Sunday, November 29, 2015

The People By Campanella. (1931)

From the April 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
The people is a beast of muddy brain
That knows not its own force, and therefore stands
Loaded with wood and stone; the powerless hands
Of a mere child guide it with bit and rein;
One kick would be enough to break the chain;
But the beast fears, and what the child demands,
It does; nor its own terror understands,
Confused and stupefied by bugbears vain.
Most wonderful: With its own hand it ties
And gags itself—gives itself death and war.
For pence doled out by kings from its own store.
Its own are all things between earth and heaven;
But this it knows not; and if one arise
To tell this truth, it kills him unforgiven.
(Translated by J. A. Symonds.)

The Fall of Riazanov (1931)

From the April 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The process of eliminating all of the better-known men and women who were prominent in the Bolshevik party at the time of the seizure of power has gone so far that practically all of them now share Trotsky's fate as exiles, or are in prison or relegated to obscurity. The latest person to be got rid of is D. Riazanov, the authority on the literature of Marxism, who formed, under the auspices of the Soviet Government, the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

Riazanov has been removed from his post as Director of the Institute, expelled from the Russian Communist Party, and lodged in jail on the grounds of alleged "betrayal of the Party" and "rendering assistance to the Menscheviks and foreign interventionists."

It would be idle to discuss whether these or any of the charges levelled by the Russian ruling caste against its opponents are well-founded, for the simple reason that those charged are not in a position to defend themselves. The authorities are in a position to secure whatever verdict they like and to publish alleged "confessions" in the names of the prisoners. After more one of the past trials the prisoners in private conversation repudiated their "confessions."

What is interesting about Riazanov's case is that his deposition is accompanied by the claim that his reputation as an authority on Marxism was totally undeserved. He is now alleged never to have understood the Marxian system—this in spite of the fact that only last year, when he reached the of sixty, great honours were shown officially, including the award of the Order of the Red Flag.

The real reason for the denial of Riazanov's soundness as a Marxian can possibly be looked for in the urgent need to mislead the Russian workers into the belief that the Russian system of "State capitalism" is in reality "Socialism."

We have before drawn attention to the theories now being propounded in Communist economic text-books, according to which the Russian workers are not exploited, in spite of the existence of a growing class of investors in that country. Marx showed that you cannot have a rent, interest and profit system without the exploitation of the workers. Marxism has consequently been unpalatable to Russia's rulers. Anyone who cannot or will not swallow the bowdlerised Marxism of the Communist Party dictators necessarily becomes a danger to their interests.

Perhaps Riazanov has been guilty of knowing too much about Marxian theories, and of not knowing how to dance to a different tune.
R. E.

Trendies, get stuffed! (1980)

From the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is time the working class declared war on the trendies. Radicals, liberals, cult musicians, progressive poets, campaigning journalists, revolutionary feminists, long-haired vicars, nose-picking punk heroes, populist academics, counter-culture creeps, Leninist demonstrators, ecologist friends of the earth, health food nutcases, real beer bores, fringe theatre goers and people who talk in loud voices about Trotskyism in Hampstead pubs. These denimed crusaders constitute one of the biggest diversions the working class has been confronted with since Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the Church at Wittenberg.

Trendies want capitalism to ban the bomb, clean up the atmosphere, give equality to women, rock against racism and legalise dope. Those who disagree with their ideals—for so long as they try to enact them by marching up and down Oxford Street listening to the echo of their slogans they will remain idealists—are labelled 'reactionaries'.

Socialism is a materialist proposition, based on the incentive of human self-interest. It is dependent upon logic, not 'good vibrations'; reason, not rabble-rousing. We want a society in which men and women will fully control their own lives because they will own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth. The socialist case has developed out of a scientific analysis of the capitalist system which oppresses us. The system cannot be reformed in the interests of the working class. It must be abolished.

Trendies couldn't care less about abolishing the system. Those in the SWP and IMG are more concerned with supporting the latest fashionable reform than organising for revolution. Their political aims are determined by the very narrow confines of the system which only some of them have vaguely perceived.

Some trendies stay trendy all their lives. Peter Hain, the personification of a long yawn, is attempting to keep it up until he gets his pension. Reg Birch, the mad Maoist who recently retired from the TUC, did keep it up until he got his pension. From adolescence to senility, with nothing in between, they follow every movement, every demonstration, every cult that is thrown up in the name of the modern secular religion, Progress. What Progress is and where it leads to nobody knows. Others grow weary of their trendiness. At thirty they cut their hair, buy a suit and get a job in an office. By the time they reach sixty they tell their trendy grandchildren how they too once went through a rebellious period. "You'll grow out of it". And one day the workers will grow out of it. We'll grow out of the ideology which tells us that hope is the passing affliction of the young and uneducated. The working class will then grow up to socialist political majority.
Steve Coleman

Canadian University Left finds us too Working Class! (1974)

From the February 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following letter has been sent by our companion party, the Socialist Party of Canada, to three radio stations and the Victoria University Union paper (who have assigned a reporter to investigate the matter).

Dear Sir,

Universities are commonly considered to be centres of the highest liberal thinking, readily exposing their students to the widest range of philosophy and political thought.

The existing realities should cause quite a jolt to such an illusion.

On December 4th, 1973 the Socialist Party of Canada was informed that the journals Fulcrum, Western Socialist, and Socialist Standard were henceforth banned from the University of Victoria Bookstore. Reason? "They are not intellectual enough." It might be interesting to note just what is "intellectual enough" at the University of Victoria. Numerous Leninist, Trotskyist, Maoist, "Communists" and works find their way onto the bookstore's shelves. Threaded through some of these leftist ideas are scattered ideas of Marx smothered, unfortunately,  under an avalanche of counterfeit Marxism. meanwhile the genuine Marxism of the Socialist Party of Canada and its Companion Parties in other countries is "not intellectual enough."

Fortunately the high intellectual plateau of Victoria University's Bookstore is yet to be achieved in other places for Fulcrum, Western Socialist, and Socialist Standard are considered intellectual enough to grace the shelves of University libraries throughout the world as well as being regarded as valuable sources by researchers and historians.

Admittedly, when the University of Victoria has two resident ministers with subsidized housing and a history instructor is reported to have told her class that Martin Luther was right when he said indulgences did not have to be paid to get out of purgatory but wrong when he said there was no purgatory, the University is placed in an intellectual light that is out of the reach of the Socialist Party of Canada.

One can imagine the reaction if the Socialist Party of Canada were to demand a subsidized resident Socialist and that courses in its ideas be taught. Socialists are not so naive to think capitalism's institutions could be out to such a useful purpose, but it is too much when their journals are not even available for those who would wish to buy them.

Perhaps their ideas make Socialists more sensitive to infringements on freedom of speech but whether exposed to Socialist ideas or not most people probably agree that the future of mankind should be hammered out on the anvil of free discussion and debate rather than expressed by tyrants or suppressed by censors.
Jim Lambie,
General Secretary 

Revolution in Russia (1949)

From the January 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Henry Ford is reputed to have said, "History is bunk." If he was referring to the stuff that we were taught, under the heading of history, in elementary schools a generation ago, we can agree with him. But that is not what WE call history. History, for us, is not the kind of incident portrayed by film actors like George Arliss, Linda Darnell and Charles Laughton; it is not an account of the bedroom antics of princes and prostitutes. It is the study of the social life of people; how they produce their means of living; how they think and behave; the institutions they throw up, the changes they bring about; their struggles, their failures and their successes.

From a study of such things we can learn much. By learning of mistakes made in past struggles we can avoid making them in our own. If we trace the course of past events, and know how to interpret them, we shall be less likely to be misled by political quacks in our own day.

When we recognise these things, we can appreciate the importance of a study of history. But, when we learn of the activities of people in the past, we need a key to enable us to understand why they so acted. Such a key is provided by the "Materialist Conception of History," the theory propounded by Karl Marx a hundred years ago.

By the use of this key we can understand many of those things that Ford has referred to as "bunk." We can learn of the Crusades of the 12th century as being something more than just wars of Christendom against the "Oriental infidels." We can study the social effects of such inventions as gunpowder, the mariner's compass and the internal combustion engine, We can get at a real understanding of the great French Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The Russian Revolution is interpreted differently by different people. The Communist see it as a working class revolution revolution resulting in the establishment of Socialism. Socialists, who apply the "M.C. of H." when they study any historical event, have an entirely different interpretation of the events in Russia during and since 1917.  The Socialist view of this outstanding historical period is presented in a new pamphlet published by our companion party, The Socialist Party of Canada, entitled "The Russian Revolution. Its Origin and Outcome."

The opening chapter of the pamphlet outlines the fundamentals of the present world system. It provides the foundation for the rest of the pamphlet.

Chapter 2 analyses the set-up in Russia prior to, and at the time of the rise of, Bolshevism. It deals with the state of Russian agriculture and industry in those days and with the origin and coming to power of the Bolshevik Party. It shows that, "The Bolshevik revolution  . . . was not, and could not have been, a proletarian revolution. The best that can be said for it is that it was intended to be a proletarian revolution."

The third chapter, entitled "Dictatorship of the Proletariat," states that "Russia in November, 1917, fell into the lap of a handful of revolutionaries with a programme far beyond the limitations of the material at their disposal." It goes on to show that the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia is really the dictatorship of the Communist Party.

The next two chapters, "The Paper Revolution" and "Socialism in One Country," shows that "The Bolsheviks learned rapidly that the revolution could emerge only from somewhere other than their own muddled heads." They deal also with the rise of Stalin and quote from him to show the mis-application of Marxism in Russia.

Chapter 6 carefully analyses the Russian Constitution adopted in 1937 and " . . . hailed by Communists and 'fellow travellers' everywhere as the most democratic constitution in the world." The pamphlet then passes to an examination of the contortions and convulsions of the various national parties of the Communist International, " . . . the organisation set up by Moscow to guide the destinies of the workers of the world."

"Poverty and Riches in Russia" is the title of chapter 8, a chapter of facts and figures. Tables of production costs, wage variations, cost of food, etc., give a vivid picture of conditions amongst Russian workers today. These figures, in the main, are drawn from Russian sources, which adds considerably to their usefulness. The concluding chapter poses and answers the question, "Could events have taken a different turn in Russia?" It also shows the general tendency of the workers' struggles in the future.
"The dictatorship has now been in existence for more than thirty years. It has remained throughout fearful of a free and unhampered reaction to its record. It has proved a failure as an agent of working class emancipation." (P.15.)
The confusion about Russia that exists in the minds of many workers is, perhaps. excusable. It is difficult to interpret events whilst they are are happening, even when they have but recently happened. Especially so when there is so much biased propaganda on the subject. For those who wish to see the Russian Revolution in its proper perspective, this pamphlet is invaluable. In the future, when the events described have sunk into a more distant past, and can be viewed more impartially, " . . . the Bolshevik Dictatorship will . . . take its place amongst the tyrannies of history." 

This pamphlet, coupled with "Russia Since 1917" published by ourselves (1s.), forms a valuable work on the developments in Russia during the past thirty or more years. The two pamphlets together, contain more useful information—reliable information—than is to be found in books at twenty times the price.

It is obtainable from all S.P.G.B. branches and from Head Office. "The Russian Revolution. Its Origin and Outcome," published by the Socialist Party of Canada, October, 1948, 52 pages, price 6d., post free 7d.
W. Waters.

The Last Word: The right to eat landowners (1997)

From the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

The good old English sport of sending hungry hunting hounds to chase aristocrats through the woods, catch them and rip them to pieces, has been slow to take off as a popular pastime. Despite claims that these predatory parasites are a foul rural presence, serving only to infect the countryside with their conceited greed and indolence, it has been hard to find dogs with sufficient brutality to enjoy the so-called sport. Those who favour such hunts claim that it is nothing more than a healthy rural tradition, misunderstood by town-dwellers, and that ripping duchesses and viscounts to shreds is the most humane way to rid nature of those who have only survived historically by plundering and murdering others. The Royal Society for the Protection of Useless Aristocrats has been long split on the issue, with one section accepting that such blood sport is "just a bit of harmless fun", while others prefer the idea of culling — or permanent quarantine in the House of Lords. 

This laboured account would be funnier were it not for the harsh reality that rich, privileged, barbaric bullies, most of whom are brutalised at birth by hereditary right and public-school conditioning, do indeed defend their right to chase around the countryside with packs of hounds in order to savage and tear apart defenceless animals. Their callous defence is mounted in the name of sport. And because it is traditional for these parasitical killers to dress up in the costumes of their class and indulge their pleasure in watching deer, foxes and other animals being ripped apart, they respond with well-rehearsed cries of arrogant immunity to humane behaviour when their ritualised sadism is opposed. 

I happened to be wandering through Hyde Park last month when this distasteful rabble of blood-sport enthusiasts gathered to demonstrate their right to be human vultures. A stench of hypocrisy pervaded the polluted city air as they cried for Freedom—not for their fellow humans, but for their cruel "right" to indulge in a sport of supreme inequality. The freedom of the armed hunters and horse-backed chinless wonders with their packs of hounds to pick on animals which stand no chance in opposition to them is not simply about sick behaviour. More than that, it illuminates the very descent into "the law of the jungle" which such people define as freedom. It is the same freedom which allows the very land on which we live, and the earth from which we are fed, to be owned and controlled by a minority of parasitical grabbers who believe that it would be the height of effrontery to invade their freedom by letting the earth belong to the people who inhabit it.

These depraved beings, who rejoice in their right to inflict pain on animals, are in the same class and historic tradition as those who proclaim the inviolable right to cast the peasant off their land and into destitution and starvation. The same haters of freedom who smashed down the communal utopia of the Diggers when those early communists sought to hold the land in common as a store of wealth for all; the same bullies who until a century ago enjoyed the propertied right to flog peasants and rape their daughters, and still today treat those who work on the land as if they are indebted to the landowners who steal the fruits of their labour. Looking at this savage minority of ruthless parasites, bleating their message of outrage against those reformists (destined to parliamentary defeat) who dared question their freedom to kill for pleasure, it was hard not to wish on them the fate of a frightened cornered fox, surrounded by a pack of dogs trained for the kill. 

But that is not the socialist way. Why should we lower ourselves to their brutal customs? As Shelley reminded us: "We are many, they are few." They are not worth the bullets which it would take to shoot them. Nor are they important enough to lead us from our hostility to the cause of violence, however guilty the victim has been conditioned to become. No the aristocrats need not fear our blood sports; the victory of our consciousness of human solidarity over theirs of class oppression will be reward enough for us. 

But look what these parasites are doing to the land. They spray it with chemical pesticides, killing off whole species of birds, butterflies and plant life in their quest for profits. They have fed cattle upon cheap and lousy diets, creating the BSE crisis and whole varieties of food adulteration which makes us and our children all the potential victims of their profit-lust. They have dumped millions of tons of soil into the rivers which pollute the water which we are charged to drink. They have pursued, in the name of efficient "factory farming", the most obscene practices of cruelty to animals which are tortured for the sake of making a few more pounds for their avaricious owners. They have contracted out farm management to City firms which seek to push down agricultural wages, casualise skilled farm work, thrown wage-slave-farm-workers onto the scrap-heap of the unemployed, and destroy whole rural areas in the name of agribusiness. 

The landowners, who protest for their freedom to enjoy themselves in exhibitions of collective brutality, remain free to rape and vandalise the countryside. As Graham Harvey, the agriculture adviser to The Archers (of all things) has written in his incisive new book, The Killing of the Countryside, "they [the landowners] favour a countryside devoted entirely to industrial-scale food production, with the products traded on world commodity markets in exactly the same way as coffee and copper . . . Since this 'progressive' view of farming is supported by big business and the City, it is the one most likely to prevail. If so, the current losses of birds and flowers from our landscape will turn out to be merely the first casualties in a long process of attrition." 

The beneficiaries of this rural plunder are the very few. One percent of the population owns half the land in Britain and two percent owns three-quarters of it. A mere 600 landowners own half the land in Scotland. These capitalist-farmers are subsidised by huge grants to support their manipulation of the market. They receive millions of pounds and euros in return for taking land out of cultivation so as to keep profits up. 

A horsy woman of uncertain age, with a voice like Ann Widdecombe and a designer-label outfit, approached me as I strolled through the Hyde Park demonstration and asked me if I would sign her petition to save traditional country sports. I asked her whether she had ever tried to emphasise with a sensate being chased by howling dogs and threatened with being ripped apart. "Oh, you're obviously a socialist do-gooder," she spat, as she drifted towards the next recruit. Which, as a contrast to a capitalist do-harmer, is not the worst thing in the world to be.
                                                                                                                                        Steve Coleman

Radical history (1984)

Book Review from the May 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Charles Poulsen, The English Rebels (Journeyman, 1984)

This book is a commemoration of popular radical movements and a celebration of the spirit and ideals underlying those movements. It begins with the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and plots history through the Lollards, Jack Cade, Kett's Rebellion, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Naval Mutinies of 1797, the Luddites, the Trade Unions, the Reform Bill, Chartism and the Emancipation of Women. It is intended as a popular history, redressing the balance from a consideration of the antics of Kings and Queens to an analysis of movements arising out of the discontent of ordinary people.

This is a useful history although it is remarkably brief. What is does emphasise is the role of violent insurrection as part of the fabric of British historical development. Poulsen says of British history that
it is one of a long, almost a continual series of risings, rebellions, revolts, riots and direct actions that have wrung from the nation's rulers the sequence of reforms and changes that have resulted in today's society. (p.45)
To this might be added the history of violent reaction from governments in response to the radical movements, even though many of these were reformist in nature and held allegiance to long and/or parliament.

Given that six hundred years of history are dealt with in some two hundred pages it is little wonder that much of what is discussed is almost shorthand. At times this reads more like a dictionary of radical ideas. Tom Paine is dispatched in four pages and Robert Owen only merits three passing references. As for William Morris, he does not appear. As much of the work is descriptive we are left asking questions of the text. Poulsen says of the demands of the Peasants' Revolt that "this is not the place to subject these demands to close political analysis" (p.24). This is a stance that is maintained throughout the work but it is a political analysis that is essentially required. It is not sufficient to describe a history of idealism. Radical ideas must be subjected to analysis in order to understand why they should have arisen and to what extent they are feasible. We need also to understand the implications of those ideas. Any history of radical thinking ought not to be restricted simply to an examination of English radical thought. Marx and Engels are mentioned fleetingly but it is important to understand the part they played in contributing to the radical argument. What tends to happen is that Poulsen's shorthand confuses where it should elucidate, as when he cross refers "what the Bible calls 'love', the trade unions 'solidarity', the socialist 'fraternity'" (p.198). This does not explain what each of these concepts demands or the essential differences understood by these concepts. It is also simplistic to conclude that "socialism" means "fraternity" and again this emphasises the need for a greater analysis within the book. In his epilogue Poulsen argues that radicalism is an ongoing process in which we are all engaged but this theme is not developed sufficiently within the book and the reader is left making what connections he can. Poulsen argues that there is still a need for a "new" society and says:
this desired society has been known by many names over many centuries: the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, the New Jerusalem, the Rule of the Saints, the Digger Republic, the Co-operative Commonwealth, and so on. These early concepts, often associated with religious movements, remained unattainable ideals. It is no longer so. (pp.198-199)
We are not told what conditions have changed to enable the now attainability of these aims. Poulsen's history ends with the emancipation of women but if he really wishes to argue that the common ownership proposed by John Wycliffe can now be achieved he ought to have extended his analysis to a consideration of the debate as it now exists. In this he is guilty of ignoring the work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain which actually does argue the case for the establishment of common ownership as a practical possibility rather than as a moral ideal. At the same time Poulsen's own commitment to radicalism and revolutionary change can be questioned when he argues that at present the prominent radical change required is "the right to work, to practice one's skill or profession, to support oneself and one's dependents by one's labour and thereby make a contribution to the national well-being" (p.198). The perpetuation of capitalism is at odds with a society that can work in the interests of the majority. It is capitalism, for all the reforms that have been achieved, that alienates the working class from the means of production. Poulsen may argue that the "ideal society . . . can only be achieved after a radical reorganisation of our present economic economic and social relations" (p.199) but this is not explained. What form will that reorganisation take and how will it be achieved?

Poulsen's book is a valuable, though brief, introduction to some of the major radical ideas that have developed within society. At the same time it is a reminder of the need for a radical alternative to overcome prevailing ideologies as when he says of the suppression of trade unions that "the defence of freedom became a catchword to perpetuate poverty and exploitation" (p.157). The freedoms that are enjoyed are those of the capitalist class while poverty and exploitation are the lot of the majority. Poulsen ends with a moral imperative of the need for change rather than suffer nuclear annihilation. If he holds to this perspective then he ought to have analysed how the ideals of Ball, Kett and Winstanley have been developed and the contribution that they have made to the ongoing debate. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. They are not simply an historic anomaly but a continuum which requires an understanding of the conditions that have given rise to those ideas and an appreciation of how they have matured in response. The history of radicalism is not a series of snapshots but a continuous refinement. The work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain has helped to transform the notion of an ideal into a practical and feasible alternative in which the needs of all society's members are the pre-requisite modus operandi of society.
Philip Bentley 

Sting in the Tail: Pecking Order (1992)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the December 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pecking Order

The scene is the African veldt: hungry vultures circle over a carcass but they are robbed of their meal by some other predators.

Nature in the raw? No, this is capitalism in the raw because those predators were not wild animals; they were humans. The Guardian (29 October) explains:
. . . the eco-sensitive in Johannesburg have been leaving carcasses on the veldt in a bid to save the vultures from famine. They have put an electric fence round one of these "vulture restaurants" in Bophuthatswana to stop the starving people in the homeland getting at the food.
There is a way to end such human degradation and it doesn't involve Bob Geldof, Telethons, or sending a fiver to Oxfam.

Silly Billy

Comedian Billy Connolly has consigned "socialism to the scrapheap. He told Melvyn Bragg on The South Bank Show (ITV 4 October) that "Socialism is wrong. It must be if all those people in Eastern Europe have rejected it".

Obviously Connolly has been under the impression that what existed in the state-capitalist dictatorships was socialism! No doubt he got this idea from the "communists" he knew in his days as a folk-singer.

One of Connolly's past concert tours was entitled "Rebel Without A Clue": we couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Sensible Sinead

It is not often that you get pop singers talking much sense about politics so it is a real pleasure to record what Sinead O'Connor had to say about money.
My biggest aim is to persuade the world to get rid of money, the root of all evil. If everyone agreed to do it at the same time, it could happen. Won't most people be better off pursuing happiness rather than material assets.
The Sun (23 October)
The more current that idea becomes the easier it is for socialists to spread the ideas of socialism. The only logical alternative to capitalism's money madness is socialism where all production will be solely for need.

Told Ya So!

How John Major must sigh for the heady days when he replaced that nasty old Mrs. Thatcher at number 10.

Remember how his popularity had the stricken Tories soaring in the opinion polls? Everyone, we were told, liked this smiling, unassuming, decent chap.

Alas two years on and his name is mud. From singing his praises the press cannot rubbish him enough (the Sun even calls him a turnip) and he is rated the most unpopular Prime Minister ever.

But this column saw it coming! In January 1991 at the height of Major's love-in with the voters Scorpion pointed out that all leaders of governments must make decisions about the running of capitalism, decisions which will inevitably alienate many voters and
This is why every Prime Minister (Tory and Labour) and the voters have, for a while, a honeymoon followed by a cooling off and eventual divorce. This is what happened to Mrs Thatcher and sooner or later John Major's turn will come.

Marks & Spencer

Work hard - your firm will prosper and you will prosper. That is the accepted wisdom that we are constantly being fed by the media. Well, what do you make of this item?
Marks & Spencer, the Rolls-Royce of Britain's high street stores, is purring through the recession with profits up almost 20 per cent. The St Michael label returned profits of £257 million on higher sales of £2.24 billion with the winning combination of selling expensive food and not quite so expensive clothes.
The losers in the battle against recession were 300 staff made redundant at M & S headquarters last year.
The Times (29 October)

Left Wing Stunts

"Major and Lamont must go" is the Socialist Workers Party's latest stunt. Their declared aim is to "kick the Tories out" but the sacking of Major and Lamont will not achieve this as they would merely be replaced by other Tory luminaries. In any case, mid-term leadership changes ALWAYS restore Tory fortunes - witness the last one.

The SWP's real aim is to get a Labour government in. Their argument is that of course Labour will fail; many workers will see this and turn to the SWP.

Both of these aims are hopelessly doomed. A change of leader would, as history shows, leave the Tories more firmly in the saddle while Labour's inevitable failure would, as history also shows, simply pave the way for yet another Tory government.

Our recent readers survey revealed that some readers think we devote too much space to leftwing parties: sorry, but the above surely demonstrates the genuine need to expose their hare-brained and misleading antics.


As Robin Cook, and other Labour Party frontbenchers, try to expose the government's sale of arms to Iraq during a so-called ban. It is worthwhile recalling Labour's position when they formed the government.
While the government attaches the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable commercial market.
Denis Healey in the House of Commons (25 January 1966)

Passive resistors (1983)

From the July 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Deviance is a subject which has generated considerable interest among social investigators concerned with maintaining the status quo, as evidenced by the stream of books on minority groups like punks and Rastas. Yet there is one group of people — identified by their unvarying attitude to the problems that confront society — which has escaped investigation by our sociologists. Their integration into society has been so complete that any analysis would mean a critical self-examination of roles, class and status which would place many an investigator in a corner.

The group can be identified by the similarity of their statements on factory closures, the bomb and the nasty things Thatcher has done to disrupt their once-peaceful complacency. Invariably, they react to such disturbances by placing the blame for social problems on individuals rather than on the way society is organised. In the meantime they constantly dream of an "if only land", the place where everything is rosy and the threat of the dole queue only puts in an appearance when the individual can join it from choice — for an extended "holiday" from the monotony of repetitive work.

Sometimes their social conscience goes a bit deeper and they surprise themselves with statement like "if only we did not have the starving millions to contend with". Other times they over-extend themselves by popping the question "if only we did not have politicians".

Every inhabitant of "if only land" constantly searches for the permutation that will enable him or her continually to win the Sun bingo. Then they can take up permanent residence in never-never land surrounded by status symbols. The status symbols of wage slaves, however, can become unwelcome embarrassments when the capitalists are no longer willing to buy our labour power. Once this happens the "if only" brigade plead to their bank manager "if only I was not on the dole I would continue paying off my overdraft". However, of the entire group of if onlys, the most obnoxious are those who agree with the need for social change, but nevertheless see no possibility of the socialist revolution ever taking place "if only because the rest of the working class are incapable of gaining the necessary understanding". They are capable of obtaining a class consciousness, but the possibility of any other worker doing so is ruled out. Their refusal to understand the collective capabilities of the working class is to deny the individual's own capabilities of participating in the socialist revolution.

Like all grumblers the if onlys are passive resistors not active revolutionaries. What differentiates a socialist from the if onlys, buts and maybes is that we reject such pathetic indecisive-ness and the dismal assumption that the working class can never change the system that exploits them.
Brian Johnson