Monday, November 26, 2018

World Poverty and Birth Control: Malthus Was Wrong (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

A majority of those who comment on the future prospects for mankind stress the problems associated with rapid population growth. With unrelieved gloom book follows book upon the prospects of a starving world as a consequence of the rising birth rate and the only solution usually offered is birth control.

The theory that the restriction of population is the only cure to present-day hunger and future outright starvation goes back to a book by Thomas Malthus first published in 1789. His theory can be stated fairly simply; there are too many people on the earth and they are increasing too fast. Enough is not provided by nature for them all, therefore, poverty, vices, misery, the splitting of society into haves and have-nots leading to violence and wars. Most of these calamities could be avoided by stopping the growth of population. Malthus recommended the workers to practise birth control in order to remedy the social evils which they faced.

What was new in his theories was that he explained social problems like unemployment and poverty not from economics as was the case with Ricardo, Adam Smith and many of their followers, but from biology — from sexual life. The basic idea convinced many when it was first put before the public and it seems to be convincing to a substantial number of people today.

Malthus claimed that population grows faster than the production of food (not to mention clothing and shelter). According to him population grows in geometric progression (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 . . .), while the production of food increases only in arithmetic series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 . . .). He was convinced that the only way to restore the balance between population growth and the production of food was through moral restraint (sexual abstinence i.e. copulation control through postponement or cancellation of marriage), limitation of births, pestilence and war. Because the world is always overpopulated there is inevitable poverty and misery. From this Malthus drew the conclusion that practical steps have to be taken to decrease the surplus population.

During the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century Malthus’s theories were not widely accepted but what is seen as the menace of overpopulation in the so-called underdeveloped parts of the world has given birth to a whole new generation of neo-Malthusians who are determined to save the world through producing infertility in bedrooms rather than fertility in fields.

In most of the books and articles produced by the modern neo-Malthusians the basic ideas of Malthus remain unchanged. Biological solutions are suggested for social problems, biological laws explain social facts and biological causes replace economic, social and political ones. People starve because they breed too rapidly not because the world’s wealth is monopolised and used by a minority to increase this wealth still further in response to uncontrolled economic forces. People will stop starving when they stop breeding and not when they reorganise the world’s resources in the interest of the world’s population.

The fact is that Malthus and his followers are not concerned with explaining poverty and misery, they are concerned with justifying it. They see scarcity as something natural and eternal to which we must adjust. In the face of their critique technology must retreat from the fields and the factories and into the bedroom.

But the point they seem to miss is that surplus population is not something natural and absolute. It is at all times relative to production, distribution and social organisation. There are definite socio-economic reasons why there was a “surplus” population in the Rhondda in 1931 and in Delhi in 1961. They were only relatively surplus and superfluous because they have been made so by the way the world’s population is organised (or disorganised) in relation to the means of production and world markets. Workers do not suffer the pangs of hunger and destitution because there are too many of them but because they cannot gain access to the things which would enable them to produce what they need. Poverty is not the result of overpopulation, on the contrary, overpopulation is the result of poverty. This is true in two senses: (i) poverty in the sense of propertylessness which afflicts all workers generally and which can lead to relative overpopulation when this propertylessness leads to workers being cut off from the means of production during periods of unemployment and (ii) poverty in the sense of destitution which can lead to apathy over questions of family limitation, which, in turn, can lead to an increasing birth-rate. This is partly the reason for the lack of success of birth control in areas like India. Modern methods of birth control require a degree of self discipline which is often absent in populations with predominantly pre-industrial ideas and values, especially when they are thrown together in squalid primitive shanty towns with little hope for the future. Contraception is difficult enough on an individual level in such conditions but when it is attempted on a mass scale, as in some areas of India, it becomes ludicrous.

When we look at the problem on a world scale it becomes apparent that it is not merely a question of people failing to gain access to what is produced but also what is produced cannot find its way to those that need them. Because the world is organised along national and class lines the means of subsistence are sometimes withheld from those who most urgently need them.

The cornerstone of the Malthusian argument is that the produce of the soil can never keep up with the increase in population. It is based on an extremely simple model of soil and population. It disregards entirely a third factor—the human ability to use rational means to attain certain ends i.e. science and technology. The history of Western Europe and America over the last 150 years has contradicted Malthus on every point. Despite the fact that wealth was and is owned by a minority the standard of living of Europeans has improved even though the population increased from around 180,000,000 in 1800 to around 676,000,000 in 1965. It could be argued, of course, that this was achieved at the expense of the rest of the world. But this cannot be the case since the per/capita income of the entire world has been growing over this period and not only that of the advanced industrial countries. At the present time the indications are that, viewing the world as a whole, food production is more than keeping pace with population. [1]

The trouble with Malthus and especially neo-Malthusians is that they take the social system as something given and unalterable. The only thing that can be changed to solve problems of poverty is individual sexual behaviour. We must regard the fact that the world spends more on armaments than the entire national incomes of Southeast Asia (including India and Pakistan), the Middle East and Latin America [2] as something given and somehow ‘natural’. But we must regard an Indian couple with six or seven children as something unnatural and horrible. Heavily armed with sheaths, coils and pills they set out to change the latter condition but the former condition must be left well alone.
Lewis Hopkin

[1] Our Developing World by Dudley Stamp, page 80. See also Population and Land Use by Colin Clark.
[2] The Cost of World Armaments Scientific American, October 1969, p. 21.

Not Too Many People (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The overpopulation myth threatens to overtake the human nature myth as the chief explanation for the evils of the modern world. A recent Observer feature confidently attributed the following problems to an excess of human beings: hunger, disease, the retarded development of backward countries, social unrest, political instability, urban sprawl, radio-active waste, destruction of wildlife, city squalor, crowded mental hospitals, violence, all kinds of pollution and ecological upset, the shortage of housing in London and the desecration of the English countryside. The writer of this piece did not think it necessary to supply any evidence for his assertions. They are, after all, common gossip.

People’s readiness to accept the “overpopulation” argument arises from their lack of understanding of the way capitalism works. If millions are hungry, it is felt that this can only be because there isn’t enough food in the world. If millions live in overcrowded squalor, this must be because there is a shortage of living space. If people are homeless, there is a “housing shortage” and that is that.

Occasionally we hear a few snippets of information which might be expected to disturb those who take this fashionable view. The growing problem of huge surplus food stocks in many parts of the world, for example. Or the recent recommendation to the French government to take measures to increase the French birth-rate, in the interest of France’s long-term economic and political strength.

It has become a cliché in Britain to speak of “this overcrowded island”. In fact, although the British Isles are far from being among the world’s more lightly-populated regions
  The whole population of the United Kingdom could be rehoused in the single county of Devon with a density of ten houses per acre (quite a generous piece of land for each family) and there would still be land to spare.” (J. P. Cole Geography of World Affairs, p 319)
Indeed, the fear of overpopulation does sometimes appear in its most naive form: the fantasy of human beings so thick on the ground that there wild be “standing room only”. Such a state of affairs would certainly be frightening, but even if the world’s population continued to grow at its present rate, it would be a long way off. If, for example, the entire world’s population were now placed in the United States, the population density in that country would still be no more than that of Holland today. Overcrowding is not due to overpopulation, but exists principally because of the private property system which ensures that the majority of people, being poor, cannot afford to buy or rent sufficient accommodation, of sufficient quality, for their own health, privacy and peace of mind. It hardly needs pointing out that for the rich minority, there is no housing shortage and no problem of overcrowding.

Also, though capitalism does increasingly necessitate attempts at planning the layout of communities, this takes place within a context, and with a scale of priorities, fixed by the market and by the warring of mighty vested interests. Small wonder that, under capitalism, the anarchic arrangement of our physical environment adds its weight to the other forces which oppress and depress us. It therefore plays a part in generating the frustration and disharmony which lead to mental illness and some forms of violence. It is a total evasion of these problems to put them down to “too many people.” In fact the readiness to “solve” human problems by wishing away the human beings who are suffering from them, is itself a horrible symptom of something profoundly wrong.

It is true that the human population cannot grow without affecting the natural environment, sometimes with the risk of dangerous ecological chain-reactions. But the vast majority of pollution, from pesticides, herbicides, industrial waste and so forth, is quite unnecessary, and could easily be avoided upon the abolition of capitalism with its reckless race for profits. “If large parts of our country are polluted, it is not because we are too numerous, but because we pollute. The way to stop that disgrace is not to stop having children, but to start cleaning up.” (Henry Wallich, in an otherwise abysmal column, Newsweek, 29 June 1970.)

Recently even the crackpot notion that overpopulation is the cause of war has been creeping back into circulation. When the spotlight was on the danger of war between Russia and America, two very sparsely populated countries, this theory could hardly be paraded with any seriousness. But now, though the main danger of world war remains in that region, the press and other media are paying more attention to China, which is depicted as being both over-populated and especially bellicose — both falsities. Mention is rarely made of China without the magic phrase “teeming millions”, and often there is an attempt to conjure up the picture of a country bursting at the seams with hordes of people wishing to pour over its borders in search of room. This is ludicrous. If there were anything in it, China would be the one to fear invasion from its much more densely populated neighbours, India and Japan. (But as we have seen, it can more realistically expect attacks from “underpopulated” Russia.) Of course, it would be in the interest of China’s capitalist class to expand its economic and political domination over other nations — not, however, to unload surplus people, but for the classic purposes of capitalist international squabbling: to control trade routes, markets, sources of raw materials and strategic positions.

Increasingly too, there is fashionable chatter about an impending war between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Every so often we are ominously warned that the “have nots” are out-breeding the “haves”, and casting jealous eyes on their possessions. By the “have-nots” we are to understand the poorer nations (including the millionaire maharajah, the African state bureaucrat with his Mercedes, the Brazilian capitalist), whilst the “haves” include ourselves, the wage-workers of the advanced countries.

This is highly misleading because, apart from subordinating class divisions to national ones, it gives the impression that the so-called “have-not” countries or “Third World” have identical problems and prospects for development. What interests us here however, is that birth control is frequently advocated as a solution to the problem of uneven capitalist development (the problem of “backwardness”) and it is sometimes claimed that these countries could industrialise faster but for their rapid rate of population growth. This may be so in some cases, but many of the arguments used to support it are weak, for example the use of statistics to show that a certain increase in production has been “eaten up” by an increase in population. Obviously, from some points of view it might be more important for a new capitalist nation to increase its total production than to increase its production per head. In some conditions a rapid rise in population is favourable to rapid capitalist development.

Essentially, the Socialist case against the population scare is that what manifests itself as an “overpopulation problem” is really a misuse of resources problem. Capitalism, as a system of rationing via the market, is justified in people’s minds by a belief in scarcity. “There isn’t enough to go round”, so we must be restricted in what we are allowed to consume, by the amount of money we can get. “Overpopulation” is used to make those of us who possess a few elementary comforts, feel that we are on the brink of a vast pit of scarcity, and we ought to be thankful for what we have. Yet if we examine the potential for satisfying human needs which has been released by modern technology, we see that the opposite is the case. In order to survive, the capitalist system must continue to develop its potential for plenty, even plethora, but in order to preserve the poverty and scarcity which are its life-blood, capitalism must restrict, waste and destroy on a colossal scale.

Socialists are not, of course, opposed to birth control. On the contrary, we say that everyone should have free access to the most effective contraceptives which science can devise. The modern Malthusians have profited greatly from the fact that their best-known opposition has come from the superstitious teachings of the Catholic Church. What we do say is that talk of overpopulation misdirects attention from the real cause of the problems in question, and that birth control will not solve them.

Yet there is a positive outcome of the overpopulation scare, in that it has prompted many individuals and institutions to begin making an accurate inventory of the world’s resources, and to chart out the possibilities for their use. The knowledge thus provided will cause many to query the efficiency of the capitalist system from the standpoint of human needs — and is also laying a possible basis for the world production plan to be instituted by the Socialist revolution.
Steele

Progress Perverted: The Technology of Abundance (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The technological revolution which has taken place in the last twenty years has great significance for the human race. And yet, because of the way our social and economic system works, most people are not really aware of what has happened.

The basis of all technology, all work, is energy. One pound of uranium will produce as much energy as 3,000,000 lbs of coal; and in breeder reactors an isotope of plutonium is a by-product which is itself a nuclear fuel. The supply is therefore unlimited, and transport to areas of the world without natural fuel supplies is a simple matter since a plane-load could carry a year’s supply of fuel for a moderate-sized country. (The Russian ice-breaker Lenin uses up two ounces of fuel a month). Nuclear reactors will operate for several years without refuelling, making it feasible to set up isolated unattended power units if necessary, even at the bottom of the sea.

In spite of these immense advantages, the installation of nuclear power stations has been slow — and in the wrong places. The richer nations, who can afford to build them, are rich partly because they already have natural deposits of coal, gas and, in some cases, oil, and it is still slightly cheaper to build power stations for these fuels. Add to this the fact that the vested interests in coal, gas and oil add all their weight against nuclear power and it becomes clear why this revolution proceeds at a snail’s pace. Meanwhile, the underdeveloped parts of the world are critically short of fuel while the advanced nations carry on polluting the atmosphere and burning up the world’s irreplaceable wealth of fossil fuels which could be the raw materials of synthetic products for centuries to come. Limitless energy, for taking the hard work out of life for everybody, is possible now, technically — but not within the economics of capitalism. What we have got instead is the most sophisticated range of nuclear weapons that our scientists can devise.

Nuclear fission was not begun in industry. It was a scientists’ laboratory triumph. But one of the most striking trends since the war has been the way in which science and scientists (more and more of them) have been drawn into industry. Research itself has become an organised factory process on mass production lines in a wide range of fields. Although this has meant that certain lines of inquiry have been ignored, it has enormously speeded up the discovery and exploitation of new drugs, chemicals, metals, production processes, and so on. Many of the chemical products are substances not found freely in nature at all — totally new materials created by altering the structure of molecules to achieve specific qualities. Control is now virtually complete. We can synthesise almost anything we can describe. One of the best known fields is that of plastics. We use them in paints, adhesives, clothes, furniture, building materials, bottles, toys, almost everything. Except where we need the electrical properties of metal, everything in a house or a car (including the engine) can be made of one sort of plastic or another. The problem of the availability of raw materials has been solved permanently. The fact that plastics are in danger of becoming a curse rather than a blessing in our capitalist society because they turn up in a spate of shoddy gew-gaws and create a vast disposal problem is no condemnation of the materials, only of the social system. The fact that places like Hong Kong can flood the British market with millions of small plastic objects demonstrates one of the main superiorities of plastics over the materials they have replaced: they are ideally suited for automated mass production. The drudgery of working with wood, stone, fur, hide and a great deal of metal is no longer necessary.

Plastics are only one corner of the huge advance in chemical engineering. We can make anything from detergents to artificial hormones. And this is just the trouble — in capitalism. The mechanism of profit-making knows no morals or aesthetics, and it opposes all interference. So, with no sense of proportion, these quite valuable products are used in the wrong places at the wrong times for the wrong motives and in enormous quantities. The result is that we have an enormous pollution problem, as well as frighteningly large stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

Together, transistors, printed circuits, and magnetic tape have completely altered the scale and scope of electronics. This is only partly apparent in the pocket tape-recorder. The real impact of these developments is to be found in the fields of computers and communications. Compared with valves, transistors and diodes are tiny, cool in working, long-lasting and consume very little current. Similarly, magnetic tape is infinitely more compact and efficient at recording and storing information than film, punched paper, record discs, and so on. And printed circuits, apart from this same ability to be very tiny indeed, can be mass-produced by machine with complete reliability. The equivalent of a complete radio circuit can be put on to a sliver of mica one eighth of an inch square. This phenomenal decrease in size is not particularly valuable for its own sake. Its significance lies in the fact that it allows thousands of such circuits to be put together in a manageable space. The first computers, with valves, were as big as a house and almost as heavy. The latest, far faster, more versatile and more reliable, are as big as a desk. With computers, quantity (of circuits) becomes quality (of ‘brainpower’). Modern computers can be programmed to control and operate complete production systems, transport systems, communication systems.

Linked by communication satellites across the world, they could keep constant check on consumer wants, regulate production to keep pace with them, and dispatch the goods in computerised transport to where they were needed. But not in capitalism. Here and now they are employed in trying to keep pace with the mounting complexities of the money system: wages and deductions, income tax returns, bank statements, mail order accounts, files of bad debtors, and the finger prints of criminals. They have also been employed in working out the prodigious mathematics of flights to the moon and the ballistics of intercontinental missiles. Up to now it is in modern weaponry that computers have risen to their most sophisticated heights.

Fundamentally, automation is no more than an engineering principle. It is when it is used in conjunction with machine tools, mass production techniques, sensing and measuring devices and servo-mechanism that its potentialities are so great. The principle is now called negative feedback (from electronics) and involves using the error in a machine or system to alter whatever is causing the error so that it is corrected. In this way, feeds and speeds of machines can be adjusted, worn cutting tools replaced, faulty pieces rejected, and so on, all automatically. When this is combined with the resources of the computer there is really no job which has to be done by human beings, if we want it otherwise. Simple automation is most suitable for repetitious jobs. The more boredom and drudgery there is in a job, the more suitable it is for immediate automation. And yet the introduction of automated systems has been slow and patchy. This is due to the peculiar economics of capitalism: to be profitable in a highly competitive market, production has to be large in scale; but automated plants of this size are very expensive — and they cannot be sacked like workers. So an assured market for many years ahead is the only justification for a capital outlay of tens or hundreds of millions of pounds. Such assurance is rarely possible in the market anarchy of capitalism.

Automation does not have to be applied to large complexes. Its basic units (relays, solenoids, photo-electric cells, etc.) are small, and it could remove all the danger and drudgery from human work. Capitalism, however, cannot use it to decrease toil and increase freedom. The economics of the profit motive insist that it is used to increase production, decrease unit cost, and increase the mass of profit to compensate for the falling rate. As with computers, the most successful application of automative systems in capitalism is to be found in the development of guided missiles and space shots. The real use of automation awaits the next leap forward in social evolution.

This very brief survey has attempted to show that the power, the materials and the techniques, as well as much of the industry, for producing an abundance of all the things that are needed by the people of the world are now a reality, but that their development is being held back by the economic and social restrictions of our present system of society. The fact is that capitalism is now badly out of date, obsolete. It cannot digest abundance. It cannot work on the basis of plenty for all. Its economy relies upon scarcity, and its social structure relies upon class privilege. These are now in direct conflict with the forces of production. For a while, this vast potential can be throttled, or perverted into the production of weapons of destruction, but not for long. What is already overdue is the scrapping of capitalism and the installation of a society based upon abundance. Only a massive awareness of this necessity by everybody can achieve it. Nothing else in this modern world is big enough to make the change. But the means of communication are ready. Six hundred million people can now watch the same television programme, and the whole complex system is run by workers. As soon as all workers can be made aware of the necessity and the urgency, then it can be done.
Ron Cook

Capitalism – Waste – Want (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Misusing world resources
One speech for which Enoch Powell is not quite so famous is the one in which he gives vent to his fervent faith in the basic virtue and inexorable efficiency of the capitalist system. It seems, when Powell is talking in this vein, that he has a dream about what he thinks of as pure capitalism, in which the profit motive and the whole business of buying and selling are left to work their ways undisturbed by such things as state intervention, union bargaining power and so on. He thinks that the system of commodity production has such eternal sanity that, left to itself, it will solve all problems — housing, health, economic crises and the like.

Powell is an extreme case but he uses a logic which, although it seems macabre, is consistent enough to anyone who accepts the basis of capitalism. What of these, the less extreme? Every supporter of capitalism must to some degree argue that the system is basically efficient. Even the problems they admit to must have a solution which is never more ambitious than a juggling with, or a deflection of, the profit motive; they can never actually question that motive. Hence the policies, typical of such as the Labour Party, of subsidies for houses, food, transport and so on. These subsidies are of course supposed to stimulate the production of goods; there are others, also inspired by the profit motive, aimed at promoting the non-production of goods. Both, apparently, are examples of the efficiency of capitalism.

What we are concerned with here is the notion that capitalism works, in terms of the efficient production and distribution of wealth and of the satisfaction and happiness of its people. There are two ways of approaching this. The first is to look at examples of inefficiency so blatant that even supporters of capitalism consider them fit subjects for protest. By examining the background reasons for these we can broaden our view, taking in examples of inefficiency and wastefulness which probably only socialists would regard as scandalous.

Every so often the communication media become fascinated by some spectacular revelations of especially obvious waste. It is about ten years since Vance Packard’s The Waste Makers burst upon us, crammed with details of what was succinctly called planned obsolescence. Packard showed how firms make inferior goods, goods designed to wear out relatively quickly so that there might be a market for new ones. He told of portable radios, car silencers, television sets which their designers knew could easily be made to last a lot longer. He also gave evidence of manufacturers regularly changing styles, once more to stimulate the market by persuading buyers that their present model was no good because it was out of fashion. Who wanted to be seen driving last year’s car? Looking at an old-look telly? Better buy a new one, keep up with the times.

Perhaps many of the readers of The Waste Makers hoped that it would have the effect of raising production standards. They were wrong. As anyone who buys a car or a TV set or something similar knows, waste is still being busily made in the factories. Any reader of the consumer reports can testify to the fact that obsolescence is still on the factories’ planning schedules. One small example of this came to light last September. It concerned a skilled joiner, an old man who had been sacked—not because he was a bad worker or a poor time keeper or anything like that. He was sacked because his work was too good to be profitable. A director of the firm concerned said:
  There were no complaints about Mr. Welch’s work. He was a first class joiner, but he was not prepared to use modern methods of work. His unnecessarily high standard meant that the company could not make his work pay. (Daily Telegraph, 16 September 1969)
It is easy to imagine the frustration of a skilled worker in this situation. Then what about the similar feelings of, say, farm workers who watch fertile land being taken out of production in the knowledge that starvation, even famine, is one of the world’s serious problems? It will surprise some of those who are starving, to learn that there is a “glut” of wheat in the world, that leading wheat exporting countries are trying to reduce their “surpluses”, that in America the government has just imposed the third successive cut back in production and has once more increased the financial inducement to take wheat acreage out of cultivation. All the cloudy jargon used to justify this policy can be reduced to one single sentence. Capitalism is here deliberately wasting human and natural resources.

If famine is a touchy, well-publicised problem, so is housing. We are all familiar with the apparently insurmountable obstacles which are in the way of providing decent homes for everyone; we have all heard the politicians and the businessmen telling us about the chronic shortage of materials and resources. This might sound more convincing were it not for the fact that, when there is money to be made by doing so, building materials and labour — even completed buildings — are left unused.

Consider the case of Harry Hyams, one of London’s great property “developers” who, according to the Daily Telegraph (27 June) “controls enough empty offices to house 10,000 workers—11 million sq. ft.” Among the empty Hyams properties are: Centre Point (32 stories, 300,000 sq. ft., empty since 1964); Space House (237,000 sq. ft.); London Bridge House (155,000 sq. ft.). It is no accident, that these buildings are unused. In the past year Central London rents have more than doubled — and as long as rents keep rising faster than interests rates it is actually profitable in the long run to let such buildings stand without tenants. Three years ago Hyams’ fortune was assessed at £27 million; since then, says the Telegraph, it has “inflated like a gas balloon”. Let us be clear that this vast fortune has been amassed partly as the result of a deliberate, planned, organised waste of resources and materials and of human abilities—at the same time as there are millions of people whose housing conditions give them a desperate need for those resources and abilities.

It would be possible, as Vance Packard and others have done, to write a book about such waste. The vital point here is that it is all caused by the simple fact that capitalism produces its wealth not for use but for profit. If Harry Hyams could make another £27 million by building houses and giving them away he would do so. But he, like the wheat farmers of America, like the car and TV makers, like the joinery firm, can actually make more profit by waste. And after all making profit is all that capitalism demands.

This is the thread connecting us to the second part of our case—the part where no breath of popular indignation is ever felt. It is not enough to say that capitalism makes money from waste. The fact is that, unless it wastes a tremendous amount of energy and material, the system simply would not function.

Let us take a look at the way capitalism has to organise its manpower. In this country there is a working population of about 25 million. Some of these are engaged in productive work, some of which is even essential and non-wasteful. But others are doing wasteful unproductive work which is necessary only to capitalism, only needed in a society where goods are made to be bought and sold, in a society with money, with a privileged class and laws to protect those privileges. Here are some figures for those engaged in certain occupations, all of which come under the above descriptions:

  • Insurance, banking, finance and business services: 892,700
  • Armed Forces                                                           377,000
  • Police                                                                          99,135
  • Wholesale Distribution                                             545,000
  • Retail Distribution                                                  2,008,000
  • Clergy, Ministers, Members of Religious Orders        39,520
  • Judges, Barristers, Advocates, Solicitors                     35,490
Most of Capitalism’s supporters (which means most people) although they may kick against the waste built into a shoddy car, or into an empty building, think that bank clerks, soldiers, clergymen are necessary. The same way of thinking leads them to approve of the way capitalism tries to solve some of its economic problems. We have already seen how governments will stop wealth being produced, in the interests of profit. They also sometimes try to stop it being distributed.

Currently the American government is raising a storm by its intention of imposing a series of import restrictions, designed to keep some foreign produce out of the country. At present this is confined to some textile goods but other commodities—the rest of textiles and shoes, for example—may be included later. It is not especially relevant to this article that this policy is a direct reversal of the American advocacy of freer trade of not so long ago. The point at the moment is that the goods America is trying to keep out might well be better and cheaper than her home produce. But capitalism cannot apply such standards of judgement; the idea of protectionism, like all the measures which governments take, is to protect—protect profits. In that quest capitalism will actually bolster and protect inefficiency; at one time it will stimulate the movement of wealth, at another stifle that movement.

The patent laws are another way in which the profit motive stifles production. Patents are themselves restrictive, confining the production rights of something which might be better and more efficiently produced elsewhere. In some cases patent rights actually work to stop production. The original patent for stereo recording was taken out in 1931. It was soon acquired by some American companies who, seeing stereo as a threat to their established products, use the rights to prevent production. By the late fifties a glut of hi-fi was threatening the market with stagnation. It was then that stereo was released—almost thirty years after its invention—in an effort to stimulate the market anew and so revive some ailing balance sheets. Needless to say, when it was released the event was heralded as a great step forward in human progress. What other ingenuities, one wonders, are mouldering in pigeon holes, market “Not to be Opened until More Profitable.”?

Socialists are hardened by now to meeting the opinion that the system of production for profit is essentially sane and efficient. The opposite is true; in this article we have looked at only the tiniest fraction of the evidence which says that capitalism wastes its wealth and its abilities. The profit motive cannot work efficiently. Capitalism cannot cater for the needs of its people. It produces waste and it produces want and both are profitable only to the minority who hold positions of privilege.
Ivan

The Social Nature of Modern Production (1970)

From the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism is torn by one major contradiction: that the socialisation of wealth-production has developed to an extent undreamt of in former epochs, whilst ownership of the means of production is concentrated in the hands of a minority. World-wide interdependence in production has made a material abundance possible for all mankind, yet the fetters of private property keep the overwhelming majority in poverty. The socialist answer to the poverty problem is to remove the contradiction by making the means of production the common property of society as a whole.

Most workers who support the social system that keeps them poor think in terms of greater productivity, more technology or other nostrums of capitalism. They fail to grasp that the problem of production has been solved. Nor do they realise that the abolition of private property will end all forms of exchange including barter and will result in free access according to need. Consequently such questions are asked as “say I made bicycles and wanted other things made by other people who don’t want bicycles, how do I get them without money?” These questions show a lack of knowledge of how production is carried out under any form of society. It suggests that individuals carry out the production of objects from start to finish and by virtue of this have rights of ownership. This has never been so and under capitalism, the producers do not even own the places they work in, nor the tools, materials and finished product. These belong to the non-producing capitalist class.

No single person could produce a bicycle right through. Nor in fact does any single industrial combine, huge and diversified as some are. The ores for the metals and their alloys have to be found, mined and processed. The metals have to be shaped and treated to make the tubes for the frame, sprockets, chains, ball bearings, wheels and other component parts. These processes need machinery of many specialised kinds. Transport of all types to move the materials through the various stages and processes, sometimes over great distances; electricity to power the machines, and the fuels to supply the power to generators are also essential. Then there is the paint and chrome-plating to be seen to. No bike can do without tyres, needing rubber from the plantations of South East Asia, cotton for the carcass and steel wire for the beading. The bicycle like other articles is not only the product of co-operative labour, but of a certain form of society. The techniques involved are of a highly sophisticated kind. They are not made in ones and two’s but in millions. The world is involved in producing them and they are available for the markets of the world.
Joe Carter

Human Needs and World Resources (1970)

Editorial from the August 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

No comprehensive and detailed survey world’s resources in relation to needs of its people has ever been made. Those able to do this, the scientists and statisticians working for governments and inter-governmental organisations, have never been asked to collect this information. The politicians to whom they are responsible and whose task it is to preserve the capitalist system are not interested in whether the world could produce enough to meet human needs. They are more concerned with seeing that no more is produced than can be sold profitably. Nor would welcome a survey that would expose the wasteful and restrictive nature of the system they uphold,

Nevertheless scientists have examined separately the various aspects of this question and their findings do establish one fact: the world has, and has had for some time now, the natural, industrial and human resources to provide for the needs of all its people.

In stating this we are merely saying what any well-informed person should already know. But in our attempts to convince people that Socialism (a world based on common ownership with production solely for use) would be a workable alternative to capitalism we come across a well-entrenched popular prejudice. We are told that the resources to abolish hunger and slums and ill-health and ignorance just do not exist. This is a prejudice that is encouraged by the economics that is today taught in the schools and universities with its loose talk of “scarce resources”. Of course the supplies of what mankind needs are not limitless, but they are still enough to more than meet what is likely to to be needed in the foreseeable future. The problem is not allocating scarce resources but arranging for abundance to be produced.

We are devoting most of this issue of the Socialist Standard to combating this prejudice by presenting the evidence on which we base our claim that a world of abundance is technically possible. We shall also argue that it will not be socially possible until a social revolution has made the world’s resources the common property of all mankind so that there will no longer be any vested interests to prevent their being used to satisfy human needs.

How to combat Fascism (1970)

Lutte Ouvrière 1970.
From the September 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

On February 3 the French trotskyist journal Lutte Ouvrière (No. 75) reproduced a passage from Socialist Worker criticising the Socialist Party of Great Britain for opposing the National Front in public debate. We sent a letter which was published in full in their issue of 17 March (No. 81). In it we pointed out:
   In Great Britain the public debate is traditionally a way of opposing another party and the SPGB has debated with Conservatives, Labourites, so-called Communists, trotskyists as well as with the fascists.
   We hold that the way to fight fascism is to build a strong and uncompromising Socialist movement and not to form a non-socialist anti-fascist front. This is why we are opposed to the policy of the "International Socialism” group of debating only with some capitalist parties (such as the Labour Party) but not with others (such as the National Front). We say this encourages the illusion of the “lesser evil” and the idea of a non-socialist “popular front”. 
Lutte Ouvrière replied:
  It is difficult for us to make a hasty judgement on the tactical differences of the English revolutionary movement as long as it is only a simple question of information. But we are in complete opposition to the principles set out here by the Socialist Party of Great Britain. We make a distinction between bourgeois parties and parties such as the Labour Party which represent the interests of the bourgeoisie within the workers’ movement. We also distinguish between classical bourgeois parties, those which use essentially parliamentary and electoral methods, and fascist parties which try to mobilise the petty- bourgeoisie and the lumpen-proletariat to physically liquidate workers’ and even simply democratic organisations. That the attitude which revolutionary Marxists should adopt towards a party which counts many workers in its ranks, to one which groups only bourgeois notables or to one which mobilises its troops to beat up working class militants or to attack strike pickets should be the same at all times and under all conditions, on the grounds that in the last analysis all three represent the interests of the same bourgeoisie, seems to us one which could be adopted only with difficulty. This has nothing to do with the acceptance or rejection of any “popular front”.
Lutte Ouvrière here distinguishes three kinds of capitalist party, which we translate into the context of British politics:
  1. Openly capitalist parties (Conservative, Liberal).
  2. Allegedly workers’ parties (Labour. Communist).
  3. Fascist parties (National Front, Union Movement).

They say that the attitude “revolutionary Marxists” should adopt towards these three types of capitalist party cannot always be the same. Unfortunately they do not tell us how the attitude should be different. We can only interpret their statement to mean that under certain circumstances they would urge workers to support a capitalist party of one type against a capitalist party of another and we challenge Lutte Ouvrière to deny this.

Our attitude is clear. As we say in our Declaration of Principles:
  As all political parties arc but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working-class emancipation must be hostile to every other party. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action, determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist.
Under no circumstances would we urge or have we urged workers to support any capitalist party since this would be to abandon the class struggle and betray the principle of no compromise.

We do say that the attitude a socialist party should adopt towards fascist parties should be exactly the same as that they adopt towards other capitalist parties: complete opposition. To single out fascists for special opposition can only lead to compromise with other capitalist parties.
Editorial Committee


50 Years Ago: What the Strike fever points to (1970)

The 50 Years Ago column from the September 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The anxieties and troubles of "peace" seem to be only less wearing than those of war. But a couple of decades ago the biggest strike was chiefly the concern of those directly connected with the struggle, and had little effect outside their small circle. The greatest of them — the Great London Dock Strike — bitter and prolonged as it was, hardly affected the everyday life of the mass of the people even of London — much less of the country — at all.

In this respect, however, things are changing very rapidly. A year or so ago the Railway strike threatened to plunge the country into the agony of acute industrial warfare; to-day the threatened coal strike menaces our very lives — for there can be no doubt that many workers’ lives must pay the penalty of a stoppage of mine operations of even a few days’ duration.

As the field and the extent of these ghastly, even if necessary operations, develop. and their disastrous consequences take a wide and more deadly embrace, it surely should be borne upon all workers how futile it all really is, and force them to consider their solution proffered them by the Socialists. The private ownership of the means of production threatens society in "peace" and in war. with disruption so violent as to overwhelm it in chaos.
[An unsigned Editorial in the Socialist Standard, September 1920].

Capitalism’s Contradiction (1970)

From the September 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

We see the major problems of today stemming primarily from the basic contradictions of capitalism. By this we mean that the social relationships of production conflict with the technical relationships.

In modern society where wealth takes the form of “a vast accumulation of commodities”, production is “socialised”. This means that no commodity is the result of one person’s work, but that it takes the productive apparatus of the world to produce the commodity.

For example, take the simple match. Someone has to know which trees to cut, how to cut them, how to make the saws to saw them, how to make the right steel to make the saws, how to make the lorries that convey the logs, how to obtain and process the rubber to make the tyres for the lorries, how to extract and process the petroleum to provide the power for them, to indicate only some of the basic processes involved. And of course all these materials and people have to be transported from place to place by air, land and sea with the assistance and support of administrative and agricultural workers. Modern capitalism (including Russia, China, etc.), which is the dominant economic mode, has brought into being a world based on the socialised production of wealth. But (and this is the biggest “but” in history) the wealth when produced is not the property of the producers, i.e. the working population of the world. It is appropriated by a relatively tiny section of society which monopolises the means of production, for reasons of history either in private or in state forms of possession. Furthermore this minority section or class is divided up, generally on a national basis, into particular ruling classes. These can only maintain them­selves as the ruling classes in their own sector (given the acquiescence of the working population) and realise the wealth which the commodities represent by selling them, profitably, on the world market.

The ensuing conflict entails bitter struggles over markets, energy-yielding products, sources of cheap materials and labour, and the strategically important areas, bases and trade routes associated with them. The minor and major wars, together with the criminal stupidities, social and environmental, with which we are confronted are primarily caused by or are traceable to this contradiction.

Our social and political systems derive from this basic mode of organisation and it is absolutely impossible to eliminate these problems, which are specific to capitalism, unless the social relationships of production are brought into harmony with the technical ones. That is, as well as having socialised production, the means of production and the wealth produced must be the property of the whole of society and simply used by society in a rational democratic manner in line with the precept: “from each according to his ability. to each according to his need”. This does not require governments, armed forces and so on. It does require knowledge and a common understanding of aim, purpose and method. It does entail organisation and administration but not permanent organisers and administrators (as individuals).

Education for this kind of world is important but it is not simply a matter of formal education (which is socially derivative anyway), but of social education, i.e. experience, as well. Men learn and modify their behaviour. Our environment is dominated by capitalist competition and this forces the ruling groups to revolutionise continually me techniques of production, including those of communication.

This means that whole sections of the community are confronted by changes in their lives and the need to question the existing situation. This does not mean that their tentative attempts to grasp the meaning of events are always constructive but it does open the way for the valid analysis, presented appropriately. The important point, however, is that, time being money for the ruling classes and communications being important militarily, the means of communication are improved so rapidly that it is harder and harder for rising generations to see themselves as other than “Earthmen”, “world citizens” and so on. This is not simply for reasons of political or moral theory but as something related to experience in a world of short-wave radio, international television, satellites and space shots. No doubt governments attempt to use these techniques for pernicious ends but the inherent universality of some of these media subverts their efforts.
Jack Bradley

Labour Party Hypocrites (1970)

Editorial from the September 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party, now in opposition, has the opportunity to try and rebuild its severely damaged image of being the party with ideals. Their publicity men tried their best with posters and hoardings during the election, but the reality of Labour's record in office was just too much for them to whitewash.

“Arms for South Africa” is an issue which the opportunists in the Labour Party are determined to hang on to and develop this purpose, but their hypocrisy in doing so should be obvious to anyone who has followed the Labour government’s foreign policy. It was Denis Healey, Minister of “Defence”, who in 1968 proclaimed. “Her Majesty’s government and the South African government share the responsibility for maritime security in the South African area”. It seems now that he expected them to carry out this function with arms supplied by countries other than Britain. Throughout Labour's period of office the Simonstown Agreement was honoured and joint naval manoeuvres continued. Healey and his colleagues by accepting a ban on arms shipments to South Africa were attempting to gain the best of both worlds: defence of the Cape trade route and continued trade with and investment in South and South-West Africa and, at the same time, expanding trade and influence in the rest of Africa.

The Tories, on the other hand, are considering whether there is not too much at stake in South Africa for this dual policy to continue. They may have been influenced in this choice by the companies with subsidiaries in South Africa who supply some of their political funds, but whatever the reasons for and against, these have nothing to do with the suppression of the South African population by a racist dictatorship, but solely with the interests and fortunes of the British capitalist class.

Douglas-Home in defence of the Tories’ proposals pointed to the inconsistencies of Labour's position. Their opposition, he claimed, could only be credible if they accepted total boycott; the Tories were in favour of contacts and convincing by example. Contacts it appears means supplying arms to South African government and setting an example means passing racist Immigration Acts. The Labour Party of course has contributed its fair share by passing the “Kenya Asians” Bill, with support from well-known Tory racists.

The best way workers outside South Africa can help hasten change is by building a principled opposition to all forms of racism, and by developing a strong revolutionary. Socialist movement on an international scale that will strike at the very roots of imperialism in South Africa and elsewhere and at world capitalism.

Are there too many houses? (1970)

From the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

They are now trying to tell us that there will be too many houses by 1973. Listen to this extraordinary exchange that took place in the House of Commons last March under the Labour government:
Mr. Rossi asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is his latest estimate of the number of surplus houses which will be available in 1973.
Mr. Greenwood: The overall numerical surplus of houses over households in 1973 is still expected to be of the order of 1 million, but I cannot stress too emphatically that this surplus will not be evenly spread throughout the country and that shortages and bad housing, as I have repeatedly said, will persist in some areas. (Hansard, 3 March 1970).
One million too many houses by 1973! Can they be serious when there are now a few million people living in houses even the government admits are unfit?

What the Ministry experts have done is to compare trends in “potential” demand for housing with trends in housebuilding capacity. Under capitalism this is a pretty pointless exercise since what decides how many houses are actually built is not “potential” demand (what people need) but “effective” demand (what they can afford). The only way of measuring whether there are too many houses on the market is to compare supply and demand; a “surplus” would arise if there were more houses for sale or rent than could be sold or let profitably. As the Lloyds Bank Review (April 1970) puts it:
 a ‘real’ surplus of houses can co-exist with hundreds of thousands of people either without homes or living in inadequate dwellings, if the price of the surplus accommodation is too expensive for it to clear itself.
In practice what would happen is that, anticipating such a situation, building firms would cut back on the number of houses they were going to build. The usual capitalist absurdity of curtailing production despite people's needs would again arise. Indeed stockbrokers are already predicting this and warning capitalists not to invest in house-building companies since profit prospects there are bad. For instance, early in 1968 Cazenove and Co. commented:
  The outlook for house building is particularly serious with the indication that there will be a genuine surplus of houses by 1973. The indicated annual requirement of new dwellings by then is put at only 270,000, as compared to the 400,000 expected to be built this year. These projections may be over-pessimistic, but it is evident that the house building industry is one without growth prospects.
One of the inevitable consequences of production for sale is that output goes up and down in accordance with changing market conditions. In some industries, like brickmaking, these cycles are fairly short. In house-building, because of the existence of old houses, the cycle is very much longer. The last major depression in house-building was in the 1930’s; the next one is due, the experts guess, in the 1970’s. No doubt those who think capitalism can be reformed to serve human interests will be bringing forward all sorts of futile proposals as to how “accommodation can be made available to poorer people at a price they can afford to pay” (Lloyds Bank Review). Will they never learn?
Adam Buick

The emptiness of self-determination (1970)

From the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists do not support “Self-Determination for Ireland”. Insofar as this word has any meaning it runs counter to the socialist view that the nation is a capitalist political institution. The whole idea underlying nationalism — that all the people of a particular nation (however defined, and that’s another problem) have some common interest — challenges the socialist analysis which says that the workers have no country and that the “national interest” is a fraud and a trick designed to get them to co-operate on the political field with their rulers.

“Self-Determination” was the cry raised also by the Northern capitalists in their slogan “A Protestant Government for a Protestant People”. Why is the claim that all who live in Ireland form “one nation” with a common interest any more valid than the claim that all who adhere to the Protestant religion form “one people”? Both are equally wrong.

Irish nationalism was the ideology of one section of the Irish capitalist class, the small businessmen of the South, a section which after 1921 gained control over 26 of the 32 Irish counties, while their rivals, the big industrialists of the North East, kept the other six. Independence from Britain for the 26 counties merely meant a change of masters for the workers living there; the joining of the remaining six counties to form an All-Ireland Republic would be no different.

Unionism is obviously and openly an anti-working class political trend, but it is time that Irish Nationalism and Republicanism were recognised as such too. Unionism and Nationalism/Republicanism are the political theories of rival sections of the Irish capitalist class and as such should both be opposed by Socialists.

The task of Socialists in Ireland is to campaign, along with Socialists in other countries, for the establishment of a socialist society all over the world.

Black Power (1970)

From the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rise of the Black Power movement in the United States has spread around the world wherever Negroes live. It has has also invaded this country, gaining rapid momentum mainly among the young.

According to its followers, the poverty that affects the black masses is caused by the whites. We hear daily of white exploitation and the desire by the Black Power advocates to replace this by black exploitation. Now, will this make the exploitation any more worthy? Will the advent of Black Power (whatever that is) create jobs for the unemployed? Will they secure a better price for the fading sugar industry? Except for a change of boss, how different would the life of the man in the street be?

Under the searching light of reason Black Power turns out to be nothing more than another racist organisation, designed to gain power for a few by exploiting the ignorance of the majority. Those who are really interested in solving the desperate poverty we see around us should think carefully before they fall victims to cheap emotionalism.

The problems of black people are not caused by whites. There are whites in developed countries like America and England who are just as poverty-stricken as people are here. It is the social system that the people the world over live under that make poverty and other things a part of man's life. There is only one race, and that is the human race. Let us realise that we must all work together or the real enemy may never be destroyed.
—from The Socialist Review, published by a group of Socialists in Kingston, Jamaica.

The same everywhere (1970)

Book Review from the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Message From Moscow, by “An Observer". Cape 26s.

As life for workers of any country is one of wage slavery which influences them as a class more than all the local variations of that condition, the role of those who expose the evils of one country, with the implication that it is essentially different elsewhere, is that of the pot calling the kettle black. Capitalism provides no end of material for those so occupied. Those who would have us believe that ‘we' in Britain are doing alright, have Russia and the so-called communist countries to point to. Message from Moscow helps to serve that purpose. It tells us, as we have been told many times, that life is tough for those who don't see eye to eye with the government. ‘An Observer’ is claimed to be a non-communist Russian-speaking Westerner, who has penetrated the barriers preventing foreign visitors getting to know the people. He describes how tourists, business-men, and journalists, are kept isolated from the native population. His intimate contacts are mainly the so-called intellectuals and the type of manual worker in contact with them, such as waitresses, shop assistants and taxi drivers.

The starting point is the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The event was played down, an appendix is devoted to the front page of Pravda for 21 August 1968, to illustrate this. Most people showed little interest in the event. The author’s friends got the news from West European radio broadcasts, before the jamming became efficient enough to cut them out. They were outraged,
  Our bastards [the Soviet leadership] just couldn't let the Czechs go on like that, making something civilised out of Socialism.
Most comments ‘An Observer’ heard were more loyal.
  Those bastards, we freed them from the Germans, spilled our blood for their freedom — and now look : they’re going behind our backs to the West Germans again.
Other comment shows more or less enlightenment, than those of workers elsewhere on the subject. For Socialists, this was a quarrel involving the security of the Russian-dominated Warsaw Pact. The interests at stake were capitalist, the question of Socialism did not arise and that working class interests were in opposition to those of their masters in any camp.

A chapter is devoted to the toughening attitude of the government to its critics, known as neo-stalinism. Things have changed somewhat;
  there have been no mass repressions and no trials unreported in the West. Mass terror and deportations, the infliction of direct physical pain and suffering, firing squads and torture techniques— in short, the horrifying aspects of Stalinism — play virtually no role in current measures of control: and in this sense, the comparison with genuine Stalinism is spurious . . . Punishment takes the form of personal and professional sanctions rather than imprisonment. The most common measures are dismissal from work, or demotion; expulsion from the party and Komsomol or severe censure, interference with academic and scientific careers; and retraction of privileges, including the privilege of living in Moscow.
It seems that the rulers of state capitalist Russia are beginning to learn that there are more ways of keeping control than by terror. The fact that workers are dependent on employers—state or private— for their living, makes them vulnerable to the kid glove type of coercion.

The most important fact about Russia which the author omits to mention is that the type of society existing there is state capitalism, a variation of the system of society that dominates the world.
Joe Carter



Does Mao provide the Answer? (1970)

Book Review from the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Freedom and Necessity: An Introduction to the Study of Society. Joan Robinson. (Allen and Unwin. 128 pages. 12/-.)

This rather expensive little book by Economics Professor Joan Robinson certainly comes up to her disarming claim that it is “intended to provoke inquiry rather than to give information”, but as its conclusion is to hold China as a model for the future of mankind that is not good enough. Professor Robinson sees Mao's China through rose-tinted spectacles but makes no attempt to back up her claims with solid information or to answer the many criticisms of whose existence she cannot be unaware.

She covers an enormous range of subjects, starting with social groups in the animal kingdom and sweeping through tribal society, feudalism and capitalism, the Russian Revolution and finally Maoist China. Her particular claim is that “Chinese socialism is something new in the world.”

She writes:
   The Czech reformers claimed to establish socialism with a human face. The Chinese have set out on the more ambitious course of establishing economic development with a human sense of values.
She then tells us that we shall have to wait twenty years to see “Whether or not humanity is capable of carrying out such a programme.” Professor Robinson is well aware that exactly the same claims about human values were made by the capitalists who overthrew feudalism, by the Russian Communist party in 1917, and by Labour governments with their so-called “welfare state”. Socialists did not have to wait twenty years to know that these were bound to be empty claims; socialists had the advantage of understanding the basic difference between capitalism and Socialism and of knowing that the state capitalism that Lenin proclaimed as the next step in Russia and that the Labour Party wants in Britain is not Socialism. Professor Robinson shows no such understanding: when she talks of Socialism it is state capitalism she means. For her Russia, as well as China, is “socialist”. She makes no attempt to consider the proposition that the human values she seeks are unattainable except in socialist society as conceived by Marx and the Socialist Party of Groat Britain.

She realises however that she has to show China as being, in some way, different from Russia. She makes many references to the “mistakes” of the Russian government and its tyranny and cruelties, but how is China basically different? For example, in Chapter Eleven (“Another Way") she describes how China has tried to solve its agricultural problems, but it reads exactly like a Communist Party description of Russia’s agricultural policies, including all the familiar features: state farms, collectives, and peasant holdings. In Russia these policies were imposed on the resisting peasants forcibly and brutally. Professor Robinson admits that the Chinese peasant outlook (as in Russia) “did not fit in with the ideals of socialism”, but she blandly tells us that the Chinese peasants “agree” with what the government does to them and accept it “with goodwill”. She gives no evidence for this. She might tell us if the Chinese government allows peasants (and workers) freely to make their own decisions and form their own political parties to further them, and if not why not.

When the Conservative M.P., Sir Fitzroy McLean, went to China in 1963 he said that he found there the same kind of inequalities and privilege that he found when he visited Russia. He wrote:
  In China, as elsewhere, how you live and what you buy depends on how much money you have. And who, it will be asked, has the money? The answer, as in the Soviet Union is: the privileged classes, officials, high-ranking officers, scientists, technicians, skilled workers and so on. But there must be added a small and peculiarly Chinese category: the Chinese capitalists. These, surprisingly enough, are the former owners of, for example, factories, whose enterprises have been taken over by the State and who receive annually from the State as compensation a percentage of the capital value of the enterprise. As they are also very often employed as managers of the factories, some of them are extremely well off.
(Sunday Times, 9 Oct. 1963)
Colette Modiano, the French woman courier in charge of a group of Western visitors to China in 1969, gave a similar account and instanced a manager in whose house they stayed receiving £13,000 a year as interest on the capital value of his business taken over in 1956. (Sunday Express, 28 Sept. 1969.) Does Professor Robinson ask us to believe that lop-paid Chinese peasants and workers approved of these privileged incomes, or indeed, were ever consulted about them?

Professor Robinson does not offer to explain the “human values” of Chinese armaments, including those weapons of mass destruction, the hydrogen bombs which the Chinese government claims it is now perfecting.

Among a number of references to Marx is one concerned with population. Professor Robinson says that Marx was right to criticise Malthus about population, but "unfortunately he drew from this the conclusion that growing numbers are not a menace to well-being.” She holds Marx, at least partly, responsible for the Russian government’s “dogma that family planning is contrary to socialism”. She gives no evidence that Marx held such a view and it is in direct conflict with his own assertion that what he held to be the laws of population under capitalism had no application elsewhere: “every special historic mode of production has its own special law's of population, historically valid within its limits alone. An abstract law of population exists for plants and animals only, and only in so far as man has not interfered with them.” Capital, Vol. I, Chap. XXV, Section 3.) Incidentally. Engels, during Marx’s lifetime, expressed the view that socialist society might find itself “obliged to regulate the production of human beings” (Quoted by Professor Lewis S. Feuer in Marx & Engels. Fontana Classics. (P. 32).

Professor Robinson’s book opens with a not-at-all original saying of Chairman Mao. She and other Mao admirers can now add to their collection of his sayings the most recent of all: he sent greetings to Queen Elizabeth II on her birthday!
Edgar Hardcastle

Religion and Society (1970)

From the October 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The sole aim of the Companion Socialist Parties is the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.

Membership is open to anyone who agrees with the party's object and principles. This involves understanding the basic features of capitalist society and includes a rejection of leadership (by man or god). Socialists are historical materialists and claim that religions are social products, subject to change as social conditions change. It is not a case of the world (or universe) being made by a creator with man made in his image, but of man making his gods in the image of natural phenomenon including man himself.

To try and justify the existence of a creator by asking who made the first particle of matter is only modifying the Adam and Eve story in which first particles have replaced first people. Scientists may be in disagreement in trying to explain how the universe is evolving but they are agreed that although the matter in it changes its form, its quantity does not change. There is no beginning or end to the universe only change. When there is no creation, there can be no creator.

As the universe has evolved so has that tiny part of it, the planet Earth. Mankind is a product of this evolution and is also subject to change. It has involved the progressive mastery by man over his environment and with it a progressive accumulation of knowledge of the world he lives in and of the universe of which it is a part. So that the relationship between man and nature and that between man and man have changed. Early man had no control over nature and consequently no means to enslave his fellow man. Nature was little understood and held in awe. Gradually the domestication of animals and cultivation of useful plants started the subjection of nature to man. It later became possible to support a class of people not directly involved in production, and with this the subjection of the producer by the non-producer. To the awe of nature was added the codes of conduct of and justification for a slave society. The social divisions of slave or class society have given rise to antagonism or class struggles which have given an impetus to man's conquest of nature. As the awe of nature has receded so the justification and code of conduct of class society have played larger parts in religion.

As one form of class society has given way to another so has religion changed. Christianity had its origin not in a man (Christ) but in social conditions of the Mediterranean area under Roman rule. A unified Empire increasingly worked by chattel slaves drawn in from its various parts, subjected to the harshness and degradation of this form of exploitation and the resultant decadence, made the local religions irrelevant and paved the way for a universal religion more sophisticated than those it superseded. With many modifications the religion of slaves in revolt gave way to that of feudalism and later capitalism.

In the same way that the evolution of Christianity needed no Christ so the theory of Socialism has no originator. This theory has evolved from the struggle of the working class to emancipate themselves. The conditions of capitalism give rise to the struggle for the ending of all oppression. Capitalism dominates the world. Its science has removed all mystical explanations of the origins of the world and mankind. Social scientists such as Marx (a contributor not originator) have discovered the origin and development of social inequality. The working class who are responsible for running society are trained to think scientifically and so are equipped with an important tool for the struggle against the capitalist class. Religious ravers are still at work, their influence is reactionary and divisive. They can have no more success than politicians in giving workers satisfaction. Workers have only to realise that the world can be theirs once they unite for Socialism; and the influence of the Pope, Paisley and Billy Graham will evaporate.
Joe Carter

The Celtic myth (1970)

Book Reviews from the November 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Celtic Nationalism’, by Owen Dudley Edwards, Gwynfor Evans and Ioan Rhys, Hugh MacDiarmid. (Routledge and Kegan Paul. 45s.)
‘Scottish Nationalism’, by H. J. Hanham. (Faber and Faber)
‘Wales: A Nation Again!’ by P. Berresford Ellis. (Tandem Books. 5s.)

The nationalist argument, as propounded by Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland, is quite simple ― and wrong. The people of Wales and Scotland, they say, suffer because they are misgoverned from England; what they need is an independent State of their own so that they could begin to solve their problems. In fact the problems faced by wage and salary workers in Wales and Scotland are basically the same as those in Britain or Ireland on any other country; they are caused by international capitalism and can only be cured by world Socialism. The setting up of “more frontiers in the world”, as the former Welsh nationalist MP Gwynfor Evans so frankly puts his aim, would be irrelevant and a waste of time.

Socialists reject allegiance to any State and regard themselves as citizens of the world. We accept the boundaries between States as they are (and as they may change) and work within them to win control of each State with a view to abolishing them all. Our aim is the establishment of a democratic world community without frontiers based on the common ownership of the world’s resources.

“Celtic nationalism” is a misleading phrase as the word Celtic, like Aryan, has no real meaning outside linguistics where six languages (Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Breton and the extinct Manx and Cornish) form a distinct group labelled “Celtic”. What Ireland, Scotland and Wales share is that they are areas where now only a minority of the people speak a Celtic language. This, however, does not justify calling them “Celtic countries” or creating a mythology about “the Celtic nations” or, worse, about “the Celtic races” (a phrase which repeatedly occurs in Ellis’ book).

Of course people should be free to speak the language of their choice and, if they occupy a distinct area, to have social affairs discussed and administered in that language. The language question, however, is distinct from the so-called national question. Welsh-speakers have had a real grievance against the English-speaking administration; this to a certain extent and thanks to their protests has now been resolved and certainly would be in a Socialist world. These grievances have been misdirected by the partisans of a separate State in Wales in accordance with the old nationalist slogan “no language, no nation”. This is nonsense. Those who speak Welsh are just Welsh-speaking human beings, not members of some imaginary Welsh nation. Welsh-speaking Socialists have long recognised that they are Welsh-speaking world citizens.

Of these books, Ellis’ is a readable journalistic account from a nationalist viewpoint of Welsh nationalism; Hanham’s is a more scholarly history of Scottish nationalism; the three essays on nationalism in Ireland, Wales and Scotland are a deadly bore. MacDiarmid, the eccentric writer who stood as a Communist against Sir Alec Douglas Home in 1964, has filled his essay with large chunks from the Communist Party’s programme and makes the absurd suggestion that “the Labour Party’s betrayal of the Scottish cause is on the point of being effectively contested by the development under Communist leadership of a Scottish National Liberation Movement”. He should stick to poetry.

Home Rule as distinct from independence, i.e. a separate parliament subordinate to Westminster, was for a number of years the policy of the Scottish TUC and, in view of the current moves of the Communist-led Scottish Area of the NUM to revive this, it is interesting to note some of the views Hanham records as being expressed at the STUC in 1921 :
  “It was disgraceful they should be wasting time over a question like Home Rule. It was of no consequence to the working class”. 
  “While capitalism continued the workers would not be any better off even when Home Rule was in operation”.
Let us hope someone can be found to say the same at the next STUC conference.

Hanham unwittingly confirms the correctness of this view when he concludes by saying that the nearest parallel to an independent Scotland as envisaged by the SNP
  “is to be found in the old Colonial empire, where dominion status or independence simply meant a transfer of power to a new group of politicians, while the structure of state and society was but little changed.”
                                                                                                                              Adam Buick