Friday, November 13, 2015

Business invades Education (2006)

From the June 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

There has never been a time in capitalism when the two worlds of business and education have not had some kind of relationship. Today, however, the influence of business interests on education has gone much further. Business people, and those in the media who promote their interests, have become much more assertive in the role they see business playing in education. Government policies, such as those driving the new city academies, are designed to strengthen the link between what goes on in educational institutions and what goes on in workplaces.

Popular language plays a part in all this. “Enterprise” has become an overworked cliché. It is seen as a good word because it is linked with energy, using one’s initiative, setting something up. It is youthful, can be satisfying, even dramatic in an otherwise somewhat dull and routine world.

Capitalist values have a secure foothold in the later stages of education such as sixth forms, colleges of further and higher education. As a contributor to the Business Daily programme of the BBC World Service remarked (28 April), “Business people actually teach the courses.”

There are also moves to get even young children interested in “enterprise”. You’re never too young to learn about buying and selling and making a profit (don’t think about exploitation — just experience it when you grow up).

The question of whether young entrepreneurs come from entrepreneurial families of not seems to be unresolved. What is not in doubt is the rarity of successful entrepreneurs. A youngster may feature in the media by boasting about making a million or so from finding a gap in the market at the age of perhaps 12 or 13. But the sobering fact is that 80 percent of new businesses fail within two years.

Some of the winning entrepreneurs make a point of saying that it isn’t so much the money that they find satisfying but the sense of achievement and meeting a need. Fine. The most enterprising thing we can do is to work to replace a system of gross inequality, deprivation and destruction with one in which meeting human need is at the top of the agenda.
Stan Parker

Editorial: Election Reflections (1924)

Editorial from the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Armchair Philosophers" is the phrase that has often been flung at us by the "men of action" when at a loss to meet facts and logical arguments from facts. Well, let us sit back in the armchair for a little while and ponder over the doings of the "men of action."

"Men of action"—the phrase at once brings to mind the Communist Party. "Action" has been the poison gas in that Party's programme for a long time; and in the name of "action" many weird and wonderful antics have been performed.

Not very long ago the Communist Party had difficulty in finding adjectives strong enough with which to belabour Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Party. He who proposed union with the Labour Party was described as a traitor to the working class. But a change has come over the scene. The Communist Party transport us in imagination to Maskelyne and Devant's home of mysteries, where the waving of a wand performs marvels. The wand used by the Communist Party is the "United Front." Here are a few of the marvels it has performed.

In the Workers Dreadnought (21st February, 1920) Wm. Gallacher wrote:—
Any support given to Parliamentarism is simply assisting to put power into the hands of our British Scheidemanns and Noskes. Henderson, Clynes and Co. are hopelessly reactionary.
Since then Gallacher has twice contested Dundee as a Parliamentary Candidate on behalf of the Communist Party; and the latter has done all in its power to return the Labour Party candidates to Parliament in the 1922 and the late elections.

During the Caerphilly bye-election of August, 1921, the Communist, of August 13th, published on its front page a call to the workers to support Stewart, the Communist candidate. In the course of this front page article they make the following remarks:—
The Labour Party, as it stands, is what its leaders make it—and they will neither lead you into battle nor allow you to lead them.
The leaders who brought about the Triple Alliance disaster, in spite of the splendid solidarity of the rank and file; the leaders who beat back the miners after a three months' death grapple, and did so in contempt of the magnificent defiance embodied in your ballot vote; the leaders who, in industry after industry, accepted reductions and defeat in advance, and with a mere pretence of consulting the rank and file—these, and not the rank and file, constitute the Labour Party as it stands. "The best of men, of he were elected under their auspices, would be paralysed by their vacillation or crippled in the cogs of their controlling machine."
Bearing in mind the last sentence in the above quotation, it is curious to notice that Wm. Paul, a prominent member of the Communist Party, accepted the Labour Party constitution (see Daily Herald, November 30th, 1923) and was put forward as Labour Party candidate for the Rusholme Division of Manchester in the recent election. The following quotation from the Workers' Weekly (December 7th, 1923), the official organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, is also both curious and interesting:
The Labour Party has officially endorsed as its candidates both Comrade Paul in Rusholme, and Comrade Vaughan, in Bethnal Green. There are now four Communist candidates officially supported by the National Labour Party: while local organisations of the Communist Party are working their utmost for Ramsay MacDonald in Aberavon, Bromley in Barrow, Ernest Hunter of the I.L.P., in Hackney, J. R. Clynes in Manchester, and in hundreds of other constituencies.
Now contrast the above with the following quotation taken from the Communist of September 10th, 1921:—
Are you going in waiting in the streets for something to turn up, or do you want ACTION? IF you are a miner, or a docker, or a railwayman, are you happy and proud of your Black Friday leaders? Do you trust and believe in Thomas, Hodges, Bevan, Williams? Do you feel satisfied with the leaders who betrayed on Black Friday? Do you feel a sense of solidarity with Thomas, Hodges, Bevan, Williams? Will they do your fighting for you? If you think you can lie safely under their warm. protecting wings—well, try it. But the Party calls you if you want ACTION.
In the name of "action" you were  asked then to throw over Thomas, Hodges, and Bevan, who had betrayed you. Thomas, Hodges and Bevan were candidates in the recent election, and in the name of solidarity you were asked by the Communist Party to support these traitors in the recent election. The Communist Party then stands self-convicted of betraying the interests of the working class and of supporting the opportunist line of action that has led the workers into so many blind alleys in the past. Such are "the men of action."

Music Review: 'Thee Faction - Reading Writing Revolution' (2015)

Album Review from the November 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
'Reading Writing Revolution: The Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall'. (CD £7 inc P&P). By Thee Faction. 2015. Soviet Beret.
Thee Faction are a punk rock group who formed in 2010 and released their fifth album Reading Writing Revolution this year. Over the years, in Britain, political rock music has ranged from the nihilism of punks like the Sex Pistols to po-faced left-wing sometime Labour Party loyalists like Billy Bragg. It is refreshing then that Thee Faction are neither nihilist nor po-faced and have a sense of humour in their songs.

In June 1978 we wrote ‘what constitutes socialist music? Even if it were desirable, few would want to listen to a Marxist liturgy let alone a rock version of "sing along with Ma(r)x".’ and in April 1985 ‘It is difficult to compress the argument for socialism on to a single track’. Well, this album comes close, with tracks like ‘The Three R’s’ and ‘Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’ among the more catchy including lyrics ‘I’m loving Engels instead, output: prolific, outlook: terrific.’
They’ve been described as not ‘protest songs’ but solution songs. They seem committed and sincere, describing themselves as ‘socialists first, musicians second’ and ‘The point of what we do is to do our bit to deliver a socialist society. The point of what we do isn’t art.’ This is not a gimmick borrowed for a new album but a theme consistent throughout their back catalogue. In addition, musically, their songs are good tunes and they’ve even had previous albums reviewed in the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph and played on BBC Radio.
The band members describe themselves as libertarian socialists but the extended spoken part of their song ‘Equality’ makes clear their fondness for early Labour propagandist G. D. H. Cole. Cole who wrote the forward to a 1930 edition of Capital, failed to grasp or deliberately misrepresented value theory and the materialist conception of history. No surprise then that a recent gig they headlined was a fundraiser for the campaign for Jeremy Corbyn, but in generously providing me with a copy to review, they wrote that ‘the nine of us pull in different (socialist) directions’.
Reading Writing Revolution is worth a listen (and might make a good gift) particularly if you like punk rock music and socialist rhetoric.

Mass Suicide (1956)

From the October 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under the title “Do not willingly contribute to the mass suicide of the human race” the Empire News (24 June, 1956) had the following:
“The highest radioactive deposit in a single day from a thermo-nuclear weapon test was 100 microcuries a square mile at Milford and 25 at Harwell. Daily deposits at Harwell and Milford, however, are generally similar. Danger from these radioactive particles is very slight, say scientists. But one of the radioactive substances, known as strontium 90 may be deposited in grass which is cropped by animals. This gets into their bones and may cause cancer. So the experts warn: limit the number of atom tests. Fears that rainwater may be contaminated from the Monte Bello atom test have arisen in Queensland, Australia, and people have been warned not to drink it for a few days.”—The above was taken from a news item, “Atom-Rain Tests.”—(Empire News, 24.6.56.)
But such is the nature of capitalism; that even though the rival Governments know they may be instrumental in causing the “virtual suicide of the human race.” They dare not let up; for fear of conceding an advantage to their rivals; yet they have the effrontery to call capitalism a civilised society! Why, by comparison with this, even the most senseless butchery in history seems like sanity. The human race may be virtually dying on its feet; and still the people do nothing about it; when will they get wise; and act on their own behalf instead of waiting and hoping for someone else to put the world right for them?

Workers of the world, put not your trust in leaders. Instead fashion the world the way you want it yourselves by organising for socialism; then you can rest secure in the knowledge that the only developments which will be undertaken will be those which will be of benefit to all.
Phil Mellor