Friday, March 1, 2024

Nordic socialism: is it a thing? (2024)

From the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Joining the Socialist Party is straightforward. You have to understand and accept the Party’s view of the system of society we live in – capitalism – and want to replace it with a different system of society – socialism. By capitalism we mean the current world system of producing goods and services for sale on the market and for profit rather than directly for use – something involving money and wages, buying and selling, a small number of humans owning most of the Earth’s resources and a vast majority of non-owners having to sell their energies for a wage or salary to survive. By socialism we mean the direct opposite of this. We mean a new world-wide system of producing goods and services cooperatively and democratically for use not profit, free access to all those goods and services and so no need for money or wages.

Socialist states? This should be pretty clear from even a cursory reading of any edition of the Socialist Standard or from looking at the wide range of information available on the Party’s website. Yet, among those interested enough to apply for membership, there are some who express the view that that there’s such a thing as ‘Nordic Socialism’, that somehow countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland, have a system of society that is different from other Western countries and that can be called ‘socialism’. This emerges in particular when applicants applying to join online fill in the website questionnaire, one of whose questions is ‘Has socialism been established in any part of the world?’. This is in no sense meant as a trick question but is simply a request for applicants to affirm that they understand that socialism is essentially a world system or it is nothing.

But what is the rationale some people find for considering the Nordic countries as somehow ‘socialist’? After all, if you’re prepared to apply to join an organisation which holds that socialism must be a world-wide system, then it should be clear that the idea of a socialist ‘country’ or ‘socialist countries’ is a contradiction in terms. Yet the ‘socialist’ label for the Nordic ‘bloc’ has clearly found a place in some people’s minds. So where does it come from?

Social democracy
Well, it isn’t that unusual to find references (confused in our view) to ‘Nordic socialism’ in both political discussion and in written sources, as a simple Google search will evidence. This arises, among some of those who put forward the idea and so contribute to its spread and acceptance, from the fact that the term ‘social democratic’, which is often used to describe Nordic societies and has connotations of benevolence, tolerance and progressiveness, is easily confused with ‘socialism’. It is true that, in terms of social development and organisation, the Nordic countries are more advanced than most. Their democratically elected governments have on the whole managed to run their market and buying and selling system more smoothly and with relatively less conflict than many other similar countries. They have managed to do this in a way that has produced profits for the class that monopolises the wealth – the capitalist class – while at the same time allowing that vast majority of workers who need to sell their energies for a wage or salary a somewhat more benign and less precarious existence than experienced elsewhere. Their relatively advanced systems of universal health care and social security reflect the need for a capitalist economy to have a relatively healthy workforce in order for the capitalist system in those countries to function as efficiently as it can.

Not that this removes in any substantial way the fundamental wealth inequality between the two classes in society – capitalists and workers -, nor indeed does it eliminate the usual ills of capitalism – poverty, unemployment, crime, nationalism (eg, current United Nations figures show one in 10 children living in poverty in Finland). But it does create a social situation that generally appears more stable and less volatile than in other advanced Western capitalist countries. Having said that, of course, in no shape or form can it be called socialism. More correctly, as someone has written, ‘the misinterpretation of the Nordic model as socialist stems from a superficial analysis of its welfare policies’ and what, in the words of another commentator, we have in reality is ‘a blend of free-market capitalism and an extensive welfare state’.

Socialism anywhere?
So if, to the question on the online joining page ‘Has socialism been established anywhere in the world?’, someone wishing to join the Socialist Party answers along the lines of ‘Yes, in the Nordic countries’, we would want to discuss that with the applicant and ask them to have a rethink in the context of what we mean by socialism. We would also want to emphasise, in order to avoid any possible misunderstanding, that we would be equally averse to the label of ‘socialism’ being applied to states of any kind, including those state capitalist dictatorships, such as Cuba, China, Vietnam or North Korea, which only too readily give themselves that name.
Howard Moss

Cooking the Books: Two questions answered (2024)

The Cooking The Books column from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard
An enquirer from Vietnam has asked us (and others) a couple of questions on Marxian economics. Here they are with our reply.
1. Does the commodity value come mainly from demand, market evaluation and utility, not from labor? (explain labor theory of value v/s marginal value theorem)

A commodity (as a product of labour produced to be sold) does have to be useful to sell but its price is not related to its usefulness. Water, for instance, is more useful than gold but this is not reflected in their respective price. Nor could a commodity’s price be determined solely by the paying demand for it as supply conditions have also to be taken into account. A stable price for a commodity arises when supply and demand are equal, as Marginalist theory notes, but this tells us nothing about what that price will be. For this we need to look at what it costs to produce the commodity.

No capitalist enterprise is going to produce something to sell unless it recovers the commodity’s money cost of production plus a mark-up for profit. The cost of production to a capitalist enterprise is the labour embodied in the materials and machines the enterprise has to buy to produce it and the wages paid to those working at the final stage of its production. These wages, however, represent less labour than the labour the workers add through their work. The part of the added labour that is not paid for – the surplus value – is the source of the capitalist enterprise’s profit.

So, a commodity’s value, reflected in its price, does depend on labour. It is not quite as direct as that, though, as a commodity’s market price will not normally be an exact reflection of its value due to the averaging of the rate of profit (see the answer below to your second question) but it is still related to the labour required to produce it. Gold is more valuable than water because it needs more labour to produce it.

2. Do employers, business owners, corporation boss… (capitalist class) earn money and create profits from their efforts in marketing and managing their companies… (choose market output with great needs), from the difference in value and price of goods (increased due to consumer demand after being marketed by the boss). Therefore, the capitalist class gets rich on its own merit, not through the exploitation of surplus value by the working class (workers) and the workers’ wages are fair for their labor.

No, the source of profits is surplus value created by workers, not necessarily by the workers that a particular capitalist enterprise employs but from that created by the working class as a whole. Capitalist enterprises compete to obtain a share of this in the form of profits on the capital they have invested. Competition has brought about a situation where each capital ends up tending to make the same rate of profit through capital having moved from less profitable to more profitable fields of activity.

Some capitalist enterprises can make more profits than others depending on how astute they are in anticipating trends, cutting costs and marketing their products. To this extent, the actual profits a particular enterprise makes can reflect the knowledge and experience of its managers (these days capitalists themselves don’t normally manage their business themselves) but the source remains surplus value created by the working class. The managers can justly claim that their skills have brought in more profits, but the skill is in capturing a share of surplus value not creating it. The capitalist class as a whole does not get rich from this; in fact could not as there are losers as well as winners — some individual capitalist enterprises get more in this way but at the expense of others.

Compulsion (2024)

Book Review from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mute Compulsion: A Theory of the Economic Power of Capital. By Søren Mau. University of Southern Denmark. 2019

Mau was interviewed by Jacobin in February 2023. In it he confirms the summary of his argument in the introduction to the interview, headlined ‘Capitalism Makes Everyone Bend to Its Will, Rich and Poor Alike’:
‘In his new book Mute Compulsion, Søren Mau argues that to understand and end capitalism, we need to analyze how it not only subordinates the poor to the rich but in fact exerts economic power over everyone — including capitalists themselves’ (
Mau argues that what maintains capitalist rule is not just physical force (threatened or actual) and ideology (brainwashing) but also ‘economic power’. He sees this as an impersonal form of power, an expression of the logic of capital that every market agent (not just workers but capitalists too) in capitalism is subjected to through the impersonal operation of market forces.

This of course is something we have long said and is in fact the basis of our case that capitalism cannot be reformed to work in the interest of the majority class of wage workers. Not only capitalist firms but governments too are subject to the ‘logic of capital’ enforced through market competition which dictates that priority must be given to profits and the conditions for profit-making. That reformist governments can’t escape this ‘mute compulsion’ has been confirmed time and time again.

Despite the jargon (it’s based on his PhD thesis) it’s actually quite a good read (

Oh no, another vanguard (2024)

Journal Review from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The first issue of The Communist, subtitled ‘Towards A Revolutionary Communist Party’ appeared on 24 January, the day Lenin died a hundred years ago.

A picture of Lenin appears on seven of its 16 pages. There are also articles by and about him. Trotsky gets only one mention and no picture. It is not clear on what basis they have calculated that they will do better calling themselves ‘communists’ with Lenin, hammer and sickle and the rest rather than posing as left-wing ‘socialist’ members of the Labour Party from which they were expelled – against their will – in 2021. Their paper used to be called Socialist Appeal.

Strange, because their origin is the part of the Militant Tendency that stayed in the Labour Party when the other part left and tried to steal our name but ended up being known as SPEW. Their late leader, Ted Grant, had always taught that Trotskyists should stay in the Labour Party until the revolution started as that’s where workers would, apparently, turn when they began to become more radical.

Maybe his successors feel that ‘the revolution’ is imminent. Some of the articles and headlines suggest that they might.

We are told:
‘It is becoming increasingly clear that capitalism has reached its limits … the deepening crisis of world capitalism …Under capitalism we are heading for disaster.’

‘Capitalism is in a profound crisis. Millions of workers and young people are drawing revolutionary conclusions, and are looking to the ideas of communism.’
Millions?! Nobody else seems to have noticed this and they themselves claim only 1,100 members.

The editorial ends:
‘We need a fighting communist leadership in the working class. That is what we are building.’
No thanks. The working class needs that as much as a hole in the head.

Action Replay: Hitting the spot (2024)

The Action Replay column from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Darts received a great deal of publicity recently when 16-year old Luke Littler came second in the world championships, something hard to imagine in other sports. But, as always, there is a lot more to be said about the background to this.

Officially it is the Paddy Power World Darts Championship, and it’s held in front of a loud boozy crowd at Alexandra Palace. It is run by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), a name which certainly makes clear its status as a capitalist business. The PDC emerged back in the 1990s after a dispute between a number of professional players and the British Darts Organisation. Its chair is Eddie Hearn, who also chairs Matchroom Sport, which in addition promotes golf and table tennis, among others. Mind you, there’s also a separate world championship run by the World Darts Federation.

There may be around fifty full-time professional darts players, who can make substantial earnings via prize winnings, exhibitions and sponsorship; Littler received £200,000 for second-place in the PDC championship. But many would-be professionals really struggle to make ends meet. Owen Slot (Times 23 December) spoke to a number of players at the PDC championships. One was a plumber: he ‘fixed a burst pipe and repaired a kitchen sink in the morning, then won his match in the evening’. If you’re well down the pecking order, say the world number 100, you might earn £25,000 over two years, so it’s hardly surprising that many keep their day job as well as trying to make it in darts. One man decided to return to Australia after losing in the second round, as he just could not pay the bills.

Quite apart from the meagre returns to most, darts involves a great deal of stress, with each game being a one-to-one contest, requiring masses of concentration and mental strength. No wonder so many fail to make it. As Slot says, ‘you only need to fall slightly off the edge to find yourself tumbling back to your job’.

So the darts world is almost as insecure as employment generally under capitalism.
Paul Bennett

50 Years Ago: Tory and Labourite agree (2024)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Simpletons in the Labour Party who take at its face value what the Party says about the Tories and about itself will expect the outcome to be, on the Tory side, a publicity campaign to prove that capitalism is really quite all right as it is, and, on the Labour side, a promise to end capitalism. Barbara Castle tried to comply a few months ago by asserting that Labour was the only party “committed to remove capitalism” (Times, 3rd July 1973). But the reality is quite different, as will be seen from two speeches by party leaders published in The Times and the Financial Times on 2nd February. One speech (Times) was by the Tory, Mr. Peter Walker, Secretary for Trade and Industry. The other (Financial Times) was by Mr. Edward Short, deputy leader of the Labour Party.

The interesting thing about the speeches is that most of Walker’s speech could have been put over by Short, and vice versa. The speeches have a common theme — a promise to keep capitalism but to give it a facelift. First the Tory:
“A transformation of the capitalist system in the next 25 years was forecast yesterday by Mr. Peter Walker. Secretary for Trade and Industry . . . He said that in Western Europe a big part of the system consisted of free enterprise and private capital. A dramatic period of change was beginning. In Britain, the government had done much already to transform the basis of capitalism, yet it had passed almost unnoticed.”
Now the Labourite:
“He warned that the next Labour administration must arm itself ‘to act decisively’ when any company or industry fell short of what the national interest demanded and this would involve ‘a major change in the capitalist system’.”
The two had no disagreement about the method. “Much greater public control over industry would be necessary’’ (Short). “We are doing this . . . by the power of the State — a new kind of interventionism’’ (Walker).

Both indicated that there was no intention to end capitalism, but with subtle differences of emphasis. Walker intends to make capitalism “more responsible, more responsive, and therefore stronger”, while Short said that “the assertion of control would be partly by an extension of public ownership where it was absolutely necessary . . . and by planning agreements between the Government and some of the major companies”. Lest this should sound rather too drastic, Mr Short reassured his listeners by explaining that the latter means “a system which has been very successful in France”, and that “most industrialists [are] public-spirited people who would co-operate”.

[From the article, 'Tory and Labourite agree' by Edgar Hardcastle, Socialist Standard, February 1974]

SPGB March Events (2024)

Party News from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our general discussion meetings are held on Zoom. To connect to a meeting, enter in your browser. Then follow instructions on screen and wait to be admitted to the meeting.

SPGB contesting the Greater London Assembly elections (2024)

Party News from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party is planning to contest two seats in the elections to the Greater London Assembly on 2 May – Camden & Barnet and Lambeth & Southwark. Together, they have an electorate of over 870,000.

The campaign – leafleting. hustings, etc – will be in April. Offers of help to or London Branch, Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 UN

George Galloway’s ‘Workers Party’ (2024)

From the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Rochdale by-election on 29 February was prompted by the death of the previous Member of Parliament for that constituency. From 1972 onwards the seat had a mix of Liberal and Labour MPs. Labour no doubt expected an easy win there, which they may have achieved under pressure, even though a previous Labour MP, expelled from that party and then representing Rochdale as an Independent was standing for the Reform party. Their slogan is ‘Let’s Make Britain Great’, an obvious nod to Trumpism.

Also standing was George Galloway of the Workers Party of Britain (WPB), formed in 2019 by himself. Their slogan is ‘Building a New Working Class Politics in Britain’. Galloway was a Labour Party member for thirty-six years, and while presenting himself as radically left he is essentially a Fabian.

We write this before the result of the by-election is known but the odds on Galloway winning did shorten a little after the official Labour Party candidate got himself into trouble with his own party for remarks he made.

Based on media coverage it did appear that Galloway was concentrating on canvassing support based upon his long-standing support for the Palestinian cause and his complete antagonism toward Zionism.

The WPB Manifesto says:
‘The Workers Party of Britain is a socialist party but we are not Utopian, nor are we bound by abstruse theory. We have a common-sense analysis and a practical mission. The Workers Party is committed to the redistribution of wealth and power in favour of working people’.
Not the abolition of capitalism, note, but change within capitalism.

Their Manifesto goes on to list ‘some things we can do immediately’.
‘We will immediately increase the personal tax threshold for the poorest paid, removing tax entirely from the first £21,200 of wages for two million low-paid workers, and at the same time we commit to a one-off wealth tax on all estates valued fairly at over £10 million to make a start on redressing the colossal gap between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.’
Yup, truly revolutionary. Amongst other irrelevances to the working class:
‘Rebuild British industry… to provide useful secure jobs for all…’

‘We support campaigning to preserve the right to use cash.’

‘We will ensure working-class representation throughout the governance of the Bank of England.’
So much for the claim to be ‘a socialist party’ and the commitment ‘to offer a long-term and well-organised socialist alternative to the corrupt Labour Party…’

Despite all the firebrand rhetoric Galloway just wants to reform capitalism, which is no doubt trembling in its boots at the thought of him being a Member of Parliament.
Dave Coggan

Blogger's Update:
Galloway did indeed win last night's bye-election. 

Editorial: The coming change of office-holders (2024)

Editorial from the March 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

For those who follow what is called ‘politics’ — what goes on at Westminster — times must be interesting. The Labour leaders are expecting to become ministers before the end of the year. The Tories seem to be in meltdown. The SNP are in difficulty. The Brexit Party is reviving as Reform UK. Pro-Palestine Muslims are planning to stand candidates to take votes from Labour. Who will win or lose and where?

This is not real politics. Real politics is the perpetual conflict between the state-backed wealthy class who own and control the means of living and the majority working class who don’t. Westminster politics is a side-show about which individuals and groups of individuals get elected to parliament to run the central administrative structure of capitalism, though you wouldn’t think it was just this from the extravagant claims made about how they can also control the way the capitalist economy operates.

Both in theory and in practice, governments cannot do this. Capitalism can only work in one way: as a profit-making system in which the aim of production is to make a profit, an aim enforced on both enterprises and governments through unpredictable and uncontrollable market forces which they can do nothing about except comply with.

Westminster politics is just about individual politicians successfully climbing the greasy pole, or sliding down again, and about which group of careerists gets the juicy government jobs.

Parties have to convince people to vote for them. As part of the game, they make various promises about how they will manage the capitalist economy.

But this economy moves through continuous cycles of expansion and stagnation or contraction. If a party happens to be in office during a period of expansion it claims that this was due its policies or its competence at managing the economy. If, on the hand, it happens to be in office during a period of stagnation or contraction it claims to have been ‘blown off course’ and the opposition party blames the situation on the mistaken policies and incompetence of the governing party.

This latter is the position today with the opposition Labour Party banging on about ‘14 years of Tory misrule’. The Tories have indeed shown an obvious degree of incompetence (from a capitalist point of view) but this is not the reason why real living standards have stagnated over the period. Even if they had displayed competence this would still have happened.

It’s not the Tories that are the problem. It’s capitalism itself. And it is certainly not Labour that’s the solution — their plan to make capitalism work as they promise is destined to fail too. What is required is not a change of office-holders but a complete change of society from one based on class ownership and production for profit to one based on common ownership and production directly to meet people’s needs, from capitalism to socialism.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Globalisation: the left on the coat-tails of liberalism (2003)

Book Review from the January 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two recent books, Globalization: Neoliberal Challenge, Radical Responses by Robert Went and The Twilight of Globalization: Property, State and Capitalism by Boris Kagarlitsky highlight the long-standing history of globalisation of trade, changing imperial relations and the failure of the modern left to come to any effective strategy to combat its renewed assertive neo-liberal ideology. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century the left was able to delineate a clear position between its own anti-imperialist stance and the pro-imperialist and apologist liberal positions. By the second half of the twentieth-century, however, after the experience of running capitalism (with its consequent disillusioning impact on principles) and the disorientating policies of supporting “progressive” struggles over “reactionary” ones, the left is in a muddle. For example, a significant section of the British left backed the NATO bombing of Serbia and the support of the Labour Party for the hegemonic ambitions of the US shows how much politics has seemingly changed in the course of a century.

Or does it? The tradition of leftism in Britain, rather than being an alternative to capitalism has, when negotiating for political power been liberal rather than anything approaching socialist. The 1945 “settlement” was not based on the ideas of the Labour movement but on a programme of social-security and nationalisation that had long been part of the liberal agenda, being synthesised in the 1942 Beveridge Report (which was also incidentally supported by the Communist Party). During the twenty years following the second world war the “social-compromise” of the welfare-state and Keynesianism become the accepted centre ground of British politics.

However, following the long-term decline in economic growth liberal opinion swung away from the Keynesian orthodoxy to a new one based in classical economic theory. The left, increasingly isolated from mainstream economics, first led a failed counter-attack in the early 1980s and then slowly surrendered on all fronts under Neil Kinnock and finally the right-wing bully Tony Blair. There is and always has been, it is true, a radical left aiming at arriving at state-capitalism through the Labour Party but the “socialising” impact of the post-war nationalisations was virtually non-existent. Such measures were not accepted by the political centre as necessary on the grounds of radical social and economic ambition but because it could be defended – to an extent – in terms of the overall efficiency of capitalism.

Privatisations, pursued ideologically against perceived excess government economic activity, have generally failed and sometimes cost business more than the old nationalised equivalents. The state remains, despite globalisation, a strong social, economic and political force, which is no doubt why transnational corporations spend billions of pounds globally in influencing their decisions. This despite the continuing ideological attack on the state even to the point of damaging the stability of the capitalist state itself. Privatisation has seen the domination of ideology over pragmatism for capitalist government. A European Commission report of 1992 (quoted by Kagarlitsky) failed to find any advantage and in fact an additional cost to be borne for capitalism. The reason given, to reduce the economic role of the state and thus to reduce state expenditure has singularly failed to occur; in Russia, for example, it was said that a reduction in the state economic sector of one-tenth required an increase of the state apparatus by one-third. States are not reducing in size or reducing their role but are merely changing with an increase of unaccountable quangos and so on. Similarly the increasing role of international organisations have not been met by a reduction in the role of national governments. The situation may be summed up with the phrase “freer markets and more rules”. Thus the use of the state is open to a different approach and is open to the left, which is currently unwilling to use it.

Further, the social inequalities engendered by neo-liberal capitalism can threaten to undermine the basis of capitalist government itself. A strong state involvement in the economy has historically been a boon for, rather than the bain of, capitalism. It is essential for the creation of a social consensus for capitalist relations:
“Because the capitalist market cannot get by without non-market institutions, the state as a non-commercial entity plays a key role, not only financing public bodies but also overseeing the interaction between the development of the economy and that of the various structures of the social sphere… Without a certain consent by the governed, the state could hardly perform its class function. But this means that the state system, as an instrument of the ruling class, cannot fail to take account of the interests of other social layers as well. When the institutions of power prove incapable of this, the state system enters into crisis” (Kagarlitsky, The Twilight, p.8).
Increasing inequalities are likely to lead, if not to outright conflict, then to tensions and an increasing political demand and therefore political will, where representative democracies exist, to a likely challenge to the unapologetic inegalitarian capitalism of recent decades. Robert Went reveals that the ratio of income between the top 20 per cent and the bottom 20 per cent of the world population was 60:1 in the early 1990s and predicted to decline to 50:1 by 2010 if all went well with the world economy; given the crises of the 1990s the ratio is far likely to increase rather than decrease. Went argues that the prospects for workers globally of the continuation of current trends is bleak indeed:
“there will be a greater and more dominant dictatorship of the markets, particularly over countries that wish to attract capital; greater social inequality as a result of a dual process of polarisation, within countries and on a world scale, among countries; progressive levelling down of wages, working conditions and social security; ecological destruction and deterioration; a greater role for unaccountable international institutions and blocs; and a further undermining of democracy” (Went, p.108).
The state has also tended to be a great source of innovation in the field of technology, which is not, as widely reported, the cause of globalisation but merely facilitates it. Not least of these developments was the internet, which originated in the 1960s in the US Defence Department but also includes space technology, infrastructure and education.

The confidence of global finance capital was somewhat shaken by the capital-flow and currency crises in Mexico in 1994 and Asia in 1997, which produced several calls for international regulation of global capital flows. Further crises are likely to induce regulation if severe enough. Current actions to solve financial crises are tied to austerity packages, which avoid the global impact of such incidences but create problems of development for those countries which are subject to them. While the share of world trade of developing countries has increased from 20 per cent to 30 per cent in the post-war period, economic growth has in the main been restricted to the EU, US and Japan. The imposition of export-led growth on the resource rich developing countries means that to develop a break with neo-liberalism is needed. A degree of protectionism is needed for national capitalist economies to prioritise industrial development. Such a growth, of course, could well be a stimulus for the global economy were it not geared to the interests of finance capital in the developed world.

Successful development has generally taken place in countries or regions where the interventionist state is the norm and not under conditions of anything approaching free-trade. Selective intervention in the world economy has been the basis of most industrial growth, from the British cotton-trade to South Korea and Taiwan in the 1960s who, without government protection of the domestic market tied to export performances of amongst others the clothing industry, would still be exporting rice as its export mainstay. Protectionism then most probably must play a prominent part in any meaningful economic growth in the non-western world – the west of course being still well acquainted with it, despite its rhetoric.

In the light of the utter failure of the Kyoto agreement to result in meaningful regulation it is also clear that for any serious recognition of environmental sustainability there must be a proliferation of regulation and state-led implementation of clean-technologies and the innovation of new ones. If humans are to survive on the earth then this must be done. If ecological disaster is not to be averted by socialism then capitalism must clearly adopt such an approach.

What then is to be done? Went is clear that capitalist relations are flawed:
“It is not possible within the existing economic logic, in which profit maximization comes first, to solve the most important problems that humanity faces. Under capitalism, the individual interests of speculators, employers or investors determine what they do. The partial rationality of their actions clashes with the general social interest of present and future generations.

In fact, capitalism is becoming more and more irrational. The discrepancy between what is economically and socially possible and what is actually happening has never been greater than it is today” (Robert Went, Globalization, p.121).
Kagarlitsky is also clear that the old state driven approaches to the problems of capitalism are also little hope for the future:
“The old Big Brother is dead, meet the New Big Brother. Now Big Brother is global or multinational, but even more faceless and even less accountable than before. It is no surprise that after experiencing what globalization has in store, so many people world-wide are becoming nostalgic for the old Big Brother” (Boris Kagarlitsky, The Twilight, p.2).
It seems strange then that despite the attention that both Went and Kagarlitsky pay to the need for an adequate response to capitalism and its current ideology that both see the answer in progressive reforms, or what Kagarlitsky calls “revolutionary reforms”. Following the massive defeat of leftism across the world, it is clear that socialist revolution can well do without the pursuit of reforms. Such an attitude also ignores the extent to which any challenge to neo-liberalism will most likely be led by an ideological shift back to liberal social-pragmatism – in other words, a shift motivated not in the interests of labour but of capital.
Colin Skelly

Greasy Pole: Plain Words (2003)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nobody in their right mind – that is to say nobody who has an inkling of how this social system operates –would have been impressed by the assurances that the Bain enquiry into the firefighters’ pay claim was really “independent”. (There are a number of words in this article in inverted commas. This may irritate some readers, much as it does the writer. The purpose is to encourage scepticism about the use of such words.) As a start, let us assert that the whole concept of “independence” is false, just as the popular idea of a “fair” wage, a “deserved” pay rise are false. These are delusions resting on the assumption that wages are fixed by how useful the wage earners’ work is and that somewhere and somehow out there there is a wage which is “fair” because it exactly reflects that usefulness, or how strenuous someone’s work is and how it compares to other, similar, jobs. There is no way that any enquiry, no matter how “independent”, could make any sense of this, no way it could untangle such a mish-mash of delusions.

So they don’t try. Enquiries into wage claims have a number of other uses. Firstly they are often a ruse by which employers and governments representing the employing class to postpone the time for a decision, allowing them to strengthen their defences. When the firefighters called their first, two-day, strike they were denounced by ministers from Tony Blair downwards for acting with unreasonable haste when they should have waited for the Bain report in the confidence that it would be “fair” to them because it was “independent”. The firefighters were right to be sceptical because what Bain had been set to do was to lay down the case for a lower pay rise while the Fire Service was “modernised” – in other words while it co-operated in cutting its work force.

Firefighters and Bankers
There was much anger during the strike because of the feeling that the firefighters’ pay did not properly reflect their “worth”. In fact this anger, although it was supportive of the strikers, was misplaced. Wages do not rely on the worth of what a person does. If they were measured in that way firefighters and nurses and sewage workers, instead of bankers, currency dealers and royals, would be turning up for work in Rolls Royces. The only way to make sense of this apparent anomaly is to recognise that all wages are essentially determined, at any one time, by the relationship between the forces of supply of, and demand for, the labour power of the workers concerned. If the demand for nurses’ working ability outstrips the supply of it (always providing that the nurses assert their bargaining power) their wages will rise. If the opposite applies there will be a downward influence on their wages.

This reality is often used to justify companies offering big money to their higher management. “We have to do this,” runs the argument, “in order to attract people of the right calibre to run this great company of ours.” And it is used when MPs are debating whether to accept a proposal (from another, but rather different, “fair” and “independent” enquiry) to give themselves the kind of rise firefighters can only dream about, to attract highly qualified and capable people away from industry, commerce or the law or wherever to govern this great country of ours. This was how it was put by Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons, on 5 July 2002 when the Members were discussing (it was hardly a debate) the suggestion that they award themselves a 42 per cent rise:
“I do not think we impress the public if we set too low a value on our own worth . . . if we believe our work here is important we should not shrink from putting a proper value on it.”
This was not the kind of argument which the government would allow for the firefighters. And it was not how Bain saw the situation:
“Even allowing for the risks and dangers of the service, firefighters compare well with similar jobs in the public and private sectors . . .When holidays, pension arrangements and job security are taken into account, they are even better placed. This is borne out by the recruitment and retention figures, which show large numbers of applicants for each Fire service vacancy, even during a period of steady economic growth.”
In other words, the firefighters’ claim was undermined because the supply of their labour power outstrips the demand for it.

There is, however, a contradiction here, which goes some way to illustrate the implacable way in which the wage labour economy of capitalism works and the cynicism of the system’s rulers. Because if there is one job in which there is a surplus of supply over demand, it is that of an MP. To begin with there is the matter of the number of candidates standing for each seat; lots of competition there. In the 2001 general election it was a rare constituency which had less than five on the list. Seven or eight was not unusual. There is no record of any heckler suggesting that, as there was such competition in the matter of aspirant MPs, whoever won the seat should take a cut in wages. Then there is the fact that, at least in the bigger parties, there had often been a fierce struggle to get the nomination in the first place, with a large number of runners whittled down to a short list.

This process was illustrated in the case of Ted Heath, who after the 1945 election scratched around from one seat to another in Kent before he was adopted for Bexley. The Tories in Ashford rejected him because he would not agree to give up his command of a Territorial Army regiment and to refuse the offer of a ministerial job in a future government. (The successful candidate later told him that he lost the vote because he turned up for his crucial interview on a Saturday morning improperly dressed, in a dark blue suit and a stiff collar. Heath grumpily recalled that he did not then possess either article.) At Rochester and Chatham they said they wanted an MP who would make it into the Cabinet and “I am afraid,” said the Tory chairman, “that we do not think that you will ever hold an office of any kind.” At Sevenoaks it was rather simpler; Heath turned up late and made a bad speech.

Heseltine and Clark
Michael Heseltine had to show willing by contesting some safe Labour seats – Gower and Coventry North – before he got the chance of a safe seat at Tavistock. Even then the decision hung in the balance because he upset the straighter-laced Tavistock Tories when a men’s fashion magazine he owned – Town – featured that month an Ursula Andress lookalike on its cover. After he had won the nomination he heard from some women that they had voted for him because they liked his wife’s hat. When Tavistock disappeared under the knife of the Boundary Commission in 1970 he failed to get the nod at Mid Oxfordshire, where he was not even short–listed and then Mid Sussex before the Tories of Henley took him – and perhaps his wife’s hats – to their bosoms.

The odious Alan Clark tried to get himself selected from the late 1960s, trawling through what he called “a Litany of constituency names” in his notebook before he succeeded in Plymouth Sutton. This success required his attendance at a cocktail party with his wife – sorely tried, ever supportive as Tory wives are supposed to be. Let us hope they let him off lightly in the subsequent question-and-answer session for it must have been a grave affront to the conceit of that callous, arrogant man who seemed to despise and hate a considerable mass of the human race including – especially including – those in his own party. “That shower” was how he described the Tories at Ashchurch. “Imprisoned . . . by their own guilt” was how he saw the local party executive at Langstone. For the Tories in Plymouth Sutton he reserved some special venom: “Total shits . . . no purpose in life other than to bicker and back bite – degrade everything above a certain level of mediocrity.”

It is not only in the matter of failing to accept that their wages should be set by the forces of supply and demand that MPs fail to keep to the standards they try to set down for the rest of us. Nick Raynsford, the minister responsible for the Fire Service, is a man who has outraged some of his former admirers who never thought him capable of the breathtaking cynicism he displayed in his transformation into an ardent Blairite. He was notably brutal and overbearing in his verbal assaults on the firefighters. A recurring theme of his comments was what he saw as the FBU’s refusal to move to “more streamlined, focussed and flexible” working arrangements. Coming from an MP, that was a bit rich. The House of Commons cannot move to its business, which is supposed to be so vital to the interests of us all, without the security of a load of archaic symbolism and rituals – like bowing to the Speaker, going in procession to the House of Lords after someone in knee britches called Black Rod has knocked three times on the door of the chamber – or perhaps he is called Black Door and knocks on three rods – unable to do anything unless the Mace is in its place on the table, never using each other’s names because they must address people they know to be ruthless scoundrels as “Honourable Members”, never calling anyone a liar because they can only refer to “misleading the House”. For outdated practises the FBU has nothing on Parliament.

We can stumble around this maze of apparent contradictions, blind alleys and deceit (which is what wage negotiations often do) for a long time when the matter is essentially simple. This social system depends on wage labour – on the exploitation of one class by the other. The “worth” of what we work at, what we produce or organise, is simply not in the equation of how much we are paid. Neither are “justice” or “fairness”. These are concepts introduced to cloud over the basic fact that capitalism exists in the interests of only the ruling class and that obscure language is too often used to that end.

50 Years Ago: Reaching for the Moon (2003)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fantastic as it may sound, a question has arisen regarding the ownership of the moon. Sooner or later it was bound to happen in a world dedicated to the idol of private ownership.

On 27th November 1952, Nancy Spain writing in the Daily Express brings to our notice an American book, written by various authors entitled “Across the Space Frontier” (Sidgwick and Jackson, 21/-). One of the authors is Dr Wernher von Braun, co-designer of the V2 Rocket and now technical director of the Army Ordnance Guided Missile Development Group, Alabama. We learn that a detailed plan has been drawn up for a Space Station and space travel. If the money were available and work put in hand at once it could be ready within 10 to 15 years. In fact, the American rocket engineers and scientists deem this project a number one priority. They say it is essential that the United States should be first in this field because a “less peaceably-minded” nation may beat them to it. (According to the Editor, Cornelius Ryan, the Russians have admitted that their engineers are also working along these lines.)
(. . .)
It is pointed out that great strides would be made in our knowledge of the stars, cosmic radiation and the structure of the earth, also that weather could be correctly predicted for months ahead. The emphasis, however, seems to be on the military value of the Space Station. It is said “In the hands of a ruthless power, no part of the earth would be safe from attack by guided missiles. No troop, air, or sea movements could be hidden from the all-seeing eye of the Station’s telescopes”.

[From an article by F.M.R., Socialist Standard, January 1953]

In Commemoration of the Communist Manifesto (1948)

From the February 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

A hundred years ago a small group of political refugees, mainly German, along with a few other radicals published to a world that hardly noticed it the most famous document in working class history, the Communist Manifesto. A few weeks later the adherents of the Manifesto had scattered to participate in the revolutions that shook Europe during 1848; revolutions upon which they had built hopes that were rapidly dissipated. The document they had produced, however, after remaining in obscurity for a time began to travel round the world, giving hope and inspiration to the exploited and laying the foundations of the scientific Socialist movement. The appeal of the Manifesto and its growing influence were based upon its clear and accurate analysis of the foundations and the trends of the Capitalist system, whose development was still in its early stages.

The face of the world then was vastly different from what it is today. A large part of Europe still fretted under relics of Feudalism, although in the West, and especially in England, Capitalism was making great industrial strides. The blind passion to accumulate wealth for its own sake had taken complete possession of sections of the privileged class and factory production was taking heavy toll of its victims, which included women and children. At the same period the growth of trading was invading and weakening the old State demarcations and urging the privileged sections of subject groups to acquire self-determination. Thus the fight of the monied class for power and the fight of subject nations for political freedom were the all absorbing questions of the day. Agriculture was still the dominating industry and the peasant and the small producer were the most active and vocal of the non-privileged groups. Even in England, the foremost industrial country, the working class proper was still a minority of the population. It was impossible for the writers of the Manifesto to entirely escape the influence of the conditions of their environment; it is amazing to reflect upon their clearness of vision and prophetic insight in the midst of contradictory currents that made the trends of Capitalism so difficult to follow.

The principles developed by the Manifesto and the way in which it characterises the capitalist method of production, as well as the materialist conception upon which it is based, are as fitting today as when it was written. The clearness, verve, and felicity of phrasing have never been surpassed. This is the more astonishing when one remembers that the writers, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, had neither of them yet reached the age of thirty.

The Manifesto contains four sections, the first of which is concerned with an analysis of society. This section opens with the sentence, “The history of all hitherto existing society [civilised society] is the history of class struggles,” and later follows with a description of Capitalism:
“The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruin of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature – it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.

“The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”

“Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitations distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.”
How true, sweeping and trenchant is this description of Capitalism! Yet it was written a hundred years ago when the all-embracing ugliness of the system was only emerging. The position of the worker as a wage slave is clearly set forth, as is also the necessity of the capture of political power by the workers in order to achieve their emancipation. The first section concludes with a paragraph that makes clear the inevitability of the triumph of the working class:
“The essential condition for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between labourers. class is the formation and the augmentation of capital: the condition of capital The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers (due to competition) by their revolutionary combination (due to association). The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
The succeeding sections of the Manifesto are concerned with the practical means to achieve its object, but these are based upon the conditions of 1848; conditions that have long since passed away. These parts of the Manifesto are, therefore, now obsolete, but they are just the parts that have been most frequently used as guides by reformers and those whose impatience has made them blind to changing political conditions. The writers were pioneers mapping out new territory, and territory whose configuration was in process of change. That they should have been over-enthusiastic about the nearness of social change or the nature of the particular steps to be taken to accomplish the change at a time when Capitalism was still undeveloped is as understandable as it is remarkable that their outlook should have been so clear fundamentally. But the writers saw farther and clearer than their associates and the main body of their successors. Hence the weaknesses instead of the strength of the Manifesto have made the greatest appeal and have led the social democratic movement they started into the mire of futile reform programmes. The Manifesto was like a small craft on a stormy sea with its compass set in the right direction, but succeeding helmsmen were unable to read the compass properly.

The working class movement from the date of the Manifesto followed two divergent courses; the first, the scientific course, remained a thin small stream, while the second, the reformist course, grew in volume until it reached torrential power. This is explained in part by the two aspects of the Manifesto – the theoretical and the practical. It was upon the practical side, that is the temporary and weaker side, that the movement concentrated more and more, as it grew in volume, until the theoretical basis became completely submerged in the “practical” questions of the day or, in other words, reformist policies and programmes.

We are no worshippers of leaders or “great men” but we recognise the magnificent work done by Marx, Engels and other contributors to the scientific socialist movement which began with the publication of the Communist Manifesto. We stand on the shoulders of those past workers who have helped us up and we profit by what they have done to make our social vision clearer. We are members of the working class and hold, with the writers of the Manifesto, that “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” We hold further that this world can only be won by the workers prosecuting the class struggle unremittingly, spurning all attempts to seduce them into support of reform programmes, abandoning the worship of leaders and depending upon their own efforts alone.

The best tribute to Marx and Engels is to recognise what is permanent in their work and put aside that which was dictated by the confused and temporary circumstances of the time in which they wrote. It is in this spirit that we commemorate the publication of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 as one of the greatest events in working class history.

Blogger's Note:
In 1948 the SPGB published the pamphlet The Communist Manifesto and the Last 100 Years. I believe the text was written by Gilbert McClatchie ('Gilmac.').

Stanley Baldwin: Bluff Squire or Shrewd Politician (1948)

From the February 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Perhaps no politician tried more than the late Earl Baldwin to seem all things to all men. Certainly no other politician more nearly succeeded. That Stanley Baldwin played a role in accordance with ruling-class political requirements is undoubted. That he played it so skilfully was not the least of the services he rendered to his class.

Honest Stan Baldwin was not merely a caption on a Tory election poster. It was a by-word in English politics. For millions he summed up in his stocky person “our traditional native qualities” of bluffness, forthrightness and sturdy independence. He became the idealised representative of that national piece of Action—“The Typical Englishman.” Perhaps in these “native qualities” a little more typical than most of his countrymen. Possibly just a little more “English.” 

To sustain the emotional significance of the "Dictator Myth” the elaborate symbolism of uniformed parades, massed bands, mass rallies, swastika signs and salutes is indispensable. The Baldwin Myth as the representative Englishman of his age was built up around such homely and conventional items as a pipe and pigs.

His propagandists liked to feature him as a simple country gentleman. Because greatness had been thrust upon him, he forsook the rural peace of his Worcestershire orchards and Bewdley pig-yards for the strife and hurly-burly of Westminster politics. His most arcadian setting found him y a rustic gate, pipe in mouth ready at any moment to proclaim glowingly on the rural charms of “This England.”

That the emergence of Industrialism had disinherited the majority of his countrymen from such rural charms he wryly admitted. That the historic emergence of Capitalism had also disinherited the forefathers of the modern working class, from certain immemorial land-rights to “This England” he never stressed. He liked to think that Englishmen had an innate love for “This England.” Tiny garden patches of withered green in grimy industrial towns, or even the desire of their working class dwellers to have such things was for him, equally with the pride and possession of broad acres, part of our imperishable English heritage. He might have regarded the contents of a flower-pot on the window ledge of some industrial tenement as being equally a part of its possessor's ”imperishable English heritage.”

Such was the popular image of this Tory Prime Minister. In our preoccupation with this genial country gentleman we were apt to overlook his industrial associations, his tie-up in iron works, mines, docks, railways; his banking connections. The highlights of the picture of the bluff Worcestershire squire rather faded him out as being also a typical representative of this society’s most advanced economic phase— Finance Capital, and his story of forsaken business interests in the service of the State soft-pedalled the fact that it was in the pursuit and furtherance of such "interests” that he had spent—"The best years of his life.”

At banquets attended by members of the Federation of British Industries, Earl Baldwin liked to add to the glow of the after-dinner port by wistful references to the rare vintage of the good old English past. Those more leisurely days before the coming of mass-production, conveyor belts, merciless speed-ups and consequent nervous breakdowns. Then work was done at a pace natural to man. He also spoke of the more humane industrial relationships in some of the old-established family businesses which had existed. He hoped that one day this more humane spirit would prevail throughout the land. His social perspective seemed, however, as limited as that of a Melbourne or a Peel. He appeared to be blithely unaware of the historic fact that for masses of the working population, his good old English past was but the dawn of a bad new industrial present.

His nostalgic partiality for the past never prevented him from ardently embracing some very modern instances. He was a firm believer in up-to-date productive efficiency. He even welcomed such "newfangled” notions as Industrial Psychology, with its minimising of unnecessary effort on the part of the worker and its maximising of productive output. His age-long and misty affinity with St. George never dimmed his harsh, realistic view of the nature of Capitalist Society. He accepted the development of Monopoly Capitalism. In his "Peace in Industry” plea he said: "The elimination of smaller firms and industries and the appearance of great Capital amalgamations were the driving force of necessity in the protection from competition.” "That was the tendency of industry and nothing could change it.” He also accepted the fact that "the increasing consolidations of Capital into fewer hands was the natural evolution of English industrial life.” "This fact,” he added, "must be accepted. ”

He also regarded an industrial reserve army as normal to Capitalism. To an audience of Birmingham business men in 1925, he repudiated the idea that any government could solve the unemployment problem. He even felt profoundly thankful that the experience of the Labour Government had taught them that they, no more than any other Government could cure this evil. He claimed that "there was no guaranteed remedy to cure this disease and at the same time maintain the international power and position of the British Empire.” Such was the perhaps naturally antithetical make up of the "English Squire” and the great industrial magnate.

Into the texture of the Baldwin Myth there was embroidered an obscure social philosophy. His speeches, vague, sententious, even commonplace, with their strong literary flavour, were masterpieces of a misty, beyond the mountains, idealism. This apotheosis of Baldwin as the true Englishman and his capacity for enshrining a nebulous faith in some eternal harmony and peaceful co-operation of all classes proved an enormous asset to him and his party. From such intangible resources he built up a personal fund of good-will perhaps unequalled by any other capitalist politician. It was this that enabled him to more easily withstand the stresses and strains of antagonistic class interests. Certain acts and political incidents associated with his reign which might have subsequently dislodged a Lloyd George or a Churchill from popularity and power Honest Stan Baldwin successfully rode.

It was once fashionable to depict him politically as a somewhat ingenuous soul. Nothing could have been further from the truth. No politician, not even Disraeli, was more astute in measuring up the political opposition, especially the Labour opposition. Where a Churchill seeks to slay the Labour Party by vituperation Baldwin killed them with "English” kindness. He referred to them constantly as "My Labour friends." Among certain elements there were on occasions “regrettable lapses.’’ He regarded most of them as being like himself, English to the core. Only Marxism was a gospel of hate. And it was not “English.’’ He believed, however, “ no gospel of hate would ever seize the hearts of our people.’’

He regarded the advent of a Labour Government as being no more than the inevitable swing of the political pendulum. He said in 1923, “When the Labour Party come to sit on the Government benches we shall all wish them well in their efforts to govern the country.”

He followed the Disraeli formula of adopting towards the working class an attitude of benevolent paternalism. He advised young Tories to study Disraeli Conservatism. “ With that you can always win,” he said. No less than the Labour Party he claimed to be the champion of the social “under-dog.” He also believed “we were slowly and gradually moving towards a better industrial system.” As the Labour Party also accept ”the inevitability of gradualism ” they would seem to have shared the same social ideal. In progressive social reforms he said his party yielded to none. So he stole the thunder of the “Left.”

He did more than steal the Labour Party’s thunder. He stole their leaders. In 1931, MacDonald, Snowden, Thomas, etc., left the Labour Party to help form the National Government. In the panic “crisis” election of 1931 the Labour Party were also deprived of their own national “heroes.” Bewildered and beaten they stayed in the political desert for many years.

True MacDonald remained Prime Minister. It would be truer to say he went through-the motions of being one. While he postured and jitterbugged in front of the political stage “simple Stan Baldwin” was the puppet-master who pulled the stringy. In 1934 Baldwin took over again. MacDonald became Lord President of the Council and went back stage.

The Labour Party themselves at one period fell heavily for the “Baldwin Myth.” Some even regarded him as a “Socialist.” His sentiments were sometimes as heartily applauded from Labour Party benches as from his own. When Baldwin spoke on the need for a better understanding between classes or Disarmament "even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forebear to cheer.” Some members of the Labour Party regarded him as acting as a kind of buffer between the workers and the hard-faced men of his party. That he was a shrewd and able representative of these hard-faced men, they never suspected.

In 1925 he intimated that wages must come down. In the same year he made his “Peace in Industry plea” ending with “give peace in our time, O Lord.” He, however, saw signs in the same speech of a coming industrial storm. At that time the coal owners were pressing for heavy wage reductions for the miners. Baldwin granted the mine-owners a subsidy to maintain temporarily the status quo and prepared for the coming industrial storm. It took the shape of the General Strike. Millions of workers answered the call in defence of the miners’ standard of living. After nine days the T.U.C. called the strike off. The T.U.C. had, during the strike, been in contact with the then Sir Herbert Samuel who was Chairman of the Baldwin Government’s Mining Commission, and arranged a “Gentleman’s agreement.” Their excuse was that they believed the Government would accept the terms. Sir Herbert Samuel, incidentally, disclaimed any contract with the Government on the matter and pointed out that the meeting with the T.U.C. was entirely on his own initiative. Baldwin himself repudiated any such suggestion and demanded complete surrender. The miners fought on alone. After seven months lock-out by the owners with the backing of the Baldwin Government the miners were beaten to their knees. They were compelled to go back on conditions which made their occupation a virtually sweated industry.

His administration was also responsible for some of the harshest treatment ever meted out to the unemployed. Tightening up of Unemployed Regulations led to the wholesale transference of unemployed to Public Relief. When the numbers of able-bodied people receiving Outdoor Relief reached threatening proportions, heavy cuts were made in the scale of relief. Boards of Guardians who refused to zealously operate the “New Hunger Scales” as they were called, were replaced by Commissioners to see that these new scales were effectively carried out. Later came the notorious Means Test.

There came into being some time after the- first World War, gradually growing in size and intensity, the depressed and devastated areas. In some of the most industrial parts of England grass grew in the streets and men, women and children slowly starved in an atmosphere of decay and despair.

One of Earl Baldwin's favourite themes was the Englishman’s love of his native hearth mid “the sanctity of family life.” Nevertheless* under his administration a wholesale transference of unemployed persons from the distressed areas took place. They were sent to places like London and other parts of the South of England. These places themselves had more than their share of unemployment. Nevertheless the Baldwin Government referred to them as being “relatively prosperous areas.”

Earl Baldwin liked to talk about “Truth” and “ Honour ” in political life. On the need for candour on the part of politicians. He could, however, when necessary sit on the facts with the best of them. When the cynical “behind the scenes” carve up of Abyssinia in the Hoare-Laval pact came out, Hoare was sacrificed to the popular outcry against the secret terms. When Baldwin was pressed for information in Parliament on the matter he blandly remarked “My lips are sealed.”

He professed himself an admirer of the political ideals of Grotius. “ Honest Stan ” could, however, on occasions, indulge in the most Machiavellian expediency, In his successful 1935 General Election he assured the electors that there would be no great armaments. “ I give you my word,” he said, "that there has not been nor will there be any huge increases in armaments or materially increased forces..” Later he confessed that the election was a phoney. He admitted “that the necessity for rearmament existed but he kept his opinions to himself as the pacific temper of the country did not warrant such candour.” His statement that “Democracy must be humoured since it cannot always bear unpleasant truths,” has in the light of the foregoing, sardonic implications.

Another myth of Baldwin was that he stood for disarmament. The facts shatter it. In 1924 British expenditure on armaments was £113 million. In 1937 it was £278 million, nearly two and a half times as much. In the same year, Government plans were announced to spend £1,500 million during the next five years on armaments. His then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, said that such figures were approximations. Expenditure would be indefinitely increased if circumstances warranted it.

His statement in 1934 that “the nation must carry its defensive frontiers to the Rhine” can now be judged in all its ominous and sinister significance. In that year the plant was laid down for the construction of the four-engined Lancaster bombers. He had no illusions about the nature of the coming war. He knew that one of the forms this "British defence” would take would consist of bombing attacks on German towns.

In spite of certain superficial differences as to the best policy for defending British Imperial interests existing between Baldwin and people like Churchill and others, he was no less a ruthless defender of such "interests." As equally committed to re-armament and finally war as they. Such differences were adroitly exploited for purposes of war propaganda. The attack on the so-called appeasement policy served to rouse workers to “our desperate plight.” It became one of the means for emotionally conditioning them to become once again willing, even enthusiastic, victims of a new and greater Armageddon. Baldwin’s stock which had been already in decline, slumped catastrophically. The wheel came full circle. He became in many once-favoured quarters the subject of bitter criticism. even abuse. There were “none so poor to do him reverence.”

But Earl Baldwin is dead! As always on such occasions the atmosphere of the House was heavy with “the odour of sanctity.” Eloquent last tributes were paid by spokesmen of all parties. He became once again, "The great Englishman.”

Mr. Gallacher, M.P., also paid his last respects. As a piece of concentrated sycophancy it would take some beating. It appears that the "English” Baldwin once told him that he had a Welsh father and a Scotch mother. Mr. Gallacher can also claim a Scotch parent on the distaff side. "That,” said Mr. Gallacher, "seemed to create a human bond between us.” On such slender blood-ties was their common humanity finally established. True the Daily Worker (15/12/47) referred to Baldwin as being an enemy of the working class. But it seems that Scotch blood is thicker than working-class water. Mr. Gallacher said, "Nothing should be said that could disturb his peace . . . In the quiet countryside beside his Scotch mother and Welsh father let him sleep in everlasting peace.” While Baldwin may from the Daily Worker's point of view have been an enemy of the working class for Mr. Gallacher he was at least a working-class enemy with a Scotch mother. This would seem for Mr. Gallacher to imply a distinction of some importance.

A pale attempt has been made in certain sections of the Press to see in the demise of Earl Baldwin "The Death of an Hero.” The Daily Telegraph (15/12/47) believed that for him "the trumpets might sound on the other side.” Perhaps a plaque or a bust or even a statue might be a pathetic attempt to ensure his “English” immortality. For posterity however, history will record that his name was writ on water.
Ted Wilmott