Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Look at Jamaica (1967)

From the Seven Days for Socialism! International Supplement (August 1967)

It is now five years since this sunny island has been independent. During this time the relative unimportance of independence is quite obvious to everyone who has to work for a living. The new Jamaica that was promised is still a promise, with no signs of fulfilment.

This island, with one and three-quarter million people, is basically agricultural. This occupies over 30 per cent of the labour force. Sugar cane, bananas and citrus are the chief crops. Sugar enjoyed a brief period of prosperity on the world market some time ago but during the past three years prices have remained constantly low. There is a strong plea from the estate landlord for mechanisation to reduce cost, but with the unemployment situation never falling below 150,000 it is politically dangerous for the politicians to endorse this. Thousands of small farmers have deserted the land over the past ten years, to live in Britain or America, and right now there is quite a food shortage. They say too much that is imported could be grown here. The government is planning a tax on unused land and is constantly promising land reform. They played this up greatly during the recent election, although nothing has been done so far about it.

The Jamaica Labour party won the recent election in February by a clear majority. They soon lost their leader, Sir Donald Sangster, who died shortly after. After much scheming and compromise Hugh Shearer emerged as the new Prime Minister (a man who spent twenty-seven years in his party’s union). True to form, on assuming office he barked out about the laziness of the workers and demanded hard work. In the same speech, he reassured the capitalist class that they had nothing to fear from him. He was going to carry out the same policies of his predecessor. The shift from union leader to government leader is not a new one here. Bustamante did it, and successfully maintained an image as a friend of the ’small man’. There is a unique feature of Jamaican politics: the Labour Party which admits to the free enterprise system, more in line with the British Conservative Party, gets most of its support from the low paid workers and rural peasantry. While the Peoples National Party (PNP) who make some claim to ’socialism’ (advocating nationalisation, and other state control measures along the line of the British Labour Party) is strongest among the professional and so-called middle class. This is due mainly, perhaps, to Bustamante’s image. He did everything from breaking strikes to bulldozing people’s houses but could always convince the workers it was done for their benefit!

The PNP, under its leader Norman Manley, is now going through a re-examination of itself, after its crushing defeat in the election. Their vote-catching programme of land distribution, and a solution to the unemployment problem never quite got over. By calling its capitalist policies ‘socialism’, the PNP created a feeling of mistrust—particularly among the rural voters. The mere mention of any ism is regarded by them as a plot by the devil. They have described the elections as bogus, and not without some justification. The government had introduced a very complicated system of voter registration, whereby voters are finger printed, and in the town areas are photographed. Many never got round to doing either, and most of these people seem to be PNP supporters; just what the ruling JLP had hoped. Less people were able to vote in the February election than at any time since adult suffrage in 1944!

Both parties dominate trade union activity, each having its affiliate union. There are very few skilled workers to make possible unions based on trade. Rivalry is very keen and clashes are frequent, as in a strike not long ago at the Gleaner Company, publishers of the only daily, where one union accepted the company’s proposal while the other rejected it! They are joint representatives of the workers, because both have failed to win a clear majority vote. There is a growing suspicion among workers in light manufacturing industries about the affluence of the unions’ officials, and we often hear cries of “sellout”. The unions contribute nothing towards workers’ education. It is distinctly to their advantage to maintain this state of ignorance.

Britain’s possible entry into the European Common Market is giving cause for great concern. The protective markets for sugar, bananas and citrus are threatened. Countries in South America can sell bananas at about half the price Jamaica is getting from Britain. American citrus is again much cheaper, and there is an adequate supply of beet sugar produced in Europe. So the ruling class here are very much up against it. There are cries how Britain is abandoning the Commonwealth, and everyone has suddenly found out how deeply they feel about the old flag. The harsh reality of capitalism is quite evident. Britain will do anything for its economic survival and couldn’t care less about sentimental ties.

The problem of crime is giving the capitalist class of all countries quite a headache; Jamaica is no exception. Murder, robbery, rape, and all the other features of a property society, are on the increase.

Population increase among the poor is quite alarming. There is now quite a strong campaign to get the ideas of family planning across. The pulpit is constant every week, in telling us how irresponsible Jamaican men are for subjecting their women to constant child bearing, and without the means of supporting them. They paint all sorts of gloomy pictures for the future if this does not stop.

Modern capitalism is catching up fast in this part of the world. What it is doing in moulding people's behaviour is very sad indeed. The realisation that a better world through Socialism is possible, right now, perhaps makes it all the more sad.
Jamaican Group

Socialist Movement in Britain (1967)

From the Seven Days for Socialism! International Supplement (August 1967)

When the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed in 1904, the members agreed upon an Object and a set of Principles that have guided the Party ever since. Adherence to these Principles has prevented the Party from losing its way, as so many have done who professed to be socialists, in the search for remedies to solve problems that are insoluble whilst the present capitalist system lasts.

When the Labour Party was formed in 1906, saddled with a reformist programme, it was greeted as the harbinger of social change and its supporters were convinced that it would not desert the class struggle. We contended that reformism would kill any aspirations for Socialism that might be possessed by some of its early members. Events have proved us right. Its members have departed so far from the ideas of some of its founders as to argue that State capitalism is Socialism.

When the Russian upheaval occurred in 1917 the radical parties welcomed it as a socialist revolution, though demurring at its support of dictatorship and its cold-blooded brutality. We pointed out at the time that Socialism was not then possible in Russia because the mass of the people neither understood what Socialism implied nor wanted it. All they wanted was peace, bread and land, and this was an insurmountable barrier to those Bolsheviks who genuinely desired to establish a new system. It drove them instead to build up a capitalist state under an iron dictatorship. Again history has proved that we were correct in the assessment we made based upon our principles. Russia has grown into one of the two most powerful capitalist states in the world.

In the two World Wars we pointed out that all modern wars are capitalist wars, and as such did not justify the shedding of working class blood on the battlefields. That they should be of no concern to the workers no matter with what idealist sentiments either side cloaked their real aims. That the only way to abolish wars was to abolish the conditions that gave rise to them, the buying and selling system that was behind the pursuit of markets, trade routes and sources of supply. We sent out Manifestoes to the workers in the belligerent countries stating that we had no quarrel with the workers of any nation and pledging ourselves to work for the triumph of Socialism.

We accept the fact that there is a class struggle in society—but that its solution lies in the hands of the workers to take political action for the establishment of Socialism when they understood and want it. Consequently we have put forward candidates in the parliamentary and local elections for the purpose of taking control out of the hands of our capitalist rulers in order to clear the way for the establishment of Socialism.

We hold that all people in the world, regardless of colour or nationality, are capable of understanding Socialism and its implications. There is no fundamental difference in mental capacity of different groups of mankind, only differences in their stages of social development which has nothing to do with a difference in mental capacity. On this, as on other aspects of our attitude, we have published pamphlets explaining our outlook.

We are a Marxian party. That is to say we base our outlook on history and economics on the theoretical researches of Karl Marx. On the basis of Marxian economics we have pointed out that there is no solution for booms and slumps as long as capitalism lasts. That booms and slumps are inevitable products of capitalism and will always be a part of it. On the basis of the same principles we have shown that the huge rise in prices since the thirties have not been due to the rises in workers’ pay, but have mainly been due to the devaluation of currency. This in spite of the new machinery and methods introduced which were alleged to cheapen costs of production.

We have always insisted upon the capture of political power before any fundamental change in the social system can be achieved. Political power is the centre of the capitalist citadel, though the workers place this power in the capitalists’ hands at election times. But no fundamental change is possible until the majority understand and want it. We have also been opposed to reform policies and have kept unswervingly to the pursuit of Socialism as our sole objective.

Finally, just as capitalism has spread all over the world, bringing similar conditions of frustration, poverty and insecurity to all peoples, so also the seeds of discontent and the yearning for something better has become a part of life everywhere. Unfortunately this discontent takes wrong turnings and has led to riots and nationalist uprisings that, in the long run, have helped nobody but the ruling class of capitalists or budding capitalists. The solution is the same everywhere, for Socialism is an international movement involving the workers of the world, whatever their colour. It is not possible to establish Socialism in one country alone, in the midst of a wilderness of capitalism. That was a fiction spread by the Russian Communist Party and their servile followers. But just as capitalism has spread, so have socialist ideas. Socialist parties and groups with similar ideas to ours have developed in different parts of the world and form a Socialist International movement; such parties have arisen in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland and a group in the West Indies.

We therefore urge the workers of the world to unite in the world-wide socialist movement which has already begun, because Socialism is the only solution to the social ills of mankind. Socialism is a system in which there will be no privileged class, as everything that is in and on the earth will be the common and equal possession of all mankind.
Gilmac.

New Zealand—affluent society! (1967)

From the Seven Days for Socialism! International Supplement (August 1967)

People have some odd ideas about New Zealand. For some it is ‘God’s Own Country’. Others regard it as ‘the workers’ paradise of the Pacific.

A few years ago Mr. H. H. Innes, a Hamilton Councillor and Chairman of Innes Industries Ltd., described New Zealand as an ‘affluent desert’ whatever that may be. He deplored the fact that:
  ‘New Zealanders bet an average of £20 each on racing and trotting horses; bought 28s. worth of Golden Kiwi Tickets, and donated an all-time record of 2s. 8d. each on Corso, the main expression of giving to the less privileged people of the world’.
We surmise that from Mr. Innes’ position it may be difficult for him to visualise that in New Zealand there are also a considerable number of ‘less privileged’.

The daily press abounds with evidence of wide-spread poverty in New Zealand. In giving a few instances we hope to convince the like of Mr. Innes that the condition of a large section of the working class in New Zealand is anything but affluent. The findings of a survey of aged beneficiaries in Auckland by ‘The Crusade for Social Justice’ organisation, in conjunction with the Auckland Combined Housewives’ Association, were published in 1962. Of the listed 29,000 aged couples, after paying rent, many “were in fact reduced to the barest necessities. They stated that these necessities did not permit of a nuritious diet”.

In Wellington, welfare workers told a similar story. Letters of indignation to the local press, protesting at niggardly increases in the age benefit; an appeal to abolish the blight of poverty among age-pensioners, testifies to the poverty-stricken condition of this discarded section of the wealth producing class. Poverty however, is not confined to the age-pensioner in New Zealand.

In 1965 the Conference of the Federation of New Zealand Housewives’ Associations held at Whangarei, dealt with an inquiry into “the causes of, and remedies and penalties for ill-treatment of children”.

One delegate, Mrs. A. W. Gragies of Hastings, said: 
   ‘A welfare officer in her district once told her there was more poverty in New Zealand than in London because some families had too many financial responsibilities. They could not cope with modern living and took their frustration out on their children. Another delegate stated that married women were now forced to work to help family income in many cases'.
This, no doubt, is a reflection of the hire purchase system most workers are forced to resort to in order to maintain a home. So, incidentally, their wage packet is mortgaged for months, even years ahead.

Let us take another aspect of working class poverty : the housing problem.

Consider for instance, the report in 1965 of the Petone Borough Council health inspector who described Petone’s sub-standard housing as a “colossal problem”. 
  “Owners of these houses care little about the comforts of the occupants but are prepared to take up to £20 weekly in rents.” Asked what was the greatest number of persons he had found sharing a room he replied, “Ten”.
These conditions are not confined to Petone. Cases of rack-renting and deplorable slum conditions are revealed by investigators and welfare officers in other parts of the country.

For instance, Mr. Kirk, Leader of the Labour Opposition in Parliament attacked slum housing and offered to show the Minister of Health, Mr. McKay, how some people in Wellington lived.

In October 1966 the Press carried pictures of Mr. Kirk inspecting the hovels some pensioners live in. His remarks in reply to an interjection are recorded: 
   “There are people living in Wellington and in the Member for Wellington Central’s own electorate, in conditions that no human being should have to endure”. (Evening Post, 6 October 1966).
Unkind critics of Mr. Kirk and of course government members, accused him of electioneering for the November General Elections. It is true that these slums have existed for a long time. They were there when the Labour Party was in office. It seems ironic that nearly 30 years after the Social Security Act came into operation in April 1939, poverty is still rife in New Zealand.

What a mockery of the words uttered by the Rt. Hon. M. J. Savage, the first Labour Prime Minister in New Zealand to age-pensioners: “In the eventide of your lives, I will not let you down.”

However, words uttered by well-meaning old gentlemen of pelf, and place-seeking politicians make no difference. Poverty remains an essential feature of capitalism.

The reorganisation of working class poverty, and its gathering under one roof as it were, into a State department has made no essential difference to the workers’ position in New Zealand.
Ron Everson 
Socialist Party of New Zealand

Get out of the darkness (1967)

From the Seven Days for Socialism! International Supplement (August 1967)

Measured by capitalist yardsticks the economy has been working quite well for some 15 years. In that time great wealth had been created, productivity and profits increased enormously and, in keeping with the interests of capital, wages were kept as low as possible. Two ways above all were used to keep wages low: one was by ‘controlled’ inflation, the other by the propaganda smoke-screen. At this point the trade unions must be mentioned. With the cheap phrase of ‘partnership’ they have consciously prevented the workers’ struggle for ‘a larger slice of the cake’. It follows without saying that trade unions such as these are not in a position to help their membership to a higher level of thinking in political economy.

The majority of trade union bosses call themselves socialists. It is impossible to say why they do so. From 1945 the trade unions had allowed their entire activity to be guided by the interests of the capitalist economy. The largest trade union, that of the metal workers and miners, expressly professed support for the capitalist system.

For some three years now the pretty picture of ‘our economy’ is showing some serious spots. More and more ‘partners’ are getting into difficulties. In the first place there is the mining industry. The miners are being given promises from all sides—and nothing else; unless the organising of petitioning deputations by the trade unionists to be considered a particular achievement. Things are well and truly going downhill fast, from partner to petitioner!

For more than 20 years the representatives of the trade unions and the so-called Socialist Party of Austria (SPA) had been in the Government. Time and again they declared that this time things were different and that, besides, today’s capitalism was no longer as dangerous at that which, for example, Marx had described. With which they connected straight away the insidious criticism of Marx of the present time. The essence of this criticism is the claim that in his time and day Marx had no doubt been right, but today . . .

Right to the last days of their government activity the SPA and the trade union leaders have endeavoured to make the ‘spots’ appear to be not all that dangerous. “You just give us your vote and we will straighten things out.’’ This calculation did not work out, however. The workers of course did not have a clear view of things; this must be stated quite clearly. This is why they failed to see any clear alternative to the shameful S P A and trade union policy. But where was a clear view to come from? Twenty years of intensive smoke-screening with the aid of every conceivable medium (television, radio, press, films, etc.), could not fail to have effect.

The voice of Socialism is still much too weak in this country to stand up to the tremendous din of the smoke-screen apparatus.

Even if the workers did not see any alternative, they did recognise that the ‘workers’ leaders’ had to be given a lesson. The SPA had to realise that they could not reach for the sky and they were removed from the Government.

From one day to the next there was a change in the language of these gentlemen. Astonishing what discoveries they made. Under the slogan ‘insolence prevails’ they simply disregard the fact that for two decades they had busily helped to brew what workers are given to swallow today!

We know full well what workers have to expect from the Austrian People’s Party; nothing good! We must refute any attempt however of the trade unions and the S P A at vindicating themselves! The ills which threaten us today do not in any way result from the absolute power of the A P P but they spring as always from the capitalist system! And in Austria this system was ‘reconstructed’ with the energetic co-operation of the SPA, the Communist Party and the trade unions.

Wherever these ‘socialists’ are doing ‘practical’ work they do not deny in their deeds with what system they are allied. Let us take the high cost of living. The Vienna Transport Board has increased fares enormously. Public transport to work alone costs a worker 500 schillings more per annum than it used to. In many trades this is the equivalent of a week’s wages. The reason given for this increase was the same that all capitalists advance: “We must put our fares up because the price of everything is going up! ”

That is to apply to all prices and fares, with one exception. The price for the commodity labour-power is to remain the same or even to be reduced. In fact, the trade unions did not in any way react seriously to the latest great wave of price increases.

The employers make virtue out of necessity. They say they do not welcome the crisis but that it has many good side-effects. The famed-infamous ‘workers’ morale’ would increase, absenteeism would decline and the ‘partner’ would regain a clearer sense of proportion in which his partnership could find expression. This is how things look on the ‘branch’ which Böhm-Schani and his disciples have so warmly commended to us. However, at the same time, it has shown up in its full light the true format of these ‘great leaders and statesmen’.

We socialists see in all these phenomena the symptoms of the disease of our time. This disease however, rotting capitalism, is not going to disappear of its own volition. Ours is the choice of being shaken by its shivers of fever for the whole of our lives or of using our brains and using successfully the only antidote, fraternal co-operation. Socialism!

Only then will man be able to live truly as man. Only then will it be no longer necessary for workers to have to beg for an opportunity to work and for men and women to be forced, after a life of labour and want, to have to drag themselves along to protest meetings in order to be able to keep some part of their standard of living.

Peace and prosperity will then be truly secured as a matter of course. Man will step from the darkness of the jungle into the bright light of the landscape of culture.
 Workers! women and men!
The future lies in the hands of the workers.
“We want no condescending saviours to rule us from a judgment hall.
We workers ask not for their favours, let us consult for all ”




Apartheid: Divide and Rule (1982)

From the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard
   Apartheid is essentially a pre-capitalist form of oppression; it is an attempt to impose the colour patterns of a frontier community onto a modern industrial economy. It will never work properly because what the government is trying to separate, the economy keeps bringing together. (Socialist Viewpoint, SPNZ, Sept-Oct. 1981.)
A traditional feature of apartheid has been a legally sanctioned colour bar broadly restricting skilled work to whites. The underlying racial prejudice upon which this was erected can be traced back to the days of slavery, when manual labour was held in contempt by Europeans. The prohibition of slavery in 1834 was a significant factor behind the Great Trek, a mass migration of disgruntled Boers beyond the reach of British jurisdiction. According to Freda Troup:
  The assumption that non-whites were the labouring class had spread across the land with the trekkers. Only in the Cape where Malay Slaves had from early days formed an important section of the artisan community had the colour line between skilled and unskilled worker largely been smudged and ignored. [1]
White penetration of the interior dispossessed many of the original occupants of what had been their tribal land, forcing them into various forms of servitude on white farms. The disruption of the tribal subsistence economy through the influence of tax and trade was intensified by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the second half of the nineteenth century. Vast numbers of Africans were sucked into the burgeoning towns to form a pool of unskilled labour while immigrant uitlanders, mainly from Europe, comprised the bulked of skilled labour in the mines. This pattern of employment reflected the prevailing differences between distinctive cultures—one, technologically primitive and agrarian; the other, advanced and urban-based. In time, however, it became fixed by custom and reinforced in legislation.

In the first decades of this century another stream of rural peasants poured into the towns: the landless Afrikaner. The devastation of the Boer War, periodic depressions and the shortage of land aggravated by the old Roman Dutch law of inheritance which subdivided farms into units too small to be economic, all contributed to the dispossession of thousands of Afrikaners of their traditional means of livelihood.

Lacking the skills of an urban proletariat and resentful of the wage-depressing influence of competition from low paid blacks, this substratum of “poor whites”, numbering 160,000 by 1923 (10 per cent of the white population), became a thorny political issue. In 1910 the two ex-Boer republics and the Cape and Natal provinces became one state under a single parliament, with the franchise largely (later completely) in the hands of the whites—a prerogative they readily exercised to entrench their privileged position. One of the first pieces of legislation introduced by the new union parliament was the 1911 Mines and Works Act which enforced a colour bar on the mines. The ideology of the Afrikaner farmer was thus transplanted into industry, as indeed were many small farmers themselves:
   A new social and economic frontier had taken the place of the old frontier of land and settlement. Where once the natives were excluded from good land and ample water, now they were kept from skilled labour and high wages. [2]
The mining companies did not in general welcome this intrusion of a backward ideology into the market place. But in their efforts to overcome the restrictions of the colour bar they met with the well organised resistance of the white trade union movement and a South African Labour Party which bitterly opposed the replacement of white by cheaper black labour.

In 1922 this issue came to a head when, following a big fall in the price of gold, employers were compelled to contravene the colour bar and employ blacks in semi-skilled work to cut costs. The strike that followed escalated into open revolt. Trade unionists, communists and nationalist Afrikaners combined under the odd-sounding banner “Workers of the world fight and unite for a white South Africa”. The “Rand Revolution”, as this was called, was mercilessly crushed with the loss of 230 lives. The miners were forced to accept a pay cut and the companies were left free to increase the proportion of cheap black labour, though technical advances enabled many of the jobs open to blacks to be fragmented and reclassified as unskilled work.

Two years later, the unpopular Smuts government which had sided with the employers against the white miners was defeated by a Labour-Nationalist coalition led by Hertsog. In a sense, what the pact symbolised was an alliance between the white farmers and the white working class:
   Cresswell (leader of the Labour Party) devoted his whole political life to ousting the blacks from the mines. Hertsog’s party on the other hand wanted cheap and servile Africans on the farms. The exclusion of Africans dovetailed with the farmers' insatiable demand for labour. This compatibility formed the economic basis of the partnership between white landowners and the labour aristocracy. [3] 
The Pact government represented a watershed in South African history in that employers no longer offered serious resistance to the tightening stranglehold of racism on the economy but concentrated instead on making the best possible use of the system to which they had resigned themselves. Job reservation was vigorously reinforced on the mines in 1926, extended into the emerging manufacturing sector and subsequently set concrete hard over the course of several decades. To counter the possibility of unemployed white workers finding common cause with blacks, a “civilised labour” policy was pursued which gave preferential treatment to, and dramatically increased the proportion of, whites in state run services such as the railways. From 1924 onwards, in contrast to the preceding quarter century of almost continuous industrial turmoil, there were virtually no serious disputes in the mines.

In return for their compliance with these policies the government, which relied heavily on the mines for its revenue (vast sums of which went to subsidise white agriculture), assisted the mining companies in their efforts to hold down black wages and obtain labourers. Indeed an adequate supply of skilled labour which had been a vital requirement of the mining industry became even more so under the Pact government. The colour bar tended to perpetuate the labour intensive nature of gold mining and hence the need for plentiful labour; the sheer scale of mining meant that working techniques and the balance between labour and capital intensity were fixed at the beginning of a mine’s life and could not be significantly altered thereafter. But holding down black wages to such low levels threatened the supply of unskilled labour which was attracted by higher wages and better conditions in manufacturing. However, the mining companies could not raise wages without jeopardising the life of marginal mines (which comprised half the industry) and hence the employment of many white miners. Thus influx control was tightened, indirectly compelling blacks to seek work on the mines or white farms. This still did not ensure an adequate supply of labour for the mines, which operated below capacity in the period 1924-30. Consequently, the mines with government backing recruited extensively from abroad so that by 1973 79 per cent of black miners were foreign contract workers. (Political developments since then in countries such as Mozambique have, however, disrupted this source of labour causing black wages to rise.)

By the 1960s a paradoxical development in the South African economy had become glaringly apparent: an acute and growing shortage of skilled labour alongside high black unemployment (even amongst the more educated blacks). An important factor behind this was the shift away from labour intensive farming and mining industries—the traditional pillars of the apartheid economy—towards the more capital intensive manufacturing industry. This in turn placed a growing strain on the colour bar. In 1945 the market value of mining companies was R972m while that of non-mining companies was R754m. By 1965 the positions had been reversed, with the former rising to R3664m and the latter R5399m. Ironically, the government played a vital part in this trend by encouraging the growth of a local manufacturing industry during the war by means of protectionist measures and by setting up various state corporations such as ISCOR (iron and steel) VECOR (heavy engineering goods) and SASOL (oil gas and chemicals from coal). Indeed the development of the mining industry itself was a powerful stimulus for manufacturing.

Growing concern over the economic bottleneck which the shortage of skilled labour had created has led the government’s own Manpower Commission to state recently that “South Africa will not be able to realise its full developmental potential if it persists in attempting to secure its high level manpower requirements mainly from the white population group”. [4] Political reform had become economically imperative.

The government’s response at first was one of greater, if cautious, flexibility: 
   Inevitably non-whites unofficially—job reservation and colour bar regardless—infiltrated traditional white spheres of employment: coloured postmen, Indian railwaymen, African drivers on non-white buses, non-white clerks and typists. Especially were non-whites more and more to be found doing skilled and semi-skilled industrial work, generally at wages well below the white minimum. “There is no doubt”, commented the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce, “that employers in general are keen to develop the skills of Bantu workers”. [1] 
By 1965 the Deputy Minster of Labour reported that 39 per cent of the economically active Africans were operatives or semi-skilled workers.

Yet still the shortage of skilled labour persisted. Accordingly, the government itself has moved from passively condoning breaches of the colour bar to actively lifting restrictions on the employment of black labour. The Muldergate Scandal of 1977 brought to power a new prime minister, and marked a shift in the balance of power from the verkrampte (conservative) to the verligte (liberal) wing of the ruling National Party and prepared the ground for further liberalisation. By late 1980 Fanie Botha, Minister of Labour, proposed new legislation allowing more skilled job training to be opened to blacks. But despite the evidence of job reservation rapidly crumbling round the edges, there remain big obstacles in the path of this trend that arc essentially a heritage of history.

The first of these is the remarkable resilience of the traditional hostility of whites towards black encroachment of what are regarded as white spheres of employment:
    although the statutory colour bar has been formally scrapped, nine out of ten times it is imposed by closed shop and apprenticeship agreements with white unions and these are still in force. The white unions have been staunch defenders of apartheid, using their muscle to preserve white supremacy and to block the advancement of Africans. [5] 
Nowhere can this be seen more vividly than in the mining industry, described by Freda Troup as the “inner sanctuary of the colour bar”. Recently the Mineworkers Union threatened industrial action if the government permitted blasting certificates to be issued to blacks. This, together with the threat of more whites defecting to the ultra right-wing Herstigte Nationale Party, which made spectacular progress in the 1981 elections, has forced the government to act more cautiously.

Another obstacle to the disintegration of the colour bar is black education. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 which brought all Bantu education under the control of central government, was defended by Verwoerd on the grounds that the mission schools through which many blacks received their education were unsympathetic to the government’s policies and that:
    By blindly producing pupils trained on a European model the vain hope was created among natives that they could occupy posts within the European community. This is what is meant by the creation of unhealthy ‘white collar ideals’ and the causation of frustration among the so called Educated Natives . . . There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. [1] 
This discriminatory view of black education was reflected in the allocation of funds. In 1969-70 Bantu education received a mere R39m—a tenth of that spent on far fewer white pupils. Illiteracy is still high and the poor quality of education received by blacks in overcrowded schools lacking in facilities leaves many ill-equipped for work. According to a recent estimate, well over 100,000 jobs are unfilled because the necessary trained workers are not available.

In 1979 and 1980 spending on black education and training rose by 30 and 50 per cent respectively. Such large increases were made possible by the rocketing price of gold, which in the period 1970-80 meant a huge inflow of R3.9 billion into the government coffers. Although the price of gold has since slumped, the ending of South Africa’s apparent seclusion from the world recession has not been seen as an entirely unwelcome development:
   Nationalist politicians are looking to a recession to ease the skilled labour shortage, to reduce the differential of black wages (with the politically sensitive erosion of white differentials) and to stem the flow of urbanisation. [4]
Finally, what will be the consequences of a crumbling colour bar? One area where it is having an effect is black trade unionism, which has become a force to be reckoned with since its resurgence in the 1973 Durban strikes. Increasingly, a high proportion of strikes are being won, partly due to more effective organisation but also because of the penetration of black workers into semi-skilled and skilled work:
  In companies whose black workers are more skilled, unions are often in a stronger position. Companies like Ford in Port Elizabeth and Volkswagen in Uitenhague found during strikes that the option of mass dismissal and quick replacement was not open to them because skilled workers are in such short supply and that “we would eventually have had to hire our own people back”, as one company spokesman said. [6]
More fundamentally, the demise of the colour bar will serve to clarify the class structure in South Africa and to undermine the racial bigotry that traditionally divides its workers. Then shall they begin truly to make history and not be imprisoned by it.

REFERENCES:
[1] South Africa: An Historical Introduction. F. Troup.
[2] A History of South Africa. De Kiewiet.
[3] Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950. H.J. & R.F.. Simons.
[4] The Economist. 19 September 1981.
[5] City Limits. 12-18 March.
[6] New Statesman, 15 January 1982.
Robin Cox



War and Why (The Cause and the Remedy) (1912)

From the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ethics or Pelf?
“But what they killed each other for I could not quite make out” says Jasper in one of our school poems.

And some leading lights of the capitalist class have lately been investigating a similar problem by enquiring—or pretending to enquire—into the ill-feeling existing between England and Germany. In considering the “forces that make for Peace” Lord Weardale quotes from Mr. Norman Angell that “it is perhaps necessary to divert ourselves from those broad ethical principles which the champions of international peace have hitherto used, perhaps too specifically, as their main line of argument, and insist with greater emphasis on the economic considerations.” (Manchester Guardian, 10.6 12.)

Those “broad ethical principles,” however, seem to have been having a rather bad time of it. For instance, in the same journal for May 30th appears the following:
  It seems that Lord Haldane, a few weeks ago, approached the Rural Dean of Willesden with the request that he would ascertain what would be the opinion of his Rurideconal Chapter of an offer to appoint a Church of England chaplain, with certain pay and allowances, in return for each hundred men whom the Church could persuade to enlist. Apparently the offer was well received by the clergy, and the condensed report that I saw of the discussion does not reveal a single dissentient.
Surely the great regard for “economic considerations” shown here by the followers of the “Prince of Peace” should satisfy even Mr. Angell.

But the latter says that wars do not pay; that not even the winner gains by the fight! Against this Mr. T. Lough, M.P., says when describing the animosities between England and Germany:
   A further factor was soon added, in the shape of the interests of the capitalists engaged in the construction of warships and war material. Supported by immense financial resources, this particular branch of industry has taken to inciting international feelings of mistrust and hatred.
  Should international peace be established their orders would fall off and their dividends would disappear.
The Internationalism of Capital
Mr. Lough, as a wealthy capitalist, should be a better authority than Mr. Angell as to what “pays” and when. A more general statement is made by Sir Alfred Mond in this discussion:
  In all countries the great world of commerce knows no national bounds and tolerates no interference with its labour by such limitations.
Exactly. White men or black, Chinese or Britisher, all are fish for the capitalist net, and as the wealthy Liberal says, “no interference” is tolerated that hampers the robbery of the workers, wherever they may happen to have been born.

“The relations between the captains of industry of all countries,” continues Mr. Mond, “are getting more friendly every day, and exhibit a growing mutual respect and inclination to cooperate on a labour-saving basis.” (Manchester Guardian, 10.6.12.) An awkward admission, this, for the stupid Anarchist who argues against the concentration of capital, and the revisionist of the I.L.P. and Fabian type, who tries to maintain that Marx’s analysis was in error.

Even more specific was Professor Ludwig Stein, who says we are to prepare “by means of a détente between England and Germany, an understanding between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente which would allow us Europeans to act as allies in the work of partition of our planet in the Far East, instead of destroying each other as enemies. There are at present such great things at stake that our little jealousies and political feuds must sink to a quantité négligeable in face of the necessity to assert and secure the Imperialism of our civilisation, the world dominion of our system of culture.”

Whose is “our civilisation,” “our system of culture”? Not the working-class’s for the spokesmen are all representatives of the employers—the capitalist class.

Tankee You for Noting
And what a “civilisation” and “culture” is their’s! One where-in growing misery and insecurity of life for the working class accompanies increasing powers to produce wealth, increasing wealth produced. Paralysing paradox where one sees misery in the midst of plenty and want where wealth abounds. And this is to be extended to the Far East, for the workers there to enjoy. Should they resist then the “great world of commerce” will tolerate no “such limitations" but will batter down that resistance with the 13.5’s, the machine guns, and the magazine rifles.

Ignoramuses like Mr. Norman Angell will talk about putting aside “broad ethical principles”—as though they had ever been really concerned with these—and insisting upon “economic considerations” as though they had ever been absent or were not the fundamental cause of all modern wars.

To serve the economic interests of capitalism the war drum will be sounded by the “atheistic” Blatchford and the “religious” rural dean, while the capitalist class control power. The forces of war will be used to crush less—capitalistically—developed nations, or, if necessary, to wipe them out of existence.

But, after all, this is but the secondary use of the fighting forces. “The great world of commerce” will not only not “tolerate” any limitation by nationality; it will not tolerate any limitation by members of the same nation. Inside every nation is a far more important division than that separating nation from nation.

The Class Line
The division between the wealth producers—the working class—and the wealth-owners—the capitalist class, is one concerning the very means of life themselves. True, the working class have failed to understand this yet. But their strikes and struggles over the question of living tends to show them more clearly every day how they are dominated in society.

In the Transport Workers’ Strike Committee’s first manifesto protest was made against the use of soldiers and policemen to accommodate the employers. The Daily News for June 15th states that two hundred seamen and firemen belonging to the French Navy were going to man the Atlantic liner “Provence” in place of the men on strike. Sir George White used the military to unship coal at Gibraltar when the men went out on strike shortly after the South African War.

This is the fact that explains the utter farce and failure of all the “Peace Conferences” and “Disarmament” movements. The real and primary use of the war forces is to keep the workers a slave class to the employers, to drive strikers back to work, to shoot them down when sacred “property” is in danger, and even to run the services should the capitalists decide it to be necessary.

This force is placed under the control of the capitalist class by the working class voting them into possession of political power. The very men on strike to-day in the docks cheer the local capitalist representative, Sir John Bethell, although he is a member of the party in power.

They are backed up in this suicidal stupidity by their “leaders” and the parties they belong to. Tillett and the B.S.P., Gosling and the Labour Party, all act as powerful allies of the capitalist class by encouraging and advising their poor dupes to place political power, with all its accompanying command of the forces of repression and blacklegism, in the hands of the masters.

What must be Done
The Socialist on the other hand, points out and explains the war existing in society—the class war—wherever capitalism has taken root; he shows how the workers place this terrible power in the grasp of their most bitter and pitiless enemies, and draws the only conclusion open to intelligent men—that is that the workers must conquer political power for themselves, and so wrench from their oppressors once and forever that weapon which is turned against them, no matter whether Liberals or Tories are in power, whenever they seek to obtain better conditions. Only then be will the cause of wars—class and market—be abolished. Only then will the worker enjoy what he produces, and have comfort, luxury and happiness at his service.
Jack Fitzgerald