Sunday, November 17, 2019

News in Review: Brothers for George (1966)

The News in Review column from the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Brothers for George

It is apparent that George Brown is not the only capitalist administrator in the world who is worried about wage claims.

This year promises to be a stormy one for the trade unions in West Germany, for it will see the expiry of wage agreements affecting some twelve million workers. 

The unions are of course planning to get a new agreement which will give them higher wages and shorter hours; the Metal Workers, for example, are asking for a nine per cent increase in wages, a cut in hours and other benefits.

All this, however, comes shortly after Chancellor Erhard has appealed for all German workers to work another hour a week, and after the Institute of German Industry has issued a forecast of economic difficulties during 1966, when one source predicts that German balance of payments will be in deficit by about £623 million.

Storm warnings are being hoisted, too, in Sweden, where the employers’ organisation recently broke of negotiations with the unions over their demand for a ten per cent wage rise.

The reasons given in both Germany and Sweden for these clashes bear a remarkable similarity to each other, and to those being given by the British government for its current disputes with the unions. Consider these statements:
  Germany. “. . . estimated that in the third quarter of (1965) hourly wages paid by West German industry were up by 13.2 per cent over the same period of last year, while productivity rose by 5 per cent." (The Guardian—2/12/65.) 
  Sweden. “The wage raises in Sweden during the last years have been bigger than the industrial growth and it is not realistic to think that this can continue for ever.” (Spokesman for the Swedish Employers’ Association—20/11/65.) 
  Britain. “Despite the injunction and the signatures on the declaration of intent, earnings are still going up much faster than productivity.” (Mr. Callaghan, Chancellor of the Exchequer—30/10/65.)
If these statements show anything, it is that the same problems are confronting the capitalist class in many countries at the same time. Many of them are trying to keep wages in some sort of check, and to bargain higher wages for more intense exploitation. At the moment, however, the acute shortage of labour ensures that the unions can push their claims with a fair amount of success.

Once more, the signs are appearing that governments are trying to put pressure on the unions, which may mean that 1966 will be a turbulent one for industrial relations.

The statements also show the problems of the working class are international too —as are the methods by which they try to solve them.

Dare we wish the unions in Germany, Sweden and Great Britain, as they prepare to go over the top to meet the concentrated resistance of the employers, a Happy New Year?


Middle East flashpoint

The assets of yesterday have a habit of becoming the liabilities of today.

Throughout the world, strung along the main trade routes, are many once prized jewels now destined for the diplomatic dustbin. Colonies that were once vital to a Great Power to be defended at all costs, become expensive liabilities once changes in the balance of power rob them of their importance.

Strong points that could command narrow straits with their heavy guns, naval bases from which fleets could operate, or victualling and coaling stations, no longer matter in a world of nuclear armaments.

Sometimes the colony was of no great value in itself, but in the power scrambles of the time it was feared that a rival could make use of it.

Today that world has gone and ideas of Colonial freedom and the “rights” of peoples to govern themselves, become more attractive to the occupying power than to the inhabitants themselves— especially where an artificial settlement has been built up around a naval base or port, and withdrawal would mean economic distress.

Governments who not long ago would have opened fire on a mob demanding Independence, now often cannot grant it quickly enough.

But occasionally other forces come into play and then the liability becomes a flashpoint. Such an area is the Federation of South Arabia with its major port of Aden.

For a century Aden has been the strong point at the southern end of the Red Sea, leading to the Suez canal. It was seized from the Turks in 1839 and became an important coaling station, but its importance has declined. Britain is due to get out in 1968.

But the Federation of South Arabia is part of the Arabian peninsula, which is in a state of political ferment. The Federation's next door neighbour—the Yemen—has been in the grip of civil war.

Rising nationalism and the growth of Pan-Arabism, plus the efforts of Egypt—the strongest Arab State in the Middle East—have helped to produce a situation that periodically explodes into violence.

Then again we hear the sad and familiar story of terrorist bombs and troops firing in the streets.

We also have the familiar story of a suspended Constitution, of Ministers coming and going and of questions being asked in Parliament.

Another suffering chapter is added to capitalism’s history of conflict and. bloodshed.


The price of a bride

What is marriage?

Exploited to the hilt by the insurance companies, the car hire firms, the caterers and the photographers, and worked to death by the advertising agencies who seem to be able to match any message to a picture of a happy couple coming out of church, it is certainly one of capitalism's money-spinners.

It is also one of capitalism’s great  deceptions.

Marriage may seem rosily romantic to a plain working class couple the day they take the vows. There’s the ceremony and the people all around and the expensive get-up and the chance to be the centre of attraction. Much more exciting than the factory line or the typing pool.

But the reality which follows is something different. There is the struggle to find somewhere to live, to balance the family budget, the fear (it is very often no less) that children who cannot be afforded will be conceived.

There is also, perhaps, the eventual reality of the Divorce Courts.

And when a marriage reaches the Divorce Courts another side of it is often revealed—the fact that it can be almost a business deal between husband and wife.

Everyone knows that a husband is under a legal obligation to provide for his wife, and for any children born of the marriage. A divorce settlement usually requires him to keep paying his ex-wife a sum fixed by the court.

On the other hand, the woman also has her price, and if a man loses her he can often claim that price from the third party. This requires the court to assess the woman as a domestic, economic and sexual asset. And how is this done? In the only way capitalism knows—in terms of money.

Last month, for example, the Divorce Court heard a case, in which a company director was cited by a quantity surveyor, who alleged adultery with his free-lance fashion designer wife.

The husband at first claimed that only damages of ten thousand pounds could compensate him for his loss, but the judge thought that was too much.

He awarded four thousand pounds to the husband, but more significant was the way in which he justified this decision: the husband, he said, had “. . . suffered a serious loss of a valuable wife, both professionally and domestically”.

This is only one of many such cases. A couple of years ago a divorce judge awarded one hundred pounds and explained this comparatively small amount: “I don’t think this young lady would ever have been a very satisfactory wife. I don’t think the husband's loss in terms of money is very high”.

This sort of case always gets wide coverage in the press, but no newspaper ever asks whether the wife objects to having a price ticket put on her, nor whether the men in the case think it undignified to be engaged in a sort of auction over a woman of whom they are, presumably, fond.

It is typical of capitalism that while it glorifies the institution of marriage it also puts its own sordid standards on it.


Against the tide

For almost every problem capitalism produces there is a bunch of well-meaning reformers, heroically swimming against the tide, who are trying to do something about it.

They sing more often than they swim.

Enterprise Neptune is the National Trust’s name for its effort to save what remains of the British coastline from being wrecked by what the property and building companies like to call Development.

The Trust has produced some convincing—and disturbing figures. The Kentish coast, where so much of recent British history began, was 29 per cent built up in 1958; now it is 50 per cent built up. Each year, six miles of coastline falls to the developers, to their bungalows and holiday camps and petrol stations.

Only nine hundred miles now remains of any worth as a place for recreation and relaxation. The National Trust is trying to raise £2 million to buy up the best bits of it as they come on the market.

But they are up against an enormous problem. Once development permission is granted—or sometimes even when it has been applied for—the price of a piece of land shoots up. A Trust spokesman recently gave the example of an Essex island which was sold four years ago for £1,750 and which is now back on the market, with permission to build one bungalow, at £20,000.

This is no more than an example of the working of one of capitalism’s laws. The Trust’s secretary recently complained that the wrecking of the coastline was caused by “. . . greed for financial profit and . . . enormously conflicting interests . . .”

That is undoubtedly true, and anyone who knows the exhilaration of fine coastal scenery, and who fumes at its destruction, may find themselves keeping their fingers crossed for Enterprise Neptune.

But they should ask themselves why it is all happening. Where does “greed for profit” come from? What causes “conflicting interests”?

The social system we live under is based upon production for profit, and in that very fact it produces a mass of conflicting interests. Sometimes these interests are asserted in planning inquiries—and sometimes they are asserted in other, more spectacular, ways.

Capitalism has been responsible for untold destruction, distortion and degradation—of human beings and of their environment.

This is a desperate situation, and it needs more than charity, however well- intentioned to deal with it.


The Evans affair

Ghouls, and those students of something or other who so carefully study the most revolting details in all the murder cases, must regard the case of Timothy Evans with a special affection.

First there was the original case after which Evans was executed—not very exciting in itself. Then the Christie case, which had everything a reader of the News of the World can ask. Then there was the Scott Henderson Inquiry, to say whether Christie was responsible for the crime which cost Evans his life.

Then there were all the books, and now yet another investigation, by Mr. Justice Brabin.

It is a terrible story. Ten Rillington Place was a hellish house, with its crumbling plaster, its rotten woodwork and the mouldering washhouse where they found Mrs. Evans’ body.

And there among the damp and the decay lived poor simple Evans and his ill starred wife and his pathetic baby. There, too, lived the frustrated, tormented killer under the lash of the deficiency in him which made him do what he did.

They have renamed Rillington Place now, and a West Indian family lives at Number Ten. But such changes cannot eradicate the memory of it; the place remains a festering eyesore in more ways than one, and there are plenty more like it.

There are plenty more people, too, like Evans and Christie. People who are ill and tormented or what the official reports call “backward”—people who are too simple to survive in the clawing world of capitalism, no matter what obvious deceits they resort to.

These people are inadequate, and they are tortured and miserable for it. But by what standards are they inadequate?

There, is little time for such people in a society dedicated to ownership, to exploitation, to the fast sell and the big profit. Social workers battle with the problem but their efforts are puny beside the monster they are fighting. They often give up the struggle, and think themselves lucky if their charges keep out of the courts, or at any rate out of the more serious courts.

Evans never really had a chance and that is something which no bewigged inquiry will ever investigate. Whether he killed his wife and child or not, there is no helping Evans now; the penalty which was supposed to be a cornerstone of our civilisation in his case worked in a particularly barbaric way.

And if the Evans affair is ever settled, what hope will there be for the other misfits of capitalist society? The people who have campaigned so long and hard to clear Evans’ name show no signs of having any adequate answer to that question.

Part of the campaign has been to persuade the Home Office to remove what they say are Evans' remains from Pentonville and rebury them in ground consecrated by the Roman Catholic Church.

This is perhaps the most hopeless part of it all. For the effort spent in restoring to Evans the mythical and worthless graces of religion would have been better used in working for a world where it will be no disadvantage to be less cunning than the man downstairs who has a rope.

Jonesism: a curious philosophy (1966)

From the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Aubrey Jones, the Tory M.P. and former Minister of Supply and Minister of Fuel and Power, who left Parliament at the invitation of the Labour Government to become Chairman of the National Board for Prices and Incomes contributed to the Observer on 5th December an article “Why an Incomes Policy Really Matters"—described in the Editorial introduction as expounding “the philosophy behind the work of his Board". And a very curious philosophy it turned out to be.

This son of a Welsh coal miner, who travelled through the local secondary school and the London School of Economics into journalism, big business and politics seems to have gathered on the way very little understanding of the world we live in or of the problem he sets out to solve. This is hardly surprising, because the “facts" on which he builds his argument are mostly of doubtful validity and his beliefs about how social change occurs are not even half true. The one surprise he presents us with is that, unlike most politicians, he modestly confesses that he does not know the solution to his problem (any member of the Socialist Party of Goat Britain could help him out on this).

That the world he sees around him is largely imaginary can be demonstrated by a few samples.

Leading in with the belief that political equality was achieved by the first half of the present Century and economic equality is being achieved in the second half, he finds that we now have the ’‘supreme power" of society not at the top but at the bottom: in the Trade Unions who force weak and reluctant manufacturers to push up prices against the equally defenceless purchasers of their goods. Then comes Mr. Jones’ problem:
  The only answer to supreme power is to build up a body of conventions, of moral restraints, which will ensure that it is responsibly used. This was the only answer to power at the top. It is the only answer now to power at the bottom. And this is what an Incomes Policy is all about. The problem is whether democracy or popular government can be saved from itself. I do not know the answer.
He does not just say that this is so but builds up his case on what he thinks he sees happening in almost all the countries of the “free world”.

He starts by rejecting the idea that it is comparatively full employment which gives the unions a better bargaining position than they have when unemployment is heavy. For him full employment is not a cause but an effect, the cause being that everyone, including governments, employers and wage- fixing bodies has been won over to the idea of “fairness or rough equality”, so that everyone, whether his bargaining position is relatively strong or weak, is entitled “to enjoy an increase equal to that being enjoyed by others and in a general way to catch up with others”. This he says “is the ethos of contemporary society”.

Mr. Jones’ theory deals with the increase of people’s incomes but his argument suggests that arithmetic could not have been one of his more successful studies. The Board’s idea of standard increase is round about 3½%, but giving such an increase, far from enabling the low incomes to catch up with the higher ones, simply widens the gap. Three and a half per cent on say, £15,000 a year would be £525. Three and a half per cent on an income of £500 would raise it by only £17 10s. 0d. so that the gap between the two incomes would widen by another £507 10s. 0d. It is, of course, true that the Board envisages the possibility of a larger percentage for the lowest incomes, but in order to keep the gap at its old amount of £14,500 the £500 would have to be increased by over 100 per cent.

And of course, there isn’t any evidence that Mr. Jones’ “ethos of contemporary society” has had the slightest effect on equalising incomes, either incomes among wage and salary earners or property incomes. Ministry of Labour figures of earnings of full-time adult male manual workers show a range from under £7 a week to £20, £30 and over, with a small number getting over £50. And the women average less than half the average for men. In the meantime the number of property incomes at the millionaire level is going up.

But what Mr. Jones does not see at all in modern society is even more revealing that what he “sees through a glass darkly.” Throughout his article he never once notices the capitalist structure of society all over the “free world” (not to mention the other half). He deals all the time with annual incomes and never with accumulated wealth, the ownership of property, shares in companies, Government stocks etc. He looks at supreme power and its possessors and imagines that these are now the Trade Unions but does not notice that the ownership of accumulated wealth is where it always was —not in the hands of the working class.

Let him turn up an issue of the Observer for 10th March, 1963 and read there about “the fantastically unequal distribution of wealth”, the one per cent of the population (a mere 364,000 adults) who own between them 38 per cent of total personal wealth, a nice little sum estimated at £21,500 million. Let him for comparison search out 364,000 of the Trade Unionists who, he says, have supreme power, and see if they own £21,500 million. As he specifically mentions the workers in electricity he might start there: or with the two million people who each year get National Assistance.

Doesn’t Mr. Jones know about the ownership of wealth? Bad as his arithmetic is he cannot not know: Statistics have been available for at least 100 years. Tory, Liberal and Labour politicians (at election times and whilst they were in Opposition) have continually talked about it and promised to do something. The fact of ten per cent of the population owning 90 per cent of the wealth featured in the Labour Party Election Manifesto nearly half a century ago, in 1918. The late Hugh Gaitskell was still talking about it at the 1959 election. Nothing has changed. Capitalism has just gone on, plainly visible to those with eyes to see, but invisible to Mr. Jones and completely unperturbed by the imaginary impact of his imaginary new “ethos of contemporary society".

Socialists could tell him how to solve the real problem of the working class by ending capitalism and along with it all the structure of property incomes, profits, wages, prices, etc. But this is something unknown to Mr. Jones’ philosophy.
Edgar Hardcastle

50 Years Ago: Equality of men and women (1966)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Along with the emancipation of the capitalist from the necessity of any form of personal labour proceeded the releasing of his wife from household duties, which more and more devolved upon hired servants. Likewise the divorce between ownership and work made it easier for such women to inherit properly direct with all the advantages of the same. Hence their modern demand for political influence.

On the other hand, a similar equalising of the sexes took place among the workers. Deprived by machinery of the market value of his skill and muscular power, the handi-craftsman was replaced by the wage-labourer, who owned no means of life but was compelled to sell himself to toil for another; his women-folk therefore became in reality, dependent, not on him, but upon the capitalist, while his family authority as father or husband degenerated into an obligation to send his wife and children out to earn wages in order to restore, however partially, the family income to the level of his former position had enabled him to maintain. Thus the male labourers are compelled to cut their own throats, so to speak, for the employment of women and children, once established, tends progressively to supplant the labour of men along with the advance of machinery. Whereas formerly the man was the bread-winner-in-chief, now the whole family offers itself for the consumption by Capital of its reductive efforts.

Thus modern industry has abolished economic distinctions between the sexes of the working class, not by raising woman to man's level, but, by the abolition of his property, reducing him to hers', worsening the conditions of both to an intense degree.
From the Socialist Standard, January 1916.



News in Review: South African martyr (1966)

The  News in Review from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

South African martyr

Mr. Abram Fischer, who was sentenced last month to life imprisonment on charges of conspiracy to commit sabotage and of being a member of the Communist Party, is the latest of South Africa's martyrs.

The South African Government have been gunning for Mr. Fischer for a long time. He defended Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu at the Rivonia trial in 1964 and, having broken his bail, has been on the run for over a year.

Now that the evil dictatorship has caught up with him he is likely to spend the rest of his life in gaol, for there is no remission in South Africa for political sentences.

Mr. Fischer made no secret of his membership of the Communist Party and gave his reasons at his trial:
  . . . one is the glaring injustice which exists and has existed for a long time in South African society, the other, a gradual realisation . . . that it was always members of the Communist Party who seemed prepared, regardless of cost, to sacrifice most; to give of their best, to face the greatest dangers in the struggle against poverty and discrimination.
While it is true that in South Africa the Communist Party opposes apartheid—and suffers for it—it is impossible to think that Mr. Fischer does not realise that countries which are under Communist rule are in many ways similar to Dr. Verwoerd’s dictatorship.

These countries also suppress opposition. They also stage trumped-up trials under repressive laws. They also imprison and execute political opponents.

There is strong evidence of the existence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Sharpeville was a horrible affair, but there have been similar outrages in, for example, East Berlin and Budapest.

Dictatorship and racism are features of capitalist society. They cannot be removed by joining one capitalist party in preference to another.

Abram Fischer has proved his courage and his sincerity, but we cannot ignore the fact that he is a tragically misguided man.


Gromyko in the Vatican

Another visible sign of the Soviet Union’s edging closer to the West was Mr. Gromyko’s visit to the Pope at the end of April.

This was the first-ever official meeting between the Kremlin and the Vatican. To mark the event the Pope gave Mr. Gromyko two Russian copies of the Schema de Ecclesia, which sets out the constitution of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps he will need it. Russia’s split from China grows ever wider, which probably means that in the near future Moscow will be exploring more and more ways of making contact with opinion in the West.

This is a typical development in capitalism’s mighty international power game.

In the process of this development—and again this is typical—statesmen on both sides will have to forget a lot of what they said in the past. The Soviet Government and the Roman Catholic Church will have to forget that they were once hostile to each other.

All over the world Communist Parties will have to forget the days when they said, with Karl Marx, that religion was the opiate of the people.

They have, in fact, always been ready to compromise on this issue; there has never been anything to prevent a Christian joining the Communist Party.

Only last March the Communist Party in this country were protesting at religious attacks on them on television, which, they said, “. . . can only have the object of dissuading Christians from voting Communist."

If the Kremlin and the Vatican become bedmates, we may be sure the sheets will have been well aired for them by their faithful acolytes all over the world.


Getting away from it all

How would you like to get away from it all? How would you like to escape from the worry, and scurry of everyday living and spend some time in blissful solitude?

One way of doing this is to imitate Mr. Leonard Matchan, who recently bought the island of Brechou, in the Channel Islands. “For me,” he said, “It is going to be a means of getting away from the maddening crowd.”

The one big difficulty about this method is that it is rather expensive. Mr. Matchan, who is chairman of Cope Allman International, paid about £80,000 for his hideaway.

There is a cheaper way of getting solitude—one that is familiar to a lot of people.

In Leeds, for example, the police last year investigated 166 calls from people who were worried about old neighbours whom they had not seen or heard of for some days.

Forty-eight of these old people were ill or injured and needed help. One hundred and one of them had died— silent, lonely, unwanted.

So you see there are two ways of getting away from it all. One costs you a lot of money. The other costs you a lifetime of servitude and poverty as a member of the working class.

We are often told by well-kept politicians that we now live in a classless, affluent society.

The next time we hear that let us remember Mr. Matchan and his costly, tranquil island and let us contrast this with all those friendless deaths in the troublous city.


Independence for Guyana

British Guiana, after a long and sometimes bloody struggle, is the latest colony to gain its independence from British rule.

The people there were promised a great deal about the supposed benefits of independence and, if they believed what their nationalist politicians told them, are now probably expecting some of these benefits to be coming their way.

They are obviously going to be disappointed.

In a speech on 8th May last the Prime Minister of Guyana, Mr. Forbes Burnham, summed up what independence will mean when he asked the people to sleep less (for six hours a day, he said), eat less and work more. His Government’s motto for progress will be “Work and harder work.”

Mr. Burnham also attacked what he called the “disgusting habit” which Guyanese workmen have of stopping work to shelter from the sun and the rain.

This is all reminiscent of the English Methodist protest, in 1764, that a theatre in Bristol would be “. . . peculiary hurtful to a trading city . . . and directly opposite to the spirit of industry and close application to business.”

In more ways than one, the emergent nations resemble England in the 18th century. If Guyana is to make its independent way in the world of capitalism its people will have to lose some of their leisurely habits.

Their lives will become more organised, more alienated and faster. They will be more intensely, more scientifically exploited. They will become, in other words, members of a modern working class.

In the name of freedom and progress they will have cast off one type of slavery and substituted another.


China's bomb

Good news for all lovers of militarism and destruction was that China detonated her third nuclear bomb—it may even have been a hydrogen one.

Good news, also, for all lovers of the distortion of words was that this latest test was described by Peking as "a great victory for the party’s general line of Socialist construction.”

Good news for all connoisseurs of hypocrisy was that the State Department condemned the test because of its effect on the atmosphere—as if the United States had never exploded nuclear weapons in the air, and as if they are not continuing to test the things underground.

The Chinese bomb is yet another lap in the desperate nuclear arms race which has been in progress since Hiroshima. As each new country joins the race it justifies its presence with lies about its concern for peace and world security.

And the countries who are already in the race always “deplore” and “condemn” and murmur about having a disarmament conference somewhere, sometime—because they are concerned about any threat to their dominant standing in the world.

China is a rising capitalist power, and she has paid for her entry in the race in the coin which all the others have used and which is the only one universally recognised—force.

If it were not so terrifying it would be laughable that this onward march to destruction should be called Socialism. We live now in a society of madness, in which the very words we use often lose all sense and meaning.

Happily, there is one band who work determinedly to keep the word Socialism sane and clean, and who will not have it confused with the terrorism and hypocrisy of capitalism.


Poor men in their castles

Who has not heard the lament, from mortgage-burdened worker or from high-climbing local politician, about the alleged opulence of the council house tenant? Wallowing in the luxury of a subsidised rent, polishing the Jaguar at the door, the man in the council house takes it easy while the rest are stripped bare to pay for it all.

Recently, however, The Sun gave a glimpse at another side of this popular story. In Leicester many workers have refused the offer of accommodation on a new £2 million estate because the rents are too high for them. These rents range from £4 18s. 0d. for a one-bedroom flat to £6 12s. 0d. for a three- bedroom house.

“It's fantastic,” said the chairman of the city’s housing committee. “This is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe with good wages and full employment.”

But this does not mean that Leicester’s workers are wealthy, nor that they do not suffer the poverty that their mortgaged brothers know too well.

In Paris a similar story. There, Government Social Security officials have found that families who have moved recently into new skyscraper blocks of flats are by no means living high. The new-found fascinations of a bathroom have led to heavy fuel bills to pay for a flood of baths.

This was bad enough, but even worse was the revelation that of two thousand women living in the fiats about one thousand were trying to pay the higher rents by putting in a bit of prostitution on the side.

The amenities of the skyscrapers may have cleansed a few Parisian bodies, but the difficulty of paying for them has stained some morals.

Party News (1966)

Party News from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Southend
Members of Southend Group have been very active both in the local area and in Party work generally, wherever it has been physically possible to assist. Quite a lot of literature has found a ready sale as the result of our efforts, we are pleased to report. Locally the results selling Standards has been outstandingly good with a consequent increase and constant revision of literature required. Increased activities are contemplated.

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May Day Meetings
We had excellent audiences at all our Meetings on May Day and readers will be interested in the following:—

Bristol: London members assisted local members at an outdoor meeting on Durdham Downs, which ran continuously from 3 to 8.30 pm. The audience were very lively and we hope that those who were interested will contact our people in Bristol (Directory elsewhere in this issue).

Belfast: A London member flew over to assist members of the World Socialist Party of Ireland and held a meeting in the International Hotel. An audience of over 30 were present for three hours and a number of young people showed sympathetic interest and discussion continued after the meeting.

Glasgow: Assisted by a London member meetings were held in the Royal Exchange Square, the Queens Park Recreation Grounds and literature was sold during the Trade Union and Labour Party march. In the evening an indoor meeting attended by 80 people was held in the McLennan Galleries.

Luton: An experimental meeting was held by the Mid-Herts Branch, which held an audience of over 70 from 3 to 5.30 pm. A very encouraging start.

London, Hyde Park: This meeting ran from 3 until 7.30 pm with an audience at times reaching over 300. Three speakers held an interested and sympathetic audience. At this meeting 500 “Socialist Standards" and other literature was sold.

Birmingham: The first of the season outdoor meetings was held in the evening at the Bull Ring. About 50 listened from between 7.30 and 10 pm. These meetings take time to work up and all Birmingham readers are invited to attend and to come to the Branch—for particulars, please see the Branch Directory and propaganda notices elsewhere in this issue.

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An appeal
We find ourselves without the means to fulfil commitments we have undertaken which includes the production of pamphlets. We require £500 immediately. All sympathisers and members are asked to send donations at once to: E. Lake, Treasurer, 52 Clapham High Street.

Obituary: Jimmy Dowling (1966)

Obituary from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Yet another old comrade, Jimmy Dowling, died suddenly in the latter part of March. He joined the Glasgow Branch in the early 1930’s and despite many vicissitudes never relaxed his adherence to the socialist case. Only those who knew him intimately could appreciate his solid grounding in the Marxist classics. An omnivorous reader, he specialised in the philosophical aspects of historical materialism. Unfortunately, he never became a speaker or writer. Nonetheless, everyone will remember him for his quiet caustic wit and his undying hatred, based upon understanding, of capitalism.
Tony Mulheron

Obituary: J. Cuthbertson (1966)

Obituary from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with great sorrow that we learn of the death of our comrade J. Cuthbertson of Nottingham. He had been ill for some time, but the news of his death was a great shock to all of us who knew him. He joined the Party in the Forties and was a member of Bloomsbury for some time and when he went to the Midlands he worked with a few comrades and eventually helped to form the Nottingham Branch, where he was very active. We extend to his wife and family our sincere sympathy.

The Budget (1966)

From the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

What Labour Party members would have thought in the old days when they were a movement of jolly cyclists and hiking clubs that they would one day have a Government which succeeded in making a lot of people feel guilty?

Ever since they came to power in October, 1964, the Labour Government have carried on a skilful publicity campaign which has drummed home two main ideas. The first is that we are living in the midst of a desperate economic crisis, caused by an unfavourable balance of payments. The second is that this situation is mainly our fault; we have been living too well; we have been earning too much money; we have been spending too many holidays abroad, and so on.

The effect of this campaign has been to make many people who did not realise before that there is such a thing as the balance of payments anxiously follow the monthly figures of imports and exports, almost like pools addicts grabbing the Saturday evening newspapers. The Labour Government have sworn to put the balance of payments into surplus and over the past 18 months they have taken many steps which they said would do just that.

One of the remedies which Mr. Callaghan has applied with a heavy hand has been enormous doses of taxation. His first Budget, in October, 1964, increased the tax on petrol by 6d. a gallon; this was just after the imposition of the 15 per cent import surcharge. His second Budget, in April, 1965, increased taxes on cigarettes and drink, and on vehicle licences; this Budget was designed to rake in an extra £217 million a year. These increases contributed their bit to the record figure of tax which was collected during the financial year 1964/5—according to the report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, £4,072 million.

The latest dose of taxation to be prescribed by Mr. Callaghan was the payroll tax, which made the headlines in this year’s Budget. This tax is expected to yield something like £240 million in a full year.

Heavy taxation, as anyone who remembers the days of Sir Stafford Cripps will agree, has been a favourite policy of post-war Labour Governments. What effect has it had on the problems which the Government said it would solve?

In October, 1964, the Government told us that the way to cure the economic troubles of British capitalism was for everyone to work harder, to keep their wage rises down to three per cent a year and for manufacturers, retailers and so on to hold their prices stable. This, they said, would solve the problems—helped, of course, with a bit of financial masterminding by Wilson, Callaghan, Brown and the rest.

And the result? The White Paper on National Income, published last April, stated that during 1965 there was an “effective rise” in personal income of some 5½ per cent. The same White Paper said that the gross national product went up by only 2½ per cent. Even when we have made allowance for the customary “adjustments” which these figures must be subject to (personal income, for example, is not made up exclusively of wages), it is apparent that the Government’s policies are not having the results they promised.

No matter what the Government say or do, wages are still rising faster than they would like and productivity is not going up at the rate they want. Inflation, which they promised to control—like the Tories before them—continues; the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said in the House of Commons last February that the purchasing power of the pound, taken as 20s. when Labour was returned to power in 1964, had declined to 18s. 11d.

This obvious failure of the Government’s policies does not stop most people thinking that the way to deal with an economic crisis is to impose some sort of similar measures. There may be some disagreement over the details of these measures, but generally the financial pundits and the economic experts stand united that there must be some sort of juggling about with taxes, Bank Rate, hire purchase controls and so on. Perhaps they all have a good reason for this unanimity; if the Government ever lost faith in such juggling that would be the end of a lot of City Editors, Treasury experts and the like.

All of these experts are very busy in the weeks leading up to Budget Day, offering their advice to the Chancellor. Few of them have the slightest doubt about the way to solve the crisis. The Government, it seems, is overlooking the obvious—until we remember that Whitehall also has its economic experts, whose job it is to examine the obvious, as well as the less obvious. This, of course, is the great difficulty; all the experts are rushing to give their advice but they are all contradicting each other.

This year the Government showed how much its own experts disagreed with the rest by upsetting all the pre-Budget predictions. Before Mr. Callaghan opened his box all the financial and economic tipsters were assuring us that there were to be increases in income tax, purchase tax, road licences and so on. The shops which sell taxable goods were cashing in by advising their customers to Beat the Budget—Buy Now! (This on the assumption that an increase in purchase tax automatically leads to an increase in prices, which is not true.) The Daily Telegraph on Budget Day reported “Stores and shops were crowded by a beat-the-Budget shopping rush yesterday, and post-offices and local taxation departments were busy with motorists anxious to renew road tax licences to beat a possible increase of the £17 10s. rate.”

Perhaps when he read this Mr. Callaghan permitted himself one of those famous jolly smiles. Or perhaps he didn’t; after all, he was once a financial expert himself.

What the experts have to explain is why so many efforts to control the economy come to grief, why so many variations of control are tried to deal with the same problem, and why the difficulties which are supposed to be eliminated by the juggling are still there.

Since the war one Chancellor after another has tackled the problems of wages, inflation, productivity and the balance of payments. All of them have failed. At times they have increased taxes, or Bank Rate or they have imposed stricter controls on things like hire-purchase; at other times they have reduced the severity of these measures. None of them has had any effect.

Mr. Callaghan is the latest in the line. And he, too, is failing. At this rate, and on precedent, he'll probably end up Prime Minister.

One thing which is obvious—and which explains to a large extent why they fail—is that Chancellors work in the dark. On Budget Day they may like to pretend that they can predict the effects their policies will have, but in fact they can do nothing of the kind. Mr. Callaghan came to office pledged to, as they say, “take the heat out of the economy,” which means that he would implement policies to ease off the boom in some industries, reduce the shortage of labour and hold wages in check.

But after all the restrictions, the economy stays obstinately “hot”. The labour market remains very tight, with the number of vacancies far exceeding the number of registered unemployed. And in this condition the rest of the Government’s policy—in particular its Incomes Policy—has little chance of success. One industrialist to recognise this is Sir Eric Mensforth, chairman of Westland Aircraft limited, who said last October:
  An incomes policy lo withstand bullying will have to be sincerely sought. . . . and . . . there will have to be the sanction of unemployment, I hope small, but enough to make a good job something to strive for.
What nobody has yet been able to explain, however, is how a Government can ignore the conditions in which it governs. No Government has yet been able, in a time of slump, to create markets to stimulate its industries. Nor, in a boom, has a Government been able lo destroy markets. Capitalist industry lives by making profit, and when there is a market which can be profitably exploited industries will rush to fill it, even if a Government puts difficulties in the way, or skims off a heavier dollop of profit in the shape of tax, or makes industry pay more for money loans. A boom economy will absorb these blows—and come back for more.

A Government cannot create unemployment when industry is clamouring for labour, and it cannot impose an incomes policy when employers are in general compelled by a labour shortage to comply with trade union demands. Of course, when there is a slump it is a different matter; then it is the unions who are crying for Government protection—as they did when they asked for the coal subsidy in 1926—and asking the Government to run counter to the current conditions of capitalism.

Mr. Callaghan’s troubles, then, do not come out of nothing, in the same way as the slump which the 1929 Labour Government had to face was no accident. That recession was world-wide, and so is the situation which now worries Mr. Callaghan. Germany is faced with inflation: France is in turmoil over trade union resistance to the Government’s attempts to impose a five per cent ceiling on rises in nationalised industries; Japan, Israel, India and the United States are other countries which are in similar difficulties.

This should suggest to the experts that, if there is a solution to the problem it is an international one. Indeed, they continue to advocate measures which concern only one country. Every country, for example, wants its international trade to be in surplus; but this is clearly impossible. Each surplus must be balanced, somewhere,, by a deficit: and it is equally impossible for international trade to be in precise balance, with every country exporting exactly as much as it imports.

When the experts are sounding off about how to run capitalism they assume that it is a social system which can be controlled by policies based on reason and sanity. But capitalism is not like that. It is a system in which competition between firms, between nations, makes nonsense of reason. It is a system whose priorities of profitability deny sanity. It is a system described recently by the Director- General of the Confederation of British Industry as one where “live and let live" is changing lo “compete or die”.

This system will defeat Mr. Callaghan's efforts to control it, just as it defeated those of his predecessors. Of course, the Chancellor tells us that his efforts are directed at solving our problems, but in fact nothing that he does, or can do, will have any effect on the basic restriction on the lives of
the working class, which is the poverty suffered by every member of that class.

That poverty is as real today as ever. The latest figures of income from the Board of Inland Revenue, covering the year 1963/4, stated that 80 per cent of the wealth of Britain was owned by some five million people, or nine per cent of the population. Poverty is not a problem of that section. But on the other hand there are the remaining 91 per cent who between them own 20 per cent of the wealth; the Board’s figures indicate that of these people, some two-thirds of the British population have no wealth worth recording. It is in this group that poverty is an ever-present problem, restricting and dragging them down into worry and illness and worse.

It is laughable that these people should feel guilty about the balance of payments crisis of the British capitalist class. Indeed, the only guilt they should feel—and this they should feel keenly—is that they have it in their power to end the society of poverty and privilege, yet they choose to do nothing about it.
Ivan

Marx and Productive Labour (1966)

From the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the latest round of never-ending struggle of governments to even out the ups and downs of capitalist production and trade Mr. Callaghan has produced the Selective Employment Tax. It carries a stage further an idea put forward under the Churchill Government in 1944 and aired again by Selwyn Lloyd as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1961—when Wilson and other Labour Party spokesmen could find nothing good to say about it.

The declared purpose of the tax is both to tighten up production generally but also to induce workers to leave the “service” industries and go into manufacturing and thus encourage the latter to produce and export more. All employers will pay for each worker a tax of 25/- a week for men, 12/6 for women and boys and 8/- for girls. But, whereas the employers in building, distribution, finance and other services will receive no refund, employers in manufacturing will receive from the Government a larger weekly payment than the amount of the tax, a “bonus” of 7/6 for men, 3/9 for women and boys and 2/6 for girls.

A third group of employers, those in agriculture, public transport, central and local government and Nationalised industries will get back what they pay out. It is expected that large numbers of workers will be sacked from group one and find jobs in group two; which all depends on how long trade continues here and in world markets to enable them to sell the additional output profitably. When the inevitable turn-down comes we shall no doubt be presented with yet another absolutely new and infallible cure for the incurable.

In a leading article on Sunday, 8th May, the Observer gave its cautious approval, but included one remark of particular interest. The editor did not like the way Mr. Callaghan has made use of the division of industries into 24 groups (or “orders" as they are called), a division which was originated for statistical purposes in connection with the industrial and occupational censuses of the Ministry of Labour wage information. “Potentially." said the Observer, “there are dangers in this approach. There is the risk of fostering the old-fashioned and nonsensical Marxist idea that the creation of services is unproductive and that only the creation of goods is truly productive.”

In the Observer, as in most other newspapers, the silly season for comments on Marx and Socialism never lets up. The first absurdity about the remark quoted here is the implication that the Labour Government does what it does because Marx told it to do so. Nothing could be less likely and even the Observer’s editor ought to know this.

The second is the assumption that Marx did in fact say this. If the editor believes it, perhaps he will be good enough to tell us where the statement may be found in Marx's works.

Of course Marx did not fall into so elementary an error. After he had, in the opening paragraphs of the first volume of Capital, first described a commodity as “an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another . . . whether they spring from the stomach or from fancy,” he later dealt with commodities which are not “goods” but “services”, the very word that the Observer thinks he did not use. He wrote, for example, about the transport industry which has the feature that “its services (change of place) must be consumed at the same time that they are produced ... transportation as an industry sells this change of location” (Capital, Vol. II, page 62).

He also dealt in Chapter XVI of Volume 1 of Capital with the extension of meaning of the term productive labour. In the elementary stage the manual labour of an individual worker is “productive labour.” Later on “the product ceases to be the direct product of the individual, and becomes a social product, produced in common by a collective labourer, i.e., by a combination of workmen.” In this stage “in order to labour productively it is no longer necessary for you to do manual work yourself; enough if you are an organ of the collective labourer, and perform one of the subordinate functions.”

He instanced the early builder who was his own architect, and the later separation of the architect from actual building work. Lastly, as Marx points out, capitalism has given a new meaning to “productive.”
  “Our notion of productive labour becomes narrowed. Capitalist production is not merely the production of commodities, it is essentially the production of surplus value. The labourer produces, not for himself but for capital. It no longer suffices therefore that he should simply produce. He must produce surplus value. That labourer alone is productive, who produces surplus value for the capitalist, and thus works for the self-expansion of capital . . . a schoolmaster is a productive labourer, when he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, does not alter the relation” (P.558).
That Mr. Callaghan has muddled ideas may well be true, but that he got them from Marx is an absurdity.
Edgar Hardcastle

Finance and Industry: Dollar Safety (1966)

The Finance and Industry Column from the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dollar Safety
If you believe all that is said by the propagandists about the cold war between America and Russia then in the words of James Baldwin they have all the baddies and we have Gary Cooper. But where there is a threat to the profits of the capitalist class the facade sometimes slips and they are prepared to use any tactic, however dirty, to safeguard their position.

Consider the case of Ralph Nader, an American lawyer, who published a few months ago a book entitled Unsafe At Any Speed. The book showed, according to reports in various English newspapers, that the accent on car production in America was on rapid obsolescence; safety factors were ignored because they tended to interfere with yearly restyling and production costs. Not unnaturally in a country where the motor car is concerned in the death of 50,000 and in the injury of 5,000,000 people each year, the book became an immediate best seller. So great was the reaction that both the Senate and the House of Representatives had sub-committees considering the subject.

The king of private enterprise firms, General Motors, made a bad start when it had to admit having Mr. Nader investigated by private detectives to see if he could be discredited in any way. On the matter in hand it admitted that it had recalled 1,500,000 cars in the past month to remedy defects, at a cost of £2,000,000. Ford and other manufacturers also declared that they had recalled defective cars.

Despite this Henry Ford II was claiming on April 15th that if critics who didn't know what they were talking about, such as Mr. Nader and the Government, would only leave the motor industry alone they would get on with the job. On April 26th his vice-president, John Bugas, was telling the House of Representatives that the whole industry now favoured “effective and forceful Government machinery for setting vehicles safety standards without delay.”

Whether the American motor industry can make cars more safe and more profitable remains to be seen. But according to Governor Romney, a former president of American Motor Corporation, it was the motor car industry that pulled America out of the depression, and according to Mr. Ford it is the mainstay of the present economy. Perhaps there are some who will argue that the death of 50,000 people per year is a fair price to pay in a society which places the pursuit of profit above everything else.


Who’s grabbing?
In earlier years the Labour Party has made May Day the occasion for massive propaganda drives proclaiming what it called the just demands of the working class. Now that it is the Government, and has been for eight of the past 21 years, the tenor has changed.

The Observer of 1st May, 1966, reports on Prime Minister Wilson's May Day message in which he said “We are still in grave danger of paying ourselves much more than we are truly earning.” Minister of Labour Gunter, who recently had his salary raised from £5,000 to £8,500 per year, said we are living in the “age of grab” and later:—
  We are working on an average only half an hour a week less than we were in 1938. This means that it is not the shorter working week we really want but more uneconomic overtime at enhanced rates. I am told that this uneconomic overtime is brought about because basic rates are too low.
It is at least refreshing to know that a Minister is being given correct information. Workers will, and must, try to raise the price at which they sell their labour power when the conditions are conducive to obtaining increases. Until, that is, they eventually realise the futility of it all and do away with the wages system.

Overtime will become the eight-lettered word of 1966. The Prices and Incomes Board have made “Overtime equals inefficiency” their slogan. And a new journal, Management Today, says overtime is necessary because basic rates are not adequate to buy the goods and services workers consider are their due. Although like many generalisations this tends to over-simplify, it is generally true. But it must be remembered that not all jobs offer the advantage of overtime.

But surely this was the position for 13 years with the Conservative Governments and the then Labour opposition was claiming that they would correct all this. The first excuse was that the majority was too small, and now that has been rectified we must wait for the next excuse. The favourite at the moment appears to be the old, one —the lazy and ungrateful working class.

There are still ways of making a quick quid if you have the means to play the game; witness the “bond washers.” Bond washing was a complicated manoeuvre played on the Stock Exchange where a person sold and repurchased shares in different guises, before and after the payment of a dividend, and recouped the income tax on the dividend. You could be as lazy as you like, and no overtime was required. Only lots of money. The Guardian estimated that you needed £500,000 to make a profit of £1,000 and the Sunday Times estimated that the transactions totalled £300,000,000 to produce a profit of £3,500,000.
Ray Guy

Why Socialism? (1966)

From the June 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard
This article has been adapted from a short Roneod pamphlet, "Socialism: Fact and Fiction", distributed by the small group of Socialists in Jamaica.
The opposition People’s' National Party plan recently published has been called a “Socialist Programme” although except for a few tax changes and the nationalisation of a few companies it contains nothing that the present Government have not promised to do in their own “development plan”. There is quite a conscious search presently going on, particularly among the young people, to find a definite purpose in the political field. Many declare themselves “Socialist”—it is quite fashionable and perhaps a romantic thing to do.

If you should examine the course of action proposed by the many “Socialists” some curious questions would inevitably crop up. For instance, it is stated that Jamaica should become a Republic and cease all allegiance to the Queen. This is regarded as a necessary step in a “Socialist Jamaica”. The Labour Party in England, which is regarded as Socialist, is quite happy however to work within a monarchy. There seems to be no unity of purpose, with all the various groups calling themselves Socialist throughout the world. What is called Socialism in one country might be regarded as Fascism in another.

Capitalism is the system under which we live. The system where profit is the only yardstick that measures production. Capitalism is international and therefore the problem of any one country is the problem of the world. These problems are not so evident perhaps according to the stage of development, but they are no less real. The interdependence of countries today has made it quite impossible for any one country to solve its problems within its boundaries and then gaze sympathetically across at its struggling neighbour. International Capitalism has placed us all under the same master wherever we abide.

A few years ago sugar enjoyed a great boom, as prices on the world market went sky high. We can all remember the slogans expressed for more sugar production. What is the situation today in the sugar industry? Is it not true that small farmers find it very uneconomical in planting sugar cane? Could any government have done anything to halt the drop in price of sugar on the world market? These are the fundamental questions that everyone who thinks of social problems should ask themselves. Of course, no political careerist or opportunist would dare think of such a question. They can “solve” every problem by blaming some individual.

It is not the people who administer Capitalism who are evil—it is the system itself. The pressure going on inside the sugar industry for mechanisation simply means that the Capitalists who own this industry realise the need for lower production costs to maintain their position on the market. If we were to do away with “private” Capitalism and have state Capitalism, as is suggested by all the “Left Wing Groups”, the situation would remain the same. There would still be the same pressure to keep production costs low so as to maintain export markets. Capitalism must try to keep costs in check whether on the export or home market, whether in a public concern or a private one. It is the laws of Capitalism that dictate what is to be done, and not the politicians who administer the system.

Socialism is common ownership, democratic control and distribution of all goods in the interest of all humanity. It is essentially world wide international and cannot be practised in any one country. Socialism will involve a fundamental change in the way people live. Money—that dead matter which dominates human life—will cease to be necessary. The roots of the present society will be completely uprooted and people will become truly liberated from fear and the many other mental tortures that civilised man is forced to endure under Capitalism. Only by the coming together of all countries with the sole objective of providing humanity with all its needs can war, that essential feature of Capitalism, be outdated. Mankind now has the means of feeding everyone, yet because of the restrictions of Capitalism, a quarter of the world’s people are hungry while food is stored away, or thrown away. The present system has outlived its usefulness; it is time we passed on to the next stage of human development.

What is to be done? Socialism can only be established when a majority of the workers throughout the world understand and desire it. Therefore, Socialist education is the key. This revolution cannot be rammed down the throats of the workers. The working class of the world must understand Capitalist society and realise the great need for Socialism. This will not be a minority movement, but the movement of the majority based on a common understanding and purpose. Our lives and happiness are to an extent determined by political action and so anything short of Socialism will be entirely useless. There are no short cuts and those who continually advocate such methods are exploiting ignorance to their own gratification, and to the frustration of those who believe in them.