Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Future of Sir Stafford Cripps (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

If it be the aim of a politician to have all men speak well of him, Sir Stafford Cripps must be feeling proud of himself on his entry into the War Cabinet. This step was proposed by the Times and others early last year, was duly taken up by newspapers of all political complexions—if, that is, the reader can now distinguish between one complexion and another—and is hailed by Moscow and the Communists. Apart from some hundreds of millions of people in the Axis nations all the world appears to love Sir Stafford.

After early scientific training he was Assistant Superintendent of a large Government explosives factory during the last war, then became a very successful lawyer, and was reputed to earn £25,000 a year. Joining the Labour Party in 1928 he was Solicitor-General in the Labour Government in 1931. During the Abyssinian War he resigned from the Labour Party Executive because he opposed the policy of “sanctions” by the League of Nations against Italy. Later on he was expelled by the Labour Party for running a “Popular Front” campaign against Labour Party policy. 

Born into a strongly Conservative family, he had the support of the Liberal News-Chronicle in his quarrels with the Labour Party over the “Popular Front” early in 1939. At that time he was denouncing a short-lived Churchill group called the “Hundred Thousand” movement on the ground that its object, though nominally democratic, was really “to capture the youth for reactionary imperialism.” It might, he feared, be leading youth “ into what are substantially Fascist paths." He has often had the approval of the Communists and is now much favoured by the Russian Government following his work as Ambassador to Moscow. 

During an earlier campaign for “Socialism in our Time,” he urged that it might become necessary to suspend ordinary Parliamentary procedure. At the Labour Party Conference in May, 1939, he strongly opposed the idea of a National Government, though four years before he had said that the Baldwin National Government had “done quite well for a capitalist Government. . . . There is really very little case at all for an alternative Government within the capitalist system.” He has claimed at times that Socialism must be the paramount aim of the Labour Party, though when he launched his “Popular Front” campaign he frankly stated that it meant putting Socialism “into cold storage.” The idea of the Cripps Popular Front was that all the “genuine friends of democracy,” Liberal, Labour, Communist and Conservative (but excluding the Churchill group) should get together on a limited programme of reforms in order to save democracy at home and abroad; yet not long before Sir Stafford had argued that it would be fatal to do “as the Social-Democrats did in Germany; that is combine with any anti-Fascist forces for the sake of saving democracy.” “That way,” he said, “lies disaster.” “We must, then, firmly and definitely abandon any idea of working in association with any other political group or party that denies the absolute necessity of Socialism.” (Quoted in Daily Herald, 2nd March, 1939.) At one time he distinguished himself as a critic of the Monarchy.

It will be seen that he has been everything in turn and nothing long, and his much-praised brilliant legal mind seems to be chiefly effective in persuading him that his sincerely held but shallow notions of any given moment are the last word in political wisdom for the human race.

It is not easy to discern exactly where he stands at present. Perhaps he does not know himself, hence his remark, “I want to sit on a back bench in the House of Commons for a while and think.” (This was, of course, just prior to his appointment to the War Cabinet.)

On February 8th, 1942, he delivered a speech at Bristol. He dealt with many things, but according to the published reports the one thing he did not deal with was Socialism and his attitude to it. He showed that he is not overmuch enamoured of Russian State Capitalism (which he called "Communism”) and went out of his way to dissociate himself from much that he saw in Russia.
  There is in Communism a great deal to be admired. There is a great deal which one would not wish to see in one’s own country.—"Daily Mail,” February 10th, 1942.
When he dealt with the future that he wishes to see he appears to envisage in this country some kind of State capitalism allied with democratic parliamentary methods.
  Shall we be able to face up to the new conditions after the war? Shall we be able to recognise the need which has been taught us for a planned economy side by side with a liberal culture? Can we try to combine the best of the systems that are to-day fighting for world survival?—“Manchester Guardian," February 9th, 1942.
It may be gathered from this that he admires Russian State planning and wants it combined with the political system existing here. He never was a Socialist though he regarded his reformist and State capitalist notions as Socialism, and it may be taken that at the moment he is not particularly anxious even to claim that he is a Socialist.

Some twelve years ago Lord Baldwin tipped him as "a future Conservative Prime Minister,” His present appointment certainly brings the forecast nearer to fulfilment and the uncertainties of war-time and post-war politics may yet land him in that august position; to the eventual deep disgust of his "left wing” Labour Party admirers, among whom the S.P.G.B. has never been numbered.
Edgar Hardcastle

The New, Old Capitalism (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many attempts have been made by propagandists to explain the dictatorships of Germany, Russia and Italy, and all manage to find some central theme upon which to build their case.

Some say it is the work of evil men (although Stalin is getting a good press now). Some argue a case for a Capitalist anti-labour conspiracy, instancing Italian and German suppression of democrats and socialists.

The Trotskyists formulate a case in which they allege that Russia had her “Socialist” revolution betrayed by Stalin and his bureaucrats, who have turned Lenin’s "dictatorship of the proletariat” into the dictatorship over the proletariat.

Enough has been said to illustrate the diversity of opinion regarding this vexed subject.

The Socialist views Capitalism as one whole cloth which, although woven into different patterns, and sometimes of mixed materials, nevertheless has one basic texture—the exploitation of the workers by a class that lives on the surplus, over and above that which the worker receives as his wages.

Now whether this class is organised as a bureaucracy as in the dictator countries and adopts such nomenclatures as Communists, Fascists, or National-Socialists, it does not detract from the fact that they are eaters of surplus value, and that the system which they have erected is nothing but collective or State Capitalism. The fact that in the dictator countries the population have had no long democratic experience has made it fairly easy for "great leaders” to be swept into power, and to declare a dictatorship. Moreover, it is no mere accident that some 300 million people have been cajoled to accept the Totalitarian method of running capitalism, for implicit in the cry "away with Democracy” has been the imperative drive for war and the "liquidation” of recalcitrant minorities or independent groups, these being described in Russia as wreckers and Trotskyists, and in Italy and Germany as Jews or Communists. Trade unions are merged into the State set-up—one party rules, the party organising the country for "Total War.”

The setting up of State or collective Capitalism has spelt the end of Liberal or laissez-faire doctrine (the right to do what you will with your own), because private property must fall in line with the needs of the State.

The worker under dictatorship finds that whereas he was dismissed, say, for lateness, by a private capitalist, that now a State ordinance decrees that he shall be fined or imprisoned; his "Trade Union” officials are party bosses, and he has lost the legal right to strike or bargain for the sale price of his labour power. He must listen to State propaganda only, and his power to elect representatives of his own choice is limited to a panel put forward by the ruling clique, which allows of no opposition. Such is the necessarily brief sketch of a regimenting capitalism which the workers will one day break with surprising results; the fight will be more for independence and freedom of speech than for mere bread.

The curtain may go up on a stage set for a real leap forward in human endeavour to solve this age old problem of class ownership of the means of producing wealth, with its privileged position for the few, and social inferiority for the many. The workers will see that this jungle we call capitalism can be organised into different forms going under various titles, with appropriate "ideologies” to match, with its protagonists all proclaiming the virtues of their respective set-up using such euphemisms as "A new social order,” "A new civilisation,” or even "The workers’ state,” which only result in a new set of bosses. There are now indeed few more mistakes that the workers can possibly make.

And now, probably, Socialism—the real democracy which has the common ownership of the means of production and distribution as its basis—will become a real live issue.
Frank Dawe

Socialism and Anarchism - Part 1 (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many workers whose active interest in politics goes back a generation or more would, until recently, have said that Anarchism had passed away for ever from English working class politics. In the years after the last war, Anarchism, never a large movement in this country, appeared to have all but died. The flickering life of a small monthly journal, Freedom (when it appeared) was the only evidence that Anarchist ideas anywhere survived. Maybe the ideas of the Third International and its appeal to certain sections of the workers left little elbow room for Anarchist doctrines and groups in which to grow. Maybe, also, the re-appearance in recent years of Anarchist doctrines and groups is in some part due to the disappearance of much of the original Bolshevik doctrines and theories from the shop windows of the parties affiliated to the Third International, in favour of more expedient policies. In any event, for whatever reason, Anarchist ideas are experiencing a new appearance of life, and whilst the influence is not considerable, and perhaps non-existent among organised workers, there is evidence of a well supported movement, publishing a monthly journal and other literature.

It is insufficient to say that Anarchism is anti-authoritarian, and is as old as mankind. So far as Anarchism has any relationship with working class problems or aspirations, it, like Socialism, has its roots in Capitalism. It is not accidental that some of the best known founders of Anarchist doctrines were contemporaries of Marx and Engels. As an attempt to deal with the social problems of capitalism and provide a solution for them, both Anarchism and Socialism grew directly out of capitalism. An examination of the ideas and methods of both, therefore, would assist in throwing them into contrast. The scientific approach of Marx and Engels to these problems took certain fundamental propositions as a starting point. These were: That the first conditions imposed by nature upon man is that he should work; that before he could evolve ideas and social institutions he must be able to live: that the manner society gets living is the basis upon which is built the superstructure of society. Before, therefore, there could be sound judgment of social and governmental institutions it was necessary to understand their relationship with the basis of society. In his examination Marx revealed the workings of the capitalist form of society. The solution, he pointed out, for the contradictions of capitalism was simple, though profound: it was social ownership of the means and instruments of production. In a society where the means and instruments of production were social in character but were privately owned no other solution was possible which would abolish the contradictions arising out of that private ownership. Socialism, therefore, was a new social order which would involve a complete and revolutionary transformation in social relations and institutions. The essence of the Marxist position (the scientific Socialist position) is that social institutions cannot be transformed, nor social problems solved, without first of all altering the basis upon which these institutions rest and with which social problems are bound up. Poverty and insecurity could not be abolished whilst private ownership in the means and instruments of production remained. The State, as a social institution and organ of coercion, could not disappear whilst private property in the means of living, the interests of which it existed to defend and conserve, remained. Social problems had their roots in capitalism as a social system. They could not be solved separately and apart from the revolutionary transformation involved in the change from private ownership to social ownership. Any attempt to solve the effects of Capitalism leads to reformism and failure so far as concerns the fundamental problems of capitalism and their solution.

What are the basic ideas of Anarchism? Can it be said that they grasp the fact of the interrelation of all social problems and their dependence on the basic fact of the private ownership of the means and instruments of production? It can be said that not one Anarchist of the 19th century, or contemporary of Marx, grasped this simple truth. Neither Kropotkin, Bakunin or Proudhon advocated the common ownership of the means and instruments of production. Rather than abolish private ownership they advocated more private ownership, an increase in the number of small holders. Kropotkin in his writings repeatedly held up the craft guilds of the Middle Ages as an example of workers owning their own means of production and being organised in small, independent communities, which could exist without the necessity of State interference, and which could exist independently of the State. The picture that Kropotkin drew was very pretty, but as a solution to the problems of a working class organised on a basis of social production, the majority of whom are not handicraftsmen, it was pure romanticism. The workers in capitalist society are organised nationally and internationally in their millions by the very nature of the production forces. The workers are a class carrying out social productive functions as a class and not as independent producers. To attempt to organise such workers as independent producers would involve not the conversion of the social productive forces—the means and instruments of production—into the common property of society, but the destruction of the productive forces themselves. Instead of society having to face the problems it does to-day it would have to face problems similar to those of earlier phases of industrial development. The idea that society could reverse historical development and create independent producers out of its proletarians is fantastic. Such ideas can only arise out of failure to appreciate the nature of capitalist production. That lack of understanding prevailed among the Anarchists yesterday and still does to-day. Nowhere does current Anarchist literature refute the immaturity of the ideas of its earlier founders. Rather does it endorse them and hold them up for approval. One difference is perhaps the conception of Syndicalism which attempts to adapt Anarchist ideas to modern industry. The following is a quotation from an Anarcho-Syndicalist Declaration of Principles quoted by Rudolf Rocker in his book, “Anarcho-Syndicalism, Theory and Practice” (page 142):
  Revolutionary Syndicalism is the confirmed enemy of economic and social monopoly, and aims at its abolition by economic communes and administrative organs of field and factory workers on the basis of a free system of councils entirely liberated from any subordination to any government or political party. Against the politics of the State and of parties, it erects the economic organisation of labour; against the government of men it sets up the management of things. Consequently, it has for its object not the conquest of political power, but the abolition of every State function in social life. It considers that, along with the monopoly of property, should disappear also the monopoly of domination, and that any form of the State, including the dictatorship of the Proletariat, will always be the creator of new monopolies and new privileges; it could never be an instrument of liberation.
Here again can be seen that the emphasis is against “monopoly” and “domination” and the “State.” There is no understanding that social ownership is the logical sequence to the development of the productive forces and the only solution to working class problems, leading incidentally to the “withering away” of the State. It is the modern version of Kropotkin’s mediaeval conception of small producers organised into communes.

It is a reactionary proposal which would lead to disaster and despair.
Harry Waite

(To be continued.)

Link to Part 2

Socialism For The Newcomer (1942)

From the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

You told me, Mr. Newcomer, that you were fed up. Something was wrong. You worked hard, and studied your master’s interest. Seldom drank, didn’t bet or waste your money. But you never seemed to get on. The wife wasn’t the same now, either. Always dissatisfied. Seemed to think that it was your fault, that you were a failure. So you took to going to our meetings. You said you couldn’t always understand. The speaker didn’t get down to the language of the man in the street. Well, don’t blame the speaker. He has enough to contend with, and he cannot please everyone. Why not buy The Socialist Standard regularly each month, and read the articles? You see, they are written for you and your pals. I don’t think you will find scientific Socialism so hard to understand. Anyway, isn’t it worth it. A few minutes’ study, once a month, in order to understand and to gain the knowledge required to sweep away the troubles and evils which are ruining your life, and the life of your wife too.

There is an old song, Mr. Newcomer, the people sometimes sing. It goes, “Britons never, never shall be slaves.” Most of the people have a queer distorted idea of what slavery is. Usually, they think of coloured men being driven on by the overseer with a long whip. Others think of “enslaved peoples” under Hitler. Then again, sometimes one hears of miners being referred to as “slaves of the lamp,” and so on. It’s rather amusing that the average worker would be very much on his dignity if this epithet of “slave” was applied to himself. So, Mr. Newcomer, if you really wish to understand the implications of Socialism, you must expect some shocks. Truth is not always palatable.

When you left school, the first thing you did was to look for a job, because you had to start and earn your living. You had to obtain the wherewithal to provide yourself with food, clothing and shelter. Whatever happens, you must pay your rent. But we are going too fast, Mr. Newcomer. Before you began work you either wrote a letter in answer to an advertisement, or you just called in and enquired if a boy was wanted. If you wrote a letter, you started off with "Sir,” and after anxiously informing the employer that you were strong, healthy and honest, you probably pleaded for an interview at his convenience, and finished up by signing yourself “Your humble servant.” On the other hand, if you called at a shop or factory where you knew “hands” were being taken on, you carefully brushed your clothes first, polished your boots, and donned a clean collar. In fact, you made yourself as smart and presentable as possible. You see, you cannot sell dirty goods usually, and you were selling something, although you didn’t know it. Later on, perhaps, you wished to change your job, in order to better yourself, or perhaps your services were dispensed with. So you went through the same performance again. No doubt you have repeated the process many times since, not now in order to better yourself, but just in order to go on living. Why have you had to do this? Here, Mr. Newcomer, is where you come up against one of those unpalatable truths the Socialists warn you about. Also we reach the point where you learn your first lesson in the science of Socialism.

You see, you are a member of the working class, and before you can earn your living you must apply humbly to the employing or master class, and beg for a job. If they think you are a suitable man, that is, strong and capable, they may allow you to work for them. If you leave your master, you must apply to another, as you know now by past bitter experience. So, in order to live, you cannot escape applying to the master class for permission to work. There are, of course, a few workers who avoid this to some extent by various means, but their numbers are so small in proportion to the rest that they can be ignored for the time being. It takes very little mental effort, therefore, to realise that you belong to a class which must always go, cap in hand, to another class in order to obtain permission to work. So you see, then, that there are two classes in society. The majority, who possess nothing but their labour power, and who are forced to sell their labour power to a smaller class who own the means of production. The larger class, who possess nothing worth while and who live by working, we call the working class. That small class, who own the land, the mines, railways and factories, etc., and who force us by sheer starvation to come and work for them, we designate the master or capitalist class. So you see, Mr. Newcomer, you cannot do anything, except sell your health and strength; your capacity to labour, for a small wage, in order to live. Therefore you must recognise that the workers are in a slave position, Always at the beck and call of the masters. So now you know why the Socialist smiles when he hears his fellow workers singing “Britons never, never shall be slaves.”

Of course, there is more than this to be said about it, and I trust, Mr. Newcomer, that you will continue with the next chat. In the meanwhile—think it over.
Comrade Mac.

The Socialist Archbishop (1942)

Editorial from the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Dr. Temple was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury the Daily Express informed its readers that “Dr. Temple is the first Socialist to become Primate ” (February 23rd, 1942).

Lord Elton, in the Daily Mail of the same date, was not so sure. He would not go beyond a statement that “Temple was said to be a Socialist"; and both agreed in fact that he is “a keen social reformer,” ”has a passion for social reform.”

Lord Elton and the Daily Express do not understand that a social reformer is not a Socialist. True, Dr. Temple has advocated better housing for the workers, regular holidays, and education, and other reforms. “He will hammer away year after year . . . at some public scandal such as road accidents.” He advocates State control of the Bank of England and the joint stock banks. Therefore he is not a Socialist, for whatever success he and others have at reforming the capitalist system he is not in favour of its abolition. He has, in effect, said so.
  There is nothing wrong with profits as such. Producer and trader are entitled to a profit as a means of livelihood which they have earned by service to the community.—“Daily Mail,” February 23rd, 1942.
In the above passage he shows that he is incapable of describing the capitalist system as it really is. That a "producer” should have a livelihood for the service he renders may seem reasonable, but the typical capitalist owner (mostly by inheritance) is not a producer but only an employer of producers. He does not render service but merely permits workers to produce. He lives by owning.

Marx and Engels, in the "Communist Manifesto” (written in 1847) summed up such social reformers under the satirical description, “the Socialistic bourgeois.” What they want is 
  “all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements.”
They desire that 
  ‘‘the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.”
  “To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole and corner reformers of every imaginable kind.”
In short, 
  "a part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.”

Incentives Under Socialism (1942)

Editorial from the March 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Joseph E. Davies, formerly American Ambassador in Moscow, has placed on record a conversation he had with the Ambassador from Afghanistan on the interesting question of incentives. Here are the views of the latter:—
   He thought that the Soviets were doing a great deal of good in many ways. But the wisdom of the centuries, he said, disclosed that there was very little progress without the incentive of personal interest. Human nature had not yet arrived at, and probably would not for a long time reach, a point where men would simply work for the joy of the working.
  The incentive for work and progress was personal interest and would be for a long time to come. This wise and fine man impressed me with his sincerity and his philosophy. It may be, he said, that this experiment might work out and evolve successfully by making allowances for and being modified by these fundamental facts in human nature. It might be one of the steps in the evolution of progress. Time would tell, said he.
Here we have the representatives of the slumbering East and the wideawake West able to find common ground in their views on human nature. That in itself is a curious and significant circumstance, for have we not been told by a very conservative observer that there is not one human race but two races, an East and a West, and that “never the twain shall meet”? But meet they did and summarily disposed of Socialism in a brief discussion.

Next, if it be permitted to apply their conclusion to themselves, may we ask what was their own little game? Seeing that men (including Ambassadors) do not work for the joy of working or for any other motive except the incentive of personal interest, what was the personal interest that caused them to leave Washington and' Kabul for the voyage to Moscow? It could not have been a desire to serve their respective nations or the human race as a whole, or a liking for the work, for by definition men simply do not do that sort of thing. Was it nothing but the salary, or the ambition to wear a cocked hat and knee breeches and gain coveted decorations, or some even less reputable private racket? And one of them fine and wise and sincere with it all! It would be interesting to ask them a number of questions, but as that is impossible we must take our examination elsewhere.

As it happens, the newspaper in which the above conversation is recorded (the Sunday Express, February 22nd, 1942) publishes several items which may help us. The editorial denounces the British Civil Service as a "dead and numbing hand stretched over all our national life." It concedes that Civil Servants ate "impeccably honest, scrupulous, hard-working and efficient," and that they are "often idealists," yet they are vigorously condemned because they are said to resent and resist every measure which threatens to disturb the even tenor of their lives and their ponderous and unprogressive ways of doing business.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper is a bitter attack on amateur pilferers, men and women who were honest before the war, but are now stealing to the extent of £2,000,000 in the past two years.

Then the editor has a slashing article on the men and women, in and out of the Forces, who are half-hearted in their efforts, or are seeking to make big profits or slack at their work. He mentions, for example, the soldier in the tank who says, "Half a crown a day for me, while it lasts; 30s. a week and starvation for my wife if I don’t come through,” and the civilian worker whose attitude to the war is: “I’ve got a soft job out of it." He compares them with the Germans, Japanese, Russians and Chinese, who, he says, work and fight superbly because they are inspired visionaries, "To each this war is a holy war."

From all of which we perceive that there seems to be something amiss with the simple doctrine of the two Ambassadors. If personal interest is and must be the only incentive why shouldn’t the Civil Servant further his personal interest in his allegedly sheltered life and career? Why shouldn’t the worker on docks or railways pilfer? Why shouldn’t every individual prove his normal human nature by looking no further than what appears to be his own immediate personal benefit?

The answer is that the supposed obstacle placed by unchanging human nature in the way of work and progress is a myth. Human knowledge and understanding and with them human conduct have changed, are changing, and will continue to change. With the development, through human agency, of mankind's control of natural forces and the power of producing wealth in greater abundance the potentialities of human co-operation have been more and more understood and consciously fostered. Co-operation was never entirely absent, though in the past much of the work of human beings was individual and it was possible to think and act in terms of individual effort and personally benefit from it. Now that the productive powers of co-operative effort have reached gigantic new levels it has become a possibility for each individual to benefit enormously from the conscious reorganisation of society on a Socialist basis. Where then will be the difficulty about incentive? All that will be needed is that the individual shall intelligently appreciate the place he will occupy in the life and work of society as a whole. The worker to-day who understood nothing of political organisation might refuse to take part in an election on the plea that one vote counts for nothing in an electorate of tens of millions. So also under Socialism he might lack incentive to work if he knew nothing of the part he plays in co-operative production and the benefit he and every other person will derive therefrom. Yet the understanding voter uses his vote and the understanding worker will gladly and enthusiastically play his part under Socialism.

This presupposes, of course, that before we can have Socialism there must be a Socialist majority to make Socialism a working system—but Socialists have never supposed otherwise.

To achieve that end it will be necessary to change the worker’s understanding, but it will not be necessary to change his human nature; though under Socialism we may anticipate a little difficulty at first with heads-in-the-air ex-Ambassadors and tough ex-editors of newspapers whose understanding of the favourable potentialities of human nature is not profound.

Homelessness For Sale (2012)

From the May 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

The extent of homelessness is often used as a gauge for the state of the economy as a whole. In an economic downturn, people are less able to hold down jobs, keep up with payments on rent or other bills, or have savings they can fall back on. Often, a combination of factors like these will push people towards losing their homes. Figures released in early March show 12,830 new cases of homelessness being accepted by local councils between October and December 2011 – a rise of 18% since the same time the previous year. In London, there was an average 36% increase over the same period, with the biggest rise in Hounslow at 245% (1). Predictably, sleeping rough has also increased. According to government figures, the number of people rough sleeping rose 23% between Autumn 2010 and Autumn 2011 (2). Undoubtedly it’s no coincidence that the increase in homelessness is one consequence of the economic crisis.

When someone loses their home, if they are unable to stay with family or friends, they will often end up in temporary hostel accommodation. Most of these places are funded and regulated by the government’s Supporting People programme, which is run by local councils. According to Homeless Link, there are around 9,000 bed spaces in English direct access hostels, those which provide emergency accommodation on the day someone becomes homeless (3). The economic crisis has not only led to increased demand for these services, but also to greater restrictions on who can receive help from them. Councils are now more choosy about who they agree to spend their funding on. In particular, they are more likely to enforce ‘local connection’ policies. These allow only those with a connection to an area to receive certain services, such as hostel accommodation. This means that if someone becomes homeless in an area they have only recently moved to, or where they have no close relatives, then they won’t receive help through that area’s council and will have to try elsewhere.

Another restriction which is increasingly affecting services is the length of time someone can live in a hostel. Over the last ten years, the maximum length of stay in many hostels has reduced from indefinitely to two years, to six months, to 28 days, sometimes less. One reason for this is to prevent people from becoming institutionalised. The longer someone stays in a hostel, the more they become acclimatised to being stuck-in-a-rut. Another reason is to increase the turnover at hostels to free up bed spaces for other people who become homeless. And because of the housing shortage, when someone’s time in a hostel runs out, they are more likely to move to other temporary accommodation than to their own new flat. There are around 33,000 bed spaces in this kind of second-stage accommodation (3).

The services offered in hostels will vary. Most provide a small, sparsely furnished bedroom, with shared bathrooms. Some hostels will have a canteen, while others are self-catering. Some will have strict rules on, for example, visitors or alcohol use, or when residents can come and go. Most direct access hostels will be staffed 24 hours a day, while others may only have staff working nine-to-five.

As there’s a wide variation in the services available, the quality of hostels will also differ. The worst places – bed-and-breakfast accommodation – don’t offer enough help to residents to qualify for Supporting People funding or monitoring. Instead, they only receive funding through Housing Benefit claims, which brings in less money. As well as lacking in support, these places are often run-down, overcrowded and intimidating, making it much harder for anyone living there to improve their lives. Often, criminal behaviour becomes a coping strategy for people living with fewer opportunities. Some people cope with the pressures of homelessness by drinking alcohol or using drugs heavily. According to Homeless Link, around half of those living in direct access hostels are affected by problematic drug use (4). Presumably a greater proportion of people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation will have histories of substance misuse or criminal behaviour.

Most people who move into hostels adjust to the environment fairly quickly, although this means sacrificing a lot of independence and privacy, and coping as best they can. Even the better hostels can be noisy, unclean and frightening places to be. They can also be sociable and positive. Moving in to a hostel can be an opportunity to access support which might be difficult to find without the contacts and experience of hostel staff. And all hostel residents have been forced into the position of needing help. Virtually everyone living in a hostel will be reliant on state benefits for their income. Many will be refugees learning to manage in an unfamiliar country. Hostel residents are also likely to need advice or guidance about debt issues, mental health problems, training or employment, as well as help with finding long-term housing.

Despite the best efforts of both staff and residents, people can become trapped in hostel accommodation. If someone has rent arrears from a previous council or housing association flat, then they are unlikely to be rehoused until those arrears have been paid off. People who lack basic skills or who have health problems may find themselves stuck in hostel accommodation because there is a shortage of suitable supported accommodation. The longer someone stays in hostel accommodation, the more they end up relying on it. The economic situation has created an increase in demand for hostels and other homeless services, but it’s also cutting them back.

Since April 2011, councils have reduced spending on Supporting People funded projects by an average of 10.3%. Homeless services were hit hardest by the cuts with 47 local authorities deciding to decommission some services (5). This has led to increased competition between hostel and other housing projects wanting to qualify for dwindling Supporting People funding. To qualify for this money, the organisation which runs each project must show in detail what support it provides. If there isn’t enough evidence on paper, then funding will be withdrawn. The service would then either close or have to survive with only the same limited funding as bed-and-breakfast accommodation. To avoid this, staff are swamped by paperwork used to justify their existences. In some hostels, staff are required to account for how they spend every minute on shift, under the threat of funding being withheld for any time not spent productively. And, of course, those projects which can offer to run the service cheapest are more likely to win funding. Supporting People requirements have also made hostels and supported housing projects more target-driven. Hostels risk funding cuts if particular percentages of those leaving the service don’t improve their ‘economic wellbeing’, physical or mental health, or substance misuse. The effect of this on hostel staff is that the needs of individual homeless people become less important than making sure that the paperwork and statistics are in order. To use Marxist terminology, the paperwork is fetishised.

The increasing regulation of hostels, and the competition between providers for funding, mean that homeless services are now more corporate and businesslike than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Then, hostels and advice agencies were seen more as an embarrassment, as somewhere shameful to send those who have been failed by society. Now, the emphasis is different. The upside of this is that many hostels are more comfortable and relaxed than they may have been in the past, and those who have been homeless are stigmatised less by society as a whole. But, is it a good thing that homelessness has become almost acceptable?

Capitalism is a society of haves and have-nots, of winners and losers. Homeless people are at the unlucky end of the social scale. Many other people are only one wage packet away from being drawn towards homelessness. So, to accept that homelessness is just a part of life is to accept the capitalist system which traps us all.

Hostels, supported housing and other homeless services may help some people to progress, but they can’t solve the problem of homelessness itself. And nor do they aspire to. Instead, homelessness is a business opportunity for capitalist organisations to feed from. Every problem created by capitalism – debt, lack of opportunity, lack of skills, addiction, crime – has become a consumer demand for a service. Homeless people are customers, who staff are supposed to think of as targets and outcomes to be recorded and collated. And in the cut-throat competition for funding, homeless services are integrating further with the market-driven dynamics of the economy. Homelessness for sale.
Clive Hendry

 References:




Britain Enters The Common Market (1973)

From the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

From the beginning of this month Britain has been part of the “European Economic Community", to give the Common Market its official name. This means that the British government is pledged to pursue, along with eight other West European governments, common policies in such fields as foreign trade, transport and agriculture. By 1978 all trade barriers between Britain and the other eight countries should have been removed and all nine should have erected a uniform tariff against goods coming from outside their “common market”.

For the capitalists of Britain, or most of them, this will open up a vast new market in which to try to sell their goods at a profit. But what about the workers? How will the Common Market affect the ordinary wage- or salary-earner in the factories and offices of Britain?

First, and this has already begun to happen, there'll be a rise in food prices as a result of the British government having to change its method of subsidising agriculture. Till now Britain has followed a “cheap food” policy of letting food in at lower, world prices and paying farmers the difference between this and a previously-agreed higher, notional price. The Common Market agriculture policy, on the other hand, is based on subsidising farmers and peasants by fixing selling prices, with the help of tariffs and levies, above world market level.

Rising food prices of course mean, without a compensating rise in wages, a cut in living standards. It is this that has made the Common Market so unpopular amongst workers in Britain and why the Tory government was afraid to hold a referendum on the issue: they knew it would have been seen as a vote not about the abstract question of “Britain’s destiny in Europe” Heath likes to specify about, but as a vote for or against rising food prices, with the result a foregone conclusion. The Labour Party has cynically exploited this ordinary working-class reaction and has used it, with the help of the so-called Communist Party, to stir up latent anti-foreign prejudices. Rising food prices do represent a threat to living standards, but the way to fight back is on the industrial field by pressing for higher wages not by sterile and dangerous jingoism.

The second change the ordinary wage-earner will notice is in the way the goods he buys are taxed. From 1 April this year purchase tax and SET will be abolished and replaced by a Value Added Tax (VAT). This probably won’t make much difference to the overall price level but, being something new, will (like decimilization) tend to be blamed for inflation. In any event, tax changes are insignificant from a working-class point of view.

Thirdly, workers from Britain will be free to move to the other countries in search of a job and will be able to carry social security rights with them. And workers from the other countries will be free to come here on the same terms, of course.

Within ten years, however, we could be using a common European currency and voting in elections for the European Parliament at Strasbourg. And after that, perhaps, there’ll be progress towards a “United States of Europe” as another Great Power challenging the current world hegemony of America and Russia — on condition, that is, that the various nation-States can agree to give up a great deal of the power they now have to protect their national capitalist interests even against the other members of the EEC. Which must remain very much open to doubt, since up to now the EEC has been a permanent inter-governmental conference rather than a embryo super-State.

But, in any event, the emergence of such a new capitalist super-State, or the creation of a single European capitalist economy, is of no concern to the working class. Though it will affect them nevertheless. To try to mitigate these effects they will have to start thinking in terms of united action with their fellow workers in Europe. Already some trade unions, and trade unionists, have — wisely — been making contact with their opposite numbers in the other countries.

But such actions, though necessarily, are only defensive of working-class interests under capitalism. The need will remain to go beyond them and build up a political movement on a world-scale aimed at establishing a united Socialist world making frontiers a thing of the past.

Encouraging election news from New Zealand (1973)

Party News from the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Comrades,

Well at long last the New Zealand election is over, and you will have seen the not entirely surprising result. Incidentally, the October Standard’s cover Labour’s Programme for Capitalism couldn’t be more appropriate. With the shipping delay August & September’s issues came in reverse order, and it’s only now that we can get the August issue in the bookshops. However, in a couple of weeks when we put the October issue out, we rather think that it will go like a bomb!

We are all very satisfied with the results of our own efforts in this election. As you know we put up one candidate in the Tamaki electorate, this is the scat held in Auckland by the former Minister of Finance, Robert Muldoon. We have done some national advertising (a very expensive business), weekly local advertising, and distributed two leaflets to each household in the electorate, a total of 27,000, plus some meetings including one lunchtime meeting with the Watersiders (dockers). Despite all this, I must confess not one of us anticipated more than say a dozen votes. Socialist-minded people do not just happen as we all know too well. However, the grand total was 80 which we are all delighted with, particularly when you consider that the vast bulk of the work was done by only seven members, many meetings had to be cancelled because of the weather, adverts (deliberately?) put in obscure sections of newspapers and so on. The full result in Tamaki was as follows:

We have had some marvellous financial support from sympathisers, which made the advertising and printing of so many leaflets possible, and I don’t know what we’d have done without it. We feel we have achieved the main thing we had in mind, and that was to put the party on the map. There arc considerably less people who, when told the name of the party say “Who?”

I’m very happy to say that the members mainly involved in this election campaign were so elated at the result, and with the number of written and telephoned enquiries as a result of the leaflets, that they have already forgotten blistered feet and weary bones (those leaflets took some distributing, believe me), and are already tossing around ideas for the next one in three years. We made a lot of mistakes of course, but a full diary of our activities has been kept, and we intend learning by them. We are also hoping of course that present members who did not take part this time will be encouraged to in the future. (Not to mention all the new members we hope to make in the meantime!)
Fraternally,
Jean Higdon, 
Secretary, Auckland.

50 Years Ago: Is It Work We Want? (1973)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

“It is work we want, not charity,” said a spokesman of the unemployed at a street comer meeting. This sums up the outlook of the average worker of today. He can see no other method of life than toiling or existing on charity. The fear of having to beg for bread, or go into the workhouse, spurs him on to find a job though the conditions of work become ever more degrading.

How strange that such a view should find general acceptance among people already worn out with work; and at a time when wealth can be produced with such ease and abundance! It is stranger still that some must work hard and spend niggardly, whilst others work not and yet spend lavishly. If the former cease work for a while they come suddenly to the end of their resources; the latter buy palaces and furnish them brilliantly, live in magnificence, and yet at the end of their days they are more wealthy than at the commencement.

It is leisure and idleness the worker needs (leisure to enjoy and idleness to recuperate), and yet he pursues work like a hound on the trail.

In the past conditions were such that could not promise ease and comfort for the many, except where nature was particularly liberal and the population comparatively small. The needful things were produced by simple tools with much labour. Now all is changed. The needful things are produced by complicated tools with little labour. The conditions are such that they promise ease and comfort, leisure and luxury, to the many. But this promise can only be fulfilled when the many own the product of their energy.
(From an article by G. L. McClatchie in the Socialist Standard for January 1923.)

Preventing Abundance (1973)

From the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are told that hunger and malnutrition exist in the world today because there is not enough food to go around; that there are, in short, more people than can adequately be fed. Socialists emphatically repudiate this. The evidence points to the fact that man has developed the means of production to a level where it is now technically possible to abolish hunger. Technically possible, but not socially possible within the present relations of production. Capitalism is a system of commodity production, of buying and selling, where the profit motive dominates the productive activity of men and women. Market considerations take precedence over human need. The production of wealth takes place only where the owners of the means of life — the capitalist class — hope to sell their products at a profit on the world markets. The market economy bears no relation to the needs of human beings. Human priorities are sacrificed to the priorities of the profit motive.

The present state of the horticultural industry, both in this country and in Europe, is an object lesson in the restrictive nature of the market economy. For the past five or ten years the viability (ability to make a profit) of parts of the industry has been threatened by the “overproduction” of apples and pears. Increased orchard planting since the Second World War in places such as North Italy (with the help of Marshall Aid) and the Rhone valley in France (where low interest government loans were given to repatriates from Algeria) has vastly increased output. Average apple crops amount to 6m. tons and reached 7.2m. tons in 1969/70. In the following season a record pear crop of 3.2m. tons was recorded. Such large crops had not been planned for; markets were unable to absorb the produce and farmers, looking for some way to vent their frustration, dumped apples in the streets. Seventy-five per cent only of the 1967-68 apple crop was consumed in any shape or form. In other words, a quarter was left to rot — it was not worth while even using it as animal fodder or for industrial alcohol.

Aiding Industry
In Britain too investments have been made in orchards in order to stimulate production. It could hardly be otherwise. Each group of capitalists hope to maximise their profits by capturing as large a slice of the market for themselves as possible. In this they have been backed up by both the major parties of capitalism. The Horticulture Act of 1960 provided grants of up to £7.5m. spread over five years, to be paid out under a Horticultural Improvement Scheme aimed at improving efficiency among growers. The grants were increased in 1964 to £24m.; and again by the Agriculture Act 1970, this time to a maximum of £47m.

Of course these sums were not simply largesse. They were expected to benefit the capitalist class as a whole. As Christopher Soames, Minister of Agriculture at the time, pointed out, it was the intention of the government to “bring our horticultural production and marketing to a higher state of competitive efficiency”. He also hoped the industry would then be in a better position to ward off foreign competition so that the promise of possible reductions in tariffs could be used as a bargaining device in future trade negotiations.
  This is a sensible and realistic policy to adopt with regard to the industry in modern times, and is not being done because the industry is in a parlous state. It is being done to make it more competitive.
(Hansard 27 November 1963 cols. 276 & 280)
This has always been the yardstick by which governments measure the usefulness or otherwise of aiding industry. The 1968 Report of the Economic Development Council for Agriculture, Agriculture's Import Saving Role, pointed out that it might be possible for British capitalism to save itself the sum of £220m. a year by the mid-1970s through import substitution. One item suggested for saving was the annual £25m. spent on top fruit. Moreover, “there was scope for expansion of production and import substitution on a significant scale and at comparatively small cost” (Agriculture — Report etc. from the Select Committee 1968-69 H.C. 137 HMSO p.xxviii). However there appeared one small snag — only half the proposed increase in output could be expected to be absorbed by greater demand due to increasing population and income per head. The EDC report skated over the difficulty by hoping that the remainder might be exported.

Potential Abundance
This growing potential for abundance did cause some comment. In his statement to the House of Commons on 27 November 1963 Soames declared that imports at “unrealistically low prices” did arise from surpluses of varying degrees and that
  It is likely that such surpluses will reappear from time to time, so means to prevent them from undermining our market will continue to be necessary . . . We appreciate that measures must be taken to ensure that dumped produce does not undermine the market.
(Hansard 27 November 1963 cols. 277-179)
The Fruit Production Council were of the opinion that
 Apple and pear production is increasing throughout the world and particularly on the Continent of Europe, at an alarming rate.
(Horticulture — Report etc. from the Select Committee on Agriculture’s Sub-Committee 1967-68 H.C.445 HMSO p.292 (emphasis added).
When faced with this kind of "problem” capitalism can react in a number of ways. It can attempt to stimulate demand; it can try to eliminate competition; or it can cut back production and deliberately reduce productive capacity by destroying resources.

Attempts at stimulating demand have met with only limited success. It had been hoped that the Apple and Pear Development Council, established in 1966, would increase sales through an advertising campaign designed to promote British apples and pears. Its efforts were something less than a raving success. Who now remembers their slogan “Finish your meal with an English apple”? They had to report in July 1968 that “despite the efforts of both importing organisations and the UK growers to increase consumption levels there is a danger of supply outstripping demand”. Then, admitting defeat in the face of the inability to plan rationally under capitalism, they went on to say
  The Council must make it quite clear that publicity is no panacea for oversupply . . . The industry can only operate in conditions of reasonable stability. Glut conditions, uneconomic returns and violent swings in supplies are of no use to the home grower . . .  In the Council’s view, the only way to maintain reasonable conditions is by physical means such as a quota system based on quantity ... no amount of marketing skill, publicity or anything else can compete against a glutted market.
(Horticulture Report p. 184-5)
Left to Rot
In 1969 British markets shuddered under a gigantic flow of apples. Prices hit rock bottom for the producers; some were only getting 2d or 3d a pound for best quality produce. Anything other than grade one was being thrown away and farmers were leaving fruit to rot on the trees. Gerald Nabarro complained to the House of Commons that in his own constituency
   250 tons of Lord Lambourn and Laxton’s Fortune were left unpicked at Leighsinton, near Malvern . . . [and that] . . . 1,200 boxes of Melba — a very early variety — were put into store but lay unsold and are now rotting in their boxes, utterly wasted.
(Hansard 13 December 1969 col. 1665)
The gravity with which MPs treated the problem can be gauged from the fact that they found time (about 4½ hours) to have two debates on this in under two weeks. The debates concentrated on the financial implications for capitalism of the advent of this abundance. Not one of the speakers in the debates expressed any emotion remotely approaching joy that human ingenuity had resulted in plenty. Rather the opposite. Most were concerned that growers would suffer financially.

“Naturally, we must see that our growers have a viable position” said Alfred Morris, Labour MP for Wythenshaw, on 10 November (col. 139) assuring his Party’s concern for the continued prosperity of the industry. David Crouch, representing Canterbury, (somewhat nearer to the problem) after a bit of useless jingoistic nonsense to the effect that “The English apple is in my opinion second to none in the world” continued:
  I am not seeking to raise the price for the British housewife at a time of severe increase in the price of foodstuffs. It would be irresponsible to suggest that, but I have a duty to be concerned not only with the price the consumer pays but that the price should be a fair one for the British farmer, a fair and reasonable price to keep the British grower in being.
(Hansard 10 November 1969 col. 126)
But all the demands that the quota be decreased were to no avail. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, Gwyneth Dunwoody, was satisfied that “the decision reached is the best in the widest national interest” (Hansard 3 November 1969 col. 1670).

Resources Destroyed
For this capitalist “problem” the government have found a suitable capitalist “solution”. Productive resources are to be destroyed. This monstrous decision was taken after a total of less than half an hour’s debate in both Houses of Parliament.

Such action had been common policy on the Continent for a number of years and had been suggested as a way out for British growers in 1964. During the detailed debates on the Agriculture and Horticulture Bill of that year MPs representing constituencies where fruit-growing interests were strong had urged that the Improvement Grants be increased from one third to one half of the cost of grubbing up old orchards. They hoped that the increase might encourage farmers with only a few trees to dig them up. This would remove the poorer quality fruit which in glut conditions tended to spoil the market for the big growers. As it was, of the £8m. made available in 1960, only £2½m had been taken up because the scheme benefitted only the contractors who removed the trees and not the farmer who had to borrow the other two thirds of the money needed. Maxwell Hyslop, MP for Tiverton, put it this way:
  The point I was endeavouring to make was that, as productive capacity is demonstrably in excess of what is required, there is considerable merit in giving further incentive to reduce that capacity.
(Official Report Standing Committee “B” Agriculture and Horticulture Bill 30 January 1964 (emphasis added).
In his call for more “effective” action he was only reflecting the view of Liberal MP for Montgomery, Emlyn Hooson, who had stated that “obsolete” orchards should have been grubbed out years ago.
  I ask the Minister, why not a 100 per cent grant for grubbing out orchards. This would be of great benefit to the country.
(Hansard 12 December 1963 col. 632)
What distinguishes these grants from the Farm Capital Grant (Variation) Scheme of last year is that they did not preclude replanting. As such they might have something to recommend them in that a greater output may be achieved from heavier cropping varieties developed since the orchard was planted, often up to fifty years ago. The 1971 Scheme however specifically provides that if the grant is paid the grower must undertake not to replant his orchard for at least five years. When asked to elaborate on the precise meaning of the words “restricting planting” in this latest Order, Earl Ferrers explained:
  The aim is to encourage something of a crash programme of grubbing. It is no part of the purpose of these schemes for orchards which are grubbed up with their assistance to be replanted with new apple and pear trees.
(Lords Hansard 3 August 1971 col. 1088)
In addition the grant was to be at the full rate of standard grubbing costs. Again it was seen to be in the interests of capitalism as a whole that these grants should be made as the orchards, said Junior Minister Anthony Stodart,
  are a source of quite considerable weakness to the rest of the industry. We cannot afford a weakness of this kind.
(Hansard 30 July 1971 col. 1024) (emphasis added)
Profit the Aim
These grants, it is hoped, will steady the market enough to encourage further investment in the industry and thus make it more profitable. For that is really the whole object of the exercise. The primary function of farmers is not the growing of food that will satisfy a basic human need; their main aim in business is the accumulation of profit. In a memorandum to the House of Commons Select Committee’s Sub-committee on Horticulture, the National Farmers’ Union reminded them that:
  When all is said and done, what counts is whether at the end of the day the producer has sufficient profit to reward his employees and himself . . . and to provide as good a return on the capital he has invested as he would have received had it been invested elsewhere. Generally speaking a new attitude requires to be engendered on horticultural prices which would acknowledge that the grower is entitled to a fair return.
(Horticulture Report p.161)
In hot pursuit of this “fair return” growers had, with the aid of government grants amounting to £140,000, cleared 10,000 acres (about ten per cent) of British orchards. It then became clear that this was not enough; the clearance of another 5,000 acres would be necessary. But even this did not satisfy the present Minister of Agriculture, James Prior, who is reported to have said “I want to see an expanded grubbing-up programme for apples whether we are in the Common Market or outside . . . I must tell you outright to look very carefully at your investment” (The Times 8 January 1971). This will entail the grubbing-up of old but pretty orchards, and their replacement by vast plantations of uniform varieties of fruit. Already one contractor alone has bulldozed over 700 acres in Kent, and this year another 875 farmers have taken up grants worth £300,000 to destroy 6,150 acres of apples and pears. Before the grant scheme runs out in March of next year Prior hopes to have persuaded growers to clear a further 9,000 acres.

How successful all this will be in restoring scarcity to its dominant place in the capitalist way of life remains doubtful. It has been reliably reported (Sunday Times 8 July 1971) that mini-trees have been planted at a density of 50,000 to the acre compared to the normal 120 to the acre. These would give an output, not of the normal 8 tons to the acre, but a massive 100 tons of apples per acre every two years. It may not be long before we see the whole sad spectacle repeating itself. Capitalism cannot bring together the plenty and the poor so that the former eliminates the latter.
Gwynn Thomas

Eire constitution changed (1973)

From the January 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a referendum held last month the Eire constitution was amended to abolish the "special position" of the Catholic Church (see Socialist Standard, August 1972) and to reduce the voting age to 18 (see Socialist Standard, September 1972).

Moonshine. (1923)

From the September 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “Only under an individualistic system can we each enjoy the fullest liberty, and the public be well served.”.—Lord Leverhulme, "Reynolds,” 1/4/1923.
Sounds plausible, if you are in the habit of shutting your eyes, opening your mouth—then swallowing. What is Liberty? We may see more clearly its relative meaning if we examine the composition of this somewhat mysterious body of people, “The Public.” Who are they? Lord Leverhulme is one, the ex-Service mendicant.is another, the strumpit of the wealthy idler with £20,000 worth of jewellery hung around her body, and the daughter of the underworld selling her sex for bread; the teeming millions of propertyless labour power sellers, and the small minority who own their means of livelihood; all are comprised within our Lord’s ambiguity, “The Public.” Stripped of its cant and examined in the light of reality, "serving the public” merely means that Leverhulme's trust, like any other capitalist concern, employs workers to produce wealth because the value of their total output exceeds in large proportion the value of the wages paid to those required to produce such wealth. Neither capitalists nor shareholders render "service” in such production, they may depart to any part of the earth their pleasure takes them, and never see or know the source of their profits and dividends; all the operations necessary will proceed as per usual, carried on in every department by the workers. The master class are only concerned with serving their own ends. They will destroy wealth or restrict its production if it enhances their profit, or employ you in the production of death dealing aeroplanes, bullets and poison gas (with which the workers have been "well served”) for the same reason as Lord Sunlight, exploitation with the object of profit. To tell you, dependent as you are for your existence, upon those who own the earth and its resources, that you “enjoy the fullest liberty,” is evidence of the contempt your masters have for you. The dictionary describes a slave as: “One whose person and services are wholly at the disposal and under the control of another ” (Lloyds).

How fitting such a description is to the worker of to-day—and yet! he would be provoked to indignation at the appellation “slave,” for he has no chains, he can go to his job in the morning (when he’s got one to go to), and he can go home (!) at night; and when his master hasn’t any further use for him, he can go to that nasty place the Christians tell us about. And this he calls “Liberty,” not because he is a cynic, or has seen the grim humour of it all, but because his masters have taught him to believe it is the birthright of Britons, “who never, never, will be slaves.” From the days of those Christian humbugs, the Liberal Cotton Lords, who fought against the introduction of the Factory Acts in order to retain the “Liberty” to work children to death, to the modern vampires of imperialistic exploitation, “Liberty” has ever been the cry of our rulers, ’tis but the cry for “ Liberty ” to exploit and plunder the workers. Clear your mental vision by a study of Socialism, then the verbiage of such as Leverhulme will be rated by you at its clap-trap worth. You cannot have “Liberty” within a system that enslaves you, neither can it be benevolently bestowed upon you. “Know ye this, who would be free must strike the blow.”
W. E. MacHaffie

Socialisation or Nationalisation. (1923)

From the September 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is it that makes us of the working class determine, in every-growing numbers, that the means of life shall not remain private property? It is bitter experience of the power which private ownership gives to a handful of men over the remaining millions of society—our class. Whether we shall work or not, and consequently whether we shall have enough to eat or not, depends on the requirements of the capitalist: and, being at work, we expect with certainly that at every opportunity our wages will be forced down, our hours extended, our pace sped up. If the capitalist pleads that he himself is in the grip of circumstances, that competition in the world market makes it necessary for him to dispense with men wherever possible, and get the utmost out. of those who remain, we know that it is just because things are privately produced, with a view to sale, that this scramble for orders is possible.

Here are we, on the one hand, needing all manner of things to keep us alive and make life happy; here, on the other, are the land, the factories, the transport systems that could satisfy these needs. We could produce in such abundance that no one need go short. We do produce even now enough to give us all such a standard of life as no worker enjoys. Why aren’t we getting it? Why are multitudes of us not working at all? Why do those who are in work live so meagrely? And how is it that such an enormous part of what we make goes to the upkeep of the masters, who did not work in its making?

We know why. We don’t create goods out of nothing. We work upon raw materials, and they come from the earth, and the masters own it. We work with tools and machines in workshops; and the masters own them. Consequently, the products when they are finished belong to them too. The only condition on which we are permitted to work is that this product can be sold at a profit. A profit can only be made when the goods fetch a price which will pay wages and leave a margin for the employer. In order to compete with his rivals, the capitalist will always try to fix his price below theirs; and since he is naturally unwilling to reduce his rate of profit, he will always reduce costs when he can.

This, as it affects the worker, means less being paid in wages, and more being exacted for it. The miners know this; the dockers know it; the builders, engineers, woodworkers, farm-labourers—is there any section of the proletariat that does not know it? And the resolve grows to take those things that are indispensable to the life of the community out of private hands, and make them the common property of the workers.

That done, the task of supplying food for the hungry, or houses for the homeless, will have become relatively simple. Are clothes needed? The tailors will make them to the quantity required and in such varied styles as are in demand at the time; and when they are finished, those who need new clothes can have them. Some will go to miners, who are producing coal to the necessary amount; some to teachers, who are carrying out the educational design of the new society. And so on. The details do not matter. Many means will suggest themselves by which each worker, having performed his share of the necessary labour, could be enabled to receive what he needed from the common store. There might be depots, similar to shops, where people would present their tokens of labour performed, and make their choice of goods. If so, the actual machinery for distributing goods would not differ greatly from that of to-day : the difference—the revolution—will be in the basis of production. The goods which are made will be made for the direct and sole purpose of satisfying the needs of the makers. Society will have organised itself for co-operative production. No room in that day for any who will not work, unless they are feeble, or children : it will be the day of the workers, taking possession of and controlling the vast instruments of wealth production which all this time we have operated for the benefit of the masters.

The particular working out of each part of the plan will no doubt be best done by the workers concerned in our farms, factories, ports, and so on, as the case may be. In its general outlines, the scheme of production can be shaped by the general legislative assembly, elected, as it will be, by workers, for the supreme purpose of co-ordinating all the varied activities of social life. This new character of the legislative assembly will be the reflection of the new character of society—a community of workers with full ownership of their means of livelihood; just as the State of to-day (the name by which we speak of the whole machinery of government, armed and policed) reflects the character of present-day society—the juxtaposition of two broad classes, one propertied, to be defended, the other propertyless, to be repressed. When the means of life are socially owned, the State, which grew up with private property, will give way to something better.

Such is the process of Socialisation, towards which the proletariat, losing the last of its patience with capitalism, is moving. Its two salient features are :—

(1) The taking over of the means of production by the workers. Not “buying out. ” That the capitalist has been able to exploit us so long is no reason why he should be allowed to continue. In whatever form he might be paid, to buy him out would mean the perpetuation of an idle class whom the workers must labour to keep.

(2) Direct control by the workers, all officials being elected, responsible to those who elected them, and capable of being recalled if they prove inefficient or unscrupulous. Needless to say, to the capitalist this means the world turned upside-down. That they whose wealth poured in while they remained idle, who never, in many cases, knew the first thing about the undertakings that made them rich, should suddenly have to go to work, that were surely wild enough. But that, when they are at work, instead of being ordered and driven by taskmasters appointed from above, and rewarded at the end with a fraction of the value they produce, they should be able to decide by vote their working conditions, elect their officials, and have their needs richly satisfied, that is very midsummer madness! To the revolutionary worker it is a sane and obvious thing: the righting of a world which is already upside-down.

There remains a way to side-track the movement towards revolution, and it is seized upon by very varied supporters of the present system—not least by people who, though they know well what the workers can and ought to do, shrink through timidity or self-interest from the inevitable decisive act.

“Nationalisation’’ is the cry. “Let us have no fundamental re-organisation of society! Let the bourgeoisie remain. Let the State remain. Pay compensation to the present owners of the means of production, and transfer these things to the possession of the State. What is all this about democratic control? You vote once in every few years, to decide who shall govern you: you can continue to do so. What more do you want? The British Post Office is a State enterprise of this kind : the Belgian railways are another. Admirable things!” And the British postal workers, and the Belgian railway men, who recently attested by a strike the satisfactoriness of nationalisation from their point of view, can tell how very admirable they are.

No, the time has gone for both the private ownership and the public ownership and bureaucratic control of industry. It is only on the basis of common ownership and direct democratic control that we can build the free and comradely life for which we have waited too long.
A.

Bread and Brains. (1923)

From the September 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a great deal of truth in the saying that man believes what he wants to believe. This is merely another way of stating a scientific axiom that man in his beliefs adopts that which affords him the greatest satisfaction with the minimum of effort. In the matter of his thinking, man, in the majority of cases, takes the line of least resistance.

The development of human mentality is precisely similar to that of the animal kingdom as a whole. The position occupied at present by the animal kingdom (including man, of course) is the outcome of countless experiences and resulting variations in the past, the elimination by death of those who failed to fit themselves to their environment, and the survival of those who, through heredity, became possessed of what has come to be called “survival value."

So that when we speak of a man’s “intellect” we are referring to something which is the result of the existence in his past of many connections, some of which were dropped, others which persisted.

In modern times however, this “survival value,” on the mental side, is to some extent inoperative. Since man entered the phase of history known as wage-slavery, most of his thinking has been done for him. Since the greater part of his life consists of food getting and food distributing, a great part of his sense impressions will be derived from these activities, and what little thinking he does of a serious nature will be correspondingly coloured. In other words, his economic conditions will determine what he shall think.

It might be urged that the present economic condition would tend to enlighten him as to his slave position and thus bring about class-consciousness. So it does, in some cases, by its very nature; but in the majority of cases, owing to the precautionary measures taken, no serious attempt at interpretation is made. Generally speaking, the mind of man has become so accustomed to acquiescence in the belief of the necessity for obedience, that it can hardly grasp the notion of freedom as being something apart from this condition.

This conception of obedience is by no means inherent—it is a product of an environment of years of slavery acting upon an organism amenable to its influence.

There are those who, quick to recognise this “failing” (in others), dispose themselves to take the fullest advantage of it. Especially is this so where some material interest is served, such as on the field of religion, or in the schools, and in various centres of “ethical” teaching, where the resulting product is a decided asset to a system where one class is enslaved by another. Except in those cases where they are hired out for use against their own class, a worker or his children found possessing brains above a certain (low) standard is considered an impertinence. Where found, methods of adulteration are resorted to; failing this, pressure is applied to prevent contagion.

In a wage-slave society it is important that the system shall appear to have the sanction of the slaves themselves. To this end all “education” is directed. Any institution that has for its object the regulation of man’s thoughts must be under the control of the slave owners. The result is that the largest part of the mental food assimilated by man to-day is that provided by his master. By this means acquiescence has been secured.

An important contributing factor to this condition of mind is that "engine of progress”—as it is euphemistically termed— the Press. By this means people may be reached who are otherwise difficult of access.

It may have been noticed by some that the papers very often contain columns of matter that can only be described as silly, and one has no doubt often wondered what the inducement could have been to publish it. As a matter of fact, the “silly” stuff is deliberately utilised for one purpose, and one purpose only—that of distracting the attention of a mass of people from things disquieting. For it must not be forgotten that the powerful instrument known as the Daily Press is, in every instance, in this country at any rate, in the hands of the ruling class or its supporters. No matter which we take up, or whatever we read, it represents, at bottom, only just what the ruling class wants us to know. They have their writers, men who are proficient in all branches of knowledge, who render their services as required, even to writing the silly stuff, the importance of which—to the capitalists—is seen when we learn that, as a feature, it has not only been retained, but considerably extended.

Human mentality appears to be well understood. Acting on the “line-of-least-resistance" theory, they usually prepare their matter in a form easiest to assimilate—that is, of course, when they wish something to be particularly effective. It may be political news, the doings of this or that person, or even ordinary news items; no matter what the subject is, it is handled and presented in such a way as is determined by just how much they think we ought to know, and the depth of impression desired. At other times, and for quite different reasons, but acting on the same principle, they may make it so difficult to understand that the average man or woman will not subject their mental powers to the task. The main thing appears to be to prevent people thinking too long about any one thing. “Variety is the spice of life ”— and they get it! Apparently the mass of people, whose attention in these days is lamentably undisciplined, will accept any convenient notion offered to it. If the purveyors of the people’s mental food are convinced that food served raw might prove unpalatable or indigestible—well, then, they will cook it, and flavour it to any required degree. In other words, where precise information is dangerous, or falls short, imagination and false testimony is employed.

Again. Prominence is always given to the utterances of those whose business it is to misrepresent or vilify anything which tends to enlighten the mass of people as to the true position they occupy in life, and to a true understanding of the huge swindle of which they are the victims at the hands of those who at present own and control. Needless to say, a speech by a Socialist is never seen mentioned, which goes to show that impartiality is not the aim of the Press. If Socialism was wrong it would be self-evident; if the capitalist was right there would be no doubt about it, and the claims of the Socialists would be superfluous. But the Press takes no chances, because it knows !
Tom Sala.