Tuesday, December 25, 2018

More of the same (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who knows what the next year will bring? Could be better than 1988. It could hardly be much worse. Maybe this will be the year when governments "come to their senses” and say. "That's enough of war — in future we'll all get on well together and destroy all the bombs"'. Multinational companies will stop destroying food because there is no profit in feeding the hungry. "In 1989 we ll see to it that the hungry two-thirds of humanity will be fed" they'll say. The Pope will sell his vast stores of golden possessions in order to feed the poor, the newspapers will decide they've had their fill of telling lies and in future will only report what is true, and the Queen, in her Christmas message, will declare that she will no longer tolerate a condition where whole families are destined to live in slums simply because they are poor, while those like her dwell in palatial mansions. Yes, the future is all looking much rosier. The brewers will lower the price of beer, only to be outbid by the rest of the owning class who will say, "We insist, old chaps, that as you produce all of the wealth you must have free access to it". And so it shall come to pass that we will no longer need to buy what we need, for it will be there for the taking. Need will be recognised, not profits.

Now, if you believe all that you are either naive to the point of imbecility or one of the increasing numbers of workers whose encounter with the free market has been in the hard drugs trade. The future will not be like that. The people with power will not start behaving like they care about you. They do not care about you in the least. Your social role is to be unthinking, except insofar as your thoughts are in the service of their unearned affluence. The only future the capitalist class seeks is one where they make plenty of profits. Or, to be quite precise about it, one where we, the workers, will make plenty of profits, to be handed directly to those who monopolise the resources of the earth. They can only get richer out of the hard work of suckers who are prepared to produce everything and then be thankful for a wage or salary which enables us to buy the cheapest and shoddiest of goods. The contented wage slave is the basic prerequisite of the contented capitalist. Unless the producers produce the possessors will have nothing to possess.

So 1989, whatever else, will be a year marked by the rich enjoying themselves and the poor sweating hard to ensure that they do just that. It will be a year in which those who appropriate the profits will pursue the traditional pastimes of the idlers and loafers who have gone before them. They will travel first-class and stay in comfortable hotels, unlike the nasty little constructions which wage slaves are sent to for their fortnights in the sun. And when they feel like returning from hols, their lives will be unregulated by the alarm clock, and free of fast-food bargain cuisines, the hassle of waiting for buses and being crowded on trains and working for eight hours a day doing monotonous, useless work, and having to search for a few quid when an unexpected need comes along to disrupt the low-budget plans which govern most workers' lives. The capitalists will have a good time. Their children will go to special schools where they will learn how to be rude, arrogant and parasitical. And when they are ill — even the slightest scent of illness will be enough — they will move instantly into private clinics where nurses whose families queue up for NHS provision will wipe their noses when they sneeze. The Prime Minister will tell them that the poor are only deprived because they lack enterprise. The capitalists will condemn such lack of initiative on the part of those who produce and distribute all of the world's wealth, and yet lack the wisdom to buy themselves a Porsche. The Leader of the Opposition will tell them that their future will be safe in his hands. He fully intends to make the market even more profitable than the Tories have, and he will be tough with the unions, should they dare to disrupt the legalised robbery of the workers which is at the root of the profit system.

For plenty of workers 1989 will be a rotten year. Many will have jobs they hate, but must persevere in to survive. Others will have no jobs and waste yet another year looking for something to turn up. Many will have no homes. Thousands will have no indoor toilet and hope for a snow-free winter. Those with indoor toilets and even video machines may also have mortgages which make them feel like serfs who keep a portion of what they earn and give the rest to those who own the Building Societies. There will be plenty of evictions. Failure to pay the rent, failure to keep up the mortgage payments — there will be workers who overdo it on the Christmas shopping and pay for it with a court appearance when the credit companies demand their pound of flesh. Workers will join the army, not because they are psychopaths who want to kill, but because if you are young and unemployed and your family is poor it is easier than shoplifting. Girls who did not go on the game in 1988. will do so in 1989. It is one of Britain's biggest growth occupations. They will sell their dignity for £20 a time and learn all about the free market in the process. 1989 will see plenty more accidents which could be avoided were it not that more profit is to be made letting them happen. In the building industry the government rogues have favoured a policy deregulation: abolition of safety laws which get in the way of profit. There will be a few thousand more unregulated accidents next year with plenty of corpses created by the enterprise culture. 1989 will supply its share of humans murdered in wars, a natural extension of what is called healthy competition. Why should the capitalists care? They are not the ones who do the fighting. In 1989 millions of children under the age of five will starve to death. Governments will pay farmers not to grow food. There is no profit in selling it.

Looking forward to a capitalist future is a bleak business, then. Unless, of course, you’re a capitalist. In which case you just keep living it up, taking more, giving less and praying to whatever god you have invented that the workers will not rock the boat.

In 1989 the workers should rock the boat. We should not have waited this long to do it, but now is far better than never. Rocking the boat does not mean tipping out Maggie and appointing Captain Kinnock to take her place. It does not mean state capitalism instead of private capitalism, the Russian Empire instead of the American one. Rocking the boat does not mean that the workers, in imitation of Oliver Twist, should go to those who own and control the earth and ask for just a little bit more. It does not mean asking for a lot more. It means not asking for, but taking the lot. All of the factories, the farms, the offices, the media, the means of transportation — the entire means and instruments of producing and distributing wealth will become the property of the workers of the world. It is either that, or more of the same.

More of the same means capitalism with all of its hideous problems. But capitalism's problems do not stay the same. They become worse. New ones emerge. Mushroom clouds loom on the horizon, threatening to put an end to the whole bloody show. Who is to say with any confidence that 1989 will not be the year when the nuclear button will be pushed? Who can doubt that 1989 will see more needless human misery within this self-constructed prison of world capitalism? And who is to deny, if they face reality that socialism stands as the only practical hope facing working men and women in the year ahead?
Steve Coleman

Private and Public Myths (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Left-Right divide in this country and many others tends to focus on questions about just what should be in the public domain and what should belong in the private sector. In other words, about the extent and nature of the state's role.

In Britain since 1979 the Government's policies have been aimed at "rolling back the frontiers of the state". The Labour Party however has a preference for certain activities and issues being under the control of Government. not in private hands but in the public sector.

A similar political divide exists in many other countries, where the extent of the state's intervention in the economy and involvement in welfare services distinguishes parties of the Right from those of the Left. This key division on how to run the capitalist system has to be of interest to us.

This is not just because policies of state intervention in the economy or commitment to state responsibility for welfare and social services are normally labelled "socialist" both in the media and in the rhetoric of capitalist political parties. We have frequently explained that socialism is very different from these allegedly more efficient or more humane forms of capitalism.

Any arrangement which leaves most of us having to sell our labour-power in order to scrape a living is not socialism. This point is more than a mere question of the "correct'' definition of yet another political issue. The claim by Labour and other reform parties to have socialist policies has the effect of establishing as fact what is in reality a propagandist myth. This bogus claim bypasses and blurs the essential differences between capitalism and socialism: wage-labour, commodity production, class struggle — all these characteristics of capitalism, however "reformed" and whatever the extent of state control of the economy, will have no place in a socialist society.

Having said that, it is still worth giving some thought to the argument for state or "public" control of certain activities. The case for justifying "public" as opposed to "private" ownership is mostly based on the belief that the activity in question is simply too important to be left in private hands.

Foreign policy, for instance, is normally regarded — even by Thatcherites — as definitely a matter for governments, not the private sector. The really shocking aspect of Irangate was neither the misuse of public funds nor the constitutional problem of the President acting illegally. The "most chilling aspect of the scandal (was) the revelation of an off-the-shelf, stand-alone, self-financing entity which was in the process of being set up to conduct covert foreign policy as private enterprise" (The Economist, 24-30 September 1988). For The Economist, this was incomparably worse than trading arms for hostages, diverting funds to the Nicaraguan Contras, flouting Congress and Senate decisions. or brazen lying about the whole business. The sacrosanct division between what must be public and what ought to be private, if flouted, provokes extremely strong gut reaction.

Take these other examples of the view that certain matters are best in the public sector: water, education and the road system. In Victorian Britain urban water supplies were polluted and cholera epidemics were rife. The expensive and unprofitable task of supplying clean water for major population centres was undertaken by the government.

Similarly the necessity of educating the masses — which the profit-seeking private sector and under-financed religious and charitable organisations were evidently unable to do — became a function of Government, paid for as a collective cost from taxation. The construction and maintenance of highways, tunnels and bridges is also in modern capitalism typically regarded as a public sector service. Regardless of whether the work is carries out by local authorities' Highways Departments or is contracted out to construction and civil engineering firms, it is paid for as a collective necessity from taxation.

In each case the central argument is that water, education, highways and the like are of enormous public importance; so useful and valuable as to be thought essential. Because of this, such matters cannot be trusted to profit-seeking entrepreneurs. The cynic is said to be a person "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".

This is also true of the average Board of Directors, and especially true of accountants, company secretaries or auditors. For them the bottom line is what counts: their function is to ensure that their capital investments earn a profit. They are not in the business to serve the community unless, by coincidence, this can be done without harming profits.

In today's political climate it is argued that such public services as water supply should be privatised and made to operate profitably. Privatisation of water authorities means, as film director David Puttnam argues, that "rivers are becoming commodities. A free gift of nature is being converted into a commodity from which you can make profits" (BBC 1, 2 October 1988).

Privatisation is essentially a process by which control of many socially or economically important activities is transferred from elected bodies or organisations responsible to Parliament, to private companies responsible to the interests of their private or institutional shareholders.

Water supply however is the most basic and essential economic activity possible in terms of human needs. Physically we cannot survive a week without water. Falling levels of water in rivers or reservoirs have harmful effects on agriculture, requiring irrigation, on power supply which can be dependant of water; and on many industrial processes.

Inefficiency or cost cutting in water supply will have dangerous consequences for the health of the community, as was recently demonstrated in the West Country. Cost cutting on labour meant that a lorry driver delivered a load of chemicals to an unattended waterworks and poured the chemicals into the wrong tank. This caused serious pollution of the water supply. Many people suffered ill effects; some animals died, as later did fish in the rivers to which the Board diverted their poisoned water. It is expected that the commercial pressures on the water supply industry after privatisation will make pollution control less effective.

However the problem is not so much the issue of private as compared with state control. The real problem is that whoever runs any sort of service or industry within the capitalist economy is operating under pressure to do the job as cheaply as possible. Water supply, health services, education, housing: whether public or private sector, all in the end are subject to capitalist priorities.

Those who believed that nationalised industries (coal. British Rail, electricity supply) would operate free from commercial pressures were mistaken. Costs had to be kept low and workers, while spared some of the worst excesses or private ownership (after nationalisation coalmining accidents were reduced, for example), were still exploited wage slaves, having little say in how the industry operated and very little control over their working conditions.

Workers in nationalised organisations also had a significant disadvantage in pay negotiations. In times of inflation postwar Governments imposed "pay policies" or wage freezes. Public sector employees bore the brunt of such policies. If they went of strike in protest at their falling wage rates, they were vilified by Westminster politicians — Tory and Labour alike — for "holding the nation to ransom". From being "the backbone of the nation", "salt of the earth" and soon, they were denounced as greedy and lazy, a thoroughly bad lot, and obviously very unpatriotic. This happened with the firemen, miners and, more recently, nurses.

There is then no reason for the working class to take sides on this issue. Whether an industry is nationalised or de-nationalised is relatively unimportant. Workers always have to organise themselves to maintain a reasonable standard of living and to protect themselves from disagreeable and too often dangerous working conditions. In the nationalised industries, just as in the private sector, trade union organisation is essential.

But there are lessons to be learnt from the never ending disputes over nationalisation and privatisation. Matters which are thought of paramount importance are not trusted in the hands of any section of the capitalist class: they have to be managed collectively. The only way this can be arranged within the capitalist system is for control and ownership to be vested in the state, which will then act as "the collective capitalist", in Engels' phrase.

Also, this devolving of control to the state indicates clearly for all to see that the capitalist enterprise, operating along commercial lines, being in business to make profits, is not in the business of answering the needs of society. If there is a conflict between doing something useful and something profitable, the argument always comes out on the side of profit. Anything a private company does, which looks both unprofitable and socially beneficial is either a miscalculation or, more likely, a public relations stunt.

The point is that the capitalist system is not in business to make people happy, to build houses for homeless people to live in. to produce food for hungry people, or to care for the sick, the handicapped the old and the very young. It is in business to make profits to keep accountants and shareholders happy. Any coincidence with socially necessary or desirable activities is just that — a coincidence. That is why such matters are not trusted to the commercial self-interest of the private sector. However, reformers who argue for public control or state responsibility for such matters appear ignorant of the economic pressures which the system imposes even on the "collective capitalism" the state. These pressures force governments to provide as cheaply, as stingily as possible such welfare for the workers. The result, as Galbraith put it. is "private affluence, public squalor."

The heated question of whether this or that concern should be privatised or run as a state concern is for the working class a non-issue. The real issue is whether we actually want a society which operates according to an accountant s sense of values or one which operates in terms of satisfying human needs.

There is a real conflict, a tension, in capitalism between what is perceived as profitable, and therefore feasible, and what is known to be necessary, desirable and useful but unprofitable, and therefore impractical That is why there are homeless, hungry and unemployed people. And that is why socialists detest the capitalist principle which puts profits before people. It is time to end this system and create a better world.
Charmian Skelton

Between the Lines: Whose Choice? (1988)

The Between the Lines column from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whose Choice?
Were it not for a few armed men taking some accurate shots at British troops in North America in 1776, there would have been no USA and no election for the American media to drone on about for the past year. It is interesting to speculate whether George Washington, were he alive today, would be banned from the media because he was a terrorist. However, Washington won and the battle between the two mega-mediocrities for access to the White House tennis courts has been in full swing. If you ask most workers who it is that chooses the President, they will tell you the electors do. Apart from the fact that about half of the American workers did not vote at all, it is a mistake to imagine that those who did made their own choice. Managing TV election campaigns, including millions of dollars of advertising time, is now one of the principle ingredients of any American Presidential election. Most political advertising conveys images of rivals rather than a candidate's policies, and the election is won on the basis of which millionaire most successfully destroys the credibility of the other. Thus it was that Dukakis lost, a victim of his own inability to show that Bush was a less competent and nastier individual than himself. Bush proved himself to be "the evil of two lessers" and so won the key to the door. Technically the key was handed to him by the workers of America. To be sure, if they wanted to they could use their votes to lock the door of the state to all future Bushes and Dukakises and other front men for the profit system. In reality, ABC, NBC and CBS had far more to do with the outcome of the 1988 Presidential election than the workers ever did. The TV screen did not reflect what the workers were thinking; it told them what to think We had good reason to make the same observation about the British general election last year. And as long as this is the case — as long as a small, unelected clique of politically conservative media controllers are allowed to set the electoral agenda — it is a matter of serious doubt whether the democratic claims of the electoral system can be treated as much more than a sham.


Whose Freedom?
The government has issued a new White Paper (7 November) on the future of broadcasting. They claim to be concerned to make the media freer. More channels, less regulation. greater local service — and of course, that favourite characteristic of capitalist freedom: if you want the extra goodies on offer you'll have to "pay as you watch". The claim of Mr Hurd and his fellow advocates of greater TV freedom is that more TV, with more market priorities governing it, will offer more opportunities for us to see what we want. This is not so. Firstly, the new channels will not open up new opportunities for independent TV production, but will be bought by current media monopolists, such as Rupert Murdoch, who is already making millions out of deregulated TV in Australia. These millionaires will not make exciting new programmes but provide the cheap, shoddy, and vulgar in order to please advertisers. Secondly, new TV stations will continue to cover the capitalist agenda. This is because the only people with a real incentive to produce TV which challenges the capitalists' interests are the working class and. as socialists never cease pointing out. the workers do not own or control the means of production. including means of mass communication. Greater media freedom will come about, not by flogging airwaves to multi-millionaires or by "relaxing" standards so that workers are able to watch dirty movies, but when the media is freed from the necessity of being a business.
Steve Coleman

About Socialism (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. What is the Socialist Party of Great Britain?
It is a political party, separate from all others, Left, Right or Centre. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a world social system based upon human need instead of private or state profit. The Object and Declaration of Principles printed in this introductory leaflet were adopted by the Socialist Party in 1904 and have been maintained without compromise since then. In other countries there are companion parties sharing the same object and principles, and they too remain independent from all other political parties.

2. What is capitalism?
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, etc.) are monopolised by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, but, as a class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

3. Can capitalism be reformed in our interests?
No: as long as capitalism exists, profits will come before needs. Some reforms are welcomed by some workers, but no reform can abolish the fundamental contradiction between profit and need which is built into the present system. No matter whether promises to make capitalism run in the interests of the workers are made sincerely or by opportunist politicians they are bound to fail, for such a promise is like offering to run the slaughter house in the interests of the cattle.

4. Is nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?
No: nationalised industries simply mean that workers are exploited by the state, acting on behalf of the capitalists of one country, rather than by an individual capitalist or company. The workers in nationalised British Leyland are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned Ford. The mines no more belong to "the public" or the miners now than they did before 1947 when they were nationalised. Nationalisation is state capitalism.

5. Are there any “socialist countries”?
No: the so-called socialist countries are systems of state capitalism. In Russia and its empire, in China, Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia and the other countries which call themselves socialist, social power is monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. The features of capitalism, as outlined above, are all present. An examination of international commerce shows that the bogus socialist states are part of the world capitalist market and cannot detach themselves from the requirements of profit.

6. What Is the meaning of socialism?
Socialism does not yet exist. When it is established it must be on a worldwide basis, as an alternative to the outdated system of world capitalism. In a socialist society there will be common ownership and democratic control of the earth by its inhabitants. No minority class will be in a position to dictate to the majority that production must be geared to profit. There will be no owners: everything will belong to everyone. Production will be solely for use, not for sale. The only questions society will need to ask about wealth production will be: what do people require, and can the needs be met? These questions will be answered on the basis of the resources available to meet such needs. Then, unlike now, modern technology and communications will be able to be used to their fullest extent. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their self- defined needs. Work will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation: the coercion of wage and salary work will be abolished. There will be no buying or selling and money will not be necessary, in a society of common ownership and free access. For the first time ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.

7. How will socialism solve the problems of society?
Capitalism, with its constant drive to serve profit before need, throws up an endless stream of problems. Most workers in Britain feel insecure about their future; almost one in four families with children living below the official government poverty line; many old people live in dangerously cold conditions each winter and thousands die; millions of our fellow men and women are dying of starvation — tens of thousands of them each day. A society based on production for use will end those problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are subsidised not to produce more: yet many millions are malnourished. At the moment hospital queues are growing longer and people are dying of curable illnesses; yet it is not "economically viable" to provide decent health treatment for all. In a socialist society nothing short of the best will be good enough for any human being.

8. What about human nature?
Human behaviour is not fixed, but determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. The capitalist jungle produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to adapt our behaviour and there is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate. Even under capitalism people often obtain pleasure from doing a good turn for others; few people enjoy participating in the "civilised" warfare of the daily rat-race. Think how much better it would be if society was based on co-operation.

9. Are socialists democrats?
Yes: the Socialist Party has no leaders. It is a democratic organisation controlled by its members. It understands that Socialism can only be established by a conscious majority of workers — that workers must liberate themselves and will not be liberated by leaders or parties. Socialism will not be brought about by a dedicated minority "smashing the state", as some left-wingers would have it. Nor do the activities of paid, professional politicians have anything to do with Socialism — the experience of seven Labour governments has shown this. Once a majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, they will take the necessary step to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.

10. What is the next step?
Many workers know that there is something wrong and want to change society. Some join reform groups in the hope that capitalism can be patched up, but such efforts are futile because you cannot run a system of class exploitation in the interests of the exploited majority. People who fear a nuclear war may join CND. but as long as nation states exist, economic rivalry means that the world will never be safe from the threat of war. There are countless dedicated campaigns and good causes which many sincere people are caught up in, but there is only one solution to the problems of capitalism and that is to get rid of it, and establish Socialism. Before we can do that we need socialists; winning workers to that cause requires knowledge, principles and an enthusiasm for change. These qualities can be developed by anyone — and are essential for anyone who is serious about changing society. Capitalism in the 1980s is still a system of waste, deprivation and frightening insecurity. You owe it to yourself to find out about the one movement which stands for the alternative.


If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.

New from the World Socialist Party (Ireland) (1988)

Party News from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

IRELAND — TWENTY YEARS
 OF STRUGGLE
A pictorial calendar of the political struggle in Ireland, including a resum√© of major events. Educational and practical — a must for the politically aware.

£2 each, including p&p. Cheques etc payable to World Socialist Party (Ireland)

Available from WSP, 41, Donegall Street. Belfast 1, Northern Ireland.

Current issue of Journal, Socialist View No. 13, also now available (20p)

50 Years Ago: Who re-armed Hitler's Germany? (1988)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are asked by a reader to furnish proof of the statement to the effect that Russia has been supplying Nazi Germany with ferro-manganese. and indispensable war material.

The statement in question appeared in the New York Nation and was reprinted in Forward April 30th. 1938.
   France, in spite of its fear of Nazi Germany, enormously increased its sales of iron ore to Germany alter Hitler's accession
   The figures speak for themselves: 7,116,599 cwt in 1932; 11,566.202 cwt in 1933; 17,060,916 cwt in 1934. 58,616,111 cwt in 1935. Sweden followed suit. Not only does it export more than 75 percent of its excellent iron ore to Germany, but through Bofors it supplies the Nazis with one of the most effective anti-aircraft guns in the world. Last year Germany got 42 percent of its iron ore from Sweden and 33 percent from France
   Others have been aiding the Nazis in the same generous manner. The Pratt 8 Whitney Aircraft Co. signalised the rise of Hitler to power by licensing its excellent aircraft engines to a German firm. Soviet Russia in a recent year supplied 52 percent of Germany's ferro-manganese, an essential for armament. Some German planes today use the British Rolls-Royce engine.
[From an article "Russian Help For German
 Rearmament', Socialist Standard, December 1938.]

Thames News or PR? (1988)

From the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
You cannot hope
    to bribe or twist,
thank God!
    the British journalist.
But. seeing what
    the man will do
unbribed, there's
    no occasion to.
   (Humbert Wolfe)  
Being at home the other day with flu I happened to watch London's "independent” TV station's output of news three times — lunchtime, mid-afternoon and the expanded version at 6.00pm. And a very funny thing happened to one story. At lunchtime, along with a piece of trumpet-blowing about the opening of a new "superstore" development in Rotherhithe, there was a balancing story about the other side to London Docklands Development.

We were shown a three-storey house, the ground floor being a cafe, standing isolated, all nearby buildings having been flattened. That day its owners had been served with a compulsory purchase order so that their house too could be demolished to make way for a road. Apparently they had resisted being forced to sell, and in particular had objected to the low price offered. It seemed that due to a quirk in the law, while property prices in Docklands had soared, the London Docklands Development Board was only obliged to pay them the same price as would have been paid several years earlier. The effect is that, when they had to move, it would have to be outside the Docklands area: they could not afford to buy a house in the area.

At lunchtime Thames News gave all this information, including the specific price the family would receive and the current market value of their house. This is a not untypical story of what has been happening in London Docklands, where the developers were given the green light to go ahead regardless, while local people were elbowed out of the way. So it was not surprising to see this reported.

What was of interest was the way the story developed during the afternoon. A mid-afternoon report from Thames News gave the full story again of the new superstore and followed it with a shorter, blander version of the Compulsory Purchase Order item. Gone from the voice-over was any mention of the "quirk in the law" or any reference to the price (less than 60 per cent of current market value) being imposed on this Poplar family In fact, it was now a mere footnote of an item, hardly worth any time

At 6.00pm Thames News broadcast a longer programme, taking about 30 minutes of peak family viewing time. The new superstore item was given star treatment: we were treated to a live interview with a boring businessman representing Tesco; shown inside the glamorous building and told how many thousands of shoppers were expected each week; and informed of plans for similar superstore/shopping centre developments. Matters of major interest, no doubt, to the shareholders in Tesco, Boots, Marks & Spencer, BHS and other multiple retailers who benefited from five minutes' free publicity at peak viewing time.

The other Docklands story about the eviction of a local family — their dispossession and the harsh effects of a legal "quirk" forcing them to sell at less than the current market value — this story had been spiked.

The item about the shopping development was not news; it was PR. As with the opening of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre, the developers and stores involved had planned and budgeted for an extensive multi-media advertising campaign to ensure that everyone in the London area was aware of Surrey Quays. For Thames News to spend five minutes of prime time on this trumpet blowing by PR people was presumably an editorial decision, made in conjunction with the decision first to neutralise and later to drop the related story on Docklands development.

Whatever happened, whatever unseen strings were pulled, the end result was that the early evening news was managed, manipulated and emasculated so that the public should see only the officially approved view of London Docklands Development.
CS

Our Printing Press (1988)

Party News from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the last issue, the Socialist Standard has been printed on our own newly-acquired printing equipment at our Head Office in Clapham High Street. London. This represents a landmark in the development of our party and will give us much more flexibility and control over the publication of our journals, pamphlets and leaflets. At the moment the typesetting is still being done by an outside firm but it is our intention that this too should be done on our own equipment.

Naturally, this has depleted our General Fund. If you would like to help reconstitute this fund so that we can continue to expand our activity for socialism any donations will be gratefully received. Cheques should be crossed, made payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain and sent to the Treasurer at 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN. Alternatively you can transfer any contribution directly to our account No 02823446 at the National Westminster Bank, 145 Clapham High Street, London SW4 (Sort Code 60 05 34).

We take this opportunity to thank our readers and supporters for donations totalling £2,700 already received in response to the Funds Appeal that has appeared in recent issues.

The Alternative Queen’s Speech (1988)

Editorial from the December 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
(A text to be read before the real thing on Christmas Day)
I’m speaking to you today from Sandringham — or is it Balmoral? No matter, it’s one of the big houses or palaces I own and every Christmas Day I intrude on what enjoyment you might be having to foist a boring speech on you which is supposed to strike a thoughtful, humane note among the celebrations. I’m sitting in a sort of study and behind me is a window which opens onto the lush estate where my house stands.

I own these places because I’m a very rich woman – I’m worth about £3,340 million. Although I was born into this wealth and have never known what it is like to be poor, I shall be talking to you as if I’m the sort of ordinary, everyday grandmother you’re likely to have a chat with in the bus queue or the doctor’s waiting room or at the supermarket check-out. Except that I am the mother of the nation (for my recent ancestors it was of the Empire) unless Margaret Thatcher manages to take that bit over as well. So for this broadcast I compose my face into this maternal expression—calm, caring, perceptive, wise.

A lot of people seem to believe that it’s my speech, all thought up by me. Well I do have a say in it but it’s really what the people I work for tell me to say. I’m what is called a constitutional monarch — I do what the government tell me — and if I kick over the traces I’ll end up like my Uncle Edward.

Whatever is in my speech the media people will report it as if its really profound, earth-shattering, historical. They’ll dredge through the frigid platitudes in the hope of finding some small nugget of humour, or controversy or intelligence. Then they’ll blow it up into a big headline —“Queen Says War’s A Killer”, that sort of thing. I don’t blame them; media people are like everyone else — except those like me — they have to earn a living.

In case my speech comes over as too boring and trivial I try to touch on some real problems which you might be experiencing. Like being homeless or struggling with life in a slum or in a high rise or battling to keep up with the mortgage on a regimented semi somewhere. This is a bit of a cheek, coming from someone who owns these big houses but I can’t let on about the real housing problem — like shopping at the supermarket or having to queue for the doctor its part of the wider poverty of all who work for their living.

This being Christmas I have to say something about children, to fit in with all that schmaltz about little faces aglow around the tree and so on. I drop hints that childhood is not all like that — about violent, broken families, drugs, crime, dead-end years in comprehensive schools. It wasn’t like that for my children; they had the best of everything, their schools carefully chosen and their whole lives based on the confidence that they would never want for anything. Perhaps that’s why I get so upset at all those news items about Koo Stark and so on . . .

I often refer to problems abroad which, I say sadly, are casting such a blight across the joys of this great Christian festival. Like war, famine, epidemics — always easy to talk about because they are going on somewhere all the time, wiping out millions every year. I pretend they’re like social quirks which would go away if the Christmas spirit — peace on earth, goodwill to all and so on —were allowed to last all year. Some people might be awkward and ask about these problems being knit into the fabric of a social system which awards these great privileges to me and forces degradation onto you. But they’re obviously suffering from a lack of that christmas spirit.

And that brings me to Christmas itself. All those singing cash registers. All that rubbish being sold. All that nonsense spouted from pulpits and in programmes like this one. I try to forget that Christmas is only a short break in the routine, year-in year-out, exploitation, poverty, conflict and insecurity which you endure and the wealth and capital accumulation which keeps me so cosy. That’s what destroys people’s hopes, distorts their lives, represses them, kills them. And I’m one of its most prominent figureheads.

But I mustn’t go on like this. My job is to encourage the most massive diversion of your attention from reality into a circus world of noise and colour. Remember my wedding? My coronation? The jubilee? The weddings of my children? You loved them all, they made you forget where you really stand in the social order, what your lives are really like. And that is what I’m supposed to do, in this Christmas Day broadcast for example.

Well it’s been nice getting this off my chest — a change from the usual twaddle. Oh, there’s something else . . . Merry Christmas. Suckers.