Saturday, May 23, 2020

Beanos with cheesecake (1979)

From the May 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard
  There are now three almost identical tabloid newspapers competing in their efforts to misinform workers in Britain. 
Capitalism — the accumulation of wealth through the exploitation of working-class labour-power—is the inevitable social development of commodity-production to the point where abundance becomes possible; and where only the circumscriptions of the profit-system itself prevent society from freely producing and enjoying wealth.

But where—an innocent inquirer might ask—does all this leave us when we turn our attention to such seemingly useless ephemera as the popular—some would call it ‘gutter’—press? And in particular, Fleet Street’s undistinguished and indistinguishable troika. The Sun, the Daily Mirror and The Star. A cooker, after all, is a cooker; a car is a car; and although these commodities are coming off the production-lines even tinnier and more unreliable than their tinny and unreliable predecessors, they do have their practical uses—their more tangible qualities.

A moment’s reflection, however, should be sufficient to convince us that, despite its tawdry and fleeting characteristics, a tabloid—or a so-called “quality” newspaper— is no less a commodity, produced for sale with a view to profit, than those other more substantial items. (Last year, for instance, The Sun produced a profit of more than £13 million— a considerable figure by any standards).

Here, however, the analogy ends; for a newspaper, unlike the cooker and the car. has little material value. (If, that is to say, we except its undoubted uses as wrapping-paper for fish-and-chips, or as fire-lighting material). Its qualities are self-evidently abstract and representational and, under capitalism, on a par with those of a megaphone in the hands of a political huckster. For what we buy from our newsagent is, after all, merely what the capitalist press-lords think is ‘good’ for us and, of course, for them: their own political opinions, to begin with. And what is ‘good’ for us often includes their idea of the type of material which can most successfully seduce us from the dangerous exercise of thinking for ourselves. Hence, the acreage of easy-on-the-eye illustrations ("We liberated the nipple”, roared The Sun, recently) and the column-miles of trivial rubbish which occupy most of what remains. Those few journalists—and there are some, no doubt—who are allowed to submit meatier copy are either chosen for their relatively uncontentious political and economic views or kept well away from such delicate areas. (When, for example, can we expect to see the likes of Marjorie Proops discussing family or marital distress within its proper context—that of a class-based society in which, given the intolerable pressures to which millions of us are subjected, it is astonishing that many more of us do not succumb to breakdown and despair!)

Ironically enough, some insight as to the true nature and purpose of the tabloid press may be gained by comparing titles with content. The very last qualities one may expect to find within the columns of The Sun, the Daily Mirror and The Star are enlightenment or a reliable reflection of the truth; certainly about those matters which could be of any conceivable value for working-class consciousness—and all three journals claim to reflect or illuminate our aspirations and interests. At best they are shallow and uninformative and. particularly when it comes to news of world affairs, as prone to sins of omission as of commission. At worst they are vicious exploiters of personal grief and human weakness, their editors and reporters trawling for salacious gossip, cheque-books in hand, in the murkiest of waters; always ready, of course, to justify their miserable activities with hypocritical references to ‘the freeflow of information in a democratic society’. In between these two fairly approximate poles we have the more conventional forms of entertainment—pages and pages of it, crammed with sensational trivia masquerading as the truth about showbiz and sports personalities, together with exaggerated accounts of the latest gladiatorial contests in the boxing-ring or on the sports-field. (The Romans had a phrase for it all: “panis et circensis”—bread and circuses!—very useful for keeping the otherwise restless plebians from overturning the patricians’ apple-cart)

Finally, there is the inevitable commercial advertising of a type which is deliberately aimed at what is sometimes revealingly termed the ‘down-market’ consumer.

Naturally the three doughty and almost identical warriors are busily tearing each other’s throats out in the interests of what they would euphemistically describe as ‘healthy competition’. The circulation of The Sun, for example, has now substantially overhauled that of the Daily Mirror which—or so The Observer (8/10/78) would have it—has cheapened (how? one wonders!) its product in its efforts to re-capture its market. The Star seems to be wallowing in the wake, not only of its main competitors, The Sun and the Daily Mirror, but also of its sister-publication, the Daily Express. (This latter newspaper and the Daily Mail constitute the remaining prime sources of mis-information in tabloid form). And this despite a truly heroic effort to outdo them all in journalistic mediocrity. (Perhaps Victor Matthews, its proprietor, was hoping to emulate the remarkable success of The Sun, the title of which had been acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1969 for £600,000—IPC. from whom he bought it, are still licking their wounds, no doubt!) But there must surely be a limit to the amount of junk-journalism which an already-overloaded market is able to absorb.

However, all newspaper owners do share one overriding interest: the preservation of the political status quo; whether that be under the ‘chairpersonship’ (how appropriate that ambiguous word seems in this context!) of Margaret Thatcher (currently championed by The Sun and The Star) or James Callaghan (favoured by the Daily Mirror). Nobody can accuse Victor Matthews and Rupert Murdoch, or the owners of IPC, of timidity when it comes to the defence of the capitalist system. And it is increasingly apparent that they will go to any lengths in terms of journalistic incontinence in order to succeed.

Given this assumption we can safely draw a veil over that all-too-familiar nonsense we still hear from time to time about so-called editorial independence. By way of confirmation we have on record the words of no less a personage than the editor of The Sun himself, the aptly-named Larry Lamb. He is reported as saying (Observer, 8 October, 1978):
  Mr Murdoch and I had a long discussion about the kind of newspaper we envisaged. It emerged, fortunately, that we had virtually identical concepts. We have never had a prolonged discussion about the policy of the newspaper since that night.
 The venal Larry—self-styled ‘leftist branch secretary of ‘NALGO’ in his youth—has evidently found his true vocation.
  And at shop-floor level? It is reliably reported that the Sun’s sub-editorial and other staff, working under that redoubtable editor, sneeringly dismiss their own product as “The Beano".
Richard Cooper

50 Years Ago: Unemployment and the General Election (1979)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has been agreed by the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Labour Party that the main question on which the election is to be fought is unemployment and the possibility of finding a cure for it.

Mr Baldwin in a speech at Bristol on April 25th was content to point out that even if some 10 per cent of the workers are unemployed there is great comfort to be derived from the knowledge that the other 90 per cent are working and “are enjoying a higher standard of life than has ever been enjoyed before.” He also expressed a modest hope that given freedom from social "hurricanes and cataclysms” unemployment will be “reduced to normal by a natural process in three or four years”.

The Liberals, knowing full well that they are not in the least likely to receive a majority of seats in the new House of Commons, are fighting on Mr Lloyd George's schemes for providing work for the unemployed.

The Labour Party have pointed out that neither in principle nor in details, is there anything new in Mr Lloyd George’s schemes. The Labour Party, with a much better prospect of securing a majority than the Liberals, are equally confident that their development schemes, coupled with nationalisation of various industries and transport services will secure even more than a mere reduction to normal. They will not be content with anything far short of total abolition.

What all three parties and their advisers on economic questions persistently ignore is that the “natural process” referred to by Mr Baldwin operates not in the direction of reducing unemployment; but in the reverse direction.

(From an unsigned article “The parties and the Election”, Socialist Standard May 1929)

Clashing interests in the Mediterranean. (1939)

From the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

To every other nation except Italy, the Mediterranean is a means, to Italy it is an end.

During the Ethiopian campaign the massing of the British Navy, to the surprise of everybody, failed to scare Mussolini, or to prevent Italy from using the “all-red route" for her Abyssinian war. The British fleet, under threat of hostilities with an air power, slipped out of Malta in search of a safer base.

The complacency of years was shattered, and the ruling class of Britain, caught by surprise, was forced into hasty thinking.

Elizabeth Monroe, in her book, “The Mediterranean in Politics,” sheds an enlightening gleam upon those hectic days. “If Malta was insecure in face of air armaments, were all small fortresses out of date, and, if so, what about Gibraltar, Cyprus, Aden? . . . Would not the Government do better to concentrate its money and energy on the securer passage round the Cape?”

There was confusion everywhere in the councils of our masters: strategists and experts expressed conflicting views. Some were for quitting the Mediterranean. Others pointed out that to quit was to weaken Britain's position, because it reduced her power of attack.

“In the World War, when the enemy had boasted few or no Mediterranean bases, German submarines had been more successful in the Mediterranean than in any other sea. Five out of thirteen million tons of allied and neutral shipping sunk by submarine had been caught somewhere between Gibraltar and Port Said."

The other side disagreed. They admitted that the route was impassable for merchant shipping in time of war, but they held that the despised bases had their uses. They might be open to attack, but they could also hit back. Blockade from Aden and Gibraltar was no substitute for attack, because a Mediterranean enemy—for instance, Italy or Turkey—could prosper within the blockade area, since she could procure there all essentials except rubber and tin. She could get plentiful wheat and meat and dairy produce from the Balkans, coal from Russia or Germany, oil from Russia, Rumania or Iraq, iron ore from French North Africa, Russia or Spain, copper from Russia, Yugoslavia or Cyprus, and cotton from Russia or Egypt. Obviously, some of these powers might join in the blockade, but Great Britain was far less likely to retain allies if she had retired to a distance. Italy, for example, would be in a position to browbeat her small neighbours into supplying her needs if there were no one left to dispute her local supremacy.

“We are quitting nothing," said the Secretary of State for the Colonies. “Far from there being any question of our abdicating our position in the Mediterranean or scuttling from Malta, we intend to face these new and difficult problems—to make our future position secure," said the First Lord of the Admiralty, after visiting Malta and Cyprus.

The result was that the ruling class drew up an armament programme staggering in its immensity and cost.

Mussolini, however, was in no way daunted; he knows the weakness as well as the strength of his opponents; he has a view of life totally different to that of his democratic antagonists, he cannot be bluffed.

The dictator’s pet aversion is said to be Eden; the latter personifies everything that Mussolini loathes—bourgeois respectability.

If there is any particular type the Duce admires it is the efficient proletarian. Mussolini has lived as a vagrant and knows from experience how hard is the lot of the wage slave; his early writings gave us a glimpse of his mind: when approached in the wrong way, his fury is immediately aroused, especially if there is anything in the manner of those who seek contact with him that recalls his bitter past. Read this and you can form an opinion of what he may have thought of the smug Anthony: the latter, probably, reminded him of a former boss.
  The following day I found a job as a bricklayer’s assistant; eleven hours of work a day, thirty-two centimes an hour. I made 121 trips with a load of bricks to the second story of a house under construction. That night the muscles of my arms were so swollen and sore that I could barely touch them. I ate some potatoes roasted in the ashes and threw myself, dressed as I was, upon my bed, a heap of straw.
   At five in the morning I got up and went back to work. I quivered with impotent anger. The sight of the boss, with his fat, smug, self-satisfied face, gave me hydrophobia. On the third day he said to me, “ You’re too well-dressed.” He meant that to be significant. I felt like rebelling and breaking the head of that newly-rich peasant who accused me of being lazy while my bones were cracking under the strain. But what if I had done it? The employer is always right.
    When the end of the week came, I told the boss that I was going to leave and wanted my pay. He went into the office while I waited outside on the landing. When he came out he angrily thrust twenty-odd francs into my hand and snarled: “Here you are, it’s stolen money.” I was too dumbfounded to reply. What should I have done, killed him ? As a matter of fact, I turned away in silence. I was hungry and barefooted. A pair of almost new shoes that I had brought with me had been tom to shreds, on the rocks and bricks that had cut their way into my hands, my feet and my soul. I hurried, off to an Italian store-keeper and bought a pair of hobnailed shoes. The next morning I left for Lausanne.
Mussolini is now a renegade, boastful and unscrupulous, but “the swollen bullfrog of the Pontine marshes” cannot altogether eradicate his proletarian past: when aroused he sheds all bourgeois culture and instinctively adopts the manner of the class from which he sprang.

He is said to hold the view that the system will never get out of the present debacle : in an interview with a former “Socialist” colleague, he expressed himself thus: “It is the crisis of capitalism. I have always said so.”
   Why did Italy interfere in Spain ? The author above referred to gives us her opinion: "They feared the Socialist tendencies of die Spanish left, and they were anxious as to developments in France. At the time when they first sent help to General Franco—in July, 1936—Monsieur Blum’s Government was dependent on seventy Communist votes, and factories all over France were being occupied by the workers. Probably their chief reason for intervening was their fear that a barrier of Communism might bar Italy’s vital route to the west. Strategically, therefore, they needed a friendly Spain. Doubtless they also reckoned that if, in addition, they could secure an indebted and subservient Spain, they stood to strengthen their position, not only as a Mediterranean, but as an Atlantic power, that they would weaken Great Britain’s hold over the Straits of Gibraltar and that they would command France’s communications, not only from north to south, but from east to west, along North Africa, where her road and railway run so near the Spanish Moroccan frontier.

“But Italy’s past motives for intervening are unimportant in comparison with the question of the future: will she see a return for her intervention? Among a host of conjectures, two facts are clear: the first, that she did not expect so long or so expensive a campaign; the second, that she did not lend men and material without hope of reward.

“The Spanish campaign dragged its length along at a pace which could only have been foretold by a student of the Napoleonic or the earliest wars. Spain was poor in war material. Most of her army I equipment dated from before the War, and the nations who helped either side began by exporting out-of-date armaments, which, while useless to themselves, represented trump cards to the Spanish forces. But from the moment in November, 1936, when the Russians began to supply first-line aircraft, the situation changed. Italy and Germany were obliged in their turn to put their best foot forward. Italy could not afford to do so. Her war material was already spread over Abyssinia and Libya, and she was short of the raw materials necessary for quick replenishment. The risk of war in Europe demanded that she should keep control over the equipment supplied to General Franco: she was therefore obliged to supply him with men as well. Hence her despatch of whole units of the Italian Army.

“When this assistance did not bring the quick victory for which she hoped, she was caught in a vicious circle. The more she hoped General Franco the more she increased his chances of success, but the more she ran the risk of general war with her own armaments in a depleted state. On the other hand' to furnish insufficient help was to spin out a campaign the expense of which she could ill afford.

“By the end of 1937, voices at home were beginning to murmur against taxation for Spanish purposes. By 1938, when Germany had marched into Austria, they were suggesting that the Italians would be better employed in the Alps. But despite their murmurings. Signor Mussolini found difficulty in withdrawing his troops short of victory. He could not do so because a dictator must go from strength to strength. Like a man on a bicycle, he must keep moving or he will fall.”
Mussolini was able to compensate himself to some extent by obtaining some of the raw materials he so desperately needed. It is to be noted that business was carried on as usual during hostilities. Profit is never lost sight of, even during the horrors of a ghastly war.

The material and economic factors in the Spanish struggle have so far not received the attention they deserve.

France has the most at stake, inasmuch as French interests hold about sixty per cent. of the total foreign investments. The British share, representing about twenty per cent., lies chiefly in mining, and was in 1937 estimated at about £40 millions.

Great Britain and France, who hoped to preserve the status quo, tried to limit the struggle to small dimensions, and therefore championed non-intervention. Since their ideal was a weak Spain, the result that would have suited them best was a stalemate—a situation in which the two Spanish factions, sickened with inconclusive fighting, and with insufficient help from their respective patrons had turned to British and French bankers for reconstruction loans. Had this happened, the two powers would not only have remained strategically secure, but could have worked to recover any losses caused by the war among their considerable Spanish investments. From a purely self-interested standpoint, any other result was less satisfactory to them. “A victory for the extreme left would have caused misgivings in Great Britain if it had encouraged Communist tendencies in France. But once the expansionist powers were openly helping General Franco, a victory for the extreme right presented even graver drawbacks. Won at the cost of Spanish subservience to Italy or Germany, or both, it threatened both the British and French Empires with strategic, diplomatic, and perhaps even economic difficulties."

Certain diplomats held that the Italians would never retain a footing in Spain, because Spaniard and Italian could never agree, and that General Franco could be relied upon to eject his Fascist helpers as soon as he had won the war. The German menace they also dismissed. Spanish waters, they said, were an area in which British and French fleets could deploy with effect. Spain was easy to insulate, and any German forces operating from there could soon be immobilised.

Both these arguments are over-optimistic. The first disregards the tendency of totalitarian states to act together, despite human dislikes. Italy is immensely powerful in the Central Mediterranean, but weak at its either end, and, were she to gain any kind of foothold in Spain, would shatter the present delicate balance of Mediterranean forces. The second, though true as far as it goes, overlooks the main advantage that Herr Hitler can derive from dominance in Spain. His arms or influence there achieve their maximum potency, not as a war force, but as a pre-war nuisance. In the game of poker to which diplomacy is once more reduced, he heightens his chances of winning a hand if his troops can glower at France from the Pyrenees as well as the Rhine, if they can hang, spectre-like, over the French mobilisation channel, and if they can look briskly efficient on the hills on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar.

The development which culminated in such a situation was the logical outcome of the policy adopted by the victors of the last war.

Debts, reparations and the irksome situation forced upon the vanquished led to the dislocation of world trade and the fall of the gold standard. The very day that Britain went from gold to a sterling basis saw Japan begin her invasion of Manchuria and the launching of her new Far- Eastern policy.

The Ottawa Conference of 1932 saw the Dominions and the mother-country meet together under the flag of Empire to devise ways and means of evolving an economic plan that would foster the interests of Imperial Britain, no matter what became of the rest of the world.

Her late enemy retaliated with totalitarianism, and the spectacular rise and subsequent moves of the German dictator are due to an attempt to remove the strangling grip which Germany feels upon her economic windpipe.

Italy, in the decline of world trade, fights for a place in the sun, but is forced by economic and geographical circumstances to play second fiddle to the Nazi chief.

As in Austria, so in Spain, it seems that Herr Hitler might rake in the Italian stake with the nonchalance of a croupier. German intervention in the Iberian peninsula has been more skilful and more telling than the Italian: the Germans concentrated upon quality: to the fighting forces they lent only pilots, yet, by providing technical civilian help, they have contrived to gain a hold on all Spain’s activities, from her police and post offices to her civil aerodromes and some of her industries and mines.

The German “help" will not come to an end with the end of the civil war, and the realisation of this fact has upset all Anglo-French strategic planning. Great Britain is now burdened with fresh defence liabilities in the Atlantic and at Gibraltar, and France will feel the strain, not only at sea, but in the Pyrenees and in North Africa.

The hungry German received payment in Spanish ores from General Franco for services rendered. There is danger to British capitalist interests looming in the distance; the German armament industry, so they fear, is moving to secure the whole mineral output of Spain.

The list of Spanish minerals is long and varied. The chief deposits lie on the Atlantic side of the peninsula. First among them are the great reserves of iron ore in the north, near Bilbao, and, second in importance, the copper and pyrite deposits in the south-west, behind Huelva. The same region, where the British-owned Rio Tinto Company is the leading concern, also yields manganese and sulphur. The biggest mercury mine in the world is at Almaden, in Central Spain; there are rich deposits in the northern Catalonia and subsidiary supplies of iron ore are mined in Spanish Morocco.

The battles in the civil war were mostly fought for the possession of mines, rarely for military objectives.

The rumour that Germany was in full possession of the mineral wealth of Spain was exaggerated, but the story that she was procuring increasing quantities of Spanish ores was true. The position was roughly as follows: The buyers and sellers of the international mineral market are not governments, but business houses and, during the war, brisk sales of all Spain's minerals had continued almost without intermission. Most firms traded with their usual customers, regardless of the political colour of the part of Spain in which they were situated. Owing to rearmament and to the general business recovery which marked the year 1937, the whole world was buying more minerals, and Spanish sales were interrupted only when the mineral deposits were actually in the battle zone. For instance, the export of iron ore from the Bilbao district fell off while General Franco was actually capturing the area, but was resumed again, its direction little changed, as soon as the mines re-opened work.

A glance at Germany’s economic plight enables even the man in the street to perceive that the Germans were bound to try to increase their dominance in Spain. They were short of foreign exchange. Therefore, instead of straining to find francs and sterling in order to buy foreign ores from Lorraine or Canada, they were seeking a hold on mining areas which would accept a medium in which they could pay—that is, which could be made to take German goods or German services. Their object was to improve their general economic position rather than to swell their total import of ores.

From the British and French point of view, the prospect of greater German influence in Spain is less disquieting in the matter of minerals than in that of markets. If German experts were to secure all the key positions in the country Germany would be well placed for operating the device which she has already used so skilfully in south-eastern Europe—that is, she could run up bills, offer payment in German goods or not at all and confront the British, French or Italian exporter with crippling competition.

Economically, as well as diplomatically, therefore, Germany stands a chance of worsting the democratic countries and obtaining a substantial reward for her intervention policy. The recent occupation of Albania by Mussolini is probably due to an attempt to enhance the price he hopes to get from Britain and France when he withdraws from Spain.

British capitalism must get the European mess cleared up quickly: their interests in the Far East are in jeopardy. The war danger is exaggerated with a view of inducing men to line up to defend the country; they will more readily respond to an appeal for home defence than for service abroad. The French elections are due in 1940 and the United States goes to the polls during the same year.

The British ruling class want to be assured their friends are in power in these countries before they embark upon a hazardous enterprise, therefore our masters here will try to keep the peace until 1941.

But as G.B.S. says: “ You never can tell.” Capitalism is in difficulties and the acid test finds our exploiters wanting: they are mentally bankrupt; this is our opportunity.

Practically all newspapers now contain horoscopes; astrologers are reappearing as the guides of statesmen. When men are in fear they go back to the superstitions of their childhood.

Capitalism is the enemy, and, whether he appears as a democrat or a dictator, he can offer nothing but wage slavery to the working class.

Socialists everywhere oppose the principles of Scientific Socialism to the war plans of the ruling class in such a way that the class issue is kept clear and the real aims of the ruling class exposed.

Their battle-cry is: “ Working men of all countries unite.”

The true soldier of the proletariat replies to the war threat of capitalism by lining up his class for Socialism.
Charles Lestor

The Historical Background of Hitlerism (1939)

From the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

"National Socialism” marks a stage in the national reconsolidation of German capitalism. A variety of factors have contributed to its success, most important of which we have attempted to outline below.

The Bourgeois Revolution
In "Revolution and Counter Revolution,” Frederick Engels has described the state of Germany in 1848 in the following words: 
   The composition of the different classes of the people which form the groundwork of every political organisation, was in Germany more complicated than in any other country. While in England and France feudalism was entirely destroyed, or, at least, reduced, as in the former country, to a few insignificant forms by a powerful and wealthy middle class concentrated in large towns and particularly in the capital, the feudal nobility in Germany had retained a great portion of their privileges. The feudal system of tenure was prevalent almost everywhere. . . . Feudalism was more flourishing in some localities than in others, but nowhere, except on the left bank of the Rhine, was it entirely destroyed. The feudal nobility, then extremely numerous and partly very wealthy, was considered officially the first ‘Order' in the country. It furnished the higher government officials, it almost exclusively officered the army.
Engels then goes on to show how circumstances ripened in Germany for the overthrow of feudalism. The bourgeoisie, supported by the majority of the peasantry and the workers, took the initiative in an attempt to dislodge their feudal oppressors from power, but capitulated in cowardly fashion the moment these former elements sponsored their own independent demands. Says Engels, in weighing up the results of the revolution: 
  The industrial and commercial capitalist class were more severely defeated in Germany than in any other country; they were first worsted, broken, expelled from office in every individual State of Germany, and then put to rout, disgraced and hooted in the central German Parliament. Political Liberalism, the rule of the bourgeoisie, be it under a monarchial or republican form of government, is for ever impossible in Germany.
The First German Reich
The semi-feudal empire established in 1871 granted the capitalists a large number of economic concessions in return for the latter's acquiescence in the political domination of the Hohemzollerns. From this period onwards the bourgeoisie directed its main attention to the possibility of enriching itself at the expense of the ever-growing number of proletarians brought about by the rapid industrialisation of the country. The Bismarckian Empire was not a unitary state. It was composed of twenty-two federal states, each of which had its own ruler, its own government, and even its own legislative bodies. A number of these states also had their own postal and railway administrations, and even their own armies.

It was against this background that Social Democracy arose. The Eisenach Party, formed by August Bebel (a disciple of Marx) in 1869, adopted a programme which, in the light of the period, constituted a definite advance in working class ideas. When, in 1875, that movement abandoned its original programme in favour of a policy of compromise and reformism, Marx bitterly denounced it (see his “Critique of Gotha Programme"). However, three years later, Bismarck's anti-Socialist laws forced the party underground. In 1891 the resuscitated movement was reconstituted with a new programme—the Erfurt Programme—in which the influence of Marx and Engels once more made itself felt. But not for long. The inclusion of a policy of “immediate demands" very soon swamped the party with reformist elements. The original goal was lost sight of and by 1914 the party had degenerated into a pure and simple bourgeois reform movement. So much so, that, with few exceptions, it was to be found aiding and abetting the capitalists and Junkers in their prosecution of the World War.

The Second Reich
Defeat in the War, 1914-1918, had as its consequence the breakdown of the German military and semi-feudal state apparatus. When the Kaiser fled the task of rehabilitating capitalism fell into the hands of Social Democracy. They were by far the largest party and had the greatest backing throughout the country from the war-weary workers now ready to give parliamentary democracy a trial. In 1919 the Weimar Constitution was drawn up and, as a result of the elections, plus support from the “Centre," etc., the Social Democrats became the first republican government. The latter was, however, handicapped in consolidating its authority by several hostile forces. Principal among these were the Spartacists—followers of Karl Liebhnecht and Rosa Luxemburg—and another group, which desired to imitate the Russian example (later it became the Communist Party). Feeling its authority undermined, the government, in order to crush the rebels, enlisted the aid of reactionary generals and officers—the extreme right-wing, as they were called. Such action could not but spell disaster for the republic, for these reactionary hirelings, once reinstated, plotted against their benefactors and came out openly against them when their influence amongst the masses had waned. The rehabilitation of capitalism in a defeated country created a mass of problems to a party ushering in a new political regime. Social Democracy, being unable to master those problems, the inevitable discontent vented itself on that regime—the Weimar Republic.

On the other hand, the capitalists, sighing for the return of their markets and trade routes, were beginning to look elsewhere, turning a sympathetic ear to the new message of Adolf Hitler, national capitalism, mis-labelled “ national Socialism."

Adolf Hitler
From being a mere handful of disgruntled officers who had severely suffered in prestige as a result of their abortive Putsch in 1924, the Nazis soon gained in influence. Adolf Hitler had learned a lot from his failure—particularly had he learned the need to win over the masses. Hence the new party must have a programme wide enough to appeal to practically all sections of the population. Mob oratory, anti-Semitism, nationalism and pseudo-Socialism now became his stock-in-trade. The objective situation became ripe for the Nazis after 1930. The economic crisis which had then broken out became aggravated by the widespread withdrawal of foreign investments and the cessation of loans. Meanwhile the numbers of the unemployed had increased to seven millions, whilst those in employment were periodically having their wages reduced. The failure of government after government to master the situation brought the democratic republic into ever-greater disrepute. A state of parliamentary paralysis had begun to set in (the “Communists" as well as the Nazis are to blame for this). The Nazis were not slow to cash-in on this wave of anti-parliamentarian sentiment. But, in addition, the leading capitalists ceased their support for the Republic. The Social Democrats had served a purpose. They had preserved capitalism in the post-war years. They could no longer aid the bourgeoisie in its long-delayed quest for aggrandisement. For that a new type of militarism was necessary. Not the militarism of the early Bismarckian era, utilised mainly in the interests of a backward land-owning group, but one which looked beyond the borders of the Prussian State for its ideal. A movement, in short, which could bring to reality all the unfulfilled dreams of a century—national centralisation and consolidation, with a view to re-entering the imperialist arena, this time unfettered by any feudal restrictions. The Nazi movement embodied these ideals and Hitler had set them down in “Mein Kampf." And so it has come about. Under the influence of the masses, Germany has become a “totalitarian state." All autonomous regional governments have been abolished. We have witnessed the absorption of Austria, Memel and Czechoslovakia. Thus the Nazi movement has been instrumental in consummating the uncompleted bourgeois revolution of 1848, in addition to preparing the ground for an imperialist conflict. This is the real historical content of Hitlerism stripped of all confusing detail. It is only by the appreciation of this analysis that any effective struggle against Fascism can be waged.

The Outlook
And now what of the future? Is all lost as far as Germany is concerned? Unquestionably the possibility of working for Socialism there has received a set-back, but opposition to Hitler still goes on. That this is so is proved by the existence of secret police, concentration camps, and by the brutal methods of suppression. For the latter would surely be unnecessary if ninety-nine per cent. of the population were actively behind the Führer. If war does not intervene, capitalism is bound, sooner or later, to produce a major economic crisis, which will shake the confidence of the masses in the papal infallibility of their hero. That would be a first step. But by whatever means Hitler is eventually overthrown. Fascism can be no more a permanent phase than was the tyrannical Napoleonic regime of the Second Empire. Meanwhile we must strengthen our forces in this country and await the day when we can openly join hands with our German comrades for the overthrow of international capitalism.
S. G. & S. K.

National Service or International Socialism? (1939)

From the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ruling class have shown on many occasions that they are past-masters in the art of inducing self-deception among the workers. A typical instance is the attitude adopted on the subject of Air Raid Precautions and National Service.

Previous to the war crisis of last September, military and aeronautical experts were writing books, composing articles and making speeches, which described the advance made in the manufacture of poison gases and high explosives since the last war, and pointed the moral that, under such “improved" conditions, attack must always prevail over defence.

These views were confirmed by the mock air raids which were held each summer, the results of which inspired Conservative Premier Baldwin to remark that, in a future war, “the bomber will always get through."

The September crisis changed all this. Our capitalist masters, realising the important part which the civilian population would have to play in the defence of private property if war was declared, set about “correcting" the notions of bombers getting through, and countered such alarming statements by an A.R.P. and National Service advertising campaign, the extent of which is obvious to everyone.

Obvious, also, is the volte face which has taken place. Pre-crisis: “Attack must win." Post-crisis: “ We must concentrate on defence." The deception is evident. Both statements cannot be true. Before passing judgment, however, let us briefly examine A.R.P. The estimate for this body is thirty-two millions, compared with two thousand millions for armaments. From the class standpoint, deep, well-constructed, reinforced shelters for the capitalist; he can pay the bill. For many workers, tin huts, guaranteed (whatever this means) to be splinter-proof. Perhaps the utility of these objects can be assessed by the fact that, for most of the wage-slaving recipients, the shelters are provided free.

Let it be remembered that the occupants of these precarious guarantors of splinter-proof existence will be producers and distributors of the means of living. As for the master class—one seems to remember comments echoing from the Great War years—something about profiteering. The problem of concussion has evidently been ignored, so far as working class safety is concerned. Workers who served in the last War have strange tales to tell of dug-outs full of khaki-clad workers untouched by splinters, but killed by concussion produced by an exploding shell; and high explosives have become much more destructive since 1918.

Once again, then, we see the value of human life fluctuate according to the class position of the. persons concerned. To the contrasts between capitalist limousine and worker’s tuppeny bus ticket, between capitalist three-month sea cruise and worker’s annual week at Margate, between capitalist country mansion and worker’s big town barrack, can now be added the contrast between shelters for the capitalist and shoddy (once again) for members of our class. A.R.P. has no answer to problems such as this.

Incidentally, the number of workers who have rallied to the call for volunteers seems to have fallen short of expectations; one detects a note of anxiety in the posters which are asking for thousands more.

National Service needs little comment. The blatant attempt to organise, militarise and coerce the workers has been recognised by Socialists from the outset. We cannot over-stress the fact that in modern capitalist society the interval between one war and another cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as Peace. The struggle between the possessors of the means of wealth production and the dispossessed, between capitalist class and working class, transcends all circumstances of war or so-called peace; and along with this class antagonism runs the inevitable parallel (while the workers remain politically ignorant) of the allocation by the ruling class of ever larger proportions of their wealth for armaments, not forgetting the huge bill which must be met for war propaganda on a nation-wide scale; an essential weapon to a ruling class bent on protecting its interests against the threat of a foreign capitalist group.

Hence National Service, the up-to-date variant of King-and-Country, World Freedom, etc.

Now about ourselves. The Socialist Party has as its object the establishment of a social order based upon the ownership by the community of the means of living. We need a majority of our class, desiring it, to bring this about; but the workers in that majority will not be enrolled in National Service or A.R.P. Neither will they be supporters of the capitalist system, with its periodical quarrels between national sections of the international ruling class over the wealth produced by the workers.

The establishment of the Socialist society will result from the efforts of workers who understand not only the class antagonisms of the present system, but also the need for a classless society in which wealth will be produced only for use; the elimination of the class basis will also eliminate the profit motive.

Without this fundamentally class-conscious outlook, capitalist wars, and consequently working class slaughter, will always be a riddle to members of our class whose discontent with the present order of things need Socialist understanding to give direction and effectiveness to that discontent. We members of the Socialist Party proceed towards our objective, firstly, by educating ourselves, and, secondly, by passing on that education to our
1 fellow workers in the form of Socialist propaganda.

Therefore, applying our Socialist understanding to war preparation, we state our case.

While the working class tolerates the capitalist system, commercial and imperialist rivalries between capitalist states will always tend to find their expression in war, involving the destruction of countless workers' lives. The greater the support given by workers to National Service and A.R.P., the nearer will war become. On the other hand, the greater the resistance by members of our class to war and its preparation, the greater will be the possibility of making the Socialist majority of workers, who, having decided to abolish the private ownership of the means of life, will take hold of the political machinery for that purpose. With political control, this further step will be possible: the armed forces of the capitalist states will become an anachronism in a social system where there are no markets to safeguard and no trade routes to protect.

The common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution will necessitate other activities being found for the members of the derelict armies, navies and air forces of capitalism; activities based upon social utility, rather than wholesale mortality. But that, fellow workers, will be Socialism.
F. G. Walker.

Answers to Correspondents (1939)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Mr. J. Bolge (S.E.20) asks: “What is the Socialist solution for the problem of 'unequal pay’ ?” And adds: “ Perhaps there is none under the present system.” He has anticipated our reply. The employer is not interested in abstract principles of equality, but in getting the kind of workers he wants as cheaply as possible. If he finds that large numbers of suitable applicants for a particular kind of work are available, he takes advantage of this to force down wages, and trade unions can only offer a limited amount of resistance to pressure in such circumstances. Mr. G. B. Shaw —in splendid isolation—advocates equal wages for everyone, but nobody supposes that this is practicable. Neither the workers nor the capitalists desire it.

Various groups of people advocate other schemes in the name of ” equality.” The best known are the advocates of “equal pay for men and women,” duly qualified by the words “for equal work.” They have in mind the cases where men and women work side by side, yet the man is more highly paid. This they say is “unfair"; to which men reply that “equal" wages are equally unfair, because of the married man's greater financial responsibilities. Generally speaking, however, the advocates of equal pay for men and women do not ask that charwomen should receive equal pay with women teachers, nor do the opponents of it favour equal pay for male bus drivers and bank clerks. In defence of their inconsistency, both groups raise the question of the so-called “value of work," but this is pure illusion. There is no way in which the so-called "value" of one kind of work can be measured against that of another kind.

Dustmen and doctors both perform services which are very useful to those who benefit by them, but how can the usefulness of the two be measured and compared? In actual fact, when they talk of “value of work" and “comparative value of work," what they are really doing is to accept the current extreme contempt for so-called “manual" and “menial” work, and use it as a lever to get increased wages for those kinds of work which in capitalist eyes are less despicable. The capitalistically minded teacher, or bank clerk, or chemist making poison gas, sneers at the dustman, and claims that his work is “more valuable" and should, therefore, be better paid.

The only solution for the friction and resentments aroused among workers by the wages system and its illogical workings is not a differently regulated wages system, but the abolition of the wages system—i.e., Socialism.
Ed. Comm.


Mr. Ralph Oder (New York). We have your inquiry about the conclusion of the article on page 178 of the December, 1938, issue. It is certainly ambiguous. The meaning it was intended to convey is that the Socialist movement, in fighting to achieve Socialism, is at the same time safeguarding democracy. 
Ed. Comm.


Mr. Graham Boatfield (Ashford). For statements on "Collective Security" and “War for democracy," see The Socialist Standard for October, 1938, and February, 1939.
Ed. Comm.


Mr. L. S. Chell (N.W.9). We will endeavour to get an article on the subject in the near future.
Ed. Comm.


Mr. W. V. Andrews (Wickford). Different economists and statisticians use different definitions of "National Income" according to the purpose for which they are to be used. All of their definitions include both profits and wages. You will find a statement on the subject in Chapter .I of "The National Income," by Colin Clark (MacMillan & Co., 1932), and in "The National Income," by Bowley & Stamp (Clarendon Press, 1927).
Ed. Comm.


Mr. R. Mead (High Wycombe). The basis of your criticism of our attitude towards the Bolshevists is your belief that Russia “is undoubtedly striving towards, and will soon attain, real Communism." If you will give us the reasons for your belief we will examine them.

You are wrong in saying that the S.P.G.B. opposes Popular Fronts simply because they are not composed of Socialists. The question is whether Popular Fronts can succeed in achieving what is claimed for them. We say no. Incidentally, we notice that you believe a “so-called Dictatorship is inevitable" in order to achieve Socialism. How do you square this with your support of Popular Fronts, which are intended to preserve democracy?
Ed. Comm.


The Wages of Agricultural Workers

In the January issue of The Socialist Standard we stated that "it has been estimated that as many as twenty-five per cent, of agricultural workers are being paid less than the minimum wage legally applicable to them."

Mr. Andrews (Wickford, Essex) wrote, asking how this information was obtained. Unfortunately, we were at the moment unable to name the source of our information (See Socialist Standard, April), but we can now give details.

The “sweating" of agricultural workers by farmers was dealt with in The Socialist Standard (July, 1931, p. 174, and October, 1934, p. 30).

From the earlier issue we quote the following: " According to Reynolds's Illustrated News (April 12th, 1931), in 1930, 4,523 farms were inspected, as a result of which there were 1,630 claims for arrears of wages. Reynolds's Agricultural Correspondent estimates that 'one farmer in four throughout the country is violating the law.' This estimate is based on official inspections over a number of years in every part of the country."


Why the Workers are Not Anti-Patriotic

A correspondent in Canada writes about the quotation from the pre-war Mussolini that "The proletariat is anti-patriotic by definition and necessity." He points out that workers in all lands are in the main not at all anti-patriotic, although, the necessity exists all right.

As regards the quotation, its form makes it somewhat ambiguous. Although Mussolini (writing, of course, in his Syndicalist days) used the expression “The proletariat is anti-patriotic," that was only intended as a concise way of saying that the proletariat, being a subject class, ought to recognise the necessity of being anti-patriotic.

The trouble is, that although the workers' class position is such that their interests lie in internationalism and the fight to establish Socialism, in the main they do not realise this. All the trappings of state, the flag-wagging, uniforms, coronation ceremonies, are used to disguise the truth from the workers, and all of the capitalist parties and the churches help to keep the truth hidden. Not least dangerous among these agencies of confusion are the jumped-up Labour leaders and ex-Labour leaders, from Mussolini to J. H. Thomas, Clynes, etc. They have learned the trick of combining nationalism with pseudo-Socialism, as in Hitler’s National Socialist or Nazi movement, and the various patriotic so-called Labour Parties.

There is no cure for this except knowledge and experience on the part of the workers, but it is helped by the way in which, from time to time, every country witnesses brutal and open subjection of the workers and their organisations by the employers—with the help of the armed forces of the state. Even the most dazzling of flags fail to fill empty bellies.
P. S.

Outdoor Propaganda (May) (1939)

Party News from the May 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard




Letter: Dirty Work (2009)

Letter to the Editors from the May 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dirty work

Dear Editors

Re March 2009 Socialist Standard article ‘The real dirty work’. A very good article but the phrase ‘Since there will be no employment or jobs in socialism, …..’ needs in my view some qualification.

I know we’ve used examples of dirty work to include removing refuse, working in sewers etc., but I remember a Party speaker who included such things as surgeons poking about inside human bodies in the course of their work.

We may or may not agree whether this or other examples constitute dirty work but what is certain is that a socialist society could not rely on such work being undertaken on a ‘rota basis’ or by a ‘call for volunteers’. There would have to be organisation of socialists (can’t call them ‘workers’ in socialism presumably) for production and distribution of the necessaries of life.

Would we like a situation where one day someone says ‘I think I’ll volunteer to be a brain surgeon, or shift a few bin-bags today – I just feel like it.’ Of course no-one in their right mind would go along with such an idea.

Going back to the words ‘employment’ and ‘jobs’, both in capitalism refer mainly to paid work, but of course they both can and will mean what my Thesaurus includes – ‘job, chores, work, duty, service, occupation, function, undertaking, assignment, engage in, devote oneself to’ – need I say more?

Phyllis Hart  (by e-mail)

Fifty Years Ago: Turmoil in Tibet (2009)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rebellion in Tibet, its draconian suppression, and the escape of the Dalai Lama, have exploded like a star-shell to illuminate a world in the Iron Curtain’s dark shadow. Events in Tibet have been compared with the recent suppression in Hungary and while there is a resemblance, both revolts and the backgrounds have been reported everywhere befogged with misunderstanding or misrepresentation by people who do not seem to have a clue as to what the factors are that make society tick.(…)

Most of the 4,500,000 Tibetans actually live within the confines of China in the areas bordering on Tibet. Only about 1,000,000 live in Tibet proper, under political allegiance to Lhasa. Their social classification is roughly: 50,000 nobles and merchants, 150,000 monks, 800,000 serfs. About one-seventh of the population is in the monasteries—more than one man in four. Those who are not in the church have mostly swallowed the religious bait, hook, line and sinker, and live in subjection to the nobles. They live, imprisoned by the ties of these religious convictions. (…)

The trouble in Tibet is a revolt of the feudal rulers against the imposed rule of State-Capitalist China—these are the transgressors in Tibet. Whichever side wins, the underprivileged on either side will still continue to be exploited, even though serfs become wage-slaves. Tibet compares with Hungary in that, once again, it is a quarrel between ruling-cliques and is not worth the shedding of one drop of workers’ blood on either side.

(From article by F, Offord, Socialist Standard, May 1959)

Running Commentary: Labour tries again (1983)

The Running Commentary column from the May 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Labour tries again

Loud and nostalgic fanfares sounded along the Walworth Road when the Labour Party recently revealed its super new programme called The New Hope for Britain. Loud because Labour needs to be optimistic and it is promising nothing less than the secure prosperity of British capitalism, unemployment down to one million, everyone leading a much happier life and so on — and in any case because they are hoping that if they can compose an attractive programme enough workers will be deceived by it to put them back into power. Nostalgic because this sort of event has happened so many times before — the unveiling of a clutch of new fashioned slogans, new pledges, new futilities, often by the same old hands.

On nuclear disarmament, which both Labour and Tories seem to want to make a prominent issue in the next election, the programme offers a very sticky piece of fudge:
  We must use unilateralist steps . . . to secure multilateral solutions on the international level. Unilateralism and multilateralism must go hand in hand . . . we are against moves that would disrupt our existing alliances, but are resolved on measures to enable Britain to pursue a non-nuclear defence policy.
This craftily worded passage means everything or nothing, according to taste; read in one way it would satisfy Denis Healey, in another it would reassure a member of CND. A future Labour government which kept British nuclear arms, remained in NATO, supported an American war such as in Vietnam (as happened with past Labour governments) could claim that it had followed the programme to the letter.

A similar duplicity, not to say audacity, is evident when the programme comes to industrial relations and wages. A Labour government, it says, ".  . . will not . . . return to the old policies of government- imposed wage restraint” — without acknowledging that those "old policies” were imposed by Labour governments, usually after they had promised not to impose them.

Labour is again setting its hopes on being able to control wages, as the British capitalist class requires of any government, through the voluntary co-operation of the unions and the employers in yet another gimmicky-titled proposal — the New Economic Assessment. There is no reason to believe that this would be any more successful than previous gimmicks. Its failure is assured by the fact that, like its predecessors, it rests on the assumption that there is a unity of interests between capitalists and workers. If only both sides can be brought to a rational acceptance of this unity (by a Labour government, of course) then it can be cemented into economic order and prosperity for everyone.

There is only one problem in this; there is no such unity. Capitalism is a society of class conflict. New Hope for Britain? No hope for Labour.


Arms for sale

Since the world was plunged from war to peace in 1945, millions of people have died in armed conflicts. Of all parts of the earth nowhere has been more plagued by tension and war than the Middle East. But the victims can take consolation that they did not die and suffer in vain. For war is always good news for those capitalists who have investments in the arms trade.

The Ministry of Defence recently chartered a cross-channel ferry, converted it into a floating exhibition hall, had it loaded up with tanks, guns, armoured cars, shells, uniforms and the like and sent it on a sales-promotion tour to the Middle East. The ship visited Kuwait. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States. As is usually the case, a war is in process there at present but this did not deter the sales effort; the very instability of the region makes it a fertile market for weapons and the states where the ship called have a combined arms budget of some £15 billion.

Any twinges of doubt about the venture (weapons sales people are human, like the rest of us and therefore also liable to such lapses) were put to rest by a representative of the trade organisation, the Defence Manufacturers’ Association:
  It went to that part of the world because there is still money out there and they need to get their armed forces in shape . . . I can say categorically that our members were extremely satisfied with the number of contacts they made.
Arms manufacturers have often been accused of causing war but in fact the roots of this scourge are in the basis of capitalist society. The makers and sellers of weapons merely (merely!) take their chances to exploit a market, to realise a profit, to accumulate more capital — just like the makers and sellers of any other type of commodity. People may die in extra abundance through this activity, but of what consequence is that when the overriding priority is to ensure the books balance on the side of profit?


Doctor, Doctor

The tentacles of this recession reach out to grasp many people who not so long ago might have consoled themselves that they were unreachable by its effects. There are plenty of ex-managers, ex-“white collar” workers, on the dole now and they are looking like being ex-whatever-it-was for a very long time.

As a case in point. Department of Health and Social Security figures published in March showed that over 2000 doctors are now out of work and the figure is rising; a year ago there were 1000 and in 1981 between 500 and 700. In their enforced leisure, the unemployed doctors might reflect on what this tells them about their class position in capitalist society. Their prospective patients might also ponder some important facts.

Doctors are not out of work because there is no demand for them, through the fact that everyone is getting rapid and effective medical treatment whenever it is needed. In cities like London there can often be severe problems in finding a doctor who can fit you into an already crowded caseload. Unless it is an emergency, few people who need to see their doctor can do so immediately. Young, newly-qualified doctors have to shoulder a fearsome burden of overwork and long hours — which can’t be to the benefit of the patients.

So what about the standards of health care? In March the Lancet published a league table of the various Health Authority Areas, based on the numbers of deaths from diseases which with proper treatment would not have resulted in death. From this evidence, anyone who is ill would do well to keep away from Walsall, Bolton, Sandwell and Wolverhampton in that order. The deficiencies in health care which the survey shows up could be eased by an injection of doctors but health authorities, like everything else under capitalism, have to work to a budget.

What it amounts to is that people suffer illness unnecessarily, and when they are ill their discomfort is prolonged, or they die, unnecessarily, because it is uneconomic to provide adequate care and treatment. The fact that this exists alongside thousands of doctors who have been trained and are humanly useful is comment enough on the grisly, inhuman priorities of capitalism.


War, glorious war

All war is glorious, with exciting battles and charges and explosions and when the warriors come home there are bands and celebrations with pretty uniforms and shiny medals for them for being so brave. And Thatcher and her henchmen keep telling us that the Falklands was an especially glowing example of this, of courage and professional militarism.

Of course there is also the little matter of people getting killed but when that happens their remains can be laid out in green cemeteries with neat, parade ground rows of crosses which make war seem bloodless and controlled and really rather tranquil. The sort of place their families can visit and observe and, through the very peace and order of the place, feel that perhaps it is not so bad after all.

When the families of servicemen who were killed in the Falklands went to visit their graves last month, the government took good care to remove an object which gave ample evidence that war is horrifying, agonising and obscene. The burnt shell of the Sir Tristram, the troopship which caught fire from Argentine bombs and where 51 men died and many others suffered fearsome burns and injuries, had lain at Port Stanley. It served as the rat-infested home of a couple of hundred soldiers and it was one of the first sights to greet anyone coming into the harbour there.

If the bereaved families had seen that ship, they would have had it brought home to them that war is not glorious. They might even have asked themselves what it is all about, why it happened, whether there were reasons for it other than Thatcher’s crude jingoism. They might have wondered whether those men died for the interests of one side in a wider strategic and political struggle and to protect the interests of the few who really own the Falklands.

Such doubts strike at the very basis of workers’ support for the wars of capitalism. Leaving nothing to chance, the authorities had the Sir Tristram towed out of Stanley to a hidden destination, where the families could not see it. This was no act of humanity. The excesses of capitalism are such that they can be defended only by a continuing deception.


Getting it wrong

George Schwartz, who was Economics Editor of the Sunday Times for 27 years, probably felt at home in Thatcher's Britain since it claims to operate on principles which Schwartz propounded as near sacred. For Schwartz was a simple believer in capitalism and thought, tenaciously, that the profit motive was one of the great rationalities of the human race. Left to itself, without the state barging in with subsidies, quotas, taxes and the rest, it would work to provide prosperity everywhere, if rather more of it in some places than others.

To mark his death in April, the Sunday Times (a very different newspaper now from the one which Schwartz worked on) republished one of his pieces, which first appeared in November 1949:
  To quarrel with accounting is to quarrel with economic calculation, and that is to quarrel with Providence itself for not having supplied everything in such abundance that it can be had for the asking. In a world conditioned by scarcity, accounting is the tool of rational choice and action.
These cosy beliefs were once put to the rigorous test of a debate with the Socialist Party of Great Britain — at about the time Schwartz wrote that article. It took place at the old Kensington Town Hall, which has now been partly demolished, to the anguish of preservationists but strictly in accordance with the principles of cost-effectiveness of which Schwartz was such a firm defender. A large audience heard Schwartz attempt to defend capitalism by attacking the Labour Party and its nationalisation schemes. At the time the Attlee government were deeply in trouble, wrestling with the problems of reviving British capitalism after the war.

Now at almost every SPGB meeting, in those days, speakers had to spend a lot of time disabusing the minds of people who thought the party either was, or had some connection with, the Labour Party. The economics guru of the Sunday Times had no more original an opposition to offer than socialists could get at any street corner, any night of the week. When the socialist speaker firmly removed this sole prop of Schwartz’s argument, the famous man adopted the tactic of trying to put it back in place, refusing to accept the weight of evidence against him. It was a pathetic performance and Schwartz left the hall with his ignorance and prejudices obviously intact.

He may have felt at home in Thatcher’s Britain but, if he ever bothered to check, he must have been disturbed to realise that the socialist case is as relevant and forceful today as when he avoided facing it over thirty years ago.

It was reported . . . (1983)

From the May 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The same offence, at the same store, tried at the same Court

“A young woman who stole another woman’s handbag whilst in Harrods was given a suspended sentence at Horseferry Road Court. Miss Cathleen Mullins, 24, unemployed, admitted stealing a handbag and contents worth together £268. The Officer told the court that Miss Mullins had been jobless since 1979 due to illness. . . Explaining why Miss Mullins had not worked for such a long time, the lawyer said that she had been the victim of a ‘vicious knife attack’ in which she had received 380 stitches and that as a result she still suffers from headaches.”

“Charges against a High Court judge’s wife of shoplifting have been dropped following a hearing held in camera. Lady Lavinia Dorothy Nourse. 39 years old wife of Mr. Justice Nourse, was arrested at Harrods . . . She was bailed to appear at Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court last week, but before the court was opened to the public, an application was made in camera and the charges were withdrawn . . . Lady Lavinia had been charged with stealing two handbags, two pearl necklaces and five belts, worth together £358.40 from Harrods. She had also been accused of stealing two carpets worth together £190 from the store on the same date. It is believed the charges were dropped on medical grounds."
Marylebone Mercury


The rich widen the gap

“'The gap between rich and the unemployed has widened dramatically over the period of Sir Geoffrey Howe’s five budgets. This is shown by a special study commissioned by the Sunday Times from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies. A typical company director on £45.000 a year has enjoyed a £120 a week rise in his real take-home pay under Howe, an increase of a quarter. By contrast a typical man without a job is worse off by £15.30 a week, a 21.3 per cent fall in his real income. . . The company director’s good fortune continues with this Budget, which gives him an extra £11.64 a week, compared with a gain of only 58p for the unemployed man," Sunday Times. 20 March, 1983

“Referring to reports that a woman earned less than 78p an hour for cleaning the home of Mr. Ian MacGregor, chairman of British Steel, Mr. Bottomley said ‘With his British Steel salary of £48,500, you would have thought there would be a little more flexibility in what the market could pay for her services’.”

Yesterday in Parliament, Daily Telegraph, 19 March, 1983.

Not amused (1983)

From the May 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Human beings have the capacity for historical hindsight. We can look back critically at the slaves of ancient society and agree that they were misguided in believing that their situation was “natural” and “proper". We now know that there was nothing innately inferior about slaves, that they were simply born into servitude. We have also passed that phase of society where the social structure was a rigid hierarchy in which the serf looked up to the knight, the knight to the Lord of the Manor and everyone looked up to the monarch, though few would ever see one. We can watch Upstairs, Downstairs and laugh when Hudson the butler speaks about the need for everyone downstairs to be aware of their “station in life", so that a bedroom servant could be rude to a scullery-maid but not to the cook. If we look at our own period in history with the same awareness of change and the impermanence of social ideas, we can see that there is nothing natural or necessary about the wage-slave status of the majority.

The Tories have been particularly vocal about denying this idea. They say that there must always be rich and poor. Many supporters of the Conservative Party claim that they have “no political philosophy”; they insist that if you desire change in one form or another you are “political" but if you merely happen to agree with the way things are, and accept the prevailing, popular ideas, then you are apolitical. But look at the political ideas on which conservatism is founded.

Conservatives believe in “Self-reliance". This amounts to equating poverty or insecurity with inadequacy, being unable to make your own way. Margaret Thatcher has spoken about her support for “Victorian values". What does she mean? The values of a society where the abject destitution of the majority and the sickening conditions of the workhouses were kept in being by indoctrinating the workers with docility and humility from birth? The values which said that it was the job of the masses to work hard and keep quiet and the right of the minority to enjoy great wealth and remain idle?

In its 1979 Election Manifesto the Conservative Party said:
  No one who has lived in this country for the last five years can fail to he aware of how the balance of our society has been increasingly tilted in favour of the State at the expense of individual freedom. This election may be the last chance we have to reverse that process, to restore the balance of power in favour of the people.
It was Disraeli who referred to a Conservative government as an "organised hypocrisy” and that may be a fairly appropriate term when it comes to this business of democracy. You could perhaps imagine Margaret Thatcher choking on her champagne if there was any immediate prospect of the people actually taking power away from the wealth owners who now exercise it. And you can't help but think it peculiar, that the government which has recently guided the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill through Parliament (dramatically to increase police powers of arrest and forced searches) should be so concerned with weakening the power of the state. “Individual Freedom” is a phrase which often sounds good, but in fact boils down to the freedom of the poor to suffer their lot, the freedom of the unemployed to get a job if they wish, and the freedom of the majority to fantasise about becoming millionaires while the wealth owners are left free to enjoy their parasitic status.

What else are the Tories in favour of? They listed “five tasks" in their 1979 Manifesto and we can see now how far these tasks have been completed and what the consequences have been.

The first task was "to restore the health of our economic and social life by controlling inflation and striking a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement". Although price rises have tended to flatten out, wage rises have been largely below this rate and workers have sustained a drop in their standard of living. We have seen this government give a smiling thumbs up to the Polish workers who were trying to augment their trade union powers against the wishes of the bosses of Polish state-capitalism, while at the same time introducing the Employment Act to restrict trade union power. What was it Disraeli said about hypocrisy? During the water workers’ strike at the beginning of this year Thatcher, speaking in Glasgow, said that “honesty, thrift, reliability and hard work and a sense of responsibility for fellow men are not simply Victorian values but part of the enduring principles of the Western World". She urged the striking workers to respect a “puritan work ethic" instead of trying to “deprive the community of one of life's essentials". You might wonder whether Thatcher ever pokes her head through the doors of Buckingham Palace, or the Hilton lounge or the gentlemen’s clubs to lecture the inhabitants about the puritan work ethic. When the government spends money on bombs, telling us that nurses and kidney machines are not as important, does she berate herself for attempting to "deprive the community of one of life’s essentials”? The similarity between the right-wing Conservative and Kremlin attitudes to free trade unions is, if you'll pardon the expression, striking. The recent report of the Tory Centre for Policy Studies recommending legislation to prohibit strikes in essential industries is just the recipe for keeping the workers down which is favoured by Andropov and Jarusekski.

The second task was to “restore incentives so that hard work pays". As you know, working hard for the boss all your life means not only that you are left with next to nothing to spend at the end of your days, but that you are usually too exhausted to enjoy what little you have. The only way hard work pays is when you happen to have a lot of people working hard for you. Hard work pays? Elizabeth Windsor gets £3,260,200 a year. She must work hard. R.V. Giordano, the director of BOC, gets £450,000 as a salary. He must work hard. The Duke of Buccleuch owns 258,000 acres so he must have worked pretty hard, plus he’s got all that gardening to do.

It is an old dodge of politicians to blame the cause of social problems on the government of the day and then, if those carping politicians ever themselves become the government, to switch the blame (correctly) on the uncontrollable forces of the market. Tory politicians are no exception to this rule. We find them in 1979 blaming the Labour government for social problems in Britain: “Their favourite but totally false excuse is that their appalling record is all due to the oil crisis and the world-wide economic depression.” After a couple of years they were themselves using exactly the excuse they had found unacceptable coming from Labour: "There’s been a world recession, not our fault — Germany, France. Europe are suffering as well — some suffering even worse . . . there are other countries that have even worse unemployment than we have, some less, all are struck by world recession” (Guardian. 7 March 1983).

The third task was to "uphold Parliament and the rule of law”. The upholding of the law usually has different results depending on your class. Take two examples: “An unemployed woman who stole a purse containing 50p was jailed for eight months” (Daily Telegraph, 28 February 1980), whereas "The Duke of Westminster’s cousin William Grosvenor was given a 12-month suspended sentence and fined £1000 for conspiring to defraud the Inland Revenue . . . he admitted helping to hide the £8.500 cost of champagne and whisky, grouse shooting party at Glenfiddich in otherwise genuine tax-deductible bills" (Daily Express, 24 January 1980). Wealth is produced by labour. Yet those who are most productive own least. This society works on the basis that those who produce do not possess and those who possess do not produce. All legal systems legitimise the massive institutional theft of wealth by the ruling class. The wages system is legalised robbery because we get back less than the value of what we put in. Apart from this primary purpose, the law has to be used to control the frustration which is a daily occurrence in capitalism. With a worsening recession and austerity the Tories are condoning greater police violence to cope with riots and a proliferation of brutal robberies. But a point which is not fully comprehended by those salivating Tories at their annual Conference who speak about the need for harsh punishments and more discipline is that you cannot create content with a truncheon.

The fourth task was to “support family life, by helping people to become home owners raising the standard of their children’s education and concentrating welfare services on the effective support of the old, the sick, the disabled and those who are in real need". This sounds sincere. In fact it does not altogether match up with what the Tories did in practice. Family life. well yes, unless you are in an Asian family in which case you may come a cropper of the Nationality Act which limits the entry of parents, grandparents and fiancées to live with the rest of their family. Own your own home. yes. but they forget to mention that paying the mortgage does bear certain similarities to paying the rent. Last year 27,000 people lost their homes as a result of being unable to keep up the mortgage payments. Today 87 per cent of the population own only 9 per cent of the land. 60,000 families are officially homeless and about 1.5 million families are waiting to be rehoused (Shelter). We are living in a society where property company boss Sir lan MacTaggart can sit in one of his £1000 a week marble-floored penthouses (Daily Express, 24 June 1981), pick up a newspaper and read about 18-year-old Linda Jackson who gave birth to a stillborn baby because of freezing conditions while she was having to live in a tent on the banks of the River Dee in Chester (Daily Express, 4 December 1980). You cannot have such a thing as a property-owning democracy because the idea of property (“This is mine, the rest of you cannot have it”) is opposed to the idea of democracy. By the same token, “equal opportunities" in a property society do not count for much. Anyone is free to send a child to Eton (for about £4,000 a year) for that child to have a prosperous life. Anyone is free to pay £250 a day for private hospital treatment. It is just that the majority of us begin this unnecessary competition for "success" with the handicap of being in the working class.

The fifth task was to "strengthen Britain’s defences and work with our allies to protect our interests in an increasingly threatening world”. What the Tories, like the other pro-capitalist parties, fail to make clear here is the precise nature of "our interests”. The only interest most of us have in Britain is that this is where we pay rent, receive dole, or sell ourselves to the boss. Where we consume the culture of Terry Wogan, Crossroads and baked beans. The economic interests of Charrington-Coalite, who virtually own the Falklands. were scarcely mentioned during or after all the unnecessary bloodshed in the South Atlantic. The Tories are emphatic about the need for bombs "to keep the peace" and about the need to protect ourselves against our enemies. Norman "on-your-bike" Tebbit is a man who cannot really count logic or consistency as among his strengths. While spending much energy arguing against the heavy-handed interference of the state, Norman recently urged parents to keep their children away from school when plays about the Hiroshima bomb and the need for peace were due to be performed. He presumably considers that young minds should not really become acquainted with what happened at Hiroshima and why we should take steps to avoid travelling down the same road again. Negligently overlooking the government propaganda anti-Russian leaflet for schools, How to Deal with a Bully, Norman then further confused his opposition to the peace plays by saying "I prefer politics to be kept out of schools”. With such a clear liking for having his head in the clouds, Norman would have perhaps done better to have remained an airline pilot.

The solution to the social problems of the majority is a dramatic change of social organisation to socialism. This is not the decoy duck which the Tories set up to shoot down. It is not “Less freedom . . . Nationalisation . . . Levelling down . . . high spending . . . high taxes . . (Fifty Questions & Answers, What Socialists Believe In. Conservative Research Department). Neither is it Labour’s "new” plan to re-organise capitalism, with "a priority to create jobs (more exploitation) ... a five-year national plan (Stalin would have been proud) . . . and plans to abolish the legislative powers of the House of Lords" (Labour's Plan, The New Hope for Britain).

Socialism means the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth. It means acting to put an end to the need for wars and starvation. An end to eating synthetic food, living in inadequate accommodation. An end to the culture of tension, television-trances and Tcscos. Thatcher says "stand firm” as she harangues us about Victorian values. We are not amused.
Gary Jay