Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Basic Principles of Socialism (1973)

From the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e. land, factories, railways, etc) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

"You take my life if you do take the means whereby I live", wrote Shakespeare. This is precisely the position today for the great majority of people. The means whereby they live — society’s natural and industrial resources — are monopolized by a minority who thus form a privileged class. This is the basis of present-day society the world over, In countries like Britain this class monopoly takes the form mainly of legal property titles granted to individuals. In countries like Russia the predominant form is actual control of access to the means of production through control of the State. But, whatever the form, the position of the excluded, non-owning majority is basically the same; to live they must sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary; they are dependent on the owning class for a livelihood. But more. They also produce all the wealth of society, including that consumed by the owning class. So they, like the slaves of the ancient world, work to maintain in privilege and dominance a minority class who monopolize the means of production; they are, in short, wage slaves. Because they produce the wealth of society they are properly called the working class. A word of caution is in order here.: The term “working class” is often used in ordinary conversation in a narrower sense than this, to mean industrial workers only. But in the scientific sense used here it is much broader than this and includes all those who depend on a wage or salary to live, irrespective of the kind of job they are employed to do. So the vast majority of those who are popularly regarded as “middle class”, professional and white collar employees of all kinds, are really working class. In fact the middle class is a myth. In the industrialized parts of the world there are only two classes: this working class, comprising over 90 per cent of the population, and the monopolizing or capitalist class (so called because they use the means of production as capital, that is, to extract from the labour of the producers a profit which is accumulated as more capital).

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.

Built-in to present-day society is a struggle between these two classes over the possession and use of the means of production. The one, using political power and ideology, to maintain its dominant position; the other, at first somewhat blindly and without fully realizing it, struggling against it. At the moment the obvious signs of the class struggle are trade-union negotiations and strikes when workers bargain over how much they shall be allowed to have of the wealth they produce. But the class struggle is not about the division of the newly-produced wealth between wages and profits; it is about the ownership and control of the means of production themselves, as the next Principle makes clear.

3. That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

The class struggle will only end when the working class take over the ownership and control of the means of production from the capitalist class (a political act, as a later Principle explains). This done, classes are abolished and the means of production become common property under the democratic control of all the people; Socialism has been established. So ultimately the class struggle is a struggle over whether there should be capitalism or Socialism, class or common ownership of the means of production, with the working class championing common ownership, even though at first they don’t realise this.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

“The history of all hitherto existing society”, wrote Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto, “is a history of class struggles”. Like everything else, human society has been subject to constant change. The basis of any society is the way its members are organized to produce and reproduce their basic conditions of life. This has two aspects, the actual technical methods of production and the social relations of production by which classes are defined according to how they stand with regard to the control and use of the means of production. As technology develops, so this social organization of production changes too: old classes lose their dominant position as new classes, based on new more productive methods, arise to challenge them. In the course of history, at least in Western Europe and the Mediterranean, class society has evolved, very broadly, through the following states: ancient slave society, feudalism and now capitalism. The presently dominant capitalist class, the last class to have won its freedom, had to fight its way to power against the landed aristocracy whose power rested on their private ownership of the land, the main means of production till the growth of modern industry. But the revolutions in which the capitalist class seized power — Britain in 1688, France in 1789 — were, despite all their talk of “freedom” and “liberty”, changes from rule by one minority class to rule by another minority class. The mass of the people remained unfree, downtrodden and exploited; these were later to develop into the modern wage-earning working class of today. This working class is now itself engaged in a struggle for its freedom. Its struggle is not simply one to replace one ruling class by another since, as we saw, the working class can only free itself by establishing the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, so abolishing all classes (including itself). The working class can only achieve its freedom by establishing a classless society in which every member of society, no matter what their race or nationality or sex, will stand in the same position with regard to the control and use of the means of production and will have an equal say in the way social affairs are conducted. This is why Socialism necessarily involves what is called “women’s liberation”, “black liberation”, “national liberation”, etc. and why all other oppressed groups; should recognise that they are the working class and struggle for Socialism, a frontierless world community where the resources of the world, natural and industrial, will become the common heritage of all mankind;

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

This is the shortest, but perhaps the most important Socialist Principle. It expresses the fact that Socialism can only be established by the action of the working class (remember, all those compelled to work for a wage or salary). It is a decisive rejection of all leadership and an assertion of confidence in the ability of the working class to act for itself and work out its own salvation without needing to be guided by condescending or “intellectual” leaders or vanguards. History shows that leadership a conscious minority at the head of an unconscious majority — has been the feature of those revolutions that have merely transferred power from one minority ruling class to another, as was the case in France in 1789 and again in Russia in 1917, The very nature of Socialism, as a society based on common ownership run by and for all the people, means that it can only be established by people who have already learned to do without leaders and to manage their affairs democratically. Socialism cannot be established by an √©lite, but only by a conscious, participating working class. '

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exist only to conserve the monopoly of the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

The establishment of Socialism must be a political act. Not in the sense of being legislated into being by professional politicians (or of being legislated into being at all), but in that the socialist-minded and democratically - organized working class will have to use political power to do it. For one simple reason. Once the vast majority of workers have become socialist-minded there will only be one obstacle in the way of establishing Socialism: the fact that the machinery of government will still be in the hands of the capitalist class. One of the biggest political myths of today is that governments exist to serve the interest of all the people. In class society this is impossible; the government’s job is to preserve the status quo, to maintain the established basis of society: at the moment, the capitalist class monopoly of the means of production and their exploitation of the working class. Parliament passes laws in the interests of the capitalist class, and the civil service, the courts, and if necessary the armed forces, carry out and enforce those laws. But in countries like Britain Parliament is elected by all the people, the great majority of whom are workers. At the moment, unfortunately, they elect people pledged to maintain and work within capitalism. But it needn’t be like this. Once the workers have become Socialists they will obviously stop electing capitalist politicians and parties. Instead, they will have to think about how to take control of the machinery of government out of the hands of the capitalist class. The way to do this will be to organize themselves in a mass, democratic, Socialist party and to themselves put up candidates for parliament and the local councils. In accordance with the previous principle that “the emancipation of the working class . . . must be the work of the working class itself”, these candidates must be mandated delegates under the strict democratic control of the politically-organized working class outside parliament. Their task will be to carry out the democratically-expressed will of the working class outside Parliament, they will take over the machinery of government, convert it for Socialist use by lopping off its many undemocratic features and then use it to end capitalist ownership and control of the means of production (along with any vestiges of aristocratic privilege, such as the monarchy, that may still be existing at that time). Should there be any attempt on the part of an undemocratic minority to use violence to resist the abolition of capitalism, then the Socialist working-class majority will have to be prepared, as a last resort, to deal with them by employing armed force (suitably re-organized on a democratic basis of course). But there is no question of there being a “socialist government”. This would be an absurd contradiction in terms. The Socialist working class will simply be using the machinery of government for the one purpose of replacing class ownership by common ownership. This done there is no longer any need for a coercive governmental machinery to protect the interest of a ruling class. With the establishment of Socialism government over people gives way to the democratic administration of social affairs by and for all the people.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

A political party is an organization seeking to win control of the machinery of government. Since, in the end, such political power can only be used for one of two basic purposes — either to maintain capitalism or to abolish it — then parties either represent the interest of the capitalist class (or rival or would-be sections of it) or they represent the interest of the working class. The major parties in Britain today (and, for that matter, the various minor parties too) all stand for the interest of the capitalist class because they stand for the maintenance of capitalism. They all in practice accept class ownership and production for the market with a view to profit; they all work within and seek only to patch up and reform the capitalist system. For this reason the working-class, socialist political party, envisaged by the previous Principle, must be uncompromisingly opposed to all other parties.'

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action, determined to wage, war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, as the one uncompromising, Socialist, working-class party operating in Britain, declares its opposition to all other British political parties and calls on the working class here to join with a view to quickly establishing Socialism, a society of freedom and equality in which no one will go without adequate food, clothing or shelter. Socialism of course cannot be established in Britain, but the working class in any particular nation-state must organize to take control of that State out of the hands of its capitalist class. At the same time as the Socialist Party is organizing here so will similar Socialist parties be organizing in the other countries of the world. At a certain stage these Socialist parties will unite as a world socialist movement — and, most likely, a single World Socialist Party — to co-ordinate the final establishment of world Socialism. 
Adam Buick

Socialism Means: World-Wide (1973)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

I have read the Socialist Standard for some two years now, and have been impressed with its general economic analysis of world events, attributing the evils of society to capitalism, etc.

I have not been so impressed, however, with the rank condemnation by the Socialist Party of all other ‘left wing' organisations and institutions. Chile, Russia and China have been continually maligned. But even if the leaders of these countries were selfless personages and there was full worker control, the system, by definition, would still be state capitalism because the rest of the world remains capitalist. So what could the workers in those countries do to escape your wrath?

What would be your policy, Mr. Editor, if democratically elected to power in this or any country? To be consistent you would have to resign on the spot (in fact you should never have campaigned for election in the first place), stating that world socialism is the only answer and you should retire to await the day when the whole world realises this fact — simultaneously — it must be simultaneously.

Can it be that the Socialist Standard has spent 60-70 years engaged in this type of academic analysis? If so, this analysis is no use whatsoever to the oppressed man in the street. Even if he realises that world socialism is the only answer, he is not prepared to wait for the preposterously hypothetical day when all the world’s workers come to realise this fact.

Next months’ issue of the Socialist Standard will predictably expose the evils of capitalism and dismiss other ‘socialist’ parties as being a nonsense, full stop. To your suffering readership this must now be old hat. I suggest that future issues of the Socialist Standard deal not only with the above two basic lines of attack, but also constructively outline to the British worker precisely what is, in practical terms, the political activity he should be indulging in. Also indicate how soon his labours might be expected to bear fruit in the shape of world socialism.
—D. J. Thornton, Aberystwyth.

Unfortunately Mr. Thornton has not understood our conception of the role of a Socialist party. He assumes that a Socialist party is like other parties, except that what it is offering to do for people is to introduce Socialism for them. Hence his reference to a Socialist party being “elected to power” and his criticism of us for not being “practical”.

In our view a Socialist party is an instrument which the working class can — and should — use to establish Socialism when a majority of them have become convinced Socialists. It is a matter of the working class themselves forming their own party to further their interests, not of a group of Socialists seeking working-class votes to do something for them. Hence we don’t think in terms of “winning elections”, “coming to power”, “forming a government”, etc. The working class Socialist party will of course contest elections and ultimately gain control over the machinery of government, but only for the one revolutionary purpose of establishing Socialism by their own democratic political action based on Socialist understanding.

When the working class becomes Socialist there is no reason to assume that this will be confined to those in one country. Quite the contrary. First, because the conditions and problems which face wage and salary earners everywhere are essentially the same. And so of course is the solution. Second, because Socialism is the concept of a world society so that, even if it did happen that the Socialist movement grew more quickly in one country than in all others, then the Socialists in that country would take action to correct this imbalance by helping the movement in other countries. So it is Mr. Thornton’s situation that is preposterously hypothetical.

But in a sense he is right. If a group of genuine Socialists (which of course the governments of Chile, Russia and China are not: they always stood for state capitalism) were, by some freak circumstances, to come to control the government somewhere, then it is true they would have no alternative but to administer capitalism.

What should workers do till there is a Socialist majority in the industrialized parts of the world? It is not a question of what they should do (they should of course immediately establish Socialism) but of what they will do. No doubt they will continue struggling to get what they can out of capitalism until, helped by the activities of the as-yet-only-small Socialist parties in the various parts of the world, they realise the need to establish Socialism if their problems are to be solved.

World socialism is, quite literally, as far away — or as near as the working class choose to make. Unfortunately, it’s up to them, not us. All we can do is to urge them to make the right choice quickly.
Editorial Committee

Socialism Means: Russia was never Socialist (1973)

From the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is our contention that Socialism has not been established at any time in any part of the world and that there is no basis for supporting the various regimes which claim to be socialist or advancing towards Socialism.

The oldest and most well-known of such regimes is that which governs Russia and, indirectly, a host of East European countries. This regime came to power with the so-called October Revolution at 1917, an event which was little more than a straightforward takeover by a well-organized minority group, the Bolsheviks, who have held political power to the present day. They have consistently claimed that the working class rules in Russia, in contrast to the capitalist west, a claim which we have treated with the contempt it deserves.

Despite the adulation with which the revolution was received by many leftists in the West, the Socialist Party of Great Britain maintained from the start that Socialism could not possibly be established in Russia because of the extremely backward nature of the country economically and because of the lack of Socialist ideas among the working-class throughout the world. Everything which has happened since 1917 has proved the truth of this stand. The organized brutality brought about in the process of industrialization, the oppression of any semblance of democracy and the emergence of the country as a giant capitalist power armed with a full army of the latest weapons has led to a growing disillusionment with Russia in the left wing.

But the Left gropes in the dark for an explanation as to what went wrong. Some see the corruption of one man, Stalin, as responsible for the failure of Socialism to develop; others, wanting to have their cake and eat it, see elements of Socialism in Russia which they attribute to the revolution, and other “deformities” which "the bureaucracy” is alleged to be responsible for. However, it is totally false to believe that the establishment of Socialism depends upon having the right leadership; given the conditions which existed in Russia, capitalism in some form was the only possible outcome of the revolution.

The type of society which emerged in Russia is best described as state capitalism. This is different in form from western capitalism, but is not fundamentally different and exhibits all the basic features at the capitalist mode of production. According to the Russian Constitution the means of production are owned by the whole community; however, this is meaningless in practice, and if ownership is defined as effective rights over the use and products of property, then the top political and industrial executives are in the same position as the capitalist class in the Western countries. Because this form of ownership is not legally recognized by the issue of personal property titles, this dominant section of the ruling class do not own as individuals, but as a class. There exists therefore what Djilas described as a “new class” enjoying a de facto ownership and control of the means of production. There are also many individually wealthy people in Russia such as private entrepreneurs, legal and illegal.

The working class in Russia is in the same basic position as in the West, as propertyless and having to sell their labour for a wage in order to live. In terms of democratic rights, the Russian workers are far worse off than their counterparts in the West, having no trade unions or political parties of their own. This is mainly because of the very centralized nature of state capitalism which makes for a more homogenous and united ruling class, less open to the kind of splits which make it possible for the working class to play off one section against another. This in itself is enough to expose the myth that the type of society which exists in Russia is in any way a step forward for the working-class.

Any logical analysis of Russia must conclude that it is a capitalist society and therefore to be opposed by Socialists along with all capitalism. Capitalism does not stand or fall on the existence of a stock market or any other superfluous characteristic. The hallmarks of the capitalist system are wage-labour, exchange and capital, all of which exist in Russia. Even the distinction between state capitalism and the private capitalism of the West is not as sharp as is usually made out. In Russia, about 25 per cent of capital is privately operated, while all Western economies have been the subject of increasing state intervention. With the need of the Russian economy to trade with other capitalist economies, the West and the East are becoming daily more similar and recently we have seen the visit of the American president to Moscow. However, the dealings and manoeuvrings of the Russian rulers are not our concern. For the working-class, there is only one solution—the establishment of Socialism.
Brendan Mee

Socialism Means: We are Opposed to War (1973)

From the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the two world wars the Socialist Party of Great Britain alone took the position of opposing them because, as our 1914 Manifesto stated, “no issue was involved which justified the shedding of a drop of working-class blood”. Members of other organizations refused to fight for religious, humanitarian and political reasons; none shared our stand based solely on working-class interests.

“Join the professionals" is the punch line of the advertisements which try to sell us the advantages of life in the modern Army. For once we have no argument with the ad-men; war is no longer a matter for part-timers. It is a socially organized, socially pervasive act planned, organized and carried out by highly trained people.

All over the world, states reserve a large — in many cases the largest — part of their budget to their armed forces. This means that a large part of the knowledge, the skills and the material resources of those states is diverted into organizing and producing a powerful machinery of destruction.

The more “advanced" countries vie with each other in turning out the weapons with the fastest, most obliterative effect; some of the results of this contest have an awesomeness which would once have seemed appropriate only to the wildest nightmares of science fiction. But this is reality — nuclear weapons and methods of biological warfare, to name only two which we know of, are there — waiting.

If they are ever let go a large part of the settled world would quickly be wiped out. This very fact has been in part responsible for something of a change in the style of warfare. How long ago was it, that hostilities opened only after a declaration of war? Did America and China ever admit that they were at war in Vietnam?

Nowadays the great nation states and power blocs of capitalism are in perpetual manoeuvre for advantage against each other, pushing out in a series of minor conflicts (if Vietnam can be called minor) with their ultimate threat held in reserve.

The spectacle of modern society, with all its capacity to provide abundance for its peoples, wasting valuable resources in this way while it still has problems of famine and poverty, has provoked a great many theories about the cause of war. "Human nature" is one of them — war is simply an extension of an individual’s irritability. Munitions manufacture is another — men like Krupp have a vested interest in the continuing use of weapons. Sometimes the explanations have a tenuous connection with the truth — for example Lord Boothby writing in The Times (20 May 1968) " . . . they (the Central Bankers) were primarily responsible for the Second World War.”

In fact none of these explanations comes near the root of the matter. This can be done only by examining war as an aspect — along with human behaviour, munitions firms, bankers — of capitalist society.

Capitalism is a social system with the characteristic that its wealth is produced primarily for sale. But selling, as any supermarket bears witness, is a matter of competition. If we expand the point, we can see capitalism is a system which divides the world into a number of competing units; on one scale these might be supermarkets competing for customers in the High Street, on another they are states and alliances which clash over exploiting markets or getting access to things like oil.

A state is a coercive machine which enforces the interests of a particular group of capitalists, a particular group of the ruling class. Wherever these capitalists have interests, their state machine will protect them and if possible expand them.

Since capitalism is an international system, most states have interests outside their own frontiers. Lonrho, for example, has large investments in Africa; the oil companies have the same in areas like the Middle East, the Far East, the North Sea.

Provided all goes well the customary exploitative operations of capitalism can be carried on with no more disturbance than need be caused by the expected double-dealing of commerce, banking and so on. It is when the competition gets too fierce — when a new ruling class in Africa threatens to take over foreign investments, when the Icelandic fishing interests grab a bit more of the seas, if the carve-up of the North Sea (which was an example of original robbery) were to be upset by some latecoming state — that force is brought to bear.

Then the armed forces — the Professionals — take over the argument from the businessmen and the diplomats. This is war. The tragedy is that the people who are most directly involved in the hostilities, and who pay the price in terms of suffering, have nothing to gain or lose in the struggle. In the dispute over the Icelandic fishing grounds it is the owners of the trawler fleets and the food combines on both sides who stand to gain, not the fishermen or the sailors in the gunboats. These men have no ownership in any of the means of wealth production, including the seas, yet they are the ones who suffer through the cod war and some of whom may sometime be killed in it.

In larger wars millions of workers die or bear an untold burden and at the end of it all their basic situation remains the same as before. None of their problems has been lessened, let alone solved. They are still exploited and degraded in service to the ruling class and to the demands of capitalism. They still suffer poverty and a host of related social malaises.

The wars of capitalism solve no problem simply because they aim only to readjust the balance between clashing interests. To abolish war we must go for its roots, not tinker with the superficialities of those interests. We must strike at the basis of capitalism. But to do that means to abolish the system and to replace it with Socialism, a world order in which all human interests are in harmony and the conflicts of capitalism a black memory.

Socialism Means: An End to Racist Nonsense (1973)

From the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Modern racist attitudes are entirely the product of capitalist society. They are generated by capitalism through the social and economic relationships which exist toward the means of production. These relationships (whether or not the State is involved) are private-property ones, i.e. employer to employees, landlord to tenant, buyer to seller, rich and poor.

Any attempt to rationalize racist attitudes, or to surround them with an aura of scientific justification, is ludicrous. These are no examples anywhere that can be shown where any group of people, along racial or national lines, is more or less capable of assimilating ideas or interpreting information and performing social functions than any other. Different stages of history and different systems of society vary widely in the kinds of ideas and social functions relevant to them. If we call these things intelligence, then man’s intelligence is entirely social.

All human beings are genetically similar, and what variations there are—such as in aptitude, strength, endurance, creativity and so on—exist within every group and in no way lend support to ideas of innate superiority or inferiority.

The proof of this, of course, is society itself. Inherited characteristics can only be seen in action through society. Whatever social group or so-called race one takes against which prejudice is held, whether it be blacks, Jews, Irish, Poles, Pakistanis or Japanese, every shade and level of ability and accomplishment exists within each of them. That there are some exceptionally “gifted” or talented people is obvious, hut no one group has a monopoly of such people. On a planet inhabited by some 3,000 million people, there is no possible starting-point for the development of a so-called super-race. Neither could such an abhorrent abomination ever be desirable.

In any schoolroom of working-class children, regardless of colour, there are the “bright” ones who get higher marks and the “less bright” ones who get lower marks. All of the standards set and the measurements used are derived from the needs of capitalism, and ultimately aimed at slotting people into those private-property relationships. Modern educationists and sociologists look for social or economic factors to explain why some children are relatively backward. The size of class, home background, parental encouragement, amount of sleep, nutrition, number in family, and family income. It is conditions outside the individual social conditions, the sum total of which constitute the social environment, which mould and influence the people involved in them.

We are not taking the mechanistic view that man is poured into a social mould which predetermines him and from which there is no escape. It is because man’s consciousness develops through society that he becomes aware of his environment and tries to change it: in fact he is constantly changing various aspects of it and being constantly modified himself as a result.

Social attitudes, habits and institutions which flourish in one form of society do not fit into another. Indeed, many ideas from early capitalism would not fit into modern capitalism. Scores of examples could be taken from medical science or physics and from the spheres of social thought which correspond to the different periods.

Just as the racist looks at the African tribesman and concludes “we are superior”, it is relevant to ask if the British, French or German working class of the early industrial era were inferior to their modem successors. Were ancient Britons inferior to the Romans, or the pioneers of locomotion backward because they did not start with the Golden Arrow?

We would argue that the opportunities for the development of ideas are socially created, and restricted by the general level of development of the means of production at a given time. Capitalism imposes further restrictions concerned with investment of capital and the profitable disposal of goods in world markets.

As Socialists, we condemn racist ideas. They are stumbling-blocks to working-class understanding of Socialism. This above all is why we find such attitudes pernicious and repugnant, Racists are invariably ignorant and irrational. They seek only the most crude and superficial explanation of social problems. They need a whipping-boy, a scapegoat. The Jew to blame for money grabbing and financial swindling. The black man to blame for housing squalor or unemployment. If they can find in the black man a convenient outlet upon whom to vent their frustrations and resentments, they need look no further.

In a recent television programme, in what was supposed to be a debate on racism in Britain, representatives of the National Front and the Monday Club expressed alarm at the development of a multi-racial community and the loss of what they called “national identity”. For the working class national identity has always meant decaying slums, congested insecure living, poverty and, very often, dole-queues and wars. National identity is a cunning political device by means of which the working class, who own no country, are kidded to identify with their exploiters the capitalists, who own virtually everything.

One has only to look at those festering cess-pits of capitalist culture where racist ideologies have had legal sanction and/or mass support, to see the depth of inhuman depravity masquerading as race supremacy. The worst examples being Nazi Germany, South Africa and the United States. The records of the first two countries are perhaps more familiar than the last. Would any white suprematist today like to defend the record of the United States where some 5,000 negroes were lynched during the hundred years up to 1961? Many of them were burned alive. Some had the defiant courage to sing while the mob perpetrated their grisly deeds. The violence and hatred which now erupts in the form of the black-power movement can only be understood against the background of a long history of racism—which, in turn, can only be understood as the product of the most appalling poverty and ignorance: a product of capitalism.

It is a typical contradiction of capitalism that its private-property relationships produce racism, and yet commodity production and the profit motive find racism an encumbrance. The capitalist class (black and white) is interested in maximizing profits. Whether the wealth they accumulate derives from the exploitation of black or white wage-slaves is a matter of indifference to them. In the long run, capitalism finds it unprofitable to have a potential labour force of many millions which cannot be fully exploited because it is black. What capitalism encourages in one situation, it actively seeks to prevent in another. This is true of racism in America, and similar signs are beginning to emerge in South Africa.

Capitalism in creating “a world in its own image” also creates a world-wide working class with common interests. This common interest cuts right across questions of colour, language, and place-of-birth. It prompts all workers to understand the world they live in and to take enlightened action to banish the major social problems, by changing society.

The whole of humanity and the entire earth are the only limits to society. Capitalism divides because the means of production are owned by a few. Socialism will embrace all mankind because the earth will be owned in common. Only thus can racism and all its ugly manifestations be finally conquered.
Harry Baldwin

Strife in the West Indies (1939)

Book Review from the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Warning from the West Indies by W. M. MacMillan. (Penguin Special, 6d.)

To-Day, when Germany and Italy are demanding colonies, when the British and French governments are holding fast to theirs, and when leaders of all shades—Communist, Labour, Liberal and Conservative—are doing their utmost to make the British workers believe that the British Empire is worth defending with their lives, it is very fitting that these workers, who would bear the brunt of the fighting in the event of war, should know what they would be defending.

Are we not told that it would be inhuman if the British Government handed any of its colonies over to the savagery of the totalitarian governments? Well, it is worth asking how the British colonies are administered, in order to find out if the subject peoples would lose by a change of masters.

An insight into the character of British rule over colonial peoples can be obtained from Mr. W. M. MacMillan’s "Warning from the West Indies.” This book shows the results of imperialism, and should convince all workers that British imperialism is no better than any other.

The title is very apt. Indeed, it is a warning, from the West Indies that British workers would be sacrificing themselves in vain if they backed their Government in a war with another country over colonies.

Though we are well aware that “Home Rule" solves none of the problems of a working class, it is worth noting that "No British Crown colony of other than European population has 'grown up' to attain responsible government ” (p. 26). That fact alone is sufficient to expose the lying assertion that the British are in the colonies to help the natives along the road of progress. It shows, also, how much a capitalist government is interested in fostering democracy. Although the British Government has been ruling some colonies for many generations, Mr. MacMillan is able to make the following observation: "In the West Indies, and in the Empire as a whole, the development of the backward peoples has hardly yet begun" (p. 169).

Until 1838 chattel slavery was carried on in the West Indies. Since the slaves were "emancipated,” their position has changed very little— save that formerly they were fed, clothed and housed by their masters, whilst now they work for wages, and feed, clothe and house themselves as best they can.

“Emancipation,” says Mr. MacMillan, "only meant the substitution of a low wage for the previous outlay on the purchase and maintenance of slaves, besides absolving employers from responsibility" (p. 69). And again : —
“But, in spite of a growing middle class, a large but uncertain proportion of the population are very much where slavery left them" (p. 53).
And that, let it be noted, after a hundred years of “freedom" and “progress” under British rule.

In the towns of the West Indies slums are general (p. 101). Even when the Government launches a housing scheme the houses are beyond the means of the poorer sections of the population. “These remain as they were, crowded in insanitary dwellings, even in the country” (p. 119). The latest Trinidad Commission severely condemned housing conditions.

Incidentally, we agree with Mr. MacMillan when he says, "Bad housing is obviously only part of the familiar problem of poverty and cannot be dealt with in isolation,” and we would urge workers to ask themselves how it is that, wherever capitalism penetrates, slums are to be found.

Unemployment is rife in the West Indies, and provision has had to be made for the indigent poor (p. 95). “In Barbados, in particular, special effort is needed to save the unemployed from starvation. In other islands they can live more easily on friends with small holdings, or, failing these, gather wild produce from the forest." (Italics ours.) This last sentence shows how concerned the British Government is for its subject peoples.

Every island in the West Indies has its beggars. Says MacMillan, “Almost every island is desperately afflicted with beggars of all kinds—'sturdy' beggars a few of them, but many not so sturdy. Especially in the larger islands, where tourist influence is strong, the visitor has to suffer importunate begging from the obviously inadequately employed . . .  a not uncommon salutation is ‘I beg you somet'ing' "(p. 105).

Naturally, with so much poverty and with so many slums, malnutrition and ill-health are widespread. The poor, being inadequately fed, have not the power to resist epidemics. “The school medical officer for Kingston has produced evidence that undernourishment is very general, and that teachers find it prevents many children from working" (p. 123). 

Mr. MacMillan's case is that the malnutrition is due to the fact that there is no variety in the diet, but he says—and note this—“Even if good feeding were available and understood, agricultural wages would not buy it. . . ."

And so we could continue to quote from this book to show that, in these British colonies, conditions are revolting for the poor. And such, fellow workers, is the state of affairs you will be called upon to defend in the event of a war over colonies.

It is not surprising that strikes have broken out among the workers of the West Indies during the last two years. These are but the beginning. Some day, those workers will be lined up with their brothers in other parts of the world, and with them they will demand the end of exploitation, and this will end poverty, slums and malnutrition. They will be demanding the change from capitalism to Socialism.
Clifford Allen

These Foolish Things . . . . (1997)

The Scavenger column from the April 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Twice kicked

Peter Lilley’s plan to target “workshy” disabled people claiming benefit has flopped, with only half the 200,000 predicted to drop off the register failing the new stricter medical tests .. . The (National Audit Office] report reveals that millions of pounds have been spent retraining staff and upgrading computers to handle the new incapacity benefit, which replaced invalidity and sickness benefit in April, 1995. Some 800 new doctors had to be recruited to administer the stricter medical tests. But only 102,000 out of the projected 200,000 lost their benefit. Guardian, 13 February.

God is watching

The Bishop of Willesden could turn up at your factory, garage or office as part of his mission to bring God to the workplace which stalled on Monday when he visited Neasden Underground Depot. Bishop Graham Dow has declared 1997 as Faith in Work year to show that jobs should be about "more than just slaving away to scratch enough cash together to pay the mortgage and the taxman”. lie added: "Where it is safe to do so, 1 want to encourage the lighting of candles for two minutes when staff get to work as a sign that God is present " Brent Recorder, 29 January.

Money at stake

A damning report on Britain’s biggest child abuse scandal will not be presented to a public enquiry. MPs and social workers reacted angrily to the revelation, insisting that the document detailing 20 years of abuse at children’s homes in Clwyd, North Wales, must be made public. Authors of the report, which Municipal Mutual Insurance will not publish amid fears of a flood of claims from the 180 children involved or the families of victims who committed suicide, claim their work was hampered by the company. Now a tribunal, chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, which began last week, has decided not to include the report by Derbyshire’s former director of social services, John Jillings. Mail an Sunday, 26 January.

A private practice

A small but growing minority of private doctors are making massive profits out of over-prescribing drugs to hard drug dealers who then resell them on the streets, according to a Home Office research report. Some doctors are making more than £100,000 a year out of this trade . . . "Large sums of money are to be made easily by issuing repeat prescriptions on a weekly basis to dependent drug users. The weekly consultation fee is usually £25, payable before the prescription is handed over." Pharmacists can charge what they like for private prescriptions and the researchers found the average cost was £75 . . . The researchers were told by two sources of doctors with lists of more than 200 dependent users and said a client list of just 75 would yield an income of £100,000 a year. Guardian,
13 February.

Well, well!

Monument (Oil & Gas) was one of the first Western oil companies to identify (Turkmenistan’s] oil potential alter it ceded from the former Soviet Union. Last week, with US oil giant Mobil, it won exclusive rights to negotiate a production-sharing contract with the Turkmenistan government in a 20,000 sq km area bordering on the Caspian sea and Iran Thanks to its head start over rivals. Monument and its partner are likely to clinch formal rights to develop most of the area’s oil fields. Monument shares surged 12½p to 81½p last week as City investors began to grasp the full import of the Turkmenistan deal. Financial Mail on Sunday, 26 January.
The Scavenger