Monday, December 28, 2015

Sting in the Tail: Class contempt (1997)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the January 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Class contempt

Nigel Dempster’s column in the Daily Mail (23 October) carried an uplifting little item that shows the owning class are not all money mad. It was feared that there would be a dispute in the family of Lord White of Hull when it was discovered that he had left an additional £2.6 million without a will.

Everyone behaved beautifully and there was no undignified squabbling. The lack of litigation over the £2.6 million could be explained by the earlier settlements:
“Widow Victoria, who celebrated her 34th birthday last week, inherited around £17 million, his daughters Caroline and Sita were left £3.5 million each after being given homes in Los Angeles valued at £700,000 and son Lucas, 22, who is heading for tax exile in Bermuda, is the main beneficiary of the £70 million estate. ”
Readers will be relieved to know that the additional cash will go to his son. He’ll need it too, as he apparently spends around £500,000 per year on his polo expenses.

That the capitalist press can print such obscenities, shows in what contempt they hold the working class, who of course produce all these immense fortunes.

The golden years?

Last month we reported the shocking treatment of elderly workers, but the situation is even worse than we thought.

In the Observer (3 November) Ginny Jenkins, director of the charity, Action on Elderly Abuse, says:
“This month and every month at least 100,000 old people will be physically abused. And these will be people living in their own homes. Patients, visitors and staff can be reluctant to report abuse. Patients may feel that complaining will make matters worse, or be too confused to complain. Relatives might fear being handed back the complainant. And staff may think they could lose their jobs. ”
The report details a catalogue of horror stories—rape, sexual abuse and neglect at home and in nursing homes.

When you are young and fit you produce surplus value for your master. When you are old and infirm you are the subject of neglect and abuse. In the treatment of the elderly, capitalism must be the worst system ever devised.

His master’s voice

James McKillop writing on the arms trade in the Herald (19 November) both illustrated his awareness of the horrors of capitalism and his misunderstanding about the government’s role in the arms trade:
“They are the merchants of death. Like vultures they hover around the world’s trouble spots, intent on making a quick buck out of human misery and genocide. They have no ethics other than those of the market force that decrees wherever there is a demand, a ready supply can be guaranteed. ”
We could not have put it better, but his indignation is somewhat marred by this naive statement:
“In the wake of the Scott report into the arms to Iraq scandal, the government has tried to get its act together. In preparing for fresh legislation it has issued a consultative document in which it has asked the advice of (would you believe it?) those involved in the arms trade. ”
Yes, we believe it. The arms trade is worth £5 billion per year to the British capitalist class. Why shouldn’t their spokesmen and legislators in government consult their masters?

The blind wordspinner

In the Independent on Sunday (27 October) the journalist Colin Tudge wrote a long article called “If the Pope can find Darwin why can’t Dawkins find God?” It was a typical piece of ill- informed journalism; long on rhetoric and short on sense.

After discussing the stupidities and horrors of religion from the Inquisition to the role of Islam in present-day Afghanistan, he makes the following ludicrous claim:
“But despite its past enormities and its present absurdities, religion is necessary, and the task is not to obliterate religion but to devise one appropriate to our age. ”
Tudge is really annoyed at Professor Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker, for his attacks on religious beliefs. He accuses him of “the Goebbels-esque response of some scientists who reach for their revolvers when they hear the word ‘religion’”.

In fact, Dawkins in his books and lectures when discussing religious notions contrasts them with verifiable, logical data. When it comes to “reaching for revolvers” the religious of this world have a much more trigger-happy record than professors of zoology.

Magic moments

Sometimes the capitalist class get really desperate. But we doubt if any British company has yet plumbed the depth of one Chinese factory. According to the Independent (4 July) and quoted in the December issue of Fortean Times things must have got really desperate in Guandong:
“The Longwan cement factory in Guandong province, China, ordered the entire workforce to attend a ceremony where a witch and a sorcerer sacrificed a dog in an attempt to restore profitability to the plant which lost 8m yuan (over £600,000) last year. ” 
Alas, the magicians had little more success than the teams of management consultants called in to work their voodoo for British firms in similar circumstances:
“Workers and management went down on their bended knees to ask for divine assistance, but shortly after the ceremony a power generator at the factory burnt out. ”
No doubt the witch and the sorcerer deservedly got their marching orders. Pity about the dog though. 

Some states good; some states bad (1996)

From the December 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Debate Between Socialist Party and Tories 'Is Britain Worth Dying for?'

Halloween was a suitably grim evening for a debate at Cardiff University between the Socialist Party and the prospective Tory candidate for Cardiff Central, David Melding, on the topic: “Is Britain Worth Dying For?”

As an exposition of how the economic conflicts of capitalism and the boss class are the true cause of war and death on an ever-increasing scale and of the socialist alternative to this sick system, even this was extremely useful. The fact that when the ruling class and governments of rival territories fall out over markets, raw materials, trade routes and the like and can’t or won’t compromise, it is the working class who are marched off to kill each other in their own oppressors’ interests was once again held up for all to see. This debate led to important related issues rising to the surface.

One was the idea put forward by our Conservative opponent that some states are worth dying for (today’s Britain, of course!) and some aren’t (Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia). This “good state-bad state” argument missed the point that all states are more or less oppressive The state will always protect the interest of the ruling class who control it against working-class interests. States are as oppressive as their controllers feel they need to be. This can even be seen in “liberal” Britain, for example during the last great miners’ strike, when state violence was openly used to smash workers’ resistance. There are no “good” states because the state is a creation that is set up and maintained by the rulers, against the ruled. Needless to say, in socialism the state would not and could not exist in any form.

What was also brought out was the sheer human tragedy caused when states and the ruling class unleash their killing machines. That is, people from one part of the world are expected to kill people from another, whom they have never met. These people will be much like themselves, their families, and friends. That this sick idea is seen as normal and acceptable by all the parties of capitalism, “left” and “right”, shows just what a bloody and anti-human system we are slaving under.

No government, however, will admit that such institutionalised mass murder is carried out in the name of profit, but then who would expect anything like the truth from any politician? Wars always falsely dressed up as clashes of ideology or “good against evil”, which brings us back to the Cardiff Tory’s claim that some states are somehow “morally” superior to others and thus represent something it is worth dying (and killing) for.

This view of the world (faithfully upheld by the media) would have us believe that the Gulf War was about defending Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s fantastic “democracy” and “freedom” from the Forces of Evil (armed previously by Britain and the US, among others) rather than a punch-up over oil resources. It would also have us imagine the Second World Slaughter was a battle for liberty. That World War Two ended with the delivery of millions of East Europeans into the clutches of the red fascists of Soviet Russia shows just how interested the great powers really were in “freedom” and “democracy”.

Wars are always fought over the economic and strategic interests of the various sections of the world’s ruling class. Fighting our brothers and sisters from other “countries” is totally against our interests as members of the working class; our rulers’ quarrels are not worth one drop of blood.

As for the millions who have been pointlessly slaughtered in wars and the millions who are dying now, the best way we can remember them is to get rid of the capitalist system that killed them and will keep on killing and replace it with world socialism, where the nightmares of wars, states, money and oppression will, at long last, have disappeared forever.
Ben Malcolm

New Zealand Elections (1996)

From the December 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

The World Socialist Party (New Zealand) put up a candidate in the Wairarapa Electorate for the first time. It is not a big constituency in terms of the number of voters but it is spread over a very large areas. The WSP candidate obtained 27 votes. The area is a farming district and very rural. Wairarapa is located in the south-east of New Zealand’s North Island. Wairarapa is bordered by the rugged Tararua Ranges to the west, and the wild Pacific Ocean to the east. New Zealand’s first planned inland town was built in the Wairarapa at Greytown followed a few weeks later by Masterton. The electorate carried on past North Wairarapa from Mauriceville, Eketahuna right up to Dannivirke and Norsewood in Southern Hawke’s Bay, where early Scandinavian settlers established communities in the early 1870s.

To the majority of voters this would be the first time they had heard of the World Socialism Movement With a campaign budget of $2500, ten thousand election leaflets were produced and delivered by hand to households predominantly in Masterton and the smaller towns south of it In addition advertisements were placed respectively in the two community papers that cover the electorate over four weeks. The candidate spoke at four public meetings and one organised by the education sector.

Media coverage from the daily newspapers was small, a mere two to three sentences, or we were simply excluded and denied the opportunity to express and present our view alongside the other political parties. This was particularly the case with the Wairarapa Times-Age based in Masterton. Only after a protest did they place a small piece on the front page on the eve of the election. Too small and too late. As yet we have not received a reply to our letter asking why we were excluded from putting our case across alongside the six main parties.

The votes cast for the World Socialist Party candidate spread over all the electorate and showed that some workers at least were looking beyond capitalism, it is hoped that these voters will now wish to be involved in the serious struggle for world socialism. 

Don't mourn Deng Xiaoping (1997)

From the April 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Deng Xiaoping, the behind-the-scenes boss of Chinese capitalism, died on 19 February at the ripe old age of 93. He had an eventful life, on a political roller-coaster that saw him ejected from government in disgrace more than once but enabled him to live out his last decade as a wielder of unofficial but still supreme power. He had long enjoyed all the benefits of ruling-class membership, such as access to the best health-care that he didn't need to buy, and flying his cronies in for games of bridge, a privilege unavailable to most workers in China or anywhere else.

Deng will be remembered as not just one of the most cunning of political survivors, but also as the architect of China's market reforms and as one of those behind the bloody suppression of the popular movements of 1989. His best-known remark, mercilessly lampooned by his opponents, was "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice." The implication was that political purity was less important than efficiency or effectiveness. This so-called pragmatism came to the fore after 1979, when Deng's government opened the Chinese economy to market forces and overseas investment. The new policy was, in effect, that the cat's colour didn't matter as long as it made a profit. This was not a result of Deng's own preferences as much as a question of fitting in with the needs of Chinese capitalism, which is well-placed to undercut wage costs in more developed countries and so make big money for Chinese capitalists (the new private owners as well as the state bureaucrats) and overseas shareholders. It is fitting that Deng's death should be marked by profiteering from tasteless mementoes of him.

This privatisation policy had disastrous effects on workers. Inflation, reduction of subsidies on food and travel costs, and an increase in unemployment and job insecurity meant a more anxious existence for millions. It was particularly galling that many people were obviously benefitting from the new policies, and that this was often due to nepotism and favouritism. Deng's own family prospered from his eminence and influence. Resentment at corruption and the lack of democratic politics led to the mass uprisings of 1989, when workers across China showed their opposition and demanded better treatment. Though media attention focused on the students in Tiananmen Square, this was only a small part of the resistance. The crackdown when it came, vicious and bloody as it was, was also not confined to Beijing and Tiananmen. Deng was one of the motive forces behind the repression, his earlier reputation for flexibility shattered by the guns and tanks of the Chinese army.

Deng's death will no doubt be followed by a power struggle, as those at the top of the "Communist" Party vie to maintain and improve their positions the policy of political dictatorship allied with greater appeal to market forces is likely to continue for a while at least, as the rich and powerful do very nicely from the present system; it may well be boosted by the imminent take-over of Hong King, with all its financial pickings. Workers in China will go on suffering, as before. No member of any ruling class deserves to be mourned by workers, least of all a tyrant such as Deng Xiaoping.
Paul Bennett

The Interesting Case of Peter Fryer (1956)

Editorial from the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Fryer is the Communist journalist who was sent by the Daily Worker to Budapest to report what was going on. Now Mr. Fryer has resigned from the Daily Worker (but not from the Communist Party) because he discovered that h was sent there not to report what he saw, but to cover up for the Russian Government. He sent three despatches and he subsequently told Mr. Colin Lawson, a Daily Express correspondent, whom he met in Budapest, what happened to them. (Published as an interview in Daily Express, 17th November).

The first despatch ("a straightforward account of what I had seen as soon as I arrived . . . on the night of October 20th,") was not used at all. The second despatch was an interview between Fryer and another Communist. Mr. Coutts. who had been in Budapest for three years as Editor of World Youth. This despatch "was cut, and cut ruthlessly," for the first edition of the Daily Worker. Members of the staff protested, and some of the cuts were restored in a later edition.

The third despatch was not published at all. It was suppressed by the Editor, J. R. Campbell, "who had that day returned from Moscow." He not only suppressed it, but "refused to let other members of the staff read it."

The Daily Worker never admits that it is under Communist control. It claims that it is the only paper "owned by its readers," but Mr. Fryer discloses that while Campbell was away in Moscow his "stand in" was Mr. George Matthews, assistant secretary of the Communist Party (It was he who cut the second despatch).

Mr. Fryer, in the interview with Colin Lawson, expressed the following views:
"I take the view that the Soviet action in Hungary was a crime and a tragic blunder, both from the Soviet point of view and from the point of view of the whole international working class."
He denies the Communist Party argument that the Hungarian workers backed the Russian action.
"If the Soviet intervention was necessary to put down counter-revolution, how is it to be explained that some of the fiercest resistance of all was in the working-class districts of Ujpest and Csepel?"
(Incidentally, as late as 17th November, the Daily Worker was still reporting broadcast appeals by the new Hungarian government to the workers to end their strike, aimed, as the Worker admits, to enforce "the reinstatement of Mr. Nagy, the former Premier, and the withdrawal of Soviet troops.")

One last quotation from Mr. Fryer:
"I should say that the rising against what I would describe as the so-called Communist government of Hungary was supported by 99 per cent. of the people, including a great number of the ordinary honest rank and file members of the Communist Party. Nobody wanted the Russians to stay. Nobody wanted the secret police. They were sick and tired of both of them."