Monday, July 23, 2018

Branch News (1962)

Party News from the November 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Central Literature Sales Committee report that they attended the Labour Party Conference at Brighton to sell literature and hold meetings. Members living in Brighton assisted on occasions. Labour Party delegates were inundated with all sort of giveaway literature; this made our task more more difficult. However, Socialist Standards and Pamphlets were sold to the value of £3 14s 6d. and our Labour Government pamphlets were freely distributed at a CND demonstration, several evening meetings organised by our members, and at a large meeting run by Tribune. At the latter our literature was prominently in evidence. Our members found this type of activity stimulating and a way to contact comrades who are not directly in touch with a branch. It was decided at a special meeting to re-constitute the Brighton Group with a view to form a Branch in the near future.

Propaganda arrangements for the winter season are well under way—full details are given in this issue of November activities. Support from members and sympathisers is essential for the success of these meetings.

Glasgow Branch in particular have a very full programme, with meetings in Hamilton and Edinburgh as well as Glasgow. These meetings will greatly assist in the election activities which will shortly be in full swing.

A report from Comrade Gloss, Companion Party Secretary of the World Socialist Party of the U.S.A. states that the keynote of their Conference (held in September), was the unity of the world Socialist Movement. One of the first decisions gave the eight delegates of the Socialist Party of Canada  "full voice and vote in all Conference matters ”. From many parts of the world came inspiring messages, written and recorded. Voices from New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and England, and a greatly appreciated message from Comrade Frank in Austria, accompanied by his pamphlet—the first in Austria—outlining our Principles. They were gratified that the six leaflets written by Comrade Milne of the Socialist Party of Canada had been published in pamphlet form by the SPGB.

The highlight of the Conference was the appointment of Don Poirier of the SPC to tour the U.S. and Canada to help the spread of Socialist ideas and organisation. About $1,500 in pledges were made ($285 in cash collected) at the Conference for this venture. At a social, after the formal sessions, $200 was donated to finance a tour of the Vancouver-Victoria area by George Jenkins (SPC). 

The Conference helped to get the outdoor meetings of the WSP going again on Boston Common (the building of an underground garage had made these meetings impossible for more than two years, they had been replaced by formal discussions on another part of the Common). Excellent meetings were held on the Sundays, prior, during and after the Conference.

The enthusiasm and comradeship at the Conference made the occasion one of the most fruitful in the history of the Party.
Phyllis Howard

Letters to the Editors: A Sympathiser Writes . . . (1982)

Letters to the Editors from the March 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Sympathiser Writes . . .
Dear Editors.

I have been a regular reader of the Socialist Standard now for about two years. I have also read your books and pamphlets on various subjects. I had always held the view that reforms by radical governments would eventually change this unfair society; I now realise that this is not possible. I agree 100 per cent with the argument put forward by the SPGB. Why. then, am I not a member? After a lot of thought I have come to a reluctant conclusion. It is this. I have attended meetings and debates, listened and sometimes argued with a multitude of different political opinions. I have argued with workmates, friends in the pub. even members of my family; in fact anyone who appears to be listening. The best response I have had however is. “yes, I sympathise with your beliefs but I will never be convinced that the society you want will ever work”. This is the depressing opinion put forward by class-conscious people who have, at least, bothered to think up to a point. They have, however, been unable to break out of false attitudes about "human nature” which are nurtured all too readily by defenders of capitalism. From an early age people are conditioned by propaganda from all sides. Educated and taught various skills and sciences. Taught about religion with the intention of producing what is known as "a useful member of society”. We all know what that is. The power and therefore the results of this indoctrination are not to be underestimated and I am beginning to despair that even the pure logic and rationality of the socialist case will be able to break it down. 1 have no wish to lead a life of self-imposed frustration trying to convince fellow working-class men and women that socialism is the only answer to their problems. Most of them refuse to listen anyway, preferring to watch the telly or follow other pastimes that eat up what little leisure- time most people have. Let them drool over their favourite political leader’s promises of pie in the sky: or follow religious leaders’ preachings of life after death and that the meek will inherit the earth. Let them fight and die in wars between capitalists and their counterparts in other countries. They are, after all, in the majority.

You may consider this to be a defeatist attitude, and so it is, but how else can constant failure to make headway result in anything other?

I have nothing but admiration for anyone who decides to become a member of the SPGB. They obviously possess a sense of hope and enthusiasm that I would in no way wish to dampen.
G. Nesbitt 
Seaham

Reply:
Socialism will be the result of social forces within capitalism driving workers to the conclusion that the present system does not operate in their interests and that only a society of common ownership of the means of production. democratically organised by themselves, can. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is one among many of these forces. We do not think that our efforts alone will bring socialism, but that the whole range of workers’ experiences (including contact with the SPGB) will prepare them for it. If to some people this preparation seems a tedious process and our progress seems slow, we must say that we too would like to see the socialist idea spreading more quickly. However, important ideas in human history have always taken quite some time to become popular and have only seemed credible to the majority after once being accepted by a sizeable minority. Then they have spread very quickly. Historically speaking the socialist idea has only been around a brief moment. Capitalism has not been around long either. We hope it won’t be with us much longer, but we may have to live under it for some time yet. This we must be realistic about and accept.

We don’t consider that being patient and carrying on our work in the meantime to be “self-imposed frustration”. There can on occasions, we agree, be a frustrating side to working for socialism, but this is far outweighed by the satisfaction we get out of knowing that what we’re pursuing is the only worthwhile social goal and not one of those will-o’-the- wisps chased by those who are concerned to reform capitalism. We also get satisfaction from seeing that people like yourself are capable of responding to and being convinced by our arguments.

But if you agree with us, it’s not your admiration we want. That won’t bring socialism any nearer. We want your active support. Join us and help add weight of numbers to ‘logic and rationality’. The bigger we are, the less likely it is that the people you argue with will say they’ll never be convinced that the society we want will ever work.
Editors


Questions about Socialism
Dear Editors,

I have recently received several excellent, informative issues of the Socialist Standard, and as a result I have several questions to ask.

1. In such a socialist society, how does the socialist policy to conflict manifest itself? You have opposed war as a tool of capitalism — do socialists agree that such a state would resist conflict by remaining impartially neutral, regardless of the consequences?

2. What is (or would be) socialist policy towards Northern Ireland?

3. What (if any) are the rewards of becoming well qualified in such a society? Are they substantial enough to create incentive?

4. You mention in your principles that as a working class emancipation party, you must be hostile to every other party. In what sense are you hostile and to what extent?

5. Surely, socialism in Britain would merely be a reversal of roles for master class and working class and therefore the antagonism of interests would still exist? Being primarily a working class party, do you hope to convince the middle class of the merits of socialism.

Michael Brown
Leatherhead, 
Surrey. 

P.S. I hold all socialism’s beliefs because they are contrary to the monetarist system we now have.

Reply:
You raise a number of interesting points. We will try to answer them in order.

1. Your question on how in a socialist society the state would react to war seems to be based on a misunderstanding of our views. There could not be a “socialist state". The state, even in those countries that call themselves socialist, exists to protect the property of the small minority class who own or control the majority of the wealth. Socialism, in our sense of a fully democratic society of common ownership of the means of production and free access to all goods and services, can only be established on a world scale. It will be a frontierless, moneyless society with none of the economic and territorial rivalries between ruling classes that generate war as at present.

2. The Irish problem has its origins in the struggle between rival groups of capitalists in Ireland early this century which workers were encouraged to take part in by being fed large doses of patriotic and religious mythology. The conflict between capitalists died down with partition, but the mythology lived on in workers’ minds and has now come to the surface again under the influence of poverty and feelings of injustice experienced by them. The Socialist Party deplores the killing, hatred and bigotry it has brought, but we are in business to help establish socialism not to help capitalist governments solve the problems they themselves have created. In any ease, the surest way to stop workers from murdering, maiming and terrorising one another is to undermine the false, misguided ideas that get them to do these things. In Ireland, as elsewhere, the real solution is the spread of socialist understanding.

3. Since socialism will be a society in which all people’s material needs will be satisfied and there will be no money or wages, “incentive" will not come from financial or material rewards but from knowing that whatever work one does will be personally satisfying, socially useful and appreciated by other members of the community. What better incentive could there be? Even in capitalism money isn’t the only motivation that will get people to do things. Think of the large amount of work people do for themselves or others on a voluntary basis and of their obvious need (recognised and often used for their own ends by governments) to feel part of a co-operative social effort.

4. The meaning to be given to the word “hostile” in Clause 7 of our Declaration of Principles is that we are in complete political opposition to other parties. We oppose them by rational argument and debate, in fact by all the non-violent means at our disposal. Our opposition is not based on pigheadedness, but on the fact that their aims are not the same as ours. Even if other parties call themselves “socialist”, their aim is to run capitalism in one way or another. It would be futile for us therefore not to oppose them or to support or form alliances with them.

5. The so-called “middle class” (office workers, teachers, dentists, doctors and the like) are in reality members of the working class because, like miners, dockers and roadsweepers, they have to sell their energies to an employer in order to live. The working class therefore comprises about 90 per cent of the population. The other class in society, the “master” or capitalist class, is the remaining 10 per cent—those who own enough not to have to work for a wage or salary, who live off the energies of the 90 per cent, and in whose interest the system is run. It is the majority, the workers, who will establish socialism because they will see it to be in their interest to do so. But socialism, once established, will be a classless society. It will mean complete economic and social equality. Every one will stand in an equal relationship to the means of production, owning none of it as individuals but owning all of it by their membership of the community.

It is true, as your postscript suggests, that socialists are opposed to “monetarism”. But we are equally opposed to non-monetarist and other ways governments may find of trying to run capitalism. The point is that capitalism, no matter what methods governments use, cannot be run in the interests of the working-class majority. Hence the widespread dissatisfaction perpetually felt among workers whichever government is in power. For more detail on this and other issues, can we recommend to you our pamphlet Questions of the Day? It will give you a good overall idea of our views.
Editors.

Letters: It is money that impedes everything (1996)

Letters to the Editors from the February 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is money that impedes everything
Dear Editors,

I have been wondering whether to renew my subscription to the Socialist Standard for the coming year, for there are many differences between your views and mine on how to achieve a just and equitable society. For instance, the expressions that you use. such as capitalists, workers, class, are generally regarded as out-of-date concepts and are likely to lose support. Most of us have savings, however little, that have to be invested somewhere if they are not to lose value because of inflation, so we all are capitalists. Again, what is a worker? Few of us slave in a foundry any more. Are we to be excluded from your endeavours?

Even if elected on such a ticket, your parliamentary candidates are unlikely to have any effect on policy or public opinion, and they would only be endorsing the concept of government. Our aim, surely, is to achieve freedom from control by fallible leaders, whatever their ideology.

No-one is better or worse than anyone else. We are no more than the product of our heredity and of the environment in which we find ourselves. If humans are to change, if societies are to eliminate anti-social behaviour, the environment in which they exist must be changed first. That is our task, but change itself requires an atmosphere of reason, an education system that questions, that stimulates interest and enquiry and recognises that concern for our fellows is the greater self-interest.

Unemployment, capitalism, bureaucracy, poverty, are no more than effects. We need to look at fundamental causes. It is claimed that money is the catalyst without which the productive process would collapse in chaos. Yet in reality it is money that impedes everything that we aim to do. The amount of money that we desire to use, whether for education, health, transport or anything else has to be restricted in order to maintain its value. We are so conditioned by it that we cannot imagine society functioning without it. It is all-pervasive, all-corrupting. No socialist society, no conceivable economic or political system, could survive long enough for it to wither away, and since it creates deprivation as well as wealth, it must create conflict also. Only by first eliminating the money system will we achieve a just and stable society.

We need to recognise that we all differ from each other, have different desires and aspirations, so that what we think of as equality depends upon the view of the individual. To take from one to give to another— or even to the community at large—merely provokes confrontation. Such confrontation could be avoided only in an economy that did not impose an artificial scarcity on human and material resources, and in which production would have no limit.

We need to work together to eliminate the underlying fundamental concepts that impede us in everything we do. Fighting each other, allowing ourselves to be distracted by differences of approach and to quarrel over their effects is self-defeating.

Only by co-operation, reason, debate and listening to others rather than deriding or condemning them, are we likely to achieve our objectives.

So I shall be renewing my subscription not because I agree with all you say but because it is the better world that matters, not differences among ourselves.
Melvin Chapman, 
Bath


Reply:
We talk about class because this is the basic feature of present-day society. The productive resources of society are owned and controlled by a minority class and are run for their benefit

Figures (produced by the Inland Revenue and the Statistical Office) show that the ownership of income-yielding financial assets—which are ownership rights over productive resources—is concentrated in the hands of this minority. The top five percent own over 50 percent which is as much as the other 95 percent of us added together. Every one of them owns on average about twenty times as much as everyone else.

This enables them to live on the unearned income their ownership rights provide. Their wealth gives their children privileged access to the top posts in industry and the state, where they are enabled to enjoy bloated “salaries” which bear no relation to the work they do and are in fact a way of giving them a share of the profits produced by the useful majority in society. They are the Establishment, the ruling class, the capitalists.

The other class is made up of the rest of us, who are forced by economic necessity to seek an employer in order to get a living. This is irrespective of the sort of job or type of work we do or indeed irrespective of whether or not we are actually able to find an employer. So we are talking about office workers, civil servants, hospital workers, salespeople, even managers and supervisors, and the unwaged as well as miners, bricklayers and foundry workers—in all, well over 90 percent of the population in an industrialised and urbanised country like Britain.

There is no such thing as a middle class. The so-called middle class is merely a part of the working class. Having a small income from your savings to top up your pension doesn't make up a capitalist. For that you would need to own at least £250,000 in addition to your house—which is the capitalists’ own definition of a capitalist, being the requirement to be a Lloyd's Name.

We can’t see how you can deny that we are living in a class society and that this is the all-important social fact that those of us seeking social change must take into account. In fact, that the immense majority are excluded from the ownership and control of productive resources means that there is a group in society that has a material interest in ending this state of affairs by establishing a society of common ownership and democratic control, it means that socialism is not some ideal society to which all people of goodwill are somehow to be converted. It provides it with a basis in social reality, with a group of people—the overwhelming majority, it so happens—who have an interest in establishing it as the practical solution to the problems they face.

When the overwhelming majority—the working class, as we define it—take conscious democratic political action to do this, classes can then be abolished and a genuine community with a common social interest created. Production will be switched from production for sale on a market with a view to profit to production to satisfy people’s needs. Money—as a means of exchange, a means to buy things produced for sale— will become redundant and disappear.

The existence of money and the existence of socialism are incompatible, since the existence of money implies the existence both of exchange and of private property whereas socialism, as a society of common ownership and production for use, implies the non-existence of both and so also of the need for money.

This is why we don’t understand what you mean when you say that money would have to be eliminated before a viable socialist society could be established. Under capitalism money is very useful, indeed indispensable. Without it capitalism could not function; to try to abolish it would lead to chaos and economic breakdown. So we don’t stand for the abolition of money now under capitalism. What we stand for is the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources; this will allow production to be geared directly to meeting people’s needs, so making money unnecessary.

A society dominated by money is one of the effects of capitalism, not its cause as you seem to imply. The only way to end the nefarious effects of money that you correctly identify is to establish socialism, where human values can flourish instead of the commercial and financial values that distort and debase our lives today. 
Editors


Reading the real thing
Dear Editors,

For years I believed I was a socialist, until I began to read socialist literature, the real stuff of course. It became increasingly obvious that I was a reformer.

The first discovery was that nationalisation was not common ownership. There's that old joke that when the coal industry was nationalised, the old lady went from the mining village to the pithead to fill her bucket up; she was promptly told to go and buy it the same as everyone else has to. Public ownership to her meant it was free. The previous owners still got their money through government bonds and the interest. Miners still had to fight for wage rises and safer and better working conditions.

The turning point for me was realising that capitalism cannot be reformed even if it wanted to. Its reason to exist is profit, without which it cannot continue.

When you read of people who say they have given many years of loyalty and have been made redundant, they of course do not understand the system they live under. They are a commodity and as such are expendable. When you hear the Opposition spokesman for education saying we must educate our children so as we can compete in an increasingly competitive world, it’s obvious he is talking about training a future workforce of commodities, not trying to get children to have a love of learning for its own sake. When you have a leader of a so-called socialist party who wants to send his son to a grant-maintained school rather than a state school, you realise what hypocrites they are.

That phrase “the manufacture of consent", or that even more apt phrase “the engineering of consent”, tells all where people accept long-term unemployment, repossessions, poor housing, going to the benefits office, plus of course wars where the unemployed are called upon to be patriots to look after the interests of capital.

In a stateless, classless and moneyless world society, from whatever angle you examine it, the problems that hitherto occurred would not happen. If only people would realise the power they have.
Gerry Geraghty, 
Colchester



Playing with Apartheid (1982)

From the June 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The present use of sport for political ends was foreshadowed before World War II by the attitudes of the dictators Hitler and Mussolini, who encouraged and financed the endeavours of native footballers and athletes. The disappointment shown by Hitler and other leading Nazis at the win of the negro Jesse Owens over their own German favourite at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, is still well remembered. Most governments nowadays assist the efforts of “their” athletes of international class. They value success at this level because it engenders patriotic feeling and distracts the working class from problems at home. By publicising the country it helps exporters to gain ground on competitors. So sport today often spills over from its allotted place on the back pages of newspapers into front page headlines.

Although coming into a somewhat different category, in one way or another the apartheid policy operated by the South African government is often involved in such instances. Scarcely a week passes without news of some projected sporting conflict being jeopardised by the “South African Connection”. The latest major incident burst on a sick and weary world last February in an announcement from South Africa that a team of “rebel” English cricketers had arrived to start a tour sponsored by South African Breweries. Many South African cricketers, boycotted internationally for years, welcomed this chance to test their skills against top class opposition.

There have of course been many examples of discrimination in sport not involving apartheid. In many cases—polo, racquets and equestrian events—the high cost of competing eliminates the average worker before the event begins. In this country, cricket was for a long time bedevilled by the distinction between amateurs and professionals. Among other things, the latter—working men playing for a living—had to stay at inferior hotels to their amateur team mates who, in the main, had enough unearned income not to need payment. In some cases however, including that of W. G. Grace, amateurs were secretly paid to ensure that they did not have to openly turn professional. Although officially abolished 20 years ago, vestiges of this traditional separation linger on today. Similar distinctions arose in the United States where, until 1947, the major league baseball teams consisted of white players only. There were separate leagues for negro players. Now many of the major league teams have more black than white players on their staff. In none of these cases was their any legal backing for discrimination, whereas in South Africa apartheid operates within a legal framework, as a result of legislation passed by successive National Party governments since 1948.

The aims of the apartheid policies pursued by the South African government since 1948 are analysed in depth in our pamphlet The Problem of Racism, published in 1966. This government has represented the interests of the Afrikaner farming section of the ruling class, and the policy has been an attempt to preserve the values and attitudes of the old agricultural order and hold back the development of industrial capitalism. The latter is largely controlled by the English speaking capitalists, who would much prefer a free market in labour to the present restrictive situation. Until a few years ago the Afrikaners had a big advantage because of their unity, while the opposition became fragmented. However the increasing Afrikaner involvement in industry and the development of modern capitalist farming have led to dissensions within the National Party, as a section want some relaxation of apartheid rigidity, and others see this as “the beginning of the end”. In the case of its policy on sport, pressure from outside has combined with a shift in Afrikaner attitudes to produce some quite significant changes.

When the National Party government took power in 1948 they applied a rigid apartheid policy in sport as in all other walks of life: sportsfields, seating and clubs were segregated. World reaction took some time to gather pace, but eventually boycotts of South African players started to mushroom. Eventually an attempt was made to apply the policy to visiting teams also, and the situation reached a critical point when it was announced that a New Zealand rugby team, including Maoris, would not be allowed in. On 4 September 1965 the then Prime Minister, Verwoerd, addressing a meeting at Loskop Dam, spelled it out thus:
Our standpoint is that just as we subject ourselves to another country’s customs and traditions without flinching, without any criticism, and cheerfully, so do we expect when another sends representatives to us they will behave in the same way, namely not involving themselves in our affairs, and that they will adapt themselves to our customs.
(Quoted in The Broederband, Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, Paddington Press 1979)
This statement was like fuel on the fire but, for a time, the government stood firm. To them, the policy seemed quite fair and they may well have expected it to be accepted. When it became obvious that it was seen very differently abroad, the next Prime Minister, Vorster, changed the policy and allowed the Maoris to tour. However he told Parliament a few weeks later: “Inside South Africa there will not be mixed sporting events, irrespective of the proficiency of the participants. On this there can be no compromise, negotiations or abandonment of principle” (Ibid).

Wilkins and Strydom also relate how the Prime Minister had to ride a tremendous backlash from hard line Afrikaners. These reactionaries did not consider sporting prestige important enough to justify any weakening in apartheid, and were perfectly prepared to accept complete isolation if that was the only alternative. It was very probable that Vorster decided in 1968 to “sacrifice” cricket as a sop to these critics. Although both games have their origin in Britain, in South Africa rugby is primarily an Afrikaner game while cricket is mainly played by the English speaking population. This was the year of the “D’Oliveira crisis”. Basil D’Oliveira, a Cape Coloured and as such ineligible for selection by South Africa, had qualified for England and been chosen to tour. “To a cheering (Orange) Free State National Congress, Mr. Vorster announced that D’Oliveira’s selection was political and unacceptable” (Ibid).

Except for a visit the following season by an Australian team (which incidentally lost every Test Match by enormous margins). South Africa has played no cricket at international level since then. The position with rugby was only slightly different. The 1970 New Zealand tour was a great success, the Maori players being among the most popular. In 1974 a British Lions team arrived and shocked the Springboks by winning three of the four international matches and drawing the other. It was now obvious that South Africa faced an indefinite period of total sporting ostracism and a decline in standards through lack of the necessary level of competition.

The Afrikaner government was in a terrible dilemma. Wilkins and Strydom report that a 1974 survey of opinion within the Broederband, and exclusive Afrikaner body, showed 97 per cent in favour of national sporting policies for every “nation” to be affiliated with world bodies (a policy rejected by these bodies because the “nations” were not considered to be independent); 92 per cent were opposed to mixed teams being fielded in sports other than athletics; whereas 93 per cent accepted the inclusion of non-whites for the Olympic Games, but as an interim measure only. Yet despite this, writing only four years later, Wilkins and Strydom could predict that “in about two years all races will play together on club, provincial and national level, will sit together on stands, will use all the club facilities such as bars and toilets, and that no more applications for permits will be needed”.

Certainly significant changes have been made. The pressure from abroad, combined with internal pressure from inside and outside Afrikanerdom, has overcome a white backlash which, observing events elsewhere on the continent, was and still is terrified of the consequences of “giving in to the blacks”. A British Lions rugby team visited South Africa in 1980 and played against non-whites in some matches. A South African touring party, containing some coloured players, visited New Zealand in 1981. Despite these isolated events however the sports boycott of South Africa is still virtually complete.

Internationally the capitalist class has reacted in fairly predictable fashion to the anti-capitalist policies pursued by the National Party governments. While perfectly prepared to trade with and invest in South Africa, openly or secretly as circumstances dictate, they have nevertheless made it clear that they expect conformity to normal capitalist practice; for example an open labour market, without the reservation of certain classes of jobs for whites. The expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in I960 was a result of this stand.

However, whereas countries like Great Britain—where capitalists are mostly white—would be satisfied with a South African capitalism dominated by a white ruling class, this does not appear to be the case generally. Countries like India and the emergent ‘Third World” nations, where the capitalists are mostly non-white and perhaps under pressure from extremists in their own ranks, want rather more. South Africa has now become an anomaly in another sense: it is the only part of the continent still under white rule. It could well be that India, for instance, feels that better trading terms could be obtained from a non-white ruling class (a class of wealthy Indians has long been in existence) rather than from white capitalists still harbouring old prejudices from the apartheid era.

This difference is reflected in the field of sport. Sporting bodies in states such as Britain and New Zealand, expressing satisfaction with efforts in South Africa to provide multi-racial sport, show some willingness to resume relations. The position of New Zealand is particularly delicate. The large farming element there may to some extent sympathise with Afrikaner attitudes, and their main sport is also rugby football. South Africa and New Zealand have traditionally had the best teams, so New Zealand players and turnstiles have keenly felt the loss of fixtures with the Springboks.

Walter Hadlee, past New Zealand cricket captain and test selector, gives expression to his frustration in an article in the 1982 Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack entitled "The Escalating Effect of Politics in Cricket”. He criticises the Gleneagles Agreement drawn up by Commonwealth governments in June 1977 to effect a common policy on sporting links with South Africa, aptly noting: “Different interpretations have given rise to endless controversy, much of it still continuing . . . Governments and anti-apartheid groups never seem to clarify their demands by setting out the precise requirements to be met either by the South African government or the sporting bodies concerned”. Hadlee interprets Gleneagles as meaning that when apartheid is no longer practised in any particular sport, normal relations can be resumed. From this viewpoint he comments on South African cricket that “they attained this in 1977”. Similar impatience was displayed in an editorial in the April 1982 issue of The Cricketer International". “India, Pakistan and Guyana, for instance, exercise some repression on ethnic or religious grounds. Moreover cricketers from these countries have cheerfully played with and against South Africans in England. Where should principles stop being applied?”

In non-white dominated countries a different view is taken. Here the Gleneagles agreement is interpreted as demanding an end to apartheid—not just on the sports field. They question whether the multiracial South African teams now being fielded are in fact selected on merit. Here there is a practical problem. Because of years of discrimination, only a few non-whites have achieved the necessary standards. What may be a genuine selection on ability can appear to an outside observer as an attempt to appease critics by fiddling one or two non-white “passengers”.

In this case the counter discrimination does not stop at a refusal to play against South African representatives. Teams and individuals who have previously played in, or against, South Africa are also boycotted. The England cricket tour of India last winter was jeopardised because Geoffrey Boycott and some other members of the party had played and coached in the Republic (coaching mainly non-whites, incidentally). On that occasion a declaration by Boycott of his personal opposition to apartheid was accepted by the Indian government. However, when Boycott and other current England players travelled with the rebel band earlier this year, the only way in which India and Pakistan would agree to go ahead with their projected tours of England this summer demanded that these individuals be prevented from taking the field against them.

To prevent a crippling loss of much needed gate receipts, the Test and County Cricket Board had no alternative but to impose a ban lasting for three years on the selection for England of these rebel players. More extreme action has been taken in the West Indies. The Guyana government cancelled a Test Match because the England team included Robin Jackman, a player with a South African wife, who had played in South Africa. The West Indies Cricket Board cancelled a projected cricket tour by a New Zealand team because of the 1981 tour of New Zealand by the South African rugby team. In neither case, it appears, were the opinions on apartheid of the individuals objected to considered to be of any importance.

Criticism is often directed at individuals for allegedly introducing politics into spheres of activity which, it is said, should be outside the political arena. Sport is often considered to be such a sphere, but the criticism is manifestly absurd. Because the class division of present-day society is to some extent reflected in all aspects of life, informed comment on any of these activities, particularly by those who seek to abolish this class division, must of necessity be political in content. We have seen, how pressure applied in the field of sport, but with the broader aim of modifying the wider South African society, does appear to be meeting with some success. It does increasingly look as if this story of sport and apartheid will not end until South Africa has a non-white capitalist government. The present white ruling class can scarcely be expected to acquiesce in this, as it will inevitably mean the reduction of many of them to the status of wage workers. The present unstable condition of many black African states increases still further the paranoia of the rich South African whites. Yet even the establishment of a black capitalism in the Republic will not prevent sundry prejudices from bedevilling sport, as in all aspects of life.
E. C. Edge

Why water is a commodity (1989)

From the November 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

"It's outrageous", Sara Parkin, the Green Party spokeswoman was quoted as saying, "that water should become a capitalist commodity".

Commodity production is a hall-mark of capitalism and if Sara Parkin could be persuaded to dip into Volume I of Marx's Capital the first words to meet her eye would be:
  The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities; our investigation therefore must begin with the analysis of a commodity.
And what does this investigation show? That what makes a good (a use value) into a commodity (an exchange value) is its production for sale, with a view to profit. However, how can it be that water through our taps costs us £s a week whereas falling in a storm it is free? The answer lies in the analysis of a commodity.

This brings us back to capitalist society, where water is a commodity possessing value (exchange value). All commodities must have two kinds of value: use value and exchange value. To be a commodity a good must have use value, otherwise it wouldn't sell and so have no exchange value. Water down our necks in a storm is useless but we need water to do the washing or make a cup of tea.

So what is it that converts water from a useless nuisance into a valuable commodity? There is no shortage of water in the world. It is only unequally distributed in nature. The water is available but has to be brought to where it is needed, as to meet the demands of modern conurbations. As was well said by a World Health Organisation expert, "there is no shortage of water, only pipes", and therein lies our answer.

Reservoirs, tanks, pumps, filtration plants and drains can only be produced by human labour, and it is only human labour which, in capitalist society, imparts exchange value. If value depended upon usefulness, water would be the second most expensive item (after air) on Earth. Rain irrigating crops is indispensable but contains no human labour and so is valueless (free), like the air we breathe. Installations to store, purify and supply water necessitate human labour and water thereby becomes a value-bearing commodity depending on the amount of socially necessary labour required.

Therefore, Sara Parkin's idea that water could be somehow exempted from capitalist commodity production is a non-starter. Like so much of the Green Party outlook, it is the same old story of capitalism without commodity production, which Pierre Proudhon was advocating 140 years ago.

Under capitalism every useful thing containing human labour produced as a non-use value to its owner becomes a commodity, with a price. This is so whether the means for producing it are nationalised or privatised. Trying to except the water supply (or electricity or gas or transport) from commodity production under capitalism is like trying to run the Boat Race outside the river.

It is capitalism (commodity production) not privatisation which is the cause of water being a commodity. Only its complete abolition will end the situation which so outrages Sara Parkin.
Horatio.