Friday, July 3, 2015

Sting in the Tail: The Perfect Worker (1989)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the October 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Perfect Worker

That the owning class have a very poor opinion of the working class was perfectly illustrated in a recent report in The Guardian. It informed us that Professor Eysenck, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and Professor Charles Spielberger, president-elect of the American Psychological Association are the research directors of a creepy outfit that calls itself by the horror-name of Psycorp.
A psychological testing service aimed at providing companies with "clones" of their most successful employees was launched today  . . . the company aims to pre-select the personality types most likely to succeed in jobs ranging from airline pilots to cab drivers  . . . Using the Eysenck personality profile the aim is to come up with the "perfect" employee for a particular job.
Ignoring the professors' claims, let us look at what the owning class REALLY want from the working class. Here is the profile of the perfect worker.

Someone who leaves school at 16 years of age, works for 50 years, never complains about working conditions or wages; and on the first day he goes to claim his old age pension drops dead at the post office counter.

Obedience, diligence and lots of surplus value. Now that's perfection, Professor!

Breakfast With Jehovah

John Stalker, the former Assistant Chief Constable has many interesting things to say about his former boss James Anderton, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester in his book "Stalker". 
"He was aglow with excitement, like a child who was anticipating a party. He said that at breakfast that morning (11.12.86) he had been moved by the Spirit of God to speak out at the conference against modern morality, which he felt had resulted in the scourge of AIDS. I asked him how the message had manifested itself and he answered me in an almost detached manner. He said that he could describe it best by asking me to imagine an invisible finger writing out for him on the breakfast table what the Lord wished to say." (Page 228).
We learn later (Page 242) that despite this divine assistance . . . "the 1985 crime figures for Greater Manchester had shown a big increase in the crime rate and a fall in the detection rate . . . "

It appears that the invisible finger had failed to write out between Anderson's orange juice and Rice Krispies anything that would assist him with the crime figures. Truly the ways of the Lord are mysterious . . . and none too helpful.

Economics of Prejudice

A nasty development in northern Italy is the rise of the Lombardy League.

This outfit, which gained 635,000 votes and 2 MEPs at the recent European elections, wants to exclude a lot of people from Lombardy because, they claim, these people breed too much, figure prominently in crime statistics and are forever looking for government handouts.

Just another bunch of racists raving about black immigrants? No, their target is their southern Italian countrymen and women. Indeed, one of the League's MEPs stated-
I have nothing against the blacks and, in fact, I prefer them to souther Italians". (The Guardian 16 August)
The League's real complaint is that industrialised Lombardy pays more tax to central government than all the southern regions combined and that much of this tax goes to the underdeveloped south.

So whether it is gentile against jew, protestant against catholic, white against black or even white against white, what it boils down to is the economic rivalry spawned by capitalism.

Sounds Familiar

Here's another "socialist" party which has ditched its defence policy in order to catch votes.

This is the Socialist Party of Japan, an out and out reformist bunch. Until now they had adopted the strange idea that the world's second greatest economic power could be "unarmed and neutral", and its manifesto called for the abolition of the United States-Japan Security Treaty and the disbanding of Japan's armed forces.

That was until the last elections to Japan's Upper House of parliament when the SPJ made big gains. Now that it smells a share of power it is ready to maintain the treaty.

Takako Doi, the party's chairwoman, explained:
"The Socialist Party should take the road to gradual but sold reform which could be accepted not only by the Japanese people but by the world community." (Daily Telegraph 22 August)
Such cynical expediency should convince both Japanese and US capitalism that they have nothing to fear from these "socialists".

The Welsh Windbag

On the 6th September The Guardian devoted a full page to such matters as society, the state and the class structure in Britain and how it had changed in the last 10 years.

It was the usual mixture of confusion and journalistic nonsense, but one piece under the heading "Class and Power" by Seamus Milne recorded how politicians view the class structure.
Outsiders have traditionally regarded Britain as one of the most class-divided societies in Europe. But Neil Kinnock denies the existence of the working class, David Owen says that 90 per cent of us are middle class. And Mrs. Thatcher once asked "Aren't I working class? I work jolly hard, I can tell you."
Leaving aside Owen's crass stupidity, and the bizarre image of Thatcher as a member of the proletariat, the effrontery of Kinnock is truly staggering. Who does he imagine produced the food he eats, built the house he lives in or made the clothes he wears?

While the Welsh Windbag produces nothing but hot air and empty rhetoric, it is the working class that produce all the useful things in society  . . . and some of the useless things, like silly articles in The Guardian.

The sage of Merioneth (1970)

Book Review from the December 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Russell Remembered, by Rupert Crawshay-Williams, OUP. 40s.

The author was a close neighbour and friend of "Bertie" in his plushy retreat in deepest Merioneth and although he goes through the motions of noticing some of the great man's faults (his vanity, bad temper, monumental conceit, etc), he does not attempt to hide his hero-worship and clearly regards himself as supremely fortunate to have been able to cultivate the friendship of this intellectual paragon. Most of the book consists of small talk reported à la Boswell. But there is no rival to Dr. Johnson here; not a word that is worth remembering in fact. (Sample of the humour: Good, better, best, Bertie. This sort of thing, it seems, had the great Earl wiping his eyes with helpless laughter. Of such stuff is greatness made.)

The one thing that should have struck the author he clearly never even considered. The great philosopher occupied the public stage for the better part of a century. And at the end of it all, the books, the speeches, the lectures, what remained that was worth remembering Russell for? Even a cursory glance at Russell's career makes it obvious that his influence merely served to spread confusion in matters that concern human society. The contradictions are crass and speak for themselves. A pacifist in the first world war. A belligerent in the second. An advocate of a pre-emptive atomic strike by America before Russia got the Bomb (for which he was dubbed Atom-Bomb Russell by the Daily Worker). And finally a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, that great mass of "sound and fury, signifying nothing". He cheerfully lent his name to organisations which backed one side against the other in Vietnam (like so many "intellectuals", he became pathologically anti-American; which of course had nothing whatever to do with anti-capitalism). And to supporting vicious dictatorships like that of Nkrumah.

The evil side of all this is rendered worse when one thinks of the good that someone like Russell could have done had he been concerned to learn what was wrong with society and using his immense influence with whole generations of idealistic young people to taking the road towards ending the evil system of capitalism. But he preferred the road of easy fame and helped to lead the students and others into the hopeless blind alleys of movements like CND. So for that he must share the blame for the disillusion that inevitably followed. And which has left capitalism as securely entrenched now as on the day he first came into the world.  
L. E. Weidberg

Britain's Political Crisis (1975)

From the October 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Text of a letter sent by a member of the World Socialist Party of the US to the American left-wing magazine "Ramparts".

Matthew Blaire's article in the August-September Ramparts titled: "Britain in Between" laments "Britain's political crisis" and states " . . . it is very hard to see the left-wingers quitting a party machine (the British Labour Party) which confers national influence on what would otherwise be a minority splinter group." And he ends his article: "We may be at the beginning of the lean years."

Question: What is the political crisis now facing the working class? (Suffice it to say that though the term "working class" does not appear in his article, its context revolves around the interests of the working class. I'm sure he does not deny the Class Struggle.) Unfortunately, he overlooks that the "national influence of the British Labour Party is not now nor ever has been involved in the revolutionary struggle to get rid of capitalism and establish a Socialist society (except for lip-service on special occasions.)

Its programmes have been supported by the votes of the British Left, radicals and liberals, who advocate measures for reforming and administering capitalism — which are no concern to revolutionary Marxist Socialists.

The history and experiences of the last 75 years have amply demonstrated the futility of all the "practical" measures and immediate demands for removing or altering the deleterious effects of capitalism — which has already outlived its historic usefulness in the light of the vast strides in technology and science. (Capitalism laid the groundwork for Socialism.) And, sad to say, the dedicated attempts, energies, hard work of the leftist groups have been equally futile in solving the problems of capitalism. We are still confronted with the very same dilemmas: wars, economic crises, conflicts of interests on every level of society, not to mention housing and the host of other insoluble situations. Within the framework of capitalism it is impossible to remove these problems. It is obvious that the NEED still exists for abolishing capitalism and introducing Socialism!

More importantly, Blaire is aware of the principles and policies of the Socialist Party of Great Britain but prefers to ignore the fact that the SPGB has consistently, since its organization in 1904, stood alone on the proposition that the only objective of prime importance is:
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Let me emphasize that the real political crisis of the British working class, and the workers of the world, as well, is the lack of class-conscious revolutionary Socialists! Socialism cannot be rammed down the throats of the workers against their wishes. We are not confronted, as Blaire thinks, with the "beginning of the lean years". Rather, we are confronted with the continuation of the lean years, until the workers wake up to their class interests and in their vast numbers win the political power to transfer the means of life from the parasites and transfer it to where it belongs, in the hands of society as a whole. And if I read the signs of the times correctly, such an event is on the horizon. I'm very optimistic about the prospects for Socialism.

Finally, I detect an inference in Blaire's comment on "minority splinter group" that he regards the SPGB as a dogmatic, sectarian party. Actually, the dogmatic sectarians are those who have not learned the lessons of experience of the futilities of attempts to reform and administer capitalism. Socialism is both possible and practical today, here and now. The great drive will be the product of NECESSITY. The alternative now is Socialism is chaos. The insanity of capitalism must be replaced by the sanity of Socialism, if mankind is to survive.
Isaac Rab

Action Replay: Money Corrupts the Beautiful Game (2015)

The Action Replay Column from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
On the 27 May seven current FIFA officials were arrested by the Swiss police at the luxury Hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich. They were there to attend the 65th FIFA Congress, scheduled to include the election of the President of FIFA. These executives are expected to be extradited to the United States on suspicion of receiving US$150 million in bribes.
Part of the investigation, initiated by the FBI, concerns collusion between officials of the continental football bodies for South America (CONMEBOL) and for the Caribbean, Central and North America (CONCACAF) and sports marketing executives seeking to become holders of media and marketing rights for international competitions including FIFA World Cup qualifying tournaments.
The CONCACAF President, Jeffrey Webb, who is also President of the Cayman Islands Football Association, and two sitting FIFA Executive members, Eduardo Li of the Costa Rican Football Federation, and Eugenio Figueredo, formerly of the Uruguayan FA, are amongst those arrested in connection with the investigation.
These arrests concerned alleged bribery, fraud and money laundering in connection with the awarding of media, marketing and hosting rights for FIFA games. An unnamed sports equipment company - subsequently identified as Nike - is alleged to have paid around $40 million in bribes to become the sole provider of footwear and equipment to the Brazil national team.
In the wake of this corruption case it was also reported that in 2008, the General Secretary of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, allegedly transferred $10 million given to FIFA by the South African FA to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, then head of CONCACAF. The payment is a key piece of the US prosecutors' indictment that accuses Warner of taking a bribe in exchange for helping South Africa secure rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The payment from the South African FA had been intended to support football development in the Caribbean. Warner, however, is accused of using $1.6 million of the South African payment to pay off personal loans and credit card debts.
With the amount of money to be made from televising, marketing and hosting in relation to FIFA games it is not surprising that corruption should thrive. In fact, given capitalism, it would be surprising if it hadn't. Football might be better called the Profitable Game than the Beautiful Game.

Utopian socialism (1999)

From the February 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

Utopian socialism, properly so-called, is the name given to socialist aspiration in the era prior to the development of industrial capitalism. It refers to the yearning for an egalitarian society, but without the scientific analysis of social evolution that modern scientific socialism provides.

Before the coming of industrial capitalism, the yearning for an egalitarian society could only be a yearning, without any concrete analysis of social reality. Utopian socialism does not refer, therefore, to the vision of a William Morris, who was a scientific socialist, but to largely pre-capitalist visions of a socialist future. Under this heading come the mediaeval communists together with the Anabaptist and other religiously-motivated sects.

The decaying feudal society that produced the Hutterites and other pre-capitalist utopian socialists could only produce a vision, expressed usually in religious terms. An innumerable range of "heretical" Christian sects come under this heading, most of them expressing the yearning of peasants and the urban poor for "something better" than the world they suffered in. This is the principal reason for the Catholic Church's absolutely savage persecution of such "heresy". The Church represented the feudal ruling class, whose aim had to be to keep the serfs exploitable and in their place. Anabaptism and other communistic self-regulating communities were seen as a threat to that rule; as indeed many were, by emancipating their adherents from the ideological control of the Catholic clergy and hence of the feudal system.

The response of the pre-capitalist communists was to separate themselves from the dominant society. This was the only thing, apart from initiate or participate in widespread peasant revolt (which many did), they could do to realise their socialistic dream in an age in which the social and economic conditions were by no means ripe for converting the dominant society itself into a socialist one. The only answer was to separate oneself and set up alternative communities, in the manner of what we know as the cult, or the religious sect. Some of these sects were more or less democratic, others were authoritarian, but all challenged the existing order. (And in feudal, as in capitalist society, remember, even pacifist separation constitutes defiance.)

In continental Europe, the last great communist movement that accompanied the end of feudalism, that of militant Anabaptism, was bloodily crushed at Münster in Germany in the 16th century. Anabaptism, however, continued to play a part in the English bourgeois revolution of the 1640s, where political groupings such as the Diggers and Ranters aimed at building a communist society, expressing this aspiration in the only way they could as people of their time: in the language of the Bible and Protestant Christianity. In both central Europe and in England, the failure of these early utopian socialists to realise their hopes for an egalitarian society led inevitably to the pacifist reclusiveness and social separation which marks their descendants today: the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Hutterites and other Anabaptist groups in America; and the pacifist, democratic English sect of the Quakers. These groups all represent utopian socialism "forced into retirement" by the social reality of feudal and early capitalist Europe.

Latter-day utopians
The descendants of pre-capitalist utopian socialism have been joined in our time, and throughout the three centuries which separate us from the militant Anabaptists, by new sects advocating intentionally communistic "alternative societies" consisting of people understandably disillusioned by the dominant society of our time—capitalism—and seeking alternative lifestyles to that of the modern wage-slave. These communities range from the genuinely democratic on the one hand, to the authoritarian and cultish on the other. Most, but not all, express their aspirations, like the pre-capitalist communist movements they emulate, in religious terms, Christian or otherwise. They are to be distinguished from scientific socialists not only in their policy of social separation (marked by greater or lesser degrees of reclusiveness), but by the fact that they emphasise the common ownership and consumption of goods, as in Anabaptist and early Christian injunctions. For scientific socialists communism (socialism) entails the common ownership of the means of production.

Scientific socialism comprehends the socialist task to be the transformation of society, now that the economic means for the establishment of a socialist society have been realised. For the past 100 years or so the means for the establishment of socialism as a society have existed. This was not the case prior to the industrial revolution, when socialism could only be utopian, as to its realisation at the time was socially and economically impossible. Likewise, the analysis of capitalist society and of the social development leading up to it provided by Marx in his book Capital could not have been made prior to the industrial revolution.

Today, utopian communities in separation from the dominant (capitalist) society which reigns in all countries court at best a deceptive bliss and, at worst, disaster. The pre-capitalist, utopian communism they espouse in all genuineness necessarily fights a losing battle everywhere against the destructive effects of world capitalism. A polluted river will carry its poison through all valleys; the hydrogen bomb respects no person's health. In a sense the true heirs of the militant Anabaptist and other pre-capitalist communists are not those who still seek to separate themselves from capitalist society but those who realise that a democratic society-wide revolution can at last achieve a society the original utopian socialists could only dream of.
Anthony Walker