Saturday, April 17, 2021

Letter: A Statement Challenged (1950)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter from a correspondent:—
Leeds.

To Secretary, Socialist Party of G.B.

Dear Sir,

In your booklet on the Centenary of Communist Manifesto you state in the preface: That in the preface to the 1872 edition Marx and Engels say: “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at end of Section II.”

In a debate a speaker denied the accuracy of this, and produced a book which is supposed to contain all the prefaces. The above could not be found in it.

Can you enlighten me on this point? Thanking you in anticipation of your reply, for which I enclose stamped addressed envelope.
Yours faithfully,
L. Benjamin.


Reply.
The above letter relates to a passage on page 3 of the Preface to “The Communist Manifesto—and the Last Hundred Years,” published by the S.P.G.B.

In our Preface we drew attention to the statement made by Marx and Engels in their joint preface to the. 1872 edition of the Communist Manifesto. The whole statement that we quote from Marx and Engels is:
  “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded to-day.”
Sixteen years after Marx and Engels wrote that passage Engels, after the death of Marx in 1883, wrote
a new-preface to the 1888 edition of the Communist Manifesto, and in that 1888 preface he quoted again the words that he and Marx had written in 1872.

For confirmation of the above our correspondent can refer his critic to any of the following editions of the Communist Manifesto:—
  • The edition published by W. Reeves, London, in 1888 (see page 6). This is the authorised English translation edited by Engels himself.
  • “Modern Books” edition, London, 1929 (p. xv). “Lawrence and Wishart” Edition, London, 1939 (P. 8).
  • The “Martin Lawrence” edition, London, 1930, with an Introduction and explanatory notes by D. Ryazanoff, Director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow (p. 260).
This last-named edition does not contain the 1888 Preface by Engels, and its version of the 1872 Joint Preface by Marx and Engels is a translation from the Russian, which was itself a translation from the German. This is doubtless the explanation of the fact that it words the passage slightly differently, as follows:
  “We therefore do not lay any special stress upon the revolutionary measures suggested at the close of the second section. In many respects the passage would have to be differently worded to-day.”
It is clear that the critic who challenged the authenticity of the statement in the S.P.G.B. edition is mistaken. It would be interesting to know what is the book from which he obtained his erroneous information.
Editorial Committee.

Food or Profit? (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once again over-production and unmarketable supplies of food are the order of our day. In America food is being stored in barns, caves and even aeroplane hangars, at a cost of approximately £9,000 an hour to pay for storage and the rapid deterioration which is taking place in certain food commodities. Mr. Brannan, America's Secretary of State, says “the situation contains warnings that we cannot ignore, but there is no solution in sight to stop the surpluses piling up higher and higher.” (News Chronicle, 6/3/50.) What wonderful system is this—that brings about the position of food piling up and deteriorating when there is still poverty in our midst?

Why is it—that in Asia, there are millions of people living in poverty and in the main underfed (News Chronicle, 6/3/50), and yet at the same time the other half of the world are letting food rot?

Lord Boyd Orr said at a meeting of the Association of Scientific Workers held on March 5th, that he saw threats of the same vicious circle that contributed to the crisis of 1929-30. He went on to say : “There is already a fight for world markets and this would be intensified when Germany and Japan again entered the field and other countries became more industrialised" (Manchester Guardian, 6/3/50). Lord Boyd Orr thinks that the United Nations with its Agricultural Organisation and World Banks will somehow or the other solve this problem, but it is very noticeable that he does not say how.

Statisticians in the same category as himself miss one vital point, that Food, Clothing and Shelter, which are necessary to sustain human life, are produced, not because people need them, but for sale on a market with a view to profit. When goods cannot be sold, markets become glutted and there arises the position of commodities piling high in warehouses and the like, as already witnessed in America at the present time.

The only solution to any problem is to remove the cause, and until this is accomplished all the Lord Boyd Orr’s in the world will not be able to bring about a state of affairs where there is plenty for all.

Only Socialism can solve this problem, a system of society in which goods will be produced solely for use, where people will work according to their ability and take according to their needs.
J. P.

Our Birthright (1950)

 
From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

All members of the working class who ever attended school will, no doubt, remember their mentors’ eulogistic references to the "birthright” which is the proud heritage of everybody who had the great good fortune and common sense to get themselves born in Great Britain. The meaning of this great blessing has somehow always managed to elude the writer—certainly, a "birthright” during the last three or four decades seemed a very obscure and intangible possession, except, of course, for the master class, who by reason of their ownership and control of the means whereby all goods are produced, enjoyed a very real "birthright” in the wealth accruing from the sale of those goods. The extravagant opulence of their lives was accepted as the natural order of things, as was the fact that the workers were poor, and therefore had to make the best of the meanest dwellings, shoddiest clothes and food of little or no nutritional value. An odd sort of “birthright” in the second case, you say? But, nevertheless, it is the only one the workers can expect under the present system, capitalism. And we are grateful to the editor of Reynolds News (8th January, 1950) for his magnanimity in publishing the fact. He begins an optimistic leading article on "Why Labour Will Win the Election” by asserting:—
  "Because Labour is the only Government in Britain's history that has accorded to every man his birthright of work and wages."
Thank you, Mr. Editor, for your information, but it may interest you to know that there are quite a number of workers who look forward to attaining a very different and more concrete birthright than Labour’s offering, i.e.. Socialism.

Inherent within the quotation there is the erroneous assumption that the interests of all men are identical. Socialists, however, realise that present-day society, not only in Great Britain but all over the world, is divided into two classes—the capitalists or owning class, controlling all the means of wealth production and distribution, and the workers who, by reason of their propertyless status in relation to the means of living, are compelled to spend the best part of their lives in their masters’ factories, mills, mines or shops, etc., producing and selling goods. In short, the whole complex business of present-day society is run from top to bottom by members of the working class who, in return for their services, receive wages. You, fellow worker, do not need us to tell you that whatever the amount in your wage-packet, it is never quite enough to, colloquially speaking, “make ends meet.” In fact, in a great number of cases, workers are born to and live a life of direst poverty.

If every man and woman should enjoy such a birthright as just described, the capitalists would not be at all anxious to claim it. We feel sure that they would not consider it worth while leaving their villas in Nice or hotels in the Bahamas to stake their claim. They know and like too well the luxuries which the working-class make possible for them. We seem to hear murmurs of: "How is this possible if we barely get along on a standard of living far below theirs?”

This, then, is where a little simple economic illustration is called for. It is known to Socialists as the theory of value and surplus value and can briefly be depicted thus: A worker is paid the rate for the job at which he is employed but that sum will be much smaller than the values he will create during working-hours. This difference is known as surplus-value, and is the source of the capitalists’ income. For an excellent insight into this aspect of Socialism we would recommend Karl Marx’s "Value, Price and Profit,” in which this question is ably dealt with in a very interesting discourse.

To conclude—Socialists do not want the birthright which the Labour Party acting for capitalism offers. Instead, we want our children, and children’s children to know and accept the birthright of a world wherein labour and wages will not exist. Work will then be the happy performance of some task which will benefit the community—when "Each for all and all for each” will become a fact instead of the pious and hypocritical utterance it is to-day. Wages will be an anachronism in a community where "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is the maxim, and with the existence of common ownership in the means of wealth production and distribution which Socialism presupposes, there cannot be use for either masters or money.

Even to-day, productive powers have reached a level where it would be possible for everybody to have enough—even to-day, it would be possible were it not for the capitalist class who control not only their factories, mines, etc,, but our very lives as well.

Are you going to allow this state of affairs to continue?

Are you going to vote once again for the system which enslaves you?

Or are you, fellow worker, going to join our ranks and help in the historic mission of the working-class —the overthrow of capitalism and the realisation of our real birthright—Socialism?
D. E. A.


William Thompson (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Westdene,” 3, Charteris Road,
Woodford Green, Essex.

The Editor.

Dear Sir,—May I through your valuable columns enquire whether any reader has information about the Irishman William Thompson (1775-1833), Socialist, co-operator, economist, and writer on social questions.

Though largely forgotten to-day, Thompson, who was a friend of Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, William Pare, and others, played an important role in his day.

I am engaged in writing a life of Thompson and would be extremely grateful to know if any reader knows of manuscripts, letters or other writings of Thompson.
Yours sincerely,
Richard K. P. Pankhurst, B.Sc. (Econ.).


Blogger's Note:
Pankhurst's biography of William Thompson was reviewed in the June 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard by Bill Waters. 

Forecast for the future (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is no doubt that for the majority of people in this and other lands the future does not offer very much. It is not necessary for us to turn the pages of the history books to see the horror and tragedy that Capitalism has produced. A glance at what has taken place during the life of any reader shows that Capitalism has so far not succeeded in making life the enjoyable adventure that it well might be. Poverty, unemployment, war and insecurity are the main features of which it can never rid itself. More and more wealth is produced, new methods of production discovered and yet millions of working men and women are insufficiently fed, clothed and housed. As more wealth is produced the greater becomes the gulf between worker and capitalist—for all wealth that is produced belongs to the capitalist class. No oppressed class has ever produced more wealth than that produced by the workers to-day and yet, in comparison with what is produced—no section of any community has ever been worse off.

It is only five years since the end of the last war and what do we see? Despite the promises of prosperity, despite the slogans “war to end war” and “peace in our time” which were so glibly given to us by the ruling class, one thing stands out a mile. All modern nations are preparing for war. However much we may desire peace, however sick we may be of the unending blood baths of capitalism, we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that another war is on the way. As capitalism develops wars become greater, the weapons of destruction are more effective, new means of mass murder are discovered and periodically the world working class are hurled against each other in a disastrous struggle in order that the interests of the capitalist class may be preserved. The victory of war is never a victory for the workers. It is always a victory for a section of the ruling class.

Socialists are often dubbed pessimistic. Our policy is not one of pessimism or hopelessness, but we tell you to face up to the facts. The future lies before you and it is up to you to fashion it as you desire. Two roads are here—Capitalism or Socialism—which one are you going to take? Capitalism you know and if you are satisfied with it you will continue to give it your support. We Socialists are not satisfied and we have made an effort to understand the world in which we live. Our solution to the problems that confront us is simple—We stand for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism—a system based on common ownership of the means of wealth production. But we cannot establish Socialism until you and the majority of the working class desire it Capitalism with all its horrors will be your lot until you join with us to abolish it. If you are unconvinced have a look at the history of Capitalism and you will see what it has to offer you.

Are you content to make this your lot? At the end of your life will you be able to say you have enjoyed it to the full? Are you not sick of war, unemployment and misery? Do you want to pass this state of affairs on to posterity? The world is really a very beautiful place; life, too, could be beautiful, and yet the conditions of the majority of the people make it very ugly. If you desire something better why not study the case for Socialism? Once you start to do this it will not be long before we will have your agreement. Then you too can join with us in the work that will ultimately lead to the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Only then will the working class put the past behind them and go forward to a future of peace and prosperity—that of Socialism.
Joan Lestor

It’s an ill wind (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are many objectionable things during a war; property and homes are destroyed and lives are tortured and twisted in more ways than one. When peace is declared much remains for which the war must take and get the blame.

The late Robert Lynd had Saturday articles in the News-Chronicle showing the good side to many subjects which were generally accepted as unpleasant, but I never remember his praise of war.

The redeeming feature of modern war is that in so-called civilised countries the great mass of the workers are able to “get by.” This solves their greatest problem. I well remember working as a collector in the 1930’s and being brought close to the problems of my clients, who could not find a few pence each week for me to record on their premium books.

Then came 1940 and the A.R.P., when people previously unemployable were in receipt of the princely sum of £3 5s. every week, without such things as short time or lost time.

What a blessing for “tally men” like us; we found life much easier. Thousands of people in war work who would have ended their days in penury if our generation had been blessed with peace.

Owing to the terrible devastation during the war we find that five years since it ended we are still blessed with full employment and the Labour Party using it as a main plank in their election programme.

Commercial cables received in this country are delivered by special messenger. Before the war this was done by young boys of 15 to 18 years of age, at a wage of about 20s.

Owing to the Greater Production drive and National Service at 18, this labour is now scarce and almost unobtainable at anything approaching an economic rate, and the cable company have been compelled to look to fresh fields. The only available labour is that of the type that in peace time would be on the scrap heap, men of 65/70, incapable of ordinary work but still able to hobble off and on buses. If you live in London and happen to be in the City, glance into Creechurch Lane, E.C. (Leadenhall Street), and you will see the grandfathers sitting in the waiting room of the Commercial Cable Company, and you will realise “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.”

Many casualties of the 1931 economic blizzard may still lose sleep at night, worrying about the future, but with the help of God, a bit of luck at the “pools” and two more major wars, he may finish up his days in a job. That is all that matters (perhaps), unless you can think of an alternative.
David Boyd

Another banker comes unstuck (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The assertion that higher productivity is the only solution to the problems facing the working class to-day has been repeated so often by the politician and his numerous henchmen that there is danger of the idea being accepted through the sheer force of constantly reiterated suggestion.

The latest interested party to lend the full weight of his personality as a “someone" in the financial world is Mr. H. Bibby, chairman of Martins Bank. Ltd., who was quoted in the Manchester Guardian of 13th January, 1950, as follows: “The truth is there is greater danger of unemployment if we do not use advanced mechanical aids." He also finds necessary “a willingness to work conscientiously when they [the workers] are at work. Any other course would lead to disaster. . . ."

So we are led to believe that increased efficiency is the all-important thing. Only through harder work and better machinery will we solve our problems.

In case you too have read this statement and are suffering from qualms of conscience, or developing a guilt complex over those stolen minutes in the only place where the foreman cannot follow, perhaps you will not feel too badly about it if you turn over the page of your newspaper and read the small item at the bottom of column three. For those who have mislaid their copies it reads as follows: —
“A further two hundred workers have been dismissed owing to redundancy in the engine division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. This follows the dismissal of two hundred workers between July and November last year, and is described in an official statement issued by the company last night as ‘part of the normal continuous process of strengthening the efficiency of the company’s organisation.' "
And what is efficiency in industry but higher output per man, and how is this achieved but by Mr Bibby's advanced mechanical aids and harder work, and with the same inevitable results as those at the Bristol Aeroplane Company?
J.T.

Puzzle corner (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month we set you a different type of problem. This short item, outlining the problem, originally appeared in the Lansing Labor News, and was reprinted in The Western Socialist, organ of our companion party in the United States, in December, 1947. The solution of the problem is presented in the first column of the back page of this issue of The Socialist Standard : —
   “Man can circle the earth without touching the ground; man can kill other men many miles away; man can weigh the stars of heaven; man can drag oil from the bowels of the earth; man can compel an icy waterfall to cook his meals hundreds of miles from the stream; man can print a million newspapers in an hour; man can breed the seeds out of oranges; man can coax a hen to lay 365 eggs in a year; man can persuade dogs to smoke pipes and sea lions to play guitars. Man, in other words, is quite an ingenious and remarkable package of physical and mental machinery.
  “But when this astonishing person is confronted with one problem, he retires to his hut defeated. Show him six men without money and six loaves of bread belonging to men who cannot use it but who want money for it, and ask him how six hungry men can be put in possession of the six surplus loaves, and watch him then, it is then that man attends conferences and appoints committees and holds elections and cries out that a crisis is upon him. He does a score of useless things and then retires, leaving in the shivering twilight the tableau of six hungry men and the six unapproachable loaves.”
Get your pen, paper and envelopes ready; you may need them. When you have read the solution in column one, page 64, right through, from first word to last, from top to bottom, think it over. Then read the sentence in italics at the foot of the column. That’s when you may need the pen, paper and envelope. It’s a prize worth having.
W. Waters.

Friday, April 16, 2021

“Capital.” A Criticism of the New Translation. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We publish below an interesting letter which was addressed to the “Labour Monthly” by Professor Riazanoff, and published in its May issue.

THE NEW TRANSLATION OF MARX.

A letter from Professor Riazanov.

Dear Comrade,—In your last letter you mentioned the new translation of “Capital” by E. and C. Paul (*). The book, peculiar as it may seem, has not been a pleasure to me. Of course, it is agreeable to find the demand for the works of Marx having become so great as to require a new edition of the “Capital,” and as a sign of this increased interest in Marx and his works I certainly welcome this edition. Only my pleasure has been marred by the circumstance that one has found it necessary to make an entirely new translation instead of revising the edition of Moore and Aveling, which had been thoroughly revised and completed by Engels.

Both translators of the first English edition were born Englishmen, both were quite conversant with economical matters and even if to them has to be denied an all-round competence in questions of economy, nothing of the kind can be said against Engels, who, as is to be seen from letters of that period, also from his introduction to the English edition, has spent an enormous deal of time and labour on this edition. This old edition contains a tre­mendous deal of Engels’ own work, and I do not consider it right to neglect this work; and what is more, to me it is not a neglect only, but equals almost to a contempt, to an abjudication of Engels, and with such a tendency I, of course, cannot at all sympathise.

I do not consider myself so competent as to declare decisively that the edition revised by Engels complies to all stylistical require­ments, or that it contains no mistakes, no errors. Its containing mistakes is quite possible. But to justify the discarding of the text authorised by Engels, the least one ought to have done would have been to prove on hand of numerous instances the absolute uselessness of the old English edition, the impossibility of adapting it to the requirements of to-day and hence its inevitable fate of being thrown away in order to make room to a completely new translation. To such an authority as Engels this justification, to my idea, ought to have been made !

I have not gone through the Pauls’ translation very thoroughly, but the fact of this translation suffering from serious errors was brought home to me by the introduction of the Pauls, from which I learned that they have not used for their text the “Volksausgabe,” published by Kautsky (and to which I also contributed by adding a very complete register).

This Kautsky edition, though not a critical definite one, possesses great advantages over all other editions as far as the text is concerned, as Kautsky has used for this edition all the variations of the four different versions by Marx or Engels, further numerous corrections of Marx and Engels’ found in their own copies, and also the French edition, which to a great extent had been revised by Marx. From all this is to be seen that the Pauls have not made use of the best text hitherto known, therefore their translation is a step backwards.

A hasty perusal of their book resulted in my discovering the following errors :—
On page 866 instead of “hoffnungsvoll” (hope­ful) they translated unhappy.

,, 282 instead of “Arbeitsvolk” (work­ing people) they translated the French people.

,, 318 instead of “Arbeitszeit” (labour time) they translated labour power.

„ 552 instead of “Lehrfabrik” (factory for learning) they translated tan­nery.

,, 593 instead of ”politische Oekonomie” (political economy): they translated English economics.
In conclusion, let me say that as long as E. and C. Paul do not convince me by a thorough criticism of the old translation that a revision (the necessity of which I do not deny) has been absolutely impossible, I maintain and shall continue to maintain the standpoint of considering their new translation from a scientific point of view superfluous. The interest of the English speaking world in Marx’s “Capital” will grow to such an extent that I hope the day will not be far off when the opportunity arises of re-editing the old translation.
Fraternally yours,
 D. Riazanov.
Moscow, April 18,1929.

* Capital. A new translation by Eden and Cedar Paul, based on the Fourth and Definitive Edition. (Allen & Unwin, 927 pp., 12s. 6d.)

Trafalgar Square Demonstration. (1929)

Party News from the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We greatly regret that the Demonstration arranged for Sunday, June 9th, and advertised in the “Socialist Standard,” had to be cancelled. Speakers who had undertaken to address the Demonstration reported their inability to attend, but it was then too late to make other satisfactory arrangements. Efforts were made to advise as many of our readers as possible.

Aspects of the “Woman Question.” (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
(Based on Notes of a Series of Lectures on “The Sexes in Evolution.”)
In the present state of our knowledge of biological matters, no fact is more patent than that sex constitutes one of the greatest underlying principles throughout Nature.

Students of evolution will appreciate the fact that sex, like any other biological feature, has undergone a progressive evolutionary development—a development exhibiting many phases, both simple and complex—until we arrive at what is termed its “highest expression,” that of the human male and female.

Much of the course of this development is known, but the question of the origin of sex itself still remains one of the puzzling problems of biology. Certain it is that there was a time when what we know as “sex” did not exist. In many “lowly” organisms this condition of sexlessness obtains to-day. But at one stage in the development of living forms this condition was universal. By and bye there came a differentiation in the development of organisms, which resulted in a division of labour, where the special functions of each were confined to two separate and distinct individuals. From this point the indepen­dent history of the male and female sexes begins. Probably from the time of the appearance of life on the earth to that of the establishment of separate sexes, mil­lions of years intervened. And probably, also, from the time that sex first made its appearance, millions more have elapsed. How and why sex differentiation came about at all is problematical. In all likeli­hood some crisis arose which threatened the existence of the particular species in which the phenomenon first occurred, and which had its appropriate physiological response in the organism, resulting in a division of labour, for, fundamentally, male and female are the same in biological essentials, the difference being some subtle biochemical quality whose essence is not quite understood.

We pass on, then, to the rise of the human animal where this sex differentiation concerns us most. They, like all other animals, have arisen from a line of organisms whose sex organs are ultimately identical, but in which, since modifications were introduced, have resulted in differences that are now of fundamental biological importance. Hence the “femininity” of women is not the product of education or convention, but is essentially biological in character. When our knowledge of the history of life on the earth has become more extended, it will be found that it is only by tracing the processes of differentiation throughout the two entire lines of development that we may hope to unravel all the mysteries bound up in the problem of sex, or to understand the prevailing differences in character and constitution which have arisen as the outcome of this early division of labour.
Tom Sala

(To be continued.)

Ken Livingstone/Paul Foot – Dream Ticket? (2000)

Editorial from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ken Livingstone has taken on the Labour machine. He wants to be mayor instead of Blair’s poodle, Dobson. Journalist and SWPer Paul Foot is heading a list of candidates for the assembly calling itself the “London Socialist Alliance” which is supporting Livingstone. “Vote Livingstone, Vote LSA” is their slogan.

Well, should we? That depends on what you want. If you want to elect an old-fashioned Labourite politician to run the administrative side of capitalism in London—or if you want the mayor of London to speak with a London accent—or if you want to protest at Blair’s control-freakery—go ahead. But if you want Socialism, stop and think it through. Livingstone as mayor with Foot as leader of the assembly is an intriguing prospect, but how would this advance the cause of Socialism?

Livingstone has been a lifelong member of the Labour Party and still regards himself as a Labour man temporarily separated from the fold. He is not a socialist unless you think that nationalisation under a Labour government is an example of Socialism (in fact, it’s state capitalism).

In any event, he is not standing as a “Socialist”, but as a politician promising to make things better for London people under capitalism—”Vote London” is his campaign slogan. But anyone who knows how the profit system works knows this can’t be done. It doesn’t matter how sincere or competent or determined a politician is they can’t make capitalism work other than as a system that gives priority to profit-making. All governments that have spoken about putting needs before profits have failed. So will Livingstone. This is not a reflection on him personally but on capitalism as a system.

Paul Foot and his “London Socialist Alliance” aren’t standing on a socialist programme either. They are not standing for the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production for use not profit. All they are doing is offering a collection of attractive-sounding reforms to be achieved within capitalism: “a £7 billion increase in NHS spending”, “a 35 hour week without loss of pay”, “a minimum wage of at least £7 an hour”.

Nice if you could get them, but you can’t. They’re just empty promises. Vote-catching bait. These days capitalism can’t deliver reforms. Nor can Foot and his friends any more than Livingstone or Blair or anyone else.

So what to do? Leave Livingstone to fight it out with the other professional politicians. And if you want to vote for Socialism, do this by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper.

The poverty of education in Ghana (2000)

From the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a close affinity in Ghana between post-independence politics and the pre-independence era when the political and intellectual African elite were mobilising support from the African masses to overthrow the colonial establishment. Both have been full of promises and rosy dreams of what the future ought to be like.
Elections in Ghana these days, for example, remind one of the politics of agitation by the Nkrumah’s, J. B. Danquah’s and the Houphuet-Boigny’s in the colonial days. Equality, freedom and freedom from poverty and oppression are sonorously proclaimed these days too; and every available propaganda tool is used by parties to discredit other political parties in the bid to win the support of the voting public. But the results of these bitter campaigns have always ended in the same way. As soon as any political party assumes the mantle of office, the ideas that it used to politicise the masses to propel it to power becomes a fetter on the purpose of the leadership of the party. The demands for equality and freedom from poverty, and the vitriolic criticisms launched against the oppressive economic policies of previous governments, are inevitably forgotten and equally inevitably people come to direct them at the party that has taken over the reins of power. The difficulty of the political leadership is that it wants to inherit the privileged positions of previous governments, that it has unseated either in an election or a coup d’├ętat, without implementing the progressive and radical sounding ideas which had helped it to come into power. It knows too well that its interest as the representative of the ruling class and international capital are diametrically opposed to the interest of the majority. And it cannot fundamentally transform the existing relations of production in the interest of the masses, without limiting its own access to economic surplus. The interests of the Ghanaian ruling class since independence is just the same as those of the old colonial regime; and it works with the forces of neo-colonialism and international capital to negate the consciousness of the masses, using its unlimited access to the economic surplus to attain this objective.

Ruling class and ruling ideas 
The national bourgeoisie and international capital have succeeded in foisting their ideas on the majority of the people largely because of their control over material production. Marx and Engels’s claim that “the class which has the material means of production at its disposal has control at the same time over the mental means of production, so that generally speaking those who lack the mental means of production are subject to it” seems to describe the Ghanaian situation aptly. In no other field have the techniques of mental control been employed with such efficiency as in the educational system. Apart from being inaccessible to a majority of Ghanaians it seeks to create the myth that the current neo-colonial and capitalist direction of development are sacrosanct and inviolable. The school curriculum, especially in the social sciences, is replete with all kinds of bogus assertions seeking to justify the unjustifiable. The educational system has thus evolved essentially into a positive instrument serving neo-colonialism and the ruling class in Ghana; whilst at the same time making it difficult for the propertyless classes to understand the true nature and causes of their wretched conditions.

This is evident in the economics syllabus in educational institutions and the thinking of prominent intellectuals on the subject. They all reflect the ideas of bourgeois academicians in America and Britain. Consequently the ideas they propagate manifest the interest of capital. Books written by Harvey, Adam Smith, Caincross and Hansen are not only important textbooks for students but reference books for teachers. The ability to regurgitate the ideas in these books in examinations qualifies one to be a graduate of economics and enhances the chances of an individual to aspire to lucrative jobs. These books are devoid of class analysis in their presentation of current economic problems, ignore imperialistic influences as factors in the underdevelopment of a country, and propagate the myth that without foreign investment economic growth and development would be hampered. The exploitative aspects of foreign and Ghanaian enterprises are either completely ignored or little discussed. The worship and devotion to free enterprise is therefore total. The impression that private investment of capital is essential for economic growth relegates labour to a secondary position in industry and prepares the minds of the people to accept the dominance of capital over labour in the process both of production and distribution. It also seeks to imprint in the minds of the recipients of education the idea that the profit motive is both essential and intrinsic to increased productivity; and the belief that free-for-all competition at the market place is the only way to realise the overall interest of society.

The alternative to the free market policy is normally presented as the state ownership of the means of production. What is not discussed or is not known is that the state ownership of the means of production prescribed and fixed in law does not preclude the exploitation of labour by capital. Capitalism is not only characterised by the legal form that class possession of the means of production takes. That is the superficial aspect of it. The essential aspect is the social fact that those who “possess” the means of production exploit wage labour and accumulate surplus value thus obtained as capital. The immediate post-independent West African economics would suffice to illustrate this point. Workers sold their labour power to various state enterprises; and the products of their labour were sold in the market place with a view to profit. The difference between the wages of the producers and the value of what they produced was used for capital accumulation and the consumption of the privileged classes. Under the guise of socialism that state was employed by the ruling classes to appropriate economic surpluses from the masses. State ownership sought to hide the monstrosity of capitalist exploitation by confusing socialism with state property and presenting it to the producers of wealth as the best.

With the failure of the economic recovery programme staring them in the face, the ruling class has become louder in their call for “indigenisation” in recent times. Suddenly the ghost of economic nationalism is being resurrected after it had been banished from economic planning. Conspicuously absent are those aspects and activities of enterprises that have made their operations inimical to the interest of a majority of Ghanaians, irrespective of their origin.

Imprinting minds
The ethos, symbols, values, lifestyles, relations of production and modes of operations are not of primary concern to the new converts of indigenisation. What matters is the encouragement of Ghanaian manufacturers to produce more to capture the local market from “foreigners”. But such factors as mentioned constitute strong inbuilt pressures on local entrepreneurs to cave in to the wishes of foreign capital. Instead of enterprises becoming more and more national in the use of local resources and in satisfying of the needs of the vast majority of Ghanaians it is in fact the Ghanaian entrepreneurs who are going to become less and less national. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the privileged classes whose share of the surplus in the exploitation of Ghanaian labour would increase. Indigenisation would therefore essentially become a weapon of the haves in the country to realise their dreams of increasing their wealth which was somewhat crushed during the heydays of liberalisation.

Ethnic chauvinism 
In sociology and anthropology one encounters the bogus assertion that Ghana has ethnic and not class relations. This argument is nurtured by bourgeois politicians and their mentors in sociology departments who want power based on communal hegemony. Normally the place occupied by individuals in a historically determined system of social production is not made the basis of analysis. While it is not denied that ethnic consciousness exists in Ghana, the phenomenon has to be recognised as part of the ideological rationalisation that reinforces and in turn reflects the existing relations of production. Classes in Ghana may be embryonic but they exist. Thus while ambitious petty bourgeois politicians preach and fan the deadly parochialism of ethnic chauvinism they actively form alliances with petty bourgeois elements in the various other ethnic groups to consolidate their repressive domination of the masses. Ethno-centrism as presented by bourgeois sociology is essentially a weapon of the dominating classes to dissipate the energies of the working class, divide them, and strangle potentially progressive organisations.

Another fraudulent intellectual claim obviously calculated to instil false consciousness in the recipients of education is that Ghana’s present underdevelopment is a direct inheritance from the pre-colonial times. The history departments and historians of repute in universities have made no attempt to prove or disprove this assertion. They just reproduce it for students to swallow and regurgitate during examinations. The impression this propaganda pap seeks to create is implicit: that pre-colonial conditions continue to be reproduced. But three questions immediately come to mind when issues of this nature are discussed. Is this claim correct? If it is correct why is it that these conditions have persisted in spite of years of colonialism and neo-colonialism? What forces are reproducing them and why?

It should be understood that societies are not static and Ghanaian societies were not an exception to this law of development. They also went through the processes of change that characterised societies elsewhere. These changes were to be found in the revolutionary transformation of the social structures, relations of production and techniques of production of social groups. What impacted negatively on these processes of change were two things—the slave trade and the subsequent integration of Ghanaian societies into the world capitalist system in a subordinate position. One cannot deny the infrastructural changes that contact with Europe brought in its wake; but the subsequent material benefits benefited the metropolitan bourgeoisie and the sham bourgeoisie in the colonial country. It condemned the majority to perpetual poverty.

Some contemporary African writings used as literature books in universities and secondary schools in Ghana also do not adequately address the phenomenon of exploitation. Mongo Betis’s Poor Christ of Bomba; Rene Maran’s Batouala; Oyono’s The House Boy; Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God; and Camera Laye’s African Child tend to emphasise the superstructural aspects of colonialism. The imposition of colonialism through brute military force and the subsequent destruction of African socio-cultural and political institutions are given prominence in these writings. What is not normally clearly established or is often ignored is the link between the superstructural aspects of colonial rule and its economic base—production relations. The colonial production relations were the foundation upon which the political, juridical, ethical and religious aspects of colonialism were founded. But in these works the cultural and political aspects of colonialism are artificially severed from the production relations which provided it with its life-force and dynamism.

However, available evidence proves that the real reason for colonialism was to ensure the haemorrhage of capital from the fringes of the capitalist system to its core. The cultural and political domination which were made very much part of the colonial system were therefore a means to an end.
Adongo Aidan Avugma

Losers’ World (2000)

Book Review from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy’, by Edward Luttwak, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998)

Most American textbooks on capitalism either present it as the best possible system that will last well into the future if not for ever, or admit that it has a few faults which are a small price to pay for its benefits. Luttwak is closer to the second position than the first. In his opening sentence he expresses his belief “both in the virtues of capitalism and in the need to impose some measure of control over its workings”. In a matter-of-fact tone the author discusses the many and dreadful consequences of capitalism for the losers, of which there are many more than winners. By turbo-capitalism he means a form of capitalism that is much different from the controlled form that mostly prevailed from 1945 to the 1980s. He admits that “turbo” is his term—others simply call it the free market. It means very much more than the freedom to buy and sell:
  “What they celebrate, preach and demand is private enterprise liberated from government regulation, unchecked by effective trade unions, unfettered by sentimental concerns over the future of employees or communities, unrestrained by customs barriers or investment restrictions, and molested as little as possible by taxation.”
Luttwak likes the increase in economic growth that turbo-capitalism brings but is aware of the consequences which he deplores:
  a breakdown of familial capitalism (especially in Asia): “Cold-blooded, truly arm’s length and therefore purely contractual relations” 
  increasing job insecurity: “employees at all but the highest levels must go to work each day not knowing if they sill still have their job on the morrow” 
   the global increase in unemployment: “it is a protracted tragedy at the personal level, and destabilising at the social level” 
the insecure majority are persuaded to accept the sovereignty of the market: “losers blame themselves rather than the system”

In mitigation of the harsh discipline and sharp inequalities which Luttwak admits turbo-capitalism has brought, he believes that there are “two great forces that serve to balance its over-powering strength”: the American legal system (poor people can get “damage awards”) and the pervasive influence of Calvinist values (earned wealth is no impediment to virtue).

In Luttwak’s favour is his assessment of Blair and the left wing in politics: ” . . . both Clinton in the United States and Blair in the United Kingdom have continued to use some liberal prose to wrap their conservative remedies . . . even a left-wing electoral victory can yield only right-wing polices”.

Compared to what he calls “defunct communist economies” and “bureaucratic socialism”, the author believes that turbo-capitalism is “materially altogether superior, and morally at least not inferior . . . Yet to accept its empire over every aspect of life, from art to sport in addition to all forms of business, cannot be the culminating achievement of human existence. Turbo-capitalism too, shall pass”.

Yes, Luttwak, but what are you doing to help make it pass?
Stan Parker

50 Years Ago: Circumstances alter attitudes (2000)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before it became the Government the Labour Party built up a reputation on the frail ground that it was in favour of applying the principle of democracy everywhere, with particular reference to the depressed native populations who suffered so much from the profit-hungry greed of the privileged class. Now that the Labour Party has become the Government, administering Capitalism, lofty ideals that gained them support have had to take a back seat and the interests of the British Capitalist class become, and must become, the ruling idea. A recent example is the instance of the native ruler Seretse.

The circumstances are fairly well known owing to the publicity given by opponents of the Labour Party: opponents, it may be added, who would in all probability have acted more or less in the same way had they been the Government. Seretse is chief of a native population in Bechuanaland. He came to England to study and married a white girl. The Regent who had been acting as chief during Seretse’s minority objected to the marriage. After considerable internal discussion the Regent was exiled and the majority of the population accepted Seretse and his wife. In the meantime the Government’s representatives had been taking part in the dispute. Finally Seretse was invited to England for discussions on the express condition, he claims, that he would be allowed to return. When he was here the Government refused to let him return and banned him and his wife from the territory for five years . . .

Thus, in spite of the high-flown style of the propaganda against Fascism and Nazism in the past, where capitalist interests are, or seem to be, involved all capitalist governments, including Labour ones, are prepared to engage in racial discrimination.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1950)