Saturday, October 6, 2018

Guarded Bodies (2018)

The Proper Gander column from the October 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Would you like someone always by your side, there just to take out any would-be assailants or even take a bullet for you? Fortunately, most of us don’t have the kind of life where we’re likely to need this, even if we were in a position to hire someone. However, it’s different for the senior politicians who have their own personal, steely-faced minders. This is the set-up of BBC1’s blockbuster drama Bodyguard, which features Richard Madden as David Budd, the police protection officer (PPO) assigned to Julia Montague, a Tory Home Secretary.

As a bodyguard, Budd’s role is to keep his ‘principal’ safe from dangers such as assassination, theft, kidnapping, violence and harassment. There’s some tension between the two characters as Montague supported military action in the Middle East, and Budd is an ex-soldier haunted by his time fighting there. Inevitably, there’s sexual tension between them as well, although sleeping with their principal presumably isn’t in a bodyguard’s job description.

At least 10.4 million people tuned in to Bodyguard’s first episode, one of whom was Theresa May, although she reportedly switched off after 20 minutes. Writer Jed Mercury has been behind other hits such as Line Of Duty, Bodies and The Grimleys. His breakthrough came in the mid-‘90s with Cardiac Arrest, which was as much an angry polemic about working conditions in the NHS as it was a drama. He’s always thorough with his research, this time bringing in ex-bodyguards as advisers and basing much of the plot in real-life departments of London’s Metropolitan police. PPOs are part of the Met’s Royalty and Specialist Protection branch (SO1), which provides protection for the royal family, some government officials and visiting heads of state. The police force as a whole is there to defend the status quo, which this department does in a more literal way than most. The Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) works to detect, investigate and prevent terrorist attacks and networks, which in the drama has a fraught relationship with MI5 in uncovering who’s behind the threats.

The culture of the police and politics is depicted as starchy and clinical, with suspicion rather than much warmth between the characters. This is ideal for a thriller, of course, but isn’t the kind of world which seems attractive to work or live in. The inner workings of government, police and security services are likely to be cold and bureaucratic, being there to prop up a divisive, restrictive system. The fact that politicians need bodyguards demonstrates how removed they are from those they are supposed to represent. The threat of attack comes from people or organisations so affected by the system that they are desperate and damaged enough to see violence as the way to respond. Although tactfully not referred to in the drama, it comes only a couple of years after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a far-right loner, and the attack in Westminster by an Islamic extremist. Since then, the process for MPs wanting to make additional security arrangements has been simplified, and they have been offered training in Krav Maga, a type of unarmed combat. A wider effect of this climate is an increase in surveillance, not just of suspects but of everyone. In the drama, the Home Secretary is keen to strengthen the real-life Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which covers state powers of surveillance, from undercover officers to bugging to intercepting communications. These days, it takes just a few clicks of a mouse to uncover what anyone has put online, their whereabouts and their movements. Bodyguards are only one part of the state’s security machine.

Bodyguard has a twisty-turny plot which takes us away from what’s recognisable. But how realistic is the series’ basic set-up? In an article in the Mail on Sunday (26 August), ex-PPO to three Foreign Secretaries, Detective Constable Paul Ellis said the programme did ‘a terrific job’ in portraying a bodyguard’s role, adding ‘the relationship between a PPO and their charge, or principal, is fluid in that he or she is not actually your boss – you’re a police officer and as far as security goes, you’re the boss’. Ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said as a Minister she ‘was used to the constant company of aides and officials. But what I had never experienced before was the 24-hour-a-day presence of armed police officers as one of the senior Cabinet Ministers who receive personal protection. … You could hardly make a good drama from the mundane reality of what it’s like to have personal protection. I would have liked to see them try to make a compelling television scene out of the burly protection officer having to make small talk with constituents at a coffee morning’. According to former protection officer Brian Isdale, getting involved so intimately with their principal’s life can mean bodyguards ‘start to adopt the mannerisms of those they are protecting. It’s known as ‘red carpet fever’’ (Guardian, 21 January 2011).

So, being a PPO to a politician is a peculiar relationship, both close and alienating. But then you’d have to be a bit peculiar to be a politician, or someone who would take a bullet for one.
Mike Foster


Another Winter of Discontent? (2003)

Editorial from the January 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently the news media has been dominated by one story – the wave of strikes that have occurred across Britain, and more particularly, the firefighters’ strike. Most newspapers have been supportive of the government in their attempt to hold down pay increases, especially in the state sector – and that includes some newspapers that traditionally claim to be part of the “liberal press” and therefore generally on the side of the workers, such as the Observer. The justifications given by the supporters of the government for this are varied – though the notion that giving in to the firefighters would be “setting a dangerous precedent” is a common one, this being allied with the idea that pay increases for wage and salary earners are somehow “inflationary” and will wreck the economy.

The way in which the government and their friends in the press have set up convoluted arguments designed to frighten people into turning against “militants” and “troublemakers” in the trade unions is an example of history repeating itself. The last Labour government under Jim Callaghan in the late 1970s did exactly the same thing, when the bogeymen of the press were the workers at Ford, striking state sector workers in local government and the hospitals and – interestingly – the firefighters. They were all, so it was said at the time, out to pursue their own petty interests without consideration to the impact they would have on others. Margaret Thatcher went further still in railing against these supposedly inconsiderate wreckers in the unions, famously calling the striking miners in 1984-5 “the enemy within”.

Given this, if one thing should be crystal clear from the recent history of British industrial relations, it is that whichever government is in power – Labour or Conservative, Left or Right – their observable tendency is to resist attempts by the organised working class to increase wages and salaries and improve conditions. No matter what they may say at other times, governments are there primarily to defend the interests of the owners and controllers of wealth in society – the people they call the “wealth creators” but who in actual fact merely accumulate the wealth and riches that are created by others, namely the working class.

When governments talk about safeguarding the economy, they are really talking about safeguarding the people who own the economy. In a way, this is all perfectly sensible, as the capitalism system can only run on the basis of a minority owning the bulk of the wealth and getting the rest of the population to work for them: in the market economy there is no other way. When the profits of the owning class are hit, the system ceases to function efficiently.

This is the problem with big pay claims. The government (or at least some members of it) might ordinarily claim to be on the side of the workers, but when it comes down to it, they have to protect the interests of the owners and controllers of wealth, as that is one of the inherent functions of government. Their entire language is skewed that way too.

When the firefighters make their pay claim, we are told that is going to be “inflationary”. And that will mean higher interest rates and then falling property prices, apparently. But, funnily enough, when share prices go up and dividends go up, the government breathes a sigh of relief all round. In distinction to wage and salary rises, they are apparently good news and a sign of a buoyant economy. In other words, not inflationary at all. It is a peculiar function indeed of the wages and salaries of the working class that they – and they alone – appear to be the only form of income received by people in society that have the peculiar and harmful effect of pushing up prices. That, in itself, is something which rather gives the game away.

As we explore in our main feature article this month, governments actually cause inflation, not workers. From the point of view of the working class, there is no reason to shy away from supporting other workers struggling to improve their conditions and pay (or in some cases, just struggling to make sure things don’t get worse). We are all in the same position regarding pay increases and towards the end of a boom – when profits have been high – is historically the best time to force the issue.

Forget all Blair’s guff about a harmonious, classless society in Britain – recent weeks have been vivid demonstration of the fact that there is a class war going on, and there comes a time in all our lives when we have to make a decision about whose side we are on, ours or theirs.

Whose side are you on?

A Soldier's Thoughts on the War (1927)

Book Review from the April 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Fourth Age. By William Repton. (Price 1s. Pioneer Press, 61, Farringdon Street, E.C.l.)

In nine short sketches Mr. Repton (a regular contributor to the Freethinker) records some of his impressions of the war and passes bitter judgment on the civilisation which produced it, the pressmen who gloried in it, and the parsons who blessed it.

His simple, direct stories of the hopes and fears, compensations and discomforts of life in the trenches have the force of sincerity and carry conviction. It would be difficult to match in so small a compass the power of these vivid and poignant pictures of the mind of the disillusioned soldier. With neither religion nor patriotism to give a false glamour to reality, seeing through the screen of lies, and realising that the mad destruction had no redeeming purpose whatever, and yet to be compelled to go on risking life and health, this must have been the terrible position of many besides Mr. Repton.

These sketches are true, and yet their truth appears unfamiliar even so long after the passing of the censorship and the rest of the official machinery for suppressing and distorting the truth. It is a warning of the power possessed by those who rule to mould the opinions of the ruled, even of those among the latter who know full well that truth is simply irrelevant to profit-seeking newspaper proprietors and war-making Governments. This power made it possible not only to segregate the soldier who knew war as it was from the war-mad civilian with his childishly romantic conceptions, but it also raised an effective barrier between the soldier on the one hand and on the other the small band of Socialists who alone had a message of hope and sanity to offer him. We knew there must be many who thought like Mr. Repton, but between them and us was the frenzy of the civilian and the poison gas of the press.

Reading these pages, we can recall with pride that from the first day of the War to the last this journal never printed one single line of support for the War and never ceased to proclaim the need for complete and unconditional peace between the world’s workers.

Judged by size, “The Fourth Age” is dear, but those who appreciate the frank expression of independent and thoughtful views will not consider their shilling wasted.
Edgar Hardcastle

An Appeal to Manchester Readers. (1927)

Party News from the June 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain exists as a result of the war between the classes —the antagonism of interests between the class of wage-workers and the class of property-owning employers. Its work, at present, lies in its efforts to arouse the wage-earners to a conscious recognition of their class slavery. The need for such a party is felt when one realises the amazing lack of class consciousness existing amongst the working-class.

To-day, the workers give their support to capitalism because they are saturated, quite unconsciously, in the majority of cases, with the ideas of the ruling class. They oppose the Socialist philosophy because they do not understand it. Not understanding it, they do not desire it. These capitalist ideas amongst wage-workers have to be fought, and their opposition to Socialism has to be removed, before we can organise effectively for the abolition of the capitalist system.

The work of spreading Socialist knowledge—and we are the only party that is doing this work—is a big job, and we are in need of many more members to help along this campaign. The larger the organisation, the more widely known can we make our object and principles.

To all Manchester friends and sympathisers, we make a special appeal and ask “Why not join us now?” We want your support, not only as readers of the Socialist Standard, but as members of the organisation.

The Manchester Branch has recently been re-organised, but at present is handicapped by a small membership. We are ambitious and restless. We want to grow and forge ahead, and as quickly as possible. We want to become known by the extent of our activities. We want to send up the Manchester sales of the “S.S.” We want to hold many indoor and outdoor meetings, and make the Party’s name and activities a mark of fear amongst those anti-working class organisations, the Conservative, Liberal and so-called Labour parties.

All this can be realised if all our Manchester sympathisers will join up, and help us in the fight against working-class political ignorance and apathy, and for the spreading of Socialist knowledge amongst the wage-earners.

Come then, all you unattached Manchester and district sympathisers. The Branch needs you. Don’t put off the good intention until someone else has made up their mind to join. Set the example. Join now and help towards making the world fit for workers to live in. Don’t merely keep on wishing that the workers were more alive to their wage-slavery status. Come in and help the Party towards making them Socialists.

Socialism is the only hope for the working class—all else is illusion. But Socialism will only come when a majority of wage-workers understand it and desire it. That time can be hastened or retarded by YOUR joining, or remaining apart from, the only party worthy of working-class support.

Class-consciousness is the first essential. Organisation to help in furthering it is the next. Here’s the organisation. Come in and join us now’.
W. Addison
Branch Secretary

An Urgent Appeal (1927)

Party News from the June 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Party is in urgent need of money. Being dependent entirely on the small amounts which our members and sympathisers can afford to contribute, we have always had a struggle to keep our organisation intact and carry on our propaganda. For years we were never out of debt, and this in spite of the fact that, with the exception of printing and a few similar items which had to be paid for, we depended on the willing and unpaid services of our members, who acted as speakers, writers and workers in the branches and at head office. We are not disturbed because we have no accumulated funds. We do not wish to save money. Any that comes our way is immediately spent on printing literature and selling it at prices sometimes below cost, and always within the reach of even the poorest worker. For various reasons our financial difficulties have become acute, and we are compelled to make a special appeal for donations. The position is that we owe our printer about £100, and it is essential that this hampering debt be discharged once. The position has arisen largely owing to the strikes of last year. Heavy expenses and fines had to be paid on behalf of members prosecuted under the Emergency Powers Act. Fewer propaganda meetings could be held, so that sales of literature and collections both fell off, and we have had to face the loss of a considerable and dependable income formerly derived from meetings in the London parks. Under new regulations, collections and literature selling are both permanently prohibited. These difficulties can be met and are being met, but it takes a long while to develop new street corner propaganda stations, and in the meantime we are compelled to ask you to dip into your pockets once more.

And apart from these unexpected drains on our income, we are ambitious. During 1926 we made really encouraging progress in membership, and a sustained effort during the summer months would give us half-a-dozen new branches in London. We are in touch with comrades in numerous centres in the Colonies and the U.S.A., and are hopeful that within a year or two the efforts which are now being made there will lead to the formation of vigorous bodies propagating principles in line with our own. We have at last got a strong foothold in Vienna. We want to be able to put full-time organisers into the field to develop our organisation in the provinces; we want new pamphlets. There is no limit to what we want, but lack of money very effectively delays the carrying out of many promising schemes of development. You can help us financially by pushing the sales of the Socialist Standard, and our pamphlets, but those who can afford to do so are also urged to make a special effort to send along a large or small donation, and to send it quickly.

The "Plebs" on China (1927)

From the July 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the June "Plebs, a writer signing himself “Zed,” tries to explain the meaning of the Chinese Nationalist movement for the benefit of the Marxists who can see in it "no more than in the various bourgeois nationalist movements of the past.” As we are Marxists who can see in capitalist nationalist movements nothing but capitalist nationalism (except, maybe, nationalised capitalism) possibly "Zed” is speaking of and to us. When, however, he says that the “defection of Chiang-Kai-Shek” must seem to these Marxists "an inexplicable surprise,” we can assure him that the boot is on the other foot. The people who were most surprised—apart from the Chinese workers whose heads Chiang-kai-Shek cut off when he had no further use for their propaganda activities, were precisely those who urged the workers to support the Chinese Nationalist Movement and its leaders. As was pointed out in our May issue, almost at the moment when Chiang was openly suppressing the trade unions, the Labour Research Department was explaining why the workers could go on supporting him with confidence in his aims and integrity. It is not a personal question, but one of class interests, as "Zed” correctly remarks, but it is emphatically not correct that the Chinese Nationalist Movement is “a bloc united by a common interest . . . against Imperialism.” "Zed” is led astray by his unquestioning acceptance of the view that peasants and workers can be lumped together as one class. This is as unsound as his further assumption that these two classes and the Chinese capitalists have a common interest in resisting foreign capitalism. True, peasants and workers are both, in their different ways, exploited, but the formers’ desire for private ownership of the land free from punitive taxation, and their desire for good marketing facilities for their products, do not make them allies for the workers, either in the struggle for higher wages or for the abolition of capitalist. In the fight for and against private property they are on opposite sides.

"Zed” does not offer one scrap of evidence that the Chinese workers have an interest in fighting foreign capitalist governments. The interests served in China by the Nationalist Movement are those of the Chinese capitalists and peasants, not those of the Chinese workers. We therefore expected from the first that the leaders of that movement would never permit their own workers to get out of hand, and that any danger to capitalist interests from that quarters would be ruthlessly suppressed. Nor are we surprised to learn that Chang, the Northern anti-Nationalist dictator, who represents another section of the exploiters, contemplates hoisting the flag of nationalism to cover the too blatant class interests he represents. It is only the too-trustful "Zed” and the Chinese dupes of this anti-working-class theory who are surprised at what takes place.

“Zed" goes on to consider why, in such movements, the capitalist nationalists ultimately ally themselves—on terms—with their "Imperialist enemies." It is because we recognise that this is inevitable that we urge the workers everywhere to oppose their own capitalist class from the outset and build up their own independent organisations. If this were done, so soon as the organisations of the workers became anything of a power, the employers would come to terms with foreign capitalists, and the confusion of a nationalist struggle, with its obscuring effect on the class issues, would be avoided. To justify the alternative policy “Zed" needs to offer some substantial evidence that the workers have ever gained by supporting the employing class in a struggle with foreign capitalists. In which of the European nations between 1914 and 1918 did defence of the "fatherland” bring: gains to the working-class movement.

What were the concessions won from capitalist governments by the fraudulent “National Socialist Parties” which littered Europe in those days, whether our own Labour Party, that in Germany or those in the new Polish, Czecho-Slovak and other republics?

Let "Zed” tell us what the Indian, Egyptian and Irish workers have secured by pursuing the will o' the wisp of nationalism. In truth, of course, none of these movements ever pretended to aim at working- class emancipation. The Kuomintang, like Sinn Fein, has purely propertied-class aims. In "Lansbury’s Labour Weekly" (another journal urging support of what it is pleased to call "Socialist-nationalism”) Feng-Yu-hsiang, Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Revolutionary Army, sets out "Our Programme" (June 4th). It contains not the slightest reference to any working-class problem. It is "revolutionary” enough : it involves, among other things, the complete evacuation of all foreign troops, but "Zed" must surely appreciate the fact that revolutions are not the monopoly of the working-class, a change over from feudal land tenure to peasant proprietorship in China is a revolutionary change, but it is not one which will aid the workers.

May we advise "Zed” to read in the same issue of the "Plebs" an article on Ireland. In it A. Ellis writes as follows:— 
  Republican capitalism once it had become a partner with European capitalism sets about to share the exploitation of the Irish workers. Their reactionary measures have strengthened the hands of the reactionaries in the North, providing additional material for the division of the workers as Loyalists, Republicans, Nationalists, Catholic and Protestant, to the confusion of the real issue of capital versus Labour.
The Irish workers have gained nothing by helping the Republican Movement. There are yet hardly the beginnings of a genuine working-class movement in Ireland. The war for independence has only embittered the relations between the Irish workers, and workers outside the Free State, by stressing racial and religious divisions, and by strengthening the illusion of a common bond between the classes in the Free State. "Zed" wants us to persuade the Chinese workers to copy this fatal example.

In passing, it is amusing to notice that, in exchange for the spilling of much blood, the Irish have not even won the sentimental satisfaction of having done for ever with the hated British troops. Their Minister for External Affairs recently declared in the Dail that the Free State troops "would co-operate in resisting a general attack" on Great Britain, and Ireland, and that "it is practically inconceivable that our army would be opposed to the British Army.” (“New Statesman,” February 19th).

In the last war the Irish effectively resisted the application of conscription in that country. Having fought voluntarily for "freedom,” they have great hopes next time of enjoying the compulsory privilege of being enrolled with their British fellow-dupes. What a victory for nationalism!
Edgar Hardcastle

A. J. Cook versus Herbert Smith (1927)

Editorial from the July 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those who criticise leaders, but continue to believe in the need for leadership, usually fasten upon the personal defects of the man they condemn. What the workers want, according to these critics, is better leaders, leaders who can be trusted. In Herbert Smith and Arthur Cook, the miners have, so far as it is possible to judge, two leaders who are to be trusted in the sense that no one has ever yet accused them of betraying the miners to the mineowners, and it is hardly conceivable that they have done so or deliberately would do so. Yet we unhesitatingly warn the miners not to put their trust in Smith and Cook, or in anyone else. Our case is that the working-class movement will never succeed until the workers put all of their trust in themselves, formulate their own policy, and instruct their representatives to pursue it, with a full recognition that the responsibility for success or failure must rest on their own shoulders, and cannot without grave danger be placed on those of leaders.

Recently, both Cook and Smith have advised the miners how to escape from the difficulties they are in. A. J. Cook says (“Sunday Worker," June 5th):—
 We must get power in the shape of a Miners’ National Union backed up by a 100 per cent. organisation. Then we will be able to speak to the owners and the Government in the only language they understand. . . . The only way out is for an International Miners’ Organisation that will engage upon a struggle to arrange the hours, wages and working conditions. This would end the present cut-throat competition that is starving the miners in every capitalist country in the world.
Mr. Herbert Smith, on the contrary, said (“Daily Herald," June 6th):—
  More and more in the future we have to think, talk and act politically. We have to fight in the House of Commons instead of on the stomachs of the women and children. We can get all we want by marking the ballot paper properly.
Now it is impossible for both Cook and Smith to be right. It cannot be true that each of both political and industrial action is the best of all possible ways. I would go further, and say that as both Cook and Smith are aiming not at Socialism, but at Nationalisation, which will not solve any of the miners' problems, it does not matter much which means the miners adopt to achieve an undesirable end, and that Cook and Smith are both wrong. The question of the moment is, however, what is the use of leaders? Having heard two conflicting pieces of advice, the miners cannot simply trust their leaders, they have to make a deliberate choice which one of them to trust. As this cannot properly be made without examining critically the advice given, the miners might just as easily recognise that there is no inspired person able to do their thinking and solve their problems for them. The sooner they recognise this, the sooner they will recognise also the limitations and useful qualities of Smith and Cook, and utilise them accordingly to carry out a genuine working-class policy framed by the miners themselves.


American Prosperity (1927)

From the August 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

The financial correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in New York writes on the present situation in America :—
  “Charity organisations are working overtime, hospital clinics are crowded, business failures are reported by the hundred every month, and without doubt there are more people here living on the ragged edge than ever before in the country’s history.”—(Daily Telegraph, July 2nd, 1927.)

China: Another Chapter (1927)

From the August 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

“How vile a thing is the abstract noun. It wraps a man’s thoughts round like cotton wool.” Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch here states a truth which has yet to be perceived by the motley crowd of followers and leaders who make up what is known as the ‘‘Labour Movement.” Liberty is an abstract noun, and China is at present being devastated by the worshippers of that nebulous and seductive word. Liberty, and Justice, Equality and Fraternity, mean all things to all men. They are on every lip except the Socialist’s. We do not fight for justice, but for the property, the means of producing wealth, now owned by the capitalist class. Every one of the numerous factions in China has liberty emblazoned on its banner and each interprets it, consciously or unconsciously, to square with the material interests of the class it represents, The Chinese workers, with that sublimely silly devotion to the fatherland owned by their exploiters which characterises the working class everywhere, cheerfully offer themselves up as cannon fodder in the armies of all the contending feudal, peasant and capitalist rivals. They will fight and die in any cause but their own. It can be said in their defence that they are too inexperienced to know that it is unsafe to trust to the gratitude of governing classes, when gratitude conflicts with class interests. A slave-owning class will be kind, but it will not free its slaves. There is no such excuse for the European Communists and others who still cheer the Chinese workers on to suicide in the cause of illusory national independence.

First they gave their approval to Chiang-Kai-Shek. He and his backers were going to liberate China. Then Chiang cut off the heads of his Communist followers and smashed up the trade unions, and was indignantly denounced as a traitor. Then Feng (the “Christian” general) was the man for a few months, until they found him out as a “traitor” too. Feng, it appears, really belongs to the camp of the “liberal counter-revolution,” and is hand-in-glove with wicked Chiang. So at least says Bukharin (Sunday Worker, July 3rd). Their third and best saviour was the so-called ‘‘Communist” Government at Hankow. This was positively a winner. “Zed,” a writer in the “Plebs,” who is one of the enthusiasts for Chinese nationalism, was greatly pleased at the growing strength of the Hankow Government, and claimed it as a vindication of the position taken up by the Chinese Communists (July, 1927). It is doubtless comforting to be ‘‘vindicated,” especially for “ Zed,” who is sufficiently far from Hankow not to have to back his opinions by action. Unfortunately many of the Chinese Communists will never know how their policy was vindicated because the “Communist” Government of Hankow has cut off their heads. The Manchester Guardian's correspondent reports (July 19th) that 4,000 executions of trade union and peasant leaders have taken place. Wise after the event, the Executive Committee of the Communist International now issues orders to the Chinese Communists to withdraw from the Hankow Government and denounce it as an enemy of the workers’ movement (Sunday Worker, July 17th, and Daily Herald, July 15th).

At the time of writing no announcement has been made as to the name of the successor of Chiang, Feng, and the Hankow Government, so that it is not yet possible to state who will be the executioner of the next batch of Chinese workers.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: Do We Support Strikes? (1927)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard
A correspondent writes concerning the attitude of the Socialist Party towards strikes, etc. We print his letter and our reply below:—
Eltham, S.E.9.

Dear Sir,

I see from the "Socialist Standard” that the S.P.G.B. is in debt, which debt was incurred in paying fines for members who were summoned under The Emergency Powers Act.

Cannot you publish a few details? As I understand it, the S.P.G.B. does not believe in the usefulness or utility of industrial action. Surely, therefore, they could not have supported the last strike, or for that matter, any strike, and although I recognise that your members who are also members of trade unions must strike with their fellow workers, to be consistent to their principles they should not take an active part in such strikes. By active, I mean the part of the agitator who, unlike the S.P.G.B. orators who appeal to the reason and could not possibly come within the law, adopt the theatrical tactics of the Communists.

As I feel details of these proceedings would place in our hands valuable propaganda, perhaps you may see your way clear to meet my request.
Yours fraternally,
Alastor.


REPLY.
Our correspondent seriously misunderstands the attitude of the Socialist Party. We do not now, nor have we in the past, condemned economic organisation and strikes.

If "Alastor” were a regular reader of this journal he would know that we fully recognise the necessity and usefulness of trade unions under the Capitalist system. Our criticism of them takes two main lines: (1) that much of their activity is directed to useless objects, such for instance as their support of the Labour Party and other non-Socialist political bodies, and their wartime assistance in recruiting, etc.; and (2) that even where their intention is good, they frequently dissipate their strength or allow themselves to be side-tracked. The struggle to increase wages and improve working conditions, or to resist attacks upon these, are objects which receive our unqualified support, and we therefore condemn every endeavour to weaken the unions by subordinating working-class interests to the so-called needs of the "country” or of the "industry,” which in effect mean the interests of the employing class.

Lastly we continually point out that, while trade unions and strikes are useful for certain purposes, they are not the means of emancipating the working class. That—the one question of first importance—can be achieved only by the conquest of political power through Socialist political organisation.

(For further matter on this point, see our Manifesto.)

"Alastor" also fails to understand the nature of "law" and of political control and the powers it gives. The Capitalist class are in political control and—within the limits set by the Capitalist economic system —can make what laws they like and have their police and their judges interpret those laws as they choose. Normally they do not choose to make any political propaganda illegal. During the war, and again during the industrial troubles of 1926, they adopted a more repressive policy. Last year when some of the police were in a state of panic, it became well nigh impossible to hold meetings in certain areas without charges being made. These charges—as was admitted by the Judge at the trial of one of our members —did not rest on the substance of the speech, but on the possible effect of the words on members of the audience, or even on casual passers-by who heard a stray phrase only.

If the ruling class allow certain activities to go on it is because the stability of their system is vitally bound up with representative government. When it suits them they can, and on occasion do, make "appeals to the reason” illegal, and treat them accordingly.—Ed., Comm.

East Ham (1927)

Party News from the November 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

East Ham, Manor Park and Barking sympathisers are invited to attend the newly-formed branch at East Ham, which meets at 1, Tyrone Road on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Come and strengthen the new branch.

Hull Branch (1927)

Party News from the December 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

At a time when very encouraging progress can be recorded in the London area we are reminded of the special obstacles which face the more isolated provincial branches. After a very promising start the Hull Branch is for the moment carrying on under difficulties owing to the forced temporary suspension of activities by a number of active members. A special appeal is therefore made to members and sympathisers in Hull to come to the assistance of the branch and make the winter season a time of useful preparatory work for next season. To the fullest extent permitted by our resources we in London are, of course, at all times willing to assist provincial branches to carry on propaganda, but it is more important still that members should set about the task of fitting themselves for active work as speakers, writers, literature sellers, etc. It should further be the aim of every member to make use of the branch to extend his knowledge of Socialist theory and of the facts of working class history.

You are therefore particularly requested to turn up at the next branch meeting in order to perfect the organisation of branch activities and help to extend the party’s influence in Hull.

Sting in the Tail: Down on the farm (1993)

The Sting in the Tail column from the September 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Down on the farm
Such is the productiveness of modern farming methods that Britain’s 80,000 arable farmers have been forced by the government to "set aside” 15 per cent of their cropland. They can get a "set aside" grant for not growing grain or they can grow linseed as long as it is not used for food.

Nearly 400,000 acres of linseed are being grown in Britain this year — to make linoleum for kitchen floors, paints or putty. Why is this amount of arable land no longer being used to grow food?

It is Britain’s contribution to trying to reduce the immense European grain mountain. Alas, it is likely to be a useless measure.
 The EC grain mountain, which has more than doubled to 33 million tonnes over the past two years, will continue to grow, because more grain will be grown over the next decade than Europe can consume or export. " The Observer (11 July)
This is ’’practical" capitalism at its best. Inside a Socialist society of course we would take the nutty action of using the mountain to feed the hungry. Crazy, eh?


Market ethics
In the London Business School they have a new professor. This new professorship has nothing to do with your usual sordid categories of money, profit or rates of interest.

No, we are dealing with the Professor of Business Ethics and Social Responsibilty. This Jesuit priest has been appointed to pontificate on all matters relating to ethics and business. And surprise, surprise, he is not at all critical of the capitalist social system.
I think that capitalism and the market system is a sound way of creating wealth. It is an honourable activity.
The Independent on Sunday (4 July)
We wonder if this judgement is in any way connected with the professorship being created by Dixons, the electrical retailer, to the tune of £1 million.

Or is such a suggestion unethical?


Bitter failure
In the 1960s the United Farm Workers Union was founded in California by Cesar Chavez. After a bitter struggle with the growers the union gained some concessions, but now these have all but vanished.

According to Professor Clete Daniel, author of a book on the Californian farm labour movement. Bitter Harvest:
  You‘ve really got abysmal conditions as bad as at any time in the post-war era. It’s hard to see any vestiges of the achievements of the 1970s. If you know all the struggle and sacrifice that occurred . . . and see how few lasting gains have been achieved, it’s very, very discouraging.
The Guardian (20 July)
Socialists recognise that workers should try to get the best deal they can within capitalism, but the above is only one more example of how their struggles really amount to running fast just to stand still while leaving their masters firmly in control.


Mentally ill society
The National Schizophrenia Fellowship have released figures that show how well the government’s "care in the community" scheme is working.

In the two years since the government began emptying psychiatric hospitals, 40 men, women and children have been killed by schizophrenic or seriously mentally ill people, and at least 100 mentally ill people have committed suicide. But despite these awful figures, we learn from The Observer (4 July):
  A spokesman from the Department of Health said initial evidence indicated that community care was working well.
"Working well" for the miserable men and women Who huddle in doorways, shiver under motorways and in desperation, confusion and loneliness kill or take their own life?

This is capitalism at its most callous, save money and to hell with human suffering.


Tory dreamers
Socialists have a vision of the kind of society they want, but so have the Tories and John Redwood MP has described it
  The natural state should be the two-adult family caring for their children. The norm should be the purchase of a home of one's own with the entitlement to live peacefully, rent-free in retirement. The common aspiration should be a good second pension on top of the state retirement pension so that the luxuries and extras in retirement are affordable
The Guardian (3 July)
Nowhere in this dream world is there any room for redundancy, repossession, marital break-up, or any of the unpleasant realities of working class life in capitalism. They are simply ignored.

Tories want a society in which money and property are paramount and where everyone is thrown onto his or her own resources.

Socialists want a society based on common ownership and co-operation and where human needs come first. Can there by any doubt about which of these aims is worthy of working class support?


Feet of clay
Songwriter and singer Paul Weller was an idol of the Left during the 1980s. He sang about class-struggle and angrily denounced Thatcher and the Tories, but now he is "confused" and hasn’t "a clue where we should go".

His confusion was evident in an interview in the The Big Issue magazine (23 July). He says the working class "has almost gone", he believes in "some kind of spiritual force" and has felt "quite close to God”. Some leftist illusions remain, however, because he would "renationalise everything" and without compensation!

He did have some positive things to say — he still takes an "internationalist world view in which national boundaries count for nothing", but not many.

Paul Weller’s opposition to capitalism was based on revulsion to a callous, degrading system, but with no clear understanding of the social forces which shape society his confusion was inevitable.

What is necessary is not moral judgements by some wayward songsmith about the failures of capitalism, but class conscious action by the majority.

Peace in Palestine? (1993)

From the October 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peace is always better than war. Because wars are never fought in the interests of ordinary people. And because in wars it is always ordinary people who suffer. So, irrespective of the issues involved or the terms agreed, Socialists can only welcome the ending of any war in any part of the world. Stop the killing is our permanent policy.

In that artificial subdivision of the old Ottoman Empire known as Palestine, those who suffered from the irrational attempt to set up a Jewish State there have been both the original population — whether of Muslim, Christian or Jewish religious background — and those who were misled by the Zionists into emigrating there.

Socialists and Zionists have been opponents since the beginning. Inevitably, as they represented two incompatible views as to the solution to the problem of anti-semitism.

The Socialist attitude was expressed early on by Karl Marx, himself of Jewish background even though brought up a Christian. In one of his first articles after becoming a Socialist Marx argued that Jewish people should seek emancipation, not as Jews, but as human beings. To do this they should abandon their religion — just as Christians should abandon theirs — and become members of a secular human community in which money and the state should be abolished, i.e. socialism. In the meantime, under capitalism, Jews should enjoy the same political rights, in a secular democratic state, as Christians and others.

The Zionist movement propounded the opposite view: that the Jews were a separate nation and that as such they were entitled to their own state, in Palestine. People of Jewish background should not seek emancipation as human beings, but as Jews. Neither should they seek integration within the political states in which they found themselves, but separation in a state of their own.

The battle lines were thus drawn and throughout Europe and America Socialists and Zionists vied for the support of workers of Jewish background. Socialists argued against the idea that the Jews were a nation or a race; most Jews were workers and should join with other workers to achieve socialism which would mean ‘the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex". Even though many Zionists were not religious, all they had to go on to justify Palestine as the place for their Jewish State was an irrational belief, the religious myth set out in some holy book that the Jewish God had given Palestine to the Jews to be their homeland.

Many Jewish workers were convinced by the Socialist argument and rejected Zionism, and played — and still play — a considerable part in the Socialist movement. Most Jew's rejected Zionism in practice — and still do — by integrating into the countries where they lived. The terrible experience of the Second World War, however, convinced many (though by no means most) European Jews to embrace the idea of a Jewish State.

In 1948 the Zionist dream was realized. Palestine was partitioned and a State of Israel established. Zionist extremists practised what is now called "ethnic cleansing" and hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish inhabitants of the Israel part of Palestine were driven front their homes. Those who remained suffered the same fate the Zionists sought to free Jews from: being a minority in someone else\s "nation-state".

The establishment of Israel did not end anti-Semitism. In fact it caused it to spread to where it had never existed before — to the Arab-speaking parts of the world where for centuries Jews had lived in peace and security, integrated and speaking Arabic. Now, as a direct result of the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, they came to suffer the same persecution that the European Jews had. The result was that centuries of integration were undone in decades. Today there are virtually no Jews living in Arab countries: most Arab Jews are now in Israel where they form an underprivileged group.

Our opposition to Zionism does not mean that we support the PLO. Unlike some, we don’t single out Jewish nationalism for special condemnation. We condemn ail nationalisms equally. The "Palestinian nation" is just as much a myth as the "Jewish nation", or any other nation. Nationalism is the ideology which seeks to justify the capitalist division of the world into separate "nation-states", each competing to gain a place in the sun for its ruling class and each with its own killing machine. We utterly reject this view of the way humanity should organize itself.

As Socialists we re-affirm that all peoples should seek their emancipation, not as members of nations or religions or ethnic groups, but as human beings, as members of the human race. They should unite to abolish the division of the world into so-called nation-states and to establish a World Co-operative Commonwealth in which we will all be free and equal members — citizens of the world, not subjects of nation-states.

LBC RiP (1993)

From the October 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard
What can a dispute about the future of a London phone-in news station teach us about capitalism and its priorities, asks Steve Coleman.
LBC, the commercial "news" station in London, has lost its franchise. The unelected Radio Authority, headed by the infamous Lord Chalfont (he who made our flesh creep during the "Cold War") decided to award the franchise to a group comprising those who ran LBC for the first eighteen of its twenty years of existence.

There was a palace revolution at LBC in 1990 when the station was taken over by an Australian company called Crown Communications. After making an awful mess of running the station, including the removal of its greatest asset, the phone-in presenter Brian Hayes. Crown pulled out of LBC and sold the business to a company headed by Dame "your graves are safe in my hands" Shirley Porter. Over the past couple of years LBC has been an awful radio station, exhibiting all the characteristics of tabloid journalism and opinionated bigotry from its new line up of presenters. LBC’s presenters range from Sun journalists like Richard Littlejohn to half-baked Tories like Pete Murray (whose wife wrote a biography of Thatcher, so sycophantic that it would have made Stalin blush). Presenters like Littlejohn and Mike Dickin have taken it upon themselves to use their daily air-time to promote the most reactionary and uninformed bigotry. Each Sunday morning the station the station has broadcast a nasty little right-wing political sermon from Andrew Neil, the ubiquitous editor of Murdoch's Sunday Times; they have even taken away the Sunday god-slot from the relatively liberal person who used to present it and given it to a born-again nutcase named Steve Flashman who has used it to solicit funds for his own evangelical organization. The station is truly lousy.

On the day last month when the announcement came that LBC's owners had lost their franchise the station was compulsive listening. A tirade of abuse was launched against the Radio Authority, the government, the Establishment . . . they even mentioned "the system", although they had not a clue what they meant by the term. Presenters, with no regard whatsoever for their franchise obligation to report the news impartially, yelled abuse at the injustice of their loss. Pete Murray moaned in the London Evening News (3 September) that "It is quite frightening that people’s lives and jobs can be put in jeopardy in this way". This from the man who has been an unyielding apologist for the Tory government — a man whose indifference to the plight of the sacked miners last year was in line with the economic ethos of the social system he so enthusiastically supports.

A frenzy of excitement was whipped up. to the point where listeners were calling in crying — one woman said that life would not be worth living without LBC. The station advertises itself, quite nauseatingly, as "probably the best companion you will ever have" and "the Voice of London". No doubt there are people who have become dependent upon LBC’s brand of news triviality and "expert" comment by psychics and white witches — just as there are people who would feel that their sex life had come to an end if the Sun stopped printing Page Three nudes. The present writer can think of better candidates for best companion ever than the disembodied voices of the transparently partial Douglas Cameron and Frank Bough (whose disembodied voice is only comforting to the extent that he is not with you in the flesh). LBC has launched a campaign to save its franchise. In reality, this is a campaign to maintain ownership in the hands of Shirley Porter’s company. Listening to the planning of the campaign, which has been given hours of tedious air time, one would imagine that the revolution had commenced. Excitable reformers have been calling in to suggest to Lady Porter that "we ought to have a march to Downing Street" and that they should boycott any products advertised on the new station which will replace LBC. There is little worse than revolutionary talk and emotionalism being voiced by workers duped into the defence of such a futile cause. Porter has appeared on the radio station. What is she complaining about? She says that it is unfair for the franchise to be taken away from her station. Then why did she enter the competition to apply for the franchise? These capitalists love free competition until they lose. Then Porter moans that Chalfont and the other members of his "Authority" were unelected. Good point. So who elected Dame Shirley Porter as owner of LBC? Who consulted us, the listeners, when Crown bought the station and got rid of some of its most intelligent presenters (including ones who were unique in being prepared to give air-time to socialist views)? These capitalists just love elections until it comes to their own unaccountable economic power. When is Shirley Porter going to hold a referendum to determine who should manage her family’s Tesco stores? And whom did she consult when Westminster Council, which she led, flogged off cemeteries for five pence a go? Now these bleating hypocrites want us to organize marches in the rain to defend their right to own a propaganda outlet!

So now LBC are all in favour of elections. They ran a "phone vote” where listeners could dial a number and agree or disagree with the proposition that LBC should stay on the air. Even with all the cajoling of the by now hysterical presenters, at least one of whom asked people to consider that he would be unemployed if LBC went off the air. one in five "voters" (including the present writer) voted against the proposition. The result was declared a resounding success and women from Woking who sounded like this was their finest hour since the days of the Primrose League called in to say that the government could not ignore the wishes of such a majority. Let us be charitable and assume that they have forgotten that the abolition of the GLC in 1984 was opposed by an even larger majority of Londoners (not including the present writer, for socialists oppose all government) and yet the government went ahead with its policy, with no noises of protest coming from LBC.

We are now hearing LBC presenters, whining in the run-up to redundancy, saying that it is unfair that the government should decide who may broadcast and who may not. We do not recall LBC expressing that view when so-called pirate stations were being raided by the police and elosed down by the violent force of the law. We wonder how sympathetic LBC would be to a bid from the Socialist Party to broadcast our unique point of view through our own transmitter. Of course, the reality is that even if we were not banned from having our own radio station, which political parties explicitly are, we could not afford to buy the means of mass communication which are rather more easily purchased if you happen to have inherited the ownership of Tesco. But if LBC support a free voice for all Londoners, as they now claim, let them offer us our own weekly programme to discuss our view of the world as it is and as it could be. We promise that it will be rather more serious and stimulating than the born-again bore on Sunday night has managed to come up with.

Writing about this whole sordid business in the Guardian (6 September), Brian Hayes, arguably the most intelligent phone-in presenter in British radio history, expressed his disgust at the LBC campaign to preserve itself:
  "And on that day (when the franchise awards were announced), instead of accepting the decision in a grown-up and mature way, the presenters, presumably with the support of the management, allowed the airwaves to be to be used to indulge in nauseous self-pity. Naturally the diminished audience was upset, after all they had stayed with the station through thick and thin. But 1 can assure them that the real LBC is more likely to re-emerge from the new franchise holder than the incumbent. The Voice of London is not being silenced — it is being returned to the listeners who remember it before it lost its licence"
Now, this last comment is nonsense: LBC has of late been an embarrassing excuse for a news service, but we should not entertain the illusion that the new owners are going to be offering us anything like a democratic radio station. Not until the airwaves belong to the people and not to the state, and the means of mass communication are commonly owned and not in private or state hands, will there be a democratic media. Meanwhile, we shall stand aside as others storm imaginary barricades in defence of a Voice of London which is an echo of their own dumb passivity.
Steve Coleman

World recession closes in quickly (1993)

From the October 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

The current world slump shows no real signs of abating. In Britain and the US, the "official" recession may have ended, but this deceives very few. Growth is at best sluggish and generally well below the 2.5 percent annual rate thought to be necessary for sustained reductions in the level of unemployment. Outside of these countries, the recession is gathering pace more quickly.

Unemployment is rising fast in most of the countries of mainland Europe, while growth and industrial output tend to be, at best, stagnant. The old Eastern Bloc countries have been particularly badly hit as they attempt to integrate more fully into the world economy. In Russia, industrial output has fallen 18 percent in the last year, while in eastern Germany 75 percent of all agricultural jobs have been lost since unification while overall employment has fallen by over a third, from 9.9 million workers in 1989 to 6.3 million today (Wall Street Journal, 18 August).

As for Britain, the US and some of the other major industrialized countries, the present slump can perhaps best be described as a "contained depression". Production and growth have fallen and bankruptcies have soared, but the massive amount of debt built up during the relative boom of the mid to late 1980s has not yet been anything like fully liquidated.

Delayed effects
What happened during the boom was that low interest rates and easy credit — particularly after the stock market crash of 1987 — temporarily staved off the inevitable slump only to ensure that the effects of the slum would be worse when it finally arrived. The unprecedented levels of indebtedness built up at this time had to be reversed, leading to a period of pronounced downturn. The boom may have been prolonged, but only at the cost of worsening slump.

Because not enough weak capitals have yet
gone to the wall, the overall rates of profit in most sectors of the economy are still very low and there is no real sign of renewed investment in these sectors. Far from it. The quality of new credit being granted is minimal and the poor quantity of new credit is being matched by its quality. For instance, in the US 57 percent of recent new credit went ultimately to finance government expenditures and much of the rest went into mortgages. "Hard” business credit for investment purposes has been virtually non-existent, and this situation is mirrored in Britain.

What has clearly been happening in that instead of investing in production, capitalists who have hoarded their wealth in the early stages of the slump are now looking for profitable outlets elsewhere. This has primarily taken the form of stock market speculation and investment in bonds. The FTSE in London. Dow Jones in New' York and the Paris and Madrid stock markets have been among those recently hitting all-time highs. But these buoyant equity markets do not reflect an underlying strength in the world economy. They are primarily a product of speculation, and like all speculative bubbles they are liable to burst, sending the markets into meltdown and confidence plunging. This is a view shared by a number of capitalism’s business analysts who see a "double-dip" slump as a very real prospect.

Structural weakness
In addition to the stock market bubble, the recent currency turmoil has illustrated the present weakness at the heart of the capitalist economy. Investors have been shying away from productive investment and have increasingly played the currency markets in the hope of short term gains, picking off fragile European currencies one-by-one in a speculative scramble. The agreement to widen the ERM bands in early August will not prevent this — on the contrary, currencies that have been vulnerable to speculation are likely to be driven even lower.

That the recent currency chaos is largely a product of the present slump with its low rates of industrial profit has been recognized by investment analysts like Bob Beckman. Beckman has argued that:
  "Attempting to link currencies to one central currency is like trying to moor twelve boats to a floating raft. As long as the sea is perfectly calm the situation appears satisfactory. But, as soon as the waters start to get a bit rough, the boats start crashing against each other, the raft breaks up and the captains are left with chaos." (Investors Bulletin, 19 August).
Chaos and capitalism go together because of the anarchy of the market mechanism. At the moment the capitalist economy is in a period of profound disequilibrium and most of the indicators show that it will get worse before it gets better. There is still too much capital seeking not enough profit, leading to unsustainable and potentially catastrophic flights into speculation in the stock and currency markets.

The stock markets are in particular danger with another crash a definite possibility, which would see masses of unprofitable capital go to the wall and huge liquidation of existing debts, the primary conditions in fact for a sustainable recovery.

If this does not happen the capitalist system may be in for a bout of extended stagnation before the next boom can come along.

Either way, the immediate prospects for wage and salary earners pinning their hopes on a swift recovery don't look good. It would be far better for them to work for the complete abolition of booms and slumps, together with their cause — capitalism.
Dave Perrin

Sting in the Tail: Too many kids? (1993)

The Sting in the Tail column rom the November 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Too many kids?
The Socialist Party has always insisted that capitalism and not overpopulation is what causes poverty.

Our view is supported from time to time by TV programmes and items in the press etc. The latest example is a remarkable article in the Guardian on 25 September by Dan Atkinson and Sarah Whitebloom titled ’Don't blame birth rates'.

The article rebuts the myth spread by the Prince of Wales and other ignoramuses that there is "an iron link between high population/birth rate and poverty".

The writers point out that parts of Britain which have low population density have "the lowest living standards in the UK" while;
  "Thinly populated Canada boasts one of the world's seven largest economies. Singapore — which accommodates three million people within a few acres — is similarly one of the richest economies in the world."
Thus the writers show that "poverty and population are not linked in any way whatsoever" and conclude that "Capitalism, not people, causes poverty". Right on, Dan and Sarah, but do you have something to put in capitalism's place? We do.


We still like kids
Anti-abortionists in the USA are turning more and more to violence in order to get their way.

One doctor who performed abortions was shot dead in March by a man who yelled "Don’t kill any more babies". After another doctor was shot and wounded the founder of Rescue America, an anti-abortion group, said "this shooting, while unfortunate, will result in babies lives being saved", while a Roman Catholic priest urged the killing of doctors who performed abortions, calling it "justified homicide" (Independent, 21 August).

All this concern for unborn children and yet we wonder if these anti-abortionists expressed anything like the same concern over the killing of living children in Vietnam and Iraq by the US government or its stooges in Nicaragua, Angola and elsewhere.


Come on you reds
"Red tide sweeps across eastern Europe" was one of the headlines which greeted last month's electoral success by Poland’s ex-communists.

Ex-communists have also won an election victory in Lithuania last year, enjoy growing support in Hungary and eastern Germany as well as uninterrupted rule in large pans of what were Yugoslavia and the USSR. There is a big difference, however. They now have to embrace the market economy and political democracy, both of which they had spent decades denouncing.

No-one should be surprised by this conversion. The norm in all one-party dictatorships, left and right, is for everyone who wants to "get on" to join the party, no matter what their own ideas may be. Thus all those CPs were full of careerists, crooks, egotists and other self-seekers, so it has been easy for them to make the change.


A touch of class
I’or years now the Spectator has churned out its nonsense about what a lovely society capitalism is and what interesting and worthwhile people make up the capitalist class.

Imagine Scorpion’s amazement then, when some kindly reader (readers of this column read everything) sent in a spoofy Spectator article by one Charles Moore entitled "It’s time for the bourgeoisie to rise against the Capitalist oppressors". It was in a heavy-handed way supposed to be humorous and satirical. Like most things in the Spectator it was as light as a lead balloon. But surprise, surprise it did contain one gem of truth amidst the usual "All forms of socialism are useless" nonsense:
  "The thinking should start with a redefinition of the working class . . . But why shouldn't the working class mean 90 per cent of those who work or are available for work — the great mass of people who have to live by selling their labour. " (4 September)
Spot on, Charlie. For more information write to Clapham High Street and ask for a copy of "The Socialist Party, Principles and Policy". It is clear, precise and honest. Something that should prove a novelty to all writers in the Spectator.


Doffin the tammy
From time to time socialists run across members of the Scottish Nationalist Party who claim that they are "a bit of a socialist myself", or even more outrageously "the only way to get socialism in Scotland is by voting SNP".

An item in the Daily Record shows how stupid such claims are:
 "A bid to turn the SNP into a republican party failed miserably. The motion which was taken in private session, followed a full scale debate at the Party's National Council in June, then, it was remitted back, and the call to get rid of the royals failed by 216 votes to 131. Later John Swinney, the party's publicity vice convenor, said: We felt it was a dangerous course!'" (25 September)
No dangerous course for these lickspittle tammy doffers. God save the Quine!


Bedtime reading
In the quiet of his hotel bedroom the worker who is in transit selling something useless, attending a seminar about how to con people or just being brainwashed in some staff training course can console themself with a Gideon bible.

Ever wondered how that bible got there? It is all due to as association of businessmen who formed the Gideon International in 1899. We are talking big bucks here:
  "The association distributes 1 million bibles every 10 days at an annual cost of $53m (£35m). Worldwide there are 600 million Gideons. 'We are still battling with other competitors like the Koran', said Brian Hickford, manager of Gideons in the UK." (Independent, 3 September)
You think that is competition, Mr Hickford? What about the day when there is a Socialist Standard in every hotel bedroom? Put there by men and women of the working class not businessmen.



What is Love? (1993)

From the November 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

A young man and woman have a good relationship. They are both kind, thoughtful people. They both go out to work — she earns less than he does, but they share their income. He does his share of the housework. They both feel free to go out when they choose and they enjoy each other’s company. Their sexual relationship is good unpressured and imaginative — and like the rest of their relationship, based on equality.

Naturally, they have arguments from time to time, but they are quickly resolved. Untouched by life’s bitterness, they cannot imagine anything much ever going wrong. Why should it?

Then something happens which changes their lives for ever. She becomes pregnant and he does not. Raised by TV and magazine images of cute babies and blissful parenthood, they still cannot imagine anything but greater happiness. Things start to change. Affected by massive hormonal changes acting upon her like a strong drug and discomfited by the realization of what is happening to her body, the woman becomes moody, alternately bad-tempered and clingy.

He is irritated by her moodiness, feels pressured by her unusual clinginess and put off by her sickness and tiredness. They go to a party one night and he becomes flirtatious with another woman. She feels betrayed, and disturbed by her own insecurity and jealousy. He is enjoying the light relief from his unease and resents what he sees as her interference.

The boat has started to rock. Differences have set in. At this stage they sit and talk things over and they feel better for it.

When she has the baby, it is an intense experience for both of them. She is overwhelmed by the levels of physical pain and he suffers with her. The birth, however, is straightforward and the arrival of the baby is a joyous moment for both of them.

Now the fun begins. She breastfeeds the baby — for good reasons — it keeps mother and baby close and the milk is biologically the correct food for the baby, protecting from illness. He feels left out.

He cannot share the childcare at this stage. She cannot go back to work straight away so they become reliant on his income — a subtle shift in power occurs. They are living off "his" income. She becomes worn out with being awake at night. She knows she is on duty 24 hours a day, every day and is desperate for decent sleep. He believes he should not have to get up in the night with baby as he is going to do the work.

They can neither of them really understand the rift developing between them — and hardly believe it.

This story has a number of possible endings. They might somehow muddle through, and with the help of kind friends and relatives come to understand each other — or it might end in a nasty divorce, the child having been badly affected by years of hostility followed by the loss of someone loved.

In the years BC (before children) equality between men and women can seem a fairly straight forward affair. Differences between men and women are far fewer than similarities. Even at this stage, it is likely that awareness of parenthood is closer to the surface for women than for men. Having, whether by instinct or socialization, spent much of her childhood playing with babies, real or plastic, a woman is more likely to have potential parenthood in her consciousness. A man is likely to have spent much of his childhood climbing, running, jumping, exploring, competing, "scoring" and involved in physical, playful tussle with his mates. Sexuality is approached from this angle — babies hardly come into it.

Until the 1950s, the expectations placed upon a man in capitalism were that he should sell his time and energy to an employer in order to provide food and shelter for himself and "his” family whilst "his" wife should do all the housework and all the childcare (and if necessary another poorly paid job). However unsatisfied or miserable they might be they should remain monogamous "till death us do part". "Equality" did not come into it — the man must be (or at least appear to be) "in control of " his wife.

What is extraordinary, and a great tribute to "human nature" is that some of these marriages worked at a human level. There could be a mutual respect, an understanding that both parties were doing what needed to be done. There was not always excessive jealousy or deceit — both parties could co-operate. Not surprisingly, it was equally likely that the arrangement would falter. There was little divorce, but often a lot of misery contained, hidden and denied within the home.

Times have changed, expectations have shifted. We no longer feel morally obliged to stay in miserable monogamy for years on end. Neither have we found a much happier alternative. If people do manage to remain happy as a couple or end a marriage in a civil and respectful way, it seems a matter of chance, something that happens in spite of prevailing conditions and social pressures.

Attempts are made at alternative arrangements; communal living for instance, open marriage, voluntary childlessness, lesbian and gay relationships . . . The most common is that of the single parent, living as the only adult in the household, overburdened, isolated and usually poor — hardly a happy alternative to a rotten marriage, though often a more peaceful one.

From the sixties and before there has been an ongoing struggle to escape institutionalized monogamous marriage with its associated double standards for men and women.

However, within the framework of our economic system making sexual relationships and procreation a happy affair has remained well-nigh impossible.

The majority of people meet their basic needs through work done for capitalists, and the work of pregnancy, childbirth and 24-hour care of small, needy and demanding human beings is not materially rewarded; it does not serve the capitalists any immediate financial purpose. This throws the parents with care of their children on to the mercy of partners who, already resentful at having to sell their lives and souls, can have very ambiguous feelings about having to meet demands at home. Otherwise they are minimally and reluctantly supported by the state.

In truth, the person (usually a woman) raising the next generation of human beings is undertaking an enormously important task in terms of the wider society but because the profit system makes no immediate gains from the work she is doing, she is left with many of her needs largely unmet — some of them very basic, adequate sleep and rest for instance.

Other needs are less clearly defined — autonomy, freedom of movement, free time, respect, appreciation, adequate adult company — to name but a few. And because the carers’ needs are unmet, she can not meet those of the children, the future women and men of the world. Hence the deep sense of parental guilt experienced by many, if not most, mothers.

Our present society has a property basis. This has historically included the idea of women as being the property of men an idea profoundly affecting the self-image of men and women alike — man as controlling and woman as controlled. Such an idea overlays any "natural" similarities and differences between women and men. It also sabotages the possibility of respectful, loving relationships between the sexes.

Many women are trapped in abusive relationships because they do not have free access to alternative living quarters or the basic necessities for themselves and their children. A lot of misery is caused by anxiety and arguments about money management, especially amongst those at the lower end of the income scale.

Women and men alike fall prey to neurotic and addictive illnesses because they cannot cope with expectations placed on them to relate to and support others in a callous, blaming, unsupportive world. Such people have often begun adult life vulnerable because their own parents were themselves deprived and hence unable to provide physically, emotionally or both.

The list of present-day miseries is endless, especially if we also look beyond the sphere covered by this particular piece of writing.

How much happiness, pleasure and satisfaction might we find in a society geared simply to meeting everyone’s needs?

Men and women are similar in most respects but different when it comes to having babies. In this respect, men’s and women’s needs differ. In a world which is geared to meeting everyone’s needs, and not to making profit for a minority, there is hope for really meeting the different needs of women, men and children. Such a world is surely the best breeding ground for reliably good human relationships.
Nicky Snell