Sunday, July 5, 2015

From a Veteran (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

A member of the party for over 50 years, I can view the advance of real Socialist knowledge, from the early days of the proverbial soap box to our indoor meetings at large halls and the concentration of members at a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Our organisation derives its income from members of the working class; there is no  political levy to finance our candidates in parliamentary elections, nor grants from huge industrial corporations. The Declaration of Principles laid down by those few clear-thinking Socialists in 1904 has been the basis on which the policy of the party has been formulated. It has never been found necessary to alter them; they meet the conditions of today as they did in the early days of the motor car.

From the first issue of the Socialist Standard, our attitude to Capitalism has been one of opposition, with no compromise, whilst other organisations professing similar Socialist teachings have fallen by the wayside into the morass of reformism. Over the years we have combined forces with Socialist parties whose Declaration of Principles is based on our own—in Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, Ireland, and even the small island of Jamaica. A tribute, this, to those pioneers who 60 years ago founded the Socialist Party of Great Britain and produced the first issue of the Socialist Standard, which is now sent to many countries abroad.

The ramifications of Capitalism are world wide, notwithstanding the new dictators who talk glibly of "Socialising" the new countries over which they rule. When the "liberation" chants have died away and the fireworks have fizzled out, the workers will still find themselves living in poverty. Only the formation of a Socialist Party in those countries will provide the means of exposing the fallacy of having dictators or leaders.

Those parties will be able to join with our fellows throughout the world to abolish Capitalism and assist in the birth of the next system of society, Socialism.

Obituary: Harry Gratton (1976)

Obituary from the November 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

We learn with deep regret of the death in Paignton of Comrade Harry Gratton at the age of 82. Although for the last twenty years or so he had been "out of the swim" he was an active member for many years.

His father was among the first to join the Party. When, in his teens, Harry asked him about his views, he was told to "go and find out about them". This he did and joined the Party not very much later.

Harry Gratton was not his real name. He was drafted in the Merchant Navy in the 1914-18 war. Granted compassionate leave for family  reasons, he changed his name and went to Dublin. There he worked first as a photographer's assistant and later on his own, lodging with a Party sympathizer. He was detained for questioning several times as a suspected deserter (Southern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom then). Once a guard recognized him as a navy man by the way he folded his coat to use as a pillow, but did not give him away.

Everyone who visited our 70th Anniversary Exhibition at Head Office or read that special issue of the S.S. will remember photos taken at the 1921 and 1922 Annual Conferences. These were Harry's work. He enjoyed telling how he offered copies to members at a shilling each, money to go to Party funds. When no-one took up the offer, he was in two minds: upset that no-one was prepared to pay (a shilling was a lot of money in those days when the SOCIALIST STANDARD cost 2d) but relieved because he couldn't really afford to print them free.

During the heavy unemployment in the early 1930s Harry (with no previous experience but plenty of self-confidence) applied for and got a job as a carpenter on a building site. From this he progressed to master carpenter and then builder in his own right. After being secretary of the old Dagenham branch he moved to Devon about 25 years ago and continued building houses until failing eyesight forced him to retire. Comrades in Jamaica remember with pleasure the trip Harry and his late wife Jean made there at that time.

Modest in his own requirements, he always generously responded to appeals on behalf of any Socialist cause. To the end he continued in efforts to convince friends and acquaintances of the correctness of our case. A knowledgeable Socialist, his fund of stories of the old days were endless. His kindness and sense of humour made him a wonderful companion. We shall miss him sadly.

My Mother (1997)

Short Story from the September 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is only now that I am so much older that I can appreciate what a tenacious character my mother was. She foraged and ferreted for her family. She knew little about politics apart from what she heard from my father, but what she did know was that for some reason the system was biased against her and so she was determined to outwit it whenever possible.

Mum was the youngest of a large family of brothers and sisters. Her father was a policeman and her mother gave music lessons and ran a corner shop, but she had a reputation as a psychic too and was renowned for miles around for "charming" off warts. I remember that in my grandparents' house there were framed pictures of the Royal Family and also one of Jesus, other than that I can recollect no special pervading philosophy. So into this environment came my father, a well-educated young man from a well-off Scottish background, and of course he was a committed communist.

My mother was attending a secretarial college but she was never to use her secretarial skills because when seventeen she met my father. They were married quite soon, and about a year later my eldest brother was born, but Mum once told me that she was very naive with no experience of the working world, and even less idea of how to be a wife and mother.

During the Second World War years when my younger brother and I were to be evacuated (for the third time) to some, as yet, unknown destination, Mum got a list from our school instructing her about what clothes we should take with us, and I remember that she looked at this list, sighed and said sadly, "I haven't got the money for any of these things." But I think now that the solution was already in my mother's heart.

She took us into town to a well-known department store, and with the help of a kindly assistant, got us to try on coats, shoes and blazers, and then when the assistant had disappeared temporarily, to tend to another customer, she took us each by a hand and led us calmly out of the store and into the street where we caught a tram home . . . still clad in our glorious new clothes. Now at the age of nine I knew that society did not allow people to have anything for nothing. On the tram I said in a small voice, "You didn't play, Mum." She gazed out of the tram window, a pretty woman, ageing prematurely, "Hush," she said, "They've got more than I have. They won't miss it." And that is how it always was with her.

Whenever she felt it to be absolutely necessary she would steal, and always from department stores, never from individuals or small shops. Maybe she took to heart Dad's pronouncement that "property is theft". I remember one freezing winter's evening when there was no coal and no wood for a fire, she left the house, was gone for about an hour, and came back carrying several planks of wood. To this day I do not know the identity of the person whose fence she dismantled and I know it was the ONLY time she deviated from her forays on department stores for theft of a more personal nature, but I still think of the warmth in the house that evening.

To earn a little money Mum played the piano in pubs. I can see her now sitting at the piano, beers lined up on the lid of the instrument, whilst a perfect arch of ash hung down from the cigarette dangling from her lips. But at home she played Beethoven, Chopin and Strauss and we had some wonderful musical evenings. Later she had a dance band, there was a little more money and we were marginally better off.

She was ever conscious of what she thought of as her husband's intellectual and social superiority. Though witty and amusing herself I know that she constantly felt eclipsed by Dad's confidence and knowledge, and as we all grew up and the eldest left home she often became depressed. Then she would steal things she most certainly did not need. One day she was stopped by a store detective and there was a court case, but mum beguiled the magistrate into concluding that there was not enough evidence to prove theft. She insisted that the goods she had stolen were still hers and infuriated the store detective by demanding them back. And she got them!

But the last memory I have of Mum is when she was eighty-five and received a summons for non-payment of her Poll Tax. She was at this time very frail and becoming progressively nervous of going out and of crowded places, and yet she braved a court in South East London where hundreds of others gathered to protest and there she voiced her feelings about the injustice of the Tax. She died tow years later after a lifetime of struggle.
Heather Ball

Punk rock's silver jubilee (2002)

From the June 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard
Oh bondage, up yours!” - Poly Styrene
The angry, rebellious, nihilistic sounds of 1977 that were known as “punk rock” changed my life and that of thousands of others. It was not that nihilism itself was attractive to me. Indeed at the age of 15 I was already thumbing the works of Karl Marx and the Socialist Standard, and moving away from merely opposing the class system towards arguing for a better, classless, one. For me, however, punk was the soundtrack of my budding revolutionary stance for a political alternative to capitalism, namely socialism, a society without wage labor, money, classes, or the state. Few of the lyrics of the songs from this musical tradition were ever so explicit in expounding this vision. No, for those of us who were teenagers at the time, punk was not in any meaningful sense a movement (as the World Socialist Movement was) as much as a moment when everywhere there appeared glorious signs of cracks in the fabric of the system's ideology.
So many youngsters, including myself, were giddy in the very mania of that moment as it offered us permission to revel in our anger and disgust at the world with its vacuous culture. We were participants in an extraordinarily surreal social event that outdid, in its sheer extent, the effects of the works of prior surreal artists equally intent on putting their spanners in the works such as the early Lettrists or Dadaists, or the later Situationist International that did more explicitly critique the systemic totality of commodity production with its alienating spectacle.
One could observe elements of that rebellious punk attitude in the young Elvis Presley of the “Sun Sessions” before he became a second-rate movie star and a GI (and a full twenty years before he died - the very year punk was born - as a sad, bloated, drug-addicted, lifeless monster unable to face his impossible fame). Similarly, the 1965 single My Generation by The Who also embodied the spunk of what would become punk, but was a relatively rare occurrence at that time. After the ebullient garage rock tradition of the 1960s (e.g. the Standells, Love, Chocolate Watch Band, Sonics, Electric Prunes, 13th Floor Elevators), the Glam Rock bands such as the Sweet, Slade, Alice Cooper, T. Rex, Suzi Quatro, and early Bowie, similarly stood out like a sore thumb with their loud clothes, boisterous, decadent manner and androgynous look.
Rock music, which had begun in the early 1950s as an initially uniquely homogeneous and hugely marketable expression of youth culture, had turned at times political in the 1960s, but by the early 1970s had evolved into the staid and conservative domain of millionaire rock bands selling out sport stadiums – The Who, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson and other exponents of so-called “prog rock”. That is why an increasingly discontent brand of British musician (and, better still, non-musician!) wanting to express his or her alienation from – and disgust at – the status quo found inspiration in the angry American sound of the MC5, New York Dolls, Stooges and eventually the Ramones, who played legendary concerts in London on 4 July 1976 (with the Flamin' Groovies and the Stranglers), and on 5 July at Dingwalls, to an audience that included future members of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Damned, Generation X, Sex Pistols, and the Clash.
Rock musical trends tend to reflect the economic state of the marketplace. The invasion of Beatlemania and that poppy, jangly, pretty sound itself (after the Beatles had abandoned their own Cavern-era punk sensibility in order to assimulate to the requirements of a major label career) were simply reflections of the market optimism that accompanied the boom of the economy during that time, and the creation of the youth market, which in rock was largely a rehash of black soul or blues music packaged for a white audience (from Bill Haley to Elvis through to the Beatles). This post-war market made the cuddly Mop-Tops, it wasn't the other way around as the impact of the Fab Four is often portrayed. The Vietnam war and the progressive slumping of the economy into the 1970s, a time of inflation, massive unemployment, strikes, and general discontent, fuelled the disco and progressive rock sounds as consumers fled into a fluffier escapism. Punk rock was the other side of the dialectical tension, the nihilistic side that contrasted the misery of the times with the hypocrisy of such events as the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebration in 1977 and of culture in general, like the rock music industry itself (“because the music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life” as Morrissey of the Smiths was to sing in “Panic” a decade later).
God saves the queen
Despite its modest beginnings in 1976 with such pub rock bands as the Stranglers and Eddie and the Hot Rods, 1977 was the year that punk finally exploded. Myself, my friends and an entire generation had never heard songs exhibiting such courage as that of the Sex Pistols and of dozens of other bands that crawled out of the woodwork with ripped clothes, colorful hair and safety pins in their cheeks. One could not, and still cannot, hear them without being affected, infected (“God save the queen” Johnny Rotten sang during that Silver Jubilee year, “the fascist regime, they made you a moron, a potential H-bomb . . . god save the queen, she ain't no human being, there is no future in England's dreaming, don't be told what you want, don't be told what you need … god saves the queen, 'cos tourists are money, and our figure head is not what she seems” – this song went to Number One in the Top 20 although actual listings of hits in the English charts left a puzzling empty space in their highest place as the song had been officially banned by the BBC).

Picture by Gee Vaucher: 'Bloody Revolutions'

The album “Germ-free Adolescents” by the X-Ray Spex contained the wonderful Oh Bondage Up Yours! critique of patriarchal domination. The song Obsessed With You was about the packaging of artists by their management but could just as well have been (as Poly Styrene's very name also suggested) about the alienating life of consumption (“you are just a concept, you are just a dream, you're just a reflection of the new regime, you are just a symbol, you are just a theme, you're just another figure for the sales machine”). The song Art-I-Ficial , as the title cleverly implies, was a more precise attempt to find the lost self in the world of commodity production, of the rule of things (“I know I'm artificial but don't put the blame on me, I was reared with appliances in a consumer society”).
The Adverts were one of the most fascinating, musically adept, and political of the early punk bands (having been formed in 1976), exemplified by the songs on the classic album Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts. “Bored Teenagers” was amusingly about “bored teenagers, looking for love, or should I say emotional rages.” “No time to be 21” was a song about being young in a society without a future, with “no hope and all that shit, no chances, no plans, I think I'll be somebody else, or else a madman, it's no time to be 21, to be anyone. We'll be your untouchables, we'll be your outcasts, we don't care what you project on us, it's no time to be 21.” The Adverts' songs were often dark (“Drowning Men” and “Bombsight Boy” don't get more Orwellian as descriptions of life in capitalism), and more in the realist tradition, but also tended to inspire and empower (from Drowning Men again, “shall we rise from sunken places, walk the streets, unnatural graceless, wipe the smile from your faces, if we can make it”). In not only facing, through these songs, the sheer ugliness and debasing of life in the system, but facing it together, there often came (and still comes) a courage to keep going, a human reaching out of the ghetto for the sun, for the future, for our future, perhaps. That I think is the power of the nihilism in punk rock that has been all too often misunderstood – the affirmation that is often found in negation. It is after all a rejection of the totality and not just its parts that will yield for us the new world that we will posit in its place. Punk was similarly a throwing of earth upon the whole grave that something beautiful might just grow from it. Or so it felt to me and to thousands of others.
“Are you taking over or are you taking orders? Are you going backwards or are you going forwards?” asked the Clash in White Riot from their first album. Their songs tended to suggest the romantic barricades version of revolution that we all know from history only leads to more violent repression, reactionary backlash, or further mystification, to the majority, of the revolutionary struggle which becomes falsely identified with impassioned rebelliousness rather than a calculated move by the masses to empower themselves once and for all. The Clash songs also tended to suggest those brands of reformist leftism (“Why not phone up Robin Hood and ask him for some wealth distribution?” in “White Man In Hammersmith Palais”) that were rife in England at that time what with the more militant branches of the Labor Party or the SWP. That is why as a real socialist I tended to be more inspired by the punk bands that did not have such overt political agendas, as they allowed me to interpret the songs on my own, and allowed their songs to truly act as the chorus of my own ideas
Stations of the crass
Even though socialists critique the majority of anarchists for their gradualism, reformism and avoidance of a political means to abolish capitalism, nonetheless the anarchist punk band Crass wrote many songs with which as a socialist I strongly identified. The songs on the album Penis Envy – possibly the greatest feminist musical work ever – featured sharp and humorous put downs of patriarchy (Beta Motel, Berkertex Bribe, Smother Love, Dry Weather), scathingly ironic descriptions of the life development of workers from birth to death (Systematic Death), and a brilliant critique of the left and the right's ideology (Where Next Columbus? – with the attack upon Marxists clearly one upon Marx's many false prophets who sprouted in the 20th Century after his death). Crass's album Stations of the Crass excavated as completely as is possible on four sides of a double-album the bowels of capitalist power, exploitation, war, poverty, ideology, and culture. These two albums remain possibly two of the finest works of political songwriting to date.
I am not he, nor master, nor lord no crown to wear, no cross to bear in stations.
I am not he, nor shall be, warlord of nations –
these heroes have run before me, now dead upon the flesh piles, see, waiting for their promised resurrection. There is none, nothing but the marker, crown or cross, in stone upon these graves.
Promise of the ribbon was all it took,where only the strap would leave it's mark upon these slaves.
What flag to thrust into this flesh, rag, bandage, mop in their flowing death?
Taken aside, they were pointed a way, for god, queen and country.
Now in silence they lie. They ran before these masters,
children of sorrow as slaves to that trilogy -
they had no future.
They believed in democracy, freedom of speech,
yet dead on the flesh piles I hear no breath, I hear no hope,
no whisper of faith from those who have died
for some others' privilege - Out from your palaces, princes and queens!
Out from your churches, you clergy, you christs!
I'll neither live nor die for your dreams,
I'll make no subscription to your paradise – Crass

Punk rock also brought an exciting and refreshing infusion of women and their points of view into a domain previously dominated by the male crotch. The Au Pairs, Crass, Delta 5, Essential Logic, Penetration, the Raincoats, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits, X-Ray Spex are the most obvious examples. Indeed, punk opened songwriting into literally any arena, but the political was rock's last breach of conquest. The Gang Of Four (the very name says it all) was possibly the most famous band to explicitly attack the system. The commodification of sex, the critique of the Great Man theory of history, the disgust with a society of such pervading dehumanizing rules and regulations, the scandals of those in power, and the profiteering of the entertainment industry, were some of the topics attacked in their albums. This was tight, often reggafied, punk that blasted the system with its catchy hooks.

Crass announced in one of its first few songs that “punk is dead.” They were so right – and so early in its development. Punk was born partly as a fashion commodity, and as its market expanded, it lost its shock value and became a staple in the cultural shop window, brand A to reggae's brand B, soul's brand C, and jazz's brand D. Ripped shirts were selling at expensive prices. Record labels were gobbling up as many punk bands as they could, until the market was so saturated that they started laying them off in anticipation for the Next Big Things: New Wave, Indie Pop, Grunge and Hip Hop. A Mohawk barely lifts an eyelid today. This was not totally ironic. Punk, or at least the Sex Pistols, had been partially concocted by a businessman, Malcolm McLaren, versed in Situationist theory and well oiled in the marketing power of shock value and youth appeal.
Still, for all its commercialisation, punk was inspired by a thousand singers and musicians, many of whom could barely play their two and a half chords. They were writing super-catchy hooks to insightful and rebellious lyrics aimed at drilling holes into the system's ideology. It embodied a paradox; it was part rebel, part fashion. But it brought rock as an art form to its total undoing – never again could a pop song be heard without one's nose wrinkling in distaste and derision. Among those who had been fed such staples as the classic singles by the Buzzcocks, Clash, Only Ones, Pistols, Crass, Adverts, Damned, Jam, Kleenex, Penetration, Saints, Boys, Stiff Little Fingers, U.K. Subs, Sham 69, or Wire, to name just a few, who could stomach the many styles of pop that followed, even the rebellious ones? Only hip-hop could be seen as punk's successor, expressing the alienation and disempowerment of African-Americans as punk had with British youth a decade earlier. 1970s punk was of course not a totally British phenomenon. Classic punk sprouted in all continents, besides Europe, mainly in Asia (Japan in particular), Australia, and North America.
Punk's energy was and is infectious. It was a unique cultural phenomenon that has long been gone, though its surreal and revolutionary spirit could be heard for decades before and after it. It lives today mainly in the memories of those who shared its moment, and those who play the massive musical legacy it left behind. It was not intended to collect dust in a museum of the popular song. Rather, it was intended to replace the silent museums of death with the loud cries of the living. In that endeavor, even though few of its songs were avowedly socialist, it may perhaps be not all that far from the socialist's heart.
Dr. Who

Identity: Individual and Collective (2015)

From the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Just occasionally the entertainment media gives us a glimpse of the social realities that it tries, so desperately, to obscure. One such unlikely instance of this was a show devised by the illusionist Derren Brown. In it he had a group of about a dozen people from three different cities (London, New York and Amsterdam – if I recall correctly) place their hand on a sheet of paper and draw around it adding their signatures in the centre of the outline. He then took the papers away and promised that on his return he would deliver to each person an in-depth account of their psychological characteristics. An hour or so later he returned and delivered his written analysis to each person of the group. Almost without exception the individuals of the group were astonished (and some rather embarrassed) by the insights into what they believed to be the most intimate elements of their character. The climax of the performance came as a result of Brown’s request that they exchange papers between themselves and the subsequent realization that what was written on them was identical.
What is surprising to socialists was the astonishment people exhibit when confronted with evidence of just how much we share in terms of our hopes and needs. It is what unites us, we maintain, rather than what divides us that defines humanity. I say we are surprised but perhaps this is rather disingenuous to the results of our analysis of capitalism and, in particular, the understanding of the ideology that sustains it. The cult of ‘individualism’ is, of course, one of the cornerstones of bourgeois ideology – but just how have they managed to convince us that ‘there’s no such thing as society’ but only individuals. It is an obvious political advantage to keep one’s opponents from acting collectively (which, ironically, the ruling class rarely fail to do) but even those who may well oppose the politics of the ruling elite demur from entering into any collective political identity. What exactly is it in our culture that makes the statement ‘society is made up of individuals’ acceptable but the equally logical contention that ‘individuals are made up by society’ an anathema?
Socially produced
Most of us would admit that the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the technology we use are all socially produced – why then is there a reluctance to acknowledge that the ideas we have and even the very language we use to express them are also social products? Indeed without this socialised aspect of our culture we could not verbally communicate and would have no ideas.
In what dialecticians call the theory of internal relations we learn, amongst many other lessons, that to understand the individual we have to conceive the whole and vice-versa. Without a concept of the wood (forest) we would only see a collection of trees and have no knowledge of how the ecosystem defines the individual tree. Our culture insists on a discrete analysis (the perspective of the one viewing ‘the other’) in almost all of its understanding of everything. To continue the forest metaphor we would be at a loss to explain the tiger’s behaviour and appearance without reference to its habitat. In the same way any concept of the human individual is dependent on the idea of ‘society’.
So we can be as bold as to say that all of our ideas (abstracts) are dependent on our cultural and historical context and that some of these are more politically obvious than others. The pressures and ideology of capitalism make the cult of the individual an obvious choice for most people trying to understand who and what they are. Although we produce everything socially the access to what we have created is only as an individual consumer. It is this alienating factor within commodity production that reinforces the prison cell of the egotistical self that is essential to the political construct of the ’individual’. A friend once stated that only an event that directly concerned him as an individual could give him a feeling of ‘reality’ in contrast to any political activity. In other words the factors that brought about the event were of little interest to him (the political context) because of the lack (until it became personal) of any egotistical content.
Many have said to me down the years that ‘they cannot wait for the revolution’, and said this in defence of innumerable reformist activities, but this again only indicates the self-indulgence of the ego. What has just been said does not indicate a rejection of ‘individuality’; it is a rejection of the liberal ideological concept of individualism which we conceive of as one of the most destructive political ideas masquerading as humanism. The great irony is that without a collective (class) identity the majority can never liberate themselves from their egotistical prisons and experience true individuality.
Collective political action
It may seem paradoxical that it is only through the collective political action of the majority that the true nature of the individual can be liberated. Socialists are often criticised as ‘obsessed with class’ but it is only through class consciousness that we can destroy what makes it so necessary; any denial of the importance of social class invariably indicates the desire to sustain its divisions. Only within a community defined by social justice and political equality can one truly acquire the love and respect of those whom we love and respect, not through what we have (consumerism) but by what we do (produce). The talents that a child may possess can only flourish if they are not handicapped by the class context into which they’re born. It is truly heartbreaking to know that so much human potential will wither and die because of the poverty (both material and cultural) that defines their lives.
The talents involved in producing something of value for your community is where the true expression of one’s individuality resides and this, of course, is the antithesis of everything capitalism is or ever can be. It might be argued that ‘creative work’ does exist within the present system but the few who do enjoy this luxury inevitably suffer the alienation inherent in the commodification of their product in terms of repeating the initial commercial success (musicians and other artists who have enjoyed this kind of success often have difficulty in maintaining it because of the corrosive effect sales pressure has on creativity). The only reason to ‘produce for profit’ is to sustain the lives of luxury of the parasite class who own everything but contribute nothing. If you really wish to discover your potential as an individual then first you will have to help us destroy the class system that makes the fulfilment of such a need impossible at the moment. Merely expressing yourself as a consumer impoverishes the individual spirit and condemns liberal sensibilities to political impotence. Authentic individuality is meaningless without a concept of the social and it can only fulfil its meaning through a revolutionary change in society because in its present incarnation it is merely egotism.

Party News (1981)

Party News from the May 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Paris public meeting

There has at least been some sanity in this month's French presidential election: members and sympathisers of the Socialist Party of Great Britain organised a public meeting in Paris on the subject of universal suffrage and Marxism. Maximilien Rubel gave a talk on how Marx concluded in 1880 that the working class could change universal suffrage from an instrument of trickery into an "agent of emancipation" by mandating socialist delegates to immediately dismantle the state machinery of capitalism and establish socialism. Rubel stressed the importance of working-class consciousness in the transformation of society but when then suggested that we should adopt a reform programme to win support. The logical outcome of reforming capitalism could be seen on the way back from the meeting: large posters with the most absurd and vague slogans lined the streets: "France needs a president. V. Giscard d'Estaing"; "Jobs first: Mitterand for President" ("Socialist" Party); "With Huguette Bouchardeau for the alternative" (Unified Socialist Party); "Let's produce French: Marchais for President" (French Communist Party); and, most bemusing of all, "Now, together, act with Jacques Chirac". The alternative to this array of careerist hypocrites is for us to stop following leaders and cast a vote not for a person or a policy, but for a socialist society. The election issue of Socialisme Mondial, as well as a French version of the Questions of the Day pamphlet Pour le Socialisme Mondial is now available from Head Office.
Clifford Slapper

The future of work

Wealth in present society is produced only when there is the prospect of a profit; in a socialist society, production would be carried out simply in order to satisfy human needs, whenever and wherever they occurred. The contrast was brought out very well by Mike Cooley of the Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards Committee, at a conference in March organised by the William Morris Society and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Several SPGB members took part. Cooley argued that people could create high quality articles through satisfying co-operative work, provided that the priority was use and not exchange.

Modern technology will only act as a liberating force if the basis of society is altered from market competition to human co-operation. At Lucas Aerospace co-operating workers are exploring the possibilities of creating useful work and production, although their struggle for survival in the world market system imposes severe limitations. Mike Cooley also told how Lucas workers had occupied the Willesden factory to oppose "rationalisation". One weekend they left the factory and on returning found that Lucas Industries had burnt out the inside of the place and ripped the roof off.

Ray Watkinson spoke about William Morris' views on work. Morris saw useful labour as the only true art, and looked forward to a time when socialist co-operation would allow all work to become creative and satisfying. Watkinson neglected to explain how Morris spent his later years campaigning for this, through the political organisation of the working class.

The discussion that followed was chaired by Geoffrey Robinson, MP, who more than once slipped in a sly plea for support for the Labour Party. He spoke of the "need" for a harmonious partnership between labour and capital. A socialist from the audience suggested we should get rid of this "holy alliance" and institute real harmony in a classless society. Robinson replied that we should keep working for harmony within in the present economy, and keep socialism in mind for the future. "Like a carrot", came a call from the audience.