Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Demand for "Workers" Control (1945)

From the December 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reynolds News (4th November, 1945) published the following letter:—
   "I am surprised that Mr. Shinwell says he does not subscribe to the doctrine of workers' control of industry. Surely this has always been one of the basic principles of the Trade Union Movement.
   It appears that, instead of applying Socialism, many of our leaders are endeavouring to find a way out of or around the problem. Only a planned economy of workers' control can realise a full Socialist State.
B. Darke
London, E.9.
Mr. Darke's view is that of many supporters of the Labour Party.

It is completely divergent from the intentions of the Labour Government.

The idea has also been expressed by strikes recently.

The idea is a plausible one: simply this, that if a Government of "workers' representatives" (Labour leaders) are in office it is "Workers' control" of industry.

That therefore things will be run increasingly to the benefit of the workers—correspondingly to the detriment of the capitalists, realising, eventually, planned economy in a "full Socialist State".

Wherein lies Mr. Darke's error? First of all, workers' control is not Socialism. Socialism abolishes classes and therefore the working class. Socialism is democratic control of production by the whole community—not by a section of it.

Secondly, and more importantly, neither is a Labour Government "workers' control."

First, "workers control" in the sense of operating production is universal to-day. But if by "workers' control" is meant control of the ownership and distribution of the wealth the workers produce, it obviously cannot be under capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on private ownership; so long as capitalists own, they control.

Where Mr. Darke is confused is that he believes, like so many workers, that a Government composed of men who one worked with their hands, Labour leaders who are ex-dockers, miners, grocers' boys and milk-float drivers, necessarily makes the policy and intentions of that Government different. It does not.

The Labour Party is elected on a programme for the retention of capitalism. It has deluded many electors that its nationalisation schemes are Socialism. They are not.

It urges the workers now to work harder and tighten their belts to increase exports as a step to "Socialism." It is not.

Too Little Too Late . . . (2015)

From the December 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

. . . That’s the most that will ever be done under capitalism about the problems that global warming will bring.

The way the capitalist system works rules out the effective action at world level that is needed to begin tackling the problem. It even encourages economic activities that contribute to it.

Capitalism is based on production being controlled by profit-seeking enterprises which, supported by governments, compete on the market to buy resources and sell products. This competitive pursuit of profits is the essence of capitalism. It’s what capitalism is all about and what prevents any effective action to deal with climate change.

Nobody can deny that global warming is taking place. Nor that, if it continues unchecked, it would have disastrous consequences – such as rising sea-levels and increased desertification – through its effects on the climates of the different parts of the world. There can only be argument over what is causing it. Most scientists in the field take the view that it has mainly been caused by the increase in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere largely as a result of the burning of the fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas.

If this is the case, then one part of any solution has to be cut back on burning these fuels. But this is not happening. In fact, on a world scale, their use is increasing. This is because this is currently the cheapest way of generating the energy to drive industry – and the logic of capitalism compels the profit-seeking enterprises that control production to use the cheapest methods. If they don’t, their competitors will.

What is the solution? First, the competitive struggle for profits as the basis for production must be ended. This requires that the Earth’s natural and industrial resources become the common heritage of all humanity. On this basis, and on this basis alone, can an effective programme to deal with the problem be drawn up and implemented, because production would then be geared to serving human interests and no longer to make a profit for competing enterprises.

There will be those who say that we haven’t the time to wait for the coming into being of this, in their view, unlikely or long-distant solution, and that we must therefore do something now. In this age of apathy and cynicism when any large-scale change is dismissed, this may seem a plausible argument but it begs the question. It assumes that a solution can be implemented within capitalism. But if it can’t (as Socialists maintain), then concentrating on something now rather than on changing the basis of society and production will be a waste of valuable time while the situation gets worse.

---leaflet handed out at climate change events. Bulk copies are available on request and the cost of postage from: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UN.