Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cripps on wages—or hope deferred (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “We should like shorter hours of work and better pay, but with the urgent need for production and the danger of inflation, neither of these things is now in the national interest. We must discipline ourselves to do without them until such time as they become national economic possibilities.”
(Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, addressing the Band of Hope Union. Reported in the Daily Herald, 12/5/47).
  “They deserve and need reasonable remuneration for their work, whether they are managers or workers, and that ought to be a first charge upon our production. But beyond that it is good working conditions and team work that will produce the results we want. The idea of an ever-rising spiral of inducement wages is one which makes me shudder at the economic consequences that might come.”
(Cripps, House of Commons, 21/11/46. Hansard, Column 1096).
  "It is notable that those who complain most vigorously about high wages are those who are very well off.”
(From the "Labour Party Speakers’ Handbook,” 1945, p.152).
 Edgar Hardcastle

Work and Want: An Old Farce with New Players (1947)

From the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Government is anxiously appealing to the working class to work harder. Hundreds of thousands of posters are being displayed bearing the inscription, "We're up against it! We work or want." Thousands of speeches are to be delivered in the workshops, and thirty films are to be shown up and down the country. It is an old farce revived.

It was put on in the autumn of 1919 under the Lloyd George government. The posters then bore the photographs of four prominent Labour leaders, Messrs. J. R. Clynes, J. H. Thomas, John Hodge and J. T. Brownlie, and the slogan was, "Produce more, earn more, get more." Mr. J. R. Clynes, who backed that campaign, is still preaching the same doctrine, but some of the men in the present Government have changed their tune. They used to denounce Clynes and Thomas for their part in the old campaign, but are themselves in the new one. Mr. Strachey, Minister of Food, is one of them. As recently as 1944, when a revised edition of his Why You Should be a Socialist was issued, he condemned the 1919 increased production propaganda and wrote that "however hard the workers work, they will remain workers, and poor workers at that. Hard work will not make the workers any richer, but it will make their employers much richer." Mr. Strachey also wrote, "You remember the old 'produce more' cry. I suppose we shall get it again." He prophesied correctly; but he did not foresee that he would be backing that old cry himself.

In 1919 the S.P.G.B. attacked Mr. Clynes and showed the dangerous fallacy underlying his argument. The S.P.G.B. has not changed its view; increased production will bring the same dire consequences for the workers as it did a quarter of a century ago.

Mr. Clynes was not unaware of the case made against him. In a speech in the House of Commons on 20th April, 1920, he admitted that workers were not readily accepting the advice offered to them to produce more. He said ". . .  the working man thinks in the terms of his former experience. He found the market overstocked because he worked overhard and long hours to produce, and he was thrown out of work because he produced in abundance." (Hansard, 20/4/1920, Col. 279.) Mr. Clynes said that the Government ought to give some sort of guarantee that overproduction should never again be allowed to cause unemployment. Even if the Government had made that promise it would not have been effective because capitalism needs constant unemployment to keep down wages, and it periodically produces crises of "overproduction." So Mr. Clynes gave his own assurance. Writing in Reynolds (30/11/1919) he said:
  "If ever there was risk of overproduction, causing unemployment, there is none now. For at least a dozen years there must be conditions of shortage which, with the best energy and effort, cannot be removed. We are in arrears. We need have no fear of the supply exceeding the demand."
In the columns of the Socialist Standard at the time Mr. Clynes' economic fallacies were exposed. He thought and still thinks that if there are people in need of food, clothes, houses and so on, then there cannot be "overproduction." He does not understand how capitalism operates. Capitalism has crises of "overproduction" not because too much is produced to satisfy the needs of the workers, but because too much is produced for the needs of the market. Capitalist production begins to be curtailed at the point where the articles cannot be sold at a profit, so "overproduction" for capitalism exists though millions are in desperate need. What matters is whether they have the money to buy what they need.

At the time Mr. Clynes wrote his article in the autumn of 1919 there were already 530,000 unemployed. At the beginning of 1947 the number was 400,000. About 18 months after Mr. Clynes' prophecy of no unemployment for 12 years, there were over 2,000,000 unemployed. That was not under a Labour Government, and the defenders of Labour Government said things would be different when the Labour Party came to office. In 1931 they were in office and unemployment again soared in the crisis to over 2.500,000. History will repeat itself. Labour Government or no Labour Government capitalism in its next crisis will produce the same results as before. In 1919 another of the Labour propagandists for increased production, Mr. John Hodge, declared that if the workers did not increase output they would be "workless and wageless." Members of the present Government talk in a similar strain. We said in 1919 that great numbers of workers would be workless and wageless under capitalism whatever they did. We were right then and we are right when we say now that it will all happen again.

In 1930, under Labour Government, another of the preachers of increased production, Mr. J. H. Thomas, admitted that "one of the great anomalies, at that moment was that the main cause of the world depression, as well as our own, was overproduction." (Times, 22/3/1930.) A month earlier Mr. Clynes, faced with the overproduction that he said would not happen, was backing another capitalist cure-all, "rationalisation." He confessed that it would, to begin with, actually increase unemployment, but he urged the workers to bear it with patience "because it was a kind of surgery that was being applied to industry, and after it industry would rise stronger and better able to compete with the world." (Manchester Guardian, 10/2/1930.) Mr. Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is telling us about the good times we are going to have someday provided we quietly put up with hard times now; in 1930 his predecessor in that office under the Labour Government was Snowden, who was telling the same story. In a broadcast he spoke about the "vital improvements" that would be "only possible out of revived and prosperous industry from which our national revenue is derived." (Daily Telegraph, 15/4/1930.)

Under capitalism there are no "good times" for the working class, but just so long as the working class does not see through the capitalist "work hard now and wait for reward" fairy story, there will always be Tories and Labourites, Churchills, Attlees, Clynes and Stracheys to tell it. Only the S.P.G.B. keeps to the sound working class position that the only remedy for the evils of Capitalism is Socialism, and that the time for it is now.
Edgar Hardcastle

Much Ado About Monogamy—
The Kinsey Report (1953)

From the October 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who has not heard of Dr. Kinsey? The question brings to mind one of those Bateman cartoons in which the unfortunate ignoramus or faux-passant trembles before a collection of gazes incredulous, horrified, contemptuous and pitying. Of course, everyone has heard of Dr. Kinsey. He is the Indiana professor who has heard 5,940 true confessions; the man with a load of light, the saviour of the Sunday press in a wet summer.

"Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female" has not yet been published in Britain, but the papers have run riot over its American publication, taking attitudes of unctuous righteousness or playing the thing for all it is worth in order, as Dr. Comfort would say, to startle the Citizens. Either way, the Kinsey Report has had more publicity than any other book in a generation. Kinsey himself is said to be making nothing financially from it; the profits will go to the Research Committee with which he is concerned. Some commentators have given this as exclusive evidence to free Kinsey from the charge of "cashing-in on sex." It is not so certain. The first American printing has been a quarter of a million copies—a figure to make the bestselling novelists envious and to suggest that the sponsors are well aware of the market value of their work. Whoever the beneficiaries may be, the Report obviously is providing—and was meant to provide—an outsize jackpot prize.

Enough has been related, quoted and discussed (mostly under huge, spicy headlines) to make some evaluation of Kinsey's findings possible. The information in the Report relates principally to the incidence of departures from the orthodox monogamous pattern. Dr. Marie Stopes is, of course, quite right when she says: “All the different types of sex behaviour and abnormality were fully described, with numerous long detailed cases, by Dr. Havelock Ellis in his six-volumed work forty years ago." That is not Kinsey's point; the aim of his Report is to establish, on a statistical basis, what are the sexual behaviour-patterns of women in present-day society. The information was gathered from thousands of interviews with members of women's societies who volunteered, and the statistics take in 5,940 case-histories. The danger of drawing conclusions from sample investigations is obvious, but it must be said that their technique has been highly developed in America, where sample polls are taken about anything and everything. In this case, however, there are factors which cast additional doubts on the value of the sample.

The greater number of the women interviewed were of better-than-average education and income, Presumably, therefore, they could express themselves more fluently and were more likely to have come in contact with the possibilities of sexual variation than most working-class women. And they were volunteers—in other words, they were willing to recount their sexual experience. One does not have to agree with the Sunday Express that such volunteers must be “a collection of oddities and exhibitionists” to make reservations about them. It is clear enough that the women with respectable histories of chaste courtship and faithful marriage are the least likely to offer their reminiscences. They wouldn’t have much to tell, for one thing.

Kinsey’s 5,940 cannot be considered as a cross-section or anything like one, and certainly not as a basis for conclusions about the "human female.” But if that were not so, the major issues would be unaffected. What makes such a survey necessary and gives it so compelling an interest? The Kinsey Report is an attempt to establish the communality of habits and attitudes which in urban society are “private,” i.e., highly individualized. In healthier, less complex social groups the pattern of sexual behaviour is part of the general social pattern. The accounts by Malinowski and Margaret Mead of sexual life among the Melanesians and Polynesians are not based on card-indexed interviews with anonymous “guinea-pigs,” but describe the observed behaviour-patterns of communities. In Kinsey’s world (which is our world) sexual life is observed by peeping into bedrooms. That is why so many people are so avidly interested in the Kinsey Report; it offers a peephole and gives a basis for comparison, which is the foundation of approval (or otherwise). And it is probably true that the Report will help sexual unorthodoxy to spread, or “make immorality rife,” as they say. The assurance that “everybody's doing it” is usually enough encouragement for the others.

The monogamous family system has always needed the support of complex legal and moral codes. Kinsey’s most shocking “revelation” is that a great many people do not adhere to those. He says that America’s sex laws are “unrealistic, unenforceable and incapable of providing the protection needed.” He finds—if it needed finding—that for a lot of women the white wedding dress is only conventional and not representative of the true state of affairs. He hears that American wives do not always fall in with the requirements of the Hays Office. Plenty of other investigators have confirmed that chastity and fidelity are not prized as they used to be. (It is doubtful, though, if they were ever prized as much as that. One is reminded of the classic conversation between villagers: “Old George bain’t the man 'e used to be.”—“ No. and never was.”)

The truth is that morally and legally compulsive monogamy has never really worked. It would be rather surprising if it had, considering its demands; for example, that a woman can discipline herself to be restrained and chaste before marriage and automatically become yielding and responsive after it. Whether or not monogamy is natural is beside the point, which is that the property-based (and therefore compulsive) monogamy of our society imposes conditions which have never been fully accepted and are less and less accepted to-day. Nevertheless, the property basis is there, and almost the whole vocabulary and imagery of sex and marriage carries the property implication. Outside medical text-books, a man never enters a sex relationship with a woman: he “takes her” or “possesses her,” she “becomes his” or "gives herself” to him. (If anyone doubts, by the way, that society still regards women as inferior chattels, listen to “Housewives’ Choice” in the mornings, the announcers address their audience in the tone which most of us would use to speak to an imbecile child.)

Kinsey claims, in effect, to find that the principle of exclusive possessiveness does not always apply in modem sexual behaviour, and that is what has made his book “shocking.” He advances several propositions to account for what he finds, but—as reported, at any rate—they all are deduced from assumed physiological and psychological incompatibilities between men and women: for example, his claim that their highest sexual capacities occur at irreconcilably different stages in adult life. Women, he says, do not reach their sexual zenith until the thirties and then retain it until quite late in life; men attain it in adolescence and thereafter decline (though most sexologists have recorded noteworthy cases of good tunes on old fiddles). Kinsey appears not to take into account, however, the influences of industrial and urban environment. Britain's Royal Commission on Population suggested in 1949 that these have a considerable effect on sexual function
  It is indeed arguable that modern urban life— whether because of the greater worry and nervous strain it brings with it, or merely because of the greatly increased number of alternative outlets for free time and energy—tends to cause a reduction in sexual activity from the level associated with the predominantly rural life of earlier times. There have, in fact, been investigations which showed a lower frequency of intercourse among men engaged in urban than among those in rural occupations.
A satisfactory sexual life is not a case of merely making the most of maximum desire; more than anything, it is dependent on privacy, understanding, and freedom from tiredness and worry.

There remains the question of why departures from the orthodox monogamous pattern have become more and more frequent in the past thirty years or so; the family is breaking up, say the bishops—and so it is. The life of a family in this country seldom exceeds two generations, and its members tend to break away as soon as they reach maturity. The stability of the family was part of pre-industrial, pre-urban society, in which each group was bound by tenure or dependence to its land or its small community. To-day, in the teeming agglomeration of town life, there is no chain of secure subsistence, and the experience of one generation has little significance for the next. The economic ties which gave the family its durability and coherence have largely gone; in consequence, there has been a sharp change in the traditional attitude to sexual morality.

Probably the strongest, and the most relevant to Kinsey’s theme, of the broken moral traditions was that sex was something for men to enjoy and women to endure. The endurance was real enough and related to the consequences rather than to the sex act itself, and the developed techniques of birth control have been the decisive factor in doing away with this astonishingly unwholesome attitude: they have also made extramarital sex possible for women. Society has never really thought it half so bad—a joke for seaside postcards, in fact—for men to have sexual adventures, chiefly because men don’t have babies. Now women needn't have babies either, and that fact alone has provided a good deal of Dr. Kinsey’s material.

To sum up, then. The Kinsey Report may be an accurate analysis and it may be hokum; this writer is disposed to think that it was prepared with an eye on its market potentialities and that its statistics are misleading. It has nothing new to tell, except possibly— and this cannot be substantiated—that the incidence of sexual misbehaviour in the human female is higher than was suspected. The general propositions (many of which were made in Kinsey’s earlier work on the human male) about sex are based on assumptions of physical and mental make-up, and leave out of consideration the effects of environment on capacities and inclinations.

Nevertheless, the publication of—and the necessity for—a study which claims to find a high incidence of frailty in the female flesh points to the current instability of the property-based monogamous marriage system. The family as it is traditionally imagined is disintegrating in capitalism, and the morality which upheld it is relaxing consequently. Some people are shocked by Kinsey’s findings because they think women ought to be men’s property; others, because they fear that imperfect people will make an imperfect world. Never fear; the world got like it first.
Robert Barltrop


In our hands (1981)

Editorial from the August 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

As support for the Thatcher government crumbles away, the Labour Party’s excitement reaches towards delirium. How long before they lose all touch with reality?

There are, as we know, good reasons for the disillusionment with the Tories. Unemployment promised soon to reach 3 million; further cuts in social services and local authority spending; prices rising relentlessly; open declarations of war by government ministers on workers' standards of living; riots and looting in inner city areas. The future looks grim; yet the Tories, like all incoming governments, promised us prosperity.

In their wilder moments the Labour Party sees the discrediting of their opponents as a final, historic enlightenment which will finish the Tories for ever. Then Labour will be in power for generations and can at last get down to the task of building the new Jerusalem which they have sung and orated about for so long.

Little wonder, then, that there is such anger in the Labour ranks with Tony Benn for rocking the boat when they want it, now of all times, held steady and on course. Benn, who seems to exist in a perpetual state of high fever of delusion about himself, his party and about capitalism at large, tiresomely claims to deal in what he conceives as principles while his opponents in the Labour Party are more openly and immediately preoccupied with winning their way back into power.

But it is only recent history, that Labour rule was one continual crisis and in all essentials—cuts in public expenditure, attempts to hold down wages, attacks on trade unionism, maintenance of British capitalism's nuclear armoury—was hardly distinguishable from what we experience now under the Tories.

Towards the end of their time the Callaghan government were a throughly beaten and demoralised lot. Their death knell sounded during the infamous winter of discontent and the resultant working class disillusionment swept Thatcher into power, promising to solve the problems of British capitalism with theories exposed as futile as long ago as the Twenties.

This apparent repetition of history indicates that the Tories' crisis of confidence is by no means a finality. We have heard all this before and we shall hear it again. We have been here before and we shall be here again.

What then is to be done? If the working class realise that political action need not consist of a repetitive switching from one futility to another, what else is open to them? First, they must grasp that politicians have only a limited relevance. They are prevented by something outside their plans and claims and deceptions from organising society as they say they would have it.

That “something” is the capitalist social system, which from its basis outwards can only be run in the interests of the parasitic minority who own the means of wealth production and distribution. Just a couple of weeks ago we saw two representative members of this minority dress up and parade through the streets to get married. Everything about that event—the opulence, the cynicism, the ballyhoo in the media emphasised the class division of capitalism into those who own but do not need to labour and those who must labour but do not own. The workers, who made all that went into the wedding, owned none of it. Their part in the cruel farce was to stare and wonder and to cheer, to testify to their own degradation.

And in that fact there is the reason for the impotence of capitalism's politicians. Workers are ready to blame Thatcher or Foot or Benn for their problems, overlooking the fact that they themselves vote for these leaders and all that they stand for. It is the working class who choose their own repression, who respect and admire their exploiters and who are therefore responsible for their own plight.

We are arguing here, as always, for another approach. The Socialist Party of Great Britain insists that workers need to examine the basis of capitalism as the cause of the world’s problems and to act to change society from that basis.

We are arguing here, as always, for a social revolution to abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism—a social system based on common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. Socialism will be a classless society, without privilege and poverty, a society in which all human beings will stand equal in their freedom.

In face of that, the posturing, impotent leaders of capitalism fade into their true proportions. It is not they who will change human society into one of abundance but the mass consciousness of the working class. Socialism is something for the workers of the world to get excited about and then act to achieve.

Mr Potty gets a nice surprise (1994)

From the original Socialist Standard.
A Short Story from the April 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was a bright spring morning in Burblage and Mr Potty was feeling particularly pleased with himself. The birds were warbling, the flowers were growing, the brook at the end of his garden was bubbling. He glanced at it apprehensively as he crossed the little bridge. Yes, it was definitely bubbling. He shrugged and went on, putting it from his mind. Today was, after all, going to be a very special day.

In the village the shops were gaily decorated and people passed to and fro, happily chatting with the shopowners. PC Mungo, the village bobby, paced grandly along the street wearing the shiny new medal he’d got recently for catching Mickey Flynn, the notorious criminal who had let off fireworks while the council was in session. Mr Potty nodded and exchanged a friendly word or two as he passed. He noticed that PC Mungo's truncheon seemed to have red paint all over it. but he let it pass.

Today was going to be exciting, thought Mr Potty. Mr de Beergut. the inheritor of the entire firm of Beergut, Slugworm and Fester had asked to see him, him, personally, at nine o’clock sharp this morning. Mr Potty knew it would be good news. After all, hadn't he worked in that same chemical factory man and boy for thirty years, and had he ever had a day off sick? Only yesterday his manager had said to him: "Potty", he said, "this firm really needs men like you, you know. Can't think where Mr de Beergut would be without you", and Mr Potty had blushed, too tickled to reply.

At the end of the High Street Mr Potty saw smoke. As he came closer he saw the Mungo boys in the road. Jimmy was holding a petrol can, and Billy was throwing matches at the grocer, who was tied to a post. Mr Thoms the grocer was cross. He didn’t like being tied up and set fire to. Freddy, who had just finished looting the till, was busy torching the premises. Mr Potty decided this was very naughty, and looked around for their father PC Mungo, who was nowhere in sight.

"Billy", he said, "don’t you think you should stop this?" Billy, who was a very naughty young man, said: "Fuck off, or I’ll have you arrested", and waved a stick at Mr Potty. Mr Potty decided they would grow out of it, and so went on his way, worried slightly about the way the Mungo children seemed to like murder, rape and arson better than nice games like football and tennis, but determined not to let one dark cloud spoil a beautiful blue sky.

Mr Potty was passing through the fields, on his way to the factory, when the bomber squadron flew overhead, on their way to the war. He stopped and waved to the dark aeroplanes, but they were very high and probably couldn't see him, or they would certainly have waved back. They were just off to drop some bombs, and would be back in time for tea and buns at six o'clock. They were jolly chaps, always singing and laughing in the village teashop. Mr Potty was glad the weather was nice for them.

Suddenly he spied Old Gypo Williams coming towards him. and he sighed. Old Gypo was bound to ask him for tenpence, just like he did every morning at this time. Mr Potty put a brave face on, and dug his hand in his pocket.

"Hello there, Mr Williams, lovely morning. Have tenpence."

"Well thank 'ee Mr Potty, that I will, and right kind of you it is to pass 0.000000001 percent of your earnings to the poor and undernourished of the world. You ain't 'eard about poor Mickey Flynn the renegade Irish firework criminal then, Mr Potty?"

Mr Potty shook his head.

"Well, no Mr Williams, I must say I haven’t."

"Stone dead, 'e is, found in his cell last night. Got it from the cleaner. 'Parrently bashed hisself to death with the leg orf a chair when no-one were looking. Right terrible, don't yer think, Mr Potty?"

Mr Potty agreed that it was very sad, but Old Gypo continued in his monologue: "His old man reckons he weren't even in the country when them fireworks was let orf. Seems 'e were in Mozambique doin’ Volunteering Service or someink. Reckon they’ll like as not be taking PC Mungo’s new shiny medal orf of him afore too long. Fact is ’e might get the boot altogether if the papers gets old of it, an 'im wiv two rottweilers to feed an' all. Bleedin' shame."

Mr Potty' shook his head again.

"Well, must be off, Mr Williams, got lots to do you know. I'm to see the owner of our whole firm this morning, and I know it's going to be good news."

Old Gypo raised his hedgehog eyebrows, and then scratched his beard thoughtfully.

"Yer well, maybe it’s eleven pence I'll be stickin' you for tomorrow, in that case?"

And then he gave a great big guffaw and slapped Mr Potty on the back, enjoying his joke.

Mr Potty went on his way in fair spirits, despite the news of PC Mungo’s impending embarrassment. Old Gypo was a good sort, always concerned for other people's troubles more than his own, and never complaining about having to sleep in a pig trough and eat boxes.

Finally he arrived at Factory Lane. It was a good factory, and lots of people worked there from the town. As he walked up to the back entrance he saw a huge car parked at the front with a chauffeur standing by it. What a beautiful car it was! He knew he would never own one like it, because he wasn't really clever enough to own his own factory even if he was chief cashier. Mr de Beergut must have arrived already, he thought, better get a move on. As he passed the effluent disposal plant he noticed that the river was now bubbling and smoking, but he decided that this was only because of spring tides. He entered the office with great excitement. Mr de Beergut was waiting.

"Potty, it's a pleasure to meet you", began the other, and Mr Potty felt himself glow right down to his toes. "Sit down, sit down."

Mr Potty sat down. He knew today was going to be a good day. For a moment he thought he could still smell the fumes from the river, but he decided instead that is was probably Mr de Beergut’s famed gourmet diet that was responsible. The owner looked down at him, man to man.

"Potty, everyone here works hard, but especially you. Your persistent ten-hour days have not gone unnoticed, let me tell you. Your efforts have been brought to the attention of the Board, and there’s something they have asked me to give you."

Mr Potty waited, feeling his face go scarlet, hardly daring to breathe.

Mr de Beergut had paused to consider him, then he thrust out a large pink hand and. taking Mr Potty's limp white fingers, wrung them till they cracked.

"Our congratulations, Mr Potty, and thank you for everything. Keep up the good work. Have a cigar."

Mr de Beergut planted an enormous Havana in Mr Potty's breast pocket, and immediately swept from the room to go to a financial planning meeting.

Mr Potty stood up, looking speculatively at the cigar sticking out of his pocket. It seemed rather a shame that he didn’t smoke. Ah well, he thought, brightening, it's all in a day's work. And off he went to his desk, determined that today was going to be a jolly nice day come what may, and nothing was going to spoil it, nothing at all. Not even the smell of the river as it boiled and spat its way past his window.
Paddy Shannon

Letters: Is "god" a Socialist? (1996)

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

Is "god" a Socialist?

Dear Editors,

Re your November editorial: “We only have one life: this one" and Adam Buick’s “we do know that it (the human mind and consciousness) can’t exist in the absence of a body that functions” in his Is-David-Icke-Serious? Same issue article.

First and foremost, if socialism is to be established, it's unreasonable and self-defeating to make unwelcome all those who believe in, or are open-minded about life after death, as these views alone are irrelevant.

Opinion polls have shown a majority think some sort of post- mortem survival likely, and there’s very strong evidence from Near Death Experiences (NDE) and mediumships.

Many cardiac-arrested patients have had NDEs, which, after resuscitation, have proved to be accurate accounts of events in hospitals etc. observed by detached “spirits” looking down upon their own physical bodies.

It can be argued that NDEs are "just" a psychic phenomenon associated with a dying brain, but they do show a perceptive consciousness can operate externally at the brink of death.

Furthermore, several sceptical and painstaking investigators of different mediums have been impressed and converted by considerable and precise spiritual information (some only knowable by those who “died").

Just because many people conclude souls may survive briefly, eternally, multi-incarnately etc. doesn’t mean they can’t see a better world for the living will come about through socialism. Such rationalists can readily see that capitalism must go if they’re not shut out.

Religions only grew because an afterlife has been a mystery for aeons, and their leaders are even now suing their claims on this enigma for their own personal. political and capitalistic advantages.

However, no system of faith has exclusive ownership of, or justifiable rule by reason of a hereafter whatsoever, since it would rightfully and equally belong to all (like the means of living while alive): so "god” can logically be seen as a universal coalescent synergy of spiritual entities. Or in other words, if it exists, god's a socialist!
Max Hess, 
Folkestone


Reply:
We have never said that those who believe in an afterlife can’t want socialism. They can, and we know of a number of examples. People can be inconsistent and hold contradictory views: basing one part of their views on what experience has confirmed but basing another part on unverified, and often unverifiable, beliefs, speculations and superstitions.

All we say is that such people are ineligible to join the Socialist Party (but they can be sympathisers), as we feel they would undermine our claim to have a case based on rational, logical argument from scientifically verified facts about history, capitalism, and human nature and behaviour.

It is on this last point in particular that such people fall. If it really was part of human nature to have a spirit that could exist in the absence of a body this would be a very important fact that would have enormous implications for explaining human behaviour. The fact that most people do believe this (or want to believe it) doesn't make any difference. There is no evidence for it. On the contrary, all the evidence goes the other way, confirming that human behaviour and thought, including thinking, can be explained in purely materialist terms.

So-called "Near-Death Experiences” and "Out-of-Body Experiences" don't prove that there is a spiritual life separate from the body since, in any event, they are linked to the existence of a functioning body. They are hallucinations, mental distortions, brought on by the brain being deprived for a short period of enough oxygen. It has been suggested that the particular form the hallucination takes—of floating out of the body, among other things—is due to the particular physiology of the human brain and to the way it organises and interprets the experience of the senses. (For one such explanation see the article by Susan Blackmore on "Near-Death Experiences: In or Out of the Body?" in the Fall 1991 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer.)

You can't be serious about mediums. We thought that it was common knowledge that they were either entertainers (whose tricks can be reproduced by other conjurers and illusionists who make no claims about really being in touch with the spirit of a dead person) or frauds (the list of those who have been exposed as such over the last hundred years is a long one). For the techniques employed to fish for and extract information from vulnerable persons and then re-presenting it to them as if it came from a spirit, see Chapter 4 of James Randi: Psychic Investigator (the book of the 1991 television series).

Finally, would "god” if it existed, be a socialist? Clearly not since, unless it is a useless abstraction incapable of influencing human affairs, it would have used that influence to have got humans to establish socialism long ago. But what do we find? That this "god" allows 14 million or so children under the age of 5 to die each year of starvation and starvation-related diseases. Some socialist!
Editors.



Pressure valve for the working class

Dear Editors,

I found Coleman's comments about the National Lottery (November Socialist Standard) particularly interesting, although I felt that he said far too little about the real objectives behind what is probably one of the most seductive capitalist ploys in history. Apart from the obvious fact that the National Lottery is designed to act as yet another pressure valve for the working class, I feel that its hidden agenda is of a far more sinister nature.

The simpering puppets of the Parliamentary Establishment are finding it increasingly difficult to hide the progressive degradation of British society. The ruling class has had to come to terms with the simple fact that laissez-faire capitalism cannot function without decimating whole sections of our community. The clutter of sleeping bags which fill the shop doorways of our major towns and cities are becoming an embarrassment to an exploitative system keen to conceal the inevitable consequences of its own soul-destroying policies.

In the last century, the capitalist class was able to postpone the full effects of social decay by throwing working class people into workhouses or by relying upon the well-meaning but futile efforts of Victorian philanthropists. The National Lottery is a similar ploy which has been implemented for precisely the same reason. By diverting the squandered revenue of the average gambler into specific charities the Tories can retain an essential facade of comparative normality, thus ensuring a continued acceptance (at least by a sympathetic minority) and managing to stave off the persistent threat of a Socialist alternative at the same time. Sadly, the National Lottery is not simply a "bit of fun”, it is a cynical and manipulative plot to deceive the increasingly credulous masses.
Christian McLean, 
Dover


The ability of capitalist authority

Dear Editors,

Your [November] Socialist Standard review of Charles Derrick’s book A Question of Judgement mentions the vital issue of the ability of capitalist authority, indeed of capitalism, to survive in the face of the withdrawal of the willing co-operation of a majority of class-conscious workers like, presumably, Derrick. My own experience in the army as another unwilling conscript of the 1945 Labour government, whilst not as varied as Derrick's, forced me to consider the effects on capitalism’s stability of even a small minority.

Having refused an order to accompany my unit to help break the London Dock strike of the winter of ’46, I was given military punishment. At this stage the barrack-room politicians of the Communist Party were solidly behind the Labour government in smashing the workers’ attempts to better their living standards, and as far as I know, mine was a one-man revolt. As such it received no publicity.

I had time to reflect on the effect that even a small number of such refusals could have had if made with the integrity and strength of socialist conviction and argument, and backed by a sound party statement. The publicity given by local and national newshounds anxious to embarrass the government, and possible questions in parliament could have pushed the issue of a socialist alternative, however distorted, and the resultant discussion in office, factory and pub would have been out of all proportion to the numbers of socialists involved.

Like everyone else, socialists behave in conformity with their convictions as far as possible. I believe that the effect on capitalism’s workability of a minority of even 5 percent of socialists behaving like Derrick in their various activities would be so profound, that the question of capitalism’s viability would confront the non-socialist majority as a critical issue demanding their political and ideological decision and commitment, at an earlier stage than the assumptions implied by majority action normally suppose.
Bill Robertson, 
Brighton

News From Mid Herts (1964)

Party News from the December 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much activity has taken place during the last year in Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and Hatfield. The Group reports that the number of members has increased over this period. Seventeen discussion meetings have been held, most of them being held at Welwyn Garden City Community Centre. Fortnightly outdoor meetings were held at Stevenage Town Centre.

Canvassing of the Socialist Standard in the three areas has been regularly carried out and sales have risen from 2½ to 10 dozen per month. The Standard is regularly available in the public libraries at Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City.

The above is a short report of the activities of this Group who would welcome sympathisers and members in the district to help carry on the good propaganda work they are doing. K. Knight is the secretary — full address under “Groups” in this issue.

News items about other Labour Governments (1947)

From the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Australia.
 “Australia’s industrial unrest has come to a head with the decision by 76 federal trade unions representing virtually all union members in the nation to hold a general strike on May 1st unless their claims are met. This will be a one-day affair as the opening shot in a "direct action” campaign to enforce demands for higher wages and better conditions.”
  “The conference also favoured complete abolition of wage-pegging regulations, an investigation of commodity prices and action against black marketing in essential commodities. It resolved that its decisions regarding wages should again be placed before the Government as the minimum demands of the trade unions.”
(“Sunday Times,” February 9th, 1947.)
New Zealand.
 “A strike on the waterfront, lasting a few days, was ended by agreement with the Government and the Federation of Labour, but the cause of the strike remains—a claim by waterside workers’ unions for a five-day week—and trouble may recur any time. If it does, and the threatened split in the Labour front comes to pass, Labour may well be thrown out of office at the next election. As it is, the Government has a bare majority—42 to 38 in a House of 80. . . . The poll was heavy and so evenly divided between the parties— half a million or so each—that Labour had only about 30,000 majority in the million.”
("Manchester Guardian,” February 17th, 1947 )
France.
The French Government is a coalition of several parties, including the Labourites and Communists, under a Labour Prime Minister.

Recently a strike of civil servants, post office workers and the police took place. The sequel is related below by the “Daily Telegraph” (February 19th, 1947):—
 "Declaring that the assembly must enact laws to limit the right to strike, he (Prime Minister Ramadier) announced that the Cabinet would shortly present the draft of such a law to Parliament. 'The first French anti-strike law which will ever have been enacted must limit in a precise manner the right to strike of employees on which public security depends'. ”

"Join up and do your bit." (1916)

From the September 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
We are going to win this war—the CLASS War. Join up and do your bit.

A Quiet-Flowing Don (1975)

From the January 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

A periodical called Britain-USSR which styles itself the Bulletin of the Great Britain-USSR Association is issued from 14 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1. Issue No. 44 has an article entitled “Participation in the USSR”.

It is clear from the periodical that a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing goes on between the Association in London and their counterparts in Moscow but it is not naive to suggest that this body and its periodical are not simple mouthpieces of Russian propaganda as one usually expects. For example, the first article is a piece about Meyerhold, the Russian theatre director, which does not pull punches about the murder in a Stalinist prison of this Russian Jewish intellectual, a matter which the usual propaganda rag would keep quiet about.

However, if this body is merely a forum for those studying the Russian language and literature, then it behoves them to watch for infiltration on the part of some members whose intentions are less innocent. Of course, readers of the Socialist Standard will not be surprised to find pro-communist propaganda worming its way into a journal like this. It succeeds in doing so in far less likely vehicles; so that the article with which we are here concerned would normally not warrant discussion. We are all used to tendentious stuff from friends of the Communist (i.e. red-fascist) democracies (i.e. dictatorships). The point in the present case is not merely what is in the article, but who and what the writer is: “Dr. Parker lectures on the Soviet Union at the University of Oxford”.

So here we have an Oxford Don who has the power to propagate his views, partial as they clearly are, among the students committed to his care. One knows, of course, that these days students are ’ess malleable than they used to be and are liable to put two fingers up to any lecturer whose views they don't like. Nevertheless, one does not need to have a vivid imagination to realise that the Dr. Parkers are in a position to insinuate Moscow poison into the bloodstream of intellectuals in the making.

The word “participation” is fashionable these days. It would be so nice (for the ruling classes) if the ruled, the people who do the work which produces the wealth which the rulers are the only ones to really enjoy, could be made to feel that they were participating in their own exploitation. They would hardly feel so discontented about it and wouldn’t think about striking. (In Russia they can only think about it and not do it. I don’t suppose Dr. Parker goes out of his way to stress that to his students. That’s not the way the Don flows). Of course, the very fact that one has to discuss “participation” in regard to Russia in the same way as to western countries, gives the game away. If the workers owned society, who would talk about getting people to participate? You are given vague ideas about participation precisely because you don’t own. And if you don’t own, then it’s not Socialism, which is a society where people are not given the boon of participating (whatever that means): it’s all theirs, anyway. Of course our Don thinks Russia is a Socialist state, not realising that this is a contradiction in terms.

He tells us that in Russia, “membership of the Communist Party is the most obvious means of participation” and that the fifteen million members are all “activists” who have “the privilege and duty . . . to set the example of good citizenship”. Which leaves about 200 millions of non-members whose function in the Soviet paradise is to follow the party stooges. For those who don’t, there is “participation” in a labour camp in Siberia or some other delightful part of the Gulag Archipelago. Our Don proceeds to tell us (and doubtless tells his students) that the Soviets are the bodies in which “traditionally all power resides”; that “they are elected in the sense that all adults have the opportunity to endorse a pre-selected candidate, but do not vote as between several candidates”. Some election, some participation.

His article goes on to explain how eminently satisfactory this all is. Satisfactory to him, no doubt. No doubt Don Parker believes that things which would not go down here are perfectly acceptable to Russian wage-slaves. But the nub of his twisted argument comes in the following passage: “The Soviet system gives a high degree of satisfaction to millions who feel they are actively serving their country . . . This satisfaction doubtless outweighs any sense of deprivation that those same millions feel at that lack of those democratic freedoms which Western critics emphasise." Doubtless, he says. How did he free himself from doubt? Did he take a secret poll among the millions he talks of so glibly to see if they really enjoy being deprived of democratic freedoms?

It is this sort of conjuring trick, slipping “doubtless” while the student isn’t looking, which is the real crime. Well, he may have no doubts but the rulers in the Kremlin, for whom people like this Don act as propagandists (not to say lickspittles) have doubts aplenty. Never once in the grisly history of Russia, have they allowed their wage-slaves the chance to say freely whether they feel satisfaction. “Doubtless” the Kremlin knows that any such experiment in democratic participation would result in rather unpleasant happenings; people might participate to the extent of hanging red-fascist thugs on lamp posts, as in Budapest in ’56. If university teachers in the comparatively free west fill their students with such dishonest stuff, what kind of filth is being pumped out in the land where the other Don flows?
L. E. Weidberg

Media harlots (1979)

From the March 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard
You cannot hope 
to bribe or twist, 
thank God! the 
British journalist.
But. seeing what 
the man will do 
unbribed, there’s 
no occasion to.
Bribery and Graft can—and do—take subtle forms. So can pressure on one’s job; especially in times of heavy unemployment. Otherwise, how else could the master class persuade workers such as journalists, type-setters, television and radio news-readers and interviewers, editors, chat-show hosts, camera crews, engineers and the like, to sustain the unremitting stream of heavily-slanted clap-trap with which we have been assailed over these past few months.

I refer, of course, to the well-orchestrated and wholly unprincipled attack which has been, and is being, directed at millions of workers whose resentment at finding their already modest standard of living even further eroded has boiled over into open — if uninformed — rebellion.

However, while recognising the effects of, on the one hand, the economic stranglehold the capitalist has on his hired labourers, and on the other, the lack of a true understanding of our condition as wage-earners under capitalism, it can do no harm to point up some of the shadier verbal and other techniques employed by the press, television and radio to convince the public of the greed and perversity, not to mention downright callousness, of striking trade-unionists (as if these same strikers were not themselves also members of the public!).

No doubt readers of this journal will have their own store of prize examples; including, perhaps, that memorable occasion on which Angela Rippon, reading the news, referred, apparently quite unconsciously, to  ". . . trade unionists and other extremists . . .” And that shining moment during which listeners to a morning news round-up-cum-chat-show could have heard an interviewer attempting to trap a lorry-driver picket into confessing that he fiddled his time-sheet in order to make up his money. (His ingratiating manner as he did so caused swallowed porridge to rise back into at least one listener’s throat. But when a BBC toady next interviews the Director-General of the CBI, take note of the obsequious little chuckle he manages to emit as he concludes a tendentious performance studded with gently sympathetic leading questions with his “. . . and thank-you, Sir John”).

From the screaming prejudice of the lady before the pickets (Look North, 24 January) to the Consultant Physician who spent a day refusing his selective services to trade union card-holders; (Radio 4, 25 January) from the threat to day-old chicks (due to have their necks wrung later, anyway) to the brigade of outraged ladies busy sharpening their umbrellas; from the priest who used his morning radio God-Spot (Friday, 2 February) to denigrate hospital workers and the like, to that other consultant (the same programme) who was whipped in to elaborate his contention that we should dispense with the less-than-dedicated services of half the hospital ancillary workers anyway; broadcasting and the press have been having a field-day.

What workers responsible for preparing and presenting such malevolent harlotry should remember is that it is directed against themselves—just as surely as at social workers or lorry-drivers, or hospital porters, or school caretakers, cooks and cleaners. It is intended to create a climate in which a more deferential working class accepts the specious argument that to ask for a few measly quid a week more in order merely to try to restore a deliberately-engineered cut in their wage-packets is to "bring the Nation to its knees”; or to create “uncontrollable inflation”; (who actually prints the money, anyway?) or "bring down your Labour Government". (The writer emphatically denies possession).

But the thoughtful worker can learn a valuable lesson from all these manifestations of capitalism in crisis. Our present system cannot be made to function efficiently no matter which government holds office, crude attempts to shuffle off the blame for the current state of affairs onto disaffected workers using the media of broadcasting and the press to do so reveals a blatant and cynical determination on the part of the capitalist class to hide this truth from the only other section of capitalist society which has the power to put things right: the 90 per cent of us who constitute the world's working class.

And that 90 per cent includes the ‘front’ men and women who push loaded news at us all via the airwaves and the printing-presses.
Richard Cooper



Why the French Popular Front Failed (1939)

From the July 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now that the discredited French Popular Front is out of office and in dissolution, the people who originated it are busy holding inquests and explaining why it failed. The Communists take a simple line. The Daily Worker (June 1st, 1939) says that the Front “suffered a setback because the whole force of British reaction was launched against it and there was no British Popular Front to rally to its defence.” This is a half-truth that is both untimely and unconvincing. Among the fairly consistent defenders of the French Popular Front Government was the London Times; and if the success of the Popular Front in France depended wholly on events in Great Britain, the proper time to say so was in 1936 before the Popular Front took office. At that date, however, the French Communists were in the Popular Front themselves and were making the most extravagant forecasts of its success. Their leader, Maurice Thorez, was saying in May, 1936, that “we have at our disposal a majority amply sufficient to carry out our programme, and the members of our party can face the future with joy.” The British Daily Worker (May 4th, 1936) was promising among other trifles that the victory of the Popular Front would mean the abolition of slums in Paris!

The Labour organ, the Daily Herald, was equally joyful, “it is,” said the Herald, “a beginning more hopeful than anything which France has known for many a long day.” (Herald, June 8th, 1936.)

We Told You So
Socialists dismissed these optimistic forecasts without the least hesitation. We said that the outcome was not in doubt. Blum and the Communists had, as they explicitly stated, taken on the job of running the capitalist system without the mandate or the intention to try to abolish it. THE SOCIALIST STANDARD (June, 1936) made the following comment: –
  “The French Labour and Communist Parties are thus caught in the trap into which the advocates of compromise always fall. They promise to solve certain urgent problems by entering into pacts with capitalist parties, hoping, perhaps, to gain strength later on to press forward. They forget that in taking on the administration of capitalism they do not gain strength but lose it. They at once begin to earn the unpopularity and contempt which always centres on the Government which carries on capitalism. The effort to solve problems inside capitalism creates uncertainty, mistrust, apathy and despair among the workers who have cherished false hopes. . . .”
Now everything that Socialists knew would happen has come to pass. The 40-hour week and other reforms passed by the Popular Front Government have been largely abandoned already. French workers who came out on strike against the Popular Front Government were met with martial law and bitter attacks by the Popular Front leaders. Enthusiasm based on false hopes has turned to apathy, and the French Labour movement is now at sixes and sevens within itself.

The Paris correspondent of the Economist (June 3rd, 1939) says that “M. Jouhaux, leader of the trade unions, admits that membership has fallen by 20 per cent, from the high levels of 1936.” Of the French Labourites (the Socialist Party of France) he writes: –
 “The Socialists have a strong position in the Chamber, but their credit is not high, and they are deeply divided. In three years their greatest political victory has been transformed into political defeat.”
The Paris correspondent of the Manchester Guardian (June 3rd, 1939) puts the loss of trade union membership higher than is admitted by M. Jouhaux. He estimates that it has fallen from 3,500,000 to under 2,000,000 while the membership of the reactionary Christian trade unions “has been growing and is now believed to stand near half a million.”

“All this,” he says, “has tended to eliminate all the old revolutionary agitation among the working class – an agitation which nearly broke M. Blum’s heart.”

Keeping the Workers Content with Capitalism
That last remark, about M. Blum’s view of his followers, may sound strange to the unthinking who suppose that a Labour Government should welcome an aggressive attitude among those it leads. What they forget is that anyone who takes on the administration of capitalism has to “govern or get out” – in other words, he has to use every means of safeguarding capitalism against any demands by the workers which endanger capitalism’s smooth working.

There is no question here of libelling M. Blum. He has himself been even more candid.

Just prior to the conference of his party at the end of May, M. Blum made a speech on the failure of the Popular Front. The Paris correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, after noting that the membership of the Party had fallen from 270,000 to 180,000, reported the speech as follows: –
  “Many French Socialists have also been disillusioned by the failure of the Front Populaire experiment – a policy which in a speech at St. Nazaire yesterday M. Blum attributed not only to a conspiracy of the vested interests, still less to the Senate which defeated both his Governments, but above all to the ‘unreasonable’ attitude of a certain part of the working-class itself. He explained that while he had always considered the Front Populaire experiment as a ‘reformist’ experiment to be carried out within the framework of the capitalist system, the workers treated it as something revolutionary.” – (Manchester Guardian, May 29th, 1939.)
The correspondent then reproduces a very illuminating passage in M. Blum’s own words : –
  “The Senate would never have overthrown us had it not had the impression that the working-class were no longer following our advice.”
The Guardian in its editorial (May 31st) put the matter a little more crudely when it said that the Blum Government fell rather because of its “inability to keep the working classes disciplined.”

This is the true function of Popular Front and Labour Governments no matter what the original good intentions of the individuals may be, that of “disciplining” the working class, of making them content with reforming capitalism instead of abolishing it.

That is why Socialists are opposed to the Labour and Popular Front policy of administering the capitalist system.
Edgar Hardcastle

Yes — but what can I do? (1975)

From the May 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
 “We live in a highly complex industrial society.
  We travel in cars, buses or trains, handle the elaborate machinery of production, operate computers, eat processed food and watch television, listen to radio, record-players and tapes. All this is comparatively new, the world produced by our technology is continuously changing. It does not resemble the world of our parents or grandparents; it will not resemble the world of our children.
 Although everyone knows about these changes, we do not often stop to consider just how large they are, and how rapid they have been in industrialised societies compared with all previous times.
 To understand our society therefore—and understanding it is a necessity, both to survive satisfactorily within it, and as a preparation for changing it, it is important to understand technology.”
So begins the first section of the Open University’s Foundation Science course. And yet having readily agreed that the facts are as stated, and that we live in a hectic, madly hysterical world of tearing haste—the question arises Yes! but what can I do about it all?

This must be a question asked themselves by many isolated readers of the Socialist Standard. It must be admitted that this is no easy option. All very well for those within easy distance of numbers of other members to see, and to talk to!

But for the lone reader, buried away in a sea of select suburbia, or the isolated Socialist in a northern “Labour stronghold” it is by no means easy to withstand the pressures of sheer weight of opposition numbers. After all, everyone (almost) wants to be friendly with the neighbours, popular at work, and accepted by the community. Who wants to be written off as “a nice enough bloke” (or dame) but a bit funny about politics!—You know?

What the hell can one do? Firstly nobody is expected to invest in a soapbox and rush to the local public square to harangue the citizenry. The first thing we would suggest that any isolated Socialist can do is read and think. You have taken the first step when you read the Socialist Standard.

Secondly there have never been so many excellent texts available for the Party supporter to get his teeth into. In thus training himself to deal with all the spurious nonsense of leftie reformers effectively, he will, at the same time, be transforming himself into an able exponent of Socialism.

Thirdly, telephone one of the numbers given in the Directory inside the front cover to put queries—ask advice—quote problems. We will advise about books, courses of study, sources of information. Never forget that ours is the method of peaceful persuasion. Not for us the strong-arm antics of disgruntled lefties, headstrong hooligans who without the knowledge which gives confidence seek hand-to-hand brawling and stupid fisticuffs as a substitute for arguments. In any case, after the meeting has been broken up—or the speaker beaten up—the discussion still has to take place. But to do this you do not need lessons in karate or unarmed combat but knowledge from books and advice from the party.

When discussing with workmates, neighbours or friends it is not necessary to constantly refer to the word Socialism or the name of the party. People are interested in the problems—start on these first, then lead naturally to parties and policies.

Write to the party and the Standard about events in your factory, office or constituency.

You will find in today’s rapidly changing world of impending disasters many more enquiring workers eager to listen to anybody who has the ability to expound an alternative to capitalism. For this you need knowledge. When you have it you cannot lack interested friends. We will help you all we can, but you must help other workers to learn Socialism.
Horatio

Cheap soup suitable for a soup kitchen. (1956)

From the November 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

From Mrs. Beeton's All About Cookery 
(Current Edition)
Benevolent Soup 
Cheap soup suitable for a soup kitchen.
Ingredients: ½ an ox-cheek, 4 celery tops, 2 large carrots, 4 large onions, 2 large turnips, 1 cabbage, salt and pepper, a bunch of herbs, 10 quarts of cold water, 1½ pints of dried peas or lentils.
Time: About 6 or 7 hours. Sufficient for 12 quarts of soup.

Party News Briefs (1956)

Party News from the November 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Delegate Meeting, held at Head Office on October 6th and 7th was well attended by members generally, although the only provincial delegation was from Southend and Birmingham. All the business was dealt with and discussion was good.

Fulham Branch have arranged a debate with the I.L.P. Readers will remember that earlier this year the Independent Labour Party challenged the S.P.G.B. to a debate. The challenge was accepted, and the debate took place at Bermondsey. The Fulham Branch have now challenged the I.L.P., and the debate will be held on Monday, 19th November, at 7.45, at Fulham Town Hall (opposite Fulham Broadway Underground Station). The representative for the I.L.P. will be Frank Maitland, and R. Coster will represent the S.P.G.B. The chairman will be Phillip Sansum. of the Anarchist Group. The last debate was a success, and we must see that this one is also.

The Fulham and Chelsea Branches have now discontinued their two outdoor meeting stations for the winter. Although less meetings were held this year, due to bad weather (sixty-one were held last year), quite a number of very good meetings were held at Gloucester Road and Earls Court. Altogether about twelve different speakers have held meetings, including Comrade Fred Evans, of Los Angeles, U.S.A. Comrade Evans spoke to interested audiences at both these stations, in addition to Hyde Park and other meeting places.

Now that outdoor propaganda has closed down for the season the branch is holding regular weekly lectures and discussions at 6, Keppel House, Lucan Place, Chelsea, S.W.3, on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. A number of lectures have already been held, and although attendances have not been as good as hoped for, this has been compensated by the excellence of the lectures. The Branch welcomes all members, sympathisers and readers of the Socialist Standard who live in the area of Chelsea to the meetings.

Islington Branch continues to press ahead with selling the Socialist Standard. Conservative estimates for September show at least twenty-three dozen copies sold. This energetic branch increased its order for the October sales drive, and it is hoped to report some encouraging figures for the month when the results are to hand. Although canvassing is their main method of disposal, Islington have also established good sales via local news stands. Other branches please note.

Lunch Hour Meetings at Tower Hill. Meetings are held on Thursdays from one o’clock by Comrade Ambridge, assisted by Comrade McGuinness. Assistance by other Party speakers, and members to sell literature, will be appreciated. As this is the only lunch-hour meeting place in London at the moment, it is hoped that members will do their best to support the meetings whenever possible.

Ealing Branch. Ealing Branch held a remarkably successful Social and Dance towards the end of September. There was an attendance of at least 60 members, sympathisers and friends, and a useful contribution was realised to Party funds. Another social has been authorised for just before Christmas.

Activities before Christmas will include two showings of documentary films, discussions, and another visit to one of the London museums. This latter will be followed by the usual social at a member’s home.
Phyllis Howard

TO MEMBERS AND BRANCHES
Head Office records are short of certain Party documents. Will any member or Branch possessing any communicate with the E.C. We particularly need any old Party minutes that were handed out to be typed.

Party News Briefs (1956)

Party News from the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Propaganda in London. On Sunday, November 18th, a well attended meeting was held at Denison House, Victoria. The subject—Suez and Hungary. Comrades D’Arcy and Read addressed the meeting, and there were good questions and discussion. This meeting had been arranged at short notice, and its success was largely due to the work put in by many Comrades. A further meeting was also held on Thursday, 22nd November, at Ealing Town Hall. The Ealing Branch members did most of the preparatory work, and details of the meeting will be in the January issue.

Fulham Branch organised a debate with the Independent Labour Party, Frank Maitland represented the I.L.P. and Comrade R. Coster represented the Party. The debate was held at Fulham Town Hall, and the audience numbered two hundred people.

#    #    #    #

October Sales Drive. Six branches took part in organising a special sales drive, and despite the fact that the number of outdoor meetings is less after the Summer, when sales usually fall, 5085 copies of the Socialist Standard were sold. The deficit on cost was reduced to £14 10s.

These sales drives could become a permanent feature of Party activity. The more Standards sold, the more successful our propaganda, also a reduction in the cost of producing them.

#    #    #    #

Wickford Branch. A correction in the News Briefs for November. The reference to the Provincial delegates should have read: " . . . the only Provincial delegation was from Birmingham, Southend and Wickford.” Sorry, Wickford Branch!

Ealing Branch are holding their Christmas Social at “The Ealing Park Tavern,” South Ealing Road (full details under Notices in this issue). Members are sure of a most enjoyable evening—book up with the Branch Secretary: E. T. Critchfield, 48, Balfour Road, W.13.

#    #    #    #

Hackney Branch. Members’ and sympathisers’ notice is drawn to the changed branch meeting venue—12, Mare Street, Hackney, E.8. Buses 6, 170, 555, 557, 106 and 653 pass the door. Branch meets Mondays at 8 p.m.

#    #    #    #

Meeting of Party Speakers. As the first two meetings proved so successful, it is hoped to arrange regular meetings. The last meeting of speakers was held on Monday, the 12th November. About 15 speakers and six non-speakers attended, and the discussion that took place—on the recent events in Hungary—was interesting and lively. Speakers exchanged information about the history of Hungary and recent events, and discussed interpretation of these events and methods of dealing with the matter on our propaganda platform.

Those who attended found the meeting of great interest, and it was agreed at the time that a further meeting would be called to discuss aspects of “Democracy.” This subject arose out of the discussion on Hungary and our attitude to workers who are struggling for democracy.
Phyllis Howard

50 Years Ago: The Liberal Argument (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the November 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the event of an early General Election brought about by the Lords rejecting the Finance Bill, this must be the immediate subject of the appeal to the country. To this will be added, according to the apostles of the “Newest Liberalism,” the abolition of the Lord’s veto. The Liberals in such a case are confident of success, apparently sure that the enthusiasm for the Budget exists in sufficient force and depth to carry with it the greater constitutional question. But, without the Lords, what will the Liberal Party do for an excuse for their own procrastination in the matter of reform? Up to now the standing argument has been that the Lords blocked the way . . .

To conduct their present campaign the George-cum-Churchill combination has been arguing against the landed interest that the land, rendered useful and valuable by social occupation, should not be exclusively enjoyed by a class of monopolists, but should contribute to the upkeep of the State. These great parliamentary debaters. . . . must know that they are forging a double-edged weapon which must inevitably be turned against them when the working class, to whom the appeal is particularly directed, recognise that capital likewise owes its quality as a means of production to social activities, and is no less monopolized than the land itself. The income derived from an investment in industrial stock is no more defensible on those lines than is the income from an investment in land.
From the Socialist Standard November 1909

Hoo R Ower Dumm Frenz? (1949)

From the March 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every few years well over a thousand men and women push themselves forward in an effort to get elected to parliament. The six hundred odd successful candidates assume the responsibility, so they would have us believe, of looking after the interests of us all. They place themselves before us as men and women of intelligence and integrity, who are best able to deal with the manifold problems of modern society. Of course, there is no shortage of these problems today. We humble members of the working class have no doubts what these problems are. In a world in which there is so much poverty, with its attendant evils, ill-housing, malnutrition, overwork, etc., and in which the threat of ever greater wars is always imminent, we have decided views about the relative importance of these problems.

But our legislators have different views. The abolition of war and poverty are apparently not items of paramount interest for these parliamentary pundits.

With the re-introduction of the pre-war practice whereby members may introduce private Bills for consideration by parliament, some of these individuals have had a recent opportunity of showing what they are really interested in. And how they have enjoyed themselves!

Altogether, 26 of them have prepared Bills and nine of these 26 have given up mankind in despair in favour of other members of the animal kingdom. The Daily Express (28/1/49) tells us about them and their doings.

Brigadier C. Peto (Conservative, Barnstaple) has turned his back on the problems of working class housing conditions in favour of better conditions for pussies and puppy dogs in pet shops.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Labour, Acton) is believed to have a Bill for restricting blood sports but we are confident that he will not include the well known blood sport of compelling members of the working class to slaughter one another in millions in their master's wars

Mr. Seymour Cocks (Labour, Broxtowe) wants to abolish the hunting of deer, badgers, otters and hares. (Maybe he is after their votes, too.)

"Do not dock the horses* tails” is how it might be put by Sir Dimoke White (Conservative, Fareham), Please note "horses’ tails” not “workers’ wages.” These are but a few examples of the efforts of these Westminster political buffoons. The prize clown of the lot is undoubtedly Mr. Mont Follick (Labour, Loughboro) who really believes that a scheme of spelling reform (see example above) will help the chances of international peace.

We wonder; are we supposed to laugh or vomit? We have a feeling it will be the latter.
W. and G.

Independence for Eritrea? (1991)

From the July 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
A few weeks ago I had a discussion with an Eritrean friend about national liberation and socialism.
What is socialism without a country? People should have their national home before they become socialists.
Socialists stand for a united world society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the resources of the Earth by all the people who live in it.

But the aim of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front [EPLF] is to liberate Eritrea from the colonial power of the Ethiopian government and to set up a free independent state.
Eritrea is an artificial creation of the imperialist powers—even the name “Eritrea" was given by the Italians— and is a by-product of world capitalism. Once world socialism is established the Eritreans will be free to live together.

Why aren't you in favour of Eritrean independence and separation from Ethiopian rule?
Socialists aim to create a united world free from all national divisions. As a socialist I’d like to end nations, not to create new ones.

If you oppose Eritrea as a separate nation-state, you must be on the side of the Ethiopian ruling body.
No, I oppose all imperial or colonial aims by all capitalists including the Ethiopian government.

As an ex-member of the EPLF in London, what's your attitude towards the Eritrean freedom lighters?
I think it's the same old story. It is an illusion to think you can get freedom and liberate people by “the barrel of the gun". My attitude towards the EPLF and the Ethiopian rulers is the same and simple—stop the unnecessary killing between the two sides and do something about the millions dying of starvation. There can be no relief for the oppressed Eritreans in changing an Ethiopian dictator to an Eritrean dictator. National divisions are a hindrance to working class unity. National differences are fostered by the capitalists for their own ends. The military conflict between the EPLF and the Ethiopian government forces has made the situation for the population there even worse, and is a product of the international power struggles of the capitalist world order, based ultimately on the pursuit of profit and power by the minority capitalist class.

(Our discussion ended without any agreement).
Michael Ghebre

The World of Plenty? (1957)

From the November 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists have always said that under this capitalist system the most decisive factor in production is the profit motive, and that production itself is geared to a marketing system that does not take any account of the real social needs of the community. We have said that capitalism channels all men's efforts down the narrow inhibited path of commerce and reduces his vast potentialities in the field of production to within the bounds of profit making. These assertions and the whole tragedy of capitalism and its contradictions are exemplified nowhere with more grim irony than in the problem feeing the American Government, the problem of agricultural surpluses, the ever-increasing accumulation of unsold stocks of food in the U.S.A.

To release these huge surpluses on the world’s markets would inevitably cause a slump in prices of agricultural commodities, bringing in its wake disaster for the farming community, whose repercussions might extend even to an industrial crisis. From there might ensue a repetition of conditions that existed all over the world in the early 1930's.

Since 1940 production on U.S. farms has increased one-third. This is due largely to the modernisation of farming methods, more machinery, better fertilisers, etc. The world's markets could not consume the increased supplies at the existing prices, so to offset a fall in the prices of farm produce, and prevent large numbers of unemployed in agriculture, the U.S. Government employed a method of buying up all the surplus at subsidised prices This was not a great philanthropic gesture on the part of the Government directed towards the farmer. Besides the economic necessity of maintaining stable conditions in agriculture, this policy was also part of a political campaign to woo the vote of the farmer. This is a very important vote, as the agricultural community comprises a very powerful pressure group, and any party that antagonises them can expect at least vastly reduced support, if not electoral death. The policy of subsidising farm products resulted in even greater surpluses, for the subsidy was made flexible and higher prices were paid out in accordance with the success of overseas sales. In view of these price guarantees, even greater over-expansion was caused, with the consequent boosting of production.

These surplus food stocks are not only very costly (five billion dollars a year), but are becoming a great embarrassment to the U.S. Government.

An investigation was made by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation into the advisability of diverting food surpluses to the under-developed countries of the world, but the difficulties arising out of such a project were found to be so wide and varied that very little was done about any proposals put forward by this organisation.

The American Government, with an eye to increasing its political prestige in Poland during the disturbances there in 1956, made generous offers of help in the way of food supplies to the Polish Government. These offers met with stiff opposition from countries like Canada, who hold the markets in Poland, so this offer had to be withdrawn.

However, the most important effort made by the U.S. Government to reduce these agricultural surpluses was the creation of the Soil Bank in 1956. This is a system whereby farmers are paid to take acreage out of production; e.g., for 1957 the U.S. signed up 233,453 farmers to take 12,784,968 acres of wheat alone out of production in return for $230,974,475 in payments. This system was to operate over a period of three years.

Ezra Benson, the Secretary of Agriculture, did not want to put this scheme into operation until 1957, but politicians, with an eagle eye on the General Election of November 1956, brought such pressure to bear that he was forced to start making payments to farmers in 1956. The Soil Bank was hailed by the two major political parties as the solution to the farm problem, but they reckoned without the narrow individualism of men in business under capitalism.

In 1956 260 million dollars were paid out to farmers, and the organisation of the Soil Bank was so ineffective that money was even paid out to farmers who had already tried to grow crops on the acres they had donated and failed. Wheat farmers who received payments for taking wheat out of production grew barley or rye instead. In some cases the top soil was sold and the barren ground that was left was put into the Soil Bank. Pasture land was ploughed up and sown with crops. Fertiliser was piled on, and rows sown closer together. The combined result of all this was that in 1956 agricultural production broke all records.

Now let us turn to the desperate need for food that exists among millions of the world's population. The Agricultural Review (October 1956) had this to say:—
 "Nutritional experts affirm that more than one-half of the world’s inhabitants, including many engaged in agriculture itself, are still not getting enough to eat."
While the minimum subsistence level is assessed at 2,200 calories per day, it is stated that 1,166,000,000 people consume less than 2,200 calories. The poverty-ridden countries of India, Pakistan, China and Japan make up the majority of this number, but there are workers in every country suffering from malnutrition, including large numbers working in agriculture itself.

These conditions exist because of the very nature of capitalism itself. There is no question of organising production so as to meet the needs and requirements of humanity. What is needed is a system of society wherein the means of production shall be held in common ownership by all of humanity instead of a privileged few.

Wherein production can be consciously regulated to meet human needs and requirements. Wherein commodities are not produced for sale to the highest bidder, but are produced for the benefit of all mankind. Only in Socialism can there be found the answer to the problems of the working classes of this world. 
Joan Lawrence