Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spotted Banner (1969)

Book Review from the March 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Class Nature of the Soviet State/The Workers' State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism, by Leon Trotsky, New Park Publications (SLL). 4s.

Whatever Trotsky's faults he did display a modicum of intelligence and a fine literary style, neither of which could by any stretch of the imagination be attributed to the so-called Socialist Labour League, his latter-day disciples. So their members should be edified by this republication, if no one else.

The friends and the enemies of the Russian Revolution were agreed that it was Socialist. The theory of Russian State Capitalism was a weird eccentricity. Today, any other theory appears curious in the extreme. Thus do men learn from material conditions. When these tracts were written (1933 and 35) Trotsky swam in the backwash of a great social floodtide. Today history has passed him by, consigned him to those same rubbish-cans he reserved for Martov.

"The Soviet state still remains the historical instrument of the working class in so far as it assures the development of economy and culture on the basis of nationalised means of production." That is the rock bottom of Trotsky's case, reiterated again and again: nationalisation rules out capitalism. It is a foundation stone which crumbles at a glance into sand.

Marx pointed out that wage labour always entails the bourgeois social relation, capital, and that as long as power over people exists, private property exists. According to different historical circumstances, the capitalist class may own bureaucratically through the state or individually outside the state. For that matter: individually through the state (government bonds) or bureaucratically outside the state (Is the whole salary of a Chairman of the Board the price of his labour power?)

All of this is quite lost on the Trotskyists. "The ruling class, where's the ruling class?" they mutter, and settle the question to their own satisfaction with the formula: no stocks, no bonds—so no ruling class. Therefore the Russian bureaucracy is not a class but a caste (always in italics: they are necessary to give this feeble label a bogus significance), which makes all the difference when this caste slaughters workers, invades other countries, and lives in luxury on the backs of its starving underlings.

In modern Russia there is no class exploitation, but only social parasitism! Says Trotsky. After making this distinction he innocently refers to its refutation but passes blindly on: "During the middle ages the clergy constituted a class or an estate, insofar as its rule depended upon a specific system of land property and forced labour." Well, well. So a ruling class needn't own individually, needn't be recruited by inheritance, needn't in fact possess any of the characteristics Trotsky considers so essential to a ruling class when it suits him.

Bureaucratic class rule means that there is private property without private ownership, The bureaucracy owns and its members own through it—not as individuals but by virtue of their office. The Feudal Church is the classic case in Europe. The non-European world, which did not go through the stages of chattel slavery and feudalism, is littered with examples. (See K. A. Wittfogel Oriental Despotism).

An elementary doctrine of Marxism is that of Social Being. we do not assess a society by what it says about itself (in its ideology or laws) but by its actual social relations. In determining the existence of a privileged class we are concerned primarily with the actual class monopoly of the means of production, and only secondarily with legal forms (stocks, shares or state property).

Has Trotsky any stronger arguments? One of them is unanswerable. It hinges on the question how could a socialist revolution evolve gradually into capitalism? How indeed! This poser is certainly an embarrassment to those semi-Trotskyists who persist in the fallacy that there was anything socialist about the October coup. But once you realise that the Russian working-class has never held political power, the question vanishes.

As soon as the Bolsheviks got control they began the process of stamping out every vestige of political democracy. Those who criticised were shot, but also honoured with propaganda broadsides. Lenin's line was to ridicule them as advocates of "pure abstract" democracy. Using a similar trick, Trotsky, faced with the task of defending a "workers's state" which "strangles" the workers, attacks those who claim it is not a workers' state by accusing them of holding "ideal norms." He is arguing that an animal in every single respect like a fox is in some mysterious magical way really a lamb. All those who point to the foxy fangs, ears and bushy tail are derided as proponents of the "ideal norm" of lambs! Trotsky can only state his case by thus resisting any attempt to introduce the slightest discipline in the matter of definitions.

He reveals his lack of grasp of the basic goal of Socialism when he talks of "the monetary-system which will be very much needed for socialist planning." In The Revolution Betrayed he actually terms the abolition of wages an anarchist demand! Those poor old anarchists Marx and Engels!

After losing out in a power struggle for the privilege of presiding over the exploitation of millions, Trotsky, this butcher of the working-class, dares to come before the workers of the world offering them what he ludicrously terms "a clear call and an unspotted banner." Bolshevism and all its offspring are like Bakuninism, Jacobinism and Blanquism, the debris of capitalist revolutions, "revolutions of minorities in the interests of minorities."

Gluttons for punishment (1977)

Book Review from the July 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party and the Working Class by Tom Forester. (Heinemann, £3.75.)

The "WORKING CLASS" of the title of this book are manual workers: unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and foremen. Clerks and all the rest are "middle class", which shows that the author not only does not know Socialist basics but has never heard the words sung to the tune of The Red Flag: "The working class can watch me pass, I've got the foreman's job at last."

Though his definition won't do, what he has to say is interesting. He asks why more than half the manual workers, with the percentage highest among the poorest 8 per cent (Gallup Poll figures 1945-66), are persistent Labour voters. It is not because the Labour Party woos them assiduously. Local party organizations are small, doing little between election times and holding their membership chiefly through the "social" side. In Forester's view the Labour Party "has always had an essentially passive relationship to the working class".

The answer lies partly in its historical relationship with the trade unions, of course. Forester says, correctly, that Keir Hardie and his associates wanted to create a union-backed Labour party because "socialist activity and propaganda in the 1880s and 1890s . . . had seemingly failed to make any headway": thus they set out consciously to win the support of non-Socialists. The existence of a "left wing" wanting Labour success on the same conditions then squalling against the results also dates from that time. (In 1912 the British Socialist Party, angry over the Liberal-Labour alliance in Parliament, urged workers to vote Conservative.)

Given the opportunity to participate in government by the first World War, in 1918 the Labour Party adopted a constitution including the famous Clause IV.  This represented not any turning towards Socialism — which had been rejected at the outset in 1900, and was in any case not stated in Clause IV — but, as Forester puts it, the realization that "it would need to clearly differentiate itself from the other major political parties if it wanted to achieve similar prominence as an alternative government party".

What follows is that the legend of the "de-radicalization" of the Labour Party, the falling away from principles once held, is untrue. Moreover, while the attractive aura of the word "socialism" is exploited, nothing can emerge from it while Labour supporters do not understand what it means. Forester gives as one reason why Labour MPs so readily act like Conservatives that they have no mandate for "a radical challenge to the system". That was the idea at the beginning. The book has some studies of Labour voters and their reasons: which are not markedly different from what Tory or Liberal voters would say.  But the writer does not explain why he is in the Labour Party.
Robert Barltrop 

Black Country blues (1983)

From 'The Place Where I Live' series from the October 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Until the 1960s, West Bromwich buses returning from a foray into Birmingham stopped at "the boundary" outside the Albion football ground and charged a new set of fares. Having climbed all up the long slope through Handsworth to the city limits, they paused for a few minutes at the cast iron pedestal clock on the edge of the pavement. The driver turned  his key in the clock, and they entered a different territory.

On the map, West Bromwich is almost in the middle of the industrial urban sprawl of the West Midlands hemmed in by Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall to the north and the great bloated carcass of Birmingham all round the south. But in working-class thinking West Bromwich is still the beginning of the Black Country. The local government areas have been reorganised and West Midland Passenger Transport Board has subsumed all the old local services but when you cross the boundary, not only accents but also attitudes are slightly different.

One of the factors which helped to maintain the sharp division of the Black Country from Birmingham was coal. The coal seams start at West Bromwich and at one time the town had sixty working mines. Now it has none. A large boating lake occupies the site of the last coal mine to survive, the Jubilee pit and the huge pile of grey slag was used as foundations for the M5 and M6 motorways which now link up here. The workings run for miles around, under what was once the Earl of Dartmouth's estate. All that remains of that is its arched gateway stranded in the middle of the motorway island. But two working farms still struggle to survive in the gap that the estate caused between West Bromwich and Birmingham. The new county borough council has tried to make a virtue out of what was an accident in the anarchic spread of industry and housing. They have christened the gap Sandwell Valley and begun to treat the area as a leisure park, but brick ends and twisted iron poke up through the sparse grass in places, and the boats from the lake are housed in some of the old pit-head buildings.

The other industries which gave West Bromwich its character and a degree of independence as it grew from a collection of small villages round a broom-covered moor have also declined or disappeared completely. There used to be marl pits and small brickworks which produced the blue bricks known as engineering bricks. They have all gone. There was a large glass factory which supplied many parts of the world with precision lighthouse lenses. Gone. There were dozens of iron foundries, large and small, casting an enormous variety of unremarkable components and products. The sites of the large firms are now flat, derelict wastes and only a few of the small specialist companies survive. There is still some steel spring production but steel rolling and steel tube production is finished. The Black Country is becoming cleaner every week.

West Bromwich — like Smethwick, Oldbury, Tipton, Darlaston, Wednesbury and Bilston which lie around it — gained its grimy individuality and cohesion from working with the dirty, basic materials of the industrial revolution. Now that these industries are dying, the reason for the existence of these towns has gone. Even bundled together in the new metropolitan boroughs, their economies are in a precarious state. In a rather pathetic attempt to resist economic pressures, the local council is at present trying to prevent disused industrial sites being taken over for house building in the hope that employing, rate-paying industry will one day return.

As in many other industrial areas of Europe, the decline in the economy has been accompanied by a rise in the level of racial prejudice. West Bromwich has attracted workers  from most parts of the Indian subcontinent as well as from the West Indies and a very high proportion of them are now unemployed. This fact gives scope for a whole range of permutations of false reasoning about the relationship between immigrants and housing, jobs and the willingness to work. What happened in fact was that, towards the peak of the economic boom, immigrants came into the area — and in some cases were recruited in large numbers — to take those dirty, monotonous jobs that local workers were finding themselves able to move out of — jobs in just those industries which have now disappeared, leaving only scars on the landscape. Towards the end of its functional life, the factory of vast corrugated iron sheds that cast car engine cylinder blocks were manned almost entirely by ex-Bengalis and Sikhs. Now only they—and the concrete floor slabs—remain. In the Seventies, the only faces behind the steering wheels of WMPTB buses were black—West Indian. Now it is a comparative rarity to see a black driver on a bus.

West Bromwich is not as derelict and deserted as some of the towns in Britain which were formed round single industries like shipbuilding, steel-making or coal mining; but the same basic pattern has been traced out. Capital moved in and exploited the area's geography, natural resources and labour for as long as acceptable profits could be made. Now that this is no longer so, capital has moved out. Redundant workers in the town accept what has happened stoically, as though it were as inevitable as the weather. By and large, they do not question the tyranny of capital, nor ask who is behind it. Least of all, at present, do they feel that they have the power and the skills to run things differently.
Ron Cook

Greasy Pole: Labour Pains (2015)

The Greasy Pole Column from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Emerging from the dust of defeat ... 'We are an army bruised, beaten, bewildered... Ed Miliband's leadership reinvigorated long-term activists and inspired a new generation of campaigners alike, restoring a sense of hope that Labour could be a party to not only change governments but also change lives...' But then... 'We cannot pretend we won the popular vote, more people chose the Conservatives over us'. But a month later, in less incendiary mood, a piece in The Guardian cast doubt on the effectiveness of the six million doorstep 'conversations' so valued by Miliband as evidence of the party's superior ground view: 'Five and a half million of them could have been ”can you go away please, I've got the washing on?” '. So why the change of emphasis? Stella Creasy – who was of interest to The Greasy Pole a couple of years ago - has announced herself, after only five years on the Back Benches, as a candidate for Deputy Leader of the beaten and bewildered party. She is up against some serious, hardened opposition – for example Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle, Caroline Flint, all of them carrying bruises from similar defeat and confusion in the past.
Red Socks
Creasy came into Parliament in the 2010 election, the MP for Walthamstow. In a pretty tough London constituency like that it must have helped that her parents are stolidly Labour but not that she has an aristocratic background – on her mother's side the Earl of Carlisle, the Cayzers and the Viscount Gort. In her education she had to overcome a less than promising start; at a posh all-girl grammar school she failed her Eleven Plus and, perhaps to demonstrate her blossoming reputation as a rebel, was ejected from an assembly when, in defiance of the school's navy blue uniform, she flaunted red socks. When her family moved to another area she began to demonstrate her abilities and after Cambridge took a PhD at the London School of Economics on Understanding the Lifeworld of Social Exclusion - an intriguing title in contrast with her subsequent career in justifying and tolerating the social exclusion and pressures typical of capitalism's class divide. Before she made it as an MP she worked among other things writing speeches for some tediously disciplined Blair ministers such as Charles Clarke and Douglas Alexander - one of Labour's casualties in Scotland who recently assessed Creasy as '...clearly reimagining the work of an MP... I see her as a genuine pioneer of a new way of doing politics'. Which might have been more impressive as a compliment if Alexander had himself shown so novel a tendency.
Meanwhile Creasy displayed a persistent talent for reaching into the limelight. At first disappointed at being overlooked for a place as a Shadow Minister she filled the gaps in her publicity by taking the lead in a number of media-alluring campaigns. There was the matter of demanding, with the journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, that in the name of equal rights an issue of new bank notes should display the portrait of a woman – which was settled when the Bank of England agreed to use the image of Jane Austen. But a side effect of this was to reveal the existence of some equally passionate people on the other side of the question; Creasy and Criado-Perez were subjected to a virulent stream of abuse and threats of rape and other violence, for which a man was recently sent to prison for four months. Creasy has also turned her attention to the scandal of Pay Day Loans, which have often been the last resort of people driven to desperation by the extremities of impoverishment through unemployment, zero-hour jobs and the like. This is indeed a fertile field of profit; in some cases borrowers have had to repay loans at an interest rate of 272 percent APR and, in the absence of competition, as much as 4000 percent. A leading light in this pitiless application of the profit motive is Wonga and their noxiously provocative TV promotion. Under pressure, Wonga tried to navigate themselves through a climb-down which involved nothing better than a promise to ease the plight of some of the worst affected of their victims.
Estate Agents
Up – or rather down – there with Wonga and the like are the estate agents, who are also revelling in the stress suffered by the victims of the recession. In Walthamstow Creasy organised a local survey of the estate agents and their treatment of borrowers. The result was striking: one firm came out high on approval rating while another was at the very lowest end of the scale. Creasy's response was to visit the office of this last firm and publicly berate them for their relentless pressure on local people who were struggling to afford to buy a property. The firm concerned could only plead that they are the largest in the area, on the assumption that this was a sound argument for their ruthless policy and that the most favoured agent was just a beginner who will soon fall into the same practices as the rest – because that is what making profit is all about. This campaign has met with the approval of the Walthamstow voters, who at the last election increased Creasy's majority to 23,195. But meanwhile the chaos and despair in the Labour Party acts as a fertiliser for ambitions to inherit what historically remains after Miliband, Gordon Brown, Blair, Callaghan and their failure to modify the inexorable brutalities of the capitalist system. But Creasy is not ready to give up even though she has to endure life towards the lower end of the Greasy Pole. In this she has not always been as popular as she might have planned. 'Now she's a public figure and there's a party line she has to toe' was the opinion of a friend. 'She cares about her constituents but she cares about herself more' said a party member, and 'Since when has Stella been interested in the fucking Post Office?' asked a Tory Member after listening to one of her verbal barrages on that subject. Other opinions were: 'pushing too hard...haranguing...too big for her boots'. Within the Commons she has earned two nicknames: there is St Ella to match her adopted pious style and, noting how futile it has been among all those others so desperate to somehow slither upwards, Stella Greasy.

Is Marxism a Class Ethic? (1959)

From the September 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

THE ETHICS OF MARXISM (4) (See Parts 12 & 3)

Marx never denied that an order was to be found in history. He did deny that the order was a non-human or teleological one. He did not deny determinism in history. He denied pre-determinism or fatalism. The ends in history he thought are not realised merely because they are willed by men, but he insisted that the process of social development has no ends to realise which are not willed by men. He states: —
History does nothing—it possesses no colossal riches; it fights no fight; it is rather man—real living man who acts, possesses and fights in everything. It is by no means "History" which uses men as a means to carry out its ends as if it were a person apart; rather History is nothing but the activity of man in pursuit of his ends.
Marx sought an explanation for men's historical activity. His own historical insight discovered it was not in what men think about themselves—not in the Slogans and battle cries of "contending interests"—not in their abstract ideas or in the ideals they proclaim, but in concrete human needs and the social situation out of which these needs arise. It is these needs—albeit they have taken on the character of class needs since the passing of primitive society—which constitute the dynamic of historic activity. It is these needs which set men their problems and which give them the impulse and will to overcome them.

Class Needs and Ethics
Along with the development of the material forces of Society, goes the development of human needs, quantitatively and qualitatively. It is these human needs which lie at the base of the objective possibilities of social development and which men through concerted social action seek to realise. In a class society such action is class action. Social need are not subjective or personal. They are objective and as integral a part of the social situation as the social relations of production themselves. From these social needs—in class society they take the form of class needs—arise the theories and ideals which constitute theoretical responses to concrete social demands. Marx never denied the influence of men's beliefs on their social activity. What he made explicit was the historical impact which made "ruling" ideas projections of class interests and under what conditions these ideas grew, flourished and declined. For Marx no study of social behaviour had any serious claims to objectivity which failed to take into account the refracting nature of class interests.

It should be clear then that one cannot understand the ethical values of an epoch without reference to concrete social needs. Marx opposed the classless morality of Kant with its categorical imperatives and "private guilts" for that reason: just as he opposed the morality of Feuerbach and Hess, who having got rid of the divine attributes of God, then transferred these attributes to men and instead of worshipping an abstract deity, worshipped an abstract humanity. While ethics and human needs are inseparable in class society, they take on the character of class needs. A genuine ethic is never then a question of negative moral injunctions but basically a series of positive demands and in a class society they are class demands. From this standpoint, Marxism is frankly a class ethic. Moreover, in the light of its own assumptions about extant society it is a revolutionary ethic. It rejects a timeless, placeless morality with no specific application to concrete circumstances because it hides from men the real nature of the conditions which give rise to their social problems.

Humanism and Class Needs
Marx's criticism of the current humanism, too, is the refusal to relate humanistic assumptions with the objective tendencies of social development and hence the failure to see that existing social relations of production determine the social existence and the conditions of life for the vast majority and that the inhuman consequences of present day society are bound up with a form of social organisation—Capitalism.

Marx never grounded his theories in the belief of a pre-established harmony of human nature based in alleged pre-established natural or divine laws. He saw men as they actually were in the work-a-day world—a world which itself had been the outcome of an actual historic process. The fact that since the advent of private property, history had been class history and individuals, class individuals was not something to be deplored, but something to be understood. Only in that way was it possible for the real nature of the social problems to be grasped and surmounted.

One cannot even begin to talk of the essential unity of men from a so-called classless ethic, in a class world which cuts them in half and where the ties between men take the alienated form of exchange relations. It is no answer to say as some humanists do that Socialism would be of ultimate benefit to the exploiting capitalists as well as the exploited worker. Such humanists see the working class in the vague category of the underdog. But the needs of the working class are not merely the alleviation of distress or poverty but the outcome of its economic function as a class, unshared by the privileged group. It is the capitalist division of labour which mutilates the worker, not the capitalist, and leaves at least the latter as an unproductive whole and not as in the case of the former a fragmentised productive appendage. It is Capitalist Society which has stripped its producers of their productive and most basic human capacities. "Denied the growth of the powers that slumber them" and impoverished their individuality. The most urgent class need of the wealth producers is not a social and moral reevaluation within the framework of existing society or a mere quantitative addition to current class-conditioned existence. What their working class human nature must demand if it is to attain to a truly human level is the abolition of the inhuman consequences of the present state of affairs and the integration of the human personality into a collective social whole.

Marx refused to disassociate ethics and ideals from economic development and the function of social classes. A long historical development had transferred all productive processes to the numerically largest section of the capitalist community: yet this section as a class is unfree so long as a private property system with its appropriate division of labour separates the produce of their labour from them and places it in other hands as a means of class domination, and as a corollary to this confines their human powers within the narrow and nihilistic orbit of capitalist production. But as the sole productive class they alone have the active and hence dynamic function capable of transforming the existing social situation. Nevertheless, they can only emerge from class unfreedom to classless liberty by becoming conscious of the path they must follow.

It should be clear then that for Marx the "what ought to be" must be functionally related to the "what is"; that is why any genuine ethic must be a demand for something capable of realisation. By this criterion the Marxist Ethic is richer in human content than any other set of contemporary values.

Class Ideals and Social Reality
Marx refused to accept some absolute scale of values which claimed an above the struggle neutrality. In this way, are we to understand his refusal to talk in the name of "Humanity," "Justice," "Freedom." For Marx, the abstract character of these categories could be shown by asking, Whose humanity? Justice for Whom? and Freedom for What? and in a class society, the answers will always reveal a class standpoint. In a changing world, men's needs cannot remain static: nor for that reason can their ethical values. As the social environment develops, so do men's needs, and with them their concrete ethical demands.

Marx has been ignorantly accused of denying that ideals are a valid part of social reality. On the contrary, he held that morality was as old as man himself. There have been no human societies without ideals and moral values of some kind. What Marx went on to investigate was the social source of these ideals. On whose behalf were they fought; what expectations did they seek to justify?His answer was that this could be most fruitfully found in the study of class relations. Ruling ideas—Social ideals—are, said Marx, only historically effective when they express material (class) interests. This explains why some ideas triumph and others fail. It explains why ruling ideas are modified. Why sometimes these "material interests" demand more liberty, more democracy, more equality and sometimes a restriction of these things. Ideas play an important role in history. Their significance can, however, only be evaluated by seeing the integral connection of ideas with human needs and interests. But Marx went further by investigating what specific class interests are crucial. What is the theoretical and ideal formulation of these class demands? How do they establish themselves as ideologies? In this way did Marx formulate one of the prime canons of Historical Materialism.

Need for Class Assertion
Marx did not glorify selfishness or unselfishness. He never treated them as abstract qualities, but as concrete expressions of social behaviour in a given social context. To the accepted morality, working class demands, strikes, etc., often appear as selfish forms of class assertion, but it is only through class assertion that some decent existence can be won for its members. Without class assertion, the workers would forfeit their own human claims; to give up their struggle for maintaining or improving their living standards would lead to social and material deterioration as well as moral abasement. That is why Marx was consistently bitter against those who sought to nullify working class action by pleas and brotherly love, and praying for the "Soul" of the "Enemy." In present society, self-assertion not self-denial must be the watershed of working class morality.

Mr. Taylor (Is Marxism a Humanism*) sees the Social Revolution as an explosive force. That may well be so in that it blows up the base and superstructure of the old society. It will not be, as he seems to imagine, a blind explosive force whose parts will be picked up and pieced together by an elite of "Social Engineers" into a new social design. Whatever explosive impact the Social Revolution produces, it will first take place in the consciousness of men and will include their skills. techniques and Social experiences. A new Society can only be built by "new men." The Social Revolution will mark their emergence.

It is amazing that Marx's critics should have so misunderstood his conception of men. That the line of historical development leads to man's conscious control of all social agencies was central to his humanistic assumptions. For him the abolition of classes would see the emergence of the classless individual freely associating with others of his kind. What he demanded above all else was the abolition of a state of affairs whose productive agencies crippled, even annihilated the essential human elements of personality. An alleged Social Revolution which subjugated and physically destroyed members of another class as well as workers would have filled him with abhorrence.

A man is known by what he fights for. Mars all his life fought for the removal of oppression and inequality. His goal was Socialised Humanity. His concern for the individual was evidenced as early as his doctor's dissertation, and later his attacks on censorship and the filching of peasants' wood rights. To suggest as Mr. Taylor does that his political doctrines and the ethical values associated with them have given in any way theoretical support for Soviet Society and unfree Soviet man, is either gross misrepresentation or misunderstanding.

In any case both are indefensible.

In the next issue we shall conclude the series on Marxist Ethics by discussing the concept—NECESSITY AND FREEDOM.
Ted Wilmott

* See June, July and August Socialist Standard 

God's Own Copper (1987)

From the March 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard
God works in mysterious ways. Given my love of God and my belief in God and in Jesus Christ, I have to accept that I may well be used by God in this way. (James Anderton, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, 18 January 1987)
It has been quite a while since God has chosen a human prophet to inform us mortals what is going on in his supernatural mind. A couple of thousand years ago he chose a popular illusionist (virgin birth, turning water into wine, making the blind able to see: the usual tricks) who told the oppressed to submit to their masters and wait for eternal happiness in a paradise beyond the grave. The meek shall inherit the earth, said Jesus. The meek are still waiting for the inheritance to occur. The wise have more sense than to accept a morality of meekness. According to his evidence in the dock at The Old Bailey, Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper (mass murderer of women) heard a voice from God telling him to commit the murders. The Judge was unimpressed and tried to decide whether the defendant was insane. Odd really, when you consider the Judges accept evidence in courts as being more likely to be truthful because it is sworn on oath to this invisible Big Man called God. The latest recipient of God's message is Chief Constable Anderton, who by his own account was on his way to a seminar on AIDS when God forced his words into his mind, leaving the poor copper no alternative but to make a fool of himself repeating them in public, Said the divinely-inspired officer,
Why do these people freely engage in sodomy and other obnoxious sexual practices knowing the dangers involved? As the years go by I see ever increasing numbers of them swirling around in a human cesspit of their own making. I worry intensely about the real possibility of whole generations being wiped out and nations decimated.
He may worry intensely about this curious vision of increasing numbers of human beings creating their own cesspits with a view to wiping out future generations. He would however do better to worry intensely about the whole generations who stand in immense risk of being blown to pieces by capitalism's bombs and the chemical and biological weapons which are sick and murderous, but which have received no condemnation to date either from God or his specially picked, uniformed messengers. Needless to say, the moral totalitarians who are ready and waiting to tighten the chains on the recently too-permissive wage slaves were quick to bow down to the newly-discovered prophet, The Sun, the paper printed by scabs and read by dummies, quoted Anderson's words and declared that
All these words were exactly right. Mr Anderton was merely giving voice to what every reasonable man and woman feels. (Editorial, Top Cop's Words of Wisdom, 22 January 1987).
So you either agree with God's top cop or you are by definition unreasonable. According to the Gospels (a confused assortment of unhistorical stories and reported hallucinations), Christ said that those who did not agree with his every word would be eternally damned — left to burn in Hellfire forever. It seems as if Jesus had a conception of compassion and tolerance similar to that of the Sun. Indeed, the paper which is so crazy that it has to be printed behind barbed wire was not slow to point out the similarity between Christ and Anderton:
There are suggestions that James Anderton is mad. The same charge could just as easily have been brought against Jesus Christ when He came to Earth.
Indeed, it could. Let us for a moment entertain this religious fantasy that the world and all of us who inhabit it are the children of a Holy Father — never seen, but ever feared — who rules over us and must be obeyed to the letter of his commandments. Now, it tells us something about the condition of millions of workers if they can be persuaded that they are little children in need of an invisible Father, but let us examine the Christian-Anderton conception of fatherhood. God, The Father (he also works as a Son and a Holy Ghost) tells us that certain forms of behaviour are wrong. Some of his children disobey the God-Father and do what is "wrong". His fatherly response is to invent a fearful, painful disease which will wipe out vast numbers of his children, thus teaching them to obey him in future. In recent years we have read in newspapers like the Sun about fathers who have acted in this way: they have beaten their children, put out cigarettes on their bodies, locked them in drawers. These constitute a small minority of fathers but we all know of these cases and our response is that of horror and outrage. How can a parent, however frustrated they might be at the behaviour of their children, be so cruel and vicious and crazy? But according to the Christians like Anderton, this is precisely what we should expect a father to do: the only way to teach workers the right way to behave is to kill off a few of them for behaving the wrong way. If God was a father he would need to be given help by others less deranged than himself; his children would need to be taken into care. That is what those who think they are God's children need: to be taken into care — not the care of another phoney god-image or of the state or of offensive and fascistic police chiefs but of themselves. Transcending religious folly means learning that we are not little children destined to obey a Master, but that we are capable of controlling our own lives. As a devout Christian prophet and as a leader of uniformed state coercion, James Anderton will not like the sound of that: people making their own decisions — no gods, no cops, no bosses? That will give him something to worry intensely about.

In the USA, where the God Squad make plenty of dollars out of screwing up workers' minds, there is no shortage of Anderton-style fanaticism. Last October seven Christian families won a case against the State of Tennessee on the grounds that books used to teach children to read were "heathen". They argued that letting children read Goldilocks and the Three Bears encourages breaking and entering. Other objections — upheld by the court — were to a picture of a boy cooking and a story of a wife challenging her husband's authority, both of which were held to be contrary to God-made Nature. The State of Louisiana has a law, passed in 1981, forcing schools to teach the theory of creation to the exclusion of other, scientifically based,  theories. It seems that the current moral backlash in the USA is leading to a number of cases being brought to court by Christians aiming to censor ideas from state education. According to a report in the People (22 November 1986)
Thirty-nine per cent of the (legal) attacks occurring in the last year have led to the actual removal or restriction of the "offending" material.
Curricula dealing with subjects like nuclear war and the Nazi holocaust have been attacked. Literature from Homer to Hemingway has been attacked and sometimes removed from library shelves. Texts mentioning evolution have been vetoed by school boards. Some science text publishers are already practising "self-censorship". One study found that half of all biology texts today don't cover evolution adequately and one-sixth don't cover it at all.
So much for The Land of the Free.

Religion and morality have always been about forcing people to conform in their ideas. The conformity required is that which meets the needs of the profit-stealing ruling class. From James Anderton to the anti-scientific Christian bigots of the USA "God's word" is the sermon of ignorance and unconsciousness. No self-respecting worker will fall for it for long. Let us banish the Gods from our minds and the capitalists from the earth. Without such impostors on our freedom to live as brothers and sisters, humankind will discard our bosses' stinking morals as we learn to live together as a human family of equals.
Steve Coleman