Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Political organisation (1988)

Editorial from the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why must the working class — those who live by the sale of their labour power — organise as a political party to achieve socialism? The answer to this question is to be found in an examination of the nature and role of the modern State.

At present the capitalist class control society through their possession of political power, through their control of the machinery of government. They did not construct this machine for this purpose, as the anarchist claims; the machinery of government evolved along with the evolution of society as a whole. It is one of the facts of social life that the government machine is the centre of social control. The working class must base its policy on a recognition of this. If the working class is to become the master of society — which it must do in order to change it — then it too must recognise itself as a class, and organise itself politically. This political party must be socialist, expressing workers' recognition that their emancipation can only be achieved by the expropriation of the capitalist class and the establishment of socialism.

Given the need for a socialist political party, on what lines should it be organised? A movement which aims at the establishment of a social democracy in which human instead of commercial values flourish cannot employ means which conflict with this end. It must to a certain extent reflect the new society it aims to create. This means that it must be organised on democratic lines. Its membership. even when it is only a small group, must have complete control over policy; all its officials must be responsible to the membership; there must be complete freedom of discussion within the party; there must be no division into leaders and led; there must be no secret meetings from which any section of the membership is excluded. But not only must the party be democratic, it must also be open in its methods.

The socialist political party will not appear ready-made: like other social phenomena, it will grow out of social conditions. This raises the whole question of the role of a socialist party in the class struggle. At present there are two obstacles which stand in the way of achieving socialism: the political ignorance of the working class and the control of the machinery of government by the capitalist class. To overcome these obstacles socialist understanding must come first.

This does not mean that the relation between the party and the working class is to be that of teacher and pupil. Socialist understanding is not something that can be constructed out of nowhere; it must grow out of social conditions. Such understanding — or class consciousness — will not arise purely as a result of the propaganda of the socialist party. Ideas only grip the masses when they are relevant to social conditions. There are any number of cranks around with utopian schemes for social reconstruction. What distinguishes socialists from them is that socialism is the material interest of the working class. Socialists have social evolution on their side. The cranks have not.

Education is not just a question of learning from books and pamphlets; that is just one aspect of learning from experience. The class experiences of the working class under capitalism will teach it that socialism is the answer to its problems. The party can help this development of socialist understanding by storing up and propagating the past experiences of the working class so that these are easily accessible. The principles of the socialist party will be based on these experiences and will serve as a guide to social issues. To carry out this task its members must necessarily have a fairly high degree of political knowledge, know their opponents' case and be able to expose the flaws in their arguments. In its educational phase, precisely because it is such a phase, a higher degree of political understanding must be required of the members of the party than the working class need have to establish socialism. As socialist understanding spreads the number and importance of its opponents, and hence also of the need of a knowledge of their arguments, may well decline.

Once socialist understanding grows to any appreciable extent, political conditions will completely change. The comparative trivialities of present day politics will be cast aside and the issue will be capitalism or socialism. With the changed conditions will come a change in the role of the party. It will become the political organisation of the working class which they can use to capture political power.

About Socialism (1988)

From the August 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 leaflet and agree with some or all of the points in it, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.

Apartheid, Capitalism and the ANC (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

It hardly needs stating that South Africa's apartheid regime imprisons, tortures and ruthlessly exploits the country's black working class, and that socialists are working for a society in which such obscene discrimination would be impossible. But does it follow that we endorse the struggle for apartheid's removal?

Nelson Mandela, arguably the best known black political figure in Africa, was seventy on 18 July. His imprisonment in South African jails since his capture and trial in 1962 on charges of treason has won him world-wide sympathy and gained international support for the African National Congress.

Such support is misplaced. It is based on the wide-spread political belief that the main problem facing workers in South Africa is apartheid and that it is in their interests to uphold the ANC's objectives:
  A democratic state based on the will of the people . . . equal status for all national groups . . . protected by law against insults to their . . . national pride . . . industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well being of the people . . . equal rights to trade . . . the land redivided amongst those who work it. . .
   The police force and army. . . shall be the helpers and protectors of the people. . . equal pay for equal work . . . a national minimum wage . . . maternity leave on full pay . . . the right to be decently housed . . . free medical care . . . Slums shall be demolished . . . South Africa shall be a fully independent state . . .
(The Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC in 1955)
This is a thorough-going reformist platform which in parts reads like a nineteenth century tract of the kind Marx condemned in his Critique of the Gotha Programme. Decked out with superficially attractive proposals and promises, it deflects the unwary majority from pursuing their class interests. Where similar programmes have been adopted elsewhere they have demonstrably failed to alter the position of the propertyless majority.

In their frustration the ANC decided in 1961 to adopt violent minority action to achieve their aims. Originally committed to non-violence, their policy changed and they "would no longer disapprove of properly controlled violence . . .  we decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, the plan had to be one which recognised civil war as the last resort ' (Nelson Mandela, No Easy Walk to Freedom. 1966, page 170).

In order to justify such violence and bloodshed the ANC needs to use the doublespeak practised by politicians everywhere when persuading others of the need to sacrifice and suffer in causes which involve no working class interests. They must attempt to disguise their true motives and the bitter realities that others are expected to face. At a press conference given by Oliver Tambo (President of the ANC) warning was given of an escalation of ANC violence. He urged Umkhonto we Sizwe (the military wing of ANC) to "Attack, advance, give the enemy no quarter, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and acknowledged that "over-zealous" elements might attack "soft targets" (that is, human beings) (Keesing's Contemporary Archives, p. 3466b). In an interview in 1983 Tambo said he thought". . . it must be a matter of regret that civilians were injured . . . as our struggle intensifies more innocent people are going to get hurt . . .  An armed struggle embraces violence . . . We certainly must conduct our struggle in such a way that we are not seen to be taking blows and not returning them " And what are these brave words used to cover? "The answer is in the uprooting of the apartheid system . . . The problem in South Africa is the apartheid system" (Oliver Tambo. Preparing for Power, 1987, pages 164-169).

The kind of action advocated by the ANC will not bring freedom to the workers of South Africa, black or white. They might talk of being "committed to bringing about fundamental change to the entire socio-economic and political formation which constitutes the South Africa of today" (Tambo. page 247) but all the workers will get. even with full implementation of the Freedom Charter, is a change of rulers or, more likely, the absorption into the ruling class of some new rulers whose skins are black.

The leadership of the ANC appear ready and willing to murder their way to the thieves table, not in order to abolish capitalism but to stake their claim to a share in the exploitation of the workers. We have the declaration of Mandela himself:
  Under the Freedom Charter, nationalisation would take place in an economy based on private enterprise . . . (this) would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change . . . nor has it. . . ever condemned capitalist society. (Mandela, page 179)
When asked "Are you attracted by the idea of a classless society?", Mandela replied "yes, very much so . . . I  think that a lot of evils arise out of the existence of classes, one class exploiting another [but] . . . the ANC has no policy in any shape or form on this matter" (page 84). His concept of freedom is the freedom for him and his lieutenants to join the ranks of the exploiting class. In this he is following a course laid down by previous generations of black African "freedom fighters" who now vie with one another to attract investments from international capital. They may rid the country of the odious system of apartheid but they will be left with the problems of running capitalism. Class rule and exploitation would continue and a free society of abundance and equality would be no nearer. Indeed, in their efforts to get rid of apartheid they may well find support from within the ranks of the capitalist class, who are finding it an increasingly intolerable block to the most efficient exploitation of black labour power. For example Sir Albert Robinson. Chairman of Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company, told shareholders back in 1974:
  It is essential to engender in the minds of all South Africans a far greater enthusiasm for . . . the elimination of restrictive employment barriers . . . The ultimate goal is a uniform wage scale for all employees, irrespective of race, based on objective criteria. (Daily Telegraph. 19 November 1974)
Or as a recent academic study more bluntly put it:
  . . .  a stage has now been reached in South Africa at which for important sectors of local capital the costs of apartheid exclusion outweigh the benefits. For the first time capitalists are rebelling . . . they worry about calm labour relations: and they dislike operating in a siege economy . . . (Herbert Adam and Kogila Moodley, South Africa without Apartheid.,1986. page 22).
If the ANC come to power they will have to take on the task of controlling and disciplining the majority when it becomes clear that capitalism run by blacks is little different to the white-dominated variety. They will have to ensure "calm labour relations", which will bring them into inevitable conflict with "All who work shall be free . . . to make wage agreements with their employers" (Freedom Charter). Potential investors need not worry however. The ANC Director of Information Thabo Mbeki assured reporters at a four day conference of the ANC and Afrikaner businessmen at Dakar in July 1987 that "the feeling of common South-Africaness between us all was very strong . . .” (Keesing's page 35362). A new twist to the old "We are all in the same boat" fraud under which black workers will find that they will still be doing all the rowing.

Another problem which will face an ANC dominated government is what to do about opposition groups. Such is the effectiveness of their propaganda that many who sympathise with the ANC cause assume them to be the only political organisation seeking to represent black opposition in South Africa. While there is evidence that they have much support in the townships, there are other groups such as Inkatha Yenkululeke ye Sizwe ("Freedom of the Nation"), the Pan Africanist Congress and the Azanian People's Organisation. The last of these “. . . incorporated a class analysis into their policy. . [but thought] . . . there was no material basis for united class action by whites and blacks . . . the black petty bourgeoisie . . . have joined the Black liberation struggle. The leadership of the Black liberation struggle is provided largely by this class'" (Tom Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945, 1987. page 345). It is unlikely that groups such as these will easily give up their political objectives. How are they to be treated? In her 1986 biography Mandela, Mary Benson describes how . . . Mandela and other young nationalists clashed with the organisers, broke up [opposition] meetings . . (page 38). which does not auger well for the opponents of ANC in power. And the horrific "necklace" killings of supposed "collaborators" have been enthusiastically endorsed by Winnie Mandela, herself a powerful figure in the ANC (Anthony Sampson, Black and Gold, 1987. page 232).

The ideology of Mandela, Tambo and the ANC "is, and always has been, the creed of African Nationalism" (Mandela), chasing the shadow of harmonisation of class distinctions. We urge all workers to reject their outmoded ideas and join with us in building a strong world movement to establish the only society worth working for, socialism.
Gwynn Thomas

Money games (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sponsorship is the game these days, as can be seen from the names of the competitions. From the Sherpa Van Trophy to the Ever Ready Derby, sponsors have taken an ever more prominent role. Since the advent of the Gillette Cup in 1963. sports sponsorship has become big business. It seems to be good business, too. with the Cornhill Insurance Company having doubled their turnover since beginning their association with test cricket. Sports sponsorship, together with smaller projects like financial support for opera, provides companies with cheap mass exposure.

The rising costs of organising sports events — especially the income of a handful of top performers — and the long-term decline in numbers of paying spectators have forced many sports into the arms of the sponsors. Loss of sponsorship can trigger a major financial crisis. There was panic when the Today newspaper suddenly dropped its backing for the Football League (though Barclays soon stepped in) and. more recently, when a unit trust group decided not to continue supporting the British Open snooker championship. Sports like hockey, with a million pounds in sponsorship over the last four years following British medal wins, are more fortunate. There is even a special credit card for channelling funds to Britain’s Olympic rowing squad.

In addition to outright sponsorship, the other major source of funds is broadcasting, especially TV. Millions of pounds are available from this source, but only so long as the viewers keep tuning in. When they don't, the supply of money will be switched off too. Most cataclysmic, perhaps, was ITV's decision to stop screening professional wrestling after over three decades. Channel 4 has stopped televising snooker. Administrative bodies for other sports have begun to flex their muscles, with the BBC forking out larger sums than in the past for coverage of golf and rugby union. Now the most televised sport of all, cricket, is seeking to sell itself to the highest bidder.

Most interesting and revealing, however, are the current shenanigans in the world of football. The potential of satellite TV and European-wide broadcasting has raised the stakes and introduced new bidders into the game. The Football League approved a ten-year deal with a satellite company worth a cool £200 million, with the prospect of further money from ITV and BBC. ITV then contacted some of the top clubs directly, with the aim of exclusive rights to broadcasting from their grounds. This led to accusations that a Super League was being introduced through the back door. Super-capitalist and football entrepreneur Robert Maxwell then threatened to throw his weight into the competition. At the time of writing, the outcome is unclear, though it is a fair bet that the interests and preferences of the ordinary football supporter won't determine the upshot.

Ordinary supporters are now, in many cases, "members" of their clubs. But the membership scheme, designed to reduce and control violence, has done little but inconvenience supporters and line the pockets of some of the clubs. Being a member does not entitle you to any kind of say in how the club is run.

Sponsorship does not just go to tournaments or governing bodies, but also to individuals. It is here that the tennis superstars, with their media exposure and world wide reputations, come into their own. They can "earn" a million pounds a year or more by endorsing everything from clothes to watches and fruit juice. Even while playing they are like highly-paid sandwich-board men. flaunting adverts for this and logos for that. It helps, of course, to meet conventional ideas of attractiveness, like Becker or Sabatini. It really would have been appropriate if Pat Cash had won the Wimbledon title again this year.

It should not be forgotten, though, that most sport is played not by the idolised and pampered but by ordinary people for the fun of it. Practically any activity beyond a kickabout in the local park requires some kind of established facility. Many municipally-owned sports centres and swimming pools exist, and these have recently come under the government's privatisation obsession, with a plan to put their running out to tender. Of course, some people aren't too worried by the prospect of increased fees at council centres, such as the members (who include Princess Diana) of the Vanderbilt Indoor Racquet Club, who pay £650 just to join, and £500 annual subscription No problem here with too many players for too few courts and showers that don't work.

The state's involvement in sport goes way beyond providing tennis courts and putting greens. Since 1974 there has been a Minister for Sport, and government lackeys frequently pronounce on topics from hooliganism to drug-taking. It was the increasing internationalisation of sport, with its opportunities for boosting national prestige, that led to state interest in and supervision of various aspects of sport. The government does very well financially out of sport, with a huge income from betting tax. Top persons' horse racing trainer Henry Cecil complains that the government should put a lot more money into racing — state subsidies are acceptable for the sport of kings and queens, apparently.

A reader of the Sun could no doubt be forgiven for thinking that sport exists primarily to provide salacious stories and sell newspapers. A specifically sporting press has existed for a century and a quarter, providing lots of publicity, sometimes sponsoring its own events, and surely increasing the number of spectators. When radio first emerged, the newspaper owners thought of no more than their own profits, trying in vain to prevent the broadcasting of football and racing results on the grounds that this would hit their sales.

In a society where nearly everything is for sale and virtually nothing is produced or provided without an eye to profit, it would be naive to expect sport to be in any way different. Sponsorship by business and the media is often the only way of staying afloat. If ordinary practitioners and spectators enjoy no benefit from the sponsorship money, too bad. If facilities for watchers and players remain abysmal, too bad. If the money instead lines the pockets of a favoured few, too bad. Capitalism, after all, is not about meeting the interests of the person in the street, so why should things be different for the person on the sports field?
Paul Bennett

Herewego — Where next? (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
 Today the ones who are looking for trouble do not wear scarves. They wear expensive clothes and a nice watch. People think they are all mods and rockers — they are not. The London boys might be wearing about £200 of clothes. Chelsea "fan", Guardian 20 May
As certain types of social violence escalate, the media, politicians and "experts" of all sorts are clamouring to tackle the problem. It is necessary, however, to look at incidents of violence in their wider social setting to discover what causes them and therefore what needs to be changed in order to eradicate destructive behaviour. The conventional social attitude to organised violence is confused. Consider the following announcement:
  Last night two hundred young men engaged in an organised assault. They violently attacked another group of men whom they had never met before.
If, for instance, three young men were singled out as most responsible for causing mayhem and destruction, what would society do to them? It depends. A government spokesperson asked that question would need to know whether the thuggery was committed by “our boys" in the Falklands or "our boys" in Frankfurt. For distinctive violence ordered against an official "enemy" the soldiers receive pious praise, possibly a medal and commiserations for any maiming they may have suffered to body or mind or both. For distinctive violence which the government has not ordered, the louts in the Union Jack boxer shorts who marauded through German cities in June's European football championship received nothing from the authorities back home but grave censure and contempt. Some of these latter thugs, suffering from a surplus of patriotism and a shortage of brain cells, went on the rampage in Germany wearing "ENGLAND ON TOUR 1914, 1939, 1988" T-shirts. The folly of propertyless workers being patriotic is one thing, but even the capitalists who own Britain (the top seven per cent own about 80 per cent of the wealth) were upset by this piece of gratuitous jingoism.

From an aerial view, British society is fraught with violence as part of its ordinary processes. Apart from the development of organised running battles associated with "football hooligans", there is clear evidence to suggest a proliferation of clashes between rival gangs, and between gangs and police, in rural and costal towns. Every year hundreds of children are treated in hospital for serious injuries inflicted on them by adults, often their parents or guardians. Each year thousands of women leave home to seek refuge in hostels from the brutality of a cohabitant. Then there is the Sadism Industry. which operates on two levels: the illegal and the legal. Below the line of legality lurks the trade in "video nasties", where depth of depravity is the gauge of a film's attractiveness. Pathological disturbance is presented as an art form. Above the line there is a prominent genre of films which portray killings, massacres and annihilation as nothing much more than exciting, glamourised drama They are aimed at a wide market for box office or video success.

Overshadowing all this, though, is the gigantic scale of institutional violence and force. The role of the Police Force is, as its name implies, to use force to keep people in line. Were society civilised we would not need to threaten people to make them conform. Over 50,000 men and women are currently caged up in British prisons and the majority are there for offending against property laws. The military are the Youth Training Scheme in Destruction and Delinquency. The services, especially the Army, present themselves as agencies for travel and tourism, an apprenticeship and the opportunity to develop such things as "life skills"; in reality, recruits are swiftly knocked into a routine of hardship, indignity and idiocy. They have to be trained to obey any order without question or thought. Each soldier is to the Army what a bullet is to a gun — ammunition in a murder machine. And since the business of the Army is orchestrated violence, it is scarcely surprising that the outfit produces barbaric perverts of the kind recently prosecuted for over-zealous disciplinary techniques.

Many factors have been cited as the "main cause” of recent outbreaks of thuggery. What is the socialist analysis of these arguments?

Slack schooling and permissive parents?
  Our current education system equips the bottom 80% of the population for nothing better than sitting in betting shops or being soccer hooligans.
Sir Rhodes Boyson (The Barnet Advertiser, 23 June)
With all the compassion and understanding of a nineteenth-century workhouse Governor. Rhodes is prone to encourage acceptance of his views using physical force. As Headmaster of a north London school he was a firm believer in the educational value of "correcting recalcitrance" by beating young people with a wooden stick. His regret about the current operation of the education system is ironic. If he was entirely candid, he might have gone on to say: " . . . the ruling class needs the rising generation of workers to be moulded into regimented, industrious, compliant wage-slaves who won't play up and disrupt the process by which social wealth is appropriated by capitalists. Such disruption requires a larger slice of profits to be spent on paying for a larger, more powerful police force. It is simply more efficient to educate workers into docility." Indoctrinating young members of the working class to assume the role of poverty-trapped wealth producers is a big problem. It becomes much worse when advertising and media imagery everywhere offer lifestyles which are tantalising. unobtainable and, in reality, largely synthetic pleasures of a cash-culture society. The problem becomes aggravated even further by the reduced chance of even becoming a wage-slave in the present economic environment. This is annoying Rhodes Boyson. He continued his remarks with the words
  I'm sure that about one third of those unemployed are quite happy watching TV, doing the garden, sleeping — and getting paid for it by the tax payer. I envy them.
Surely Mrs Thatcher will rebuke her knight for referring to members of the House of Lords in such terms.

The problem of quelling disorder in the profit system is growing. A survey on "Indiscipline and Violence in Schools" was recently conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers. Its findings are based on returns from 1.630 schools and suggest that
  Violence and other forms of disruptive behaviour are steadily increasing in all types of schools throughout the country.
and in the Primary sector
  Nursery-aged children are starting school already imbued with anti-authoritarian habits because of poor parental control.
(Times Educational Supplement, 17 June)
Modern capitalism requires governments to rely, ultimately, on police forces and armies to make it work. Schools, similarly, are authoritarian organisations and frustrated and resentful young people can easily, though misguidedly, respond to coercion with violence. If more children are becoming consciously anti-authoritarian then that is a healthy development. Babies and toddlers need to be guided from the dangers of traffic and electricity sockets but the use of authority to control attitudes is the hallmark of uncivilised society.

Booze and belligerence
 It is clear from the evidence that a mob of hooligans of which you were a part had spent much of the day swilling beer. This kind of conduct must be stopped. It is all too prevalent.
Judge Gerald Butler QC to Millwall "soccer fans", Southwark Crown Court, 27 June
The men addressed by the judge were part of a gang who stampeded through New Cross Gate station to ambush another group of "supporters". They were convicted of affray after many terrified train passengers had fled across live electric railway lines to escape a mob armed with lumps of concrete, planks, knives and bottles. It is popular to regard alcohol as the cause of violence in society. Used in certain circumstances and in certain quantities it will aggravate aggression, give "Dutch courage" and impair the drinker's social conscience. It is pent up tension and frustration which is usually being released, so it is important to ask why society produces these routine stresses and then promotes alcohol as a palliative.

The promotion of alcohol as an anaesthetic to most peoples problem-ridden routines is booming business in the profit-system. Over £120,000,000 was spent on drink adverts on TV alone last year. Most were aimed at young people and although some were banned (like the one for Bulmer's cider which showed cartoon woodpeckers swigging from a bottle with the slogan: "Spend some time out of your tree") shareholders in drinks companies must have been generally quite pleased with the results of the campaigns. The "George the Bear" films for Hofmeister lager were recently voted the most popular commercials among 13-year-olds.

Governments have, from time to time, sought to control the consumption of alcohol by workers. During World War I, the American Congress stopped the manufacture of alcoholic drink to conserve grain. The prohibition lobby grew in strength and the National Prohibition Act (1920) and a constitutional amendment were later passed to forbid completely the manufacture and consumption of any intoxicating drink. The law proved impossible to enforce, fuelling widespread corruption and increasing the power of gangsters and racketeers. It was repealed in 1933. The Licensing Laws in force in Britain until last month were introduced during World War I because it was feared that munitions workers were spending too much time in the pub.

The organisation, Action on Alcohol Abuse claims that drink kills ten times as many people as do drugs and is a far greater cause of illness and social disturbance. There are always plenty of schemes being devised to reduce alcohol abuse — only recently the Home Office Working Group on Young People. Alcohol and Violence produced a list of 50 recommendations — but such exercises are about as useful as asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to pray that things get better. The only way to solve the problem of alcohol-related violence is to remove the cause of it — the grind, strain and unfulfilling nature of people's lives.

Network nightmare
  Children are likely to be particularly disturbed by violence in a setting which closely resembles their own. Thus an accident in which someone who looks like a child's father strikes someone who looks like his mother is probably very disturbing, threatening as it does the child's sense of security in the home.
(Guidelines on TV Violence, BBC 1979. Omitted from current guidelines)
The extent of wife-battering is unknown, largely because the pressures on women to remain in the home and the shame and stigma associated with this type of violence means that reported cases are merely the tip of an iceberg. Television does not cause the problem — it is usually committed by men who have been humiliated and victimised in some way in their passage through the rat race. Embittered by their circumstances and usually in a state of drunken rage, they embark on the one conflict they can "win". This is not the crazed conduct of a few men with congenital brain disorders but a widespread social problem. Children watching it on TV will undeniably be disturbed but trying to keep it secret from them will hardly help to solve the problem

Using killing, torture and destruction as key ingredients of exciting television for young people is bound to produce some unsavoury results. A recent documentary suggested that a young American who watched an average of three hours of TV a day would have seen about 10,000 killings before reaching the age of sixteen. This cannot but desensitise the mind to real trauma and misery left in the wake of a violent death. Every so often violent incidents appear to imitative: a spate of crossbow attacks occurred, for instance, after one was used by Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. Overall, however, television is not the cause of social violence. At the start of this century, hundreds of people were murdered every year in Britain. Violent disorder on the streets was rife — in fact the word "hooligan" was coined in Edwardian times. Hundreds of thousands of workers were slaughtered every year in the First World War and the final death toll ran into millions. This was all before television. The earliest broadcasts were not until 1936 and they were quickly suspended on the outbreak of another world war, this time one which was to wreak destruction on an unprecedented scale.

Madame Medusa
 The crimewave, which has now assumed typhoon proportions, is the direct result of Tory policies and Tory philosophy. The thug with too much money and too little conscience is the monster which has mutated from Margaret Thatcher's open advocacy of selfishness and greed. Crime is contagious and the disease is being spread by Downing Street.
Roy Hattersley, Deputy Leader of Labour Party (Daily Telegraph, 23 June)
It is facile and misleading to attribute violent crime to particular personalities or political parties. Whether the profit system is run by parties like the Conservatives, which is avowedly capitalist, or the Labour Party which is allegedly "for the workers" makes little difference. It will operate the only way it can — by producing wealth for sale and profit and not for human need. It will be a society in which the wealth producers live in relative poverty while the socially parasitic wealth owners live in luxury. It will be a society of wage-slavery for the majority. It will be a society ridden with competitive anxiety and beset with the insecurities of employment and the persistent threat of war. These are symptoms of a social system. They are as irremovable from the profit system as are death and injury from warfare.

If Roy Hattersley really believes that street violence in its current forms is largely the consequence of Thatcher's Tory policies, how does he explain the eruption of exactly the same type of problem in many other countries? Margaret is not Madame Medusa. She espouses a particularly callous doctrine to defend class-divided society but poverty, evictions, strikes, homelessness and militarism have been presided over by every Labour government. If Hattersley travels thirty miles across the water to France, he will see that the wretchedness of capitalism is not something which appeared in a blue hat in May 1979 to plague Britain alone. Hattersley, in fact, knows better than this. He is a careerist politician who, if he ever became Home Secretary, would be the man in charge of the police and prisons.

Capitalists get rich by employing workers. Sir John Sainsbury, for example, owns £1,000,000,000. Garry Weston boasts £1,500,000,000. The person who creates their bank statements must have an extra-durable "O" fitted to their printer. In any event, you do not acquire wealth like that by putting in a lot of overtime. You get it by exploiting a large number of workers — that is, by paying them less than the value of what they produce. You call it Employment and tell members of the wealth producing class that they’re lucky if they can get it. Roy Hattersley, therefore, is in favour of a society where he would put the robbed in gaol and use the police to protect the bounty of the robbers. When speaking of "the crimewave which has now assumed typhoon proportions ”, he may have misread his notes. It is in fact of "tycoon proportions".

Why?
Why do babies starve
When there’s enough food to feed the world?
Why when there’s so many of us
Are there people still alone? 
Why are the missiles called peace keepers
When they’re aimed to kill?
Why is a woman still not safe
When she's in her home?
Tracey Chapman, from her namesake album, 1988.
Capitalism is based on the ownership and control of the earth's resources by a minority class. The owners permit the production of wealth only so far as it can be sold in the market for a profit. At the British Army Equipment Exhibition earlier this year, 386 companies specialising in the production of high tech hooliganism on a Hiroshima scale displayed their wares to visitors from all around the world. True to the "democracy” that the Army will tell you it exists to defend, the public were not admitted. You can imagine the cost of the weapons and the social effort required to produce them from the fact that one company spent £450,000 on the exhibition, including £100,000 on the stand alone. In exhibition week, thousands of people died of malnutrition and hundreds of children went blind through vitamin A deficiency.

Young people are conscripted to fight in wars begun by governments in furtherance of the bosses' interests. Trade routes, strategic regions on the map, areas for market expansion and those rich in mineral deposits are the reasons behind war. No workers' interests are ever at stake in their masters’ struggles.

A society of money, banks and property deeds is a society of handcuffs, prison cells and homeless people. A society of Army exhibitions and young men trained to kill like machines is a society of mindless gang fights and street violence. When a majority decide democratically to put an end to class rule we can consign law and disorder to the history books. As soon as we bring the commercial system to a close, its endemic violence will cease. Only then can we establish real civilisation.
Gary Jay

Czechoslovakia's brief Spring (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twenty years ago this month Russian. East German. Hungarian and Polish tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and put an end to the "Prague Spring", an attempt to liberalise the state capitalist regime there.

The process of liberalisation had begun in January when the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party voted to replace the ageing Stalinist Novotny as General Secretary with Alexander Dubcek. This represented a decisive victory for the liberalising elements within the Party over the conservative elements. In April the Party published a 24,000 word Action Programme entitled Czechoslovakia's Road to Socialism. On the political field, it proposed an end to censorship, the introduction of freedom of assembly, the expression of minority opinion and various other reforms of a democratic nature. On the economic field, it sought to move away from the centralised, bureaucratic kind of state capitalism that existed in the country towards a more decentralised, market-oriented kind that came to be known as "market socialism" (despite the contradiction in terms). Under a plan drawn up by a professor of economics. Ota Sik, who became one of the deputy Prime Ministers, individual state enterprises were to be given a wide measure of autonomy and forced to compete for markets and bank loans; in addition, elected works councils were to be instituted as a means of preventing management from slipping back into lazy, bureaucratic ways.

Real steps were taken in the direction of freedom of expression and assembly: censorship was actually abolished and views critical of the regime could be freely expressed. Outside Czechoslovakia, intellectuals who had always been sympathetic to Russia but secretly felt guilty about its totalitarian nature welcomed the changes as the coming of "socialism [read: state capitalism] with a human face".

The changes were less welcome to the Russian ruling class and indeed to elements within the Czechoslovak ruling class too. As the statement we published in the Socialist Standard at the time made clear, the main concern of the Russian ruling class was strategic: they were afraid that political liberalisation might get out of hand and lead to Czechoslovakia escaping from the Russian sphere of interest. As this was not a development they could risk, they sent in their tanks to restore a political regime that was potentially less dangerous.

Leading role of the party
Basically, the sort of political regime the Russian ruling class wanted to see in Czechoslovakia was one similar to their own. where "the leading role of the Communist Party" was firmly entrenched. Because of the nature of state capitalism in Russia and similar countries the ruling elite needs to be tightly organised to exercise its control over the means of production. Any weakening of "the leading role of the Party" is therefore a weakening of the position of a ruling class made up of those who occupy the top posts in the Party, the government, the armed forces and the nationalised industries and who in Russia are known as "nomenklatura" after the list of posts filled by party appointees.

Liberal elements within the Czechoslovak Party had begun to waver on the question of the leading role of the Party and it was this that led the Russian rulers to defend their strategic interests. The Party's Action Programme, published in April 1968, had declared that "the leading role of the Party was too often understood as a monopolistic concentration of power in the hands of the party organs" and in a questionnaire prepared with the collaboration of the Party's Central Committee and published in the Party's journal Rude Pravo on 13 May, readers were asked to answer such questions as:
Does the internal democratisation of a Communist Party provide a sufficient guarantee of democracy?
Can you speak of democracy as being socialist when the leading role is held only by the Communist Party?
Should the Communist Party carry out its leadership role through serving devotedly free, progressive socialist development, or through ruling over society?
Technocrats and bureaucrats
Actually, in questioning the leading role of the Party, the liberal elements within the Czechoslovak ruling class had no intention of abdicating power. As the last question above shows, they still wanted the Party to play this role but in a less authoritarian fashion.

They had been forced into this position by the economic situation that had arisen in Czechoslovakia. Leading economists like Ota Sik realised that in the context of world capitalism what Czechoslovakia needed was a competitive economy whose products were able to compete in terms of price and quality with those of other countries. According to Sik. the only way to revitalise the Czechoslovak economy to this end was to move away from centralised, bureaucratic control to decentralised, market control. This would naturally involve taking power from some of the bureaucrats and giving it to industrial managers. It was in this sense that the leading role of the Party was questioned: not that the Party should give up power, but that it should no longer seek to take all decisions centrally.

This — a struggle between technocrats and bureaucrats — is how the struggle between liberals and conservatives was seen, inside as well as outside Czechoslovakia. The present writer recalls a discussion at one of our outdoor meetings in the summer of 1968 in which a Czech student argued that Dubcek was working, quite correctly in his view, to end "the dictatorship of the proletariat" in Czechoslovakia, by which he meant the rule over competent technocrats like his father by (as he put it) "thick workers" appointed to management posts on the basis of their Party loyalty!

It was in fact such ex-workers whose position and privileges were threatened by the Dubcek reforms and who welcomed the Russian tanks with open arms. The conservative elements within the Czechoslovak ruling class were restored to power in August 1968 (Dubcek was not finally removed from office and demoted to a forestry worker until April 1969). but this did not mean that the country's economic problems went away. The new government the Russians installed tried to solve them by introducing a certain measure of "market socialism" while strictly upholding the "leading role" (or political monopoly) of the Party

From Prague to Moscow
Ironically, twenty years later Russia is facing the same sort of economic problems as did Czechoslovakia, and Gorbachev has embraced the economic analysis and solution proposed by Ota Sik in 1968: the granting of autonomy to individual state enterprises to swim or sink in a competitive market situation.

For this is what the much-vaunted perestroika, or restructuring, amounts to. And like Dubcek. Gorbachev has met with resistance from conservative elements within the ruling class, those whose power and privileges are threatened by a relaxation of central, bureaucratic control over the economy. To overcome this Gorbachev too has appealed for support among the population in general, but unlike Dubcek has not for one moment questioned "the leading role of the Party"; and he has no intention of doing so. since he firmly believes that the Party should retain its monopoly of political power. All he wants is to overcome conservative resistance to the economic perestroika that has become necessary to revive Russia's stagnating economy. The furthest he is prepared to go in permitting activity outside Party control is local pressure groups over local issues such as preserving some historic building or opposing a road going through their back gardens.

Gorbachev would answer the three questions posed by Rude Pravo in May 1968. "Yes. the internal democratisation of a Communist Party does provide a sufficient guarantee of democracy”; "Yes, you can speak of democracy being socialist when the leading role is held only by the Communist Party", and "Yes. the Communist Party should carry out its leadership role through ruling over society". On this issue he is in complete agreement with his alleged rival Ligachev. who has declared that "the guarantee of the irreversability of perestroika is the Communist Party" (Observer, 5 June)

For Gorbachev does not believe in democracy. What he believes in is what used to be called "oligarchy". the rule of the few, in his case the leaders of the Communist Party. Nor do the constitutional measures he proposes — limitation on length of terms of office, secret ballots for the election of Party leaders, more power to Party members in Soviets — amount to a "democratisation" of the Party. All he is trying to devise is some method for renewing the cadres of the vanguard party so as to avoid a repetition of the recent government of Russia by sick and tired old men. The Communist Party will continue to be run from the top down even if those at the top are chosen differently (and even that remains to be seen: Khrushchev proposed the same sort of measures in 1960 and the Central Committee used its new powers to vote him out of office).

A collectively-owning state capitalist class such as exists in Russia recruits its members and leaders in a different way from the individually-owning private capitalist class in the West. The latter renews itself through inheritance and also by some small businessmen becoming richer, while the administration of its political affairs is left to politicians elected by a capitalist-minded populace. In Russia the ruling class is organised as a hierarchy — the Party — renewed by recruitment and promotion.

Gorbachev's concern is to provide mechanisms to enable younger and more dynamic people to rise to the top of the hierarchy without having to wait for their predecessors to die. so as to allow the Russian ruling class to pursue its interests at home and abroad more efficiently. This has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy, not even with the limited political democracy that exists in some Western countries. It is not a process of democratisation. but one of reorganisation of the promotion procedures within the Russian ruling class.
Adam Buick

Afghanistan: the Russian Withdrawal (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nine bloody years after their intervention in Afghanistan, the Russian army is finally pulling out. The government of Nahmud Berri is to be left to fend for itself against the Mujahadeen guerrilla alliance, which successfully tied down 155,000 troops for almost a decade. How are we to explain this abandonment of a “communist” ally to such an uncertain fate, given the scale of Moscow’s past support for the Afghan regime? The answer can be found in the operation of economic pressures on Russian decision makers.

In 1978, the government of Muhammed Daoud was overthrown in a coup led by the “Communist” Party of Afghanistan, the PDPA. The party was split into two antagonistic factions, and alarm bells started ringing in Moscow when the more radical wing, the “Kalq”, gained the upper hand and began pushing though far-reaching reforms. They aimed to transform Afghan society into a modern Russian-style state by expropriating the large landlords and attacking feudal social structures. These measures provoked bitter resistance, and within months the country was embroiled in an increasingly savage civil war.

At this point the Russian ruling class became seriously alarmed and tried, without success, to make the President, Hafizulla Amin, soften his position. The Ayatollah Khomeini had just been swept to power in neighbouring Iran, and the Russians were fearful that a similar regime of religious zealots might come to power. At best they would be anti-Russian, and at worst they could ally with Washington. US bases might even follow.

When it became clear that Amin would not be diverted, the Russians sent in their troops, stormed the presidential palace and executed him. In his place they installed Babrak Karmal of the moderate “parcham” faction of the PDPA, and set about trying to win the war. Thus the intervention was about putting a stop to the revolutionary process before it threatened the strategic interests of the Russian Empire.

So why, nine years later and with the war still not won, has the Russian leadership decided on a withdrawal? The dominant factor was the sheer cost of the occupation, not only in maintaining a huge garrison through a war which was unwinable but also in the unseen burdens it was placing on the Russian state.

The process of “Perestroika” is not merely a passing fad of the western media, but involves the very survival of the Russian ruling class. To allow their crumbling economy to stagger on in its present form is to invite relative and eventually absolute decline, which would marginalise the country in the world economy and could prejudice the political and even the territorial integrity of the state. Russian industry simply must become competitive in the world market, and to this end will require vast amounts of capital and new technology, expanding markets and cheap sources of energy and raw materials.

This is the context in which the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan must be seen. As we saw in the case of changing attitudes towards the Korean Peninsula, the primary goal of Russian foreign policy is now regional stability and the reduction of tension. Such a climate is crucial if trade and foreign investment are to be successfully encouraged.

The Afghan war has long been a major source of tension with China, the “third world” and the West. The Chinese government has consistently maintained that the occupation of Afghanistan was one of three obstacles to the normalisation of relations with the Russians {the other two being border disputes and the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea). The Afghan withdrawal will significantly speed up the recent rapprochement between the two states, and this will produce immense benefits for the Russian ruling class. Not only will it allow them to make further reductions in their half million strong forces guarding the Chinese border, but it will also help force the pace of growing trading links.

As far as the “third world’. is concerned, recently released Kremlin documents show that some officials appreciated at the time of the invasion the disastrous effects it would have on Russia’s position in the region, particularly with the Islamic nations, whose friendship was necessary for the economy and overall security. These fears proved well founded, particularly in the case of Pakistan and the Arab world.

Finally, the occupation of Afghanistan was one of the factors {along with the imposition of martial law in Poland) which provided the pretext for the United States to launch the “second cold war” of the early 1980s. Most distressing of all to the Russians was the curtailing of trade credits and the tougher restrictions placed on the export of “sensitive” technologies to the Eastern bloc. The recent summit in Moscow demonstrated the value the Russians now place on restoring conditions in which these restrictions can be removed.

It would, however, be wrong to suppose that the Russians are completely abandoning their interests in Afghanistan. They have a large economic stake in the northern oil and gas fields around Jauzan, and army leaders have made a series of agreements with local tribal chiefs {the same “forces of reaction” against whom they are supposedly waging a life or death struggle) to safeguard their interests. Moreover, recent reports suggest that they have pushed the Afghan government into creating what amounts to a buffer state in the north, under the guise of an “administrative reorganisation” , which would serve to protect their real strategic and economic stake in the country should the central government collapse (Guardian, 23 April).

Withdrawal from Afghanistan does not herald a new, more “peaceful” era in international affairs. The foreign policy of the Russian ruling class, like their Western counterparts, cannot afford to renounce war as an instrument for securing their interests. Indeed, they have already warned Pakistan and the United States that the withdrawal will be halted unless they stop supplying arms to the guerrillas. However, economic pressures have proved stronger than the strategic worries which were behind the original invasion and which remain unresolved. This makes the further use of force unlikely, not because Gorbachev is any more pacifically inclined than previous leaders, but because the weakness of the economy leaves him with little real choice.
Andrew Thomas

Armenia: the Background to Events (1988)

From the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following is an abridged text of a contribution from a supporter to a recent Socialist Party meeting on the theme of “Ethnic Unrest in the Russian State Capitalist Empire”. It provides a background for understanding the current territorial dispute in the Caucasus.
Who are the Armenians?
As a major crossroads, a land rich in natural resources, and an excellent base for military operations against rival powers in the surrounding lowlands, Armenia has been coveted by powerful empires. Often its possession was the key to supremacy over much of Western Asia. From the West came the armies of the Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine empires; from the East, the armies of the Persian, Turkic and Mongol empires; from the South those of the Seleucid, Arab and Mameluk empires, and from the North the Russian empire. All the wars were similar in that they brought people suffering, destruction and death; what changed were the names of the foreign and “native” rulers.

The resulting insecurity of life ruined the country economically and culturally and prompted thousands of Armenians to flee. Colonies were established in Poland, Crimea, India, Constantinople, as well as commercial and cultural centres in Venice, Genoa, Amsterdam, Moscow and elsewhere. It was in these colonies that, centuries later, the first stirrings of the Armenian emancipatory notion took form, such as the demand for Armenian independence on the principle of constitutional rule.

In historical Armenia itself, Moslem settlements rose on the sites of former Armenian cities or adjacent to still existing Armenian villages. The process of ethnic transmutation gradually led to Turkic Moslem dominance. Of those Armenians who remained, most eventually lost their lands to the military feudal states that embraced the region. Accompanying loss of government, ethnic alteration and economic regression was intellectual, cultural and moral decline. Karl Marx mentions “the invasion of the Turks into Asia Minor as one of the direst calamities of the Middle Ages”.

The Eastern Question
Russian expansion into the Caucasus occurred when Modem Western capitalism was becoming the most pervasive force in international relations, and when technologically-backward states such as the Ottoman and Persian realms were being integrated into the world market system. What once were issues of local significance acquired implications for major power relations, and decisions taken in Europe affected the lives of peoples in remote areas of the globe.

The gradual decline of Turkish rule in the Balkans was to offer a vast field for Russian expansionism. The ultimate fate of these territories constituted the Eastern Question and particularly concerned two of the major powers, Great Britain and Austria.

For British capitalism the principal aim was to ensure that the Russian Black Sea fleet could not enter the eastern Mediterranean. So, Britain supported Turkey against Russian advancement. But when the emergence of the German Empire in 1871 was followed by the gradual succumbing of Turkey to German influence, Britain was to swing round to friendship and eventually wartime alliance with Russia, to whom by 1915 she was even ready to offer the control of the straits of Dardanelle.

For Austria, any kind of change in the Balkans was bound to be for the worse. The Hapsburgs naturally objected to further Russian expansion, and the carving of independent states out of Turkey-in-Europe would become a focal point for the Slav nationalist groups within the Hapsburg dominions.

Russian policy, in fact, did not aim at immediate acquisition. Given the imperialist rivalries, Russia’s plans were based rather on a gradual extension of influence under the guise of a protectorate over all orthodox Christians.

The emergence of Armenian national consciousness lagged behind that of the Balkan peoples, so that by the time the Armenians had formulated their programme for reform, self-rule and even political autonomy, the Ottoman Empire was entrenched in a period of reaction. To the Turkish government, threatened with the final partition of their dominions. Armenian demands were separatist, disloyal and dangerous.

But neither the British proposals for reform, nor the increase in the number of European consuls on the plateau, nor the subsequent notes of protest and warning from the six European powers against the deteriorating situation there improved things in Turkish Armenia. In fact, Abdul Hamid the ruler of the Ottoman Empire’s response to European meddling was the massacre of more than 200,000 Armenians during 1895-6.

The Armenian nationalist movement
The Ottoman constitutional reform movement and Armenian liberalism had both failed. Revolutionary political parties then emerged, organised primarily by elements from the peasants, artisans and radicalised segments of the intelligentsia.

The first Armenian political party, the Hunchak party, was founded in Geneva in 1887 by Eastern (or Russian) Armenians. The founders had all been born in the Russian Empire and had been members of Narodnik groups. They had a conceptual framework which related the particular Armenian experience to larger, universal historical forces and were committed to the cause of the common people. The Hunchak party claimed in fact to be socialist but wanted to keep the two struggles, national and class, apart. Thus national independence was seen as the first priority and the establishment of a socialist order the ultimate goal, to be established after the achievement of national independence.

The second Armenian political party was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) founded in 1890 in Tbilisi, in Russian Georgia.

Until 1900 Russian Armenians generally filled the role of suppliers and supporters of the struggle in Ottoman Armenia. But the Tsarist government’s edict ordering the expropriation of Armenian church properties and the Armano-Tartar conflict at the time of the 1905 Russian revolution brought to the surface the question of political and economic oppression in Russian Armenia.

The fourth General Congress of the ARF, in Vienna in 1907, drew the conclusion from this new development that in essence Armenians on both sides of the border were engaged in a single revolution since in both sectors the struggle was against political despotism, national oppression and economic exploitation; the differences in the levels of economic and political development between the two empires required a different emphasis of activities rather than a different struggle or organisation in each.

The programme adopted further stated that socialism strives toward the elimination of an barriers and discrimination among nations and toward the creation of a single harmonious humanity that would replace today’s divided and antagonistic contradictory world; but that socialism does not require the total assimilation of national entities which, through the inherited peculiarities of their history will enrich the future socialist humanity.

However, events beyond the control of the political parties of the Armenian people during and after the first world war overtook the theories, thwarting the national programme and pre-empting the socialist ideal.

”Who recalls the Armenian massacres nowadays?”
The Sultan’s rule had become unbearable for some Turkish patriotic groups who saw clearly the decline and destruction of their empire. Turkish leaders like Ahmed Riza believed that only the institution of efficient just government could save the Ottoman Empire from dissolution.

The Armenian parties, especially the ARF, found cause here to renew their hopes for reforms in the Ottoman Empire and its eastern provinces. They consulted, negotiated and co-operated with prominent Young Turks and in 1908 when the Young Turks took control of the Ottoman government and proclaimed a Constitution, jubilant Armenians welcomed the dawn of a new era; Armenian guerrillas laid down their arms.

The era of Armeno-Turkish co-operation did not last long. The more liberal-democratic elements in the Young Turk Committee of Union and Progress lost control and a new ruling clique gravitated towards extreme nationalism. The Committee of Union and Progress embraced the policy of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism and began to entertain ideas of expansion towards the East. The first setback of the constitutional movement in 1909 was accompanied by the massacre of 30,000 Armenians.

In 1914 the European powers began their war for a re-division of the world market. An agreement had already been concluded between Germany and Turkey. The Turkish government sought to give the war a religious aspect and one pamphlet prepared with German help urged Moslems to slaughter Christians (except Germans and Austrians). The extermination of the Armenians was agreed upon and the means of carrying it out were devised.

The genocide started as early as January 1915. Three-and-a-half million Armenians lived in Western Armenia before the genocide and over two million were massacred, while those who miraculously remained alive fled abroad. The Turkish authorities hoped that, after the inevitable initial wave of international indignation, the massacres would soon be forgotten. They weren’t mistaken: twenty-five years later another assassin by the name of Adolf Hitler relied on the same “forgetfulness” when sending his SS butchers to invade Poland, urging them to be brutal and merciless with the remark “who recalls the Armenian massacres nowadays?”

The Armenian republic and Soviet rule
The collapse of Tsarism in 1917 led to the disintegration of its Empire in the Caucasus as elsewhere. In May 1918 following a brief and unsuccessful attempt at federation, the three major groups, the Georgians, the Azeris (Turkish-speaking Moslems) and the Armenians all declared their independence.

The Armenian Republic began its existence on about 12,000 square kilometres of bleak, rugged terrain, crammed with refugees, devoid of the bare essentials of life and surrounded by hostile forces. Famine and epidemics killed more than 200,000.

The defeat of the Central Powers in the war transformed Armenia’s disadvantages into seeming advantages. From the Allied point of view Georgia and Azerbaijan had collaborated with the defeated enemy powers whereas battered Armenia stood as the loyal martyred nation.

While the Allied Powers drew up plans to partition the Ottoman Empire without facing up to the fact that the terms would have to be enforced by military means in Turkish Armenia, Mustafa Kemal and other Turkish resistance leaders sought Soviet support in the struggle against their common enemies. The Soviet leaders, in their turn, recognised the potential aid that Turkish influence could play in stirring up the Muslim colonial world against the Western powers, thereby saving the Bolshevik government and the Soviet state.

On 2 December 1920 Armenia became a “Soviet Socialist Republic” and Soviet Russia acknowledged as indisputable parts of that state all lands that had been under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Independent Republic. But on the international level Soviet Russia sacrificed the Armenian question to cement the Turkish alliance. In 1921 it ceded Karabagh and Nakhidgevan to Soviet Azerbaidjani rule while the provinces of Kara and Ardahan, which were a part of Russian Armenia from 1878 to 1917, were ceded to Turkey. The European Powers too closed the Armenian question. It was bitterly ironic for the Armenians that of the several defeated Central Powers Turkey alone expanded beyond its pre-1914 boundaries and this only on the Armenian border.

Sovietisation has been acclaimed as the salvation of the Armenian people and the best defence available against Turkish expansion, which in 1920 could have resulted in the uprooting of the Russian Armenian population as had happened in Turkey. But Sovietisation has not prevented Armenian nationalist agitation. In 1965 the official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Genocide was interrupted by violent outbursts by young demonstrators in Yerevan demanding action “to recover lost lands”, in particular Karabagh. In the early 1970s Soviet courts tried, convicted and imprisoned a number of activists who had joined together as a “National Union Party”.

Consistent charges have been made against Soviet Azerbaidjan of a continued policy of cultural oppression, economic discrimination and ethnic disadvantages against the Armenians of Karabagh. In 1975 many Armenians were ousted from the Communist Party in Karabagh or imprisoned and charged with nationalist agitation. Since the coming to power of Gorbachev the demand for the transfer of Karabagh from Azerbaidjan to Armenia has been renewed with even more force, culminating in mass demonstrations in the streets of Yerevan of recent months.
Vahe Stephanian

Between the Lines: A speculative review (1988)

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

What will TV be like in a socialist society? Will there be TV in a socialist society? Will viewers be glued to it with the mindless dedication that so many of us are today? There are no categorical answers but, as your devoted reviewer has not watched any telly in the last month, what else is there to do but indulge in some speculation?

TV today is produced by a small group of people, controlled by an even smaller one. and consumed by those not generally on it (except when called on to pull their trousers down on Game for a Laugh, sit in the Wogan audience or be surprised by Cilia Black dropping in to tell them that they are the best granny in Lancashire). Like most services under capitalism, production and consumption are separated. The producers have a view of the consumers which borders on contempt; the consumers are encouraged to look up to their media informers and entertainers, as if being on TV makes them somehow more wise, more talented, more worthy of attention than their pathetic performances merit. In a socialist society it is hard to imagine that TV will provide a fixed, prepackaged spectacle to be watched unthinkingly by consumers who have no part in its production.

A democratic society will permit free access to the means of communication. There will be no state to monopolise broadcasting — no controlling class — no advertisers to decide what they will finance and what offends them. The right to communicate using the sophisticated means now developed will belong to all members of the community.

TV cannot be national in a society which has rid itself of states and borders. To be sure, there could well be local TV appealing to diverse language and cultural groups which will in all probability flourish in a socialist world. There could also be worldwide TV services, using satellites to link the human family and allowing us to communicate as inhabitants of a single global village.

Being democratic, socialism will not allow TV to be simply a one-way means of communication. When linked to modern information technology, TV could be used to inform viewers and allow them to respond. Socialists are asked how real community democracy could work in a society of millions of people; interactive TV is one practical answer to that question. Also, democratic TV would not transmit images offensive to large numbers of viewers, such as the objectification of women as sex symbols or racist stereotypes of blacks, both of which are key features of the capitalist media. Not only would majority concerns be catered for by socialist TV. but it is hard to imagine that minority views, interests and tastes would not be provided for to an extent undreamed of under capitalism, where output tends to be market-based.

Many of the needs which capitalist TV has to provide for would not be required in socialist TV. Advertising will be superfluous in a society without buying or selling. Would we need to watch soap operas, creating artificial communities and make-believe friendships, in a world of real community? Will people want to see stand-up comedians pandering to fears and prejudices? To what extent would members of a co-operative, socialist society want to bother themselves with the antics of competitive sport7 Will there be such phenomenon as "the news", which under capitalism is a euphemism for "what we, your informers, consider to be important"?

In a socialist society men and women will be too busy doing things to waste years of their lives watching other people on a screen. Why watch music when you can make it? Why sit and passively observe a studio debate when you could be talking to your friends? Why be stimulated by a screen when you could be stimulated by the real world?

TV in a socialist society would undoubtedly be a forum for education in the broadest sense. Rival ideas could be debated, theories floated, new issues raised, artistic expression given full reign TV could be a medium for sharing ideas, not just about nuclear physics or historical studies but about cooking and rugby tackling or stories worth passing on simply because they are good yarns Those who liked capitalism could show war films and pictures of starving babies, closed-down hospitals and crowded tube trains. They could even have Sir Robin Day to introduce the programmes, just to be sure that everyone knows they are only hair-serious.

Socialism will be what those who establish it want; we can do no more than put forward ideas. Maybe once the madness of the profit system is past, we will all sit down with packets of salted nuts and cans of gassy lager and watch Neighbours and Miami Vice. But then, maybe not.
Steve Coleman

Sickness and Wealth (1988)

Book Review from the August 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Inequalities of Health: The Black Report edited by Peter Townsend and Nick Davidson; The Health Divide by Margaret Whitehead. Penguin Books. £4.95

This book brings together the 1980 Report of the Working Group on Inequalities in Health (the Black Report) and the 1987 Health Education Council's report. "The Health Divide". The controversy caused by the Government's heavy-handed attempts to restrict the distribution and influence of both will probably guarantee that Inequalities in Health will be much more widely read than publications of this type usually are, the Black Report having been available in only 260 duplicated copies when submitted to the Secretary of State. "The Health Divide" was published in March 1987 just after the government had announced the Council's dissolution.

The Black Report examines inequalities in health up to the late 1970s. with international comparisons; regional differences in mortality; housing tenure and mortality; race and health; the influence of gender on health; and occupational differences in health A wealth of statistical data demonstrates conclusively that “At any age people in occupational class five have a higher rate of death than their better off counterparts" and "At birth and during the first month of life the risk of death in families of unskilled workers is double that of professional families" (p43). From the first month to the first year of life the gap widens still further, with deaths of male infants of unskilled manual workers three times higher than those of professional workers, and the ratio for female infants is higher still. The part played by bad housing, poor environments and poverty can be seen by the fact that accidents and respiratory diseases are responsible for the excess of deaths in infancy.

A fundamental principle of the National Health Service purports to be the provision of equal access to health care regardless of personal means, but the Black Report found clear evidence that people in higher income groups make better use of available facilities. Data Collected from other countries confirm the link between poverty and ill health: although greater resources allocated to maternity services and infant welfare have succeeded in reducing infant mortality rates in Denmark and Finland, a class bias remains.

A comparison between health inequalities today and in Victorian Britain prompts the Report to state:
 Poverty is also a relative concept, and those who are unable to share the amenities or facilities provided within a rich society, or who are unable to fulfil the social and occupational obligations placed upon them by virtue of their limited resources, can properly be regarded as poor. They may also be relatively disadvantaged in relation to the risks of illness or accident or the factors positively promoting ill health (p107).
And even in old age:
 To have secure employment and an above-average income when one is at work is to be better able to provide for one's retirement. It is in this way that continuity in the distribution of material welfare is sustained. and inequalities in health perpetuated, from the cradle to the grave (p 125).
In setting out plans for improving health the Black Report is at its weakest because it fails to appreciate that capitalism functions by exploiting workers' labour power and cannot be made to work in our interests.

"The Health Divide" is a shorter report that confirms and updates the evidence collected in the Black Report. It looks at the much publicised "North-South divide" and finds that, while there are higher rates of chronic disease in the North of England. Scotland and Wales, there are also marked regional variations: "In Sheffield, for instance, there was a difference in men's life expectancy of over eight years between the most affluent and the most deprived wards' (p247). It examines "life-styles" more closely than the Black Report and concludes that behaviour is less important than poverty in accounting for health inequalities. Smoking, for example, may help some working class women cope with their stressful workload.

In the years between the appearance of the Black Report and "The Health Divide" the problems of poverty and bad housing persisted, and grew even more severe for large numbers of workers. Research in the future will be more difficult because the Registrar General's Office stopped analysing mortality rates for different occupational groups in 1986. to avoid the embarrassing conclusion that the health gap between rich and poor is widening The solutions put forward to eliminate health differences are similar in both studies and have no prospect of success whatsoever. The reforms of the past have eased some of the misery at the margins of poverty while allowing the system of exploitation to function intact; this book provides proof that capitalism is bad for our health without even considering its replacement.
Carl Pinel

Rear View: Help! (2019)

The Rear View Column from the January 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Help!
Last year Save the Children issued an emergency alert: ‘In war-torn Yemen, 85,000 children may have died from starvation since start of crisis. Families are forced to choose between food and other necessities, like water and medicine. 13 million people face starvation – many of them children. Please help.’ Nobody can fail to be moved by the pictures and accounts of the latest group of people starving unnecessarily. It really is an obscene crime against humanity that people should be dying of starvation in a world which is not only capable of producing enough to feed everybody but even has enough food stockpiled to stop it straightaway. Help comes with understanding: food, like every other commodity in the modern world, is produced primarily for profit, as this headline from Asia Times (31 October) attests: ‘In Yemen, plenty of food but few have the cash to buy it’. And: ‘While agriculture and food distribution suffer from the war, food remains available in markets across the country — but few can afford it. “All kinds of food and other items are available in the market. The problem is not a shortage of food in markets but that we do not have money to buy food that is now expensive,” Sofi said’ (Middle East Eye, 9 November).


Want
Such analysis by two mainstream media outlets puts that of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International to shame. An article titled ‘At least 85,000 child deaths in Yemen highlight Saudi-US war crimes’ (wsws.org, 23 November) blames American imperialism and fails to mention that those with money in Yemen can, and do, have access to food as well as medicine. To be sure, Yemen being the battlefield for one of capitalism’s endemic wars complicates matters — and whenever war breaks out it is our class which suffers the most — but famines only affect those whose access to money or land has collapsed for some reason. Famines are a social not a natural phenomenon.


War
Wars are never fought in our interests. War often results when conflicts of interest between states over markets, sources of raw materials, energy supplies, trade routes, exploitable populations and areas of strategic importance cannot be resolved by other means. The article ‘Yemen Genocide About Oil Control’ (globalresearch.ca, 20 November) supports this view. ‘Yemen is a strategically key geopolitical stretch of land at the critical connecting point of the Red Sea which links to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. It’s the site of one of the world’s most strategic shipping choke points, the Bab el Mandab, a narrow passage a mere 18 miles distance from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, making it one of the US Department of Energy’s Oil Transit Chokepoints. According to the US Department of Energy an estimated 4.7 million barrels of oil passes through Bab el Mandab in both directions daily, including oil bound for China.’ The same article concludes: ‘[Prince Mohammed bin] Salman not surprisingly claimed it was a war of Iran-led “imperialists” against the forces of Saudi-led “freedom-loving” Sunnis. China now has its first overseas military base across from Yemen in Djibouti, next door to the US whose Camp Lemonnier is the largest American permanent military base in Africa. Former colonial occupier France is also there. There is far more at stake in Yemen than we are being told.’


Peace?
When some semblance of peace is restored and the strategic port of Hodeidah is once again open for business, any food aid which arrives will likely be calculated using capitalism’s calculus. Protecting the market for food in Yemen is in fact a key factor shaping the so-called ‘food aid’ policies of governments and the UN. They know that to make available for free distribution anything but minimal amounts of food per starving person would be to undermine local markets and local market-oriented production, leading to more people coming to lose their access rights to food. And of course they are right. Given the market system this is exactly what would happen. So, quite apart from financial cost considerations, they deliberately limit the amount of free food they supply. Market forces will likely prevent the immediate starvation in Yemen being solved in the way that it would be, almost literally overnight, in a sane society, one that would have to be based on the common ownership of resources: transporting the food from the warehouses of Europe to the towns and villages of the former country of Yemen.