Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ire of the Irate Itinerant (2008)

From the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard


Crime and the causes of crime (2008)

From the October issue of the Socialist Standard
Even the government accepts that crime will rise as economic conditions worsen, but is this the only reason for rising crime?
It’s a wonder any of us gets any sleep. It must be terrifying in the world today. Whenever Private Eye puts a spoof Daily Mail headline it its pages, such as “Criminal Yobbo Thugs give you Falling House Price CANCER!” no one laughs. It isn’t funny because it’s too similar to real Daily Mail headlines written for the terminally terrified. Where they are believed, it seems, the world is crawling with criminals with no more desire than to rip people’s hearts out and tear their corpse into indigestible shreds. After all, it is the fear of crime that politicians have sought for so many years to tackle, not the creature itself.

According to the statistics, crime in the UK has been rising steadilly since the mid-1950’s, although it certainly accelerated in the early 1980’s. It should be borne in mind, though, that the rate of reporting crimes has risen in that time, as has the number of crimes it is possible to commit, thanks to the governments (particularly the current one) creating endless new offences year in year out. Real crime, though, has certainly risen. The number of indictable offences per thousand population in 1900 was 2.4 and in 1997 the figure was 89.1. In 1965 6.8 per million people were murdered. By 1997 this had risen to 14.1 per million. Over the last century, the number of police in the UK has risen by over 120,000 to stand at around 150,000.

Yet crime continues to grow, despite all the police. The former Mayor of London, before he was kicked out, Ken Livingstone, made great play over how his increase in the number of the police in the capital, from 25,000 to 31,000 police officers, had reduced crime. He was right that the Tories, for all their talk on being tough on crime, had held back spending on policing levels. In fact, that’s no surprise: policing accounts for around 52 percent of the criminal justice budget, and the Tories are first and foremost cheapskates. Plus, how can you be tough on crime if there isn’t any? For them it is a virtuous political circle: let crime run free, then be tough on it, on the cheap, and then ask for plaudits for being tough on yobbos. That is by the by, though. Despite Ken’s protestations, it wasn’t his police force that cut crime. It was economic conditions.

The “tough on crime” brigade are easy to refute. Some commentators blame the 60’s permissive society and its aftermath of sexual liberation for rising crime. They point to the end of the death penalty and penal reform measures. Yet, the number of prisoners in British cells were growing from the mid-forties onwards, before crime rates themselves began to rise. Now they stand at around 94,000 – and all the prisons are full. They’ve even had to start releasing prisoners early – in the back half of 2007 18,583 prisoners were given early release to relieve overcrowding. A staggering number, that has been replaced. All early release means is more people going through the prison system and being disciplined by it. After all, a great number of released prisoners re-offend and are convicted within two years.

This is all part of the trend. In 1941 there were only around 10,000 prisoners. Even as late as 1991 there were only about 40,000. If prison “worked” surely crime would have been around halved by doubling the prison population? Or at least, more drastically cut than by the modest falls we’ve seen over recent years. Now, the government wants to build extra capacity, three so called Titan Prisons each with a capacity of 7,500, which means they only see the rate of incarceration going up and up.

They have reason to believe that. A leaked draft letter this month told us that Home Office officials were warning ministers that the economic slow down would almost certinly lead to a rise in crime. The letter predicted property crime would rise by 7 percent in 2008 and a further 2 percent in 2009, if the current economic conditions continued. Home Office minister Tony McNulty said the letter was a “statement of the blindingly obvious”, which considering, to their credit, Labour actually formally linked crime rates to economic conditions in their analysis when they first came to power, isn’t a surprising view.

The BBC’s Economics Editor Mark Easton takes issue with whether it is so blindingly obvious that economic downturns promote the increase in crime. As part of this he proposes a different source of crime, citing a report that shows that for every rise of 1 percent in inflation, property crime rises by 0.026 percent; but that is just another name for poverty – when inflation lowers people’s incomes those who can’t easily compensate (for instance through pay rises) will be hard hit.

He is right, though, to note that while the rise in crime generally does not map directly onto the graph of economic up and downs, it does bear a resemblance to the growth in relative poverty. According to the report Poverty, wealth and place in Britain, 1968-2005 from the Joseph Rowntree Foundtion so-called bread line poor, i.e. those who are excluded from normal participation in society due to their lack of wealth, grew to around 27 percent of households in 2005, up from 17 percent in 1980. More strikingly, the non-wealthy/non-poor fell by a dramatic 16 percent in the same period. The proportion of society in the very rich catageory also fell.

This ties in with a graph Easton produces:



The two scales are inverted, the left scale (consumer spending) ascends while the right scale (theft and burglary rates) descends. The match is pretty precise. Whilst it may not be enough to say that one causes another, it is enough to suggest that they are heavily linked. Poverty doesn’t make criminals, it just gives people more chances and incentives to be criminals. Put another way, the decline in social bonds caused by consumerism and rising inequality fuels a dog-eat- dog world which can turn nasty.

Of the 302,000 people sentenced for indictable offences in 2006, 160,100 of them were for property related crimes (theft, criminal damage, etc.). That is, over half of crimes. In 2006/7 some 75 percent of reported crimes were crimes relating to property. Poverty does not just push the creation of crime. It’s well known that the poor are much more likely to be the victims of crime, with the bottom 40 percent of society being way ahead of the top on every measure of crime victimhood. Lone parent and unemployed households are twice as likely to be burgled than the average household; and burglary rates are greater in densely populated and often poor London than in the rest of the south east.

Women in the sex industry are particularly prone to being victims of crime. A report by the Poppy Project, called The Big Brothel found staggering quantities of women working in the sex trade and being treated as little more than shoddy goods by their exploiters. They state that during ‘120 hours of telephone calls, we established the following: at least 1,933 women are currently at work in London’s brothels; ages range from 18 to 55 (with a number of premises offering “very, very young girls”); prices for full sex start at £15, and go up to £250’ The pimps offered two for one deals, discount vouchers, happy hours – the whole marketing gamut as they made between £86 million to £205 million per year with a brothel. This isn’t a normal business transaction though – the women are often beaten and raped. Turned into a commodity themselves, all social bonds utterly severed between them and their clients. In it’s own way, another form of property crime.

There is other evidence for alienation being the motor of crime. A recent report on the BBC revealed that 1 in 11 prisoners in a British gaol is a former member of the armed services, that is, approximately 8,500. The probation officers association NAPO recounts stories of strung out soldiers turning violent after returning from war. That is, those whose social bonds have been deliberately shorn in order to make them into fit killing machines, or whose bonds have been shattered by the experience of killing and conflict, are highly like to fall into crime, and find themselves on the prison scrap heap.

The Home Office report also deals with the rise of policital extremism, another form of expressing alienation. It warns of attacks on immigrants and the growth of racist parties, should Britain slide into recession. Of course, the terrorism obsessed government also considers how this rise in the far-right might lead to more terrorism in retaliation. This should serve as a warning to those who figure that simple economic catastrophism will lead mechanically to socialist revolution. The growth of socialism can only come from the working class consciously deciding that changing the economic system will save them from the woes of crime and violence extremism bred by the current one, and acting on that decision.
Pik Smeet

Production for profit (2008)

From the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

The motive for production under capitalism is making a profit. In order for goods to be manufactured or services to be provided, they must result in a reasonable amount of profit, otherwise they won’t be produced. Even ‘loss leaders’ serve the goal of profit, by enticing customers into a shop.

In contrast, socialism will be based on production for use. The whole issue of profit will be meaningless in a socialist society, with no money or buying and selling. Items will be made because they are useful, because they satisfy people’s needs for food, housing, transport, clothes, leisure interests, or whatever.

Now, some supporters of capitalism will argue that production for profit implies production for use. No company, for instance, will make a profit by producing goods that nobody will want to use. There is therefore, so the argument goes, a requirement for capitalist concerns to produce useful things. Many objects that were once found in people’s homes (mangles, for instance) are not produced nowadays, because technological progress has meant they are no longer wanted.

There is a tiny bit of truth in this, in that people won’t on the whole buy what they don’t want or need. But there is far more to be said on this matter, and looking at it more closely reveals what’s wrong with production for profit, and indeed with capitalism more generally.

For a start, the other side of the coin of production for profit is ‘no profit, no production’. This applies not just to outdated fashions and technology, but to any good or service, no matter how badly it is needed. Take housing, for instance. In the current credit crunch, the number of new houses being built has been drastically reduced, even though there is clearly a need for more houses, given the increasing population and the amount of people homeless or living in sub-standard accommodation. But building houses is now not so profitable as it was a year or so ago, hence the cut in housebuilders’ profits and decline in new housing starts. Hence too the many blocks of flats that are half-built but will not be finished because there is no prospect of selling them at a profit.

And of course it’s not just housing. Whenever you hear of post offices being shut or rural bus services being axed, it’s because they don’t pay, not because nobody wants or needs them. About four pubs a day close; not enough people are spending money in them, but it’s not that they fail to meet some need or are of no use.

We referred above to the homeless or people in bad housing. These are likely to be the very poorest, who are unable to afford a mortgage or the rent for a decent home. But under capitalism they are not part of the possible market for new houses, owing to their destitution. What they lack is not the need for a good place to live but effective demand: they can’t pay so are of no interest to housebuilders. What capitalism fulfils, then, is not human need, but need that can be paid for. There is no point from a business perspective in producing goods if people, whatever their needs, cannot pay for them.

Effective demand further affects the quality of what is produced. It’s no good producing only the best whatever if they are unaffordable. The size of workers’ wages means there is a demand for cheap goods, though it can hardly be said that there is a need for shoddy and dangerous commodities. The current economic downturn has led to more people shopping in cheaper supermarkets, but hardly out of choice. Again, production for profit is in no way identical — or even similar — to production for use.

The same logic underlies the paradox of millions starving in a world where enough food can be produced to feed everyone. The starving in Africa and Asia barely form a market and cannot be sold to at a profit. This simple point by itself should be enough to condemn the domination of the profit motive.

And is it really the case that people only buy what they want? This view ignores the impact of advertising, which can lead people to purchase stuff to keep up with the Joneses or make their children happy or enable their teenagers to respond to peer pressure. Capitalism has to advertise its wares, both to encourage customers to buy new products and to keep them buying existing ones. In so doing, it necessarily promotes new ‘needs’ that are really no such thing.

Moreover, the imperative for companies to make a profit implies that they seek to lower costs, including the cost of labour power, the mental and physical energies of their workers. That’s what wages are: the price of our ability to work. Profits are realised when commodities are sold, but they are arise in the course of production. Workers produce more in the value of what they output than in what they are paid. Profits, or surplus value, come from this difference.

By driving down wages, or making workers labour for longer hours on the same pay, employers can increase their profits. The drive for profit also leads them to reduce spending on health and safety, as this cuts into profits. Whenever you hear about unsafe working practices, it’s a good bet that it’s due not to individual carelessness but to the need for profit.

It’s worth noting that, when we say socialism will be based on production for use, this does not mean that everybody will live in the lap of luxury. It does mean that there will be no squalid housing or a choice between eating and heating or children who go to bed hungry. They key criterion in production will be not ‘is it profitable?’ but ‘is it needed?’. And the process of production will be safe as it can be, and the goods produced will also be safe rather than harmful. Due care will be taken of the impact on the environment too. Production for profit will have been confined to a barely-understandable and barbaric past.
Paul Bennett

Pieces Together: Profits before health (2008)

The Pieces Together column from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Profits before health
“The drug industry is overpricing vital new medicines to boost its profits, the chair of the health watchdog Nice warns today in an explosive intervention into the debate over NHS rationing. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins spoke out after critics last week accused the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) of `barbarism` for refusing to approve expensive new kidney drugs for NHS use, on the grounds that they were not cost-effective. In an outspoken interview with the Observer, he warned of `perverse incentives` to hike the prices of new drugs – including linking the pay of pharmaceutical company executives to their firm’s share price, which in turn relied on keeping profits healthy. Traditionally some companies charged what they thought they could get away with,” (Observer, 17 August)


Capitalism kills
“People are dying “on a grand scale” around the world because of social injustice brought about by a “toxic” combination of bad policies, politics and economics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday. Avoidable health problems caused by social factors – as opposed to biology and genetics – are causing large-scale health inequalities in the UK, the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health has found after a three-year study. Evidence showed that a boy born in the relatively deprived Calton area of Glasgow was likely to live on average 28 years fewer than one born a few miles away in Lenzie, a village by the Glasgow-Edinburgh railway. Life expectancy at birth for men in the fashionable north London suburb of Hampstead was found on average to be 11 years longer than for men born in the vicinity of nearby St Pancras station. Adult death rates were generally 2.5 times higher in the most deprived parts of the UK than in the wealthiest areas.” (Independent 29 August)


Capitalism is awful
“There is a lot more poverty in the world than previously thought. The World Bank reported in August that in 2005, there were 1.4 billion people living below the poverty line — that is, living on less than $1.25 a day. That is more than a quarter of the developing world’s population and 430 million more people living in extreme poverty than previously estimated. The World Bank warned that the number is unlikely to drop below one billion before 2015. The poverty estimate soared after a careful study of the prices people in developing countries pay for goods and services revealed that the World Bank had been grossly underestimating the cost of living in the poorest nations for decades. As a result, it was grossly overestimating the ability of people to buy things. And the new research doesn’t account for the soaring prices of energy and food in the past two years.” (New York Times, 2 September)


Modern Times 
“Over the past five years alone, the average earnings of chief executives of FTSE-100 companies have doubled to £3.2m. Their pay has been rising five times faster than their employees’. The top 1 per cent of the population now enjoy 23 per cent of national wealth, while the poorest half share a mere 6 per cent. For most of the 20th century, Britain became steadily more equal. For the past three decades the movement has been in the opposite direction and it is estimated that Britain’s wealthiest person, Lakshmi Mittal, is worth more than twice as much as anybody in the past 150 years.” (New Statesman, 11 September) 

Chavism (2008)

Book Review from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Build It Now: Socialism for the 21st century. By Michael Lebowitz. Monthly Review

One criticism often levelled at books written by advocates of socialism is that they are over-theoretical, emphasizing in minute detail elements of capitalism that first have to be understood in order to grasp the essentials of the alternative but that they don’t get to the nitty-gritty of the practical elements required in order to reach the goal. This leaves readers suspended, in agreement about all the negatives of capitalism, but wondering how on earth this behemoth can be overturned, how anti-capitalism can be turned into socialism.

Lebowitz approaches the topic from a different angle, explaining the ethos of socialism at every opportunity and points out, reflecting Marx’s words, that socialism is actually not the goal but simply the means to an end – the end being the full development of human potential. He refers frequently to the three elements crucial to this overall human development – economic, political and social transformation – arguing that this has to be a work in progress; that there cannot be only one route when taking into account the diverse economic, political and cultural situations around the world.

Some of the chapters were originally speeches he gave to workers’ organisations in Venezuela where, in 2004, he was an adviser in the Ministry for the Social Economy. There is a discussion of lessons learned from Yugoslavia’s experiences in self-management in the mid-1900s; some analysis of neoclassical and neoliberal economics (he is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver); his judgement of why social democracy failed to deliver on its early promises (he was provincial policy chair of Canada’s social democratic Party, the NDP, 1972-5); plus his views on socialism as a process.

As socialists we recognize that as socialism requires a majority mandate the first task is human development, the “education” of the masses to the logic of socialism. It is also the case that, as there is no blueprint for socialism as such, we can imagine that the detailed structures of socialism in the different parts of the world (which won’t have to be exactly the same) will become clearer the nearer we approach it. But Lebowitz envisages a transition when there will still be a government which would still have much work to do convincing hard and fast capitalist supporters, changing attitudes that will persist (patriarchy, racism, discrimination), and removing barriers (in health, education, living standards) which currently prevent the reaching of an equitable society.

His criticism of social democracy is that, when in government, it has been unwilling to mobilize people on behalf of such policies: “the central flaw in social democracy  proposals for endogenous development is that they break neither ideologically nor politically with dependence upon capital” because to do so would necessitate “incorporating the mass of population that has so far been excluded from their share of the achievements of modern civilisation” and at the same time would unleash a host of enemies in the form of the international monetary institutions, imperial power and their forces of subversion plus those who monopolize the wealth and the land. Social  Democracy’s greatest failing, he says, was its core belief that the only practicable policy was that tinkering with details, reforming piecemeal in the hope of putting a more humane face on capitalism, its failure to offer an alternative logic based on human beings to the logic of capital.

The logic of capital versus the need for human development is a thread that winds through each of the chapters which culminate with his observations on how the “Bolivarian revolution” (which he sees as the beginning of a possible transition to socialism) is developing, warts and all. His conclusion is that “there is nothing inevitable about whether the Bolivarian Revolution will succeed in building that new society or whether it will lapse into a new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics. Only struggle will determine this.”

“A new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics” would seem to be an apt description of Venezuela under Chavez, even if Lebowitz presents the best case that can be for the opposite view.
Janet Surman

Letters: Green capitalism? (2008)

Letters to the Editors from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Green capitalism?

Thanks very much for your email of July 15 (with the article “Capitalism versus Nature“, July Socialist Standard). Excellent article!

And I certainly agree with the broad thrust of your analysis, though I guess I would distinguish between capitalism as some monolithic entity incapable of any change, and the kind of capitalism which might (just!) be able to avoid coming into conflict with nature. Touch and go, I have to admit, but I guess that’s what I’m still working away at trying to test out.
Jonathon Porritt


Reply: 
Reforming capitalism to serve the common interest has been tried before and has never worked. Our view is that it never will.– Editors.


Olympic Retrospect

I started watching the Olympics and at first was just taken by how well the participants excelled in their particular activities. Then an unease about the whole show leaked through. The elitism, the flag waving and the full-on nationalism made me switch off. Better the athletes, etc had competed in the name of their multinational sponsors or pharmaceutical company than this hideous exhibition of national identity. Backed up by officials and commentators winding up the patriotic fervour, even that stupid chump Adrian Chiles and other media prostitutes, screaming for “their” country. Doubtless the same was happening in all the other countries’ media. I expect the 1936 Olympics was much like this.
Stuart Gibson,
Bournemouth


Not Standard terminology?

I have long been impressed by the range and quality of writing in the Socialist Standard, but in “The Irish No” (September) Declan Ganley is described as a ‘self-made millionaire’ and reference is made to ‘former Communist countries’. Unqualified use of such terms, repeated ad nauseam in the capitalist media, is surely something to be avoided in a socialist journal..
Robert Stafford,
Norway


Reply: 
You’re right of course. No millionaire is “self-made” as they get rich by exploiting workers. And the so-called “Communist” countries were not communist but state-capitalist. Apologies for the missing inverted commas.– Editors

50 Years Ago: Behind the Race Riots (2008)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recent disturbances in Nottingham and London have brought up the question of the attitude between people of different colour; as if there must always be a fundamental difference in outlook and conduct between people with differently coloured skins. Although on the surface the feeling associated with the recent disturbances is anti-white and anti-colour, and the rougher elements on both sides have taken the opportunity to turn this feeling into an occasion for rioting, the origin of the feeling has a deeper cause than just anti-colour. The origin of the conflicting attitudes is fundamentally economic. Out of economic relationships arise emotions that take many forms which do not appear to have any connection with the relationships and are transformed into a variety of beliefs; for example, the false belief in the mental and moral superiority of people with white skins. The conditions of capitalism produce a mental, or intellectual, atmosphere in which many conflicting attitudes flourish and older attitudes are modified. For instance, a pro-war and anti-war, a pro-religious and anti-religious, a pro-nationalist and anti-nationalist, and so on. When the West Indians and Nigerians first came here in force there was no particular antipathy to them; there was only some amusement and admiration of their liveliness and colourful clothing, as well as the customary patronising attitude that is generally displayed towards any “foreigner,” whatever his skin colour. Labour was scarce then and unemployment was practically non-existent. However, when unemployment began to grow and the housing question remained acute, sufferers, and prospective sufferers, looked around for something to blame their troubles on and newcomers, as always, appeared to them to be an obvious part cause of their sufferings. In these circumstances the general attitude towards coloured people began to change and they became scapegoats for a failure of capitalism to meet society’s needs. 
(From front page article by Gilmac, Socialist Standard, October 1958)


The Review Column: Target Hanoi (1967)

The Review Column from the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Target Hanoi
The start of this year was considerably dampened by the flood of crocodile tears provoked by the admitted bombing of civilians in Hanoi.

The tears flowed strongly as the eye witness accounts came in, especially those from Harrison Salisbury, assistant managing editor of the New York Times. Harrison’s reports also provoked a slight, but distinct, surprise that an American newspaper man should actually tell the truth about the results of his countrymen’s military exploits.

It is difficult to imagine anyone really believing the Pentagon’s assurances that only military targets were being bombed. This is a well worn fiction of modern war; even the RAF tried it in the last war. until the evidence to the contrary became overwhelming.

In any case, why the indignation about civilian deaths in wartime? The “advance” of capitalism's war-making machine has brought everyone into the front line.

War is now very much a social business, with many civilians playing a more important part in the war effort than many men in uniform. It is also important for a side to break the morale of the other’s civilians—usually by bombing or blockade.

The people of Hanoi, then—its children, its old people, its hospital patients—are all legitimate targets.

Does this sound callous? War is never an agreeable business and those who complain about its effects while they support the system which produces it, or those who demonstrate about the military activities of only one side, they are the callous ones.

As long as capitalism lasts there will be no end to war and we may expect it to become more and more fearsome.

The solution is not to wave banners about one incident or one aspect of war. It is to build a new society in which the cause of war no longer exists.


The Sinking Press
The once proud ships of the British newspaper industry are in dire trouble.

Many of them—the Daily Sketch (circulation 849,000), the Daily Mail (2,380,000)—are taking water fast and do not seem able to last much longer.

Almost certainly, the Sun (1,250,000) will be scuttled by the International Publishing Corporation when its obligation to keep it afloat runs out in 1968.

The Guardian (283,000) is fighting desperately but is badly holed—they are thinking about paying off a lot of the crew and one of their most distinguished officers— Gerard Fay—has actually jumped overboard to leave more room for everyone else.

Even the Times (273,000) is floundering, its only chance of salvation apparently being the sort of emergency repairs promised in the take over by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Thompson.

A lot of people—even the Prime Minister—profess to be unhappy about this situation.

But why are the papers sinking? Circulation is no longer of itself enough to pay a paper’s way. In the face of competition from other media like television, the newspapers have to fight harder for advertisers’ custom — and this, of course, goes in the main only to the papers with the really big readership.

What this means is that the advertisers say whether a paper makes a profit—sinks or floats—and that a paper must do everything it can to attract advertisements.

Now all the papers have always devoted a lot of their space to applauding the capitalist principle that profit is a glorious thing and that if something cannot be sold at a profit it has no business being made.

This principle is now being applied to the newspaper industry. And the press does not like it. But, as they have so often told other industries, there is nothing they can do about it.


Treatment at a Price
Last December a New York hospital was in trouble; $16,000 in arrears with the rent. Their bank foreclosed the mortgage and only the action of the doctors and nurses, who barricaded the entrances, prevented the patients being turned out onto the streets.

Last month in Houston, Texas, a father took his six month old baby to hospital for treatment. But he did not have enough cash on him to pay for it and the insurance policy he offered was not of a great enough value. The hospital turned him away and the baby died.

This is capitalism in the raw, where even medical attention is openly carried on on a ready cash basis.

In this country, as we all know, they organise things rather differently. A long time ago the British capitalist class appreciated the economy of spreading over the cost of a medical service, and of making the employers pay for some of it, so that all workers are kept pretty well in a constant state of fitness to work.

It seems inevitable that this will also come to America, although there is powerful opposition to it from the doctors, who think they can do better under the present hit and miss system.

If state medicine does come to America, no hospital will close over owing the rent and no parent will have to slap down ready cash before his children can be treated. The priorities of capitalism will still be working, but in a different way.

Everything will be nicely organised by the government —the drugs, the pills, the stimulants. Propped up by this, the American worker will stagger back to the factory. He may even think it is a good idea.

But in reality he will have exchanged one symptom of his poverty, ghastly though it is, for another.


Jailbreaks Galore
One thing which can be said in favour of the glut of escaping prisoners and that is that it gave the press a lot of entertaining stories at a time when news was distinctly short.

As the escape stories went on day after day. many people almost became convinced that Home Secretary Roy Jenkins was personally going around unlocking the prison gates. Time, and the fact that Jenkins is as determined as any other capitalist administrator that those who break capitalism’s laws shall suffer for it, may teach them differently.

What was forgotten was that in 1964 there were more escapes under “strict” Home Secretary Henry Brooke than in 1966 under “liberal” Roy Jenkins.

Indignation ran riot. Nobody seemed to have time to think that escapes are an unavoidable result of imprisonment. and that the prisoner and his helpers have the advantage of a lot of time and chance for observation and planning.

It was not the time to remind anyone that, as the celebrated Frank Mitchell has proved, imprisonment and violent punishment are not the answers to crime.

That was the tragedy—and the scandal, if you like.


Workers who are in their own little prison of wage slavery, of subservience to their employer, of mortgaged living, were loudly demanding harsher methods of restriction for other members of their class who had chosen to lake a chance on another sort of prison.

At no time did anyone ask about the cause of it all. and why human beings are satisfied with a social system which so defiles them and which, in one way or another, makes prisoner or gaoler of them all.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

British Capital in India (1967)

From the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Class divisions are international. Nowhere is this better shown than in India. Surplus value extracted from the workers in this sub-continent finds its way to the capitalists of a dozen or more countries. The last official assessment of private foreign investment in India put the total at $1.29 billion; of this, British capital accounted for 80 per cent. But — since the calculation did not include banking capital, or capital engaged in construction and some other sectors of the economy — various economists have indicated that foreign-controlled assets are probably between 2-3 times greater than this figure implies. Michael Kidron in his Foreign Investments in India (1965) tentatively suggests that Rs. 1,400 crores [1] would be a more realistic estimate.

When the Reserve Bank of India published its breakdown of foreign investments in 1955 this showed that roughly one half was concentrated in manufacturing, plantation and mining companies and perhaps a further 30 per cent in trading and financial firms. British capital generally follows this pattern as well. The jute, tea and coal industries are are still dominated by British companies. Thus, in the early nineteen-sixties, about 70 per cent of the total acreage planted with tea was owned by English capitalists. Two U.K. organisations — Lipton (a Unilever concern) and Brooke Bond (Finlay) — handled 85 per cent of the retail distribution within India, while the export trade is largely a British monopoly. British capital also controls some of the largest cotton mills in the country — such as the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills of Madras, Kohinoor Mills of Bombay and Madura Mills of Madura. As might be expected, the motor-car industry is organised jointly with foreign manufacturers. Indian firms such as the Tatas and Birlas have agreements with British, American and European companies — Standard, Morris, Leyland, Studebaker and Fiat to name a few. A glance down the list of joint-stock companies operating in India shows that Indian workers are contributing to the profits of some of the really big names of world capitalism. For example Unilever, I.C.I. and Imperial Tobacco have all established plants or factories there.

Although the investments of the British capitalist class in India may soon be twice as large as they were at independence in 1947 this does not mean that the local bourgeoisie has not benefited from the exploitation of the country’s millions of workers. In just eight years, between 1948-1955, profits totalling Rs. 4,170 million were realized by foreign controlled enterprises; but this figure was dwarfed by the Rs. 12,460 million picked up by the Indian ruling class. There have, in fact, been some prominent transfers of control from British to Indian hands. For example, the Dalmia family took over from Bennett. Coleman and Co. of Bombay (owners of the Times of India newspaper) and from Govan Brothers of Delhi, while a whole group of British trading enterprises in Madras has been acquired by S. Anantharamakrishnan. In addition Indian capitalists now have a controlling interest in a number of nominally British enterprises. Thus, in Calcutta, the Goenkas, Bangurs and Kanorias have come to dominate agencies like Shaw Wallace, Octavius Steel, Kettlewell Bullen and Anderson Wright. Cases such as this have given much satisfaction to the ruling Congress party. This is understandable, since that party represents the interests of a majority of Indian capital. What is ludicrous is when it suggests that the workers, who continue to sweat in the factories, should be thankful for the change in ownership.

The American capitalist class also has a sizeable stake in the Indian economy; about $237 million from private investment sources at the last count. Commenting on these investments, the Economist said they left little scope for complaint in their profitability — the return in manufacturing industries being as high as 20.6 per cent in 1962. With profits running at this level, it is no wonder that India now lies second only to Britain in the amount of American capital it has absorbed. At the same time, capitalists in Holland, Japan, Italy, Belgium and so on find the Indian worker a no less attractive quarry.

Apart from this, something needs to be said about “foreign aid” to India. A large percentage of this takes the form of loans repayable at normal, commercial interest rates. As B. Ward pointed out in his book India and The West, “they do not constitute aid in any direct sense. They are either profitable loans or export credits for the donor country. To call them ‘aid’ stretches the word until it is almost deprived of meaning.” This has been well illustrated by some fierce competition to finance various “aid” projects. One such case was that of the Bokaro steel plant. An Anglo-American consortium offered to back the scheme by means of long-term credits totalling $368 million. This group was led in America by Mr. Vance Brand, head of an international investment company, and in Britain by Mr. W. S. Hindson of Wellman Smith Owen. It had support from a variety of powerful companies, such as Koppers, Blaw Knox and General Electric in the U.S. and Davy United and Woodal-Duckam in Britain. At about the same time as this group was negotiating, a high-ranking official from the West German combine of Krupp visited New Delhi to put proposals to India’s steel minister, and a French federation — backed by the Banque de Paris et Pays Bas — had been in the running earlier. As it happened, however, it was the Russians who pulled off the deal. The Economist reported that Soviet capital to the tune of £110 million was to be involved in the first stage of the project, at the relatively “soft” terms of 2½ per cent spread over twelve years.

This is only one of many examples. When the American General Electric Company was discussing investment terms for an electrical plant in India, the Economist again pointed out that international rivalry was becoming sharper: “The first such plant was built with the help of Britain’s Associated Electrical Industries, but the next three were picked up for financing by the Russians and Czechs — which underlines the need for fresh western initiative in this field.” In fact, by the beginning of 1963, east European countries (excluding Yugoslavia) had authorized a total of Rs. 437 crores for “aid” to India. The majority of “foreign aid” finds its way to the nationalized industries, but there are numerous cases of financing privately owned firms. Nor have the “Communist” countries been backward in this sphere. Even if we leave Russia out of the picture, we find that there had been well over sixty agreements of this type by the end of 1964. (East Germany — 38; Czechoslovakia — 14; Poland — 14; Hungary — 9; Yugoslavia — 5). There have also been reports that Hungary is prepared to set up aluminium plants in the private sector of the economy — in Kerala and at Koyna, Maharashtra.

Naturally, a number of lame attempts have been made to defend the imperialism of Russia and her allies. Thus K. M. Kurian in his Impact of Foreign Capital on Indian Economy argues that:
  In general, it is possible to differentiate between aid from capitalist and aid from countries in the socialist system on the basis of the differences in their repayment and servicing terms and conditions. The terms and conditions attached to loans and credits from the socialist countries, on the other hand, have generally been extended on more favourable terms.
In the same spirit, V. I. Pavlov whines:
  It is impermissible to draw a common balance between the hard-earned savings set aside by the peoples of the socialist countries to help their friends, and the capital of imperialist monopolies which they expect, sooner or later, to bring them profit. (India: Economic Freedom versus Imperialism).
Obviously both of these writers are dishonest. However much they squirm away from the facts, it is clear that interest and profits from India are flowing back to Moscow, Prague and Warsaw — just as they do to London, Washington and Paris. The Russian ruling class has sunk its claws into part of the surplus value wrung out of the Indian working class. It is true that the scale of Russian involvement nowhere near matches that of Britain. But this is only because Russia was such a late starter. The first Russian “aid” did not come until 1955, after Bulganin and Krushchev had visited India in that year. Even so. in the current Fourth Five-Year Plan (1966-71), it is thought that the supply of Soviet capital will be in the region of one billion roubles.

India also represents an important market for the manufacturers of many advanced industrial countries. However, the share of the market monopolised by British capitalists has been dwindling — as rivals in the United States and the .Soviet Union forge ahead.



Once again, in the struggle for markets, the fiercest competition is coming from Russia and her allies. In January, 1966 it was reported that the Soviet Union now supplied 12 per cent of India’s imports, compared to 4 per cent in 1960/61. In fact, taken over the last decade, Indian imports from the state capitalist countries of east Europe have built up from Rs. 5.70 crores (in 1954) to Rs. 123.74 crores (in 1963/64). On top of that, an agreement has been signed to double trade with Russia by 1970. Bearing these sort of figures in mind, how daft does it make the “Communist” parties look when they claim that production in Russia is not geared to the world markets?

Time and again the Indian leaders have asserted that their aim is to establish a “socialist pattern of society” in the country. They have now had twenty years of independence to put this into effect. Yet today, more than at any time in the past, the working class in India finds itself the prey of international capital. This should cause no surprise to any thinking worker. He has only to recall some of the definitions of “Indian socialism” which have been put forward. (For example: “The ‘socialism’ contemplated in India . . . is a system under which private enterprise has and will continue to have a vital role to play; it is a system which respects private property . . .” — H.V.R. Ienger, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India). Divided by religious and nationalist prejudices, the Indian worker is easy meat for his masters in London, Moscow and New Delhi.
S. C.

Note:
[1] *Rs. 1 crore = £750,000 = £2,100,000.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Finance and Industry: Was Lenin an O. & M. Man? (1967)

The Finance and Industry column from the February 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Was Lenin an O. & M. Man?
The Russian governors have got themselves into the position of having to justify everything they do by what Lenin said. Thus a recent pamphlet put out by the Novosti Press Agency called Material and Moral Incentives under Socialism by Mikhail Laptin attacks “wage-levelling” with quotes from Lenin. The problem the Russian propaganda machine faces here is the vague link in many people’s minds between Socialism and equality while in Russia inequality flourishes.

The titles of some of the chapters of this pamphlet are revealing enough: Wage Levelling or Material Incentive? Improving the Wage System; Differentiation of Wages; Rate Fixing; Bonuses for the Best. But let Laptin speak for himself.
  Wage levelling is incompatible with scientific progress and the wellbeing of all members of society. Should an honest worker and an idler receive the same wages, this would frustrate personal interest in raising labour productivity. in expanding and improving social production. Wage levelling would hamper the workers’ initiative, encourage passive attitudes and adversely affect production.
  The wage-rate policy of the first years of Soviet power resulted in unwarranted restrictions on the earnings of certain workers, thus creating artificial barriers to raising labour productivity. Wage rates were brought so close that most workers had no desire to improve their skill or to do complicated or physically difficult work. On the contrary, workers sought to get a quiet job, such as factory watchman, or leave the factory altogether.
  Lenin wrote that it was necessary to study scientific achievements in analyzing mechanical motions during work, so as to eliminate superfluous and awkward movements, find the most efficient ways of doing the work and introduce the best system of control and recording of results.
If these passages show nothing else they show that the Russian employers look on their workers in the same way as our employers look on us: as lazy and greedy people who will only work when forced or enticed to. Time and motion, speed-up, Taylorism and the like have always been looked on with suspicion — and rightly — by workers. Laptin says this suspicion is not justified in Russia as the means of production there belong to the people. But if this were so, why don't Russian workers recognise it? Why do they have to be convinced of it? Why do they need “material incentives” to work for themselves? Of course the answer is that this is not so. The worker in Russia does not own the means of production; he is a wage-worker selling his labour power to live. Where labour power is a commodity its price is governed by definite economic laws. Over a hundred years ago. in an address to the International Working Men's Association (later published as Value, Price and Profit), Marx explained this on the very point we are discussing:
  . . . as the costs of producing labouring powers of different quality differ, so must differ the values of the labouring powers employed in different trades. The cry for an equality of wages rests, therefore, upon a mistake, is an insane wish never to be fulfilled. It is an offspring of that false and superficial radicalism that accepts premises and tries to evade conclusions. Upon the basis of the wages system the value of labouring power is settled like that of every other commodity; and as different kinds of labouring power have different values, or require different quantities of labour for their production, they must fetch different prices in the labour market. To clamour for equal or even equitable redistribution on the basis of the wages system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system. What you think just or equitable is out of the question. The question is: What is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production?
Given the wages system equality of wages (or wage levelling) is impossible. The early utopian experiments of the Bolsheviks failed as the economic laws of capitalism asserted themselves. Lenin admitted that this was a retreat. His successors have made a virtue of necessity. For Laptin is not one of those Marx was getting at. He thinks that it is equality of wages that is not “just and equitable”! He likes the wages system as it is, inequalities and all!

Marx was not for equal or for unequal wages. He was against the whole wages system and ended his address with this appeal to the working class:
  Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day's wage for a fair days work!“ they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword. “Abolition of the wages system!"

What is Money?
The recent White Paper on decimal currency means that by 1971 the money tokens, inherited in a simplified form from feudal times, will be replaced by tokens based on a decimal system (They’re still arguing over which). The government will merely be changing the face-values and names of the paper notes and metallic coins that circulate as money. This it can do as these values and, names are matters of convention.

It is impossible to understand the role of money tokens today without realising the origin of money as a commodity. Out of the simple exchange of commodities one commodity became money, that is, the prices of the other commodities came to be expressed in terms of this money-commodity which could be exchanged for any of them. Various things, including cattle and even human beings, have functioned as money. But the most convenient in the end have always been the precious metals silver and gold. These can express a high value with a little weight and are easily divisible. The price of other commodities was at first expressed directly as a weight of the precious metal, as with shekels in the bible. This too is the origin of the name “pound”. Later the metals were coined by being stamped with the mark of the state that issued them. From this point on exists the possibility of a divergence between the face-value and the real value of the metal. This happened both as the coin lost weight through wear and tear and through deliberate debasement by the state. So that, over the years, the names like pound, crown, florin, shilling and penny ceased to signify actual measures of weight and became the names given to certain weights of the metal in coinage as fixed by the state.

The next step in the evolution of money is the substitution in circulation of tokens for the money-commodity. First underweight coins circulated for the full-weight coins and then subsidiary metals like copper and finally almost worthless paper. This is so at present where as tokens for gold, the international money-commodity, paper notes and metallic coins circulate. In Britain the basic coin metal is copper alloyed with zinc, tin or nickel.

It would be wrong to think of money as merely a medium of exchange. The tokens can do this well enough on their own. Another function of money is that of being a standard of price. This, however, since they are almost worthless, the tokens cannot do. It is only because they are tokens for gold that they perform this function. Gold of course is by no means worthless. It is a commodity having a value of its own independent of human will. The value of gold is fixed in the same way as that of other commodities by the amount of socially-necessary labour embodied in it and exchanges with them on this basis.

To say that the paper notes and metallic coins that circulate at present are tokens for gold is not to say that there is the equivalent in gold of their face-values lying in the vaults of the Bank of England. This is not, nor need it be, so. However, the law of value can no more be defied than the law of gravity. If the face-value of the tokens is more than the amount of gold needed to circulate what commodities there are, then the tokens will come to represent a smaller amount of gold. Which means that prices will rise, or, as they say today, the “purchasing power of money” will decline. This in fact is one of the reasons for the rise in internal prices that has been going on in Britain since the beginning of the last war. The pound note of today is not equivalent to the pound note of 1947 or 1957 or even 1966.

The recent craze for gold memorial medals well shows what the money-commodity is. Until the government put a stop to it these gold metals were sold as an “investment”. Apart from speculation about a possible rise in the price of gold, capitalists know that gold can be expected to keep its value while its tokens can not. It is the same in France. Over Christmas there was heavy buying of gold. One of the reasons was a fear that the Gaullists might lose the coming election for, as one paper put it, “gold remains the traditional hedge against political uncertainty in this country”. If they have to hold their wealth idle as money capitalists prefer the real stuff.
Adam Buick

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Cloud over the Sun (1967)

From the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pundits, governments, capitalists and fools are always telling us that the world has changed — the system has changed — in these abrasive times of shake-out and redeployment, the whole nature of capitalism isn’t what it used to be.

Not even the Marines could fall for that one: calling unemployment something else makes a fat lot of difference to the families of the men who are out of work.

Capitalism has not changed — not since Marx and Engels first produced the Communist Manifesto in 1848. The first struggles between rival capitalists, the harsh conflict of interests between workers and capitalists, the blind and wasteful way in which worker is set against his brother worker — these things are capitalism, today.

And for the truth about “modern” capitalism, take a look at the newspaper industry, which is so fond of telling other people how their businesses should be run.

The International Publishing Corporation, which owns The Sun, issued a statement about that still struggling newspaper in November last year. The IPC declared that it intended to go on publishing The Sun after its guaranteed life was over in January 1968. This was the guarantee that Cecil King, boss of IPC, gave the Daily Herald when he took that over in 1961.

The Sun is in fact selling fewer copies each day than the Daily Herald — 1,206,000 at time of writing as against the Herald's 1,300,000 when it closed down. But by a rather sophisticated analysis IPC reckon that its new (2½ years old) baby is doing better than the dead newspaper; its readers are younger, more of them are women, more of them live in the “right” areas — all factors that appeal to advertisers.

What the IPC statement did not make explicitly clear was that The Sun’s continued' existence depended upon the unions' helping to cut production costs. That was where IPC showed its deceitful capitalist self.

For as Hugh Cudlipp, right hand man to Cecil King, made clear in a television interview, if the losses on The Sun (at present well over £1 million a year) are not cut in this way, then it will almost certainly not live beyond January 3rd, 1968.

Cecil King's antipathy for trade unions has become pretty clear during the last couple of years. His noisy newspaper the Daily Mirror, and The Sun as well, often attack unions for allowing or encouraging their members to slack, to produce too little, to strike.

Of course, the newspaper bosses are the last who should talk about this kind of thing. It is notorious that their workshops are “over-staffed”, their machines “over-manned”.

After the Second World War, when life seemed full of promise, the press lords gave in to the demands of trade unions on practically everything. The result is now that their packing and printing departments have to employ far more men than the actual production of newspapers warrants.

Cecil King is now trying to change that, in order, he says, to keep The Sun alive. Hugh Cudlipp has promised that whatever production changes may take place at The Sun, they will not be applied to IPC.

Apart from anything else, the unions would be right to mistrust that. Not so very long ago IPC closed down a whole new printing plant at Southwark because the unions would not agree to reduced manning. Only the very innocent can believe that if they had their way in this at The Sun, they would not seek to extend the principle.

The effect of IPC’s statement is typical of life under capitalism. Worker is now set against worker. The journalists, whose department will probably not have staff cuts, begin to murmur against the print and electrical workers, many of whom can expect to lose their jobs.
A.

Letters: A Long Way to Go (1967)

Letters to the Editors from the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Long Way to Go

Sir: 

There is a great deal to be done both in continuing the pressure and education required to build a real Socialist Britain but also in alleviating the worst results of this free for all society in which it is usually the least fit that are most unable to look after themselves.

Enoch Powell's dictum of survival of the fittest is OK if you are healthy and in a high income group. It is because almost everyone is outside these two categories that an educated working class is so important. And it is here that the different working class organisations are so important.

I realise that there are differences in approach but with so few active, militant, politically aware Socialists I would have thought that finding and cultivating avenues of common cause and agreement were far more important than emphasising the differences.

It is because of this that the Socialist Medical Association was founded in 1936 and as it forms a focus for Socialist medical and lay workers, it allows for the production of plans for a real Socialist health system. We have no bans and prescriptions and this allows a wide variation of ideas and larger numbers of specialists to meet and discuss.

We are able lo advise a wide variety of working class organisations and as our own members come from many different groups we are able to spread our ideas widely.

Agreed that we have a long way to go: but if we all stood aloof (as unfortunately the SPGB does) from ‘main stream” politics then our society would have remained in the Middle Ages, with all the poverty, ill health and dominations by the Barons and Church.
M.S. 
London

Reply: 
The Socialist Party of Britain is prepared to cooperate with any other group which stands for socialism. This is why we have allied ourselves with our companion parties. M.S.. however, wants us to join in along with the “wide variety of working class organisations” operating in Britain. But where are all these political organisations which are supposed to have the interests of the working class at heart?

The only name our correspondent gives us is that of the ‘Socialist' Medical Association and he himself seems lo be in the unfortunate situation of both accepting our criticisms of the National Health Service and, at the same time, attempting lo support the SMA. This is, of course, an impossible feat because any analysis of the NHS necessarily involves an exposure of the SMA’s position. After all. they wrote themselves in their official journal only a couple of months ago that "everything now embodied in the National Health Service found its clearest expression and soundest advocacy in these pages". As for the complete lack of socialist understanding in the SMA, we need give only one example. One of their members recently wrote a flattering article on the health service in East Germany, praising it because its fundamental principle was that "the capacity to work will be protected by the Stale”’. Can't M.S. see that the State looks after the interests of the ruling class and is only concerned with the health of workers to the extent that it affects their working capacity and impairs their ability lo produce surplus value?

Finally. M.S. makes the point that “if all stood aloof (as unfortunately the SPGB does) from main stream’ politics and buried our heads in the sand then our Society would have remained in the Middle ages . . .” Clearly, as an argument, this is a non-starter. The Socialist Party far from standing aloof, is actively working for socialism. If we all did just that then it would not be a case of our still enduring feudalism, or even capitalism: instead we would have socialism here and now.
Editorial Committee


From a Kibbutznik

Sir: 

I have now been able to go carefully through the Socialist Standard. I have no important counter-criticism. I accept it as just about right. It is such complete Socialism that I would call it more than that really; it stands for my world-federal ideal I learned from H. G. Wells’ Shape of Things to Come long ago and which inspires me throughout life; it seems to be absolute humanism, and to be, in fact, what Marx called the last stage of full communism. I think it is all these things. I never knew you had such a full policy, and I think it utterly worthy in the extreme.

Even so, a great difficulty remains for me. All that is written in your journals is negative criticism, fully justified, with only rare, vague references to the constructive alternative. It is true there is no difference between Labour and Tory in Britain (in fact the position is utterly comical under Wilson today: he is a first rate capitalist!), that Russia and China are simply going in for state capitalism (this may be a bit more responsible than the private version, but it still has nothing lo do with the final stage of communism which Marx wanted, as you rightly suggest), and so on. But what is the programme for achieving full Socialism? The workers taking over everything, as stated in the Declaration of Principles, is far too vague as it stands.

I contend all the time, as a kibbutznik, that parliamentary government is a flop: as you say. parliaments should be abolished. Only direct democracy counts, not the indirect, voted-for representatives stuff, which just plays into the hands of the Establishment. But what is the immediate alternative? Do the workers one day refuse to go to work, march into the rich men's houses, take out the furniture, divide it up in their slum homes, set up workers' councils and run the factories as in Yugoslavia (alas. 1 fear the managerial talent is not at once available: the capitalists are skilled technicians, unfortunately, and few workers are), and hope lo have enough to make everyone fairly well off and happy? Alas, even in quite rich England, let alone poorer Spain and Peru. etc., production and transport would be in a wild muddle at once, and everyone would be in a ghastly, disorganised mess. Besides, the capitalists would start shooting. Are you for civil war? So. accepting the destructive side of your case. I now inquire for the constructive side of it. Where are the plans?

In this connection, I wonder what your attitude is to Anarchism? It seems to me that in their local self-government, without buying and selling internally, the kibbutzim have strong anarchist as well as localised-socialist elements in them. Their federations are like syndicates, nationally arranged, as suggested once in Spain, I believe, and begun to be carried out there till Franco killed them. Would you be inclined to take this as a pattern — local direct democracy leading to national workers’ organisation? If so, the kibbutzim would be giving you an excellent lead indeed.

It seems to me you have to build up somehow. A ready made over-night global Wellsian total socialism is just not practicable.
A. C. Ben-Yosef 
Door No Meron, Hagalil, Israel


Reply: 
Our correspondent rightly understands (though we wouldn’t put it the way he has) that the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain holds that Socialism can only be world-wide; that there is no essential difference between Labour and Tory in Britain; and that Russia and China are state capitalism. He goes on to ask the quite legitimate question; How will Socialism he established?

First of all we don’t of course suggest anything so ridiculous as dividing up the wealth of the rich. Nor do we think that Socialism will appear ready-made overnight.

Socialism will be the outcome of a process of social evolution that is going on now. The culmination of this process will be the capture of political power for Socialism by the working class and the consequent social revolution from capitalism to Socialism. It is capitalism that paves the way for Socialism. Capitalism has already brought into being a world-wide productive system that could provide a plenty for all and the people to run this system. What it has yet to bring into being is the desire for Socialism on the part of those who work for wages throughout the world. This is the only real barrier to Socialism today. If what our correspondent implies at one point is correct — if workers can’t run society without the capitalist class — then the time is not ripe for Socialism. Our answer to this is clear and the evidence for it can be easily seen by looking at the world in which we live: the working class do now, as industrial, agricultural, clerical and, yes, managerial workers, run society from top to bottom even if not in their own interest. The capitalist class play no role in production; they are superfluous. On the personal-level few are even '‘skilled technicians”. Let’s get this straight: it is the working class who run the world today without the help-of the capitalist class.

We are merely arguing that means of wealth production that are at present socially operated should also be socially owned and controlled, and that the people who run society today can and should — run it in their own interests.

But where are our plans? We have no detailed plans for Socialism. This is because Socialism can only be established by the working class once they have become socialist. It is up to those people around at the time to work out the exact forms of running social affairs in a Socialist society. It would be presumptuous and foolish of us today to predict the future. All we can do now is say where we think the general trends we see operating today are leading.

When a majority of workers have become Socialists they will organise for political power; then use this power to end private property in the means of wealth production, thus ending also their position as wage-slaves. This done, society can set about reorganising itself on a socialist basis, with production for use and free access for all to what has been produced. In such a society the government of people (and all that goes with it like armed forces, police, judges and jailers) will be unnecessary. Parliament as the means for controlling the machinery of government too will be unnecessary. But this does not mean that there will be no means for exercising democratic control over social affairs. The exact form of such democratic social control once again we can’t predict and don’t try to.

We must say, however, that in rejecting any form of election and delegation you are obviously going too far. Such a complex productive apparatus as exists today can only be controlled democratically by society through such means. If you find difficulty in envisaging world wide organisation and control of production consider that many organisations today are already world wide: General Motors, Royal Dutch Shell, World Health Organisation, International Postal Union, to mention a few. Socialist society will allow a great variety of forms of social control from the local to the world-wide. Beyond this we can’t go today.

We are opposed to Anarchism in all its many forms. At best its schemes are irrelevant for advanced industrial countries; at worst they are dangerous nonsense. Hie idea of a federation of co-operative communities, which has a long history, just isn’t practicable as a means of running the productive system of today. Everything points not to this but to social ownership and democratic social control.

Finally, and briefly, we are not for civil war. We don’t think that violence will be a part of the social revolution from capitalism to Socialism.
Editorial Committee

Greetings (1967)

Party News from the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Members will be interested and pleased to learn that our comrade J. E. Roe of High Wycombe, once very active and now well into his eighties is recovering from a long illness and sends greetings to his many friends in the Socialist Movement.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A "Simple" Cure For Industrial Trouble. (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily News of Wednesday, February 27th, 1929, reports : “That the General Council of the Trade Union Congress considered the draft interim report on Unemployment which has been prepared by the Mond-Turner Conference.”

The report was adopted with a few modifications. The news goes on to say: "That the report deals with more or less palliative measures for unemployment and that more preventive measures will be covered in the final report, assuming that the Conference continues its work. It discusses the practicability of the Organisation of National Works to supplement measures, such as credit facilities, to foster a general revival in trade." The question on providing pensions at 65 was also discussed.

This appeared on page 9. On page 11 we find another report. It is headed. Psychology Removes Worries in British Workshops. Six Girls Now Do the Work of 120. Increased Output and Greater Economy.

The report is a long one, but the following extracts will suffice:—
  "The phenomenal labour saving referred to above was achieved in the design and equipment of a new safety glass works. Radical changes have been achieved in production methods and labour-saving devices have been introduced which have led to a marked reduction of manufacturing costs. Thus in the case of two connected operations six girls will now do the work which formerly required 120. Waste of material has been reduced from 18 to 5 per cent, and the new factory will be able to produce in one shift almost double the output originally specified. The scope of the National Institutes of Industrial Psychology includes, the layout of factories, the sequence of processes, the elimination of waste of effort, material, and time in production, the selection of appropriate employees, and, lastly, the greater efficiency and contentment of the employees by improved working conditions.” 
The report finishes by quoting the World's Economic Conference's opinion: 
  "That the workers should be safeguarded from temporary unemployment, resulting from this rationalisation, otherwise the movement will encounter the same opposition as befell the first attempt to introduce Taylor’s system of scientific management.”
Viewing these reports together, the thing that suggests itself is the fact that here we have two organisations, both claiming to strive for the good of the workers and yet one nullifies the effects of the other. The trade unions struggle for shorter hours and more pay and confer with the masters in an endeavour to foster trade to bring about more employment and when they have succeeded the masters employ psychologists to find out how they can do without a great percentage of the workers, leaving those still in employment more efficient, turning out as much if not more work with less waste and yet being contented with their job, keeping at bay those elements of industrial unrest which are so disturbing to the capitalist. Thus the trade unions find themselves precisely where they were, but with probably a bigger army of unemployed to deal with. Being Socialists, we realise that psychology when used simply for the benefit of mankind can be a great aid to human happiness, but in the hands of the masters, being used as a means to further exploitation, it becomes yet another burden upon the backs of the workers. The watchword of industry to-day is produce more, yet all the time the competition for the world’s markets is becoming more fierce and the markets more limited, making the disposal of the commodities less and less certain with the result that the unemployment figures increase and the different countries, in spite of peace pacts, etc., are heading straight for war. It is a time for serious reflection, fellow-workers.

Do you not find all these social remedies simply cancel each other? It is a ceaseless following of blind alleyways in which the workers get bewildered and hopeless. Unless they understand the Socialist position, they are tempted to make useless angry demonstrations and riots which can only result in loss of life or injury to our class and give the Government a chance to demonstrate their power and make an example of a few of the workers. There is only one sound policy to pursue, and that is the constant preaching of Socialism. When we have sufficient knowledge as a class, we can obtain political power. Remembering that the salvation of the workers must be the work of the workers, we must neither put our faith in the Lord, nor leaders, nor psychologists. Given the knowledge, the rest, by comparison, will be simplicity itself. Join the S.P.G.B., fellow wage slaves, and help to spread that knowledge that Socialism may come in our time, and we enjoy the fruits of our labour.
May Otway

An Echo of the Past. (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

“A denouncement of young women authors who write obscene books was made by Miss Christabel Pankhurst in a speech at the ├ćolian Hall, Bond Street, yesterday. She said that pagan novels were much in evidence to-day, and she was grateful to the Home Secretary for the step he had taken regarding books which were not decent to read. This is not the sort of freedom for which we women fought and got the vote” (Daily Chronicle, March 7th). We do not know by what standard Miss Christabel Pankhurst judges what is decent to read, nor do we remember any special protest being made during the war by either Miss Pankhurst or the present Home Secretary when reams of literature with plentiful detail of war-time atrocities were circulated among young people in order to fan the war fever. We gave it as our opinion at the time that under normal conditions such material would probably meet with the attention of the police. Evidently what is necessary to our masters at one time shocks them at another. In view of the recent extension of the franchise to women it may be interesting to recall that the “freedom” the Suffragettes fought for was only the freedom which would enable Capitalist ladies to vote on equal terms with their property-owning males. Before the Suffragette movement the Working Class had sufficient votes to out-number the Capitalists. To-day, with the extension of the franchise as a means to stabilise present-day Society, the preponderance of working-class votes is greater than ever. Without class-consciousness, however, votes merely enable the workers to continue their enslaved condition. For women, as for men, the only hope lies in the coming of Socialism, the triumph of emancipation, without distinction of race or sex.
Mac.