Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At the mercy of global capitalism (1996)

From the January 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workers in developing countries, even those with vast natural resources such as Brazil, face a future of insecurity, destitution and repression. There is simply no way out within the capitalist order. For them, the establishment of Socialism really is a matter of life and death.

Brazil originated as a slave society. The Portuguese who ruled it from the sixteenth century saw its natural resources—brazil wood, sugar and gold— as the basis for massive fortunes. But the native inhabitants, who mostly lived as hunter-gatherers, were unwilling to work for pitiful wages in appalling conditions. The solution was to enslave the native peoples, and slave-hunting itself became a profitable business. When even this failed to produce a large and reliable enough workforce, slaves were imported from Africa—they had the advantage of immunity to European diseases in addition to their working abilities. As many as three-and-a-half-million slaves were shipped from Africa to Brazil, making this an important, if often neglected, aspect of the slave trade.

By the time Brazil achieved independence from Portugal in 1822, coffee was becoming the biggest export. Independence served the interests of the Brazilian ruling class, who were no longer tied to trading through Portugal, but made little if any difference to the lives of ordinary people. As elsewhere, slavery ceased to be the best method for extracting surplus labour, and by 1888, when slavery was abolished in Brazil, Brazilian peasants and new immigrants from southern Europe were working as wage labourers. Besides coffee, there was a boom in rubber production in the north-cast of the country in the second half of the nineteenth century, but this ended when rubber plants were smuggled out to south-east Asia and vast rubber plantations set up there.

For the first few decades of the present century, Brazil continued to be run as an export economy, dependent on the lion's share of the world coffee market. Imports were mainly of consumer goods for the rich, and machines. Brazilian industry was inefficient, protected from competition behind high tariff barriers. But the slump of the 1930s drastically reduced the world demand for coffee, and produced a crisis in Brazil's economy. A series of dictatorships and military governments failed to make a success of the policy of import-substituting industrialisation introduced into Brazil, as into much of Latin America, after 1945.

In the 1960s and 1970s, however, Brazil experienced annual growth rates of 10 percent, making it now the world's eighth largest economy (in terms of GDP). Coffee remains the main export, but fruit and some industrial products are also important. For a handful of rich capitalists and land-owners, things have worked out very well, but for the mass of ordinary Brazilians all this economic “progress" is a myth.

The expansion of manufacturing has led to an enormous increase in urban population, and vast shanty towns (favelas) have grown up around the main Brazilian cities. These offer few facilities of any kind, and are massively overcrowded, with over a million people living in favelas in Sao Paulo alone. In the whole country, one-third of houses have no piped water, and according to one report 80 percent of those going to casualty departments in public hospitals are suffering from illnesses caused by poor sanitary conditions. Under-five mortality rates are getting worse, certainly in some areas. Over 30 million people (one-fifth of the population) suffer from chronic malnutrition, while the richest one percent get 14 percent of the national income.

Child labour
While the rich enjoy their exclusive beaches and Swiss bank accounts, the overwhelming majority of the population live in fear and squalor. Violence and terrorism abound, directed especially against street children in the big cities and favelas. Child labour is rife, and perhaps half-a-million girls and women are forced to work as prostitutes. And despite its formal abolition over a century ago, slavery still exists, with thousands of workers in debt to their bosses and unable to leave their jobs on pain of death. This is particularly common in the Amazon, where workers are transported to clear the forest and make way for multinational-owned plantations.

For centuries, in fact, Amazonia has been seen as ripe for exploitation, whether by the Portuguese colonists, the Brazilian rulers or capitalists from abroad. Earlier this century, Henry Ford spent millions in an unsuccessful attempt to start a giant rubber plantation there. Besides logging—thus helping to destroy the rainforest—one of the current preoccupations of the government is of the Amazon as a source of hydroelectric power, with vast dams under construction or on the drawing- board. This devastates the lives of those who dwell in the forest, including the few remaining Indian bands. Resistance is met by violence and repression—the murder of rubber-tapper Chico Mendes in 1988 is only the best-known example.

Brazil has always been at the mercy of global capitalism and the interests of those who run it, and no Brazilian government has been able to administer the system in the way that it wants. The foreign debt is now a staggering $150 billion; interest payments were suspended [in] 1982 when it was little more than half this amount. Attempts to gain some control over the country’s helter-skelter economy, with inflation sometimes beating 2,000 percent a year, have included two introductions of new currencies, the latest in 1994. But nothing helps. Earlier this year, import tariffs were hiked on a range of "luxury" goods, including cars and televisions, to try and reduce the trade deficit—not that this tariff increase affects the vast majority of the population, who are in no position to afford such items.

Of course such a system has not run without resistance. Many slaves escaped over the decades and created slave sanctuaries, while the great Cabanagem rebellion in the 1830s showed that the rulers could not have everything their own way. Exploitation of the Amazon has led to much resistance to loggers and dam-builders, while workers have struck in a number of industries after the latest currency reform led to lower wages. In May this year troops seized control of government oil refineries in a conflict with striking oil-workers. Cardoso, the new president, recently vetoed an increase in the minimum wage: at £58 a month, this remains well below what is needed to support a family. Cardoso tried to set a good example by taking a 25 percent wage cut himself, but then his own salary, at £7,000 a month, is a little higher than the minimum.
Paul Bennett

Saints and sinners (1984)

Cartoon by George Meddemmen.
From the September 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

The government’s assault on the town halls of Britain is being dramatised by the Labour Party as an epic battle for democracy, civil rights and human dignity. Heroically resisting the Whitehall panzers are municipal guerrillas like Livingstone of London and Hatton of Liverpool who, if the government is ever unwise enough to prosecute them, will be rapidly raised from mere heroism to martyrdom and then, perhaps, to sainthood.

In July the guerrilla leaders held a council of war, appropriately in Sheffield. There they set out the basis of a campaign against the expenditure cuts which are being imposed on them. Boldly they faced the prospect of acting outside the law; the leader of the Islington council, supported by Livingstone and Lambeth’s Ted Knight, proposed that Labour councils should budget to protect services and jobs and refuse to make a rate. Any government, let alone one including Thatcher, Tebbit and Jenkin, would be bound to respond to this, perhaps by assuming the councils’ functions and, by more indirect means, by prosecuting the recusant councillors.

This all makes good material for Labour’s dramatists and it may even win some votes for their party (although it may also lose some; the working class have not always been grateful to councils which have been labelled as squanderers) but it is somewhat out of touch with reality. Capitalism 1984 is in a slump which affects every industrial country. As usual, workers are being subjected to an extra fierce attack called economising, living within our means and so on. As it is bound to, this attack falls partly on things which, whatever their deficiencies, do something to ease workers’ lives — medical and social services, libraries, education, recreation facilities, sanitary controls. So in a slump workers who need, say, domiciliary nursing or home help can’t get them; teachers are sacked and schools are forced to manage with disintegrating books and equipment, libraries are closed and streets left dirty, spilling uncollected rubbish. Labour resistance to these cuts is unreal because it assumes, against all the evidence and experience, that a Labour government would ride out the slump while protecting the working class and keeping all services intact. This assumption inspires Livingstone and Hatton as it inspired the Clay Cross councillors and, 40 years before them, the councillors of Poplar led by white-whiskered, benign George Lansbury.

In 1921 Lansbury was Lord Mayor of Poplar and an elected member of the Borough’s Board of Guardians. It was not the happiest of times to be mayor in any big British city and especially of a place like Poplar, disfigured by slums and grinding poverty. This was a dockland Borough, lying close by the East and West India docks; its mean houses were overlooked by gasworks and warehouses and veined with railway goods yards and canals. The docks were notorious for their insecurity, with employment handed out each morning at the gates. In August 1921, according to the dockers’ union leader Ernest Bevin, there were 62,000 registered dockers in London but on any day the most who were employed amounted to 29,000. It is common for workers in places like Poplar to be staunch supporters of the Labour Party, in the mistaken belief that that party can ameliorate their poverty. In 1921 Poplar had a Labour majority on its council and on its Board of Guardians, who administered the Poor Law relief which, like supplementary benefit today, was supposed to be a fail-safe when other benefits were not available.

The system of “outdoor relief’ was set up in 1834; it was collected through a local rate. The amount of relief varied from one Board of Guardians to another; most of them were not renowned for their generosity and to apply to them was excessively degrading, fraught with terror of being forced into the workhouse with its hard labour, starvation and brutality. By the 1920s the worst features of this system had supposedly been abolished by a series of reforms, among them the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1921, which effectively extended unemployment benefit to almost all workers and even promised “uncovenanted” benefits. This reform had seemed safe at the time; there was a mood of boom-induced optimism and the Act was designed to relieve short-term unemployment, allowing benefit for only 26 weeks. The few people expected by the experts to be still out of work after that could apply to the Guardians for “outdoor relief’.

But capitalism in the Twenties was no more under the control of the experts than it is today. The brief post-war boom was followed by a slump and in 1921 unemployment exceeded 2 million (about 17 per cent of the workforce) and it did not fall below one million until the Second World War. There was general surprise at the slump; “In April 1920,” said The Economist, “all was right with the world. In April 1921 all was wrong.” That year saw the emergence of the long-term unemployed who, as their 26 weeks of benefit ran out, were driven to apply for Poor Law relief; Between March and November the numbers on that relief rose from 224,000 to 831,000. As we have said, how these desperate people fared varied from place to place, with some Guardians being bullying and niggardly and others comparatively sympathetic and generous. Poplar was one of the latter sort; led by Lansbury, the Guardians there were prepared to allow a man and wife 33 shillings (£1.65) a week, compared to the state “uncovenanted” rate of £1.00 a week. One result of this was that in Poplar one person in five was on relief compared to one in 21 in England and Wales as a whole. The Poplar Guardians justified their policy in a defiant leaflet they published in 1922:
. . .  the duty of members of the Board of Guardians is to be Guardians of the POOR and not Guardians of the interests of property. In Poplar there is no cringing or whining on the part of those who apply for public assistance . . .  Relief is accepted without shame or regret — in fact in exactly the same spirit as that in which ex-Cabinet ministers, Royalties, and others accept their pensions and allowances from the Government. In Poplar it is well understood that the poor are poor because they are robbed, and are robbed because they are poor . . .
The snag in this generosity was, of course, that it offended against the vital principle of all capitalist administration, that the accounts must not get into the red — and definitely not, as was the case with the Poplar Guardians, be forced into the red. In places like Poplar the demand for relief was likely to be high but, for the same reasons, the local rate was likely to yield that much less. As the Borough slid inexorably towards bankruptcy the gutter press, already carrying on an eager crusade against official “squandermania”, coined the word “poplarism” for the policy of pampering workshy layabouts out of other people’s money (they could not, apparently, think up a word for the real layabouts in society — the class who lived in luxury off the unpaid labour of the working class and who, while the people of Poplar fought the ravages of poverty, were wining and dancing their days away at the smart restaurants of London). A judge, who clearly did not understand a word of what he was saying, later condemned the Poplar councillors as ' . . . motivated by eccentric principles of socialist philanthropy”.

These criticisms did not impress the Poplar Guardians, who now came up with an unconventional proposal to regard the relief of the poor as their first priority and to refuse to collect the Borough’s precept to such bodies as the London County Council, the Police and the Metropolitan Asylum Board. This policy was later described, in the report of a clearly outraged inspector to the Minister of Health, as “. . . in many instances foreign to the spirit and intention of the Poor Law statutes”; no attempts had been made to discriminate between the “deserving” and the “undeserving”; the council had supplied boots and clothing to people who needed them (and who, complained the inspector, might have pawned them to get money instead) and they had sent children, on the recommendation of their doctors, on holiday. They had even begun to feed the inmates of the Poplar workhouse adequately.

When the Poplar Guardians ignored a court order to pay the precepts Lansbury and 29 other councillors were sent to prison in September 1921 for contempt of court. As we all know, it is a heinous crime to defy a court, especially when it is a matter of the protection of property rights and the priority of profit above all else. But no sensible person could have expected the Poplar sentences to be deterrent. At their last meeting before the councillors went to prison there were excited, emotional crowd scenes and ten thousand people saw off the women councillors when they were arrested. The fate of the Poplar councillors did not deter their counterparts of Stepney and Bethnal Green, similarly impoverished parts of London. Although the London Labour Party advised against it, both Boroughs followed the example of Poplar. On behalf of the capitalist class, The Times of 3 September 1921 gave vent to its frustration:
The unlawful cause for which some of the Poplar Borough Councillors have gone to prison has confessedly been followed, not with the sole object of relieving distress — other and more temperate methods would better have served that end — but in order to vindicate the Communist doctrine of "full maintenance” for the unemployed.
But even this attack on the idea that unemployed people should be able to live somewhat above destitution did not help the government to wriggle out of an embarrassing situation. Lansbury and his fellow martyrs sat comfortably in gaol, while their supporters sang songs to them outside the wall, apparently for the offence of trying to keep working class people above actual starvation. On 12 October, although they had not “purged” their contempt, the Poplar councillors were released. This was celebrated as a great victory but there was rather more to it. On one hand the government gave way to one of the Poplar councillors’ demands and pushed through an Act which spread the cost of relief over all the London boroughs so that rich areas like Westminster contributed to relief in the East End. On the other hand there was legislation to allow an authority like the LCC to collect its precept over the heads of a recalcitrant council through a Receiver and the Minister superseded the Guardians in West Ham, Chester-le-Street and Bedwelty. In the end, there was no widespread attempt to imitate Poplar. A more serious effect of the affair was that it tended to divert attention away from the vital question of the cause of, and remedy for, unemployment and into a spurious, futile debate about how much, or how little, the unemployed needed to survive. There was much discussion around the definition of “not genuinely seeking work” and preoccupation with the “gap” between unemployment benefit and Poor Law relief. Such debates — which today still rage on — are the very stuff of life to the reformists but they do not touch on the basic issue of capitalism’s inability to satisfy people’s needs.

The Poplar Guardians emerged from gaol to find capitalism still there, its economy switchbacking with unemployment never falling below one million. The Local Government Act of 1929 effectively brought the end of the Guardians, substituting Public Assistance Committees which would be a lot less likely to pursue a maverick course. This was just in time for the Great Crash and unemployment rising over 3 million and the hated, degrading means test which, under another name, still operates today. By any standards, this is hardly a victory for the working class.

And what of Lansbury? If he was a saint it was one who displayed some devilish political guile and will to survive. In 1928, after the debacle of Labour’s 1924 term of office, he insisted that never again should they form a government dependent on Liberal support. But when they did form such a government, in 1929, Lansbury not only failed to object but actually accepted a job in the government. His attitude in the much-reported debate at the 1935 Labour conference, when his pacifism conflicted with his place as party leader on the issue of military sanctions against Italy, was not notable for its saintly consistency. It is true that he did offer to resign but, as Ernest Bevin noticed, he carefully worded his offer to leave himself open to being persuaded to carry on. Bevin’s famously brutal speech was designed to prevent that happening, with its sneer that Lansbury was “. . . taking your conscience round from body to body asking to be told what to do with it”.

So the 1984 Labour municipal guerrillas are following a tradition made disreputable by its futility, not to mention its conflict and cynicism. Since Lansbury trod the martyr’s trail the working class have endured over 60 years of suffering for capitalism. After all that they might realise that there is a lot more to the history of this society that a conflict between saints and sinners.

Blind Alleys. (1923)

From the August 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

At a conference recently held by the Y.M.C.A. the question of blind alley occupations for boys was discussed. Some interesting figures were published by the Daily Chronicle, which also stated in a leading article that the evil was due to the selfishness of parents and the desire of low-grade employers for cheap labour. The very fact that the majority of workers employed are doing work that requires little skill, while there is a large percentage of unemployed in nearly every skilled trade, proves this statement to be a lie.

Capitalists, low grade or high grade, do not pay skilled workers wages for so-called unskilled work. The jobs that capitalists want filled arE mainly low-skilled jobs with low pay. Modern industry is carried on with a relatively small number of skilled workers and a huge majority of low-skilled.

A high proportion of skilled workers is not required with machine production, and the bulk of the wealth in any capitalist country is produced by machinery tended by men, women, boys and girls, who can often learn their tasks in a few days, or even hours.

Under any system of society the production and distribution of wealth must require workers of varying degrees of skill; but it is only under capitalism that each particular kind and degree of skilled labour-power is catalogued and priced. Under capitalism labour-power is a commodity. The strength or ability to perform a particular kind of labour has a price recognised by worker and capitalist, just as the value of a cabinet is recognised by seller and buyer because of the workmanship and materials used in its construction. But just as everybody would admit that it would be foolish for capitalists to expend capital in the production of cabinets that were not wanted, so it must be apparent that parents who trained their boys as cabinet makers when the trade was already overcrowded would be equally foolish.

What shall we do with our boys? is a question always being asked. Every skilled trade is already overcrowded, though occasionally for short periods a particular trade, through an unforeseen rise in the demand for its goods, may have only a small percentage of its members unemployed.

In any case the proportion of workers relatively high skilled to lower skilled is determined, not by the workers, but by the kind of industrial products in demand and the tools and methods employed in their production. Machinery and scientific discovery eliminate skill and enable the capitalist to avail himself of the lower skilled and cheaper workers, such as women and boys.

To the boys thus employed their daily work is, for them, so many hours of imprisonment that merely tires, and leaves them with no desire for healthy recreation or study.

To pretend, as the Daily Chronicle does, that the manufacture of low-skilled and casual workers is due to the selfishness of parents, is sheer hypocrisy. No parent can create jobs for his boys. The majority of workers are themselves low-skilled or casual and on or below the poverty line. They have little or no choice in the matter.. The majority of boys are compelled to take the first job that offers; compelled to do so because capitalist industry offers nothing better.

Both the Y.M.C.A. and the Daily Chronicle also claim that capitalists in “the lower grades of industry” are largely responsible for the evil, but there is scarcely an industry that does not employ a greater proportion of low-skilled than high-skilled workers; while in many industries highly-skilled workers are paid lower wages than the so-called unskilled of other industries, simply because they are in excess of the demand and not organised to resist encroachments by the masters. There is little difference in capitalists. The small parasite may be more hungry for profits, but the limited company and the large scale concern are better organised and equipped for the purpose of exploitation.

Under capitalism the machinery of production is owned by the capitalist, and the energy of the worker is bought to operate it at a price which enables him to live. The machine condemns him to a life of toil in which there is no hope of intelligent interest or development. But when the worker realises the value of the machine as something which will give him more freedom from the nature-imposed necessity to work, he will no longer complain of the dreariness of his task. With full control of all the material factors in the production of wealth the workers can produce according to their needs. With modern machinery and methods, each performing his share in the necessary labour, the major portion of the life of every human being can be spent according to his own ideas of happiness or development.
F. Foan

State Murder in the USA. (1993)

From the October 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

The law and order card is always the trump that struggling governments use to divert attention away from the crisis created by the capitalist system they help to run. Just as crime, law and order have been at the forefront of the political agenda in Britain, so too is this the case in America now if all else fails, there is always the scapegoat, the working class, potential miscreants and criminals who are responsible for social decline.

The only Western industrialized state that still applies the death penalty is the United States. Just as grotesque, in this land where its constitution proclaims the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", is that come election time candidate’s stance in the capital punishment debate can win or lose him or her a seat in Congress or the Senate.

In 1988 Democrat Michael Dukakis voiced his opposition to the death penalty and lost many votes in the presidential elections. Bill Clinton, as Governor of Arkansas, was all too aware of this when he later sanctioned the execution of a mentally subnormal teenager — he had in mind the 80 percent of the American electorate who belong to the pro-capital punishment camp.

To what extent Clinton’s victory last year in the race to the White House depended on his pro-death penalty views is open to question. But his views on the death penalty and on crime in America in general are now being used by Democrats to regain the political initiative. Basically, Clinton wants $3.4 billion funding for a plan that will put an extra 50,000 police officers on the streets. He also wants to expand the number of crimes punishable by death and to limit death row inmates to one habeas corpus appeal within six months of sentence. He also believes the law's governing the sale of handguns should be tightened calling for a 5-day waiting period for handgun purchases!

If any department in the American Establishment is devoid of logic it is certainly that which is responsiblc for law and order. In 1990 (the last year for which statistics are available), 37,155 Americans died of gunshot wounds. If this is not an abominable figure (3.000 have died in Northern Ireland since 1968), there are an estimated 200,000,000 firearms in circulation in America. Yet the Clinton camp have revealed no plans to curb the individual’s "right" to possess a firearm.

At present some 2.500 prisoners await execution on death row in 36 states. The statistics here are just as baffling. Between 1973 and 1988, executions and the lengthy appeal process they entailed cost Florida tax payers $57 million. Which is $3.2 million per execution. At the same time, a prisoner held in maximum security cost $40,000 per year — twice the cost had he been educated at Harvard. In the state of Texas the cost of an execution case is the equivalent to the cost of imprisoning three men for "life".

Anyone with a grain of common sense will realize that an extra 50.000 police officers, all with arrest quotas to meet, will mean a jump in prison statistics. Clinton could only say this on the matter: "The plan is tough. It will put police on the streets and criminals in jail" (Guardian, 12 August).

Perhaps no-one has told him that there are some one million prisoners in the United States, housed in federal, state and county jails the highest incarceration rate in the world, with imprisonment, rising at the rate of 13 percent per year, and the criminal justice system processing 1,500 new prisoners per day. Little wonder that new prison construction costs are running at $6 billion per year.

Against all the crass statistics on the vast amounts spent on imprisonment must be set the penny-pinching when it comes to executing death row inmates. States that do use the death penalty arc finding it cost efficient to use the lethal injection method of execution - the equipment costs a pittance.

Oklahoma has been using the lethal injection method since 1977. Apparently prison authorities did not want to fork out the $60,000 needed to fix the electric chair while, the $200,000 asking price for a gas chamber was out of the question. Surely a bullet to the head would have cost the state no more than one-dollar per year!

1977 was also the year that Texas’ Governor claimed lethal injection would "provide some dignity with death". Where is the dignity in being forcibly strapped into a chair by men in uniform and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs?

In all forms of execution the prisoner suffers pain and trauma. Sitting in the gas chamber in 1983. Jimmy Lee Gray convulsed for eight minutes before dying. In 1985 William Van Diver took 17 minutes to die in the electric chair, requiring five charges. Observers reported seeing his flesh smoke. Even where lethal injection is used, groans have been heard 18 minutes into the execution.

Any true Socialist is appalled at the idea of the state having the right to execute its citizens. The death penalty in any form is a blatant violation of human rights — the most undignified and irreversible of all punishments. How do you resurrect an innocent man? State executions are in reality the state taking revenge on the wage-slave for a mistake he or she committed because of the frustrations caused by the contradictions of the capitalist system that they are conditioned to exist in.

Those who advocate the death penalty tend to use the time-honoured argument that the death penalty is a deterrent, that it helps to reduce crime. However, throughout the world, no sociologist nor any export hired to study the subject has been able to demonstrate conclusively that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to the commission of the crime for which it is exacted. Moreover, there is no proof that the abolition of the death penalty will lead to the nightmare consequences predicted by its propagandists.

In the United States in 1985, FBI research revealed that the number of law enforcement officers killed was almost four times as high in states with the death penalty than in states without it. This stark revelation led reformers to conclude that legal executions may actually stimulate violent crime by exemplifying society’s approval of killing.

The equation Capitalism = Mass Inequality. Frustration. Murder for Gain State Execution is backed up by further statistics. Since 1972, 60 percent of death row inmates were unemployed at the time of their crimes. Of the 2.500 on America’s death rows, 65 percent were in low-paid, unskilled jobs. A study carried out on the Texas judicial system found that prisoners with court appointed lawyers were over twice as likely to be given the death penalty as those who could afford a reputable defence team.

The American criminal justice system is also racist with black people murdering whites 11 times more likely to face execution than for white people murdering blacks. In Florida the ratio is 40-1! Of all men executed for rape since 1930, 90 percent were black. There are six black people in prison for every four in higher education.

State executions is capitalism at its ugliest. It is the state giving up on the individual and admitting that the social system under capitalism is not working — that the only solution to capital crimes is death.

As Clinton refuses to address the real problems facing America, and to look to solutions that have already been tried and failed in the past, American wage-slaves can expect a tough time ahead should they look for a quick way to bridge the gap between poverty and wealth.
John Bissett

Sting in the Tail: Left Wing Futility (1989)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the July 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Left Wing Futility

Denis Canavan, Labour MP for Falkirk, is refusing to pay his £50 fine for not registering for the poll tax which came into effect in Scotland in April.

His response to a sheriff officer's threat to impound some of his property was to refer him to a 15 stone unemployed miner with two large greyhounds who will be looking after his house when he is at Westminster.

So eat your hearts out, you left wingers. Here's a guy who will take on the forces of the state without your workers' militia, barricades, etc. He only needs a man and two dogs. Of course Canavan knows there will be no aggro of that sort because the authorities can collect the fine plus expenses by simply arresting wages or freezing bank accounts and this is what the Labour controlled Central Regional Council have done with 130 people who haven't registered.

Canavan's show of bravado is therefore seen for what it is—empty political posturing, and there ought to be a fine for that.

Right Wing Duplicity

The much vaunted impartiality of the BBC and the ITV takes a severe knock when you discover the dirty tricks brigade that are involved in broadcasting.

In his book A Decade of Decline the author Peter Thornton tells us:
In September 1987 It was reported that MI5 tried to have Anna Ford, the broadcaster, blacklisted from the BBC in the mid-1970s on the grounds that a former boyfriend had once been a communist. It is believed that in that period local Special Branch officers recruited journalists in the BBC and ITV companies to pass on information about colleagues.

Economic League Stupidity

One of the more poisonous organisations in Britain today has got to be the Economic League. A crowd of creeps and snoopers who compile lists of workers that they consider to be subversive.

Active trade unionists, CNDers or just anyone who has taken part in any sort of demonstration or protest goes into their malevolent little black book.

Employers use this information to black list workers from getting jobs.

Attempts to legislate against this organisation were defeated in Parliament last year when a spokesman for the Home Office stated: "This organisation has been investigated twice - once by the Data Processing Register and once by the police. It is doing nothing illegal".

Michael Noar, director general of the League is reported recently as saying: "I agree that the political climate has changed. Class struggle is no longer an issue".

This piece of nonsense from the head snooper of an organisation whose sole reason for existing is to provide information to the bosses in their struggle against workers.

No class struggle? Tell that to the nurses, teachers, university lecturers and more recently the dockers who are engaged in this "non-existent" struggle.

Christian Lunacy

We learn from The Independent that a group of religious nut cases have recently been having a seminar to discuss such weighty matters as God's intervention in the affairs of we mere mortals.

Among the participants were the Archbishop of York, the most Reverend John Hapgood and the theologian John Polkingbourne.

One of the weighty matters given consideration by this learned body was prediction in science and J.R. Lucas illustrated the strength of Christian philosophy when he stated:
... it might have been reasonable for him to say an hour before that he was going to give this talk, but he could not have known he was: I might instead have become an existentialist, flown to Paris, and mounted an art exhibition in a public lavatory.
But if you think he was a star turn . . . he doesn't hold a candle to some of the other plonkers.
Much time was spent discussing parking spaces. This may seem odd, but one member of the group had been much exercised by a priest he'd heard on the radio who claimed that when he was in a hurry to a meeting in town God would always find him a parking place.
But for our natural compassion for the workers in Paris, going for a leak, we would wish Lucas and the rest of his Crazy Gang had flown to Paris and held their seminar in a public toilet.

Best place to talk crap!

The Logic of the Market Place

Futility, Duplicity, Stupidity and Lunacy: perhaps you think we exaggerate the shortcomings of capitalism?

Well how about this piece of information from The Glasgow Herald (17 May):
Brussels bureaucrats are destroying mountains of fruit and vegetables worth tens of millions of pounds. Figures released yesterday show the EC spent £67m getting rid of fruit and vegetables in the four months up to February this year.
Who is to blame for this shameful situation? The Glasgow Euro MP Janey Buchan has no doubts about the matter.
Mrs. Thatcher should stop trying to browbeat everybody else and help to find a way of getting this food free of charge to the people who need it.
What crass hypocrisy from a member of the Labour Party!

Does she imagine that the Labour Governments of Wilson and Callaghan favoured the free distribution of food? Does she imagine that a future Labour Government headed by Kinnock would do so? His recent praise of the market economy should leave no one in any doubt on that score.

Everything inside capitalism is produced for only one purpose - to make a PROFIT!

People starving while food is destroyed is the logical outcome of a society based on production for profit.

Only inside a socialist society can you have the free distribution of food. 

The Labour Party illusion (1964)

From the July 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the coming general election the Socialist Party will be contesting two seats. We will be standing in opposition to all other parties, Conservative, Labour, Liberal, Communist. Nationalist, and the like. When we contest elections we put only one issue before the working class—Socialism or Capitalism. We only seek the support of those who wish to have Socialism now.

We hold that a Socialist party must base its policy on a recognition of the class struggle which goes on between the working class and the privileged owning class. It must not compromise with other political parties which, because there can only be one Socialist party in any one country, only stand for Capitalism in one form or another. This is why we arc opposed to those parties, like the Labour Party and the Communist Party, which claim to stand for Socialism.

Although we don't regard these parties as Socialist and hold that they stand either for a reformed Capitalism (Labour) or State capitalism (Communist), we do recognise that they are in a way different from the Liberals and Conservatives. These openly proclaim that they stand for Capitalism. The Labour Party does not; it claims to be a party of the working class.

Under Capitalism there is inevitably working class discontent. The more politically conscious workers organise to seek a redress of their grievances. But as long as they are not Socialists, no matter how “ radical" they may be, their programme will be one of capitalist reform. They will form the "left-wing" of capitalist politics. This was the origin of the Labour Party; it was the party of working class discontent, vaguely protesting against the effects of Capitalism but having no understanding of their causes. “Labourism " preached the need for a Labour government which would somehow be different from a Conservative or a Liberal government. Liberals and Conservatives could not be expected to sympathise with or understand the workers, it was argued, but a Labour government would be different This belief was based on the assumption that Capitalism could be administered in the interests of the working class.

The experiences of the first two Labour governments should have shattered this delusion, but there was always the excuse that they were in office but not in power. There was no such excuse in 1945. Once installed, the new Labour government settled down to the task of running Capitalism. This inevitably brought them into conflict with the working class. Thus we found them using troops as blacklegs, prosecuting strikers and, in the end. trying to impose "wage restraint" and a " wage freeze" on the ground that wage increases would harm exports. Their foreign policy was based on protecting the overseas interests of the British capitalist class. To help them in this task they continued conscription and began production of the British nuclear bomb. As far as the working class were concerned there was little difference between this Labour government and previous Conservative ones. Their attempts to get higher wages were, as always, resisted. As before they were sent abroad to die defending the interests of the British capitalist class.

At the 1951 election the working class threw out the Labour government. The Labour Party had failed to produce Utopia. What changes they had made left the position of the working class much as it had been before. Once again experience confirmed our analysis that a Labour government would be no more able to solve working class problems than would an avowedly capitalist government.

The fact that the Labour Party failed did not mean that its leaders were consciously dishonest. It just meant that their theories of how Capitalism worked were wrong.

The Labour Party believed, and still believes, that social problems can be solved piecemeal—first defence, then housing, then redundancy, and so on. This again is a delusion. The social problems of Capitalism—bad housing, boring work, lack of educational opportunities, increasing crime, increasing mental illness, shoddy goods—arise from the fact that the workers do not own the means of production. This means that these problems cannot be solved within the capitalist system. Attempts to alleviate them will fail, for no sooner is one aspect cleared up than another appears.

There are many examples of this. In housing the answer to exorbitant rents was thought to be found in Rent Control. This affected the problem temporarily, but it has led to another; as a result of Rent Control the landlords have neglected their property so that today a major aspect of the housing problem is how to renovate decaying houses. One of the measures the last Labour government introduced was dividend restraint This led to a situation where companies had large reserves and low share values. As a result some time later, amid Labour protests, there was a spate of takeover bids. Then again, the Street Offences Act has merely led to the spread of the call girl racket. Trying to alleviate Capitalism's social ills is like doing Sisyphus' task. No sooner do you roll the stone to the top of the hill than it rolls back down again.

In recent years a change has come over the Labour Party. After losing three elections on the run the party decided that old-style Labourism was out of date. The image of the Labour Party as a backward-looking trade unionist party had to go. It was to be replaced by that of a modern, progressive, radical, national, dynamic, scientific, party. This change means that the Labour Party now accepts the capitalist system without qualification. It is the end of the road for "Labourism." At one time the Labour Party could be said to hast had some principles even though they were hopelessly mistaken. Once it had a vision of a New Society. It had a strong pacifist and anti-militarist tradition. This is no longer so. Today the Labour Party is one of the two great electoral machines competing for power against the background of the capitalist system. It is Tweedledum to the Conservatives' Tweedledee.

Mr. Wilson and his colleagues can hardly wait to get into office. But this time their party will not be coming to power as an avowed workers' party but as a party determined to stand no nonsense in its attempts to modernise British capitalist industry. It is unlikely to look with tolerance on unofficial strikes and restrictive practices. It is likely to impose an “incomes policy"—in other words, wage restraint. The wording class have nothing to gain from backing the Labour Party. But they can't say they haven't been warned what's in store for them.
Adam Buick

Sri Lanka divided (1986)

From the August 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Until quite recently the island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) was known in Britain, if at all, only for its tea and, perhaps, for its natural beauty. That was all until about two years ago when Sri Lanka began to claim the attention of the media because of a series of brutal killings and bombings by Tamil separatists and an equally barbaric response by government security forces.

Sri Lanka has a total population of 16 million people. The majority are Sinhalese (predominantly Buddhist), but there is a significant minority of Hindu Tamils who make up 12.7 per cent of the population living mostly in the north and east of the island. The Tamils were brought to Ceylon (as it was called before independence from British colonial rule) from Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India, as immigrant labour to work the tea plantations.

In 1956 the first Prime Minister of the newly independent state, Bandaranaike, responded to pressure from the pro-Sinhalese Buddhist clergy, who had supported his political campaign, and made Sinhala the official language at the expense of Tamil. This move, symbolic of the exclusion of the Tamils from mainstream Sinhalese society, sowed the seeds of contemporary Tamil separatism. A year later, in an attempt to defuse Tamil anger, Bandaranaike signed a pact with Tamil leaders granting a number of concessions. This aroused opposition from the majority Sinhalese community who, provoked by Jayewardene (now President), protested that Bandaranaike was being too soft on the Tamils.

Even at that point it was beginning to be clear that the "Tamil problem" was an issue that could be exploited by political leaders for their own opportunistic ends. Now, because of the increasing levels of violence being used by the Tamil separatists, Jayewardene is having to offer greater concessions than those offered by Bandaranaike. And now it is the opposition led by Bandaranaike's widow that is stirring up nationalist Sinhalese opinion against him for not being tough enough towards the Tamils.

Jayewardene, leader of the right-wing United Party, came to power in 1977; he altered the constitution, elevating himself from Prime Minister to President and remained in office by calling a referendum not an election. So until 1989 when a general election is due, Jayewardene will not have to put his career on the line.

Within the government itself there are some, notably Finance Minister de Mel, who favour a more conciliatory approach to the Tamils. But again political opportunism is the motive rather than any genuine belief in the Tamil cause. The Sri Lankan economy is in a state of collapse; a quarter of the total budget is being spent on the war (about $1 million a day); tourism, an important industry for the island, has been badly affected by the violence. None of this is likely to do much to enhance the Finance Minister's career prospects. On the other hand the National Security minister. Athulathmudali, advocates a much harder line against Tamil violence. But then he would, since he derives most of his political support from the expanding security forces who, like de Mel, also favour the "military solution" to the Tamil problem.

Meanwhile, as politicians of both main political parties adopt the pose that they think will win them the most support at the polls, people from both groups are being brutally murdered and maimed. Over the last two years the Tamils have increased the level of violence which is often directed at Sinhalese workers and peasants. In retaliation there have been allegations of brutal reprisals against the Tamil community by the security forces. Most of the violence has taken place in the north and east of the island. The Jaffna peninsula in the north, where the Tamils constitute a majority of the population, is effectively controlled by Tamil guerillas and the army is engaged in an attempt to regain control of the area. In the eastern province there is an almost equal ethnic mix of Sinhalese and Tamil. Because it is the Tamils' aim to have a separate state in the northern and eastern provinces, they are trying to drive the Sinhalese out of the area through violence and threats. Meanwhile, they claim that the government has been forcibly resettling Sinhalese peasants in Tamil areas. Neither side wants to forfeit this area of Trincomalee since it contains a harbour, a vital strategic asset. The government could not, therefore, consider giving it up in any future autonomous Tamil province and the Tamils say that their state could not be viable without it.

If the leaders of the main political parties are trying to make political capital out of the ethnic divide, then so too are the Tamil separatist leaders. Part of the aim of the violence has been to persuade the international capitalist class that the war in Sri Lanka is getting worse so that they will cut back aid and investment. Jayewardene, in the meantime, is trying to persuade the same financial interests that there are good prospects for peace as a result of negotiations with Tamil leaders in Delhi and the offer of some devolution of power. However, he treads a thin line. If he appears to be conceding too much then he will be accused of selling out the Sinhalese community. If he doesn't concede enough, the violence will continue with the risk of further economic disruption.

That the Tamils have been treated as second class citizens and denied equal political and economic rights seems undeniable. But what is equally true is that unscrupulous politicians from all sides have used the potential for conflict that was always latent among the island's population for their own political ends. Competition between the two ethnic groups has been encouraged; cultural and linguistic difference has been exaggerated; and religion too has been used to fan the embers of hatred between the two communities. To advance the careers of a handful of members of the ruling class, workers and peasants have been set against each other, fighting over an island that does not belong to either the Tamil people or the Sinhalese, spilling each other's blood and killing each other's children in a conflict in which they have no interest.
Janie Percy-Smith

The street where you live (1982)

Editorial from the December 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The most famous, instantly recognisable, thoroughfare in the world is probably not Piccadilly or the Champs-Élysées but Coronation Street. Stand any visitor from abroad in a narrow, serried street of Victorian red brick homes and they will excitedly know it — will know that all working class life is there. It was in some forgotten flash of brilliance that the name was born, juxtapositioning as it does a great festival of ruling class privilege and dominance against the harsh lives of the dominated, unprivileged people of Coronation Street.

But of course there are real life places called Coronation Street; it is no uncommon thing, for the ruling class to celebrate in this way. In Britain, military victories are marked, not just by raising statues and memorials but also by places like Trafalgar Avenue. Waterloo Road. The memories of the more notable politicians — notable because of a particular ability to mislead the working class — are enshrined in concentrations of workers’ dwellings bearing names like Churchill House, Balfour Road. (There is a complex of flats in London, which quickly became odorised with working class poverty and despair, where each block is named after some hero of the post-war Labour government.)

Then there are roads which are named to mark workplaces there — the places where workers from the red brick terraces attend each day to submit to their own exploitation. Thus we have such as Laundry Road, Distillery Way, Copper Mill Lane. Someone who travels each day from their home in Churchill House to work in Laundry Road, returning in time to switch on Coronation Street, should be in no doubt as to where they stand in the class order of present day society.

Naturally, there are no streets named after things which the ruling class would prefer to forget; none named after failures and defeats. There are no Blitzkrieg Avenues on the town maps of Britain; there is no such place as Horatio Bottomley House in memory of that arch twister (but very effective recruiting agent). Thus we are encouraged to believe that capitalism provides cause only for celebration and congratulation, that it is an unbroken process of triumph and enterprise.

A most recent example of this comes from Manchester, where a newly converted block of flats now glories under the title of Falklands House. In that city of sooty relics of Victorian capitalism, they have not forgotten how they should mark the system’s grisly history. “We thought”, said the estate agent “we'd like to honour the lads." The owner of the flats was less discreet: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

And so it was. And so are all the others — Churchill House, Laundry Road, Coronation Street ... In themselves they are all continual reminders that we live under a social system in which a minority- class monopolises the means of life and that the rest of us are allowed access to those means only on the terms of being exploited for the profit of the minority. They remind us that capitalism is a society of divided interests and of unnatural national boundaries, each one encompassing a ruling class whose national interests are opposed to those beyond their frontiers. Capitalism's wars are not triumphs to celebrate, but the bloody execution of conflicts between one owning minority and another. They impress on all workers that capitalism is a society of class privilege, in which socially redundant parasites enjoy massive wealth and symbolise their dominance in opulent consumption and in crass, archaic rituals.

It would be more appropriate to call those places Famine Street, or Exploitation Road (for the industrial estates). Mendacity Way (for Westminster, Whitehall and the like). Privilege Park (for the pricier parts of the city). These names would symbolise that capitalism is organised repression, murder and destruction.

Socialists do not just stand against that social system. We do not condemn capitalism as an immoral interlude in history; we analyse it as a necessary, developmental episode in human progress. Each social system ends as the social relationships it imposes become out of alignment with its developing production of wealth. This crisis can be resolved in only one way — by a revolution to basically change the social relationships.

Capitalism has fulfilled its historical role, and its social relationships now act as a restraint on the forces of production. In this past year, typically, tens of millions of people have starved to death while tens of millions were taken out of the productive process because it was not profitable to keep them there. In contrast, socialism’s production will be patterned on human need; there will be no restraints on it apart from natural ones. Socialism will be a society of abundance and freedom, when human beings will co-operate for the common good.

The case for socialism is overwhelming and it is everywhere around us — in the pain and disease and fear of capitalism, in the shops and the factories and the offices, in the pubs and even on the street where you live.

Division in the I.S. (1976)

From the February 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

The organization which miscalls itself International Socialists has become a casualty of the system which it claimed was in the last process of decay. They unfortunately buried capitalism before it was dead.

This self-styled ‘revolutionary spear-head’, within the short time of its existence (1960) has done incalculable damage to the genuine Socialist cause. At a time when clarity and explanation and patience was needed, they spread confusion. There is not one original idea in their battery of arguments and policies that has not plagued the working class movement in this country for over 75 years. Advocacy of the General Strike; smashing the state; repudiation of the Parliamentary method as a means to Socialism; the cult of leadership and support for every type of industrial activity, as well as being utterly steeped in reformist policies.

The present split, with the expulsion and loss of membership, is alleged to be because the Central Committee was autocratic and intolerant of ‘grass roots opinion’. What else can you expect in an organization based on leadership? The Guardian (12.1.76) quotes an expelled member as saying ‘ . . . the leading theoretician Tony Cliff—[our italics—God help us] and founding member assumed a messianic exclusiveness of doctrine which he believes encapsulates historic truth . . .’ In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and it is depressing to learn that this muddled ‘intellectual’ still persists in spreading confusion disguised as revolutionary tactics.

The real reason the I.S. has split is very old. An opportunist organization which plays politics by ear and has slogans instead of principles, emotional appeals instead of argument, may have a certain appeal to the unthinking. But events have overtaken them. The militant I.S. shop stewards are being rejected by the workers because capitalism is in a depression and workers want to keep their jobs. They fear that industrial unrest may close a factory or give the employers an excuse to clamp down on working conditions. In that case, the militant is an embarrassment.

In the field of reformism, militancy and pressure groups are irrelevant if the intentions of the capitalist are flatly against social reform. After all, the capitalist has to pay for reforms and it is his judgement and timing which count.

The instant reformer will never learn. Unsound on basic theory, religious in their approach to historic development and arrogant in their contempt for the workers’ thinking capacity, they believe that the intellectual few can lead the great mass of ignorant workers to socialism. But their concept of revolution is based on getting control of the political machinery without a mandate for Socialism. That is without a recognition that only by patient discussion and argument can workers be persuaded to get rid of their ideas of dependance on a wages system and the institution of buying and selling and that society is run by a force outside of themselves.

The path to Socialism is difficult but not impossible. The split in the I.S. has brought forward another organization—The International Communist League and another mass party has been promised for the autumn —The Socialist Workers Party. These will just as surely go the way of their parent. Founded on Trotskyism which they have never abandoned, these anti-cammassars have learnt nothing. They all support the big battalions of social reform—The Labour Party although it is fashionable to pretend that they are further to ‘the left’. They are nothing of the kind. They wish to take over the role of the Communist Party—another worshipper at the Labour shrine—in the Trade Unions. What a sad commentary when so-called revolutionary organizations have to depend on the shifting sands of industrial support. The SPGB is a revolutionary movement in its own right, completely independent from any outside influence. We don’t rely on trade union support or demands for reforms or any other outside influence. Our Party will not split, because its members agree on the major principle—that is that Socialism cannot be established with out the working class understanding its implications and the necessity of political action.

The I.S. and other misguided people who live in a world of euphoria where facts play little part, want to bring forward the social revolution by a series of short cuts. They are well-intentioned but disembodied creatures who present a positive danger to Socialism and the quicker they realize this the better. You may try to abort the social revolution before the period of class consciousness has developed but as everybody knows instead of bringing forth a healthy child you get a monster.
Jim D'Arcy

Sting in the Tail: Winners . . . and Losers (1990)

The Sting in the Tail Column from the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard


"If only we could bottle the feeling - the desire to be rich." This was Seb Coe, Olympic athlete and prospective Tory candidate, speaking at the launch of National Motivation Week (The Guardian 15 May).

The aim of NMW is to encourage all of us "losers" to become "winners". Among the supporting winners present were football managers Steve Harrison (recently sacked by Watford), Alan Ball and Lennie Lawrence (whose teams have just been relegated), and Lou Macari (on bail accused of tax offences).

But suppose we all did what those behind NMW want us to do and became winners. Has it never occurred to these dimwits that capitalism can only function if the vast majority, the losers, are so poor that they must sell their ability to work for a wage or salary?


The financial world of insurance underwriters is a bizarre place. While Mrs. Thatcher warns us that we must stop claiming higher wages and that standards of living must be related to profit, we learn:
"You can feel a little bit isolated", mused Richard Outhwaite the Lloyd's insurance underwriter last week. Anyone who has notched up £200M worth of losses - and still counting - in the course of running a business is bound to feel somewhat lonely.
The Independent 29 May
Mr. Outhwaite has fallen victim to the uncertainties of the market. In the early 1980s he took on some of Lloyd's potential liability claims. At the time it looked like good business for his clients, but capitalism being capitalism it all turned out disastrously.

Mr. Outhwaite's "a little bit isolated" may seem somewhat philosophical in the circumstances until you learn that his fall from grace will not hurt him all that much.
He is a man who is personally financially secure with large houses in Oxfordshire and Scotland.
It is always easier to be philosophical when the £200M loss is someone elses!

Right Priorities (1)

Anyone who thinks that socialism will be too difficult to achieve and that tackling problems within capitalism is more realistic, should have watched "The Big Heat" on BBC1 on 21 May.

This Panorama programme dealt with global warming and the catastrophe this will bring to planet Earth. It also dealt with the progress the world's governments are making to deal with this problem.

Surely here is a problem which they can all agree must be tackled swiftly and decisively? What a hope. The US government is more concerned about the effects which stern action against carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses would have on the US economy.

For example, the automobile, coal and chemical industries would suffer badly, and just think of the resulting unemployment and (shudder) lost votes. The US spokesman who was interviewed saw the call for drastic action as a European plot to weaken the US economy!

What about the underdeveloped countries? They stand to lose most from global warming so aren't they keener to take action? Afraid not, because they insist that they must industrialise even more if they are to help their starving, homeless millions.

We have never thought that achieving socialism will be easy, but compared to getting capitalism to outlaw global warming at the expense of profit and power, it should be a push-over.

Right Priorities (2)

George Bush has restored China's "most favoured nation" trading status which was withdrawn after the massacre of the students last year in Tiananmen Square.

He defended the move on the grounds that it would:
continue to promote the reforms for which the victims of Tiananmen gave their lives.
The Guardian 25 May
Isn't that a noble sentiment? No, because he then revealed that it was all to do with profit and votes as usual:
China buys about 6 billion dollars of American aircraft and wheat, chemicals, lumber and other products. Lose this market and we lose American jobs - aircraft workers in the West, farmers in the Great Plains, hi-tech employees in the North East.
The slimy hypocrisy of its politicians always was one of capitalism's most loathsome features.

Housing Problem (1)

The newspapers are fond of telling us about the "Housing Problem". According to them there are just not enough houses available.

Anyone who believes that should note recent developments in London's Docklands, reported in The Independent 29 May.
Housebuilders have been hit by a new slump in London's Docklands as buyers pull out of "special offers" deals. Only 130 out of the 1,600 new homes on the market were sold in the three months to April according to the research group DP3.
 So why is it we have a housing problem when the sellers are so desperate to get rid of the houses that they are offering all sorts of special offers?

The answer of course is that there is NO housing problem; it is a poverty problem. If you have enough money you can have a house tomorrow; if not - tough!

Housing Problem (2)

Since the end of the second World War we have had several Labour governments, all of which have set out confidently to solve the "housing problem".

Now scenting a possible future governmental role, the Labour Party have released a draft consultative document "A Strategy for Housing". True to form they are going to "solve" the problem again.

Before the homeless start dancing with joy however, it is worthwhile to note that previous Labour governments have failed miserably to address the problem.

Away back in July,1946 a more confident Labour government had its spokesman, Aneurin Bevan predicting;
When the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class.
We confidently predict that if and when we have a Labour government, and they in turn have been turfed out of office, there will still be a working class poverty problem posing as a "housing problem'.

William Morris

The Socialist Party will be publishing shortly an important new pamphlet, How We Live and How We Might Live by William Morris, with a Modern Assessment.

It is the perfect antidote to the poison of all those discredited left-wingers with their futile plans for reforming capitalism. It stands uncompromisingly for the new wageless, tradeless future.

To the cynics who carp about the difficulties of convincing the working class of the need to organise for a new socialist society, there is no better rejoinder than that of William Morris quoted in the Modern Assessment part of the pamphlet:
One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman; two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.

In the workplace . . . (1984)

From the August 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

The alarm goes off, it’s 7 am and I know the nightmare is not yet over. I desperately want to stay in bed but drag myself out and again get through the normal routine in preparation for another day's wage slavery.

My lift is waiting down the road, my “chauffeur” buys the Sun every morning, so I open it up as usual. The pre-packaged opinions glare at me in huge print in between pictures of uninteresting idols and unwanted "news" about who they've had affairs with lately. My friend informs me that he "only buys it for the wife". As he has seen me read the occasional Financial Times at work, he has explained that he really reads the Daily Telegraph at home.

From my desk, penned in for another day, I can see the company cars lined up. the MD's Audi nearest the entrance, next the under-Manager's car and so on strictly according to hierarchy. The car parking spaces are rigidly adhered to and the poor, unsuspecting rep who parks his car in one of them is in grave danger and can, on return from lunch, expect to be subjected to verbal abuse and threatening behaviour. When a new wonder-machine is being delivered. the prospective recipient has to hover patiently in the corridor, like a child at Christmas, until the MD has approved the purchase. A flash car is the outward expression that a salesman has done well, the prospect of a new, more up-market one next year is the carrot for working harder, for putting in unpaid work at the weekends without complaint, for smiling and being pleasant to overseas visitors he can't stand the sight of.

Most of my fellow workers are constantly chasing the next appliance on the road to gadget paradise. They never quite get there but it is glittering seductively just out of reach. Perhaps happiness to them is when they acquire a kitchen extension, a better car, new carpets, a bigger house, bigger mortgage, bigger debts. The more the debts increase, the more they need to keep their jobs, to conform, to turn up on time, show willing, have the right ideas. More often than not they look harassed rather than happy; one suffers from sleeplessness, others need tranquilisers.

I've tried explaining that because they are all working class and in the overwhelming majority, they need not put up with this kind of existence, after all. our class produce all the shoddy goods they always need to replace, make sure they are distributed, plan the sales campaigns—run society from top to bottom. But after four years of constant mental strain to get this point of view over, some still think I am describing some sort of "Russian system”, others say “it would be nice were it not for human nature", not to mention the worker who told me that "work is not the place for this kind of deep, political conversation", then obediently lowered his head over his boring delivery schedules.

Young female members of staff have to endure sexual harassment—always just within the limits of decency. Thinly veiled suggestions like “how good are you at it” or “you are looking hot this morning" abound and men stand as close as possible to explain a piece of work with hands longing to touch. The men are too worried about their "stable” marriages to play so close to home; better wait till next time they are on a business trip. The wives at home wait for their next anniversary card and seem satisfied with being no more than Mrs. with their husband's initials in front of the surname.

The sad thing about this kind of behaviour is not the existence of sexual feelings but the hypocrisy and frustration which surrounds sexual relations under capitalism. The sexual act with a prostitute, whether she/he is bought on the streets or in marriage, is divorced from any real feelings for another person and a lot of unhappiness results from it. This kind of treatment of women in workplaces need not be a result of sexual desire but how the macho male is expected to behave as well as a way of “keeping women in their place”, constantly reminding them that they are really only good for one thing and must not aspire to senior positions. Of course, reinforcing the traditional view of women does tend to lessen competition for men.

As I settle down to yet another day’s tedious slog over the typewriter, I know that most of the other workers here consider themselves to be "middle class", basing this self-satisfied assessment on the assumption that they are "educated" (have come out of one end or the other of the sausage machine), that they are "buying their homes” (are in debt to building societies) and enjoy taking business contacts to pretentious hotels and restaurants. Even so, they are acutely aware that their little privileges could easily disappear should they lose their jobs. However, this does not seem to lead them to the conclusion that they are members of the working class dependent on selling their labour- power to an employer for a living, just like the factory workers next door. Apart from the working class, there is only one other class in society, the employing class or capitalists. The capitalists may or may not work; the essential difference between them and the working class is that they have the choice.

Really big worries at my place of work, apart from whether next month's salaries are going to be in the bank on time, are things like choosing the "right" bottle of wine when carrying gifts to “superiors” and whether their wives really know how to “entertain” at dinner parties. When extremes of idiocy take place, as when one worker brought a TV set in to watch the return of Prince Andrew and the boys from the Falklands, I have felt there is a real need for the firm to make an urgent investment and follow a Japanese example. In Japan, apparently, some companies have rooms where their workers can get rid of pent-up frustration and anger by locking themselves in for a while; screaming, shouting, hitting things and- throwing things about.

But this can only offer temporary relief. Unless we take conscious, political action to abolish this lunatic system, we are going to be faced with more of the same tomorrow, as I will be with the alarm clock.
Torgun Bullen