Thursday, January 23, 2020

Be disobedient – think for yourself (2006)

From the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let’s rebel! Let’s free ourselves from the corrupt, rapacious society we live in!

We workers produce, organise, and manage production for a minority of capitalists who own what we produce; then, from the sale of the products we make, the capitalists accumulate more capital from profits. Some of the profits are reinvested to have us work to develop the production facilities for the owners, the remainder of the profits are used by the owners to expand their wealth and extend their power by controlling their governments and “persuading” politicians, both nationally and internationally.

Let us change this way of running affairs! We workers produce and distribute all goods; let us own everything and abolish private property, so everyone can democratically decide how to care for each other.

This division of world society into those who own and control capital (the capitalist class), and those who have to work to increase the capitalists’ wealth (the working class) must be abo1ished and replaced by a co-operative society of common ownership by freely associating individuals – that is everyone. A real inclusive society of carers with no selfish, private owning capitalists, as now , accumulating wealth and running society through their politicians and governments.

Under common ownership real democracy will work; everyone can participate fully in administration and be heard – not like now, when the 30 seconds it takes you to put a cross on the ballot paper is ignored for years by politicians too busy pocketing brown envelopes.

Within a society of common ownership, if there are individuals elected they will be controlled by the electors and subjected to immediate recall. This means the elected will be servants of the electors, and recalled to be removed immediately by those who elected them, if they do not follow the instructions of those who gave them the chance to be public servants.

The evidence that everyone has equal power and an equal vote in every decision taken will be obvious within this future society by the removal of the threat of hunger, exercised under capitalist society against all who are unwilling to accept the conditions of work and compliance. Within this future society of freely associating, equal individuals, every man, woman and child will take what goods they want from a communal store. This free access, this freedom is what will maintain real democracy, and it will be possible because money will be unnecessary and non-existent.

Money is a means of exchange in capitalist society. A form of rationing by the owners of the non-owners – no money, no goods. In a society of common ownership and free access – we use the word socialism to describe it – everybody will own everything, so why would we want to pay ourselves? Our common sense will tell us not to waste what could be shared with others.

As socialists we want to participate in a global-community progression to free humankind’s real human potential. We are all equals, if different. We don’t accept leaders, which is why we invite you to ignore leaders too. Begin to free yourself, be disobedient, think for yourself, ask questions, and inquire after the case we suggest.

– leaflet issued by socialists in Ireland.

Letters: Karen Horney again (2006)

Letters to the Editors from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Karen Horney again

Dear Editors,

A letter last month quotes Karen Horney. Her book on neurosis is really worth a read since she was much in the same social psychology vein as Erich Fromm, i.e. finding more to neurosis in the way our society is than merely positing biological and individual causes. She argued that the neurotic individual doesn’t have a large ego (real sense of self, not the negative connotation of ego) and substitutes an unreal sense of self in place.

As an illustration, every one of us gets told to get passes in this or that in order to get a well paid job. That can lead to someone knocking their head against a wall, doing things they aren’t in to, and having an unrealisable goal to achieve and thus having a measure for their failure to get down over.

It has always been a socialist argument that we will do what we like doing in socialism and thus this will lead to harmonious development of people. Horney the psychiatrist put a theoretical or psychological insight/argument that backs this up somewhat.
Graham Taylor, 
Brabrand, Denmark

Dear Editors,

Regarding Karen Horney, I found her first and last books the best and her other stuff mediocre. Her first book, New Ways in Psychoanalysis, is excellent if you want a crash course on Freud and she seems to be a bit more radical probably under the influence of “her close friend” Fromm. She seemed to have sold out a bit in her last book.

I don’t want to give the impression that Neurosis and Human Growth is not worth a read. I think it is a must and is one of the most influential books I have read. I think you have to read it at least twice to get the full impact.
Dave Balmer (by email)

Nightmare for Tory Leaders (2006)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

By their decisive vote the Tory membership have elected, in David Cameron, a leader who seems to be unsure about his own identity. Is the man they have chosen the same David Cameron who, perhaps trying to impress us with his fearlessly rounded personality, recalled his ballet lessons as a child? Or is he the David Cameron who quickly denied having those lessons “after checking with his mother” (although not, apparently, with his spin doctors)? Is he David Cameron speaking, at the start of his campaign, to the Centre for Social Justice (and there’s a grand name for an organisation that hardly anyone has heard of): “The biggest challenge our country faces is not economic decline, but social decline”? Or is he David Cameron three months later, when he told the assembled hacks outside Parliament: “I want us to confront the big challenge that this country faces: making sure we have a strong economy so we can generate the jobs we need . . .”? Is he David Cameron looking forward so much to being party leader: “I am very excited by it. I want to be a voice for change, for optimism and hope”? Or is he David Cameron shortly afterwards, who was asked on the Richard and Judy show if the Tory leadership would not be some kind of poisoned chalice and responded starkly “It’s a nightmare job”?

There are not a few precedents to encourage Cameron in that pessimistic – or rather realistic – assessment. At the Tory conference in 1963 it dawned on Alec Douglas-Home, then known to readers of Burke’s Peerage as the 14th Earl of Home, that he – the government’s affable gentleman amateur – was in serious danger of being uprooted from the mellow courtesies of the House of Lords and dumped, as party leader and prime minister, into the bear garden of the Commons. This was not an attractive proposition. “Oh they must find someone else” he wailed to a lobby correspondent “Even if they can’t agree on Rab (Butler) or Quintin (Hailsham) there must be someone else. But please, please, not me”. But “they” did not “find someone else” because of all the contenders for the leadership he was considered to be the one least likely to be a disaster.

And on that unpromising assumption he was pitched into battle against Harold Wilson, whose craftily cultivated Yorkshire vowels enunciated the claim that the Labour Party stood for a thrusting, technological Britain while the Tories, by the very fact of Douglas Home becoming their leader, had proclaimed their resolve to cling to a discredited past. It did Home no good that he saw himself to be a “moderniser”, charged with uniting his party after the schisms of the Macmillan years. His Party Chairman, along with many of his supporters, came to dread his efforts to compete with Wilson’s grasp of the irrelevances of capitalist economics. On some of his prime ministerial journeys abroad his wife repeatedly had to remind him of their destination for fear that he would step off the plane and use the welcoming microphones to let everyone know how delighted he was to have arrived in some other city.

Home never mastered the techniques of putting across on television the deceptions and evasions so necessary to a politician. He came across as someone whose historically privileged background prevented him having any idea of how the majority of people lived – not that the politicians who do show some such understanding are any more effective. So it was some surprise, that it was by only a small margin that Home lost his one and only election in 1964. He then largely left the job of opposing the Wilson government to his lieutenants and in July 1965, as the tide of criticism rose around him, he resigned. In 1989 a TV interviewer asked him “You never really wanted to be Prime Minister did you?” and Home replied “Terrible intrusion into one’s private life”. As he left Downing Street his party resolved that never again would their leader “emerge” as he had; in future it would be through an election. Not that it has done them much good, or made the job less of a nightmare.

The first person to gain advantage of the Tories taking their first nervous steps into any kind of internal democracy was Edward Heath. He was by then already a controversial figure in the party, partly because of his support for British membership of the European Community and partly because he had pushed through the abolition of Resale Price Maintenance, which had affected a great many small shopkeepers. In a sense unknown to Home he was a “moderniser” whose modest background was in contrast to the earl in his castle among the grouse moors. But Heath resisted any attempt by Tory propagandists to “sell” him in that way, on the grounds that to do so would be to descend to the same depths of cynicism as Wilson.

During his five years as Leader of the Opposition Heath signalled that the Tories had broken with the polices of “Butskellism” – the consensus between Labour and Tory Chancellors about economic policy. In its place the party developed plans to reform – which really meant to curb – the effectiveness of trade unions to resist any attacks on wages or working conditions. At the same time there was to be an end to government helping out “lame ducks” – propping up firms or even industries which were in difficulties. In the short term the argument ran, this may cause problems, for example to workers who lose their jobs; but in the long run the logic of profitability would ensure greater and enduring prosperity for all.

This was also called modernising but this latest plan to solve all the problems of British capitalism did not long survive the Tory victory at the 1970 election, as it was undermined by a series of what came to be called U turns. Finally, Heath’s government was seen as a bunch of rigid blunderers who willingly reduced the country to a three day week rather than question the dogma contributing to the crisis.

By the time he lost the election in February 1974 Heath had few friends in his party and he was infamous for his unprovoked rudeness. He seemed genuinely to fail to understand why anyone could possibly resist the force of his arguments; as Douglas Hurd, who was then his Political Secretary, put it “He believed that people deserved the evidence and by god they were going to get it”. Worse was to come for him as an exasperated party deprived him of the leadership and elected Thatcher in his place, leaving Heath to moulder on the back benches, jeered by his own party when he criticised the Thatcher government and immersed in what looked very much like the comfort of a long-term sulk.

And now it is Cameron’s turn; the question is, in spite of his assurances, has anything really changed? On his way to the leadership Cameron presented himself as an architect of compassionate conservatism – as distinct, presumably, from cruel and pitiless conservatism. Well he would say that, wouldn’t he – just as all the other recent leaders – Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard – have said it, before their party went on to fight an election on policies which were anything but compassionate. Of course cadging for votes does strange things to a politician; how else can we explain Cameron’s recent yearning to give up his £1.2 million house in Notting Hill and move to Neasden. Or his inability to remember, not just whether he took Class A drugs, but whether he joined the Tory Party, when he was at Oxford. (With a memory like that, how on earth did he get a degree?)

When he said the job of Tory leader is a nightmare perhaps he had in mind, not just the experiences of the three men most recently in that job but the fact that he is the fifth Tory leader during the last eight years and that of the ten leaders starting with Churchill the majority have either been ousted or have resigned. A persistent feature of nightmares is the sensation of being out of control – something which all the politicians who profess to be able to shape capitalism to their will, perhaps to make it a compassionate social system – must know about. They may try to conceal the chaos behind a mask of confidence, until reality ensures that they wake up screaming.

50 Years Ago: Mr. Bevan and the Bombs (2006)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Sketch (3/12/55) reported a BBC Television interview with Mr. Aneurin Bevan the previous evening in which he was asked what he would do about the H and A bombs if he  became Prime Minister. According to the report he replied that he would abolish the H bomb but keep the A bomb. As he was a member of the Labour Government that made the A bomb any other reply about that weapon would have needed some explanation, but the reason he gave for regarding the H and A bombs as different propositions was singularly unconvincing.
“Pressed to express the difference, he said the differences of quantity became differences of quality. ‘It’s like comparing drowning in a bath with drowning in an ocean,’ he said.” – (Daily Sketch, 3/12/55.) 
We  would have supposed that both ways of drowning led to the victims being equally dead. Mr. Bevan went on to say that he did not think that  the H bomb “either postpones war  or brings it nearer”. In this he differs from his associate, Mr. Richard Crossman, Labour MP for East Coventry (who, it is rumoured, has now moved away from the Bevanite group). Writing in the Daily Mirror (25/11/55) Mr. Crossman claimed that with both sides having the bomb the Powers dare not go to war.
“We are at peace today because no Great Power can make war without automatically blowing itself to  pieces.” 
Mr. Crossman is, therefore, in favour of keeping the H bomb as well as the A bomb. In the  meantime the Manchester Guardian reports (7/11/55) that the American Government has given urgent instructions to the American military authorities “to widen research into germ and gas warfare, and warfare by the use of radio-active particles.” It would appear from this that the American Government does not accept Mr. Crossman’s view that large-scale war between the big Powers must either be with the use of the H bomb or not at all. They evidently envisage other possibilities.

(from “Notes by the Way” by H., Socialist Standard, January 1956)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

War and Civil War — Who Are the Friends of Democracy? (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Collaborationist chickens are coming home to roost and some of those who for five years have worshipped Winston Churchill and preached the doctrine of collaborating with democratic capitalism against Nazi capitalism are in a dilemma. In the British House of Commons on December 8th, 1944, when Churchill demanded a vote of confidence for the Government's policy of using British troops to support the Greek Government against rival armed bodies, he got his vote (279—30), but though the Labour Party strength is 170, only 23 voted for the Government. More than 80 were present in the House at the time, and of these 35 abstained and 24 voted against (Daily Express, December 9th). Gallacher, Communist, also voted against. Churchill roundly declared the Government’s intention to go on with its policy, and the dilemma of the Labour and Communist parties is whether they shall continue to support the Government on the old plea that it is “for democracy and against Nazism,’’ or oppose it because it is backing dictatorship in Greece and supporting reaction generally in the liberated countries. They are bewildered and cannot understand the seeming inconsistency of the Government's policy, the gulf between its professions and its actions. There is at bottom no inconsistency. The prime purpose of the ruling class in capitalism everywhere is to preserve the private property system. When democracy seems to be the way to preserve it, then democracy is the slogan; but if and when dictatorship seems to be required, then they are for dictatorship. It is the fate of the capitalist class that they have to handle an insoluble contradiction. They have a common interest in preserving the private property system and the exploitation of the propertyless working class, but also they have sectional rivalries which make individual capitalists and national groups come into violent conflict with each other. Compete they must, even to the point of “total war," but they must also see that war does not endanger the capitalist system itself. They all talk about the complete unity of the population inside their respective countries, but they know that the class struggle is a reality, and they fear the possibility of the discontented propertyless class gaining control of effective armed force and thus endangering the system itself. Hence the unanimity with which the ruling class everywhere hastens, when war is ending, to disarm those whom it has been forced to arm for the purpose of war. After the last war “allied" and “enemy" powers co-operated to try to suppress the potentially dangerous uprisings in Russia. Germany and elsewhere, and it was noteworthy that the “disarmament" of the defeated powers stopped short at the point of allowing them sufficient arms to suppress their own insurgent workers.

This time, even before the war is over, strenuous efforts are being made everywhere in the liberated countries to disarm the guerrilla troops who have been fighting against the occupying German army. During recent months the British Press has carried headlines which tell their own story: —
“De Gaulle crushes Militia revolt." (Daily Express, October 31st.)
“Police shoot in Brussels." (Sunday Express, November 26th.)
“Strike Plot crushed in Belgium." (Daily Telegraph, November 29th.)
“More Fighting in Athens." (Times, December 5th.)
“Spitfires blitz Athens Troops.’’ (Daily Express, December 7th.)
It is in Greece that the issue came to open war, with British troops, tanks and aircraft being used to crush and disarm the guerrillas who sought to overthrow the British-protected Papandreou Government. Mr. A. ,T. Cummings (News-Chronicle, December 8th) wrote as follows:—
  My postbag includes impassioned letters from the parents and wives of officers and men in Greece who are horrified at the thought that their men are to be killed in fighting, not the enemy, but an allied and friendly people, who not many days ago were decking them with garlands. For, make no mistake about it, our soldiers are now fighting the Greek people. It is a barefaced lie to pretend either that they are fighting “a gang of Communist revolutionaries” or that they are “preventing civil war ” between two equally matched factions. The so-culled opposition, now being attacked by Spitfires, is a cross-section of the whole community, and represents nearly the whole community. . . . Papandreou's Government now includes only individuals or minor groups. 
Mr. Cummings adds that:—
  Recent events in Greece, Belgium and Italy certainly give colour to a deep and widespread suspicion that British official policy is designed to stabilise dead or discredited monarchial systems in Europe and to strangle, if it can, the new spirit of radical democracy which is the only hope of a new and suffering generation.
He sadly admits that he is beginning to have doubts about his hero Winston Churchill.

A typical cynical comment on the Greek civil war comes from the New York Times, which supports the British policy : 
  Now that the enemy is driven away, not only is there no further need for these underground armies, but the existence of private armies on Nazi storm-troop model becomes a menace to the restoration of orderly government. (Quoted in Evening Standard, December 6th. Our italics.)
The heroic underground fighters of yesterday are to-day likened to Nazi storm-troopers!

The rival Allied powers criticise each other for their respective policies in different countries, but they all betray the same opportunist outlook, being willing to further their strategic, trading and investment interests by supporting any likely group, however reactionary. The U.S. Government, which supported Petain and Darlan in France, and whose General Eisenhower gave the orders that Allied troops be used to save the Belgian Government, yet denounces Britain's support of reactionaries in Italy, Greece and Argentina. Russia, supporting so-called left-wingers in Poland, was nevertheless the first Allied Government to give recognition to the reactionary Badoglio Government in Italy (Times, March 15th, 1944), and it was reported two weeks later that the Italian Communists, doubtless in consultation with the Russian Government, called off their demand for the abdication of Victor Emmanuel. In a later crisis the Communist Party of Italy entered the Bonomi Government and recognised the authority of Prince Umberto as Lieutenant of the Realm, while the “Socialists" stood outside because, they are opposed to the House of Savoy (Observer, December 10th).

In Greece the Communists now denounce King Nicholas and his reactionary supporters and Nicholas opposes the Communists, but not so long ago the Russian Government gratefully received and replied to a congratulatory message from Nicholas on the 25th anniversary of the Red Army, and Soviet War News (February 26th, 1943) thought it of sufficient importance to publish the message and reply.

Likewise in Rumania and Bulgaria, “the Communists have so far agreed either to serve under King Michael or, as in Bulgaria, which now has a Communist Regent, to preserve dynastic institutions, for the defence of which many a moderate Liberal would hardly lift a finger (Observer, November 12th). When Russian troops entered Rumania, Russia gave a pledge not to change “the existing social system of Rumania” (Soviet War News, April 4th, 1944), in spite of all its past denunciation of that social system. Of course, at any moment new Communist tactics may be decided on.

One of the tragedies of the present situation is that self-styled “Socialists” are to be found taking leading parts on both sides in these struggles. “Socialist” Russia opposes the Polish Government in London, and the latter has as its Prime Minister “Socialist” Arciszewski: which recalls the Polish-Russian war of 1920, when he led a Polish workers' contingent against the Red Army and “the red flag fluttered over the trenches on both sides.” In the Greek struggle “Socialists” back the guerrillas against the Government, while the Prime Minister, who uses British forces to crush them, declares “I am a democrat and a Socialist and the enemy is Fascism" (Daily Telegraph, December 8th). In Finland, too, “Socialists” backed the Government in alliance with the German Nazis against “Socialist” Russia in order to preserve Finnish independence and democracy. In the British House of Commons the “Socialist” Labour Party evenly divides itself for Churchill's Government and against it.

What is more material than abstract theories of democracy in Greece is the fact that much of the Greek National Debt is held by bondholders in London. Reynold's News (December 10th) points out that interest payments had been suspended under the Republican Government, and it was only when the present King of Greece returned in 1935 and established a dictatorship that interest payments were resumed. British bondholders have therefore a vested interest in the present “Socialist” led Greek Government.

Thus is the name of Socialism defamed, and thus does the reformist-communist policy of supporting capitalist governments work itself out to its ultimate futility.

One of the causes behind all these movements of discontent is, of course, the poverty and misery to which the workers are reduced under capitalism everywhere. As the correspondent of the Observer in Paris stated : —
  There are two main elements of potential trouble. One is political. The other is economic. The latter is the underlying cause. Tremendous inequalities of wealth and poverty exist in France to-day. The most lavish luxury continues side by side with pitiful poverty. (Observer, October 8th.)
This is, however, by no means the only factor in the various opposition movements sweeping the liberated countries. As always where working-class blind discontent exists, capitalist groups in opposition to the ruling group seek to use that discontent to raise themselves to power for purposes of their own; not to mention the foreign powers which, openly or secretly, intervene to promote their own strategic or economic interests.

But, however divided by sectional rivalries, and no matter what professions are made of sympathy with democracy and with the workers' claims, no capitalist group will willingly give up the means of production and distribution or relax its hold on the machinery of government by which private ownership is maintained.

Reluctantly they will make small concessions to allay extreme discontent, hut they will not abolish working class poverty. They cannot even abolish their own international rivalries leading to war. No one should be misled by their fine words and airy phrases about democracy and idealistic solutions. Whether they nakedly expose their own profit-seeking interests or whether for reasons of tactics and expediency they mask them in phrases about democracy and international friendship, it is the same cynical capitalist interest that guides them. This was neatly put by an American newspaper in its comments on the abortive Allied conference on civil air power at Chicago. Britain advocated international regulation, while U.S.A. (which will start with a big preponderance of aircraft, and therefore prefers competition) opposed international regulation. The New York Post explained why the approach was different:—
  From a purely cynical viewpoint, what have been termed British idealism and America's realism may be attributed in large measure to the fact that, as things now stand, America is way out in front of Britain in the fields of air transport development and potential transoceanic flying. If the positions of the two nations in this respect were reversed, we doubtless would find Britain much more “realistically" inclined all of a sudden and the U.S. more “idealistic.” (Daily Express, October 20th.)
The answer to capitalist intrigue and power-politics is not to be found in supporting one capitalist group against another or in attempted armed revolt to establish another government in power. Even if revolt succeeded, no system but capitalism is practicable while the majority do not want Socialism. The task before us is still that of winning over the working class to Socialism as a necessary step to using the vote to gain control of the machinery of government for the purpose of introducing Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Wartime Reflections (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The attitude of the Greeks is ungrateful and depressing. Why should they be free to mind their own business while the rest of the world is sacrificing the cream of its glorious youth minding other people’s business? Surely it is absurd to suggest that Britain is actuated by other than noble and elevating ideas! It is true that in the sordid and regrettable past perfidious Albion stained the pages of its history with bloody fingers, but all is changed now: we have made progress in philosophy and culture. The Boers, the Kaffirs, the Basutos and all the other peoples of the lands we painted red in our triumphal march extracting wealth from subject people and subtracting liberty may well decay in their unmarked graves; they were the unwitting instruments of our elevation and ennoblement. In the much to be regretted days gone by our rude forefathers just marched in and grabbed the territory they coveted, dealing death and destruction on the way. How different it is nowadays. Operations are preceded by philosophical and political discourses couched in courteous language, pointing out the supreme advantage of being fleeced by a nation of our cultural standing. If the ignorant recipients of the olive branch should realise that an impatient block-buster is waiting overhead in tremulous anticipation, that surely has no bearing on the good intentions of the message!

It is curious to reflect on the various attempts to forecast the appearance of post-war Europe by anxious and hopeful people. At the present rate of progress it should not be a matter on which there is doubt. It will be a gigantic and festering graveyard.

#    #    #    #

We are pleased to notice the stern attitude of the Church towards the clergyman who was alleged to have imbibed too much of the spirit of forgetfulness. The prominence of the case in question is an excellent comment on the ennobling influence of a creed whose principal advocates instil in our minds for five precious minutes on the radio every morning those prime virtues of resignation and patience. It is a great pity that bombed-out people living in wintry conditions in dug-outs and hovels, without the necessary sanitary and cooking amenities of decent life, are precluded by lack of a radio from hearing these sweet and soothing words. It might change their attitude towards a venerable Church which blesses with such unction what they hold to be the unavoidable slaughter of brother by brother. Is it not more important that a priest should not tipple than that the earth should not be converted into a morgue?

Socialism and World Unity (1945)

Book Review from the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists hold that the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race. They also hold that international warfare is the outcome of capitalism, the various national States being nothing more than political agents necessary for the protection of capitalist property.

At the Trade Union Congress recently held, a resolution was passed supporting the report of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee, which contained a clause singling cut the German people as being responsible for the war. No mention, appears to have been made of the responsibility of the peoples of other countries in this connection.

The report was presented to Congress by Sir Walter Citrine, and it is interesting and instructive to recall that this same gentleman published a small book, little more than four years ago, entitled “My Finnish Diary,” a Penguin Special, price 6d.

After describing the damage done by Russian bombers in Finland during the winter of 1939-40, Sir Walter observes on page 43: “I thought bitterly to myself,’ what a curious mentality it is which seeks to justify the wanton destruction of the homes of these .poor people, under the hypocritical guise of liberating them and opening up the vista of Soviet Socialism.' Socialism! It is a vile insult to associate the excesses of the imperialist Stalin and his coterie of despots with a word which has provided the inspiration and hope of millions of mankind.” Did Sir Walter hold the Russian people responsible? Turn to page 63: “It was awful to think that men could be hurled into slaughtering one another without having the least opportunity to control the governments who made the decision they had to obey.” The “responsibility” of the German workers for the war is on a par with that of the workers of other countries. Seeking relief from the pressure of their poverty, they supported the clamour of certain political groups for power, not realising the eventual outcome of their own act. Like the workers of other countries, they have already paid an appalling price for their political ignorance. The workers of this country returned a Conservative Government to power under the delusion that by so doing they were helping to keep the peace. Mr. Baldwin admitted later that he dared not let them know that he contemplated a programme of re-armament! Ironically enough, this same programme was instrumental in reducing the numbers of the unemployed, resembling in this respect the armament programmes of Russia and Germany; and, in spite of a lot of tall talk, not even Sir William Beveridge is able to show how to maintain “full employment” without armaments! But to return to the Trade Union Congress.

The reference back of the above mentioned clause was moved by Mr. Walter Padley, who has recently published a little volume—viz., “The Economic Problem of the Peace” (Gollancz, price 6s.). This has the merit of throwing considerable light on the historical and economic background of the present struggle for world supremacy. Mr. Padley squarely places the responsibility upon capitalism as a system, and in spite of various illusions of his concerning the nature of Socialism, does endeavour to show that Socialism is the only solution to the problem presented to his readers.

Most children of school-leaving age, who have paid any attention to their history books, know that Britain, in the course of its commercial struggle, has fought all the principal European powers in turn. Mr. Padley reminds us of the conflicts with Spain in Elizabeth’s time, with the Dutch in the time of Cromwell and Charles II., and finally with the French from the time of Queen Anne to the early nineteenth century. Control of Canada and India was wrested from the French in 1703 during the Seven Years War. In the course of this particular campaign Frederick the Great established Prussia as a power equal to any on the Continent. While British armies dealt with France in America and Asia, and the Navy followed suit upon the high seas, the German monarch of these islands gave useful help to Frederick both in money and in men. Having interests of his own to protect in Hanover, this is not surprising. So far from being regarded as the eternal enemies of mankind, Prussians were welcomed as convenient allies. The same thing occurred half a century later in the Napoleonic Wars. Blucher and the Prussians were in at the death with Wellington at Waterloo. Incidentally, in this final battle, Wellington’s army consisted mainly of foreigners, only 5 per cent, at most being British. This campaign settled for the time being the question which power was to dominate the world. The map of the world showed ever larger chunks of red as trade and the flag marched hand in hand.

Russia’s bid for .power in the Near East caused Britain and France to unite in the Crimean War in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it was not until a decade later that Prussia began to show political symptoms of the increasing industrial development of Germany. This is shown by Mr. Padley to have outstripped that of France by the close of the nineteenth century and to be threatening that of Great Britain. Lacking an overseas empire, Germany found scope for expansion on the European Continent. Sir J. M. Keynes (now Lord Keynes), in his “Economic Consequences of the Peace” (pp. 14-15), showed that “the statistics of the economic inter-dependence of Germany and her neighbours are overwhelming.” The present-day pleaders for the smashing-up of Germany as a preventive of war may as well advocate the destruction of Europe and be done with it.

These overgrown children, rotten with wealth, want all the advantages of capitalism and none of its disadvantages. They profess to believe in competition and squeal like rabbits whenever they meet a competitor capable of giving them a dose of their own medicine. Their invective, however, will probably know no bounds when their allies in this war follow in the footsteps of their allies in the last war.

The accumulation of capital in America seeking investment overseas reminds one of the words of Marx: “Face to face with the old queen of the seas rises, threatening and more; threatening, the young giant republic” (“Capital.” Vol. I., p. 735, Swan Sonnenschein edition.). In Mr. Padley’s opinion the future holds for Britain no brighter prospect than that of a junior partner to Uncle Sam in return for acting as policeman in Europe. Be that as it may, those who take the uproar against Germany seriously would do well to reflect upon Mr. Padley’s quotations from a couple of military historians. Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, who can hardly be suspected of anti-British tendencies, in his “War and Western Civilisation,” tells us that: “Between 1870 and 1900 Great Britain acquired 4,754,000 square miles of territory . . . between 1884 and 1900 France acquired 3,583,000 square miles . . . and in these same years Germany, a bad last, gained 1,026,220 square miles.” Captain de S. O. C. Stephens, in “A Century of War, 1815-1915,” tells us that in that period Britain waged 38 wars, lasting 64 years in all, while her peace-loving partner, France, spent 58 years in 17 wars. Russia occupied 28 years in 13 wars, while Germany, by some unaccountable oversight, only scraped up a total of 6 wars of 10 years' total duration.

“This, of course,” says Mr. Padley, “has nothing to do with innate vice. British or German, but arises from the later industrial development of Germany” (p. 116).

The present scribe cannot pretend to follow Mr. Padley in his speculations concerning his proposed “Socialist United States of Europe.” On page 106 Mr. Padley postulates that under a “Socialist economic system” a financial system will be necessary to secure the distribution of goods. He appears to have overlooked the fact that during the past five years millions of members of the working class have been fed, clothed and housed by their rulers' governments, after a rough and ready fashion, without cash payments on their part. It is up to Mr. Padley and those who share his views to let us know what are the obstacles which will prevent a Socialist administration providing for the wants of every man, woman and child without the aid of money. When the means of producing wealth are owned in common, the products will become a common store from which all may draw. This will involve organisation, not money, which is the outcome of lack of organisation in the sphere of distribution, resulting from private ownership

While Mr. Padley does not accept uncritically the view that Russia has established Socialism, he persists in asserting that state property and economic planning provide this particular nation-state with a “Socialistic economic basis” (page 133). This is playing with words. Can the close relationship between the State and industry in Russia be explained except by referring to the later development of industry there? No capitalist power on earth is able to administer capitalism along the lines of century old Manchesterian Liberalism.

Mr. Padley is also far too ready to regard Russia's attack upon Finland, Poland and the Baltic States as being simply a piece of military strategy. The restoration of the empire of Peter the Great cannot be dismissed in that lighthearted manner. Mr. Padley has gone to considerable pains to make it clear that nation-states express capitalist, needs. Military strategy is but a means to an end. Socialists are entitled to ask, “What has the recovery of the Russian nation-state to do with the emancipation of the international working class?"

Socialists have no blue prints to offer the world. Their task is to. mobilise the workers for the destruction of the system which robs them of the fruits of their labour. That is our only purpose in calling upon them to organise for the conquest of political power.
Eric Boden

Tory-Labour Agreement On Capitalism (1945)

Editorial from the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Everybody knows that the Conservative and Liberal Parties stand for capitalism and have no intention of seeing it abolished or undermined, but many people are confused about the intentions of the Labour Party. They think that the Labour programme of nationalisation or public utility boards under Government control and the programme of social reforms mark off the Labour Party from the others and prove that it is a Socialist party. Socialists are under no such illusion, nor are the more astute representatives of capitalism. Three recent pronouncements show this unmistakably. One is a statement made by Major-General G. S. Szlumper, Director-General of Supply Services of the Ministry of Supply and former General Manager of the Southern Railway. Speaking in Cape Town, he said:
  After the war all transport in Britain should be run as a sort of public corporation with pooled funds. It should have neither exclusive Government control nor be run by private companies on competitive lines. (Daily Express, November 5th.)
The second is a declaration made by Mr. Dingle Foot, Liberal M.P., and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare, in a speech to the London Regional Branch of the Liberal Party. The News-Chronicle reported him as follows :—
  Liberals were not afraid of nationalisation in particular cases. . . . It was a matter of expediency and not of principle where a line was drawn between public and private enterprise. (News-Chronicle, October 30th, 1944.) . 
The third is u pledge given in the House of Commons (December 1st. 1944) by the Conservative Foreign Minister, Mr. Anthony Eden. He declared that if the present Government's “great social reform programme” is not completed before the general election, and if a Labour Government takes over, the Conservatives will back the Labour Government to see the programme completed :—
  I have no doubt that if there were an election and if a Labour Government were returned, that Government would put through what was outstanding in that programme, and I can say, on behalf of my right hon. friend, the Prime Minister, that we, as members of the Conservative Party, would give them support in putting through what remains of that programme, to which members of both parties have put their names.
He went on to say that if a Conservative Government came in at the election, they would likewise “feel that we had the right to ask the gentlemen opposite to give us their support."

In other words, the forthright upholders of capitalism are quite prepared to join with the Labour Party in backing social reforms because they know the continuity of capitalism would be preserved by that party. We need not labour the obvious point that the Conservatives and Liberals would not help the S.P.G.B. to carry out its programme of introducing Socialism.

Before leaving this speech of Mr. Eden's we would like to mention the way in which William Barkley, the Parliamentary reporter of the Daily Express, reported the matter. It suits the Express always to refer to the Labour Party as the Socialist Party, although the latter is not its own chosen title—(indeed, a resolution to adopt that title was many years ago not accepted by a Labour Party conference)—and although the Express is fully aware that the Labour Party does not stand for Socialism.

For example, in an editorial on October 1st, 1936, the Daily Express admitted that the Labour Party is not a Socialist party, declaring that though hostile to Socialism, the Express was not hostile to the Labour Party :—
  The Daily Express is not the enemy of the Socialist Party, though Mr. Bevin and others profess to think so. The Daily Express, it is true, opposes Socialism, but that is a very different thing. If Mr. Bevin, or Mr. Morrison, or Sir Walter Citrine, came to power here the Daily Express would not tremble at these men nor fear their policies.
Yet when Mr. Barkley reported Eden’s speech in the Daily Express on December 2nd, 1944, and although he put the statements in quotation marks to indicate that the words quoted were supposed to be those actually used by Eden, where the latter used the word “Labour ” Mr. Barkley rendered it “Socialist." Is Mr. Barkley an incompetent reporter, or did he alter the words deliberately? And, if so, was it by his own choice, or is it the policy of the Daily Express that reports should be handled in this way ?

The Finest Flower of Capitalist Culture (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. A. V. Alexander, M.P. (Labour), First Lord of the Admiralty, celebrating the launching of a new naval vessel, tells us what is mankind's greatest mechanical achievement: 
  The modern battleship is perhaps the greatest of man’s mechanical triumphs, and this ship is possibly the greatest of them all. (Daily Mail, December 2nd, 1944.)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Superstition Still Taints Education (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Notable advances have been made in recent years in the technique of teaching. Infant and nursery schools must be credited with a humane approach as between pupil and teacher, and there has been a corresponding seep seniorwards—Messrs. Squeers and McChonkuinchild are on their way to extinction.

These advances are only too liable to conceal the most important aspect of education in its wider social implications; the worker, above all, must firmly grasp the fact that while the educational machine remains an instrument of the governing class, it will of necessity be used in the interests of that class. Incidental advantages to the worker's child in any case will be negligible in comparison with the total gain accruing to the capitalist class as a whole.

Over 2000 years ago, a narrow Spartan oligarchy was bound by unfavourable geographical conditions to go all out for a very thorough "occupational" education. A brutal discipline bred a race of patriotic toughs ready to do the suicide squad act at Thermopylae; it could as efficiently organise a youth who held it a "sacred" duty to assassinate secretly any “dangerous" Helot—a member of Sparta’s racial underdogs.

Modern history affords complete evidence of the powerful instrument which that education machine becomes to the State. Fatuous historians of the J. R. Green type enthuse about the Tudor monarch’s love of learning; they instance the establishment of “grammar schools” (endowed grudgingly from the rich loot of confiscated monasteries). Virtue brought more than its own reward. The “New Monarchy" was materially aided in its stand against possible feudal reaction by an increasingly wealthy body of merchants and their “sea-dog" relatives; the grammar schools constituted a pool from which could be fished the budding Burghleys, the Hattons aud Raleighs, and the whole tribe of despicable lick-spittlers and crooks who foul that page of history which glorifies a not too meticulously “Virgin" Queen as “that bright Occidental Star” (see Preface to Authorised Version of the Bible).

The nineteenth century throws a high-light on the social bearings of education; let anyone who would get a clear picture of the condition of the working class in that period read J. L. and Barbara Hammond’s “The Town Labourer," and companion volume “The Village Labourer." The desolating morass of physical and moral filth which begun and ended the life of the average worker makes the epithet “savage” a gross libel on Choctaw and Cherokee. The stink was rank: it smelt to heaven, and a tiny section of the governing class, not so directly concerned in the nakedly brutal exploitation of the worker, were shocked. At least the sacrificial fires of Moloch must be damped down. Enter Mrs. Trimmer (“Town Labourer,." page 58), declaring that "the lower sort of children might be so far civilised as not to be disgusting.” Hannah More plumps roundly for “Education”: schools were established, and there was no ambiguous phrasing in the prospectus; these lower animals of a Loving Father’s creation were to be trained “in habits of industry and piety.”

“PIETY”: here the cat Piety leaps joyfully out of the bag to caterwaul with its lady friend industry. Wilberforce, fresh from discussing the “scandal” of chattel-slavery with Pitt under the spreading oak in Holwood Park, had “explained” that “Christianity makes the inequalities of the social scale less galling to the lower orders; their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God.” Hannah More was convinced that “Property would be safer if the poor were taught to read the Bible.”

The Education Act of 1870 practically superseded voluntary effort as far as the worker was concerned. The “Board Schools” which it created became factories where “grants,” based on individual performances in the “3 R's,” were ground out. At the outset, training of teachers was substantially in the hands of religious bodies; some day the naked truth about the majority of the “Church” training colleges may be told; inadequate premises, second-rate “tutors,” and low-grade clerical “principals” turned out a body of men and women who patiently bore the bullying of clerical “managers,” of Board or Government “inspectors.” The ruling class achieved gradually a more docile set of workers, and a body of “elementary” teachers clamant in their “loyalty,” never so happy as when running “Empire Days.” Miss Margaret McMillan, many years ago, wrote to the present writer, “They love the grind,” . . . and there the tragedy of it . . . Charity, my colleagues of a younger generation who have had relatively better conditions, for any specimens of the “old guard ” you meet.

The outlook in education to-day has some encouraging features; the new Act should make for happier pupils and give increased opportunity to teachers not bound down by time table and syllabus.

One big blot in the Butler Act seems to have escaped the criticism which it merits. The prescription of a “Corporate Act of Worship” as prologue to the more or less secular feast is probably its most important feature. Wilberforce and Hannah More, being dead, yet live. And their reincarnations administer a more subtle poison than their forbears. Backed by educational journalism, which bleats about the “priceless heritage” of the Bible, and yaps about “Christian Ethics,” the clerical brigade is quietly but firmly playing the old game with an additional weapon—to wit, a “Corporate Act of Worship”; what was vaguely prescribed before, and easily waived, becomes stark compulsion. Relying on a largely apathetic body of parents, the ruling class will get the children ON THEIR KNEES, physically perhaps, let alone figuratively.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is uncompromisingly anti-clerical, with all which that implies; it is keenly alive to the fact that men have always fashioned their gods out of solid material and economic circumstances. The Party utterly repudiates leadership with its degrading correlate of “Worship.” Hitler has well demonstrated what can be accomplished with the young by inducing an attitude of reverence through prescribed ritual. In a way. he has played the game more successfully than the ruling class of this or any other country.

“Secular Education” of itself would by no means assure Socialism; far from it. But we might at least have expected from organised Rationalism a move in that directing; it would at least have afforded evidence that the endeavour to foist superstitious practice on the young was recognised as the evil thing it is, considered (if possible) even apart from politics. We commend for the consideration of our Rationalist friends the weighty words of J. M. Robertson (“Christianity and Mythology,” p. xviii.): “Those who realise the precariousness of modern gains in the battle against the tyranny of the past must continue the campaign, so doing what they can to save the optimists from, it may be, a rude awakening.”
Augustus Snellgrove

Letter: Socialism and Constitutional Action (1945)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reply To A Correspondent.


In the October issue of The Socialist Standard under the heading “Last Days of the Barricades,” you state as follows: “With a Parliamentary majority it is the capitalists who will be faced with the prospect of illegal barricades, which the Socialist controlled army and air force will go through like cardboard, if they ever get put up. . . .”

It is true that the armed forces are controlled by Parliament, but it is also true that the armed forces can act in defiance of Parliament.

When you refer to a Socialist majority in Parliament, I suppose you mean anything between 51 and 100 per cent. It is therefore feasible that the armed forces will divide against itself, so that both sides would be fairly matched with the most up-to-date instruments of warfare.

To visualise a few capitalists armed with only small arms and barbed wire as being the only resistance to the establishment of Socialism may be a comforting thought, yet in my opinion it shows a lamentable lack of understanding and suggests that such is likely to be the position at the time of the Socialist revolution.
I am. Sir, Yours faithfully,
F. J. Andrews.
Romford, Essex.

The S.P.G.B. holds that, in order to achieve Socialism, it is necessary for a Socialist majority to obtain control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces. Control of the machinery of government is to be obtained by securing a Parliamentary majority. It should, of course, he emphasised that before such a majority can be achieved in Parliament there must exist a majority of convinced Socialists in the constituencies.

Our correspondent puts this proposition :—
It is true that the armed forces are controlled by Parliament, but it is also true that the armed forces can act in defiance of Parliament.
Strictly, the position is that constitutionally the armed forces only exist and function by consent of Parliament (which votes the money and annually renews the Acts by which discipline is legally enforceable), though the armed forces are directly under the orders of the Government and those whom it appoints to command the armed forces. Our correspondent asks us to accept the view that, though the armed forces are trained and accustomed to take orders only from authorities under the control of the Government., they “can act in defiance of Parliament,” and that in order to prevent the establishment of Socialism after a majority has, democratically voted for Socialism, a large part of the armed forces will refuse to take orders from the Government and will wage civil war in order to preserve capitalism.

This proposition makes a number of very big assumptions: (a) That these soldiers will be so enamoured of capitalism that they will go to extreme lengths to preserve it; (b) that they will suddenly throw overboard the traditional obedience to constitutional authorities to which they have been trained and are accustomed; (c) that though drawn from working-class families, they are so little touched by the Socialist convictions of the majority that they are not merely indifferent to the issue “Capitalism versus Socialism,” but are actually active supporters of capitalism.

We find these assumptions so extraordinarily out of harmony with past experience and with the political outlook that will necessarily exist among the workers generally before a Socialist majority becomes a possibility that we find it impossible to imagine any such attempted revolt taking on serious proportions, even if it happened at all. Our correspondent does not tell us about the motives which he assumes will lead workers in the armed forces to take part in such rebellion, or who will initiate it. how they will organise it, how they will supply themselves with the means of waging war. how they will overcome problems of transport and communications against the efforts of the Government backed by the organised Socialist workers, to prevent them.

If our correspondent will enlighten us as to the situation as he envisages it “at the time of the Socialist revolution,” we shall be pleased to deal further with his forebodings.
Editorial Committee

A Happy New Year? (1981)

Artwork by George Meddemmen.
Editorial from the January 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists do not extend conventional New Year greetings. We do not expect that the next twelve months will be happy or prosperous for the majority of the world’s population. Only relative degrees of poverty and misery await the wealth producers of the world in the year to come.

Don’t look to us for instant solutions to society’s ills. You, fellow worker, must enact the remedy or else all of us who live by selling ourselves for wages or salaries will continue to be affected by the social problems that we have come to know so well. No socialist can do your reasoning for you. Your brain is your own. You may either leave it to the manipulative forces of the status quo (the schools, media, churches and political leaders) or reclaim it for the purpose of doing some serious thinking.

We don’t need to tell you what to think about. Your experience is far greater than our descriptive powers will ever be. You know what it feels like to live in a world where your abilities are a commodity to be bought and sold so that someone else can make a profit from your labour. You may be afraid of the label, ‘Marxism’; you may not like to think that you are a slave for wages — but experience counts more than labels.

You fear war. You fear getting the sack. You fear getting ill and receiving inadequate health treatment because you can’t afford the best. You don’t like to be pushed around. You don’t need to be told that your present lot is not good enough; you are thinking that already.

We do not need to tell you why all this is so. But even then, you have only to read the newspapers and they will give you another explanation. We can tell you that unemployment arises when commodities cannot be sold profitably; they tell you that it is caused by workers not working hard enough. We say that wars are the consequence of the fight between the rich and the powerful over property and markets; they say that they arc caused by the aggressiveness and lack of co-operation of ordinary people. We say that poverty is caused by the wage-labour system and that without it there would be no poverty; they say that poverty exists when people don’t contribute enough to society.

Who do you believe, them or us? Don’t trust either explanation: use your experience to work out the answers. Are the unemployed all lazy? Is war caused by working men and women of different nations falling out with one another? II so, can you explain exactly what it is that the average Russian worker has against the average Afghan or the average Iranian worker has against the average Iraqi worker? Is it really the brainy and industrious people who get the palaces and the fools who get the slums? If so, why are the wealth-producing areas the ones which often face the greatest urban deprivation?

We don’t need to convince you that your troubles are not caused by human nature. You know that most of the men and women around you are not responsible for war, for unemployment, for social service cuts, for mass starvation. They say that politics is not for them, and leave social planning to the ‘experts’.

Human beings make their own social environment and the environment makes them. At the moment we have a world which is unfit for humans. Profit comes before need and class before equality. Such a system once played a useful role in developing the means of wealth production to their present level, but the forces which gave rise to capitalism no longer exist. Today, in a world of abundant resources and technological sophistication, nobody need starve, nobody need be homeless.

We have made our social environment, and now we must change it. To do that we need ideas. First, we need experience of capitalism. We’ve all got that. Second, we need to know how the system works. It works to produce commodities for sale on the market with a view to profit. The consequences of this can be seen in the waste and shoddiness and destructiveness of modern production. Third, we need to know how to get rid of the present system. That’s simple: it will be removed in the same way as it is presently kept in being — by the political decision of the majority. At the moment most people accept the present system, usually because they think there is no alternative. When the majority of people, in all the countries of the world, decide that this system does not suit their needs, they will politically dissent from it. How? By forming political parties that stand solely for socialism.

That sounds like a good idea. You could do with a new social order, couldn’t you? No property, no classes, no buying and selling, no wages, no profit. Yes, this sounds rather different. It’s certainly never been tried.

But would it work? Could people cooperate in a free society? Could people be persuaded to produce things if there were no wages, but just voluntary co-operation? If there were no laws would we not all kill each other? Without leaders will we know how to stay alive? The answers depend on you, fellow worker; upon you and upon all those who are in the class which lives by wage slavery.

The socialist case is that if you understand what the alternative is, and if you want it, then you will co-operate to make it work. If you cannot conceive of a co-operative society, then we urge you to think again. If you think that the new society that we stand for is a Utopia and in the next breath you wish your friends a ‘happy New Year’, you are forgetting that in a world of social chaos the search for genuine happiness will be a frustrating one. The socially blinkered may be happy in their acquiescence, but only the struggle for socialism offers the chance of something more than a happy New Year: a happy new society.

Letter: SPGB is self-righteous (1981)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

I have now been reading the Socialist Standard for a year. If it has not “converted” me to socialism, that is because I had already come, independently, to the views of the SPGB before starting to take the paper. I am wondering, however, whether it would have done so had I been only half way committed, and am reluctantly none too sure that it would. Indeed, I have an unhappy feeling, which has been growing on me during recent months and which I’ve been doing my best to ignore, that it might have done the very opposite.

Please don’t misunderstand me: the logic of all you say is impeccable. Its rightness, to me, remains the ultimate rightness. What I find very hard to live with is the tone of the paper. It comes across (yes, all right, to ME it comes across: the view must be subjective) as both smug in its isolationism and sneering towards those outside.

I say “isolationism” because having worked out one’s own fully socialist philosophy of life I think it becomes all too easy, in effect, to wash one’s hands of all the ongoing problems created by capitalism, which have to be coped with HERE AND NOW, and simply declare, as a blanket statement, that “only socialism is the answer” — which it is! I am not disagreeing. Neither am I advocating that we all start playing campaign politics. But still, the ongoing problems exist, and if you’re out of work, for instance, you want to work NOW, even on “their” terms, you don’t need the Standard sneering at the fact that there you are, wearing out your shoe leather with a million others, begging poor fool for the right to be exploited, while what you OUGHT to be doing is seeing the light and fighting the socialist battle. Likewise, it’s all very well adopting this lofty attitude that anti-nuclear marches aren’t going to stop wars, and almost certainly aren’t going to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, either — they aren’t: agreed. But still I don’t think that’s the way to put the message across to ordinary people who haven’t yet come to socialism and in the meantime are justifiably shit-scared of being blown to smithereens. For one thing, unfortunately, socialism is for tomorrow, whilst unemployment and nuclear weapons are with us today; and while the Right to Work marches and the Anti-Nuclear campaigns may indeed be ultimately futile they nevertheless serve an immediate purpose — yelling at authority, voicing one’s anger - which I suspect, alas, that the unveiling of the true meaning of socialism probably wouldn’t, at least for the majority.

Certainly that ought not to stop the message being put across wherever and however possible. I just don’t feel that the attitude adopted by the Standard is likely to achieve that. There is a note of . . . unctuousness? Self-righteousness? An awful air of “we enlightened few standing on our pinnacle” whilst all the rest of the deluded idiots rush to and fro like demented chickens in the capitalist hen coop. I’m perfectly sure that this is not intended, and maybe you’ll say that your harshest strictures are intended only for those who lead (and ought to be presumed to have thought things out rather better) than for those who follow; but since it’s the masses who follow, and the masses who must be convinced if socialism is to succeed . . . I just don’t think people like to feel they’re being GOT at.
Yours in socialism,
Jean Ure 
Croydon, Surrey

Discussion about the type of journal the Socialist Party of Great Britain should produce is determined by three principal factors. Firstly, we are a political party publication which exists solely to express the established policy of our membership. What we say is governed by our Declaration of Principles and by democratically agreed party decisions. This makes us unique as a journal: we have no editorial right (or decree) to say things that the membership of the SPGB does not stand for; we have a duty to accurately represent our party’s position on numerous theoretical and practical questions; all those involved in the production of the Standard are subject to democratic criticism or removal from office at any time. This may all sound very restricting but, in fact, it represents the only alternative to the anarchic “individualism” of the Fleet Street press — where the rule of the shareholders constitutes “editorial objectivity” — and the undemocratic control of the party press by the “intellectual vanguard” which prevails in leftist circles. Anyone outside the SPGB who accepts our political principles, but objects to our propaganda methods, should be inside the party using the democratic channels available to push the journal in the direction in which they think it should be going. Secondly, the scope of our publication is limited by both finance and manpower. Ideally two, three or four party journals could be published, each catering for different tastes. But we haven’t got the money (the Standard is run at a loss and we are frequently forced to appeal for funds to keep it going) and we just don’t have the manpower (writers, illustrators, lay-out people, sellers, dispatchers) to make more than one journal viable. Bear in mind that the Standard is entirely produced by voluntary effort. This leads to the third factor: that in producing the Standard we have to balance it so that it will be readable for totally new readers, those who have read it a few times but have not yet joined, and members. To leave out any of these categories of readers would be to ignore a section of our readership. At our last Annual Conference it was democratically decided that the primary aim of the Standard must be to explain our priorities to new readers.

Jean Ure criticises the Standard for what she regards as smugness, self-righteousness and isolationism. Clearly these are seen to be failings. But if for “smug” we substitute “politically confident”, for “self-righteousness” we substitute “a record of being consistently correct” and for “isolationism” we substitute “principled opposition to all anti-working class ideas”, perhaps we would seem less at fault. We are politically confident, though not because we are smugly self-satisfied but because, unlike the defenders of capitalism, we have a political theory capable of showing the working class their potential strength. We do have a record of consistent correctness which is proof of the usefulness of our theory. When we say that we alone have been able to interpret and predict the confused affairs of the capitalist system, we are not intending to be self-righteous, but to invite others to adopt our way of analysing social development. We are hostile to all diversion in the class struggle, including CND and the Right to Work Campaign, and feel that it is our duty to criticise the “campaign politics” of the Left. For, as Jean Ure accepts, these campaigns will not change the nature of the system and participation in them will not alter workers’ political awareness. So, any tones of political pride that occasionally appear in our columns are only the side-effects of having a political position worth bragging about.

The assertion that “socialism is for tomorrow, whilst unemployment and nuclear weapons are with us today sounds like the beginning of a defeatist justification of the “do something now rather than wait for socialism” argument. We in the SPGB do not accept it. We contend that the problems that are with us now are only the consequences of majority consent for capitalism. The idea that the here-and-now problem can be eradicated without removing the here-and-now system is basically false. Only socialism can put an end to unemployment and war and any suggestion that socialism is for the distant future is entirely repudiated by socialists. It is because we want to get rid of them now that we are in the SPGB. But — and this is the big qualification which reformists find unpalatable — we can’t achieve our aims without a social revolution which requires the conscious support of a majority of the working class. Those who can’t wait for the majority to be convinced — or, to be quite accurate, those who won’t help to convince the majority — may well sneer at the principled consistency of the SPGB but they can offer no short-cuts to the working class.

We do not blame workers for not being socialists. If we did, then we would deserve the criticism of Jean Ure. Clearly, the working class is prevented from “seeing the light” (as Ms Ure puts it) partly by all of the manipulative ideological forces of capital — the press, the schools the churches, the political parties. It is our job to counter these powerful forces with the convincing voice of rationality and point out that socialism is the only answer. Jean Ure says that it is “all too easy” to say that; so “easy” that millions of workers have not said it because they do not know it, and unless we continue to say it, loud and clear, they never will know it.

So what is your advice to the SPGB, Jean Ure? Do we stop saying that only socialism is the answer, which you freely admit that it is? Do you advise us to support those who campaign for nuclear disarmament within the profit system when you willingly agree that it will not “stop wars and certainly (isn’t) going to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons”? Do you think that we should encourage people to “yell at authority” in movements which you tell us are “ultimately futile” Do we, in other words, go in for the politics of deceiving our fellow workers that what we know to be a waste of time is energy well spent, for the sake of gaining popularity? Or do we tell them what we must now tell you: that the only place for socialists is a party which stands for socialism and nothing but.

Blogger's Note:
Jean Ure ended up joining the SPGB, and was a member of the Croydon Branch of the SPGB for a couple of years. In her working life she is an incredibly successful children's author.

TV Review: Worker co-operatives (1981)

TV Review from the January 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Worker co-operatives

“They have abolished the distinction between capital and labour” was the outlandish claim made recently by a BBC Horizon documentary, The Mondragon Experiment. The people in question were the workers in a conglomeration of about 80 “industrial co-operatives” in the Basque country. Commodities such as refrigerators and washing-machines are manufactured for sale at a profit as elsewhere, but the internal organisation is somewhat different.

Each worker joining a co-operative provides £2,000 for the company’s funds. This is increased by 6 per cent each year from the wealth the workers produce. They then receive a standard monthly salary. The higher paid workers may receive up to three times as much as lower paid workers. Then 10 per cent of the profits is spent on schools and so on, 20 per cent is paid pack, into company funds and the other 70 per cent is divided among the workers. There are two significant features of this “distribution of profits”. Firstly, these profits are allocated in the same proportions as the salaries The workers who were paid three times the wages of their colleagues each week are also allocated three times as much profit. Secondly, none of these “profit bonuses” can be withdrawn from the company capital (including the £2,000 original contribution) unless the worker leaves the co-operative.

Capital is wealth used to make more wealth; it is an accumulation of labour used to employ more labour, in order to realise a profit. In capitalism, wealth takes the form of commodities, articles produced for sale in the market at a profit. Capital is by definition divided from the labour it consumes. Workers receive wages or salaries which are generally just enough for them to replenish their energies and live in a way which is determined by place and time. They are then able to produce wealth greater in value than that represented by their wages or salaries. In a week a worker can make more than he himself requires. This surplus wealth created belongs to the employer, to capital.

This process can clearly be seen in Mondragon. The salaries paid were said by the reporter to be the “going rate for the job in the Basque country”, in other words, co-operative workers “pay themselves” just enough to live like other workers. The surplus they create is accumulated as capital. They can only get hold of their individual small share of that capital by leaving their job, and even then, the workers on higher salaries have much larger shares of it. Managers are elected by all workers, but so is a Social Council whose job it is to negotiate with the managers over wages, conditions and so on, just as trade unions do elsewhere.

There are some similarities between this form of capitalism and state-capitalist nations like the USSR. In both cases, the old set-up of private shareholders has been replaced by a complex bureaucratic structure, where specially inflated salaries for certain managers are used as a means of channelling the wealth to a privileged minority. In both cases the world market system of capitalism remains, so in periodic recessions production is restricted. But in Mondragon they are not made redundant. “Instead they send them back to school” said the reporter. In Russia they can put them in the army. The restrictions of the profit system remain. Both Russia and Mondragon are examples of capitalism where no specific shareholding capitalists are clearly in evidence.

These industrial co-operatives are said to be more successful as capitalist enterprises than other companies, firstly because almost all the resources are ploughed back without any dividends being paid, but also because the workers supervise themselves, without having to employ any foremen. So most of the workers are directly productive.

What if the co-operative workers democratically vote one week to pay themselves twice or three times as much, of the wealth they create? The frantic process of capital accumulation would be held up and the co-operative would lose ground in the vicious rat-race of capitalism. This is unavoidable in a worldwide system of buying and selling, or production for profit.

The way in which these workers are searching for co-operative work, though, and the degree to which they have succeeded in organising themselves without external investors or directors, is certainly a hopeful sign. It shows how the working class of the world can organise itself to produce wealth. But why retain this system of wages and profits, labour and capital? What is needed is a global political movement to replace the whole market system with planned production, co-operative production, without the fetters of wages, prices and profit.

Miss World contest

In this age of mass commodity consumerism, beauty is definitely NOT in the eye of the beholder. It is in the hands of the mass media. In commercial society, where commodities and money are mystified and personified, and where people are turned into objects, physical beauty is defined by conformity to a norm. Fashions, from lipstick to stilettoes, complete the conveyor-belt conversion in which workers are forced to go and sell themselves, as objects, to employers.

A few weeks ago, the ITV cameras were present in the Albert-Hall, where sixty-seven “beautiful girls”, representing sixty-seven nation-states (Warsaw Pact countries were excluded) were assembled to compete for the absurd title of "Miss World”. As with other sports, the spirt of fierce nationalist competition was in evidence, with the first stage of the contest consisting of a parade by the participants in their “national” costumes. Regional culture transformed into national rivalry. The trade figureheads parade past like plastic marionettes. “Miss Bolivia, Miss Turkey, Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Chile, Miss Jamaica . . .” While in each of these countries hundreds of people are dying in the political wranglings of the demagogues who own the resources, these painted puppets, moulded by a depraved society, stroll up and down smiling in their desperate efforts to conform to the norm. Red lips, blue eyelids, high heels and a frozen smile. This is a beauty contest, don’t forget. Place your bets. You can’t guess wrong, because whoever gets the prize, capitalist normality will have won.

The most touching moment was when all the participants sang together:
I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony,
I’d like to hold it in my arms, and keep it company.
I’d like to see the world for once, standing hand in hand
And hear the echo through the hills of peace throughout the land.
Sexual preoccupations are created and encouraged with promises of a “swimsuit” parade to come later. “Miss India” dances in a talent contest and Anthony Newley comments: “Makes you sorry we lost India doesn’t it”. The only thing he’s ever lost, as we were to find out subsequently, is his singing voice. Workers owned India no more than they own Ireland or ICI. Then the judges are wheeled on. Alan Minter, boxer, Denis Waterman, actor, Bruce Forsyth and the wife of the Swaziland High Commissioner. We don’t know where she came from, perhaps a friend of the organiser, Eric Morley. Presumably these people are trained experts on the oppressively narrow conception of “beauty” inculcated through constant exposure to media and advertising. We live more than ever in a social system which is insidiously restrictive. Individuality is stamped out. Social conformity is stamped in, at an early age, through what they call “education”. Beauty becomes a convention, a composite moulded from the mix of a million faces. And this is the very ideal to be attained in schools and in discotheques as much as in “Beauty” contests.

Out of the blue, Dame Vera Lynn appeared on the screen singing, “When you’re smiling . . . the whole world smiles with you”. Then, when called upon to actually speak, the beauty queens mouthed typically constricted ambitions such as “travelling” or “speaking a language”. In a co-operative system of society, individual and cultural development will be fostered, free from the prejudiced moral constraints imposed when social power is concentrated in the hands of a minority. Until real social democracy is established, with no class division or national frontiers, it will be true to say “When you’re different . . . the whole world sneers at you”.
Clifford Slapper