Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Importance of Marxism—(continued) (1940)

From the July 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard


Thomas Hodgskin was joint honorary secretary of the London Mechanics’ Institute. According to Marx, his writings are outstanding in the realm of economic science. In his work,. “The Natural and Artificial Rights of Property Contrasted,” Hodgskin says: —
  “At present, all the wealth of society goes first into the possession of the capitalist, and even most of the land has been purchased by him; he pays the landowner his rent, the labourer his wages, the tax and tithe gatherer their claims, and keeps a large, indeed the largest, and a continually augmenting share of the annual produce of labour for himself. The capitalist may now be said to be the first owner of all the wealth of the community. . . . The capitalist was originally a labourer, or the descendant of a villein, and he obtained profit on what he was able to save from the produce of his own labour, after he had wrested his liberty from his masters, because he was then able to make them respect his right to use the produce of his own industry. But what he then received, and now receives, under the name of profit, is a portion of the wealth annually created by labour. In fact, the capitalist has obtained the whole of the landlord’s power, and his right to have profit is a right to receive a portion of the produce of the landlord’s slaves.” (PP. 98-99, Steil Edition, published in 1832.)
In another work entitled “Labour Defended Against the Claims of Capital” Hodgskin writes:
   “The capitalists and labourers form the great majority of the nation, so that there is no third power to intervene betwixt them. They must and will decide the dispute of themselves. . . .  I am certain, however, that till the triumph of labour be complete, till productive industry alone be opulent and till idleness alone be poor, till the admirable maxim that he who sows shall reap be solidly established, till the right of property shall be founded on principles of justice and not those of slavery, till man shall be held more in honour than the clod he treads on or the machine he guides—there cannot and there ought not to be either peace on earth or good-will amongst men.” (P. 105, Labour Publishing Co. Ed.)
Like Thompson, however, Hodgskin advocates the establishment of communist colonies with “just exchanges.”

J. F. Bray (1805-1895) is the author of “Labour's Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy” (1839). In this work he uses vitriolic language against what he contends to be the forcible and unjust robbery of the working class. In the opening chapter he writes:
   “Throughout the whole universe, from the most stupendous planet to the individual atom, changes are perpetual—there is nothing at rest— nothing stationary, to affirm therefore that governmental institutions require no reformation—that social systems need no alteration—is just as absurd as to say that the man shall wear the swaddling clothes that befitted his infancy and be pleased in maturity with the rattle which charmed his childhood. . . . What are the working classes of every nation but beasts of burden without hearts and without souls whose doom it is to labour and to die? If they complain of tyranny and dare to resist they are slaughtered like wild beasts. The very marrow of their bones and the life blood of their children is drunk up with incessant toil.” (London School of Economics Ed.)
Bray repudiates any attempt to solve the workers’ problems by reforming Capitalism. His comments in this connection would be very well directed to the Labour Party of to-day.
   "Slavery in nature, if not in name, has ever been, is now, and ever will be, the portion of the working classes in every country where inequality of property exists in connection with the gradation of classes (p. 21) . . . . from this it will follow that the present state of things cannot be remedied unless we change at once our whole social system, for alter our forms of government as we will, no such change can affect the system and no such change can prevent inequality of possessions and the division of society into employers and employed—and therefore as a necessary consequence no such change can remove the evils which this system and this division of society engender." (P. 37.)
The following statements by Bray are humorous as well as fiery:
   “In all civilised communities, as they are called, society is thus divided into idlers and producers, into those who obtain double allowance for doing nothing and those who receive only half-allowance for doing double work." (P. 23.)
   “No other than the present social system could by any possibility create and perpetuate the gross injustice which is now inflicted upon the great body of exchangers—the working class. They form, like their parent earth, a common pasture-ground, on which all crawling and creeping things may feed and fatten." (P. 88.)
Finally, have we not often been confronted with the objection that there will he no incentive to invent things under Socialism? We shall let Bray reply to this point:
    “The inventor will ever receive, in addition to his just pecuniary reward, that which genius only can obtain from us—the tribute of our admiration.” (P. 45.)
Karl Rodbertus (1805-1875) is in many respects a spiritual ancestor of the Nazi “theoreticians," who to-day, prattle so much about “True German Socialism." (Wahrer Sozialismus.) Like the English Utopians, Rodbertus deduced his “Socialism" from the implications of the Ricardian theory of value, but he differed with them in this respect : In his work “Zur Erkenntniss unserer Staatswirtschaftlichen Zustande,” 1842 (On the Explanation of our Economic Position), he maintained that the collective ownership of the means of life was something to be established in five hundred years to come. In the meanwhile, he contended, rent, interest and profit (Rodbertus called all three “Rente”) would still have to exist, but the Prussian State would have to take over the means of life and distribute the products of labour equally among the three classes of the German community. That is to say that for having laboured twelve hours the worker would receive under Rodbertus’s scheme a certificate entitling him to the product of four hours' work, the Junkers and Capitalists receiving the other two thirds. In his “Zweiter Brief an Von Kirchmann" (1850-51, published in English by Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1898, under the title of “Overproduction and Crises"), Rodbertus writes:
    “. . . . Present-day society may indeed be well compared to a band of travellers in the desert. Suffering with thirst they find a spring which would suffice to refresh and strengthen them all, but a small number constitute themselves masters of the spring; they grudge giving the majority more than a few drops to quench their thirst; they themselves take long draughts, but the stream flows faster than they are able to drink, and so from satiety and want of good-will they let half of the gushing stream waste itself in the sand.” (PP. 57-58.)
Rodbertus falsely laid claim to be the founder of Scientific Socialism. Engels, however, has aptly categorised him as the “veritable founder of Prussian State Socialism.” In his preface to the second volume of “Capital” Engels says amongst other things:
   “Marx began his economic studies in Paris, in 1843, starting with the prominent Englishmen and Frenchmen. Of German economists he knew only Rau and List, and he did not want any more of them. Neither Marx nor I heard a word of Rodbertus' existence, until we had to criticise in the ‘Neue Rheinische Zeitung,' 1848, the speeches he made as the representative of Berlin and as Minister of Commerce. . . .  On the other hand, Marx showed that he knew even then, without the help of Rodbertus, whence came the 'surplus value of the capitalists,’ and he showed furthermore how it was produced, as may be seen in his ‘Poverty of Philosophy,' 1847, and in his lectures on wage-labour and capital, delivered in Brussels in 1847.” (P. 14, Kerr Ed.)
On page 24 of the same preface Engels continues :
   “Marx stands in the same relation to his predecessors in the theory of surplus-value that Lavoisier maintains to Priestley and Scheele The existence of those parts of the value of products, which we now call surplus-value, had been ascertained long before Marx. It had also been stated with more or less precision that it consisted of that part of the labourer's product for which its appropriator does not give any equivalent. But there the economists halted. Some of them, for instance the classical bourgeois economists investigated, perhaps, the proportion in which the product of labour was divided among the labourer and the owner of the means of production. Others, the Socialists, declared that this division was unjust and looked for utopian means of abolishing this injustice. They remained limited by the economic categories which they found at hand.
    “Now Marx appeared. And he took an entirely different view from all his predecessors. What they had regarded as a solution, he considered a problem. He saw that he had to deal neither with dephlogisticized air, nor with fire-air, but with oxygen. He understood that it was not simply a matter of stating an economic fact, or of pointing out the conflict of this fact with 'eternal justice and true morals,' but of explaining a fact which was destined to revolutionise the entire political economy, and which offered a key for the understanding of the entire capitalist production, provided you knew how to use it."
Marx's “Capital
In our survey we have ranged over the entire field of political economy prior to Marx. Let us now turn our attention exclusively to the economic writings of Marx himself. We have already indicated (see May Socialist Standard) that the central theme of all political economy is the theory of value. This theory is intended by Marx not merely to solve the riddle of the determinant of prices, but also to reveal the economic law of motion of modern society. Apart from his earlier writings on economics Marx's main works are “Capital," volumes I, II and III, and “Theories of Surplus Value" (three volumes). Only the first volume of "Capital" was published during Marx's lifetime. Volumes II and III were issued by Engels in 1885 and 1894. Theories of Surplus Value" (Theorien über den Mehrwert—not yet translated into English) were issued by Karl Kautsky, Engels' literary executor. The works published after Marx's death were compiled from his remaining fragmentary manuscripts, and consequently are not so rounded-off as the first volume. Notwithstanding this they remain to this day the most exhaustive scientific analysis of Capitalism that has yet been published.
Solomon Goldstein

(To be continued.)

The Proposed Socialist Party of India. (1932)

From the July 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those responsible for a movement to form the "Socialist Party of India" have issued a Declaration of Policy (published by the "Advocate of India" Press, Bombay).

It begins with a short statement of the position of the workers in the capitalist system of society. This opening statement is in the main accurate and simple, and only a few faults can be found with it. It states, for example, that the capitalists are there "controlling the principal instrumentalities of production and exchange," but it does not bring out with sufficient clearness and emphasis that the ownership and control by the capitalists of the means of production and distribution is the basis of the capitalist economic system, and that through their ownership and control the capitalists are the owners of the whole of the products of the workers’ labour. Any misunderstanding of these essentials may cause a failure to realise that the aim of the workers should be to dispossess the capitalists of the means of production and distribution and to make these the property of society as a whole.

A second fault is that the statement gives the impression that the Socialist case is addressed only to part of the working class, i.e., not to the clerical, technical and so-called professional sections of the working class. In view of the frequent assertion by the opponents of Socialism that its appeal is to "manual” workers only, a declaration of policy should carefully avoid possible ambiguity.

The first part of the Declaration recognises that it is the abolition, not the reform of, capitalism that should be aimed at.
  The more industry is rationalised the more the capitalist system is perfected, the worse become its resultant evils. It is not by any reform of the existing economic order, but only by the substitution of a radically different one that they are to be ended.
But having stated this, the Declaration then proceeds to make a case for a programme of "immediate demands.” We entirely agree that the workers should use trade-union organisation to resist the encroachments of the employers, but it is essential that the workers should realise the limited value of such activity. It is not a service to the workers to foster quite illusory hopes of considerable betterment to be achieved thereby. Although the expansion and technical development of capitalist industry in India will doubtless lead to the employment of better-educated and better-trained workers, and consequently to a higher standard of living, trade-union organisation will not be able to give the workers security under capitalism, nor can it prevent a worsening of their position relative to that of the capitalist class.

And the case for trade-union organisation is not also a case for the adoption of a programme of immediate demands by a party claiming to be Socialist. Nor is it a case for supporting the Co-operative Movement.

As the drafters of this Declaration could learn from the more advanced capitalist countries, every party which has adopted immediate demands under the impression that it can do so "while keeping its ultimate purpose always in mind and clearly proclaiming it on all occasions” has failed to do the latter. In every case, sooner or later, the supporters recruited for the immediate demands have swamped the ultimate purpose. This is inevitable. The fight for the immediate demands alters the composition of the organisation, destroys the clear grasp of Socialist principles, leaves no time or energy for necessary study, and introduces the disintegrating forces of careerism, opportunism, and the desire to become the Government at all costs.

The Co-operative Movement is another form of activity which is of negligible use to the working class, and is a hindrance to Socialist propaganda. At most it serves its members as a somewhat expensive method of saving. Genuine co-operative societies (in which the members themselves carry on the work and own and share in common), have invariably failed to make headway against the forces of capitalism. The so-called consumers’ co-operatives which have made headway possess no real element of co-operation. They are merely joint stock capitalist trading concerns owned by small investors and exploiting their employees like capitalist concerns in general. The outlook engendered by the Co-operative: Movement is no more favourable to Socialist propaganda than is the outlook of non-co-operators. Support of such blind-alley activities confuses the minds of the workers by making them think that the social problem can be solved within capitalism and without Socialism.

Another grave objection to this Declaration is the intention of joining the Labour and Socialist International. That organisation is composed of parties (like the British Labour Party) which are utterly lacking in Socialist understanding and purpose. The International is in no real sense either Socialist or international. It tolerates the most shameful alliances with capitalist parties and governments, and its recent attitude of taking sides in the Chino-Japanese conflict shows that it is as lacking in an understanding of the logical Socialist attitude toward capitalist wars as it was when rabid nationalism overwhelmed it in 1914.

It is good to see that Indian workers are taking a serious interest in Socialism, but it will be regrettable if the proposed new party ignores the lessons to be learned from working-class history in Western Europe, Australia and elsewhere, and commits itself to a policy which will inevitably promote reformist at the expense of Socialist elements within it, and will prevent it from being a Socialist party except in name.
Edgar Hardcastle

Our Eleventh Conference (1915)

Editorial from the April 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 11th Annual Conference of the Socialist Party was held in circumstances unique in its history, the delegates meeting to review the work of a year in which the task of spreading Socialist knowledge has been greater, whilst the tendencies of the capitalist system of society have probably been made clearer, than ever before. It may be objected that the main tendencies of the capitalist mode of production and the present system of society have been quite well understood long before the outbreak of that system's latest horror. Let us explain, therefore, to whom those tendencies have been made clearer. It is to the apologists of modern civilisation, and to those who have been misled by those apologists.

The idealistic opponents of Socialism and the peace prophets who knew that no more great wars would be fought have had their lesson, which will serve also as a useful example for their colleagues who maintain that revolutions in society belong only to the past, and for those who would persuade themselves and others of capitalism's power to live for ever. In fact, had we less experience of our opponents, we might expect to hear from them in the future rather less about the stability and adaptability of the system of society that is responsible for— that demands as a condition of its continued and full development—the slaughter of its only useful units on the scale that has recently obtained. After all, there is a limit to human endurance, and the reaching of that limit by the working class is a powerful inducement to thought and action—those deadly enemies of working-class enslavement.

One of the most striking phenomena brought into prominence by the world-conflagration now raging is the utter confusion existing among the apologists of modern civilisation as to the cause of the war, its probable results, and economic phenomena in general. This confusion is of first-rate importance to the Socialist, and is brought out in greatest relief when compared with the clarity of vision and well- defined attitude of those workers who have understood the Socialist criticism of the existing régime. These latter are, admittedly, few, and the number of those who still follow the capitalist apologists many. But the confusion of these apologists grows always greater, and always the number of their working-class followers becomes smaller, with the increasingly difficult nature of the task before them—the defence of the existing order. And it is the every-day facts of proletarian existence that are responsible for that increased difficulty: the ever more hated, because ever greater, insecurity of employment, resulting from the introduction of more efficient machinery; the consequently tighter hold of the master class on the workers and greater strain on the latter in resisting their encroachments; and, last but not least in importance, the growing number of recorded failures of measures alleged by the dominant class and their "labour" hacks to have been aimed at the betterment of the conditions of working-class life.

The economic development, then, makes harder the task of those agencies which would support capitalism by attempting to show identity of interests between masters and workers, and by endeavouring to show an improvement in proletarian conditions of existence.

But the recognition on the part of the workers on the falsity of these claims; the increasing discontent at their own impoverishment and their master’s enrichment: these alone do not indicate a remedy ; do not not of themselves point out the path to freedom. More is necessary: a knowledge of the great generalisation that human society evolves, and that the existing social order will no more be the last than it was the first; the realisation that the proletariat is today the only class that fulfils a useful function in society; the recognition that the means of production have already reached a stage where their manipulation is capable of supplying fully the necessaries of life for every member of society ; and the understanding of the means by which the dominant class of to day maintains its ascendancy. The rise to power of the working class and the establishment of Socialism become possible only after the acquisition of this equipment, this knowledge of its own strength and of the prize to be won—to supply which equipment must be in large part the work of the Socialist Party.

And although, as stated, our Conference met this year in unique circumstances, to review the work carried on during a particularly difficult period, we are safe in recording that its determination to carry on that work is as firm as ever. This was shown by the enthusiasm of the delegates, their reports of our members activities in so many directions, and the sales of our literature, particularly the Socialist Standard,

The Making of History (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Contrary to what ill-informed writers on the history of socialist thought and activity invariably say about the Socialist Party being a small, unimportant sect, the history of our party is one of theoretical innovation and politically holiest dedication to the interests of our class
It has become common over the years for political writers and academics to characterise the Socialist Party as an exclusive Marxist club or a moribund sect, that is when they haven’t chosen to ignore us completely. Historian Walter Kendall in his work on the early revolutionary movement in Britain claimed that the SPGB has “retained its political virginity only at the expense of not reproducing anything at all”, and this comment is fairly typical.

That the Socialist Party is a living organism will be obvious to virtually anyone who has been a member of it— furthermore, we do not dogmatically make assertions against the evidence and have shown ourselves capable of making real contributions to the development of political and economic thought. Of course, the Socialist Party has not worked in a vacuum—our core ideas were bequeathed by the early anti-capitalist revolutionary movement, and, in particular, by Marx and Engels who developed a theory of social development and an economic analysis of capitalist society which forms the bedrock of the Socialist Party’s position even now. But this doesn’t mean that real developments have not been made or that the Socialist Party has been repeating an inflexible mantra ever since our formation.

Sometimes the Socialist Party has developed quite original and distinctive arguments in response to developments within capitalism—we were, for instance, possibly the first political party in the world to contend that the Russian dictatorship was “state capitalist” rather than socialist, a contention later taken up by many others. On other occasions the Socialist Party has developed new distinctive arguments in that we have effectively blended existing strands of political and economic thought into a completely new mix. This is most notably the case with our views on the “reform or revolution” question where two seemingly incompatible theories were entwined into a unique new political position.

There are a number of distinctive arguments the Socialist Party has developed since 1904 and while socialism has not yet been achieved, we have helped make some serious contributions to the development of socialist political and economic theory — weapons for battles now being fought and still to come. Here are eight of our most significant contributions:

•  The Socialist Party helped solve the “reform or revolution” dilemma which had plagued the early labour movement by rejecting reformism but not democratic political action to capture state power, two views which had previously been associated with one another. An early forerunner of the Socialist Party, the Socialist League of William Morris, Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx, had been taken over by anarchists in the 1880’s largely because it combined it opposition to reformism with anti-parliamentarianism, specifically a tendency to view elections as a bourgeois diversion and parliament as merely the “talking-shop” of the capitalist class. The founders of the Socialist Party learned from the mistakes of the Socialist League and other groups, and contended that opposition to elections and Parliament did not logically follow on from opposing reformism. For a socialist revolution to be as peaceful as possible, the state machine and armed forces would have to be democratically captured from the control of the capitalist class and converted from being “an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation”. This would also mean that the capitalists’ appeals to democratic legitimacy would be thwarted by the majoritarian political action of the socialist movement.

•  The Socialist Party resolved that modern wars are fought over issues of concern to the owning class and not the workers; specifically being disputes over spheres of influence, trade routes, sources of raw materials and sometimes markets. When war broke out in 1914 the Socialist Party was the only political organisation in Britain to unequivocally oppose the conflict. Other parties purporting to uphold the interests of the working class took sides, having identified anti-militarism, “national liberation” and other causes as goals worth pursuing before socialism.

•  In the nineteenth century socialists like Marx and Engels supported so-called “progressive” wars against feudal reaction at a time when capitalism had not yet become the dominant world system. They thought that sweeping away feudal restrictions and the power of reactionary regimes like Tsarist Russia would help pave the way for socialist organisation and eventually revolution. Their position in the period of capitalist ascendancy over feudalism was taken by some supporters of war in 1914 as justification for their own actions. The Socialist Party maintained that, whatever Marx and Engels’s views in the nineteenth century, there could be no question of socialists taking sides with any section of the capitalist class once capitalism had become the dominant world system and socialism the pressing alternative to it. When capitalism has advanced far enough to create the material conditions for socialism the capitalist class becomes socially useless and all nation states reactionary, needing to be swept aside and not bolstered.

•  Unlike most of the “left-wing”, the Socialist Party opposed the establishment of the dictatorship in Russia under the guise of “workers’ control” or “socialism”. The Socialist Party argued that Russia under Bolshevik rule would be forced to take the capitalist road as the only one open to it. Socialism in one country (an economically backward one at that) and without popular majority support, was impossible. The Bolshevik “Revolution” was in fact more of a political coup d’etat by a self-appointed elite of political conspirators with no respect for the wishes of the majority. For decades the Socialist Party has maintained in distinction to Bolshevism that minority action can never lead to socialism or anything like it.

Socialists have affirmed that Soviet Russia was capitalist and could only have been so given the nature of its political birth. It exhibited all the principal features of the capitalist mode of production in one form or another, notably wage labour, capital accumulation, commodity production, class division and exploitation of one class by another.
 
•   In the 1920’s and 30’s the Communist Party and Independent Labour Party (ILP) argued that capitalism was going to collapse, with socialism arising phoenix-like from the ashes. The Socialist Party contended that this was nonsense and that capitalism would not pave the way for socialism without majority political action. This contention was repeated in the years after the Second World War to Trotskyists and Left Communists who took up afresh the mantle of “capitalist collapse”. In particular, the Socialist Party denied the claim that capitalism would collapse because of an in-built lack of purchasing power, with the workers and capitalists combined unable to buy back the entire product of industry. This claim was based on an entirely fallacious view of the relationship between productive labour and effective demand in capitalism — that somehow there is a permanent mismatch between the value of the mass of commodities produced at any one time and the income derived from this production in the form of surplus value (unpaid labour) and the value of workers’ labour power (paid labour). This “deficiency of purchasing power” claim, sometimes called “underconsumptionism” and wrongly credited to Marx, is a myth and has been disproved both on a theoretical level and by history. The Socialist Party has argued that enough purchasing power exists in capitalism—it is how it is used which causes difficulties, as its relationship to production is not planned. This is the phenomenon which gives rise to periodic (not permanent) crises and slumps and the trade cycle which has been a characteristic of capitalism since its infancy.

•  The Socialist Party, in response to the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, resolved that bourgeois democracy, with elementary political rights, is the most favourable condition for the overthrow of capitalism. In addition, we maintained that workers living under dictatorships should struggle to establish basic political rights, though without ever giving support to capitalist organisations, including those professing bourgeois democracy as their aim. This is not only because of the general reformist and anti-socialist nature of such organisations, but because these organisations in government are compelled to use the might of the state machine against the working class in the interests of capital.

For similar reasons, the Socialist Party resolved that socialists cannot support allegedly “democratic” countries fighting wars against dictatorships. In addition, socialists are aware that wars are never fought over such lofty ideals and that history has proved that “democratic” states will prop up and assist dictatorships if it is in their interests to do so. The Socialist Party position was vindicated after the Second World War when the Allies carved up Europe in such a way as to hand half of it to the wretched Stalinist dictatorship while leaving Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal, among others, to persist as neo-fascist regimes.

•  The Socialist Party argued that the setting-up of the “welfare state” in Britain and other countries after the war would not solve the problems of the working class, which are integral to capitalism. To the extent that the welfare state represented a gain for some workers on the previous arrangements, we noted that it was always dependent on the maintenance of a low level of unemployment and destitution—a situation capitalism is incapable of sustaining for long. In recent decades unemployment, the rise of the so-called “underclass” and demographic change have undermined welfare provision as it came to be  built up.

Over time the burdens on the welfare state have increased just as the capitalist class finds it increasingly difficult to finance it through taxation of profits. These increased burdens have led to a squeeze on the rate of profit after tax—the bottom line for the capitalists—which is the main factor determining the pace of future investment and growth, and also whether firms or entire nation states sink or swim in the competitive world economy.

•  In distinction to the main political parties, the Socialist Party was never taken in by the claims of Keynesian economics, which promised low unemployment, steady growth and stable prices for the post-war period on the basis of government borrowing, “easy money” and redistributive taxation, especially when slump threatened. Unlike most of capitalism’s economists, socialists argued that Keynesian policies could not prevent unemployment and crises as the major determinants of these—production for profit, the anarchy of production and capitalism’s antagonistic system of income distribution, are integral features of the market economy.

Sure enough, everywhere Keynesianism was attempted it proved disastrous and eventually provoked the return to “laissez-faire” economics in the 1980s Its lasting legacy—still with most of the capitalist world—has been persistently rising prices. This has been brought about by the mistaken belief—exposed by the Socialist Party from the standpoint ofMarxian economics—that an excess issue of inconvertible paper currency would act as a stimulus to production and trade.

•  In Anti-Duhring Friedrich Engels had written of production in socialism being guided “on the basis of one single vast plan”, but given the complexity of modem society, this is not possible. The Socialist Party realised that socialism could not be built on the basis of a centralised allocative plan which would be, by definition, antithetical to local decision-making, and which would be unresponsive to changing needs. Instead the Socialist Party suggested that socialism would operate a system of production for use operating in direct response to needs, these needs arising in local communities. The operational basis for this system would be calculation in kind (e.g. tonnes, kilos, litres, etc.) instead of monetary calculation, combined with the responsive system of stock-control outlined in our pamphlet Socialism As A Practical AItentative. Such a system would be able to allocate resources much more efficiently, responsively and democratically than a pre-determined allocative plan which has proved next to useless for state capitalist regimes and is no model for a real social democracy.

That the Socialist Party is no sterile, unthinking organisation full of dogmatists should now be clear. Socialists are not content to sit on the sidelines of history—we are original thinkers and are open to innovation and new ideas—providing, that is, that they are sound. We are willing and able to co-operate with men and women the world over to bring about a better society, and we are proud of the small contribution we have already made to the movement that will sweep away capitalism once and for all. Our message to those who can see no future so long as the market economy remains is join us— and help make history.
Dave Perrin

The Truth About the Popular Front (1936)

Editorial from the September 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amidst the heated argument for and against the formation of a "Popular Front" of Liberals, Labour Party and Communists in Great Britain, one very significant aspect has been entirely overlooked. Having their eyes fixed on the question which appears to them to be so important at the moment, the advocates of uniting the parties on a strictly limited programme of popular demands have not noticed that their action is a tardy admission of a fundamental mistake made by the British and Continental workers 30 or 40 years ago. At that date, more especially in Great Britain, the workers were faced with two great capitalist parties, the Tories and the Liberals. Because the latter represented very largely the interests of industrial capitalists, they had stood traditionally for democratic government against the earlier undemocratic rule of landed property and the small number of ruling class families. With the extension of the franchise to the workers, both Liberals and Tories had to busy themselves with questions of social reform. Nevertheless it was the Liberals who were associated, more or less justifiably, with the two ideas of democracy and social reform, and for many years before (and even after) the formation of the I.L.P. and Labour Party the notion persisted that the workers must look to Liberal governments for the defence of democracy and the extension of reform legislation. Mr. Lloyd George’s campaigns for political and social reforms in the years before the War were a case in point.

Needless to say, the results were disappointing for the workers. Capitalism cannot be made to work satisfactorily from the point of view of the exploited class. It was therefore inevitable that more and more workers should turn their attention to other methods of securing working class emancipation or at least relief from the worst evils of capitalism. It was here that a disastrous mistake was made. What was the need of the times? Two answers were given to that question. The Labour leaders said, “ Form a new party of democracy and social reform," which meant in effect forming a new Liberal Party. The S.P.G.B. pointed this out and warned against it. We said—and who will dispute it now?—that unless the new party was to be a Socialist party, composed of Socialists and fighting for Socialism, the workers might just as well go on as they were. Why spend a lifetime breaking up one Liberal Party only to form another ?

Events have proved us right, but they have done something more. Without realising it, the advocates of the Popular Front are trying to undo their own handiwork. They are trying to reconstitute a great mass party, able to win a majority at an election, and based on the two pillars of democracy and social reform! They are trying to reconstitute the great Liberal Party which they smashed to form the Labour Party.

Their argument is a plausible one. “Things are bad for the workers economically," they say, “and democracy is in great peril. Let us then unite to save the latter and introduce social reforms to relieve the former." But who put democracy in danger? In recent years it has been the Communists above all others, yet they are now most vociferous in demanding a United Front to save it. It was the Russian Communists who set the modern fashion of seizing power and installing a dictatorship. It is undisputed that Mussolini, and after him Hitler, learned much from Lenin in the technique of seizing power and holding it by force, supported by mass propaganda and political suppression.

It was the Communists who, year in and year out, derided democratic Government, poured scorn on Parliament and the whole parliamentary system, preached Minority revolt and civil war, and in every way idealised the method of violence. Everywhere that their propaganda penetrated they left a trail of hostility to parliamentary methods and a liking for the pseudo-progressive system of armed force and dictatorship.

Let there be no mistake about this. When Mr. Gallacher, for the Communist Party, writes, as he did in Forward (25th July, 1936), that the Communists did not mean “military violence or military revolutionary action," Mr. Gallacher is a liar. The original basis of the Communist International (the “Twenty-one Points") prescribed an “armed struggle," and “heavy civil war" was the favourite catchword. But we have more recent evidence from Communists, indeed from Mr. Gallacher himself. At the 1929 Conference of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mr. Harry Pollitt made a speech in which he explained to his fellow Communists that “only through armed insurrection can the workers gain power” (see report in Manchester Guardian, December 2nd, 1929). At the same conference, Mr. Gallacher, who now pretends that armed revolt was not intended, said this: —
   They had talked of a Revolutionary Workers’ Government, but did they realise what was implied? Would the organisation of the workers for the revolutionary Government be a legal one? The task of fighting for a revolutionary Government would be a task of bringing the workers out on to the streets against the armed forces of capitalism.”—(Worker's Life, December 6th, 1929.)
While the Communists are explaining away the above proclamations of their intention to stage armed revolt, let them also try to justify, if they can, their complete somersault with regard to association with the Liberal and Labour parties. Mr. Gallacher now declares his willingness to work with the Liberals. Only a year ago, at the 7th World Congress of the Communist International, when G. Dimitrov presented a report on “The Working Class against Fascism,” that report specifically mentions the need, while supporting the Labour Party, to oppose Lloyd George, the Liberal leader. (Report published by Communist Party of Great Britain, p. 36.) Even more amazing, however, is the change of front towards the Labour Party and Labour Government. At the 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain, held in November, 1932, a report was considered called “The Crisis Policy of the Labour Party, the T.U.C., etc.” In this interesting declaration of Communist policy we read that the policy of the Labour Government in 1929-1931 was not only “capitalist” but also “Fascist,” and that “the Labour Party took decisive steps towards strengthening the dictatorship of the capitalists during the Labour Government.” Also that, while opposing the means test in words, the Labour Party “supported the attacks of the National Government upon the unemployed.”

Then we are told that “parliamentary democracy” is a “sham” which the Communists must expose, and that: —
   Any party which accepts parliamentary democracy, however revolutionary its phrases, is an instrument of the capitalists.
Lastly, the Report tells us: —
   It is unmistakably clear that a third Labour Government is not a “Lesser Evil” than a National Government, or a Tory Government, or a coalition between Labour and capitalist parties.
We are not here concerned with the accuracy of the statements then made by the Communist Party—many of them are absurdly inaccurate—but only with the fact that the Party which held these views now pretends to be enthusiastic for Labour Government, democracy, parliamentary methods, etc. They want now to save us from Fascism, and tell us to do it by supporting the Party whose policy when in office was a “Fascist policy.” They want to save democracy and fight dictatorship (yet their masters created and glorified dictatorship in Russia), and their method is to have another Labour Government, although they say that the last Labour Government helped to strengthen “the dictatorship of the capitalists.” They want to save democracy, although as recently as 1932 they declared it to be a sham.

In short, the Communists are what they have always been, fickle, unscrupulous, superficial in their judgment of working class questions and an unmixed danger to the interests of the working class and the Socialist movement. True they do not belong to the conception of a reconstituted Liberal Party (whether called Liberal, Labour or Popular Front) which could gain a majority on a programme of democracy and social reform. But neither do they belong to the conception of a Socialist Party, for democracy is essential to the progress of the Socialist movement. They are unwittingly an instrument of reaction, unable to assist in saving democracy in the present, and equally unable to use democracy for the promotion of the Socialist movement.

The Importance of Marxism—(continued) (1940)

From the June 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard


The school of Political Economy that directly preceded Marx is that of Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ricardo (1772-1823).

Both exponents expressed the interests of the rising English industrialists, and as such were apostles of free trade. Marx has called all the economists I have mentioned “Classical Economists” (in contradistinction to many of his superficial and apologetic contemporaries, whom he has dubbed “Vulgar Economists”) because they really endeavoured to analyse the mechanism of capitalist society. All of them were, however, essentially bourgeois, and regarded capitalist society as an eternal order of things.

Adam Smith, in his “Wealth of Nations” (1770), correctly distinguishes between “value in use” and "value in exchange.” He points out that the things which are most useful (water, air, etc.) generally command little or nothing in exchange. Smith claimed that the “natural price” of an article (what we have called “average price”) is the centre of gravity around which the market price fluctuates. This "natural price” is governed by the labour taken to produce a commodity.

He, too, was inconsistent in his views, for he often confused the price of an article with the price of labour (labour-power) and sometimes imagined that prices were regulated by wages, profit and rent.

In his “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” (1821), David Ricardo established the proposition that the value of a commodity is regulated by the quantity of labour necessary for its production. Ricardo, however, failed to solve the problem of surplus value because he did not see that what the worker sells to the capitalist is his labour power—not his labour. Moreover, Ricardo did not clearly differentiate between surplus-value and profit. 

Incidentally, whilst on Ricardo, it is interesting to notice what he thought of a contemporary “Vulgar Economist,” Thomas Malthus.

We have already alluded to “Vulgar Political Economy” as a school of thought which rehashed current views that were favourable to the capitalists and, instead of attempting to analyse, accepted appearances.

In this connection, Malthus’s economic views are even popularised to-day. His notions on population based on these views finds an echo in Nazi Germany, where Hitler proclaims his need for more “Lebensraum ” (living space).

In a letter to McCullough, dated May 2nd, 1820, Ricardo writes: —
  I have read his book—at present I feel a real difficulty for I confess I do not clearly perceive what Mr. Malthus’s system is.
And in a further letter, dated August 2nd, 1820: —
   Since I have been here I have been .giving a second reading to Mr. Malthus’s book. I am even less satisfied than I was at first. There is hardly a page which does not contain some fallacy.
The Ricardian Socialists
Ricardo’s formulation of the labour theory of value, including his classification of society into three classes (landlords, capitalists, workers), provided the groundwork for Utopian Socialism. The premises of the latter was: As labour is the source of all value, then to labour should all values rightly go.

This commendable proposition from a moral standpoint must not, however, be confused with Marxism. Scientific Socialism is most certainly based on the labour theory of value (we shall explain this in greater detail later) but not on moral implications which can be deduced from that theory. Notwithstanding the ethical basis of their Socialist teaching, the writings of the Utopians are full of illuminating points, which reveal to a remarkable extent the characteristics of the capitalist economic order. It is timely to revive the memory of those outstanding thinkers, who, in the early part of the nineteenth century, exercised a profound influence on the mental development of the founders of Scientific Socialism—particularly now, when most of their works are practically unobtainable.

The Basic Fallacy Underlying Utopian Socialism
Whether we take Robert Owen, Thompson, Hodgskin, Bray or Rodbertus, we shall find underlying each of their writings a basic economic fallacy. This fallacy is associated with the view that what the worker sells to the capitalist is in reality his labour—instead of, as we know to be the case, his labour-power.

The Utopians contended that the worker is robbed in the process of exchange, inasmuch as the capitalist buys his labour but does not pay for it at its full value. Let us illustrate their contention by giving an example: —

A tailor, shall we say, has worked fifty hours for his employer, during which period he has produced suits to the monetary value of £10 (we assume that the raw material, etc., have also been made by him). The value of his labour, i.e., his product, is therefore, expressed in terms of money, equal to £10. In this case the Utopians would have reasoned, quite wrongly, “The tailor has sold ten pounds worth of goods to his employer (his labour). The latter, however, because he owns the means of production, takes advantage of his position and pays the tailor, say, only £5 for the goods—thus perpetrating a fraud in exchange.”

This reasoning led the Utopians to the view that it was necessary, in order to abolish the possibility of fraudulent exchanges, to make the workers possessors of their own means of life. It was essential, they held, to establish communist settlements, in which every worker who laboured for a definite period would be entitled to exchange the goods he had produced for other articles embodying an equivalent amount of labour. Only in such communist settlements, they maintained, would the fraudulent transaction of an exchange of more labour for less labour, practised under capitalism, no longer be possible.

It would take us too far afield to dwell on the intricacies of their communist Utopias, many of which were tried and failed. Suffice it to point out that the Socialism of the Utopians lacked scientific content for the following three reasons: —
(1) Because of the undeveloped conditions of capitalism in which the ideas arose.
(2) Because the Utopians were under the illusion that Socialist society had always awaited discovery and did not grow out of particular circumstances.
(3) Because of the Utopians’ misunderstanding of the way in which the workers are robbed and, consequently, their inability to grasp the mechanism of capitalist production.
Moreover, when all these factors have been taken into consideration, Utopian Socialism still remains valuable for its brilliant critique of bourgeois society. Let us now examine this critique.

ROBERT OWEN (1771-1858) is generally classified as the founder of English Utopian Socialism. Owen was originally a factory owner and actually arrived at his Socialist conclusions as a result of studying the conditions in his own works. His advocacy of Socialism and his struggles to improve the conditions of life for the masses resulted in his becoming outlawed by supporters of capitalist society. Owen’s life and work have, however, been so ably treated by Engels in “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” that we cannot do better than refer the reader to that excellent pamphlet. In this review we shall deal in detail mainly with Owen’s disciples.

WILLIAM THOMPSON (1785-1833) was a native of the county of Cork. He was a friend of Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, and to a considerable extent under the influence of the latter’s radical teachings. Thompson's principal work is an “Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most conducive to Human Happiness (1824),” a book that runs into some six hundred pages. The essential theme of this work is that rent, profit, etc., are wealth forcibly and unjustly appropriated by the capitalists from the workers. But let Thompson himself speak: —
  "But as long as the labourer stands in society divested of everything but the mere power of producing, as long as he possesses neither the tools nor machinery to work with, the land or materials to work upon, the house and clothes that shelter him—as long as any institutions or expedients exist by the open or unseen operation of which he stands dependant, day by day, for his very life on those who have accumulated these necessary means of his exertions; so long will he remain deprived of almost all the products of his labour, instead of having the use of all of them/' (Page 590. Longman, Hurst Ed.)
And how are going to alter this state of affairs ?
   “In the usual course of things then the productive labourer is deprived of at least half the products of his labour by the capitalist. . . .  No doubt if the productive labourers acquired knowledge, and could trace the immense abstractions made under the name of profits from the products of their labour, they must see the injustice of such an arrangement and endeavour to become themselves possessed of all the articles under the name of capital or of the means of commanding the use of such articles necessary to make their labour productive. . . .  As long as two hostile masses of interests are suffered to exist in society, the owners of labour on the one side and the owners of the means of labouring on the other, as long as this unnatural distribution is forcibly maintained—for without force wielded by ignorance it could not be maintained—so long will perhaps as much as nine-tenths of obtainable human production never be brought into existence, and so long will ninety-nine hundred parts of attainable human happiness be sacrificed."(Pages 160-175.) 
Remember that the above was written over a century ago!

And shall we appeal to the capitalists to introduce Socialism?
   "The excessively rich as a class, like all other classes in every community, must obey the influence of the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed, must acquire the inclinations and characters, good or bad, springing out of the state of things surrounding them from their birth. Having always possessed wealth without labour they look upon it as their right and their family’s right always to possess it on the same terms.” (Page 211.)
In concluding this review of economic theory before Marx, mention must be made of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), who accepted the labour theory of value but attempted to compromise between Vulgar Economy and Utopian Socialism.

The Utopian Socialists, notwithstanding their shortcomings, were men of outstanding intellect and clarity of vision. But as Utopian Socialism is itself a detailed subject we must reserve a discussion on it for our next article.
Solomon Goldstein

Robens admits it again (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lord Robens, the chairman of the National Coal Board, has again stated that the nationalised coal industry is run on state capitalist lines. He told the annual conference of the National Union of Mineworkers in Douglas on 9 July:
  In 1961 the Tory Government produced the White Paper called "Financial and Economic Obligations of Nationalised Industries". With this, the old Morrisonian concept of the socialist philosophy of public ownership gave way to State Capitalism; which even the return of a Socialist Government did not change.
The last Labour government (which Lord Robens as a member of the Labour Party supported) was not socialist. Nor were the nationalised industries run on socialist lines up until 1961. Herbert Morrison’s philosophy was merely that these industries should subsidise the private sector rather than try to make profits themselves. Oddly enough Morrison once himself denounced one public corporation, the Port of London Authority as a form of capitalism (Daily Herald, 30 July, 1923)

One World (1970)

Book Review from the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Buckminster Fuller Reader. Edited by James Meller. (Jonathan Cape. 48s.)

Socialists devised the slogan 'One World" as a concise description of the society we are striving for. Socialism means that the whole world will operate as a single productive system where goods and services will be produced so that people can use them freely without resorting to buying and selling. It also means that the people of the world will be united on the only solid basis for achieving this end—by the resources of the world (the means of producing wealth) being owned in common and democratically controlled by mankind as a whole. "One World”, then, represents an entirely different vision of the future to such schemes as the “United Nations" or "Internationalism” which, as their names imply, are attempts to improvise a patchwork from the fragments which capitalism makes of the world.

The American scientist Buckminster Fuller, whose work over more than forty years has brought him recognition as an architect and industrial designer, is not a socialist. But his understanding of what industrialisation has done to the world, and the potential abundance it gives rise to, has led him to a number of conclusions which are similar to ours. Since the problems which face mankind are "whole- world problems", since culturally and scientifically we are all enrolled in a "One World University”, given the "world-girdling air transport and communication services”, what we are rapidly being confronted by is a “constantly shrinking ‘one-town world’."
   Any who have looked at the jet plane schedules know that they can fly to the furthermost points around the earth from where they start in less than twenty hours, so that within the day they can reach the furthermost point of the earth. Projecting for only five years, you find the speed is such that you will be able to leave your home any morning, go to any part of the earth to do your day’s work, and come home for dinner. And if our definition of a town is a place where you work and sleep, then in five years from today we can have a one-town world. What has been a theoretical and idealistic concept will be stark reality.
Because of industrialisation, “wealth is now without practical limit.” Traditional ways of thinking of consumption (‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’) are completely outdated. "You can now have your cake and eat it. The more you eat. the more and the better the quality of the cakes to be had by further production.” “It is complexly clear that ail men now may be successful in living in a progressively satisfactory enjoyment of total earth”. At last we have the ability to "make man a success on earth” and the sequelae of a step like this do not escape Professor Fuller. “If this is successfully done, the Malthusian and Darwinian frustrations will be completely irrelevant. There will be enough to go around, and the politicians will have no mandate to build weapons.” “There is a dawning awareness that I am saying something realistic when I say ‘Reform the environment, don’t try to reform man’.”

The trouble with Buckminster Fuller and other brilliant men like him is that while their scientific training and technological expertise make it clear to them that “we will soon have to design the overall industrial network for making the world work for all humanity”, politically they have never climbed out of their cradles. True. Professor Fuller dismisses what he calls "gold capitalism” (“as obsolete as the stone hammer") and even his rejection of socialism is fair enough (“Socialism was one of yesterday’s ways of dealing with inadequate wealth”)—because by 'socialism’ he simply means either a state capitalist system or government intervention in the American economy. What he doesn’t call into question, however, is capitalism’s motive force—the production of goods for sale on the world markets in order to realise a profit. As long as this is the priority which production is he is dedicated to proving to be technically feasible is bound to remain a dead letter.

The Buckminster Fuller Reader is a useful anthology of his speeches and writings over the last forty-odd years and is only marred by the fact that it is unreadable Professor Fuller’s prose has to be seen to be believed. Sample sentence — "Environment embraces a complex of non-simultaneously occurring but omni-integrating, or inter-stimulating and therefore inter-regenerating mutations of man’s integral, internal, metabolic regeneration organisms on the one hand, and on the other of his external, invention realised metabolic regeneration organism which we think and speak of as industrialisation.” If that whets your appetite there is a copy in the Socialist Party’s library.
John Crump

Problem Solved? (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

"A crime against humanity" is how The Ecologist in 1991 (May/June) described the depletion of the ozone layer, caused by chemicals (most notably CFCs) used in the production of fridges, air conditioning systems and solvents. Yet with the arrival of CFC-free aerosols on British supermarket shelves the problem is now widely thought of as solved. This view, aside from its willingness to forgive capitalism for over thirty years of avoidable ozone depletion, is complacent. A global solution to the problem is far from secure.

In 1992 in Copenhagen an agreement was reached by 37 nations and the EU to speed up the phasing-out of four major ozone depleting chemicals. CFCs would be banned in these counties from 1 January this year. Yet many developing countries did not sign and had only agreed to a phasing-out of CFCs by 2010. Global CFC emissions still totalled 360,000 tonnes in 1995. This was a significant reduction from the 1 million tonnes m 1985, but still represented an important problem. Meanwhile, some CFC producers, for example in Russia and China, were prepared to by-pass international law, as CFC smuggling started.

The HCFCs now being widely used as replacements for CFCs are also ozone depleters, albeit less intense and with a shorter atmospheric lifetime than CFCs. HCFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases. A report from the United Nations Environment Programme advised that HCFCs are "best reserved for applications where there is no other technically feasible substitute" (The Science of Ozone Depletion, Friends of the Earth. June 1991).

There are useable alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs. Ozone-friendly hydrocarbons are now widely used in European-made refrigerators and air conditioners. Mixtures of soap,water and other harmless chemicals can replace CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances in cleaning solvents. ICI and Du Pont, the world’s main producers of CFCs and now of HCFCs, have attempted to discredit these ozone-friendly alternatives over the past twenty years but they are now widely agreed to be viable (Back to the Future—CFC Alternatives, Greenpeace International, December 1994).

Du Pont and ICI, like any company, need to get a return on their investments. But, as The Ecologist pointed out in 1991, an immediate introduction of ozone-friendly substitutes would have caused DuPont and ICI to "lose the huge profits they hope to make from patents and licencing fees on HFCs and HCFCs". This was why, according to Environment magazine (July/August 1993), these multi-national corporations argued the need for a slower phase out of HCFCs "so that businesses would be able to recoup their research, development and capital investments”.

The Copenhagen agreement was committed to reducing HCFC emissions by 99.5 percent by 2020 — this slow phase-out suited the producers of HCFCs, especially the US who use HCFCs to produce most of the world s air cooling systems. Meanwhile, developing countries are free to increase their use of HCFCs until 2016 when, according to the Vienna Convention, they will freeze their HCFC use at 2015 levels. The Treaty’s technology assessment panel had wanted a freeze from 2006 to discourage industrial nations from dumping obsolete equipment that use HCFCs in poorer countries. The New Scientist pointed out that this concession could result in a massive increase in the use of (HCFCs) over the next few years before a ban comes into force so as to maximize the 2015 limit" (December 16 1995).

Achieving even this target will be no easy matter. The commitment of developing countries such as India and China depends upon whether developed countries pay for them to introduce ozone-safe technology. This could lead to further problems because there is no agreement on how much money would be sufficient. It remains to be seen whether developed countries honour their pledges of funds. There is certainly room for doubt — only 85 per cent of their pledges to help phase out CFCs have been met so far.

The international response to the ozone problem is seen by many as a success. This assessment tells us more about how little real global co-operation we can expect under capitalism, where belated, partial solutions are all that, at most, ever emerge.
Dan Greenwood

Running Commentary: Peace in our time (1982)

The Running Commentary column from the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peace in our time
Violence, mayhem and murder are essential features of today’s social structure. Yet, we are frequently encouraged to believe that we live in a generally peaceful society which is only spoilt from time to time by erratic outbursts of barbarity. So, while the number of people who perish from starvation is equivalent to one Hiroshima every three days, the picture of the world we receive from, for instance, the newspapers is one in which things are all right except for a “Policeman Killed in Bolton’’ or “Street Disorders in Toxteth”.

By the same token, the propaganda of a groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is deceptive because it tries to concentrate anxiety and horror of violence solely against particular instruments of violence rather than the reasons for organised violence being used. Even without Pershing missiles, the SS 20’s, Trident and Polaris, society organised on the basis of private property would still be torn with aggression.

Last month the number of people around the world who were involved in wars of the old-fashioned death-producing kind came to about 701,600,000. (Sunday Times, 21/3/82.) This figure represents about one person in six across the face of the globe and embraces forces not all that short of those taking part in the Second World War.

But we are assured by smiling politicians, priests and teachers that we are now enjoying “peacetime”. The figure of over 700 million who are involved in wars is most probably an underestimate, as the Foreign Editor of the Sunday Times observed, ". . . when the battleground is effectively sealed off, as in East Timor, there is always a risk of losing a few tens of thousands through unreported genocide”.

Across the world people are taking part in organised brutality: in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Philippines, Angola, Iraq and Iran, the Spanish Sahara, Kampuchea and Chad. And now, spokesmen for British capitalism like John Nott and Michael Foot (who one Tory MP described as truly “speaking for England” in a recent parliamentary debate on the crisis of the Falkland Islands) are busy stirring up nationalistic sentiments in preparation for the possibility of members of the working class in Britain being ordered to go and murder our counterparts from the Argentine.

For the havoc of war to continue, a majority of people must remain gullible to the fallacious ideas that we are naturally aggressive and that we better our condition by fighting the battles of our rulers. Socialists reject these fallacious beliefs and organise for a society of human cooperation.


A place of his own
Good news for the homeless is that there is a desirable property down in Kent going for a bargain price. It would suit the larger family, whose children are doing fine arts or history at school. Plenty of space for outdoor activities and for leisure time socialising. Sounds good.

Hever Castle, in the lush countryside around Edenbridge, includes 3,145 acres of farms, houses, a pub and woodlands. The Castle itself has an abundance of priceless works of art and historical knick-knacks like a Milanese suit of armour made for Henry II of France, worth about £600,000.

The owner of this lot, Lord Astor of Hever, shrinks from the prospect of developing the “commercial” side of the estate in order to remain solvent. Since 1963 he has graciously allowed workers to pay to shuffle round and admire bits of the estate, which was anyway built from their exploitation. Farther than that he was not prepared to go.

Aristocrats are, after all, supposed to be above such sordid worldly preoccupations as making money. “Here 64 years ago I learned to walk. Here too I learned my ABC. Here too are buried my father and mother” lamented Astor to the reporters who hurried down to Hever when the plans for the sale were leaked to the press.

But the Lord is in even worse plight. When Hever is sold he must take refuge at his other home in Scotland. With over 14,000 acres this is even bigger than Hever but the house has dry rot and in April it was still snowing there.

Workers who are thinking about making a mortgage application to buy Hever had better check on the price. So had those who feel sorry for the homeless Lord Astor. Including the contents, the place is likely to go for about £14 million. And that’s a bargain price. The estate agents have not evaluated the misery and stress of the exploitation which went into every square inch of it.


Cleric’s tale
Who noticed that Billy Graham—who prefers to be known as Doctor Billy—has recently been over here on another crusade to convert us all to religion? Gone are the days of overkill publicity and mass hysteria in his meetings. Now our Billy is just another god-banger trying to smooth over the inconsistencies in his propaganda.

Interviewed on the Radio 4 programme Sunday a couple of days before the start of this latest campaign, Graham tried sweatily to unhitch himself from the “Moral Majority” movement, saying that it is not a religious organisation but a political one. He also said that “Moral Majority” accepts people who are not necessarily Christians—some Jews, even atheists.

Well most of the spokesmen for “Moral Majority” claim to be Christians—Born Again Christians, no less—and in 1980 were strong supporters of Ronald Reagan (who also thinks he’s born again, which must be nice for everyone). Perhaps this association with an increasingly unpopular president is what Graham is really trying to separate himself from.

Graham gloomily forecast a nuclear catastrophe in as little as five years, unless the nations of capitalism (which is not how he put it) lay down their nuclear weapons. During his thirty-odd years as an evangelist nuclear weapons have increased vastly in number and power of destruction. Yet Graham has been silent on the matter, except to hint that American nuclear weapons were not too bad because they kept at bay the evils of “communism”—by which he means the Russian bloc of capitalist powers. Has born-again-Billy had a change of heart, then? We’ve got five years to find out.

On the same day that Graham was being interviewed, another—but rather different—cleric was having his say on television. Don Cupitt, author of Taking Leave of God, is no pulpit-pounding believer in the divinity of Christ, the infallibility of the bible or of life after death. That doesn’t leave much for him to believe in; Cupitt manages it by accepting most of the advances of scientific knowledge into areas formerly explained in religious terms and then re-organising his faith to fit in with what’s left. And that amounts to little more than an indwelling concept of god and a selection of quotes attributed to Jesus as “a guide for living”.

Clearly, Cupitt and Graham have a theological difference, which shows up as a choice between stubbornly holding fast to discredited ideas—and so becoming even more alienated from people at the intellectual sharp end of capitalist society—or of altering basic religious concepts to the point at which they virtually disappear. And that shows up that religion, whether of the conservative-born-again, or the swinging age of technology, variety is a denial of reality and a hindrance to anyone concerned with building a better world out of that reality.