Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Obituary: Ron Stone (2018)

Obituary from the October 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

We learn from comrades ‘Down Under’ of the death in Western Australia in June of Ron Stone. Originally from Dover in Britain, he was an active supporter of the World Socialist Movement in Australia. His cartoons, mocking politicians and royalty, appeared in the Socialist Comment which the World Socialist Party of Australia published in the 1980s as well as, later, in the Socialist Standard. He was also something of a poet:

Wage Restraint 
It was a crisis day in Parliament.
The House was hushed and still
As a Member rose with a Question:
‘Are we doomed to go downhill?’
‘I am confident of an upturn,’
The P.M. made reply.
‘If workers’ pay is held at bay
We’ll all be home and dry.’
‘How True ! How True!’ cried the workers,
‘Let’s end our silly strike.
We don’t want more money . . .
You can stick it where you like.’

‘Thank Heavens!’ yelled the bosses,
‘There’s faith on the factory floor
And now we have this extra loot
We’ll give it to the poor.’
They picked up all the money
And ran on eager feet
And pressed their surplus profits
On the people in the street.
They moved among the dole queues
And boarded every bus
With tear-filled eyes and heart-felt cries,
‘You need this more than us.’

Soon all the people prospered,
The Devil became a saint
Now that the wicked unions
Had exercised restraint.
The cities were filled with singing
And the sounds of laughter spread
As hand took hand in this golden land . . .
And pigs flew overhead.

The Car (1998)

A Short Story from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

A year ago we sold our car. Nothing unusual in that of course, happens all the time. The buying and selling of second-hand cars is a common enough activity for those of us who cannot afford new cars. No, it was the way it happened and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since.

Our car was one of those Volkswagen Golfs, about 8 years old and pretty well dead on its feet. It was on its third engine and even that had a tendency to stall every twenty minutes or so—something about the mixture of the petrol in the engine. The only solution was to leave it for a quarter of an hour till it cleared itself. On top of that the electrics were dodgy and I had managed to burn the clutch a couple of times. In truth we were desperate to get rid of the vehicle. It had given us no end of trouble and we’d already spent too much money in cheating garages to keep it running. If the opportunity came to cut our losses and sell the car we would be only too glad.

Moreover, my partner and I had worked hard that year and we were keen to get away from our draughty flat for a holiday. We decided to do away with a car completely and rely on so-called public transport. We had a number of people interested in our advert and one by one they test drove our car. Funny how when you’re young and idealistic you can condemn others so easily for how they live and what they do. Then as you learn to survive on your own you begin to make compromises with how you live your life, often without realising it. I’m not even sure now how it happened. It just sort of seemed to follow from the position that we were in. I mean we didn’t tell any outright lies, just economical with the truth as civil servants say. I remember us being in the back seat as the two men who eventually bought the car took the car around the neighbourhood. I just wanted them to finish before the engine did.

When we came to the part where we haggled over the money we were nervous and unsure of ourselves, no Arthur Daley’s us. We managed to get a price of £1,300 and we quickly received the cash, anxious to finish the whole thing. Only later in the safety of our home did we discover that we had only been paid £1,200. Looking back I realised that the buyers had been aware of the shortfall and may even had planned it. I was initially relieved, as if the lack of honesty on their side somehow reduced the guilt on ours. Later I was depressed and since then, every time I’ve thought about the incident, I’ve been depressed again.

The motor trade is one of the best examples of how the buying and selling system reduces people into being less than they really are, or at least less than they could be. How often have we all been manipulated to manipulate others for some pathetic economic gain? Through a half-worthless car I had lost some of my own worth. Sometimes it seems that the material value that we accumulate is mirrored by a reduction in our own value as humans.

As I write this article my mind drifts forward to tomorrow when I shall go to the office, forced to work alongside a semi-racist colleague, and where we will all pretend to like an egotistical boss none of us respect. How did this all come about? How long can we tolerate an economic system that thrives on human dishonesty? And how long can we put up with the damage that this system does to us as people? Some people say that we live in something called society. Sorry, but I can’t, at least not a human one.
G. T.

Reformists never learn (1998)

Book Review from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The State to Come by Will Hutton. Vintage Press, 1997. £4.99.

Reformists never learn. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Observer editor Will Hutton still claims that societies can shape capitalism “to meet their wider goals. Different ethical values apart from the market ethic must be protected . . . Human values need to be incorporated into the core of market processes . . . to produce a kinder, more tolerable society . . .” But if this is possible, why has it never happened up to now, at least not for any length of time?

The fact is that capitalism can’t be reshaped so as to put human values before market values. It has to put profits first and its economic mechanisms impose this on any government which may have other thoughts. Since 1973 it has been even worse for reformists. The end of the post-war boom and the period that has followed of slow growth, punctuated by recurring slumps, has meant that capitalist states have been in almost permanent fiscal crisis. They have not had the money to introduce any new social reforms and have been compelled to cut back on existing ones. The Blair government’s action against single mothers and their future plans against the sick and disabled is merely a continuation of this. They are acting as all governments of capitalism are forced to these days.

Hutton, who is a Labour supporter (this short book was written to urge people to vote Labour in the last election), is at the same time an open supporter of capitalism. He wants Britain to “develop its own specific capitalist model” and “to build a capitalist structure that can regulate itself better”. He realises that this is all that Labour aims at too but has his doubts as to whether it wants to go even that far. Labour, he says, “wishes to reshape British capitalism-a little” but the danger is that “Labour will find in office that it governs as a nicer group of Conservatives”. Whether Blair and his band of hypocrites (particularly the one who shopped his son to the police) are nicer than the other arrogant lot is a matter of opinion or remains to be seen but, in any event, is irrelevant in that it is not the personal attitudes of ministers that count but what the workings of the capitalist system forces them to do. It is capitalism that is the enemy and not the particular politicians who run it.

And capitalism can no more be reformed or reshaped so as to serve human rather than market values as Hutton deludedly imagines than a leopard can change its spots.
Adam Buick

Marx without Lenin (1998)

Book Review from the March 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx by Terry Eagleton. The Great Philosophers, Phoenix, 1997.

Inscribed on the headstone of Karl Marx’s grave in London is the assertion: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”. This was a criticism by Marx, not of philosophy in general, but rather of the German ideology prevalent in certain circles in early nineteenth century Germany. Criticism of the philosophy of that time was also a criticism of the society which gave rise to it. In much the same way as “post-modern” thought today tells us that subjective interpretation is all there is, this is symptomatic of a deeper social malaise. Marx’s action-orientated theory provides an understanding of, and contribution towards, human and social development.

An important feature of Marx’s social theory is the way freedom is conceived as self-realisation. Capitalism robs us of those things which make us truly human: socialism is the re-appropriation of those powers alienated from us under class society. Eagleton outlines the key relationships between production, labour and ownership in Marx’s thinking and offers us Marx’s vision of an alternative society:
 “If the means of production were to be commonly owned and democratically controlled, then the world we create together would belong to us in common, and the self-production of each could become part of the self-realisation of all.”
It is to Eagleton’s great credit that he looks at Marx without Leninist spectacles, even though at one point he repeats the Leninist distortion that for Marx socialism was a transitional society between capitalism and communism. At £2 for 53 pages you could look for yourself.
Lew Higgins

Who are the Mugs? (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

The stake in "our" Country
One of the themes on which our newspapers love to turn a spare column is the alleged laziness of the British worker. How often do we read blood-chilling articles about workers over here loafing about all day, whilst industrious foreign workers are putting in an enormous working week? Germans, for example, are said to take only one week’s holiday a year, to refuse to strike and to turn out such cheap, efficient goods that they easily outsell the products of their British counterparts. Why, we have even heard the same sort of thing about Russian workers, who were reported to have smiled superior, mystified smiles when they saw English workers knocking off for tea during the preparation of the recent Soviet Exhibition at Earl’s Court. Nothing like that, they said, happened in Russia! This, of course, is common stuff. Nobody need feel upset that he does not work hard enough to satisfy his employer. The ideal worker, from the capitalist viewpoint, would be somebody who stuck at it twenty-four hours a day without needing those irksome breaks for sleep, food and the rest of it.

However lazy the British worker is supposed to be the fact is that, like other workers all over the world, he turns out some pretty substantial profits for his master. And with it all he is loyal. In the midst of the worries of working for his living, paying off the H.P., the mortgage and the rest, he also finds time to fret about the fortunes of his ruling class. He will always get upset to hear that foreign capital has moved into the country and has taken over a British company. Remember the fuss about Tube Investments? And later on about Ford? In the 'bus queue, at the bench, around the canteen table, many workers expressed the opinion that this was alien investment with a sinister motive. Some of them thought that behind it all was a scheme to undermine British industry, to buy up a prosperous rival and then let it go bankrupt.

This is a strange idea. The capitalist class find it difficult at times to assure themselves of a profit from their business, let alone deliberately investing a few million into a loss. And we should remember that there are plenty of firms in this country which are offshoots of foreign companies, and which are thriving concerns. Some of them, in fact, have become larger and more prosperous than their foreign parent. And what about British investment abroad? Do British workers object to that?

They do not—although there is plenty of it. Mr. Heathcoat Amory, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, when questioned in the House about the Tube Investments deal, stated that this country is a nett exporter of capital. A few months back, for example, Courtaulds bought a four per cent. interest in the Koppers Company Inc., one of the largest American chemical and plastic concerns. At the same time, they put two men onto the board of the American company. There were, of course, no complaints from Fleet Street about this. No heat was generated under any white collar at this new example of one country investing in another. No British newspaper carried stem warnings about threats to prosperity. Presumably because British workers, like their brothers abroad, are nothing if not patriotic. They think that American ownership of Ford Dagenham must be a baleful influence, but that British investment overseas is an example of enterprise and anyway is all done for the benefit of the natives.

In fact, it is quite unimportant to the British worker whether the firm which employs him is owned by foreign shareholders or not. He can live only by persuading some firm or other to buy his working ability and wherever he works he will receive, on a broad average, the same wage. Every capitalist concern, whatever the nationality of its shareholders, is in business to make profit. It is, indeed, to make more profit that they take the risk of investing abroad. Courtaulds went into Koppers for what they called “. . . the exploitation of areas of mutual interest.” They were, in other words, trying to rebuild some of the investments in the United States which the British government compulsorily sold for them during the war. Nobody has yet found a certain way of making capitalist industry, anywhere in the world, able to rely upon its profits. That is why we have booms and depressions, and why some firms go out of business. All over the world, the interests of the worker must clash with his master’s. These are the common problems of capitalism, which cannot be wiped out by the change of a company's nationality.

Why, then, do workers bother about whether their employer is British or not? Why are they loyal? Because they think that they have some stake in the country of their living, which gives them a common cause with the British capitalist class. And what does this stake amount to?

About the biggest and most valuable thing that most workers are ever likely to own is a house. And what agonies they must go through, to get it! First they must take on a lifetime's mortgage or loan which, although in fact it deprives them of real ownership of the house, saddles them with the full legal responsibilities of ownership. If a slate falls o(f the roof onto somebody's head they—not the building society—must pay compensation. If the house is struck by lightning or damaged by flood water, they must suffer the consequences. The money for the house is often lent at such an interest rate that in the end the borrower will repay about twice as much as he originally borrowed. While he is repaying the loan, his occupation of the house can be hedged about by all manner of legal restrictions, which are imposed to make sure that if he defaults in the repayments the house will have a good resale value. And if in the end the worker has kept up his payments and done everything else that the building society wants, what has he got? A working class house which has cost him nearly twice as much as it would have done if he could have originally afforded to pay for it outright. And the tail end of his life in which to enjoy it.

So much for house ownership. Do the working class own anything else in this country? Over the years, there have been many investigations into relative ownership and incomes. They have always pointed to the same conclusion— that most people own very little and a few people own a great deal. One of the latest of these investigations was carried out by the Oxford University Institute of Statistics. They published the results in their Bulletin of February this year. Here are some extracts from it.

There are twenty thousand people in this country with over £100,000 each in capital, averaging £250,000 each. Ten per cent. of the population over 20 owns ninety-eight per cent. of company stocks and shares, and seventy-four per cent. of land, building and trade assets. One per cent. of the over 20 population own eighty-one per cent. of stocks and shares, and twenty-eight per cent, of land, building and trade assets. This does not leave much for the rest of the population, for the working class—the loyal, struggling mortgagors. The Bulletin tells us something about them. There are, it says, sixteen million people with what it calls a net capital of less than £100, and an average holding of £50.

These are the facts behind the great myth of working class ownership, patriotism and employer-loyalty. Perhaps, at times, a glimmering of the facts gets through to the workers and sets them realising that Britain does not belong to them. That a very small minority in the world own almost anything that is worth owning, whilst the rest spend their waking lives in work to keep things that way. That the majority scrape along with the shabby and tawdry whilst the few can have—literally—the best. The best clothes, houses, food, holidays. The best chance of living a worthwhile life. And—final irony—they can have all this without needing to work for it. They can leave that part to the lazy, loyal working class.

Who do you think has the better side of the bargain? And who are the mugs?
Ivan

Latin America (1961)

Book Review from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Latin America—The Balance of Race Redressed, by Halcro Ferguson for the Institute of Race Relations. (Oxford University Press, 7s. 6d.)

With the exception of The Times and The Economist the only British newspaper that regularly covers Latin American affairs is The Observer, which has in Halcro Ferguson a highly informed student of what is going on "south of the border.” His first book is therefore a welcome addition to the limited literature available on the racial aspect of that part of the world.

It is regrettable that the author makes no attempt to define his meaning of the term race. It is far too “loaded” a word to leave to the reader's personal interpretation. Fortunately, there is nothing in present day Latin America to compare with the specific discrimination on grounds of colour to be found in the Southern States of America or the Republic of South Africa. It would be a mistake, however, to think this is due to some kind of moral superiority. Discrimination and indignity have many forms. From Mexico down to Paraguay the Spanish speaking descendants of the conquistadors have exerted a repressive social, religious and linguistic domination over their Indian subjects whose pre-Colombian culture was by no means inferior to that of their conquerors.

Mr. Ferguson likens the break-away of the Spanish colonies under the leadership of Bolivar and San Martin to the current White-Settler and “Colon" quarrels with the home country, although as he himself shows the social gap between the √©lite and the masses was not a principle of racial superiority. What it does mean is that as the countries of Central and South America undergo their national bourgeois revolutions we are likely to witness the rise of the Indian majority as a key political factor with the subsidiary demand for literacy and equal rights of language. A situation not unlike India once the English no longer held sway.

We must register a point of disagreement. Despite the fact that numerically the peasants were preponderant in both Mexico of 1910 and Russia of 1917 it is an error to equate the respective struggles of that period. In the words of Rudolf Sprenger, “The Russian Revolution was a bourgeois revolution without the bourgeoisie. Leadership: the intellectuals. Weapon of attack: the proletariat. Mass-basis: the peasantry.” In Mexico's case it was not a question of a fundamental change in the social basis of society, which is what we understand by the word revolution. Rather was it one of the last of the great peasant revolts so tragically doomed to failure by the inexorable laws of social development.
Eddie Grant

YHWH* (1961)

Book Review from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Religion of Israel, by Yehezekel Kaufmann (translated by Moshe Greenberg.) Allen & Unwin, 42s.

This is an excellent book: not only the translation—which alone can make or mar any work, but also the abridgement of seven volumes.  Despite this and the obvious drawbacks Dr. Greenberg has given us an eminently readable book. A must for biblical scholars and a mine of information for Socialists. Professor Kaufmann took the best part of thirty years to produce these seven volumes and in so doing has amassed a wealth of facts regarding the origins and the nature of Israelite religion—Judaism. Many of these facts are incorporated in this abridgement, which makes fascinating reading and one wonders at what was left out. This is the first time that any part of Professor Kaufmann’s major work on Judaism has been published in any other language but Hebrew.

For those concerned with Judaism as the first monotheistic religion from which sprang Christianity and Islam and the connecting links between Paganism, Pantheism, Polytheism, and Primitive Magic, there is a good argument in this book and much to cogitate over.

Socialists will value this book in much the same way as they do Fraser's Golden Bough, and Darwin's Origin of Species, as an explanation of mankind's activities and of his earlier inability to understand natural phenomena, such as the rising and setting of the Sun, the waxing and waning of the Moon, storms, floods, and so on. Primitive Magic was early man's way of endeavouring to deal with the things he did not understand, and as he became more sophisticated his superstitions hardened into religion. Pantheistic and polytheistic to start with and then Monotheistic, today we have variants all along the line, enough of them in fact to make the soup firms' varieties look sick. In the bargain, organised religion in the early days of propertied society— somewhere in the Middle East—gave rise to science, which is today busy burying religion beneath a mountain of facts.

All of this has been brought about by man endeavouring to come to grips with the problems that confronted him. Homo Sapiens has solved most of his problems, and we are confident that he will continue to do so. This volume is good ammunition for debunking the God idea. Not that Professor Kaufmann wrote his volumes with that intention—he is a devout Jew—but then neither did Darwin!
Jon Keys

* GOD.
† An eighth volume has been written, but is not dealt with in this book.

Buddha's tooth (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Chinese are a people without what we would call a religion; in its place they have the philosophy of Confucianism. This regulates the behaviour between older and younger brother and other members of the family and subjugates them all to the head of the household. The system of responsibilities goes all the way through society to the head of the State, who is compared to the father of a family.

The Chinese Communist Party who now manage capitalism have substituted a somewhat similar authoritarian ideology of their own, with Mao Tse-tung at the top of the social pyramid in the place formerly occupied by the Emperor.

This lack of religious belief, however, does not help them from pandering to even the most stupid of superstitious practices when it suits their interests. Witness the recent episode of Buddha's tooth.

For the first time in 2,500 years the right and the left tooth of the Lord Buddha have been brought together; at Kandy, the ancient capital of Ceylon, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims saw the right tooth, in its 3 cwt. gilded casket studded with green and red gems, loaded on a specially built chariot for a four month's tour of the island's holy places. The relic itself has been provided by courtesy of Communist China. Its usual resting place is in a newly reconstructed 150 ft. high Pagoda in Peking's western hills whence it was brought to Colombo aboard an Ilyushin jet. Mrs. Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister, and members of her Cabinet took a prominent part in greeting it.

Ceylon has its own tooth — the left one — enshrined at Kandy’s Dalada Maligawa temple. It is about half the size of the Chinese relic but equally venerated in the Buddhist world.

The Chinese Government can very well understand the excitement and keenness of the Ceylonese ruling-class at the possession of this relic, for it is a help in the very important task of doping their workers’ minds. The Ceylonese ruling-class, no doubt. consider this acquisition very fortunate indeed. Buddha’s tooth helps to whip up religious fervour, and this is channelled into support of the Buddhist church, which, in Ceylon, is a pillar of the State.

What an auspicious atmosphere for the Chinese to start their negotiations to barter rice for rubber and what an edge on their Russian rivals too! How the sophisticated rulers of China, who so make use of a religious relic (useless to them for hoodwinking their agnostic workers) must be laughing up their sleeves at the Ceylonese workers who fall for such hocus pocus!
Frank Offord

50 Years Ago: The Limitations of Industrial Action (1961)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard
In August 1911 their was a strike of railwaymen. The Liberal Government, with the support of the Tories called out the troops and there were many casualties when police were used to break up strikers meetings.
Among those hardest hit by the great events of August are the Industrial Unionists. They have witnessed a strike in the industry most able to paralyse society. That it could paralyse society has been amply demonstrated—but then, we have never denied that they could accomplish this. However, events have gone on to prove our claim that, considered as an instrument for ’taking and holding’ the means of life Industrial Unionism, with its most perfect weapon, the General Strike, can accomplish nothing more than general paralysis.

The ’riotous mob ’ of August 1911 were an appalling power for destruction—everybody knew that. Had they been sufficiently desperate, had they felt sufficiently inclined to suicide, they would have been irresistible for ruin. They could have laid London in ashes in a night: they could have made the country an inferno of blood and fire; they could have performed prodigies of destruction in spite of police and military. But when it comes to taking and holding and operating one shillings-worth of the productive wealth of the capitalist class, they are powerless. They can destroy and die, but to hold and operate they must live—and in the difference between these two, Industrialism finds its grave.

The final lesson, and the greatest of all, is to be found in the crushed hopes of the Industrialists, the Syndicalists, the Anarchists. These claim that the means of production must be seized in the teeth of the armed forces; the Socialists hold that the preliminary must be to get control of the armed forces by capturing the machinery of government.
[From the
 Socialist Standard, September 1911]

MRA's Absolutes (1961)

Film Review from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Film: The Crowning Experience.
Verdict: A "must” for all those wishing to know just how not to solve the problems of society.
Very good colour and camera work. Music and lyrics fair to middling. Acting and presentation good in some parts, but in others, oh so awkward and stultified as to draw embarrassed titters even from a sympathetic audience.
And the plot? Well, when we tell you that The Crowning Experience is a Moral Re-Armament Production, maybe you can guess the rest. A lavishly produced book of the film assures us that it was inspired by the real life story of Mary McLeod Bethune, a Southern Negress of very humble beginnings who, it is said, founded a University in Mayesville, South Carolina, and became a special adviser to Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt.

Broadway singer Muriel Smith portrays the leading part of the good lady, here called Emma Tremaine. After starting the "Tremaine College," she has trouble with a young graduate, Charlie, who becomes a "Professional Revolutionary" in the pay of the Communist Party, trying to work an outsized chip off his shoulder, acquired during childhood when his mother died of starvation. This leads to a first class row with Emma when he tries to form a "Cell" in Emma's own college, and gets thrown off the campus for his trouble.

But everything comes right in the end. of course, because they all somehow find their way to an MRA conference on Mackinac Island and become “changed.” Even the stubborn Charlie (who has really gone along there to get his wife back) melts before the powerful appeal of the four absolute standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. In a matter of minutes he has switched his worship from the God in the Kremlin to the one at Mackinac. Finally, there is a truly tear-jerking session with politicians and leading figures from various parts of the world confessing their past dishonesties and swearing to uphold and apply the principles of MRA in the future.

The political simpleton will find much in this film to encourage him in his ignorance, Apart from the scientifically quite untenable “God” idea there is the fatuous and futile notion that the MRA “Absolutes" will give us the peaceful and happy world which we all so desperately want.

Of course, it is desirable to be honest, to harbour no hatred or ill-feeling, and to be free from fear. No doubt we have all felt the strain imposed by having to cheat and lie at some time or other, and no one but a madman really approves of it. Again, how nice it would be if the statesmen were to be absolutely honest with each other—a sort of “cards on the table" policy. Then why aren’t they? What is it that makes them hold secrets, even from those whom they proclaim as allies? In fact, why do statesmen exist at all? Just whose interests do they represent?
It is only in posing and answering such questions as these that we can hope to achieve a satisfactory explanation of the bloodshed, suspicion and misery in which modern society abounds.

The Crowning Experience tells us merely that such problems exist. For the most part, it is a study in religious emotionalism, and relies on tautology and the usual sweeping claims in support of its "case.”
Eddie Critchfield

Branch News (1961)

Party News from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two items of news regarding the Party’s activity during July must reassure members of the increasing results of the work done by Comrades in our effort to propagate Socialism.

On July 19th the second mid-week Demonstration for Socialism meetings was held at Conway Hall. London. To an audience of nearly 400, Comrades Grant and Hardy (Comrade Fahy in the Chair) held an inspiring meeting. The audience put some excellent questions and took part in discussion—all dealt with by the speakers in full. So much so that many people who were slightly interested in the Party's case, remarked that much had been learned by the discussion and they were anxious to hear and learn more. Good literature sales were made and a collection of £25 odd was taken up. The Propaganda Committee arranged this meeting and plans are being made for a further Demonstration for Socialism on October 18th, in the Caxton Hall, London.

The other item of moment was the result of the small band of literature sellers organised by the new Literature Sales Committee, who sold literature at Earls Court during the Russian Exhibition. Over 1,100 pamphlets were sold, 700 odd were the pamphlet “Russia Since 1917" and the amount handed in to Head Office was nearly £65. This is a remarkable effort and demonstrates so well that if Comrades organise together on such projects, much can be done to get the Party's case over to the workers who must know and understand it in order to achieve the aim of every Socialist—Socialism.


The Autumn Delegate Meeting is being held at Head Office, on Saturday (afternoon 2.30 to 5.30) and Sunday (11.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.) on October 7th and 8th. The Standing Orders Committee are making special efforts to re-arrange the seating arrangements and it is hoped that a good attendance will be there to hear about the successful half-year's work of Party Comrades in London and the Provinces. Scotland and Wales. It is hoped that a report will be available from America where Comrade Gilmac is attending as our representative to the Annual Conference of the W.S.P.


Wembley Branch members returned from holiday at the end of July and ready for the fray once more. Plans in hand at the time of going to Press, included a combined canvassing and propaganda trip to Southsea on August 27th and an indoor public meeting in the Autumn at Wembley. This will be the Branch’s first attempt at indoor propaganda and careful arrangements will be necessary. All branch members will be informed and are urged to give their utmost support.

The Branch has held a series of very successful meetings at Gloucester Road with attentive audiences and literature sales showing a marked improvement on previous seasons. Is this part of a general awakening of interest in our case? We hope so and anyway Branch members will do their best to exploit it to the full. Canvassing efforts continue and the practice is to send a team to selected areas month by month, with one comrade following up the contacts made. Some good contacts have been made, but the Branch is restricted by manpower shortage. Absent Comrades please note.


The following id an extract from a letter received from Comrade Everson of New Zealand.
  “In New Zealand at present there is much concern about the possibility of Great Britain joining the European Common Market. A very gloomy future is predicted by the politicians. Mr. Holyoake and company have taken the opportunity to use it as an excuse to postpone their tax reducing election promise for ‘at least another year!’ Many young married workers I contact are very worried about the future, not simply at being unemployed, but at losing overtime work. In spite of the child allowance of 15s. per week for each child, the lower paid workers, reduced to the much boasted 40 hour week, would suffer hardships, unemployment would be disastrous. What a system! After all the years of so-called prosperity, referred to by the Labour politicians as the ‘Honeymoon’, a short spell of unemployment would put most workers on the bread line".

Bright Note. It is noticeable, after some long while of static membership numbers, that applications for membership to the Party are becoming a much more frequent item of E.C. business.
Phyllis Howard

Yapp's Anchor. (1917)

Editorial from the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is an important aspect of the present trend of economic affairs, not only in this country but throughout the civilised world, to which we do not remember to have seen the attention of the workers drawn. We refer to the permanent effect of the depression of the standard of living of the toiling masses.

Those who know what a vital part the standard of living plays and has played in the resistance of the working class to the wages-depressing efforts of the employing class, do not need to have their attention drawn to the serious after-the-war effects of the present suppression of all the little “luxries” with which many workers were wont to vary the monotony of their dietary, and the partial deprivation of such prime necessaries as bread and meat. To however, to whom this is not familiar ground, it is necessary to point out that the standard of living — the customary level of comfort (we don’t like the term in this connection, but can find no better at the moment) — of the working people, is the very basis of the wages struggle. To this both wages and the development and intensification of production have tended to shape themselves through the whole course of capitalist exploitation. Through generations multitudinous circumstances hare added their quota to its making, each quota to be seized upon and clung to and fought for with bitter tenacity. Thus this “standard of comfort," to give it its common name, is a historic product.

But the condition of things produced by the war, the high prices of necessary things, the shortage of many of them at any price, the emasculation of trade union resistance, the virtual existence of industrial conscription, the voluntary surrender from “patriotic" motives, and other circumstances which may occur to other minds, have crumpled up this “standard of comfort" in a way that generations of capitalist brutality had failed to do. The historical asset, which had tended to persist in a remarkable manner through ages of competitive strife, is being smashed to atoms now that in all but appearance, competition is as dead as a doornail, and a lopsided conscription has taken its place.

This historic asset is much easier surrendered than recovered. There is a world of subtle meaning, a wealth of ironic humour, in the anchor badge we are all to be wearing “before Christmas." They whose anchors they are count upon them holding in the Greater War after the war.

Socialism's Traducers. (1917)

From the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

American Pseudo-Socialist Manifesto Criticised.
One great difference between the master class and the working class is the clear grip that the former have—despite their scientific and sociological ignorance— of the insecurity of their position as a ruling class. The workers in a large number of cases, have not even grasped the fact that a ruling class exists, and so are quite puzzled at the various social actions going on around them, the effects of which they feel without understanding the cause.

But a certain number—a minority at present — are beginning to understand that there is some connection between the evils they suffer from and the fact that they have to work for a master. This understanding is confused and even vague with many at the moment, but its existence is beyond dispute, and causes a good deal of uneasiness among the masters. 

To meet this spreading understanding, that contains at its core a number who clearly grasp the fact of their being slaves under this system of society, and which number grows as the vague understanding increases, the masters use various agents and agencies to mislead the workers, to hide the facts of the case or to strenuously deny them, and to endeavour to increase the confusion of thought existing among those who are beginning to have a faint glimpse of the truth. 

By far the greatest danger the masters are faced with is the steady spreading of the knowledge of the class struggle that must exist in a society divided into masters and slaves. The great work of Marx and Engels in laying the foundations of this social truth has always excited their hatred, and they have attempted in various ways to minimise the effect of this work. At first it was ignored in the hope that silence would kill it. When this failed it was derided and jeered at. At a later stage attempts were made to meet the Marxian case by pretended arguments and serious replies. The tricky journalist W. H. Mallock tried several explanations of the phenomena of surplus-value, each contradicting the other, ending with his claim, without the slightest evidence to support it, that the increase in wealth production was due to the marvellous mental ability of a few individuals who have only begun to appear on this planet during the 19th century. 

At the other end of the scale we have professors like Bohm-Bawerk, who, flatly contradicting the Mallock theory, claim that surplus-value is due to a future estimate of a present good. 

But Bohm-Bawerk's views are embodied in large and expensive volumes beyond the reach of most workers ; Mallock's laboured case is also out of the worker's way, being more often met with in high-priced journals than in the ordinary newspapers. Moreover, the facts of social and industrial development began to drive home to increasing numbers of workers the truths of the Socialist case. 

The cleverest of the master class began to look for new methods to meet this danger and started a scheme far more misleading to the workers than any of the misrepresentations of Mallock or the slimy shuffles of Bernard Shaw. 

They and their agents began to popularise the term "Socalism" by tacking it on to every little reform or collective action taken through the Government or Municipal bodies. 

The world-war has given them numerous new opportunities for this misuse of the word. It has brought to the front in clearer light than before, the fact that men passing as Socialists, such as Barnes, Stanton, Parker, Roberts, Henderson, Hyndman, Thorne, Tillett, and so on, were all the time merely agents of the master class who used their positions and influence to mislead the workers on the question of Socialism and the truths it embodies. 

Vigorous attempts hare been made to trick the workers into believing that Socialism meant taking part in the quarrels among the capitalists over markets, etc., even to the workers slaughtering each other by the million, while the capitalists look on and laugh at their amazing folly. 

How similar are the methods employed by the capitalist class the world over is shown by the Manifesto of the Nationalist "Socialists" of America, published in the November issue of this journal. For over two and a half years America refrained from official participation in the war. No sooner does she announce her intention of taking part in the mammoth slaughter than certain capitalist agents masquerading as Socialists issued the manifesto referred to in order to show how the war is justified in the interests of "Socialism." A criticism of that precious production will be found to apply generally to the similar effusions issued in the countries of all the belligerents on this war. 

We are told first that—
there is a difference even from the point of view of revolutionary Socialism between democratic and autocratic governments.
The value of this statement depends entirely upon the meaning given to the word "difference." This is given a little further on, when it is said—
We believe that liberal institutions have their value, as making it possible to agitate for Socialism, and to progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict.
Let us examine this statement in the light of the facts. The only possible deduction from this sentence is that the "Allies" are countries with "liberal institutions" "making it possible" "to progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict," while the "Central Powers" are nations in a condition quite the opposite of this. Thus we are to suppose that the shooting down of workers at Chalon, Roubaix, Lyons, Paris, etc. in France, at Featherstone, Belfast, Llanelly, Tonypandy, Dublin, and so on in the British Isles, and at Pittsburg, Colorado, Gold City, Homestead, San Francisco in America, are not instances of "destructive internal conflict," because only working-class lives were destroyed ! The "liberal institutions" with their "bloody Sundays" and "pogroms" existing in Russia when the war began, were no doubt wonderful factors in the "progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict," and were worth maintaining at the price of the slaughter of the working-class in the opinion of these "Socialists." 

It is quite true that similar instances can be quoted from the records of Germany and Austrio-Hungary; but this would only show that the actions of their "autocratic governments" are practically indistinguishable from those of the "All lies." 

By their own definition of the word these so-called Socialists have failed completely to show any difference between the belligerent countries worth the sacrifice of a worker's little finger, let alone his life. 

Secondly, it is stated that—
If we could have the full revolutionary Socialist program tomorrow, we might be called upon to defend it against nations which were organised for oppression under military and aristocratic rulers.
Lovely logic ! Leaving aside the absurdity of supposing one could have Socialism in a country where a large majority of the people are opposed to it, note the "if "and the "might" given as reasons for the workers taking part in the appalling slaughter of the present war. And on whose behalf? England, a short time after the war began, and America, immediately following her declaration of war, took military and autocratic measures unparalleled by any of the "aristocratic" rulers engaged on the other side. The introduction of conscription—that is the compelling of men to become murderers of their fellow men with whom they have no quarrel—without consulting the mass of the people in any way, shows a brutal ruthlessness in the two most "advanced" countries, which are supposed to possess the most "liberal institutions," that has not been surpassed in any of the other nations. 

Obviously, then, the workers are not being called upon to defend their own interests, but to fight on behalf of a ruling class whose actions are of the same kind and on the same level as those of the ruling class of the Central Powers. 

This hypocrisy on the part of these "Socialists" is further emphasised in section three, where we are told that—
the proper aim of Socialist world politics at the present time is an alliance of the politically advanced nations for the defence of the democratic principle throughout the world.
The "democratic principle" that forces men to slaughter without even consulting them on the matter ! 

To say that they are "willing to fight for democracy" is more hypocrisy, as neither the present war nor the aims of the Allies is for democracy, but for plutocracy. 

The stale old nonsense of a "citizen army" which we have heard here for so many years is trotted out in section six, where it is said : "We believe that there is no danger to democracy in a citizen army and navy controlled by the people." What clap-trap! Who are "the people" ? In America, as in every other capitalist country, "the people" consist of two classes, the capitalist class and the wage slave class, that is, of two classes whose interests are in violent antagonism. Which of these classes would control the "citizen" army and navy while capitalism exists ? As we have shown in every issue of the Socialist Standard, it would be the capitalist class. Then the "citizen" army would be used to shoot down the wage slaves in the interests of the masters in America and elsewhere, just as the "citizen" army in Switzerland has been used. 

Paragraph eight, that declares for the "democratization of the military service" under capitalism is another specimen of cant, as the merest tyro in Sociology knows that one cannot have democracy among masters and slaves. The statement about the "spirit of comradeship which is found in the trenches" is a deliberate lie, for no more in the trenches than in the training camp dare a private speak to an officer without permission, nor can he even take shelter in the same dug-out, except in special circumstances. The few accounts of the treatment of the men by their officers that have leaked through the rigid censorship give a significant picture of the "spirit of comradeship" to be found on the battle front. 

It is, however, in the ninth paragraph that we find the truth revealed in the utmost nakedness. Here we are told :
Our military training should be made the physical culture part of our public school training. It should be begun in childhood thru the work of the Boy and Girl Scouts.
Not only are these "Socialists" in favour of conscription for men, but they wish to extend it to children, boys and girls alike, and to instil into their plastic minds the sordid brutalities of militarism in the interests of the master class. This carries militarism beyond anything yet attempted by the Germans. 

The people who were boasting of their willingness to "fight for democracy" now demand the most reactionary and degrading system of training it is possible to establish, and would attempt to foul the name of Socialism by stating that their treacherous proposals are items in a Socialist programme. This is further added to when in paragraph ten they say: "A vital military system should be an organic part of the national life." This is exactly what the Allies claim exists in Germany to-day, and which they declare it is their aim to crush! "Even if Germany were willing to make peace," it is said, "we must go on till the Prussian military system is destroyed." While a militarism even more foul and brutal is to be established in the "advanced" countries with "liberal institutions." What a huge lesson in the hypocrisy of the claims about the war aims of the Allies is given by this document! 

So far is it from removing "Prussian militarism," that one great result of the war will be the establishment of the same militarism in the "advanced" nations who were previously lacking in this particular brand. This result was not only foreseen, but was deliberately worked for by certain of the capitalists in these countries because they realise how insecure is their position to-day and wish to guard against being overthrown. In America, as in Europe, they have found willing helpers in the slimy lickspittles, some of whose names are given above, and whose colleagues signed the document which was printed in the last issue of this journal. Their claims to speak as Socialists are as false as they are foul, but it is a tactic to be expected and it can only be met by constant exposure of these frauds and the persistent Propaganda of the class struggle existing, whose ultimate conclusion will be a world order of peace under Socialism.
Jack Fitzgerald

[Just as this is being sent to the printer the papers announce that Parliament has decided by a majority of 38 to disfranchise the conscientious objector to military service. The question may come up again before the Bill becomes law, but the passing of this amendment tears away one of the last pretences that the war is for "freedom"and "liberal institutions," when the "freedom of opinion" so long boasted of as an Englishman's birthright is now openly and officially trampled upon, as it has been in more or less unofficial ways all through the war. 
J. F.]

New Departure. And a Warning. (1917)

From the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much excitement has been caused by the more frequent air attacks and the means adopted to frustrate them. As might be expected, very little truth is allowed to be known, and the good old game of bluff is made to do full service. Following the raids it is now the practice to have somebody of note make a speech of the grin and bitters order, in which care is taken to provide a sufficient amount of sympathy (with the tongue in the cheek), a deal of praise for the fortitude of the sufferers (workers, of course, every time), but, above all, to point out the necessity for steeling OURselves to yet greater efforts in order to vanquish, once for all, this dastardly method of warfare, adopted by an unscrupulous enemy, etc., etc.

Much use is made of the gag that the raids are deliberately organised for the purpose of striking terror and wreaking destruction in the ranks of Britain’s working class, and colour is lent to this assertion by the fact that it is they who chiefly suffer.

Contrast this with the statements of others who now and again come very near to letting the cat out of the bag as to the real object of our aerial visitors. Then, again, we have the silly remark made by a certain august personage that he “couldn’t make out what the Germans were trying to do.” All of which goes to show what a confused state of mind must exist in the workers regarding many things that are happening.

And now comes news that surely cannot fail to be understood—news of a new departure in the use of these devilish machines, and one that will be certain to commend itself to the capitalists of this country. The news comes from Rome, and was revealed in the Italian Parliament on its re-opening in October.

Reference was made to the serious riots which took place in Turin during the second fortnight of August, and the general food crisis throughout Italy which led to the resignation of the Food Controller.
  The Turin riots, partly due to delay in providing the town with sufficient bread, partly to political discontent, lasted a few days, and the authorities were obliged to use machine-guns to restore order, while some barricades were destroyed by bombs thrown from aeroplanes, this being the first occasion on which aircraft have been used for such a purpose. No official figures were published of the number of dead and wounded, calculations varying from 50 or 60 to 500, the latter number having been in he report of a non-Italian authority in Turin.
—”Manchester Guardian,” 24.10.17.
This, mind you, is an act committed by one of our devoted allies, and therefore will be considered quite in order. In fact, British capitalists will be grateful, not only for the suggestion, but for its initiation. It shows to what uses aircraft can be put after the war. Its efficacy is proved, and there are people in this country who will not fail to support the adoption of the same methods should a similar occasion arise.

At this point we may ask ourselves a question. If, as our rulers say, it is cold-blooded, dastardly and detestable for a country at war to attack towns in such a way that must involve the loss of civilians’ lives, irrespective of age or sex, how much more cold-blooded and dastardly must it be when such means are used deliberately by the Allies against unarmed men, women, and children of their own nation for simply demonstrating their dissatisfaction at a state of affairs which deprives them of the very necessities of life? Is it not sheer hypocrisy on the part of our rulers to condemn acts committed against them and their interests whilst at the same time acts far worse are committed for them and in their interests?

The Socialist is not surprised, of course, for it is no new thing for the workers of any country to lose their lives whilst defending their interests against those of their masters. We have had numerous instances in this country, such as Featherstone, Hull, Grimsby, Tonypandy, Llanelly, Dublin, and Belfast—all during the last twenty-five years.

It is to be hoped that this latest method of dealing with working-class opposition will not be forgotten by those whom it most concerns—the workers themselves. In fact it is hardly likely to be, because it is a new method of attack which the workers here must expect when the world war is over and the respective sections of the capitalist class can turn their attention more to the class war. To us the class war is the only war that should claim our interest. It is not a war wherein capitalist nations fight each other, but a war in which international capital—British, German, and so on—combines to wage war on its common enemy, the working class.

Why are we the enemy of capital, national and international? Because the capitalists own the means whereby we live. All that we own is the power to labour. In order to live we are compelled to sell this to those who own the necessaries of life. It is they who decide whether we shall live or not. It is here where the interests of capitalists and workers are opposed. It is from this the class war springs, with its strikes and lock-outs, its police and bayonet charges, its hellish punishment of the workers. Poverty, unemployment, almost all the evils we are subjected to, arise from this fact of ownership by a class of the means of life. It comes to this, that in order |that we may exist at all, it is necessary first of all to obtain their permission.

Such was the position of all workers, whether English, German, or of any other nationality, before the war “for liberty” commenced, such is their position while it is being waged, and such it will be when it is over. This must be, because the capitalists, after the workers have shed their blood in defence of the system, will still be in possession of the means of life, and will still control them through the political machinery also in their possession.

If the workers desire to be free and to abolish the class war with all its evils, they must organise themselves as a propertyless class against the property-owning class on the political and industrial fields, and seize from the capitalists their political power, thereby clearing the way for the freedom of the whole human race.

This is the work the Socialist Party has set out to accomplish, but it can only be done when the workers decide to do it. Therefore we appeal to ALL readers of the Socialist Standard to endeavour to understand our Declaration of Principles with a view to accepting it and joining us, so that the day will be appreciably nearer when we shall smash up this rotten and inhuman system, and institute a healthier, happier, peaceful, and truly prosperous state of Society.
Fiat Lux

The London Referendum (1998)

Editorial from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

The referendum in London on 7 May is a farce. For a start, full details of what is involved were only made public in March, so there has not been enough time for a proper debate. Second, there is no provision for equal time to be given to both the “yes” and the “no” sides. So the media will be free to give an unfair advantage to the government case for voting “yes”, as they shamelessly did during the referendums in Scotland and Wales. Third, the question is rigged. If you want an elected assembly for London (as most people do since this is an elementary democratic measure) you can’t vote for this without at the same time voting for an elected mayor who will have more power than the assembly. So you don’t have the choice of saying “yes” to an elected assembly but “no” to an elected mayor.

This neo-Tory Labour government talks a lot about democracy and democratic reform but in practice resorts to the same underhand tactics to get its way as do governments everywhere. It has linked the two questions so as to be sure to get its dubious proposal for a London City Boss through on the back of popular support for the restoration of an elected London council.

We in the Socialist Party are well aware that in the end whatever arrangements are adopted for local government in London won’t make much difference. This is because such arrangements are to be implemented within the context of the profit system, whose economic mechanisms require all levels of government, however structured, to trim their spending so as not to endanger profit levels whatever people may want–or vote for.

Even so, an elected mayor is not a good idea. As the title of the government’s Green Paper–New Leadership for London—proclaims, this is a proposal to elect a Leader for London. This Leader will not just have more power than the elected assembly but will be paid a fat cat salary (so as to remove, it is said, the temptation to be corrupt) and have the remit of managing London as if it were a capitalist enterprise. The whole proposal is a travesty of democracy.

Democracy means participating in the running of affairs, not following leaders. The proposal for an elected mayor is a proposal to endorse what passes for democracy under capitalism: a choice not of alternative social systems or even policies but of rival leaders who are all packaging and no substance. Tony Banks, David Mellor, Chris Patten, who has the best smile? Who cares? But worse, it encourages people to think that some Leader can solve society’s problems for them, whereas these problems can only be solved by people refusing to follow leaders and acting for themselves. The only kind of politics that is going to work is a do-it-yourself politics aimed at abolishing the profit system.

Who Said It First? (1998)

The Greasy Pole column from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few years ago Joe Biden fancied himself as the next president of the United States but his candidature came to an abrupt end when it was discovered that he had repeated word-for-word parts of a speech by Neil Kinnock. We can assume that Biden was not penalised because he lifted someone else’s words but because it was clear that anyone who thought Kinnock even said anything worth repeating must be too mad to be trusted in the White House.

This sordid incident came to mind last month when William Hague was accused of pirating parts of speeches made by Tony Blair and in his turn charged Blair with lifting phrases from John Major (which would be even more insane than plagiarising Neil Kinnock). In what seemed a leaked version of a speech he intended to make in Australia, Hague was to have said:
“We can say to the elderly person who is afraid to go out at night for fear of being attacked–we are on your side.”
Which was rather like Blair at the Labour Party Conference in 1994:
“To the pensioners who fear to go out of their homes, let us say–we are on your side.”
There were plenty of other examples because it seems that Hague and Blair are both on the same side of all sorts of people–parents, students, people who run small businesses–in fact almost anyone who could suppress their anxieties at being at one with Blair and Hague long enough to vote for them.

Europe
If the charge against Hague was true it can be said that at least he showed a keen sense of timing because Blair made that speech four years ago and we all know what can happen to politicians’ promises over that kind of time lapse. In his past, for example, Blair spoke up for the trade unions and for CND. His election address in 1983 declared:
“We’ll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC (EU) which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs.”
But in April 1995 he told the Royal Institute of International Affairs that:
" . . . Europe is today the only route through which Britain can exercise power and influence. If it is to maintain its historical role as a global player, Britain has to be a central part of the politics of Europe. so Labour will be strong in Europe.”
What this means is that if Hague is really so short on ideas that his speechwriters are reduced to plundering Blair’s speeches, he has a lot of choice. And the same would apply to Blair. Because what has been overlooked, as the accusations and counter-accusations over the speeches flow backwards and forwards, is that there is a simple, established reason for any similarity between what the two leaders say. They basically agree with each other. In terms of the policies and the promises they offer the voters there is really nothing to choose between them. It is, obviously, difficult to keep spouting the same tired arguments without occasionally repeating yourself, or using phrases which have already been used by the person you call your opponent.

Real issue
This is the nub of the matter; it is the real issue which should concern all those people who allow themselves to be carried away in their interest in the trivial spats between the parties of capitalism. Read the manifestoes, listen the leaders’ speeches–and what do you find? First of all there is a great deal of broad-ranging but empty assertion of “principles”. Both will tell you how courageous, industrious and ingenious the British people are. Both will say that all those qualities are being, or have been, held in check by the policies of the other party. Both will offer sweeping, generalised pledges to make things better. There will be a few memorable sound-bites.

If you have managed to last this long you will then come to the more detailed plans for the management of British capitalism. Here again you would need a microscope to see any real differences. In many examples you could exchange one set of detailed proposals for the other. No-one would notice. And when, after all the reading of manifestoes and listening to speeches, a government is elected you will find them in their actions they are to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from each other.

That is why Blair’s government is upsetting so many of its supporters, who thought they had seen the end of almost 20 years of Conservative government and that after 1 May things could only get better. That is why, as Blair and his ministers attack our living standards and crack down on the poorer and weaker among the working class, they tell us that this is really for our own good because its our fault if we’re poor and weak in the first place–just as Tory ministers used to tell us.

That is why, as they speak in the same terms, what they say is interchangeable. So that they can imitate, or steal, what each other say. If we do notice, we will have gone a long way towards treating these incidents as seriously as they deserve–not as minor spats about who said what first but as the exposure of a social system and its cynical propagandists.
Ivan

Great Stuff (1998)

The TV Review column from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is so much crap on TV that deserves the severest criticism by socialists that when a rare, inspiring programme appears on the box, those of us who spend too much of our time in front of it are more than justified in celebrating the event.

Just such an occasion was the last series of the “The Mark Thomas Comedy Product” (Channel 4). If nothing else, this show achieved something absolutely vital: it was both meaningfully political and very, very funny. Scorching, bang-bang-bang studio stand-up was mixed in with film of Mark and his mates pulling situationist-style stunts at the expense of members of the establishment, the capitalist class, and their shabby hypocrisy.

Those who enjoyed the previous series–gas fat-cat Cedric Brown refusing to meet Thomas and receive a cheque for five grand “we’ve just proved that Cedric Brown is now so rich that he won’t even walk down a flight of stairs for £5000!”); Mark sticking ice cream cones on a tank and inquiring of William Waldegrave about sending it to a “mate in Iraq”–were not disappointed this time out.

In an unforgettable TV moment Mark drew out of a Church of England investment manager that the Church wouldn’t make money from companies concerned with drink or porn on “moral” grounds, but weaponry was fine. He then rolled up with a missile launcher of the type the Church profits from, decked out with the slogan “CHURCH OF ENGLAND–KILLING FOREIGNERS FOR PROFIT AND JESUS”, as a helpful suggestion of how the god squad should publicise their activities. In doing this Thomas was able to reveal “the great and the good” as the callous money-grubbing bastards they often are. And the reaction of the (mostly male) anti-abortion moral fascists he so accurately sent up really was unmissable.

As for the straightforward comedy routines, the anti-work song in the penultimate episode (more “fucks” than you could shake a boss at) had this socialist reaching for “rewind” time after time–a really funny, bitingly accurate ballad against wage slavery.

But any criticisms? Lack of a proposed social alternative, for instance? Not really, because it’s amazing just how much a man so obviously from a libertarian political background was actually able to get away with. In his own postscript to the series Thomas summed up by saying that if the show had been about anything, it was that there is no reason why we should have to put up with the sort of shit he had been tackling.

This wasn’t the political and social action needed to get rid of that shit certainly, and didn’t pretend to be, but the more or this sort of TV there is to combat the lies and dross our class is forever bombarded with the better. Great stuff!
Ben Malcolm

News in Review: Bomb Tests (1961)

The News in Review column from the October 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bomb Tests
Have we grown accustomed to humbug? There was enough of it to be had, when Moscow announced the resumption of nuclear tests. The Russians said that it was all America's fault they had to let off their bombs to show that they were ready to defend themselves against Western imperialism.

Washington and London professed shocked dismay, and anxiety for the future of the human race. To hear them, a simple soul could have been excused for assuming that neither Britain nor America had ever tested a bomb, and that the Americans were not all ready to go on their own tests as soon as they got the excuse.

In fact, there was a lot of military pressure in both Russia and the United States to resume the tests. It was certain that the first power to break the ban would come in for a propaganda lambasting. We could, therefore, expect the Americans to derive maximum political value from Khrushchev’s bangs, and the Russians to do their best to play the thing down. For that is typical of the cynicism with which capitalisms propagandists regard such matters of life and death.

At the end of it all, when the bombs have exploded and the propaganda points made, we are back where we started. Only perhaps a little more radioactive than before.


British Guiana
It is not yet ten years ago that Dr. Cheddi Jagan came out on top in the elections in British Guiana, to set the old ladies in the Colonial Office looking under their desks for Red bogymen.

Now restored to respectability and back in power with an absolute majority. Dr. Jagan is doing his best to show that they had nothing to fear. One of his big worries is to attract capital to British Guiana. His government will accept this from anywhere—Britain, the United States, Russia; even Cuba is lined up as a potential source of investment.

But Dr. Jagan knows that some capital would be scared off if he went ahead with what he once professed as his principles of wholesale nationalisation. So he is soft-pedalling on the issue although, like most newly independent states, British Guiana has its eyes upon the foreign interests in her mineral wealth.

This sets the Doctor a pretty dilemma. A false step one way and he could become a second Castro. A false step the other and he will be dubbed a lackey of Western imperialism. When the moment of decision comes for British Guiana, we may depend that there will be no lack of wordy journalists to spill their particular brand of beans.

But there will be a shortage of people to point out that all the time the Guianese workers are cutting the sugar and mining the bauxite and the rest and still, as ever, getting precious little out of it.


Labour Conference
This month, barring landslide, earthquake and the end of the world, Mr. Gaitskell will climb into the ring at Blackpool to disprove the already disproven theory that they never come back.

Last year, it was the pre-conference decisions from the unions which foretold that the Labour Party would go unilateralist. Now, enough unions have changed their minds to make it seem certain that Mr. Cousins will be left alone to uphold the cause of C.N.D. and that Mr. Gaitskell will be champion once more.

Underlying the Labour Party debate on unilateralism is one of the facts of capitalist life, which will persist however much the bomb-banners try to ignore it. In past debates on the issue the platform has made it quite plain that, whatever decision the delegates might take, a future Labour government would be guided in its actions by the necessities of British capitalism.

This means that the Conference might decide against the bomb—but a Labour government would keep it, perhaps use it. This was the theme of one of Bevan’s last important speeches, to the Conference in 1958. And quite logical too. There has never been a government which acted otherwise, and never will be as long as the working class support capitalism.

So the unilateralists are wasting their time on the Labour Party. Come to think of it they are wasting their time anyway, trying to settle one of capitalism’s grisly problems without trying to get rid of the system itself.


Fair Play for Teachers
How many schoolteachers have spent how much time telling how many classes that an Englishman’s word is his bond, and that the road to happiness is paved with honesty and truthfulness?

Anybody who took this seriously must have been shocked by the recent government decisions to ignore the recommendations of the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal, to restrict the statutory Wages Councils and virtually to destroy the Burnham Committee. And all this from an upstanding Englishman like Mr. Selwyn Lloyd!

In fact, the teachers are wasting their time if they are pining for fair play, for there is no such thing in the class war. The Ministry of Education, for example, took over the Burnham Committee’s functions because the government decided that the committee was being too generous to the teachers.

This makes no sense if we are looking for fair play. But in terms of the conflict of interest between any employer and his employees, it makes very good sense indeed. Teachers as a whole, like many civil servants and other white collar workers have always denied the existence of the class struggle. But it exists for them just as much as for the miner and the docker.

That is one of the things Mr. Selwyn Lloyd seems to be doing his best to teach them. Let us hope they turn out to be bright, receptive pupils.

The "Crisis" — from Cripps to Selwyn Lloyd (1961)

From the October 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

The workers, whose wages and jobs are involved, view the latest “crisis" as a serious matter, as also do the employers who are fearful about their falling profits, but in every other respect it has the appearance of a farce, represented almost every other year since the end of the war. The Opposition, forgetting that crises also happened when they were the government, say that the thing itself and Selwyn Lloyd’s methods of handling it are evidence of Tory ineptitude and viciousness. The Tories, embarrassed by their promises that it would not happen again when the people were “set free” from Labour government planning and controls, now find themselves committed to the idea of planning, though this time it is to be by a national economic council, representing government employers and trade unions instead of planning from Whitehall. Except for variations of detail and emphasis there isn't a single original idea in the new Tory policy and no indication that they are any better at smoothing out capitalism than were the Labour government. Most of Selwyn Lloyd's speeches and actions might have come straight from the late Sir Stafford Cripps.

The elements of the problem are fairly simple. The manufacturer, if he is to sell his goods, has to offer them at competitive prices, "as high as the market will bear,” but not so high as to leave the market to cheaper competitors. But he also has to worry about his wage costs. If wages increase too much his profit suffers so he needs something to act as a brake on wage-claims and at present the unemployment brake is missing. As the purpose of capitalism is making profit, what are the employers and the government to do in a situation like this? Fight the unions over all wage claims? But that means bringing factories and transport to a temporary standstill, at enormous cost in the shape of lost production and profits, and with the risk that the government would lose the next election. Two policies that had looked promising for a time were Cripps' appeal to the workers not to claim higher wages, and the policy of raising the price level by currency inflation. If manufacturers know they can count on steadily rising prices for what they sell they do not have to be adamant about wage increases induced by the rising cost of living. But while this is workable inside the country it cannot help the exporter, selling abroad: he cannot put up his prices. Cripps was eventually persuaded to devalue the pound in order to make it cheaper for the foreigner to "buy British"; but in the nature of things this is a remedy that cannot be safely repeated every few years.

The other part of the Cripps plan that has been copied by all his successors is to ask for more output per worker. The idea behind this is that provided all the additional output is sold, it would permit wages to rise without cutting into profit.

Where Cripps Left Off
The present government has carried on from the wage restraint policy of the late Sir Stafford Cripps when he was Chancellor in the post-war Labour government. It was his White Paper on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices, 1948, which laid down the policy that “there should be no further general increase in the level of personal incomes without at least a corresponding increase in the volume of production.” There should be no increase of income from profits and rent, and rises of wages should only be asked for either when productivity was increased or to attract workers to industries short of labour. In particular he objected to workers in one industry demanding increases to keep up with workers in another industry, and in 1949 when the devaluation of the pound again put up the cost of living he condemned wage increases aimed at keeping up with the rise of prices.

Cripps was helped to some extent by the fact that the T.U.C. endorsed his wage restraint policy and the result was that wage rates were falling behind the increased cost of living from 1947 to 1951. The present government has no hope of getting T.U.C. support for a wage freeze, but it calculated that the T.U.C. would be unable to resist the bait of "planning,” because that has long been one of their demands.

In one respect—the pay of teachers and civil servants—Selwyn Lloyd has been more drastic than was Cripps. When the latter was in control all wage-fixing bodies, including the civil service arbitration tribunal, were urged to take note of government policy on wage-restraint: this time the government has imposed its own, over-riding, “pause” on civil service pay and has cut by several million pounds the recommendations on teachers' pay. (The police have been luckier, their big pay increase was already in operation).

This isn't the first time a government has exercised its power to withhold agreement and thus delay wage increases proposed by wages councils. It was done in 1957 in respect of National Health Service workers, and back in 1948/9 the same delaying tactics were used by the Minister of Labour in the Labour Government. It took nearly a year for the retail food council and the hairdressing council to reach agreement in 1948 on proposed pay increases but the Minister, Mr. Isaacs, referred back certain of the proposals. The councils sent them back to him again almost unaltered and the Minister rejected them again in August, 1949. The T.U.C. reported (1950 Report, p. 167) that after a meeting with the Minister the difficulties were removed, and the increases were put into operation in October, 1949, after nearly a year's hold-up. According to Press reports at the time, the Shop Assistants Union had threatened to embarrass the Labour Government by putting down an emergency resolution for the Trades Union Congress.

The tough talk from the government about the “pause” on wage increases aroused similar tough talk from trade union officials declaring that they would have none of it; that they were not going to be dictated to and that “legitimate” wage claims would go on as usual. The unions are quite right to continue the wage struggle but they are only deceiving themselves if they think that there would be no restriction on wage increases if Selwyn Lloyd had not put it there. Wages are always restricted; basically by the fact that they represent the value of the mental and physical energies the worker sells, and at any given moment by the demand, and the amount of unemployment The employers have to aim at keeping wages down to a level which leaves a surplus for profit. This is capitalism, and it is idle to pretend that it can be made to operate as if its purpose was to provide constantly rising real wages without regard to profit In practice, trade unions are forced to recognise this fact hence their almost invariable practice of having to settle at some figure far less than they claim; railway unions in 1958 claiming 10 per cent. and accepting 3 per cent., and the same unions under the Labour Government claiming 12s. 6d. in 1948 and eventually being put off with a few shillings for the lowest paid only. And anyone who thinks that a future Labour Government would or could run capitalism differently when they get another chance should take note of the declaration by Mr. Harold Wilson that ‘'for a future Labour Government no less than for the Conservatives success or failure in the battle against inflation would depend on the ability to secure an understanding with the unions which would make wage restraint possible" ("Remedies for Inflation.” by Harold Wilson. M.P., with a foreword by Hugh Gaitskell, 1957).

And what if the Unions do not agree? The present government obviously hopes that the imposed standstill on government employees will stiffen the resistance of employers in private industry. They doubtless share the envious eye the economist, Mr. Paul Bareau, casts on de Gaulle’s “strong man" government which was able to secure that “to a modest degree . . .  real wages in France were for a time reduced" (Sunday Telegraph, 3 Sept, 1961). And how much better still it might be for the capitalists if instead of trade unions there could be, as there are in Russia, Yugoslavia and elsewhere, government controlled so-called unions that are in fact little more than agencies for imposing discipline and stimulating production.

The Prospect
While the unions are anxiously watching what the government does, other indicators may turn out to be more important Some of the economists think that if unemployment rose to about 2 per cent. —2½ per cent., the unions’ ability to press for higher wages would be curbed. It is at present about 1¼ per cent. or 300,000, but has been rising. Mr. Samuel Brittan, economic editor of The Observer, has this to say:—
  The Government’s hand will be enormously strengthened in the coming months by a marked change of tread in the labour market which actually began as early as June. Disregarding merely seasonal changes, unemployment has since been creeping up and unfilled vacancies have been declining. There will not of course be large-scale unemployment or anything remotely resembling it but labour should become a good deal easier to obtain in the coming months.
If the present crisis follows the pattern of the others since the war the pressure will last for a few months. Profits which have recently been falling will start to go up again because wage increases win be harder to get. The Chancellor will then announce that we have “turned the comer" and the workers will be invited to rejoice. And so it will go on until the next time.

One final comment on the farcical aspects of the crisis. The unions of government workers and workers in nationalised industries are incensed because, they say, they are singled out for worse treatment than that given to workers in private industry; these are the unions that go on record in favour of nationalisation!
Edgar Hardcastle