Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Thirteen Derry Dead (1972)

Editorial from the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Sunday 30 January thirteen men were shot dead in Derry as the British Army moved in to halt a march held in defiance of the Stormont government's ban. The immediate result was an upsurge of Irish nationalism, both in the South and amongst the Catholic minority in the North. 

The thirteen Derry dead has completed the alienation of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland from the regime there. After fifty years of passively accepting the role of what its first Prime Minister called "a Protestant parliament for Protestant people", they are now actively rejecting its authority—to the extent of regarding the IRA as a useful counter to the British Army which is virtually occupying their ghettos in Belfast and Derry as well as whole towns such as Newry and Strabane where they form the overwhelming majority of the population. 

The Unionist government at Stormont, and the British government at Westminster, see this as an armed insurrection against the will of the Northern Ireland majority, and to a certain extent it is. But it is well to remember that it was the political predecessors of Faulkner and Co. who in 1914 introduced the gun into Northern Irish politics when they armed themselves to resist the will of the British parliament that Ireland should be given Home Rule. The capitalists in and around Belfast did not want to be cut off from the markets of the British Empire behind the tariff walls of an industrially-backward Ireland. So, from the 1880's onward, they created a mass political following by stirring up the traditional anti-Catholic fears and prejudices of their Protestant workmen. The strategy worked. When in 1921 an Irish Free State was set up, the six counties of North East Ireland were excluded. The one-third Catholic minority in this area was by gerrymandering and intimidation excluded from playing any effective role in politics there. They were just awkward outsiders which the Unionist government, relying on the support of the Protestant majority, felt it could easily handle. As indeed it did until 1968, despite the occasional IRA "campaign" which fizzled out through lack of popular support. In October of that year part of the official armed forces of the Stormont regime—the notorious B specials—brutally suppressed another march, once again in Derry. From then on the Stormont government lost control and the British Army had to be called in to maintain "law and order", i.e., to get the Catholic population to once again passively accept Stormont and British rule. 

The British government extracted a price from Stormont for this support: gerrymandering and intimidation was to stop; the Catholics in Northern Ireland were to be treated in the same way as they would if they lived in England. Since, with the coming of Common Market capitalism, the original economic reason for Partition had gone the political representatives of the Belfast capitalists were prepared to accept this (even if many of the Protestant workers they had duped in the past were not). 

One of the unfortunate side-effects of the Northern Ireland situation is that the term "socialist" has become associated with pro-Catholic politics. Protestant and Catholic alike expect someone who calls himself a socialist to back the IRA or at least support a United Ireland. Well, we support neither. We know that "independence" for Ireland in 1921 was just a change of masters which left the basic position, and problems, of the Irish worker unchanged. We know that Irish nationalism and republicanism was the ideology of the up-and-coming capitalists in the South who, being weaker than their counterparts in Belfast, wanted Home Rule and tariffs as a protection against British competition. 

The tragedy of Northern Ireland is that the present political division of' the working class there reflects yesterday's divisions amongst the Irish capitalist class, divisions which now have no relevance even for capitalism since both Britain and Ireland are about to join the Common Market and since the same international companies have investments both sides of the Border. 

Our advice to the worker in Northern Ireland is, first: Do not do anything, in word or deed, which might encourage further killings of your working-class brothers, whether Protestant or Catholic or, for that matter, British soldiers. And, secondly: Think carefully about the situation to see if the issue of a United Ireland versus a British Ulster is worth a single drop of working-class blood. 

The British government's declared aim is that Northern Ireland should become a part of Britain like Scotland or the West Country so that being a Catholic would not affect your job or house prospects. The IRA, and now Bernadette Devlin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and others, stand (despite their socialist pretensions) for a United Ireland, in which the Protestant worker would retain the "civil and religious liberties" he now has (i.e., freedom from the interference of the Catholic Church in what he reads, or thinks, or does). 

True, both programmes are somewhat unrealistic since the Catholics of Northern Ireland, with some justice, distrust the Unionist politicians who would continue to rule Northern Ireland while the Protestants, again with some justice, doubt the ability of Irish politicians to control the Catholic hierarchy. But, for the moment, suppose both aims could be achieved. 

Would the working class be worse or better off under one or the other? Would there be anything to choose between the two "solutions"? Surely, in both a British Ulster or a United Ireland, the workers' standard of living would be much the same. So would the slums, the unemployment and the other problems of capitalist society. And world Socialism would remain the only solution to these problems. The only difference would be the colour of the flag that would fly over the government buildings in Belfast: Union Jack or Irish Tricolour? Is this an issue worth killing and being killed over? No, Socialists reply, a thousand times No!

Editorial: The divorce of the decayed (1993)

Editorial from the January 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

With no small amusement we have watched as one of the most sacred symbols of British ruling-class power has imploded ignominously. The farcical proportions of the Royal Soap Opera has reduced the pomposity of Great British nationalism to its rightful place in the gutters of tabloid gossip. In recent months we have been invited to scrutinise the topless Duchess, listen to tapes of a suicidal Princess and her secret boyfriend Squidgy, and read daily accounts of matrimonial infidelity within the family of the woman who is the head of the Church of England. If capitalism is a circus the Royals are its hapless clowns. 

The ruling class owes its subjects a big apology. In 1981 they had wage slaves dancing in the streets to celebrate the wedlock of their two parasitical Royal dummies. Royal mugs were sold to Royalist mugs. The mass media offered workers non-stop news of a fairy tale marriage made in Heaven. When the Socialist Party ran a street meeting in Glasgow to expose the reality of the Royal facade it was attacked by patriotically wound-up loyalists. 

Now the wedlock has become official deadlock. The dream marriage has concluded in bitter separation. The mighty have fallen. All that is left are the Charles and Di mugs. The whole of British Royalty is currently surrounded by scandal, disgrace and ridicule. By the reasoning of their own defenders, who claim that those who rule were "born superior", we could be forgiven for concluding that there is some defective Windsor gene which makes these people "born" to have failed relationships. But we do not accept the reasoning of those who say that some are "born" to rule or to fail; indeed, as good materialists, our best recommendation to the, Windsors would be a long course of intensive family therapy. 

In fact, socialists could not care less what happens to the Royals. They are of no practical importance to our lives. They are pointless scroungers, but so is the entire class to which they belong. We seek to abolish more than the monarchy. The entire parasite class must go. The social system whereby privileged idlers are free to enrich themselves by robbing the wealth producers of the fruits of our labour must go. And it is we, the workers, who must consciously and democratically put an end to it. 

Socialism, the next stage in human history, will be a stateless, leaderless society of free and equal men and women. There will be neither monarchs nor Presidents; there will not be cabinets or politburos. Socialist democracy will mean that people, globally and in local communities, control a society commonly owned by all of us. To those who say that we need men and women of superiority to look up to, we say - Look at them; Laugh at them; and Learn to live without them on our backs. 

The Roots of Roots (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

In his closing words to the Author's Foreword of Foundations of Christianity (dateline Berlin, 1908), Karl Kautsky wrote: 
. . . with the aid of the materialist conception of history . . . the study of the past, far from being mere dilettante antiquarianism, will become a powerful weapon in the struggles of the present, in order to hasten the attainment of a better future.
The future that the Socialist pioneers outlined is not brought any nearer by the widespread employment of Marxist terminology by self-styled socialist or communist governments in the world today. But the Kautsky statement remains sound, nevertheless. A clear understanding of social forces, by the working class, will help enormously in clearing away obstacles to the movement for world Socialism. As it is now, prejudices of many kinds keep workers of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds apart. The Marxist admonition: "Workers of the world, unite!" is difficult to heed when workers do not understand the significance of the forces that divide them. It is an all-important duty of Socialists to spread knowledge and understanding on this subject. One of the latest examples, in America, of mass confusion is that phenomenal best-seller historical novel and TV extravaganza, Roots

Now, this is not intended as a review of the book. Suffice it to say that Mr. Haley had set out on a prospecting adventure to unearth his personal roots—a tricky business at best, as we shall see, presently. But if the soundness of his genealogical research is questionable there is no doubt that he has found gold—a veritable gold mine. For, according to press reports, the book has earned him a cool 3 million bucks thus far, with no end to the profits in sight. And even if most who buy the book never actually read it (many blacks, even illiterates from backwater areas, seem to regard it as another Book of the Bible—their personal Gospel), an estimated 130 million people have seen at least a portion of the twelve hours of TV presentation and black Americans now know—or think they know—their roots. This fact, some writers believe, may serve as a spark to kindle a programme of black vengeance against "whitey." The "Establishment" (white and black) can go only so far of course in dispelling the mythology of roots. In this instance a lot of knowledge can be more dangerous than little. Consider: 

The central hero, "Kunta Kinte," according to oral "historian" who gave him the "facts", was Haley's grandfather seven generations back. Now, "Kinte" may have been real and a direct ancestor of Haley's but it is a safe bet that not even Kinte's roots were all black, let alone Alex Haley's. For remote as Kinte's village may have been it was obviously not that remote and white traders, particularly slave traders, were frequent visitors to the area as long and longer ago than seven generations. But Haley, as do militant "Afro-Americans" generally, prefers to disown—or least not acknowledge—his "white" genes. (In that department, of course, he is no worse than "whites" who prefer not to contemplate their "black", or "yellow" or whatever ancestors). The fact is, that one need do is estimate the number of one's ancestors ten or fifteen generations back to burst bubble. Only through a practice of strict in-breeding through the generations could any of us, today, be considered "pure"! There can be no question about it: we all have the same roots. Migrations and invasions throughout history, have assured that. 

But there is more to the confusion surrounding Haley's opus than one's genealogy. "Kunta Kinte", in the Haley chronicle, epitomizes the resistance which modern black-oriented historians prefer to believe black chattels gave their masters. That this was actually the case remains, at best, debatable. What is unquestionable, however, was the callous brutality of the slave trade. But even here is confusion because it is difficult, indeed, to surmount the morals of one's times. Trading in human chattels was legal (in varying degrees) for centuries and in pre-Civil War America some of the most highly respectable families were engaged in one or another facet of it. The morals of a society are established, generally, by the ruling class. Chattel Slavery was Big Business and, therefore, respectable. It was the Abolitionist, who was the non-conformist and trouble-maker, not the slave owner or slave trader. William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Philips have schools named after them, today, but it was a different matter when they were flaying Slavery and its beneficiaries in pre-Civil War United States of America. 

And ponder, for a moment, on how few in our times see anything abhorrent about the relationships of wage-labour and capital, how few see it as a "higher" form of slavery. The chains are figurative but nonetheless real. Most of the population is bound for life to a class that owns the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution. An end to all slave relationships, including capitalism in all its forms, is possible but not without unification of the working class for the express purpose of establishing world socialism, immediately. And the dispelling of the mythology of roots will be a big help toward that goal. 
Harmo, WSP Boston.

War, history and revolution (1989)

From the September 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fifty years ago a cold sense of apprehension was creeping over Europe. The first feelings of relief following the 'peace in our time' agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain had passed. By March 1939 Hitler had already moved to crush Czechoslovakia. On 1 September his victim was Poland. The Second World War had begun. 

It does, of course, serve the interests of capitalism to deflect the blame for the horrors of war on to the actions of particular individuals such as Hitler. So, in this fiftieth anniversary year of the outbreak of the Second World War, beware the rush of books, articles, films and television documentaries in which historians and journalists will, no doubt, concentrate on the personalities and motives of key individuals. They will be following the traditional view that history is somehow determined by the personal whims of caesars, kings, queens, prime ministers and f├╝hrers. 

Not Made by Great Individuals 
If it is simply the personalities and motives of leading individuals that make history, then historians face the practical impossibility of knowing these personalities and motives with any degree of certainty. Some might claim authority for their fanciful speculations by resorting to Freudian psychology, but it is hard enough to be sure of the personal motivations of close acquaintances without trying to understand the psychological complexities of someone who is long dead and buried. 

Those taking this approach can only fill in a lack of knowledge from their own bias and imagination. By arbitrarily giving the power to shape events to a few 'men of destiny', they exclude the vast majority of men and women from a role in history. With the materialist conception of history, on the other hand, Marx and Engels showed how we must look behind people's conscious aims, intentions and motives to the economic development of society in which everyone is involved. As Engels wrote: 
When it is a question of investigating the driving powers which lie behind the motives of men who act in history, it is not a question so much of the motives of single individuals, however eminent, as of those motives which set in motion great masses, whole peoples, and again whole classes. To ascertain the driving causes which are reflected as conscious motives in the minds of acting masses and their leaders . . .  is the only path which can put us on the track of the laws holding sway both in history as a whole and at particular periods in particular lands. (Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical-German Philosophy, chapter IV). 
For Marxists, history is about what the whole of humanity has done, not just a few "great men". It is in the economic development of society that we discover the laws of history which regulate the changes in the material circumstances within which people make history. Marx's historical materialism reveals the social and economic causes of history for all to see. What is important is objectively decided by its bearing on economic developments, not by the prejudices of writers who interpret history in the interests of the ruling class. 

Hitler and Economic Necessity 
The important thing to recognise about the Second World War is that it was fought between rival groups of capitalist states over trade routes, markets and sources of raw materials. It was not about good or evil, democracy or fascism. Certainly, no single individual can be held responsible. 

The sad fact is that while even fifty years ago the productive forces were such that the needs of the world's population could have been satisfied, the irrational and competitive nature of capitalism prevented this. Seeing no alternative to capitalism, workers were led to believe genuinely that they could only satisfy their needs or protect their 'way of life' by war. 

It is true that the decision to invade Poland, which started the Second World War, was Hitler's. But it is also true that as early as 1932 the German capitalist class and their political representatives had decided that Germany's only real way out of economic crisis was to gain control over Central and Eastern Europe. 

Once such a course was set in motion two things made war inevitable. First was the rearmament of Germany's main capitalist rivals, Britain and the United States, who sought to prevent Germany's rise as a world power dangerous to them. Second, the deepening financial crisis in German capitalism caused by its massive rearmament. It was impossible to continue the rate of arms spending, and public spending in general, without additional material resources from outside Germany. Hence the need to plunder the surrounding economies and to seek continental scales of industrial organisation. 

So, while the decision to unleash war was Hitler's, the unstoppable collision-course towards war was determined by economic necessities. On the one hand, Germany had, like Japan and Italy, developed too late to acquire a 'place in the sun' which corresponded to its importance as an industrial nation. On the other hand, the capitalists in the established colonial powers, Britain and France, as well as the US with its huge population and natural resources, profited from their privileged access to markets and raw materials. In 1931 Japan had already used armed force to set up a trading monopoly in China. Italy had used force to get an overseas market in Abyssinia in 1935. German capitalists saw the only way out in the conquest of an empire of their own in Europe. 

As an historical figure Hitler was the product of social and economic developments. Even his mania about the Jews must be seen in the context of widespread theories of subversion, pernicious and ridiculous as they were, which held Jews responsible for an international conspiracy to undermine the economic stability of whichever country they lived in. 

The Case of Churchill 
Almost all historians see Churchill's rise to the head of the coalition government in May 1940 as a major turning point in the war. Churchill might indeed have represented the determination of the British capitalist class not to give another inch to their German rivals. But by romanticising his personal qualities, rather than starting from an analysis of the larger economic and social forces, historians continue to fall into the trap of having to guess and explain his personal motivations. 

The central question is not what made Churchill, as an individual, more decisive than Chamberlain but why Churchill was suddenly able to unite most of the capitalist and working class behind him years when he had been a political outsider. After all, until 1939 the policy of appeasement followed by Chamberlain had been widely accepted. Britain, as an international trading power, had far more to lose from world war than Germany, but capitalists could not go on indefinitely a blind eye to the actions of their German rivals. Once war had been declared, and at a time when Germany winning, Churchill was the ideal choice to carry out the new policy of combatting German capitalism by military rather than diplomatic means. 

No conspiracy theory is necessary to explain the economic and social determinants behind the rise of leaders. In capitalist society the institutions that mould individuals include the patriarchal nuclear family, the education system and the organisations which selectively promote politicians (political parties of the right and left, businesses and companies, old-boy networks, employers' associations, and the like). These are the forces of social conformism which produce individuals to suit the needs of the dominant class at any particular moment. 

To recognise that the rise of individuals such as Hitler and Churchill is socially shaped is to acknowledge a scientific fact. Value judgements about their actions are unnecessary. Marxists do not cloud the issues with blame: they explain. 

The Necessity of Socialism 
As these examples from the Second World War show, the materialist conception of history demolishes idealism which seeks to explain history from the ideas held by prominent individuals, directing us instead to developments in the material world of wealth production and distribution. It is this which gives historical materialism its contemporary significance. It is applicable to the here and now. It enables us to understand not only the causes of past events, but the causes of events now taking place and therefore how the real needs of the majority of people today can be satisfied. 

Always when the capacity to produce has outstripped what the productive relations allow, it becomes necessary to change those relations in a social revolution. Such necessity impelled the bourgeoisie to sweep away feudal obstacles to the development of capitalism in revolutions like the French Revolution two hundred years ago. Such historical necessity is an objective fact, independent of anyone's desires or intentions. It has nothing to do with mere aspirations, but is an actually existing state of human relations. 

Capitalism has long contained such a necessity—the necessity of advancing to socialism. The Second World War was a tragic symptom of this need for change. Within capitalist society the working class is the only force that can carry out the task. This too is a fact, whether it is recognised or not, whether socialists are many or few, or whether anyone does anything about it or not. Marx and Engels did not invent the need for revolution; they discovered it. 

Today's historical task of advancing to socialism is simply waiting to be fulfilled and the working class must win political power to fulfill it. This will only be achieved when a majority of workers are informed by a scientific knowledge of the need for change; a majority that refuses to be excluded from history, a majority that puts back into history the countless millions of individuals who slaved to produce the surplus that allowed the "men of destiny" to operate outside the productive system. It will, above all, be a majority with self-respect and confidence, gained from a scientific socialist understanding, to control its own destiny, making sure that catastrophes like the Second World War can never ever happen again. 
John Dunn

Mixed Media: Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be (2015)

The Mixed Media column from the July 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, the comedy play with music by Frank Norman and Lionel Bart was revived in 2014 at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in London, directed by Terry Johnson. The original 1959 production by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop was described by Littlewood as 'Guys and Dolls but with its flies undone.' The music and lyrics were written by Lionel Bart, a gay Jewish East End boy, or in his own words 'a working-class homosexual Jewish junkie commie.'
Fings depicts a world of the 'lumpen proletariat' of gamblers, pimps, prostitutes, razor gangs, and crooks in a struggling 'schpieler' (a mix of gambling joint and knocking shop) in a 1950s Soho reminiscent of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. The play is performed in cockney rhyming slang, thieves cant, and Polari, the slang in gay subculture until the late 1960s. Paul Baker in Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men writes 'Polari flourished in the repressive 1950s, where the regulation of post-war sexual morality was viewed as a priority, and prosecutions against gay men reached record levels.' The play includes a song Contempery (sic)sung by Horace, a gay interior designer while the title song includes the line 'poofs in coffee 'ouses'

In the 1950s the police's image was projected by BBC TV's cosy Dixon of Dock Green, and it was not until 1963 that police corruption became public knowledge when Detective Sergeant Harold Challenor was charged with corruption offences at the Old Bailey: 'Soho sounded like Chicago when Challenor described it, he believed that fighting crime in Soho was like trying to swim against a tide of sewage' (James Morton Bent Coppers).
In Fings the 'schpieler' is handed over to the bent copper. Before the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act it was 'fahsends of pounds passing across the baize' but the Act legalised gambling in the UK, betting shops opened, and the government hoped to take gambling off the streets and end the practice of bookmakers sending 'runners' to collect from punters. The Act 'knocked their street-based competitors out of business at a stroke, a lot of them found that the capital required to set up premises, pay staff and 'go straight' was beyond them' (The Independent 5 April 2008).
In the 1950s there was concern about the visibility of prostitutes in London, and the Wolfenden Committee recommended a crackdown on street prostitution, and these were put into effect in the 1959 Street Offences Act: 'It shall be an offence for a common prostitute to loiter or solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.' The song Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be is Bart's satirical ode to the good old days of unchecked prostitution: 'I used to lead a lovely life of sin, dough! I charged a ton, now it’s become an undercover game... there used to be class doing the town, buying a bit of vice, and that's when a brass couldn't go down under the union price... I've got news for Wolfenden, Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be.' The Act forced the majority of prostitutes off the street. In Fings the prostitutes are skint. Helen J Self in History Repeating Itself: The Regulation of Prostitution and Trafficking writes 'the essence of the scheme was not to abolish prostitution, but to push women off the streets . . . off-street outlets for prostitution multiplied . . . other unwelcome side-effects was an increase in kerb-crawling.'
The Socialist Standard of October 1957 wrote 'the Committee's aim is simply to brush the dirt under the carpet' and 'the real causes of prostitution are the economic and social conditions in which it lives and flourishes. It is, in fact, a product of the monogamous marriage system within the framework of buying-and-selling societies' which reflects Marx and Engels view that 'the bourgeois family finds its complement in public prostitution' (Manifesto of the Communist Party). Lenin in an interview with Clara Zetkin argued that prostitutes are 'victims of bourgeois society, accursed by two concepts; firstly of its accursed system of property and secondly of its accursed moral hypocrisy' (The Women's Question).
The English Collective of Prostitutes established in 1975 seeks the decriminalisation of prostitution which is supported by trade unions such as the CWU and GMB, but 'sex work' has divided the trade union movement. In 2009 the TUC Women’s Congress voted against the decriminalisation of the sex industry and the unionisation of sex workers. The 2009 Policing and Crime Act, by targeting brothels for raids drove prostitution further underground, increasing the vulnerability of sex workers, and preventing women from reporting violence.
Fings concerns Rosie, an innocent young woman on the run from a violent partner, who goes on the game. Bart's Where Do the Little Birds Go, and The Ceiling's Coming Dahn are 'two of the best songs written for women in post-war English musical theatre' and makes Bart 'the uncrowned King of composing the English Whore's lament: give him a brass, and he'll expose the pain and doubt and fear and love in her' (The London Bluebird, 30 August 2012).
Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be is vibrant working-class theatre devoid of bourgeois moralising.
Steve Clayton

The Passing Show: The Aucas (1963)

The Passing Show column from the February 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some years ago five men, missionaries of a small Christian sect, went to try and convert to their own beliefs the Auca people, a small tribe living in a remote part of Ecuador. Since the white man has consistently destroyed the Indian way of life and taken the Indians' land from them throughout South America, it was perhaps not surprising that a rumour spread that these five strangers were cannibals, who had come to kill and eat the Aucas; the Aucas, as a result, killed them all.

Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of one of the men, was also a missionary among the Quichua Indian, and after her hus­band's death she became acquainted with two Auca women. Later. very bravely, she went with these women and with her own young daughter to live with the Auca tribe for a year. She has now written a book about her experiences. The Savage My Kinsman (Hodder and Stougbton, 37s. 6d.).

She was, she says, "immediately impressed with the Aucas' dignity and simplicity." They were ".. an exceptionally robust tribe. I found no diseases among them except one or two uncertain cases of malaria, and the common cold. There were none of the 'children's diseases' of civilization: mumps, measles, chicken-pox, whooping-cough, scarlet fever. I treated some infected sores, but the Indians had a remarkable resistance to these and seemed to recover equally well without treatment of any kind." The women grow crops of manioc and plantain, and the men spend most of the day hunting; with the animals and fish they catch they support "their wives, sisters, in-laws, and any widows who happen to be living with them or next door." The Aucas, moreover, "had no use for money or anything else which might have served as a trade item."

The Auca has his own ideas of behaviour, says the author:
. . .  he shares his one small monkey with the widow next door. Be does not greet a friend or bid him good-bye, but he entertains without charge any guest who happens to drop in, even if he is a Quichua Indian whom he has never seen before. He does not wear clothing, but he has a strict code of modesty and is totally free from preoccupation with the human body, and all the absurd inhibitions this involves.
The Aucas, being so few in number, are a close-knit group, but there is no central authority of any kind. Every man is his own boss. The only social unit is the family, although there seems to be no marriage ceremony as such. 
The firm belief of civilized man, in fact, that all savages have a "chief" who is a kind of dictator (a misconception based on a misunderstanding of the role of the war-leader who emerges when tribes fight each other) was as usual found to be false.

The author tells us more about the Aucas' social customs (and she cannot have been prejudiced in their favour):
During my entire visit, I never saw the slightest friction between a husband and wife. Only rarely did I hear an Auca criticize another behind his back . . .  Malicious gossip was rare among the savages. In fact, many of our civilized sins were conspicuous by their absence. I noticed almost no vanity or personal pride, no covetousness or avarice. Intoxication was unknown. The men were not lazy, or selfish with the spoils of their hunting.
In short, I had to face the fact that socially I had nothing whatever to offer the Aucas.
It is, incidentally, interesting to record the author's conclusion that "the Auca has, so far as I know, no form of religion. He knows nothing of prayer, sacrifice, worship or placating evil spirits, although he believes in their existence." So much for another cherished belief of civilized man, that all savages are caught in an implacable web of religious beliefs and observances. Apparently if anyone is caught in the web, it is civilized man.

The Aucas are still clearly living in a society of primitive Communism, or something very close to it, right into this modern era. We were all living in this kind of society up to perhaps five or, at the most, seven thousand years ago, and in some parts of the world even now private property has not yet been able to impose itself. Man has been on this earth 500 thousand years (the latest theories would extend this time to something like one and three-quarter million years) and throughout that time he has lived in a primitive Communist society—up to this very moment in remote areas: even in the most 'civilized' parts of the world the length of time man has suffered under private property systems is a mere fleabite compared to the vast ages that went before.

And still we are told that Socialism or Communism, a system of common ownership or of no ownership at all, is somehow 'against human nature'! If anything is against 'human nature,' (whatever that may be), it is clearly private property.

No one, of course, wants to return to primitive Communism, even if that were possible. The Aucas, for example, sometimes become involved in warfare, and lose men killed in fighting. (Although civilized men, who are now openly planning to destroy each other's cities, perhaps have not much ground to criticize them on that score.) But Socialists do want to go forward to a new society; in which all the good points of primitive Communism (the absence of 'civilized sins,' the comradeship and cooperation, the abolition of 'central authorities"—­in short, the much greater happiness and contentment) can be combined with the material comforts which Capitalism has produced. And nothing prevents us going forward to that society except that the mass of the working class have never realized that it is possible.
Alwyn Edgar

From a Russian prison camp (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Alexander Solzhenitzyn, the Soviet novelist, is a "prophet without honour" in his own country, while in the West his magnificent novels are bestsellers and one has received the ultimate accolade: it has been made into a film.

We are not concerned here with his stature as a writer but rather with the way he adds to our sketchy knowledge of Soviet society. 

In 1945 he was sentenced to 8 years for comments he made about Stalin. His first year he spent working on construction sites around Moscow. He was then transferred to a secret research establishment—which he describes in The First Circle—but in 1950 he was transferred to a camp for political prisoners at Karaganda, in Central Asia till his life in 1953. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" was published in Russia in '62 in Novy Mir, but his other novels only circulated in manuscript form among friends till they reached the West,

His three novels dealing with the Soviet scene are One Day . . . , The First Circle and Cancer Ward. Respectively they describe the world of the manual worker, the intellectual and the chronically sick.

In One Day we learn how starving and frozen prisoners labour on a construction site (temperature minus 39 degrees), queue for fuel, munch their ration of dry bread and try to wangle a smoke or an easy job. As in the outside world, "you feathered your own nest as best you could". You knew that you were cheated of your rations by all who handled them. Graft was everywhere, and so were the informers. But prisoners spared their energy, needing it for survival.

In The First Circle, he describes an expensive top-secret research institute in Moscow where class enemies, saboteurs and other top scientists, imprisoned in the Thirties and Forties, enjoyed relative luxury. Yet the State is cruelly oppressive here too: the cruelty is of a different type, that's all. At Karaganda it was physical cruelty—hunger, cold and overwork; at Mavrino it is psychological—pressure to meet impossible deadlines successfully, dread of a transfer back to labour camps and fear for their persecuted families. As at Karaganda, and as in all parts of Russia, informers abound—the hallmark of a police state. 

If you ever wondered what has happened to ordinary Russians, these books will tell you much. In the two books together, Solzhenitzyn has covered a lot: from the lowest camp drudges, the wives at home on the collectives, ex-Party members who helped collectivize the countryside at gunpoint and their wives, unable to get work without disowning their husbands, right on up through the secret service rat-race to the Minister, Abakumov, and the Immortal One himself.

Finally in Cancer Ward he underlines the idea that his real subject is not a prison society but Soviet society. The whole of Russia is a sick society, all alike are sick—doctors and patients, jailers and prisoners. All Russia is a prison where every fifth man is an informer.

For all Russians, he says, life is an endless sentence without amnesty, measured by months of deprivation and humiliation. The proletarian is everywhere a prisoner of the system: we are all doing time. Some prisons are plush like Mavrino "the first circle of hell." Others are unspeakable. His explanation of the lush conditions at Mavrino applies equally to the so-called middle-class here: "It has been shown that the better sheep are fed and looked after, the higher their yield of wool."

Solzhenitzyn earned the right to claim: "I've got an advantage no spy can make me lose: what I've been through, and seen others go through, should give me a good idea of what history is about, don't you think?"

Any who doubt the existence of these camps is welcome to try to organise a Socialist Party of the Soviet Union: the only Socialists he will meet there will be in the camps, the special prisons and the psychiatric hospitals. And it is no more safe to talk in prison, than it is outside.
Charmian Skelton

Report on Mau Mau (1960)

Book Review from the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Historical Survey of the Origins and Growth of Mau Mau, carried out by Mr. F. D. Corfield, has now been issued as a Government Blue Book. It contains the following statistics of casualties up to the end of 1956
Terrorists: Killed 11,503. Captured wounded 1,035. Captured in action 1,550. Arrested 26,625. Surrendered 2,714.
Security Forces: Killed 167. Wounded 1,582.
Loyal Civilians: Killed 1,877 (including 32 Europeans). Wounded 978.
The cost of the emergency up to June 30th, 1959, is shown as £55,585,424. before the massive technical and numerical superiority of the British Government Security Forces finally overwhelmed this African uprising, all the violent measures of ruthless repression were called into use, even down to interrogation under torture and the hangman busy in the concentration camp.

Mr. F. D. Corfield, who is a former Governor of Khartoum Province, has produced a report which points a sanctimonious finger of blame at almost everyone except the British Government and the narrow interests that they represent. As an apology for the British Government, as a self righteous justification that might confuse and misdirect, the Corfield Report does a serviceable job. But as an objective historical account of the cause and development of a particularly ugly piece of human history the report is useless and in every way unworthy of its title.

The main contention of the report is that leading Africans, and in particular Jomo Kenyatta, encouraged by sympathy from many outside sources, and unwittingly aided by the facilities provided by a "liberal" government, perpetuated rebellion as a manifestation of their personal malevolence. The report says, "Without the freedom afforded them by a liberal government Jomo Kenyatta and his associates, would have been unable to preach their calculated hymn of hate." Mr. Corfield is completely convinced that the government of Kenya was pre-occupied with "...the material progress of the peoples of Kenya." He says, "One has only to read the annual reports of the provincial commissioners to realise the immense efforts made by officials and unofficials to raise the material and moral welfare of the Africans."

These are the terms in which the report ignores the naked and cruel self interest of the white landowners' mission in East Africa. For a rational society of controlled purpose to be confronted by a primitive social grouping over which it held immense technical superiority would involve problems of a most delicate sociological nature. Its approach would be scientific procedures, its motives would be humanistic. But when the envoys of European propertied society landed in East Africa to preach the Gospel of Self Interest and predatory exploitation they were interested only in smashing the social organisation of the African inhabitants and making them servants and labourers. Here surely was the bed rock basis of the Mau Mau violence. Mau Mau, though loathsome in form, arose inevitably from the indignities, the injustice and the sheer primary poverty of the African's plight. This is well known and the evidence for it is even contained in the government's own Colonial Publications. In contrast with the hypocritical Corfield report the African Labour Efficiency Survey, 1949 (Colonial Research Publications, No. 3) is a realistic appraisal of the problems of making the African a more efficient and effective wage worker.

In viewing the East African situation (in 1947) it says, "The East African comes from a tribal economy in which his human needs of sustenance can still very largely be met . . . He has not, to any significant degree been detribalised . . . The East African has not been bent under the discipline of organised work. In his primitive economy, the steady, continuous labour is carried out by women. In respect of the few working activities which in the past occupied him he was free and independent. Though the tasks he performed were prescribed by tribal law and custom, he could do them in his own way and at his own speed, for him time had no economic value. The work he did for others was not for wages, but was one of the duties arising out of his relationship with his fellows. He gave satisfaction by his work and derived a measure of contentment from it. In these circumstances he was willing to do what was required of him. To work steadily and continuously at the the will of another was one of the hard lessons he had to learn when he began to work for Europeans."

Even so, the report reveals the positive measures taken by the Kenya Government to coerce Africans into seeking wage employment. In the first instance the Kikuyu and other East African tribes were enclosed within small reserve areas which to an agricultural people was disastrous. In the terms of the report, South Nyeri, one of the three component districts comprising the Kikuyu reserved lands, had a population estimated in 1944 to be 542 to the square mile. This population density is probably among the highest in the world. As well as this the Government instituted a hut tax and poll tax, payable only directly in cash. Thus within two simple but brutal measures the authorities began to reduce the African from a dignified tribesman with a stake in his community to a dispossessed wage worker forced into white landowners' service or into industrial undertakings.

The report dwells in some detail on many reasons for the African workers' so-called inefficiency, including lack of education and poverty. It says, "Perhaps in some respects the greatest handicap is physical and arises from malnutrition." On the question of wages this report is equally forthright, " . . . it is clear that the wage plan does not ensure wages adequate to enable an African residing in any of the towns to bring up a family." Again: "It is therefore with more confidence that the whole survey team, including the medical and nutritional investigators, record their reasoned observation that they found much discontent concerning wages in relation to cost of living."

Apart from laying bare the ruthlessness of of British Colonial policy, even in modern times, the report contained a disquieting warning. Quoting a doctor who lived in East Africa for two decades it said "A doctor . . . can assert that the cause of the poor work output is more mental than physical. Malnutrition and disease play their part but, sitting and talking with the workers in their homes, one became aware of a very grave discontent which, unless constructively guided and relieved, may well threaten civil peace."

It was the violent repression that Mau Mau provoked that enabled British interests to finally destroy the Kikuyu and other tribal structures. The way is now clear for the rapid conversion of East Africans into wage workers. Mau Mau retaliation was bloody and horrible, primitive political struggles often are, but undoubtedly British colonial policy first provoked the violence.
Pieter Lawrence