Saturday, March 10, 2018

Food for thought in Rome (1997)

From the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty-three years ago, the then US Secretary of State. Henry Kissinger, vowed to a World Food conference that world hunger would be eradicated within the next decade. There were then 435 million chronically malnourished people on earth—a 75 million increase over the previous five years.

In spite of the "green revolution" in agriculture, the introduction of high yield crops, genetic engineering and advances in farming technology since the 1984 deadline set by an optimistic Kissinger, there are now as many chronically malnourished people on earth than ever— over 800 million. And although some expect conditions to improve, the United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reckons there will still be 680 million malnourished people in the year 2010.

Faced with this alarming scenario, delegates representing 194 nations attended the November 1996 UN World Food Summit in Rome, ostensibly to tackle the problem.

The gathering had been blasted by many as a farce before it had begun, in fact even before a 31 October meeting at which delegates had negotiated the bulk of the Summit agreement in advance which, incidentally, was to strive for food security "through a fair and market-oriented world trade system".

In spite of the October meeting, at which possible disputes were supposedly resolved in advance, the FAO remained confident it could focus attention, in Kissengerian fashion on what it sees as its central purpose, which it defines as a renewal of a "high level commitment around the world to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition and to the achievement of lasting food security for all" (Guardian, 1 November). If this did not smack of a complete misunderstanding of the rules of capitalism, the FAO went on to state that it did not seek pledges of food aid from rich to poor countries, even though this had halved in the past three years.

As could only be expected, the November Summit attracted only a few "leaders" from the industrialised world— no doubt only too aware of what to expect and similarly all too familiar with the fact that such global dilemmas cannot be solved within the context of capitalism. Furthermore, although the UN is supposedly committed to the idea that each person has a right to food and to be free from hunger, it can well be imagined how such "leaders" feared the legislation they might one day run into should they turn up at the Summit and consent to the right of their citizens to food.

Needless to say, a lot of crap came out of the Food Summit—and not the kind that fertilises barren land. There was a lot of finger-pointing at wars and the western arms industries and ethnic and civil strife as being the cause of much hunger. Overpopulation cropped up, with Vatican anti-abortionists objecting to the promotion of “reproductive health care" (as they had at the recent Cairo and Beijing summits) and the issue of free trade in agricultural goods for third world countries was also raised. Nowhere was the problem located in a wider context—the capitalist system itself.

Little wonder, then, that instead of agreeing to abolish world hunger, the 200 or so fat-arsed delegates could only consent to the idea of world hunger being reduced by 50 percent within 20 years—in other words, in the year 2015 world hunger would still be as high as when Henry Kissinger vowed to eradicate it 43 years earlier.

Neither did the Summit extract one single cash commitment, trading reform or agriculture policy shift from any major donor nation. After much prevarication, procrastination and pontification, the world's hungry were quite simply left to fend for themselves, the Summit declaration stating that primary responsibility for food security rests with individual governments operating with a "market- oriented world system".

Such news will not doubt be as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool for the likes of the 15 sub-Saharan countries who produce less food per person then they did 30 years ago—thanks largely to IMF structural adjustments programmes and the subverting of arable land to the production of cash crops to meet debt repayments. Meanwhile, the fat cats of the 6 multinationals who control the grain trade (Cargill, for example, has an income larger than that of the 9 largest sub-Saharan countries) can relax—their profits are safe.

The only sense to come out of the Summit came in form of criticism levelled by the major charities.

Save the Children lambasted the Summit as "a forum for legitimising a new international code of practice which . . .  subordinates basic rights to the market philosophy". Actionaid blamed the free trade system itself for global hunger and Oxfam pointed out that the "enhanced competition between the surplus agricultural systems of the industrialised world and the deficit system of the developing world" could only "exacerbate problems" (quotations from the Guardian, 13 November).

Although the FAO admitted that the world produces enough to ensure "adequate" food for all (2,700 calories per person per day), they nevertheless maintained that a 75 percent increase in food production was needed.

It may well be the case that the world is already producing more than enough food to feed the present world population, bearing in mind, for instance, that in one season in 1995 French peasant cooperatives were paid to destroy 972.000 tons of food, and that in 1993 the European community destroyed 3 millions tons of food at a cost of £439 million.

Add to this facts such as the US taking 8 million acres of arable land out of production to reduce their surplus in recent years, the 651 British farmers paid £ 100,000 each in 1994 for not growing food, the Indian army guarding food mountains, and you begin to realise what a waste of time such summits are.

The problem is not a shortage of food, or even a deficiency of “common- sense" among world leaders—it is the system they believe can be run in our interests, a system that says "can't buy, can't have". A system which allows the ruling élite in almost every country to destroy food and pay farmers for not growing food in order to guarantee profits.

Neither is the problem one of overpopulation. Twice the present world population could stand up in Cornwall. Africa is supposedly overpopulated, yet it is now acknowledged that Africa could feed a population six times its present size were western farming techniques to be introduced there.

Capitalism is solely responsible for world hunger, just as it is the root cause of war, diseases that are returning to haunt humanity, homelessness, unemployment and a thousand other social ills. And we call them "social ills" because all of these problems are rooted in the way society is at present organised for production—production for profit, not social need.
John Bissett

Clueless and Classless (1997)

TV Review from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In examining the concept of class and whether John Major has succeeded in creating a classless Britain, ITV’s World In Action last month maintained its usual high standard of visual entertainment while simultaneously slipping badly in its standards of reporting. Like an insipid pint of beer there was plenty of froth but little body.

A number of celebs were paraded in front of the cameras to air their views on what they perceived the word "class” to mean. Style guru Peter York, footballer and PR merchant Max Clifford were among those who joined Tony Benn and Tory MP Steve Norris to declare an interest in the subject. This was the froth, but it was far more nourishing and tasty than anything that was to follow. While gung-ho. patriotic Tory-loving Vinnie Jones set out to convince anyone yet to make their mind up about him that he is indeed a total muttonhead. many of the others expressed views that bordered on the sensible—even Tony Benn.

Benn declared that the only meaningful conception of class is that which defines it in terms of how people get what they need to live, and that no political or economic problems will be solved unless the fundamental division in modern society between the owning class and the workers is addressed rather than avoided. This sound analysis was only spoilt by the fact that Benn is a man who has been a willing participant in anti-working class Labour governments which have attacked the living standards of the majority in the interests of capital, and who will be standing under Blair's banner at the next election—Blair himself being a politician who reiterates almost every time he speaks the importance of putting the "old class divisions” behind us to build a "united Britain”.

Quite amazingly. Peter York, a well-heeled ex-public schoolboy who has made a small fortune out of rather superficial social commentary about Sloane Rangers. Essex Man and the like, came out as a putative Marxist on the issue. While many could be forgiven for thinking that York would be one of the last-ditch defenders of the idea that class is all about etiquette, clothes, style, dialect and other fripperies, he instead rejected this view, stating that Marx's conception of what constitutes a social class is right after all! Only slightly less straightforward was the viewpoint of Max Clifford, who demonstrated that he, too, was not taken in by the camouflage draped over the issue by politicians and the newspapers.

Downhill all the way
But once this appetising froth was out of the way. the dregs were not far behind. The World In Action reporting team continually peppered their commentary with the assertion—never substantiated once—that the changing social structure of Britain was exemplified by the statistic that there are now as many "middle class" people as there are "working class". Though no evidence was given for it and no argumentation deployed to justify it either. this was presented time and again.

What constitutes "middle class"? They didn’t say. Why was the analysis of Tony Benn and Peter York dismissed in such a way? We weren't told. What seems likely is that this was either a deliberate attempt to confuse people or simply make the subject more “complicated" than it actually is, or alternatively simply slopping reporting.

Either way, it served as a springboard for a hopelessly irrelevant segment centred around the chairman of the MORI polling organisation. Bob Worcester, who took it as his cue to bombard anyone still watching with meaningless statistics about Essex Man and Worcester Woman, and how important the lie machines at Tory Central Office and Walworth Road consider them to be. While the commentary made the valid point that those at the bottom of the pile are being left out in the bigger political game, why give this type of analysis house space in the first instance? Its only real validity would be if the political ideologies of the main political parties were determined by what Worcester Woman thinks. But this is sheer fantasy, and is at least in part what the parties themselves would like their target voters to think about them, i.e. listening to the voters and shaping their policies accordingly. The reality is that the politics of the Labour and Tory parties is determined by their support for capitalism, and by the needs of requirements of the owning class at any given point in history. Essex Man and Worcester Woman can go and whistle if anything they do or think comes into conflict with that, and this journal for one is full of relevant examples.

This is why John Major’s hope of creating a classless society was just so much hot air. To create a really classless society would require the abolition of the political and economic power of the capitalist class. Neither Major nor Blair want this, only a removal of the perceived social barriers which make it more difficult to move from what is really the working class to the class of capital owners (they are presumably well aware that this is difficult enough without any additional impediments). Style, etiquette, dialect and background should not matter they say—only profits, markets and stocks and shares. Capitalists and workers would then truly be of one social class, only distinguishable by a few million pounds, as if such a triviality as that should matter among friends! And all this in the finer defence of a parasites' world of inaction where to be truly classless—Vinnie Jones— is to be totally clueless with it
Dave Perrin

Socialist Party to stand five candidates (1997)

Party News from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the coming General Election the Socialist Party will be putting up five candidates, the highest number yet in a parliamentary election. Two will be standing in Scotland, two in the North East and one in London.

The seats and candidates are:
Glasgow Kelvin: Vic Vanni
Livingston: Matt Culbert
Jarrow: John Bissett
Easington: Steve Colborn
London Vauxhall: Richard Headicar
Around 40,000 election addresses will be distributed by the Post Office in each of the five constituencies, but this will only be during the election which must take place sometime before May next year.

In the meantime preparatory work has started, with meetings, literature stalls and leaflet distribution in the constituencies. If you want to help with this, or want further information about the socialist campaign, the contact persons for the constituencies are:

Glasgow: Vic Vanni, Flat A, 26 Baker Street, Glasgow G41 3YE. Phone: 0141-649 9338.
Livingston: Matt Culbert, 53 Falcon Brae, Ladywell, West Lothian, EH54 6UW. Phone: 01506-162 359.
Jarrow: John Bissett, 10 Scarborough Parade, Hebburn.Tync & Wear NE31 2AL. Phone: 0191-189 0253.
Easington: Harland Wear, Phone 0191 5170470
London: Gareth Thomas, 185c Northcote Road, London SW11 6QF. Phone:0171-585 1856.

If you are not living in any of these areas you can make a contribution to the Election Fund. The amount in the fund at the moment is £6,292, not much compared to what the pro-capitalist parties will have to spend. The more money we have the more effectively can we make the voice of socialism heard. Cheques (made payable to‘The Socialist Party of Great Britain*) should be sent to: Election Fund. 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

Research Dept (1997)

Party News from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The World Socialist Movement site on the World Wide Web is soon to be "re-launched". For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a web site is a series of pages published by an organisation on the Internet. The Research Dept are organising a new section for the site, to be called Worldview (after the section in the Standard) which will aim to cover a range of global issues. We will be planning a publicity campaign to accompany this "re-launch". Please do not hesitate to contact us c/o Head Office if you would like to help e.g. by wiring an article, finding useful information on a particular issue, editing material, organising publicity.

We will be making the research available to those not on the Internet.

The Year of the Idea? (1997)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nineteen Ninety Seven is European Year Against Racism, a year of "tolerance and goodwill", according to the grandly titled European Parliamentary Intercultural Committee, who want us to drop them a line to tell them what we are doing about it. This will be good news to what is sometimes called the Anti-Racism Industry, but it should not be quite so welcome to other groups—like refugees, children, the homeless—who may remember years in the past given over to focusing on their suffering. There is no evidence that having a year all to themselves so much as dented their problems, let alone abolished them.

For example, if anything did come out of the year for refugees it will have been completely swamped by the effects of a series of wars which have spawned their own flood of pitiful, terrified, starving people trying to flee from the fighting. Most recently this has been the case in the Gulf. Bosnia. Africa. . . . Whatever may have been done for children there is still the gruesome evidence of the neglect, abuse and violence which is meted out to them—which according to organisations like the NSPCC and the National Children’s Homes, has been worsened by the deeper poverty associated with unemployment. And when those grosser symptoms of poverty are absent there remain the diseases which are avoidable but which flourish when children are neglected or stressed or malnourished.

Health visitors
In a survey in 1995 the Health Visitors’ Association found that almost a third of their members came across cases of tuberculosis. Rickets was found in 25 cases and more than 80 percent of the Health Visitors knew of children who were failing to thrive—a phrase which can cover appalling physical and emotional deficiencies—because of undernourishment or neglect. The health visitors who are at the sharp end of working-class life have no illusions about tackling problems with special years. Their director tells us that ". . .  the many improvements in health and welfare are being undermined by the effects of desperate poverty on a national scale".

Those "many improvements in health and welfare” were based on the plans laid down in the Beveridge Report. A recent issue of the Guardian republished part of a leader written on Beveridge on 2 December 1942. It was. said the leader ". . .  a big and fine thing. It will go towards securing for the British people 'freedom from want' . . .  it will strengthen our democracy by raising the happiness and wellbeing of 'the common man”'. It is almost ghoulish to remember that now, after all the promises, the dreams and the effort. They were all killed off by the central reality that we live under a social system in which the priorities are the exploitation of its workers, the production of wealth for sale and the amassing of capital. Human interests count only in so far as they serve those priorities.

Homeless
Our final example is the homeless. They too have had a year apparently given over to eradicating their plight. Not that there was nothing being done about it already. Shelter, for example, was formed over 30 years ago; at the time it was assumed to be a short-lived organisation because the problem was accessible to reform. But that is not how it is now according to Shelter’s occasional reviews, which show that homelessness of one sort or another grows and grows regardless. It has grown in spite of the rise of the Housing Association, with its promise of cheap, good standard, available accommodation but which has been gobbled up by local councils and is now similarly strapped for cash. In some cases homelessness is not a simple problem. Its roots go rather deeper, for many young people prefer to live on the streets because they find there the sense of welcome and security which they desperately need after fleeing from a brutal, abusive or neglectful family. So they too are a part of the wider problem of a society whose very structure, from its basis upwards and outwards, cannot meet the needs of the majority of its people. And what do our political leaders have to say about this? For them 1997 will also be a special year because there must be a general election. John Major is in desperate trouble as his government is revealed, more and more, day by day, in all its impotence and venality—and in the fractiousness which springs from its impotence. If things had gone better for him Major would obviously have opted for an election before this but he has been forced to hang on, increasingly wretched, in the hope that something would turn up.

How is the Labour Party dealing with this situation? If we are to go by the actions and utterances of Tony Blair we would conclude that he has been carefully studying the Conservative Party and decided that, as they have been so successful at achieving and holding onto power, Labour's best chance of winning an election is to be as much like the Tories as possible. Some of his supporters—like the awful Jack Straw— have adopted this policy so enthusiastically that they have became more Tory, as it were, than the Tories. Straw, after all, has managed the difficult task of making Michael Howard look like a liberal, soft-on-crime Home Secretary.

Along with this ruthless reshaping of the Labour Party so that it more closely appears in its true colours as an aspiring alternative government for British capitalism, Blair has spewed out a copious stream of the most appalling guff. For example his book New Britain is a rich (if that is the word) source of the kind of meaningless ravings which politicians use to convince the voters that they are people with an inspired vision of the future. Just look at a few of his phrases: "It is about giving power to you. the individual . . . the bringing of a country together, a sharing of the possibility of power, wealth and opportunity . . .  the problems of low pay and unemployment must be tackled at source . . . "

By now our more sensitive readers will have had enough. The point is that that is nothing new in all this. There is nothing new in Major’s difficulties, nothing new in Blair’s evasive verbiage. We have to measure the value, the effectiveness of these things in the reality we experience all around us. In the homeless, in the refugees, in the sick and hungry children. The politicians’ impotence to affect these problems docs not deter them; they continue to mouth the same promises, wrapped up in the same empty claptrap.

So here, for the New Year, is an idea. We need a year when we focus, not on the separate plight of a particular group suffering under capitalism’s demands, not on the deceptions of political leaders, but on the real, basic causes of society’s problems and what we ourselves can do to change society from the basis and all that follows.
Ivan

50 Years Ago: The Nationalisation of the Railways (1997)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Naturally the shareholders clamour for higher compensation. Their special grievance is that, unlike the Bank of England shareholders, they are not being guaranteed the same income as they were getting during or before the war. In effect, they are to receive a State-guaranteed income of about £22,500,000 a year in place of a larger but uncertain sum they received as shareholders in concerns the profitability of which had been rendered precarious by road competition. How the shareholders must regret not having jumped at Nationalisation on the much better terms they would have got in 1919, when profits and share values were higher!

So much for the shareholders. What of the workers? The workers merely change one employer for another; little else is changed, for the State undertaking, as the Daily Herald specially emphasises (November 19th, 1946), has got to pay its way. The Evening Standard remarks that nationalisation cannot bring any possible benefit to the railway worker— "for him it can mean neither higher wages nor shorter hours" (November 19th, 1946). And the Observer, in like vein, says. "It . . . leaves the transport workers and the consumers to wonder what difference it can make to them except for the worse" (December 30th. 1946).

The Labour Government has kept its pledge to nationalise transport but for the workers it is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nationalisation is State capitalism and leaves untouched the real problem of the working class of emancipating themselves from capitalist exploitation.
(From front page article by ‘H’ in Socialist Standard, January 1947)


It Could Be You! (1997)

From the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard
So, you think the idea of a socialist society in which everyone cooperates to provide the things which we all require to live decent lives free from poverty, unemployment, homelessness, war and want is a utopian dream; you think abolishing the wages system and along with it the slavery of employment is too far fetched to bother with, well keep doing the Lottery — who knows, you might win!
Were it not for the poverty and misery of capitalism two institutions would not exist: the National Lottery and the Socialist Party. Both are responses to real problems and genuine discontent.

The lottery exists as an illusive escape from working-class life for millions of people who have been conned into believing that becoming a multi-millionaire by gambling is more likely than being struck by lightning. The same mugs do the football pools and keep the bookies in business. They speculate upon the worst bet in the world and then pour more money into Camelot’s profits to ensure that they will be in with a chance of losing again the following week.

The Socialist Party exists because some people—very few of us at present— have asked ourselves why it is that there is poverty and misery in the world. We have concluded that it is a consequence of the way society is organised. Production for sale with a view to profit means that needs will always come a poor second to profit-making. As profits arc accumulated by the small minority of the earth’s population who own the productive resources but produce no wealth, and as unmet needs are largely those of the working-class majority who do produce all of society’s wealth, we have concluded that the profit system works against the interest of the majority of us. Capitalism is a bad bet for the working class and a safe bet for the capitalist class. The capitalists win the lottery every week. How? They pay us less than the value of what we have produced for them to sell on the market.

So, unlike the main parties which canvass working-class support, the Socialist Party says that the profit system— capitalism—the market economy—(these all mean roughly the same thing) —should not be maintained or reformed but abolished. We are an anti-capitalism party. No promises from socialists that if you vote for us you will have more chance of winning the lottery or even getting an extra tenner in your pay packet. We say unequivocally that it is the system which pays workers to produce profits for the few which is the cause of the problems facing the majority.

The right choice
Our remedy for capitalism’s problems is not better capitalism but no capitalism. We stand for unadulterated socialism. Not state capitalism like they had in Russia or China or Cuba, but a new system of society in which production is solely for use.

We contend that producing for use is both more practically efficient and democratically desirable than continuing with capitalism and all of its inevitable problems stemming from profit before need. Get rid of capitalism and replace it by common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.

In a socialist society productive resources will be owned by all, without discrimination of race or sex, and will be democratically controlled by the whole community. Because production will be simply for use there will be no need for the market. There will be no buying and selling. There will be no money. There will be free access to all goods and services.

Most people would prefer to live in a socialist society, as we have described it, than the present capitalist one. Few people like the poverty and misery caused by capitalism: we know that because so many are trying desperate measures, such as giving money to the lottery, as a way out. People go in for all kinds of hopeless gambles to escape from capitalism. They borrow large amounts of money from banks to set up small businesses, most of which fail because they can’t compete with the big capitalists. They emigrate to other countries in the false hope that poverty will not be found in distant lands They steal and end up behind bars for long stretches. They prostitute their dignity doing horrible jobs which no self-respecting person would choose to do. They cheat on their friends and neighbours. They pray. All of these are more-or-less useless. There is no escape for workers from the effects of capitalism within the confines of the system.

So, what about the socialist gamble? For most people, appealing as socialism sounds in contrast with the present system, the prospect of achieving socialism is too small to be worth the risk of dedicating time to working for its establishment. It’s a tempting argument. After all, being a socialist involves hours—which can turn into years—of trying to persuade others of the logic of the case for changing the system. Trying to win a majority to socialist consciousness can meet with derision and ridicule. It involves the time-consuming effort of organising democratically and co-operating with fellow socialists. It can leave you angry at times that people who could benefit so much from socialism are wasting their efforts on useless pursuits like trying to reform capitalism or hoping that they will win the lottery.

Those who consider the gamble and decide against joining the socialists will often attempt to justify their inaction by resorting to common, but utterly false, arguments. They will say that socialism is against human nature. Even though private property, the market and money have only actually existed for a small fraction of the time that humans have lived on the earth. (Were the majority of humans who ever lived not “naturally human”?) They will say that the workers are too stupid to understand the need for socialism. In that case, how did they come to understand it—and how did we who are socialists? They will say that the media will always keep the people mentally enslaved. Now, that’s a strong argument, but history abounds in examples of people who have overcome the propaganda of religion, education and the mass media and overthrown regimes they have not liked. 

Picking a winner
The most honest argument of the person who sympathises with socialism but refuses to join the socialists is to admit to being lazy about changing society. “I'll be with you on the day,” they say, as if socialism could ever come about if a majority of people decided to sit back and wait for it. The truth is that there will be no socialism without conscious socialists, just as there could be no Socialist Party without democratically organised socialist activists. We are not active because we like being in a minority, but because we have good historical reason to believe that in time and with effort we can be in a majority.

If we are wasting our time as active socialists, the present writer’s view is that it’s better to waste time and be right than to devote energy to a growing movement which is based upon a wrong analysis of how society works and how it needs to be changed. There is some satisfaction in knowing that your political position is invincible. (And if it’s not, let our critics show us where we are wrong—enough have tried and failed.) But even so, the satisfaction of being correct is not enough.

The problem is far greater for the people who nod their heads and smile in passive agreement with socialism and then conclude that the gamble will be a waste of their time. You see, the choice is not between socialism as it could be and life under capitalism as it is. One of the special features of capitalism is its tendency to take people who are just about surviving, perhaps even in a bit of comfort, and kicking them into the ditch of dire poverty. The problem for the workers who bet on capitalism is that it could be them—not winning the lottery, but losing everything.

Think about the risks of supporting this system. What would happen if tomorrow morning you lost your job? And how many couples need both partners in employment for them to survive? What about if you or a close family member falls ill and the only way of helping them properly is to pay for private medical attention? What about if your child becomes a victim of the next Chernobyl or the next Bhopal? What if the big powers decide to fight over the spoils once again and powerful fingers start getting itchy near to nuclear buttons? What control will you have over any of those situations? It will be too late then to decide that it would have been better to have done something earlier to bring about a new system of society in which none of these problems could occur.

Just as the lottery gambler is a pathetic figure standing in a sea of filth with an empty perfume spray, so the worker who agrees with socialism but will do nothing about it is a fool to him or herself. The continuation of the profit system relies upon the inertia resulting from such folly. The future of society, as we move from a system which fails the majority to one which is sane, co-operative and practical, depends upon overcoming that folly and ignorance of the majority. And overcoming it is not up to someone else. We need more active socialists now—and it could be you.
Steve Coleman



If this be Nationalisation—! (1920)

From the November 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

The labour leaders and others who, through the Press and public platforms, have been urging upon the working class the necessity of nationalising industries (the mines in particular), have surely turned the blind eye in the direction of the Post Office. Starting as a commercial enterprise, it was nationalised and became a Government institution, to-day employing more than 100,000, and being run for profit exactly as the mines and railways are now, but belonging to "the nation."

"The nation," surely, needs definition, and it has been left to the Socialists to define the term.

Workers, it means practically the capitalist class, and the Post Office is owned and controlled by that class, just as the means of life, the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, are owned and controlled. It needs no gigantic brain with directive ability to discover so much.

The workers of the Post Office are not wealthy compared with other workers because their particular business is "nationalised."  On the contrary they are a sweated section of the working class, and kept the more easily in subjection by the cunning method of ''grading," one grade competing with another for a bigger plum in the shape of higher pay, and being urged on by their immediate superior.

The rank and file have yet to learn that even their immediate superior is but a wage slave, living by the sale of his labour-power, in the same manner as themselves, the difference being that the supervisor receives a salary, not mere wages.

If this is nationalisation and it is applied in other industries, the working class will soon realise the uselessness of such a palliative. The only remedy is Socialism! Private ownership must give place to social ownership, and the working class must ever be confronted with the fact that the power is theirs and no other power can say them nay when they will it.

A little study each working day will convince even the most corpulent of the salariat.

Workers, think it over !
W.A.G.

Action—An Analysis. (1920)

From the September 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are often accused by Direct Actionists and others of that ilk of being content with "talk, talk, everlasting talk." They say we are continually uttering all sorts of dire threats against the capitalist class, but that we stop at that. When it comes to action, according to them, we are non-starters.

Now what action can the workers take ?

They can with advantage take no action other than talking—with tongue and pen and print—and organising, and using the vote, until such time as they have obtained control of the political machinery, for without that control they are helpless.

There are what are known as "constitutional action" and "direct action," The meaning of the first is obviously action in accord with the Constitution.

There are various organisations—political and others alleged to be non-political—who conduct their propaganda mainly by the use of Press and platform, as a means of "peacefully persuading those who pay attention to their case to join them." That is constitutional action.

Good, so far! but another aspect of the matter now presents itself.

Two or more governments have a dispute concerning some question of detail arising out of the administration of territories under their control—usually a question of commerce. What happens ?

The disputants endeavour to settle the matter by negotiation. Failing that, one side or the other takes direct action That is to say, they declare war against the other side.

Vast masses of men with the latest equipment are hurried to the scene of action ; new inventions are brought out, and production in general is intensified. That is direct action in practice !

When the workers take direct action that is a crime, because it is unconstitutional, inasmuch as it is action against the ruling class.

But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander ! If it be constitutional for a government to take direct action in the form of a declaration of war, it is also constitutional for the workers to take direct action on the same lines when they obtain that control of political power which is necessary to enable them to do so.

However, our critics must remember that until the workers get that control they, like us, are helpless, and we can do nothing but talk, educate, and organise.

Those who favour "direct action" appear to be unable to conceive any other form of action. When we start action of any kind other than what we are doing at present, it will be constitutional action expressed in terms of guns and bombs and bayonets. We shall use these instruments of warfare safe in the knowledge that we were backed by a Socialist working class.

We do not wish to kill anyone, and if we can accomplish our aims in a peaceful manner well and good. But if the enemy—the capitalist class —resist, then we must use all the forces of the State to enforce our will.

The issue then will not be merely a sectional squabble between national groups of the capitalist class, but it will be a question of the complete abolition of that class itself.

Direct action, as advocated by those of the anti-political school, means political suicide for the workers because it ignores the only factor which can be effective.

When the day of our direct action arrives the ranks of the conscientious objector will be considerably depleted because, whereas on the last occasion those ranks were largely made up of Socialists, in the struggle to come there will be no Socialists amongst the "C.O.'s." Instead they will be found in the revolutionary army, fighting in order to achieve "THE WORLD FOR THE WORKERS."
H. E. Hutchins