Saturday, January 4, 2020

10 years of the "Peoples" Republic - Part 2 (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard


It would be misleading to paint too dull a picture of China on her 10th birthday, for there is a small section of the population for whom every day could well be a day for celebration. Those fortunate few are the capitalists. Capitalists in “Communist” China! But why be surprised, for Article 10 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China begins as follows: —
  The State protects the right of capitalists to own means of production and other capital according to law. 
Perhaps the best plan would be to let one of the leading capitalists tell all about it. which he did to the Editor of Eastern World, April, 1957. Mr. Y. L. Kan is Managing Director of the Nanyang Bros. Tobacco Company, one of the largest companies in the country, owning a number of factories. One of the shareholders of this Company was formerly T. V. Soong, a member of the Nationalist Government who absconded to Formosa. The Chinese Government have seized his shares which makes their shareholding 40 per cent. of the stock; 35 per cent. are owned by Mr. Kan’s family and the balance by 8,000 other shareholders. Mr. Kan’s father was a former managing director of the Company, but the son was only appointed to his present position by the Government in 1950 on his return to China from abroad. And this is what Mr. Kan said:
 Immediately after entering into joint ownership with the Government we realised that we were benefitting by that move. Production and capacity went up continuously until it reached, today. 250 per cent. the output of 1949. This has been mainly due to the incredible enthusiasm of the workers. I confess that I had never thought possible such complete change of atmosphere and such incredible improvement in output owing to this different attitude of the workers to what they, quite rightly, consider a factory of which they are part owners. Our Company, to my astonishment, proved to be about 50 per cent. more efficient than those enterprises which had remained entirely in private hands. Also we had none of the labour difficulties or frictions with the workers as became frequent in the private sector of industry.
The account further described the luxury in which the Kans live and explains that in addition to his salary a fixed dividend of 5 per cent, is paid free of income tax, and this, the report adds, on his substantial holding of shares makes for considerable income, far more than the net income which would be received in the West. “I am only a managing director.” Mr. Kan went on to say.
  But I am also an executive member of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as well as on the committee of Light Industry which has to deal with the interests of 6.000 factories. Altogether there are 37,000 factories of mostly light, but some heavy industry in Shanghai, and the total number of commercial and industrial concerns amounts to 160,000.
Capitalism is capitalism all the world over, with its gulf between the exploiter and the exploited. Riches at one end of the scale presupposes poverty at the other no matter whether in China or the West. When the worker is fooled as to where his real interests are, and, as a consequence. is induced to work like a maniac, it is the capitalist who, waxing wealthy, congratulates the worker. This task of misleading the worker is made easier when by means of partial or complete nationalisation, the worker can be induced to believe that he is a partner in the enterprise and that his interests are no longer opposed to those of the exploiter.

The Indian Incident
This anniversary review could hardly be concluded without reference to the border fighting when China overran and seized part of the Indian province of Ladakh in Kashmir, in the process killing the Indian guards. These events have sometimes been presented in a sensational light as though they were the precursor of large-scale warfare. In this case the war mongers watching out for the main chance on the side lines may well be disappointed, for it is likely to be merely a matter of bargaining over a road from Khotan to Gartok in Tibet (secretly built by the Chinese for the subjugation and subsequent colonisation of Tibet) which crosses a corner of the Indian province.

The incident may prove useful to the Indian Government who seem to be using it to work up a sense of patriotism among their workers and patriotism can be very useful in some emergencies when ruling-class interests are really threatened. And what do they stand to lose in exchange? Just a piece of barren and unpopulated land. It is the Chinese workers who have built the road and Indian workers who have lost their lives repelling the Chinese. In this system of society, whichever capitalist group succeed, it is the workers who always seem to be at the sticky end of the wicket.

No one who remembers the sheer poverty, starvation and street deaths under the old regime can deny the overall improvement in physical conditions and also in the security for the workers. Achievements in industrial construction, agrarian expansion, health, education and sanitation constitute a remarkable story. On the debit side, as the Sunday Times 27/1/57 says, there is bland but total suppression of freedom of thought and expression. imposed under a puritanical regime, which is mass-producing a race of robots in blue overalls.

The robots, it must be conceded, are apparently happy. "Communism” has not yet changed the innate friendliness. charm and generous human behaviour of the Chinese; maybe it has not changed their subtlety and expedient patience, either.

The Chinese have had recent experience of living under a regime of oriental feudalism. Now that they are living in Capitalism (even though some label it Communism), they can compare the two systems. With the tremendous intellectual fervour the vast upheaval has made, argument and discussion continue at high pitch. Like the British under Macmillan’s Tory Government, the Chinese under Mao-tse-tung. it is claimed, have never had it so good. Certain it is, all observers agree, that Mao-tse-tung could win a free democratic election with perhaps greater ease than Macmillan’s party won the last general election here. The Chinese workers, surrounded by new-fangled commodities such as radios, bicycles and tinned foods and ball-point pens that they can now buy, like their British counterparts with their televisions, scooters, cars and council flats, do not realise that exploitation goes on just the same.

When productivity increases, the workers may themselves absorb a greater amount of goods without any radical change in their state relative to that of the master class. But sure it is that the Chinese have got Capitalism whether they know it or not. and that, by-and-large, being subjected to similar economic conditions as workers in the rest of the world of Capitalism, they will develop Socialist ideas.

China, with her vast sea of people increasing by about 12 million per year, was civilised and ruled by an aristocracy of culture a millenium before the tiny speck of island now known as Great Britain was redeemed from barbarism by the Roman invaders. But in the course of time the face of the world changes and Capitalism first took root in England. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 was the political event which marked the entry of that country into the world of Capitalism.

So we of the Socialist movement of Great Britain, the oldest Capitalist country in the world, in a spirit of comradeship. and breaking through the barrier of language which is perhaps more of a bar to communication than mere distance itself, give you—the youngest working-class in the world—this, our anniversary greeting coined by a Socialist a century ago:

Workers of the world unite. You have only your chains 
to lose, you have a world to win.
Frank Offord


Letter: Sectarianism (1960)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

While 1 appreciate your aims and your consistency in the struggle for Socialism, I must tell you that your party makes one fatal mistake. Since your formation when you broke away from the Communist wing just before the formation of the Communist Party you have failed to distinguish between a reformist Workers’ Party and a bourgeois party. Albeit that the leaders of the British Labour Party have as much in common with Socialism as chalk has with cheese, the Labour Party is the mass party of the workers. Every true Socialist who is working for Socialism in Britain should be an active member of the British Labour Party and fighting from within to turn that party to the way of Socialism. A Socialist organisation must be an integral part of the workers' movement. I accuse the
S.P.G.B. with the deadly sin of sectarianism.
R. Lennark.
London, N.16.


Reply
First let us correct our correspondent’s statement regarding the origin of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Our Party was formed in 1904 by a group of Socialists who had left the Social Democratic Federation after its acceptance of a policy of reformism. The British Communist Party was founded in 1920 and at no time has the S.P.G.B. been connected with it.

Our predecessors saw the complete futility of the position our correspondent propounds. Further, our record shows quite clearly the distinction we make between the bourgeois and workers' reformist parties. At the same time we point out that attempts by the working class to realise their true interests through such parties must fail.

Such organisations, in being wholly concerned with and committed to capitalism. inevitably must abandon or reject any Socialist aims and principles. Being a reformist party it must accept the values of Capitalism. The Labour Party in fact sees no alternative to the State, private property, or the profit motive in society. In office it must seek to further the interests of British Capitalism, regardless of whether such action is detrimental to workers in this and other lands.

The ludicrous position of a Socialist inside such an organisation can only result in his loss of identity as a Socialist and his being carried further away from his objective. If a majority of non-Socialist workers choose to support the Labour Party, or any other party, it is no justification for Socialists to do the same.

It must be obvious that there is only one party for the true Socialist and it is this party alone that is worthy of his support. For, as far as we are concerned with ’’deadly sins,” we consider deadliest of all that which betrays the cause of Socialism by supporting non Socialist organisations, and by doing so, supports Capitalism.
Editorial Committee.

Canals and the Growth of Industry (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Across the face of England, a familiar feature of the landscape, run those half-forgotten waterways, the canals. Like the railways that superseded them, and which often followed their routes, they link the vast industrial areas of the North and the Midlands with London and the seaports. They cross the lines of hills that divide river from river to make a highway from coast to coast. For many miles they are derelict and abandoned. the subject of indignant letters to the press. Weed-choked and in some cases dry, they link small towns and villages that were once centres of industry and commerce. Only between the big cities and the ports are they still busy. But even here, with their slow-moving boats and their quaint hump-backed bridges, they suggest to most people a quieter and less hectic age.

It is difficult to associate them with speed. Difficult to realise that they were once the most modern of highways. Yet for half a century the canal packet-boats were the fastest means of transport at the service of the public. Fatal accidents in the cause of speed were once quite common.

The canals were the transport system that helped to make possible the Industrial Revolution, which was under way by the middle of the 18th century. At that time the new industrial centres of the North and the Midlands were expanding fast. Liverpool, Manchester, and many other towns grew apace as the older industrial areas declined. London, Cobbett’s “Great Wen," sprawled increasingly over the market-gardens that surrounded it. The need for food to feed the growing populations, and the increased profits to be obtained from its production, resulted in new methods of farming. These methods were to be as far-reaching in their effects as the steam engine.

While water-power was still the main source of power, the infant steam-engine had arrived and needed coal. The expanding towns called out for fuel, building materials, and the manufactured goods that poured from the new factories. The factories needed raw materials, ores, timber, and a host of other things. Equally important they needed carriage for their commodities to the ports and to the markets at home.

But the roads, few and far between, were in an intolerable condition, while vast areas were covered only by tracks and bridle-ways. Inadequate for centuries, they had finally broken under the weight of heavy traffic. Difficult in summer, they were almost impassable in winter. Responsibility for their upkeep rested on parish councils and local landowners, who took a parochial view of the problem. The fact that wool, England's main export for medieval times, lent itself to carriage by pack-horse had not provided an incentive to improvement. The principal means of transport was still the pack-horse train.

From Manchester to Liverpool, a distance of only 35 miles, the journey took a whole day, from London to York a week, and from London to Edinburgh 12 days.

These conditions made transport slow, difficult and dangerous: and what was more important to the Capitalist — expensive.

Josiah Wedgwood
An enthusiastic advocate of canals was Josiah Wedgwood. Creative artist and super-salesman, Wedgwood had set up his new Etruria works near Burslem in Staffordshire. Let us glance at the problems confronting him.

The high grade pottery produced at Etruria called for china clay from Cornwall and Devon, flint from Kent and Sussex, and coal. Most important, safe and smooth transport was needed for the fragile products of Etruria. Clay was pack-horsed to Bristol, carried by ship to Liverpool, and from Liverpool transported by broad-wheeled carts along the turnpike road at a rate of two miles an hour. Flint was shipped from the ports of the South-East to Hull, carried by boat on the navigable Rivet Trent to Burton, and once again by pack-horse. Coal and lead came in by the same ancient method. One possible answer to the problem of transport was the turnpike road. But the turnpike roads were few and far between, and crudely constructed. Most of them had restrictions on heavy traffic, and insisted on broad wheels for carts. The “modern” roads of Macadam and Telford, with their fast coaches, were half a century away.

An alternative means of transport was the navigable river, which had been used from ancient times. For 150 years constant improvements had been carried out on them, but river transport had serious limitations. Currents, tides, shallows, low water in summer, and flood in winter, all hampered progress and added to the expense of transport. Mill owners and possessors of fishing rights placed weirs across rivers, which obstructed the passage of barges and caused delays. But, most important of all, rivers do not cross mountain chains or climb high ground; and Britain, being an island, has no river crossing from one side to another.

What was needed was a transport system that was free from these obstructions, and free from administrative muddle, above all, a system that would overcome natural barriers. The rivers could not supply this need, but the experience gained in their improvement and development pointed to the answer—a tideless highway, the canals.

The way of the pioneer is ever hard and the way of the canal pioneer was no exception. The Duke of Bridgewater, a wealthy landowner, who had travelled on the Continent and seen the achievements of French and Italian canal builders, was the owner of coal-mines at Warley near Manchester. He wanted a cheap and easy method of bringing coal to his nearest market, Manchester, and he decided that a canal was the answer. He secured the services of James Brindley, a millwright and an experimentalist with steam engines. Brindley, semi-literate, but with unusual ability, was to canal construction what Stevenson and Brunel were to the later railways. Work began on this project in 1759, and two years later the first coal boat sailed into Manchester. The price of coal dropped immediately from 7d. a hundredweight to 3½d. A second project to extend the canal to Liverpool began and the “Canal Age” had arrived.

Canal Mania
Before this second canal was finished a much more ambitious scheme began, the Grand Trunk Canal. Moving South from Manchester, this was to become the main trunk from which the branches were to cover the country.

When the first canal was begun capital was hard to obtain; and to finance his second—the Manchester-Liverpool canal—Bridgewater had to mortgage his first. But as the canals slowly advanced interest in them grew, and a wave of speculation culminated in the “Canal Mania ” at the end of the century, when unsound schemes, many of them doomed from the start, were given eager backing.

The construction of canals presented great problems, and the lessons learned in solving them were invaluable to the later railway and road builders. Reservoirs were needed to supply the canals with water and bridges, locks, aquaducts and extensive tunnels were made to carry the canals.

As the canal advanced, its impact on the country through which it passed was immense. Often 2,000 workers would be employed in an area, and the problem of supply was vast. These “Inland Navigators” or navvies, as they became known, were usually rough characters. and disrupted the settled life of the towns and villages in the path of the canal. When they had passed on, the silent highway that they had created had changed the country beyond recognition. Villages once isolated were now on the main highway, and grew as industry followed in its wake. New canal towns, like Stourport came into being whilst old river ports sank into obscurity.

The packet boats
Although the prime need was the transport of heavy goods, passenger transport and delivery of packages became an important part of the canal trade. The packet boats, the “expresses of the canals,” were specially constructed to enable them to travel fast on a narrow canal. They were pulled by two horses ridden by a postillion, the horses being changed at 4 to 6 miles intervals. They kept up an average speed of 8 to 10 miles an hour for many hours, had 1st and 2nd class cabins, and ran to a strict timetable. Some were heated by hot-water pipes. The packet boat had the right of passage, and all other craft had to give way. It was dangerous not to, for they tore along with complete disregard of any other traffic on the canal. One of the most famous, the “Duchess Countess,” mounted a curved knife on the bows to sever the tow rope of anything not giving way.

The decline of the canals began in the 1830's, when competition from the railways began to make itself felt. The faster and more comfortable trains rapidly drew passenger traffic away from the canals: and the packet boat, like the stage coach, disappeared in a decade. The application of steam to shipping made coastal travel quicker and safer, and this finished canals, which had been specially constructed to reduce sea travel. The decline was hastened by the canal companies themselves. For half a century they had held a monopoly, and had exploited their position in a manner common to monopolists. Like the River Navigation Boards before them, and the railway companies after, they failed to take action that could have postponed their decline.

Nothing illustrates better the headlong rush forward of Capitalism than the story of the canals. Beginning in the mid 18th century—ultra modern and with far-reaching effect—within a lifetime they were obsolete.
Les Dale

50 Years Ago: On The Labour Party (1960)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour M.P.'s cannot be completely separated from the Liberals in politics, for their political independence is non-existent. “My Budget,” says Mr. Lloyd George. “My Budget,” says Mr. Philip Snowden. They are “wholeheartedly” for the Capitalists' Budget. And it is amusing to find them trying to assure the murmuring rank and file that no understanding with the Liberals exists, in face of the withdrawal of “Labour” men in favour of Liberals, and of Liberals in favour of “Labour” men. One does not, of course, expect to find a written compact. It might become awkward evidence while, as the Times says, “With friends who understand each other so well, it is unnecessary." Quite so. The compromise of the last General Election, in fact, is being repeated on a more complete scale.

The legislatively impotent “Labour" members claim as theirs measures passed by the Liberal majority, and are now engaged in booming the bogus agitation over the Lords and the Budget, and in rallying the workers once more to the support of the Liberal section of the exploiting class.

That there is no Socialism in the “Labour” group is proven by the welcome given them by the anti-Socialist Liberals. Mr. Churchill said:
  “Don’t let there be any division in our ranks at this juncture. I know that the Lords and their backers are counting on divisions between Liberal and Labour. But I think they are likely to be a little bit mistaken."
From the Socialist Standard, January 1910

Labour's Lost Chord (1960)

From the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Against all the precedents, and to the: surprise of many Labour supporters, the Tories have won their third election in succession; and have even managed to increase their majority. The most interesting aspect of this was not Supermac's victory, but the changed attitudes and moods of the electorate, that were revealed more clearly than before. These changes affect the Labour Party far more than the Tories, and in some ways appear to be a major disaster for Labour, causing much heart-searching and what John Foster Dulles called “agonising re-appraisals.”

In spite of high polls and a fairly steady Labour vote, something has gone from British politics, and gone for ever. This “something” might loosely be called “left-wing idealism.” Where is the enthusiasm of Labour’s early years; where the desire to make the world a place of dignity, free from slavery and oppression; where the striving to make man master of the machine instead of its mere adjunct. Labour in the past expressed, however incoherently, all these aspirations of a working class just out of its infancy, crying out, not for charity and mercy, but for political power with which to change the world.

The Labour Party was formed in 1906, yet despite its recent emergence (as compared with Liberal or Tory) its appeal is already fading, its policies old-hat, its ideals threadbare and increasingly lost in vague verbiage. Fifty-three years have seen the rise and decline of that sincere idealism that sent hundreds of thousands of workers onto the streets campaigning, not for “we can make ‘You have never had it so good’ even better.” but to build a society worthy of Man’s sense of his own dignity. Left-wing idealism has died, and all the trumpeting of Bevan. Barbara Castle, Mikardo and “Tribune” cannot bring it to life again. Labour today can only mimic its former styles; and the result, with even the rebels supporting H-bombs, rearmament and the trade struggle with foreign powers, sounds as hollow as an old biscuit-tin.

Labour’s Lost Image
Images—religious, military, national or political have nothing precise or rational in their make-up. A political image is created by a thousand-and-one vague impressions gained from speeches, articles (and even catchy phrases remembered out of context), the personal appearance and integrity (real or assumed) of the politicians, and the manner and methods of presenting promises to the electorate. The practiced politician is aware of this, and seeks more to create a favourable image than to present a coherent political programme. The measures presented must likewise have quick appeal, the thoughtful must make way for the sensational. The image which Labour built was of the working-man turned politician who by a judicious use of Parliament would strike a blow for the workers against the forces of exploitation and oppression. Labour became the embodiment of “Us.” “Them” being not just the ruling class, but the whole Establishment, right down to the foreman. With this image Labour could rely on millions of votes from embittered workers who were never sufficiently politically aware to state any specific revolutionary aims.

In furtherance of this image, Labour became a political Father Christmas offering something to every shade of radical, reforming opinion. A political pap, made of Reformism, Fabianism, Pacifism, Nationalisation, Cooperation, Patriotism and Christianity, provided a diet for everybody—almost. This diet may not be very nourishing, but the promise of working-class victory was enough to blind many to Labour’s defects. Five-and-a-half years of Labour Government helped to disillusion many, but the malaise of the Labour Party goes deeper. Times have changed, and the changed attitudes of workers are posing a big problem for Labour. It seems that in an era of full employment their message has become irrelevant. Since 1950, they have had difficulty in finding a policy that marked them off from the Tories. A rather damaging thing to say about a party whose prominent members are fond of talking about “Principles of Social Democracy”; “Public Ownership”; and “Co-operative Commonwealth.” Big words, and words that are extremely obscure as used by the Labour Party. They have in any case lost a lot of their old appeal, and Labour might as well drop them.

The Rise of the “Middle Class”
It is the spread of what is called the “middle class” and its ideals that has so much changed the character of British Politics. “Middle Class” is not a valid term in the economic sense; the middle class or rising Capitalist class of Marx’s day have vanished from the scene. A rough definition of them today would be “all those members of the working class who, for reasons of tradition, snobbery and aspiration, identify themselves with Capitalism and its institutions.” They are a part of the Establishment; seeking social solidarity in the pretences that their employments are valuable and that they form the backbone of society. The correct ethics and morals must be observed, the correct sort of clothes worn, and the right sort of house occupied. Income is to some extent secondary, though the most lowly-paid workers cannot qualify. The £12 a week clerk is frequently “middle class” in outlook, while better paid workers on bench or machines are usually “working class.” “Middle class” aims and aspirations are however becoming more widespread, even among Labour’s traditional supporters.

One change is the growth of the unproductive tasks. This process is continuous, but it has received fresh impetus in the boom conditions prevailing since the War. New office-buildings thrust their outlines into every city skyline, and they are much bigger than the bombed or demolished buildings they replace. More and more office staff are required, and their activities are mechanised and organised on a large scale. Capitalism requires more and more people to calculate, organise, publicise and litigate.

As the office-workers have grown, so the industrial workers, considered as a proportion of the population, have declined. In industry, too, important changes are taking place. The technicians, designers, draughtsmen, and supervisors become increasingly important, and are becoming cut off from their proletarian roots. Many such people are “middle class” in outlook, and are usually on the side of the “Supermac” angels.

Most important of all is the growth among all sections of what D. H. Lawrence called “the new money pleasures.” The past sixty years has seen tremendous changes in consumer goods. Modern Capitalism, with its mass-production of pressed-steel and plastic gadgets, its electronic marvels and its motor-cars, has conditioned people to the continual discarding of the old and the buying of new things. No longer need the furniture last a lifetime it must be glossy, bold-as-brass. and changed every few years. Acquisition and coveting are the ruling social ideas, and there has been as a consequence a decline in social life and a decline in interest in real human questions. The furniture, radiogram and T.V. may be new, but the emotional experiences are second-hand, gained from T.V., best-selling novel or film. "You have never had it so good” is a pretty accurate, and cynical, summing-up of attitudes in the 1950's This is not a triumph of higher wages and improved social conditions, it is a triumph of things over human relationships. The Commodity reigns supreme, and Humanity is hardly anywhere. There is a constant barrage of T.V.. press and film advertising to help keep the Commodity secure.

What can the left-wing idealists of the Labour Party say against this? The Labour Party, with its catchpenny prosperity schemes, its sensational appeals, its exhortations to workers to work harder in the cause of increased prosperity, its support of the trade struggle, contributed its share towards Man's enslavement to the Commodity.

What Labour failed to see was that Capitalism could be modified again and again—and still remain Capitalism. Poverty is a permanent feature of Capitalism. However many gadgets workers acquire (and the process need not be continuous, for slumps can return again) they remain workers; and the ruling class are still there—on top.

The Squawking, Chattering Jay
Labour need not be stuck for an answer. There is the quick gloss, the clever evasion, the downright lie; all useful weapons in politics. There is the Jay approach, a truly cynical one: cast away the old ideas, keep up to date, be in with the times! It doesn't matter what you do so long as you kick wicked old Mac out of office! The argument is of course justified by the cry: “spare a tear for the poor electorate under Tory rule!” Labour members are certainly confused, but this kind of argument hasn’t gone down very well. They have, after all, an attachment to what they call their “principles.” Many would like to see more Nationalisation, but are prepared to admit it hasn’t made much difference so far. And why and how should it?

The bulk of the Party will probably come round to Gaitskell’s views on the subject which are: keep a fair smattering of high-sounding phrases for the more thoughtful (but Keep it Vague!); an abandonment or modification (or in any case soft-pedalling) of the garbled and obscure definition of Socialism in the Party’s 1919 constitution: and plenty of gloss on those policy statements. Labour’s post-election conference suggests that for the time being they will be satisfied with a patchwork job. with Uncle Nye (how genial the old firebrand is getting!) suavely proclaiming the Party’s essential unity. Labour's next programme might be envisaged as promising a thousand miles more motorway than the Tories, bigger and better Hire-Purchase and house buying facilities, and a suggestion that Labour is an up-to-date slick Party in a slick world. They might on the other hand become the victims of their own traditions and go into a gentle decline. In any event Socialism will become more and more distant, the “principles” more and more obscure and more and more a cloak for ruling class ideas.

In spite of sixty years of “inevitable gradualness": in spite of increasing Government interference in the running of almost everything: Capitalism is still carried on for the benefit of a ruling class. Its hold over people’s minds appears as strong as ever. “Appears” is used deliberately; although people still support Capitalism, it is support on a rather cynical level. Outright enthusiasm is becoming rare. Perhaps in a way this is an advance; perhaps disillusion comes all the quicker. .

Capitalism, in spite of “improved” education, better social services, motor-cars and other gadgets of all sorts, remains an unworthy system: throwing its peoples’ lives away in futile battle; damaging the very basis of Man’s biological inheritance: submitting its peoples to the rat-race scramble for jobs and favours; subordinating Man to the machine and productive method: crushing individuality; battering at peoples' consciousness with hideous advertising, and misusing language in the same process (adding “triteness” to “brightness” is one of Capitalism’s more subtle and insidious crimes): and fostering avarice, envy and hatred where there could be human cooperative happiness.

Out in the Cold
More and more motor-cars and motor-ways, and more intricate gadgets, do not suggest Wonderland to the Socialist. They suggest that Mankind is going mad over mere things, over what should be simply aids and adjuncts to living, and in the process are forgetting how to live, forgetting their own humanity.

Not being interested in cadging votes (though we would certainly like to see more workers supporting Socialism, at the Polls and elsewhere); not wasting our time in collecting the crumbs of Reform; not trying to resolve the impossible by offering a Foreign Policy that will reconcile Eisenhower, Khruschev, De Gaulle and the British Government; we are in a position radically different from any other Party, and our problems are different. We are the victims of the general hostility and apathy towards politics. People dismiss all politicians—including Socialists—as frauds, even though our views are not “politics” in the sense that other Parties use the word. We have to break through a thick armour of apathy and hostility, to show people that we are really different. Still, we find few Labour supporters left prepared to argue, and perhaps out of the apathy and cynicism will come a more positive attitude, an attitude favourable to Socialist ideas. In the meantime we remain unrepentant, and to Labour jeering we can reply “we would rather be in the Political wilderness than have supported a Government that began the biggest peace-time armaments programme in this country’s history” (where were the left-wing mixed-up kids then? Cringing under the lash of three-line whips!)

Petrol-station, sham-Tudor house and shiny gadgets provide an unworthy material setting for mankind; just as irrational politics, reformism, “publicity” sensationalism and herd-appeals provide an unworthy ideological setting. Along with all this and the other rubbish that Socialism will consign to the dustbin will go the Labour Party. For they are a symbol of working-class political immaturity, and the sooner discarded the better.
F. R. Ivimey

From The Branches (1960)

Party News from the January 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Islington
Islington Branch continue to run successful lunch hour meetings at Tower Hill every Thursday, and those comrades able to attend would be doing a useful job in supporting the meetings.

All work and no Social? Did you enjoy dancing to Joe's (McGuinness) Group at the last Social? Islington Branch have again engaged them to play for you at their forthcoming Social and Dance to be held at the Co-op Hall, 129. Seven Sisters Road, N.7 (Finsbury Park Tube station) on Saturday, January 16th. Admission is 2s. 6d. and tickets are obtainable from Comrade Carr, Islington Branch Secretary, and from Comrade Blomeley who at Head Office every Tuesday evening.

The Branch also invites Comrades and Friends to their Branch meeting—same address as the Social—and in particular on Thursday, January 21st. when Comrade Hardy will be speaking on “ Inflation." Time, 8 p.m.


Film Lectures 
The first of a new series commences on Sunday, January 10th, and will be held every Sunday following until March. Time, 7.30 p.m., at Head Office, 52, Clapham High Street. S.W.4.


Sunday Lectures
The Propaganda Committee have arranged a series of eight Sunday meetings commencing January 24th, to be held at the Central Club Society, 127, Clerkenwell Road, E.C.1 (Near Holborn Hall), 7.30 p.m. This is a new venue and it is hoped that the meetings will have the support necessary to make them successful. Please make a note of the new address and pass it on to friends who would be interested.


Socialist Standard
A reminder that a subscription form is in this issue-—a moment or two to fill it in, and a remittance of 7s. 6d., will ensure the delivery of a copy early every month for a vear.
the Branches


Special March Issue
The March issue of the Socialist Standard will be a special one on Africa. Writers are asked to let the S.S. Production Committee know as soon as possible whether they will have anything to submit on the subject.
Phyllis Howard


January 1960
There is no avail in the wish “Happy New Year." Only a hope that the next twelve months will be better than the last. We said it to each other last January and what has happened since then? We have had over 600,000 unemployed. In May there was the scare over Berlin: in the Summer the reports from Hola and Nyasaland. The Autumn brought another Tory government. However much we wish for a new start, Capitalism does not change. It is time to stop wishing and to begin working for a better world, where peace and plenty are perpetual reality instead of an annual aspiration.

THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN IS DESPERATELY SHORT OF MONEY. HELP US WITH A DONATION TO THE TREASURER AT OUR HEAD OFFICE!


Islington Branch cordially
 invites you to their
Social & Dance
DANCING TO JOE'S GROUP 
Saturday, 16th January at 7.30 p.m. 
Co-op Hall, 129 Seven Sisters Road, N.7 
2s. 6d. Refreshments

Greasy Pole: Court in the Act (2001)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dominic came up the steps from the cells, which were airless and gloomy, and stood blinking and smiling in the glare from the tall windows across from the dock in Court Number One. He smiled because he had long ago learned how useful it was. He knew that a smile could open doors, defuse anger, evade awkward questions about your past. With a bit of luck it might even get you off a charge of shoplifting.

Today was not his lucky day. Looking down on him was a single magistrate instead of the three who usually sat on that bench. This was a stipendiary magistrate—a qualified lawyer paid to dish out what people like Dominic have to call justice. Stipendiaries work much faster than lay magistrates; for one thing they don’t need the Court Clerk forever instructing them in the law or interfering in their deliberations. Operating singly means they never have to endure any tedious arguments about guilt or sentence. In some courts they give out their decisions with intimidating speed.

There is an assumption that stipendiaries are not only objectively infallible but uniformly so. Reality is rather different. A punitive stipendiary can create a type of havoc in the Court. There was one who would sit hunched vulture-like over the bench positively stating his public display of prejudice against offenders. The sentences he handed down, and what he said to the poor wretches in the dock as he did so, showed the hatred he nurtured for anyone who transgressed the sacred laws of property. There was however a marked exception to this; anyone who stole from a public house or an off-licence—even if it was while they were working there in what is called a “position of trust” (as if all employees don’t have to be “trusted” by the employers to make profits) could hope for a lenient sentence. This was because the stipendiary seemed to hate alcohol even more than he did criminals.

Another stipendiary who was notorious for his passion to imprison people surprised everyone in his Court when he allowed a mentally disturbed man to go free on bail. Shortly afterwards the man’s behaviour at his home was disturbed enough for someone to call the police. A policewoman burst through the barricaded door and as she did so the man stabbed her to death.

The magistrate looking down on Dominic was not likely to make such a mistake. He was straight and square and predictable. He always listened carefully to everything said in his Court and his decisions were always strictly in line with the law and the offence he was dealing with. This was not a good omen for Dominic, who had been caught as he was about to leave a shop with a load of CDs in a plastic shopping bag lined with foil to avoid detection at the electronically monitored exit.

The Clerk asked Dominic his name and date of birth and address. He was, he said, of No Fixed Abode. Then the Clerk gabbled a sort of catechism about how Dominic intended to plead and if he intended to plead guilty that would be taken as a plea of guilty and the case would go ahead there and then. Unlike a lot of defendants, Dominic understood this straightaway. A sure way to delay a case is to say you will plead not guilty to the charge; the snag is that if you eventually admit it you will not get the discount on a sentence which Courts can give for a first-time guilty plea. This is part of the government’s strategy to speed up the processing of defendants by the Courts; faster means cheaper.

Dominic was represented by a barrister, a young woman who was keen and caring and clearly captivated by his smile and his posh accent but who now squirmed with embarrassment as he faltered and stuttered that he did not know how he should plead because he had not actually left the shop with the CDs, which meant the Court would have to acquit him of theft. The Theft Act of 1968 was designed to clear up some confusion on this score, after the rise of the supermarkets had killed off the shops where customers were served by assistants who, however much more expensive for the shop, at least prevented shoplifting, which boomed when excited thieves misinterpreted the term self-service. The Act laid it down that the offence of theft was the taking of someone else’s property with the intention of permanently depriving them of it. In the case of shoplifting, after a few test cases, this meant that to make a charge of theft stick the shoplifter had to leave the shop with the stolen goods.

Dominic’s hesitation showed that he was not optimistic about getting away with this. In any case the magistrate curtly informed him that he was misinterpreting the law. So he smiled and pleaded guilty and his barrister sighed with the relief of not having to put so leaky a defence to so stony faced a stipendiary. Just how leaky was revealed by the Crown Prosecution solicitor’s description of the foil lined bag and how when Dominic was approached by the shop staff he had thrown the CDs on the floor. And then came the clincher; he was, she said, “known”—a euphemism for having a criminal record. Just how much of one was apparent when she peeled off from her file a thickish wad of paper which listed Dominic’s attempts to beat the property system through his own unaided efforts. There were 32 previous Court appearances for shoplifting, which represented those which Dominic had not been able to get away with. The stipendiary silently studied the list, as Dominic’s smile faded.

There was not much the barrister could say, except that Dominic was addicted to hard drugs and stole to support his habit—which may not have been true and in any case did not soften the magistrate’s attitude. In fact it seemed to persuade him that a prison sentence was unavoidable, which meant that the case had to be delayed while a Probation Officer wrote a report. “And what about bail?” asked the stipendiary wearily, knowing that the nice barrister would take time in applying, without a shred of realistic hope, for Dominic to be back on the streets and in the shops. Her best efforts were undermined when the magistrate raised his eyes from the list of Dominic’s offences to point out that he operated under 14 aliases and 12 different dates of birth. The gaoler guarding the dock expectantly fingered his keys and Dominic, still smiling, went back down into the unwelcoming cells.

Everyone had done their job. The Court had protected the property rights which this social system is based on. The prosecution had got all their papers in order so that the case against Dominic could be briefly and pointedly put. The magistrate had asserted that capitalism sanctions only one type of theft and that is not the one tried by Dominic. The defence barrister had done her futile best, like a lot of people who are uncomfortable when they are up against the reality of class society, to make the system work in a slightly less inhumane way. Dominic had played his part, with his calculated manipulation of the case, to discredit the whole business. What a pity none of them knew what they were really doing and why and what it means to human society.
Ivan