams of the people outside.

These producing, organising, protecting, patient people are the working class and it is sadly typical of them that they should be so enthusiastic about the birthday of a man who has never entirely hidden his contempt for them.

It is no exaggeration to say that working class life is itself a health hazard. Inferior, constricted housing and sub-standard food is a health hazard. So are typical working conditions—the remorseless assembly line, the endless flow of paper across a harrassed desk. So is the essential insecurity of employment—the fact that a worker’s livelihood depends upon his holding down a job. The strains of working class existence are very real, but they are unknown to a Churchill. Randolph Churchill, in an illuminating passage in his autobiography, shows what a Churchill conceives as poverty by claiming that his family was "poor but honest’’—although they could afford to send him to Eton.

There is a lot of evidence to show that illness or lack of it —is not entirely a matter of chance but one of social background. The Registrar General’s Decennial 1958 Supplement pointed out that the places in this country where the average person stood the greatest chance of an early death were Salford, Liverpool, Manchester and Wigan. It is no coincidence that these are areas of dense population and that the death rates are largely caused by the high incidence of bronchitis. A few years after, in September 1963. Dr. Ian Richardson, of the school of social medicine at Aberdeen, said that among the people of North East Scotland chronic bronchitis was four times more prevalent in what he called the “lower” social classes than in the “ upper.”

What this means is that if we are born rich we have a better chance of staying healthy and living longer than if we are born poor. Churchill, ninety years old, was born rich.

Next, the business of the great man. It is a long time since the Second World War started, but there is no need for distance to lend enchantment to the part which Churchill is supposed to have played in the Allied victory. In the organs of capitalist opinion no praise is too lavish, no phrase too extravagant, to describe his period as wartime Prime Minister. Only a few small voices are to be heard trying to balance this picture, to point out the misjudgments which Churchill made and those of the men in whom he put his confidence. The late Lord Cherwell was one of these men and he made many mistakes. He was hopelessly wrong in his estimate of the effect of the allied bomber offensive. A recent book The Battle of the V. Weapons reveals that there was plenty of evidence that the Germans were preparing to launch rockets against this country, but Cherwell refused to believe it until it was too late. Yet Cherwell stayed in Churchill's favour, and was still there after the war.

Such evidence puts Churchill into perspective as a less than infallible man. who came into the Premiership with the customary history of mistakes. His name has always been linked with the massive, bloody muddle of Gallipoli. Randolph Churchill tells how a schoolmate refused to be his chum because his father had been killed at the Dardanelles, for which he blamed Winston Churchill. The periods which Churchill spent in posts like Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary were not outstanding for their brilliance he did the jobs in much the same way, and with much the same futility, as any other politician.

For only one thing did he stand out. Between the wars he became the spokesman of the group which saw German capitalism as the greater threat to the established European powers. To stifle this threat Churchill was prepared to do a deal with any other country—even the Soviet Union, which he so quickly turned against after the war. An unforeseen twist to events between the wars might have made Churchill wrong, but in fact he tuned out to be right: Germany was a bigger threat than Russia. This was what gave him the job of Prime Minister at the crucial time, and subsequently loaded him with the myth that he beat German capitalism almost on his own.

The Allied victory did not end Churchill’s miscalculations and indiscretions. In 1945, British capitalism needed a political party which was prepared to push through a big programme of nationalisation, a State health scheme and the like. It needed a continuation of government control over things like building and direction of labour. It needed a party with an image of freshness, one which might repair the morale of a war weary working class by giving the impression of a determination to get on with the job of rebuilding Britain.

The Labour Party seemed to fill these needs pretty well and so they rode to power. Against this impressive tide of events, Churchill offered only an appeal to working class sentiment and his attempt to frighten everyone with his ruinously unwise "Gestapo” speech. When the votes were counted, the great man theory had once more been put in its place. The British working class had faithfully decided that the needs of British capitalism should take precedence over the ambitions of one man.

As the newspapers were anxious to point out, the 1945 election result did not mean that the voters had lost their respect for Churchill. Everywhere he went he was feted. They all loved his funny bowler, his cigar, his V sign. With his jaw clamped, he epitomised the outraged nostalgia of every patriotic slum dweller for the days when the map was covered in pink and a British gunboat was enough to put any number of natives in their place. Good Old Winnie, they cried, in an ecstasy of admiration.

What did they have to thank Churchill for? Did they thank him for always being so militant in defence of the interests of the British ruling class? Did they thank him for urging them on to the battlefields of the world—on to the dusty fly blown slopes at Gallipoli, or into the icy death of an Artic convoy ? Did they thank him for the slaughter of Dresden? For managing the British Gazette during the General Strike ? For always, in fact, fighting the working class tooth and nail whenever they tried to stand out for their own interests ?

A sardonic opinion, perhaps, bred by years of hammering against the solid brick wall of working class ignorance, is that the workers actually enjoy absorbing punishment. Treat them mean, a Tory minister once said, and keep them keen. Churchill has never treated the working class other than meanly; he has never disguised his contempt for them, be has never relaxed in his demands that they should accept whatever burdens and terrors capitalism has imposed on than. And the workers have kept keen. Now Churchill has reached ninety, and presumably has not much longer to live, they are actually grateful to him for all that be has done to them.
Could gratitude, or devotion, or plain damned stupidity, go farther than that ?
Ivan

Our Parliamentary Fund (1965)

Party News from the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

The response to the appeal for funds was excellent, the final total received amounting to £800. In the event, the actual expenses were less than were estimated, partly due to the fact that the members working in the two constituencies of Woodside (Glasgow) and Bromley (Kent) did some of the work which we normally expect to pay for e.g. producing and sticking up posters. Consequently, the total expenditure came to £600, including the forfeiture of two deposits of £150 each. Thus, we have a useful balance of £200 as a starter for our next participation. A report on the campaign will appear in the “Socialist Standard” shortly, but, in the meantime, the Executive Committee warmly thanks all those supporters and members who, by their contributions, ensured that we were free from money worries during the campaign, a factor especially heartening to those who were doing the pleasurable but hard work in the field.
Phyllis Howard, Party Funds Organiser.

50 Years Ago: Strike to Stop War (1965)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has for long been the habit of Labourites and others in this country, and those occupying a similar position abroad, to boast that they held in their hands the instrument which would make it impossible for the ruling class of Europe to carry on a great war. This instrument was the General Strike. We all know how persistently it was stated that the organised workers of the various countries would, immediately on the outbreak of war, paralyse the war-mongers by “downing tools”! Yet where is there to be found a single instance in the whole vast war-stricken expanse, of this “heroic” policy coming to fruition?

If any attempt was made in Germany to put the policy of the general strike into operation, that attempt, in its utter failure to even so much as become an item of news, is as destructive to the theory as would be the failure to make the effort. But with regard to the advocates of the general strike as an anti-war measure in this country we are not in the dark. Mr. Keir Hardie, for example, one of the more prominent of those at home who have toyed with the idea, has written to the Press denying that he has told the workers not to enlist, adding "I know too well what is at stake.” It is not out of this frame of mind that anti-war strikes are developed.

In this direction, as in many others, events here proved the truth of what we have consistently contended, namely, that the political conquest is the essential preliminary to any action involving the defeat of the present controllers of the political machinery. No wild words or frenzied ravings about “taking and holding" on the one hand, or “general striking” on the other can replace political control.
From the Socialist Standard, January, 1915. 

Obituary: Angus McPhail (1965)

Obituary from the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with regret that we have to record that our comrade Angus McPhail died on December 3rd after a short illness.

T. Mulheron, a close friend and comrade for many years writes:

“He was a supporter and member of the Socialist Party for more than forty years. From the era of Moses Baritz and Adolph Kohn, many Socialists from Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, U.S.A., New Zealand, Australia and Europe were grateful for the hospitality and generosity of Beech McPhail and his wife, Jessie.

Apart from his life-long adherence to our movement, his two largest contributions were: (1) From the outbreak of the war in September 1939, until it’s end, and indeed afterwards, he was a courageous and eloquent advocate of a large number of young members at C.O. Tribunals. (2) In the early years he organised a speakers class in Glasgow, which produced a relatively large number of Party speakers.

“Beech” McPhail was always uncompromising, sometimes harsh, yet despite financial circumstances which would have permitted weaker types to forget the interests of the working class, maintained the interests of the latter. To use an old cliché, McPhail, like Cromwell (an unfair criticism to McPhail), can be painted with his warts. To those of us who have known him—he will never be forgotten.

He was cremated privately from the David Elder Cottage Hospital in Glasgow, according to his family's wishes, and his ashes deposited on Loch Awe where he, and many other comrades spent many happy hours fishing, talking and drinking, and serene moments of a feeling of entire removal from the sordid realities of world capitalism.

To his wife Jessie, and his family, we extend our deepest regrets and sympathy at his passing.”

News In Review: Pay Rise (1965)

The News in Review column from the January 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pay Rise
History repeals itself.

One of the first acts of the 1945 Labour government, while admonishing us all to tighten our belts, was to agree to increase the pay of Members of Parliament.

One of the first acts of the 1964 Labour government was . . .

Perhaps it is true that some M.P.s have a hard time trying to do their job on the old pay; rising prices have hit them just as they have hit everyone else. But every M.P. belongs to a party which has promised to halt rising prices, and most of them belong to the two parties which have failed miserably to fulfill that promise. Have the M.P.s, then, only themselves to blame for their plight ?

Apart from that, many members do not have a hard time. Several Tory ex-Ministers have recently taken lucrative jobs on the boards of big companies, and on the same day as the increases in pay were announced a Labour member was involved in a traffic case which happened while he was driving his Rolls Royce.

The M.P.'s case is in fact no stronger than that of the dockers and a great deal less pressing than that of nurses, busmen and railwaymen.

But these people, just like the rest of the working class, are not in the fortunate situation of being able to argue their case with themselves, and of being able to vote themselves a rise in pay.

They have to struggle for their rises—with their employers, through arbitration, sometimes before a Court of Inquiry into the conditions of their industry. The arguments used against them rarely question their claim as such; they usually attack it on the grounds of increased production costs, and its effects upon the employers’ profit margins.

If in the end a rise is granted it often comes grudgingly, with associated promises from the workers to relax demarcation rules, or to step up productivity, or to forego any further claims for some years.

All of this is looked upon with approval by the Members of Parliament, all of whom support wage restraint in one shape or another. But apparently all the arguments they have used, about what they called the national interest and other claptrap, do not apply when they sit in judgement on themselves.

There is one argument the M.P.s could not have used to support their claim and that is that there is a shortage of men for the job. Although the M.P. is supposed to be badly paid, there are always at least two men for every vacancy. If that condition held good in industry at large, employers would no longer be bothered by the problem of wage claims.

Perhaps the only consistent case the M.P.s could make out was that they have always done a good job, have always served their masters faithfully, have always trooped into the right lobby at the right time and generally have always done everything they could to keep capitalism comfortable for the people who own it and live off it and who pay out the rises.


Payment deferred
One of the more humiliating aspects of an old age pensioner’s life is the cloud of hypocrisy which covers every discussion of their plight.

In the last election, all the capitalist parties bid for votes on a promise of an increase in pensions in the near future. It was only when the M.P.s had been returned, pledged to do something about the pensioners’ difficulties, that we saw what the promises were worth.

From the fuss which was kicked up about the rise, it almost seemed as if pensions were to go up by several pounds a week. In fact, the increase will be twelve shillings and sixpence.

Even more, this meagre increase will not be payable until next April which means that the pensioners have to face— and some of them perhaps not survive— the winter on the present scale of payment.

Nobody will begrudge the pensioners anything they can get. But it is sickening that the Labour Party should talk about abolishing poverty when all they are doing is handing out so mean an increase, which cannot hope to stave off even the extremes of an old person’s destitution.

And it is equally sickening that Labour M.P.s should be in revolt over the delay in paying the bigger pensions. The government’s reasons for the delay are consistent enough; they are, after all in power to run capitalism without any old nonsense about humane considerations.

In this, the Labour M.P.s support their government. They support it in its power at Westminster, and they support it in its administration of capitalism.

For the pensioners, this is just too bad. The roots of their troubles do not lie in the size of their pension. That has gone up several times over the pre-war figure, without having any effect on the pensioners’ situation.

Old people are in desperate straits because they are retired members of the working class. Once they depended on their wage for a living but now they are too old to be of any use to an employer.

But to leave them without any sort of an income would create an enormous social problem. So the old people receive a derisory sum — just enough to keep them in some sort of living condition. They may not have a very comfortable home, and they may not be able to afford adequate food or heating. But they survive—just.

In human terms, this is deplorable, but it is an inevitable result of capitalism’s social structure. And where do the Labour Party stand on that ?

They may want to alter one or two of the system’s superficial features. They may feel strongly enough about some of them to stage a short and feeble revolt against their leaders.

But on the only issue that matters—the abolition of capitalism—they are one united, determined party. Capitalism, with its restrictions and anomalies, will continue. No back bencher will ever revolt over that.


Same again
One of the persistent fallacies which help to keep capitalism ticking over is the notion that things are better, or anyway different, abroad.

The British worker, chafing under his own burdens, looks enviously upon what he imagines to be the gaiety, or the freedom, or the affluence of his counterpart in other countries. Workers abroad harbour the same sort of misconceptions about life over here.

Sometimes they put their theories to the test, by emigrating. Then they discover that basically workers lives are the same in every country in the world.

In France, which is so often misconceived as a country of gay and ardent wine swiggers, the workers’ lives are subject to the same sort of restrictions as in this country. The French government recently announced their new economic and social plan which will try, among other things, to hold wages increases to three per cent for the next five years.

In Holland, popularly thought of as a land of simple, sunny peasants, the government, like other governments elsewhere, are wrestling with a housing problem. Their latest palliative is a familiar one — a system of subsidies. The Dutch Minister of Housing recently said that he hopes to end the housing shortage by 1970, which is about the year that British Housing Ministers will mention when they are promising to solve our housing difficulties.

In Australia, where everyone is supposed to be a tough, bronzed individualist, the government is imposing their first-ever peace time military conscription. Against the opposition to this, the Australian government pleads that the situation in South Fast Asia demands that tough-guy Australians forego some of their individualism.

All over the world the disputes and the problems of capitalism take their toll. All over the world useful, creative human beings are exploited and degraded into varying degrees and types of poverty and suppression. Capitalism is international and so are its evils.

International, too, is capitalisms hypocrisy. This month sees the opening of International Cooperation Year, sponsored by Prince Phillip, Mr. Wilson. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Mr. Grimond, and supported by £10,000 from the Foreign Office.

The Year will dabble its foolish fingers in all manner of futile projects. The one thing it will not sponsor will be the international cooperation of the working class to abolish the social system which causes all their problems.

Britain in Deep Water (1957)

From the March 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

All within a few days, Ken Jones was dropped from the Welsh Rugby Union XV, and Sir Anthony Eden resigned the Prime Ministership of Great Britain; that should be sensation enough for one week. Jones, they said, was out of form and Eden was ill. If the former’s disappointment was a symptom of the unhappy plight of Welsh Rugby, then the latter’s retirement was as surely indicative of the decline of British power in the world, steepened by recent events and the failure of the Eden administration to deal with them successfully. This article will discuss aspects of the recent crisis and, perhaps rather riskily, engage in some speculation about it 

Hostile to Britain
While Eden was an acutely sick man no illness has been diplomatically more opportune for, as his enemies in the newspapers put it, his policy was in ruins. Apart from other matters, the venture to seize the Suez Canal was a complete failure. Militarily, this operation could hardly have gone amiss—something else must have been responsible for the failure and the apparent lack of any clear-cut British intention. With hardly a doubt, this was the policy of the United States, which opposed the Anglo-French operation because the Americans are themselves determined to control the Middle East and the copious oilfields to be found there. This policy is no recent development; in the Evening Standard (5th October, 1953), Lord Hailsham, who is known to be sensitive on the point wrote that; " . . . since the middle of the war the policy of the American Government in the Mediterranean has been almost always hostile to British interests." A few weeks ago we heard of Mr. Dulles’ preference for being a Doughboy alone in the Middle East, rather than with British and French troops alongside. Even taking into account his later modification, it does seem that he let an outsize cat out of his Bag and was in fact stating the authentic State Department attitude towards Middle Eastern affairs. '

Whatever the truth, it is a fact that Great Britain has now almost entirely lost out in the Middle East and United States influence in the areas is strong to the point of being dominant. The latest blast of U.S. foreign policy—the Eisenhower doctrine, with its promise of military and economic intervention—has set the seal on the situation. It may be remarked that, whilst on the face of it the doctrine is aimed against Russian ambitions, there is a certain amount of evidence that this is not quite so. An open attack by Russia, which is needed to bring the doctrine into operation, is most unlikely. On the other hand, recent statements by American politicians have sounded like an invitation to the Kremlin to move in by other means. On May 1st, 1956, Mr. Christian Herter said at the Chicago Institute of Foreign Relations: “We should offer to co-ordinate our aid with whatever assistance the Soviet Union is willing to provide. If the Soviet Union proposed to build a steel mill, we should not feel bound to offer to build the same mill on more favourable conditions. We should, on the contrary, be willing to work out both with the Soviets and with the recipient country a programme to which both the Soviets and ourselves can each contribute.” (Weekly Review, 4/1/57.).

Nobody need be surprised at the prospect of a Russo-American line up in the Middle East; the exigencies of. Capitalism have been known to throw together stranger bedfellows.

Indian Ambitions
We should also not disregard the ambitions of the rising Indian Capitalist class in this struggle. Mr. Nehru has lately been coming and going from side to side of the Iron Curtain, although only recently he was suspected by Americans of being too sympathetic to Russian interests. It is an interesting thought that he may have been carrying messages between Washington and Moscow. What is more certain is that India promises to become a powerful factor in the troubles of the Middle East and to play her part in replacing the defeated British power. This would indeed be a bitter irony to the Foreign Office, that the departing Britishers should be replaced by two countries—India and the U.S.A.—who were once under London's colonial thumb!

Serious though the defeat in the Middle East is for the British Capitalists, it is only the latest of the reverses which their policy has suffered since the end of the war. Apart from Egypt, there are the Far East, Australia and the Caribbean—all areas where the words of Whitehall lack their former power. The U.S. State Department has undoubtedly been the cause of much of this decline—and their preoccupation with the curtailment of British international power has often been pursued under the guise of some high-flown discussion, on human rights and liberties. In the Manchester Guardian of 25th. November, 1953, Mr. A. J. P. Taylor, wrote that “The (Atlantic) Charter was . . .  a by product of the Atlantic meeting (of Churchill and Roosevelt). The real purpose . . .  was to co-ordinate supplies and naval strategy. But the Americans had been alarmed by Keynes's prophecy that ‘the post-war world economic structure could only be one of closed economies. They wished to tie Great Britain down to a liberal economic system, not to make a declaration of principles against Hitler.” Other meetings of the war leaders, such as the Yalta conference, confirmed the American desire to break the imperial preference tie-up which the United Kingdom had built and to nose her out of her colonies. The reverse in the Middle East may be very nearly the last straw for British Capitalists, jeopardising as it has their supplies of vital oil. (The Economist of 10th November, 1956, estimated that 70 per cent. of this country’s oil supply was cut off by the blockage of the Suez Canal).

A Conspiracy?
This reliance for an essential fuel upon the facilities of so unstable an area as the Middle East is rather strange. Opinion in some technical quarters has it that no real effort is being made in Britain to find substitutes for oil, and there is a certain amount of evidence to fortify it. Apparently obstruction seems to have hindered at least one attempt to produce a substitute for petrol. The Manchester Guardian of 11th February, 1957, reported on the results of efforts in this field by a Yorkshire firm of manufacturing chemists. The manager of the firm said that ”. . .  the Government stopped one ingredient so we formulated another. . . . When we approached the suppliers . . . we were told they had given an undertaking to the Board of Trade that they would not let it go . . .  we . . . now have had to write off the idea.”

A move to offset the encroachments of the U.S. Capitalist class is to be seen in the projected European Common market. If the State Department smiles upon such schemes, it can only be because they regard them as turning the attention of European countries away from the markets which America wishes to exploit and as bringing pressure upon Great Britain to weaken her imperial preference system. Anyway, the last laugh must be with Washington—the control they now have upon Europe's oil supplies puts any such economic organisation under their thumb. We have seen what this means to European industry in the activities of the Texas Railroad Commission.

The threatened loss of their oil and enforced dependence upon United States mercies seems to have thrown British ruling circles into something akin to a panic. To add to their difficulties, the national unity which is usual at such times of crisis has been conspicuously absent. Such powerful organs of opinion as the Manchester Guardian, Observer and Economist, strongly opposed the Suez war and demanded Eden's head in compensation. This indicates a serious division in British Capitalist thinking—possibly a revolt by industrial interests against the favoured oilmen. It is under such circumstances that a Churchill, or a Lloyd George can, by reason of his political acumen, assume the rôle of a great unifier and on the strength of this come to power. Sure enough, we have lately seen a considerable improvement in the standing of the perspicacious Mr. Aneurin Bevan, so that even the Tory papers who were once screaming for his blood now champion his cause against that of Mr. Gaitskell.

Crumbling Visions
The conflict in Egypt and the confusion which it has thrown up are nothing new to us; they are an accepted part of the Capitalist social system. The unpalatable fact is that it is the working class, in these bad times as well as in the supposedly good, who are on the dirty end of the stick. The petrol shortage has exposed some redundancy in the car and other industries and so hundreds of workers are seeing their vision of lifelong prosperity dissolve in the reality of the queue at the Labour Exchange. If it is any consolation, other visions are crumbling too. Great Britain's Middle East policy of playing off and on and propping up puppet rulers, native armies and corrupt governments, has collapsed and the United States is picking up the pieces. A perilous, strenuous time for British Capitalism and those who try to organise it. Perhaps, after all, Sir Anthony was on to a good thing when he threw in the towel and caught the first boat for the Pacific.
Knife and Ivan.

Obituary: Karla Rab, 1940-2017 (2018)

Obituary from the March 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Karla Rab died on September 15th at age 77 in her Somerville, Massachusetts home.

A fifth-generation socialist, she learned ‘by osmosis’ that the most worthwhile cause to struggle for is to wake up the working class to its enlightened self-interest — the immediate abolition of capital’s anachronistic employment system.

She imbibed the influence of a socialist family upbringing from her earliest years, and went on to make it her vocation on joining the World Socialist Party founded in 1916 by her grandfather Isaac Rab and others. She was a practical visionary who took an active organizing role in party activities; after some re-organization c. 2000, she performed her role as Postal Corresponding Secretary with gusto. In 2010, fulfilling a promise she had given Rab to 'do something' with his voluminous correspondence, she published Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior: The Life and Letters of Isaac Rab, a multi-faceted undertaking at once a biography, a history and a memoir. Her natural editorial talents were appreciated by all her collaborators.

Everything of any value, she knew, starts with the human imagination, independently of reality, as long as you plug it back into the real world. Karla grew up immersed in a culture of optimism. She knew she really could make the world a better place, not just in a moral sense but as an actual historical reality.

And there was a way to achieve this goal. All you had to do was get everyone to understand that the world humans have evolved, the terrible mess we have made of human society, has a tangible and specific cause. While we have improved some aspects of our existence, we have done so at the expense of our better nature, and the 'progress' we imagine is inherent in our civilization is a process of tying society in knots. Humans have gotten themselves into a progressively knottier condition, and the end results are beginning to look pretty grim.

Karla learned as a child that the way to cut the Gordian knot is to re-imagine a society that once again returned to a need-oriented model of human nature in which people everywhere understand the stake they have in each other’s well-being. This is something we all know how to do, but which ever since agriculture was introduced we have been educating each other to forget. But it takes only a little self-enlightenment to break this momentum.

Since there can be no limits to how this reawakening takes place, our destiny as humans is to do this re-thinking of ourselves on a global scale. We all have it in us to retrace our steps and 'get back to the garden.' It is emotionally and intuitively easy, if you just listen to yourself and keep the courage of your convictions.

Like her grandfather, she was an incurable optimist who believed humanity still has a future. Pessimism is merely the long shadow of ignorance. The choice is clear.
R. E.

Reality (2012)

Book Review from the July 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

Policing the Crisis. Class War. 44 pages. £1.

This is a pamphlet published this May Day by the anarchist group known for the photographic series 'hospitalised coppers' and pictures of the “Working Class Fights Back” at the 1990 Poll Tax Riot.

The section 'Police Crimes Against the Working Class Movement' is a historical survey of the police and the working class in Britain.  Minority class property is why the police exist; the police force is part of the executive arm of the capitalist state, and as such, the enemy of the working class, even if that’s from where its members are recruited.

The pamphlet reproduces Dave Douglass’s 1986 Come and Wet This Truncheon which details police 'crimes' against the striking miners, their families and communities during the year-long strike. This makes sobering reading. If read in conjunction with The Secret War Against the Miners by Seamus Milne which details MI5 and Special Branch operations against them, it is quite clear the state is used by the capitalist class against the working class to further its own economic interests.

Like Bakunin, Class War accepts Marx's class analysis and his economic theories about capitalism. Class War describes how “force is necessary by capitalism to move the developing situations towards a new balance of class relationships more favourable to them. It is never death or pain free”.

As capitalism has become more 'unfettered' since the 1980s, the capitalist state has relied more on its enforcers to ensure the new economic relationships are ‘accepted’, and significantly, although statistics claim crime is going down, the prison population has doubled in size in the last thirty years. Today we have austerity economics imposed on us and dissent is ruthlessly dealt with; the police threaten to shoot protesting students; last summer's social breakdown in the inner cities has resulted in obviously political sentences for ‘rioters’; and the concept of ‘pre-crime’ is now used to prevent any dissent against the bourgeois consensus of the Royal Wedding, Jubilee and the Olympics.

Class War are heirs to Bakunin with their emphasis on the 'propaganda of the deed': direct action philosophy, and opposition to taking part in capitalist elections (although Ian Bone, anarchist publisher of Class War, was involved in Bristol local elections in 2003, and Class War plan to stand a candidate for Mayor of Hackney in 2014).

As socialists we reject Bakunin's love of conspiracy, insurrection and his cult of violence. Marx once described 'anarchy' as the ultimate aim of the proletarian movement when classes will be abolished and the power of the state disappears. He can even be said to have anticipated that other historical anarchist Kropotkin in aiming at an anarchist communism which is a stateless, moneyless, wageless society and not a worker's state.
Steve Clayton