Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Between the Lines: The Soppy Season (1989)

The Between the Lines column from the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Soppy Season

This is the month of the year when TV gets all starry and snowy and twinkly winkly. As the awful day approaches cries of artificial merriment abound, as do the false smiles of weathermen. "And if you're alone this Christmas. let's at least hope it's good Christmas weather for you." They don't tell you what to do if you're alone and can't afford to switch the heater on. Become a statistic, perhaps, as you freeze to death. Blue Peter will announce the totally unpredicted result of its tediously worthy appeal. So now it will be possible for at least twenty deaf children to have their own Blue Peter minibus to get them to their special school. What about the rather more than twenty deaf kids who are not to benefit from Xmas charity? What about the ones who can't get in to a school for the deaf because the places have been cut? What happens when the coach breaks down and there are no more Blue Peter milktops to pay for a new clutch? But let s not bother with such unhappy questions: it's the time of the year when we're supposed to feel good. Let misery recommence in January then it's no longer our problem. 

All the Christmas films will be dusted off. Why the hell couldn't the Nazis have caught Julie Andrews and those monstrously sugary kids and contributed one humane deed to history? Dickens' Christmas Carol will be trotted out. Here is a miser, concerned only about money and exploiting workers. Remind you of anyone? No, let's not be vindictive - it's Christmas. Then he falls asleep, meets some ghosts and decides to give a Christmas dinner to his impoverished employee. What spirit! Next the bosses will be falling asleep and giving a living wage to ambulance workers. But let's not talk about them, because it's Christmas and strikes, strife and other nasty things might just crack our contrived grins of delight. Noel Edmonds will be sitting up the top of the Telecom Tower making fools of people And here is your brother from New Zealand whom you haven't seen since you were in the womb together." Why was the family broken up in the first place? What about if they hate the sight of each other? (After all. there can be few other reasons to go voluntarily to New Zealand, can there?) But let's not bother our little Xmas heads with such rest-of-the-year thoughts. At Christmas time we are supposed to weep merrily as dear old Noel plays with the sentiments of a nation, re-uniting those who have successfully avoided each other for decades and springing jolly surprises on old men with heart conditions.

Then the comedians come on. Christmas wouldn't be the same without repeats of Morecambe and Wise repeating what live music hall entertainers did much better in the past. On trots Jim Davidson, that rascally cockney racist, to entertain our lads over in the Falklands. The poor half-wits half wet themselves at jokes about Pakistani shopkeepers and queers. The religious nutters are always let loose at Christmas. The rest of the year most of the religious TV is conducted by Thora Hird and Harry Secombe. the goon who found god. Now it's time for everyone to go bloody barmy: on come children's choirs to sing horrible Christmas carols about lickle Jeesas Kwoist. What about the homeless parents today who can't find anywhere to live? Oh, very well. I've made my point. One could go on about Babycham adverts. the Queen's Christmas Insult to those whom she dares to call her subjects and the newsreaders who give that little wink at the end of the news.

On the other hand, why bother to complain? It will all go away as soon as it came. Christmas over; capitalism back to normal. "Oh. you want to give us 10,000 milktops and we give you a minibus, eh? You want me to fall asleep, meet a ghost and offer you a pay rise?" You see, in a society where everyone is alienated the only way that workers can be collectively happy is when Happiness Season is officially declared. Like Happy Hour in the boozer, except they close the pub on Christmas evening.

Why War?

This was the question asked on After Dark (C4, 11 November) No answer was given. At one point one of those present mentioned the cause of war. He did not say what it was. you understand. He merely claimed there might be one. He was quickly interrupted by the chaplain of Eton College, a Major in the army, who said that God is on the side of all soldiers in all wars. In which case it would seem that this god is a somewhat vindictive swine, going up to one crowd of killers and saying. "Okay lads. I'm with you on this one" and then turning to their enemies and saying the same. There was an extremely boring General with a loud voice who said that the excitement of war is part of some men's natures. Clearly, the General's thinking about the theory of human nature was about as undeveloped as his knowledge of ways of killing people was sophisticated. But even if some men are conditioned to enjoy fighting wars, so what? Some men are conditioned to like raping women, but we don't make the most vicious rapist a General.

What was needed was a clear analysis of why humans go to war. It is not because of our genes, our natures or our beliefs. It is because capitalists make themselves richer and more powerful by obtaining more and more markets and trade routes and exploitable populations and raw materials. And until capitalism is abolished, its ruthless, competitive drive for profits will condemn workers to die needlessly in wars, as have 25 million since the end of the last world war. The discussion of war is not a moment to entertain the ignorance of know-nothing Generals or chaplains who preach the gospel of legalised murder. Resolution for 1990 socialists on After Dark. Let the army Generals sit up top of the Telecom tower with Noel Edmonds for the next year, planning cunning stunts to bring tears to the eyes of more unsuspecting funsters if - and only if - there really must be another Christmas next year.
Steve Coleman

It’s the same the world over (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the favourite current themes of newspaper columnists, and of politicians, is the alleged world-beating efficiency of Japanese industry. Stories of amazing ingenuity and fantastic endurance on the part of Japanese workers are too often used to persuade British workers to speed up production and to accept new methods of working—or of being exploited.

There is, of course, another side to this picture which is less publicised than the stories of Japanese shipyards undercutting the rest of the world, and of dirt cheap transistor radios flooding the world’s markets.

A recent book by Bernard Newman— Round the World in Seventy Days—showed that some aspects of life in Japan are anything but highly mechanised and efficient.

Many Japanese towns have no, drains; their night soil is carted away to be used on the surrounding land, by people who are called Eta. (It is easy to tell when you are approaching one of these towns; the smell of the nearby countryside is enough.)

There are about three million Eta, living in some five thousand small communities. Clearing the night soil is not their only unclean occupation; they are also engaged in tannery. For a long time they lived like ancient slaves and there is a widespread belief that they originated in Indonesia. So low is their standing, such is their reputation, that the very word Eta is never mentioned in polite conversation; the well-bred Japanese who must refer to them simply holds up four fingers.

Eta have to contend with a considerable weight of discrimination. They have tried to improve their lot in the past but generally they have been content to muck along amid the night soil. They are still a class apart, although the increased industrialisation with its population drift into the towns tends to get them lost in the crowd. They are still struggling to break down the barriers against them.

Such prejudices, as we all know, are not confined to one group of people, nor to any one country. People in the West are inclined to regard the Japanese as inferior and, as Newman points out, the Japanese think that they are better than some other peoples. He records one remark, that all Korean immigrants into Japan should be sent home as quickly as possible. Where have we heard remarks like that? Southall? Paddington? If it is any consolation to the Korean, and to the Eta. it is the same the whole world over.
Jack Law

Why I left CND (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

I was one of the enthusiastic teenage supporters of CND who took part in the 1964 Easter March. That was the last year I marched, because by Easter 1965 I had ceased supporting CND and had become a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

It is difficult to recall when I first became attracted to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I think I was automatically thrown into sympathy with it by the foolish outlook of many of its fiercest opponents. I was visiting London one Easter, saw the March pass through Trafalgar Square and was surprised by the huge number of marchers. Later I bought CND pamphlets from a “Communist” bookshop. One in particular impressed me—Win We Must by Bertrand Russell. This decided me to join my local CND group.

I went on public demonstrations, sold the CND organ Sanity and frequently argued about war with members of the public. As well as arguments with supporters of the deterrent theory (the “we’ve-got-to-have-it-as-long-as-theyve-got-it” gang) there were arguments within CND. One of the biggest blows to the “Peace Movement” was the Moscow Test Ban Treaty, after which it became an unsurprising experience to hand someone a pamphlet and be told; “Haven't you heard, mate? They’ve already banned it?”

From the outset one of the biggest weaknesses of CND was that its supporters had no clear idea of what it was all about, and where they did have clear ideas, these were in opposition to the clear ideas of other supporters. I don't mean that they were altogether ignorant of the facts of nuclear war. Quite the contrary: the public image of the CND supporter who wears the badge merely because of the dope-peddling and copulation on the Easter March is mostly fiction. I found the average active CND man was better informed about politics than his opponent. What I do mean is that the objects and principles of CND were not always very precise, and where they were there always existed sections of the supporters which were trying to extend them or tone them down. CND has no official membership, and supporters include Pacifists, Anarchists, “Communists,” Trotskyists, Conservatives, Labourites and Liberals—plus many other groups, and even more who have no party affiliation. Each of these sections accepts the principle of leadership, in fact approval of this principle is axiomatic to CND policy. Naturally, therefore, each section tries to pull in its direction the entire organisation.

Perhaps the main broad division is between what we could call the Pacifist-Anarchist wing, and those more interested in the preservation of Britain as a matter of expediency. I was definitely in the latter camp. On the Pacifist side it was pointed out that nuclear weapons were no longer the most fearsome available, and that as weapons of war could not be rigidly classified on the basis of destructive power it was not reasonable to see the banning of some weapons as more important than the banning of the rest of them. I can now see there was more in these arguments than I had supposed. H-bombs are NOT to be seen as divorced from other sorts of armaments. They have their own particular features but there is no longer anything peculiar about their destructive powers. They are simply weapons. They cannot be lifted out of the context of weapons as a whole, neither can weapons be lifted out of the context of the social system which produces them. This was one of the many awkward questions left to fester in my mind, slapped down for the moment with the stop-gap argument that nuclear weapons should be especially opposed because they were not only a means of war, but also—due to the “instant retaliation" policies of Russia and the US and the probability of war by accident—a possible cause of it.

The Committee of 100 (which is often confused with CND. There is no official connection between the two) began to crystalise an ideology, based on the concept of the “nonviolent society.'’ I dismissed this as mere idealism, though in fact it was the natural corollary of an obvious train of reasoning: we want disarmament. How are we to enforce it? Obviously by something more than a treaty, since treaties can be broken at will. We need something more fundamental. Go on thinking like this for a bit and you will start to consider the cause of war. Had I thought more analytically from the outset and gone straight to the question “What causes war?” instead of wasting time over silly red herrings like disarmament treaties, neutral initiatives, UNO etc., I should never have supported CND. What it comes to is this: if the human race is to survive in peace, the very antagonisms which create war, or even the machinery of war, must be removed.

However, my thoughts 'didn’t follow this chain, because I didn’t accept the first link: that there is no way of enforcing disarmament between nations. I thought it could be done, as outlined in Russell’s Has Man A Future? by means of world government, or at least a super-UN. It should have occurred to me that if we can persuade nations to give up a tremendous part of their sovereignty to a world authority it should be an easy job to get them to perform the' much less demanding task of refraining from annihilating each other.

But this point was glossed over by another piece of Russell’s reasoning which seemed to me perfectly valid at the time: that the interests of nations lay in co-operation. Russell used to say that Russia and America had ninety-nine per cent of their aims in common, and it was silly of them to destroy each other for the sake of the remaining one per cent. He called on the nations to treat the prospect of war as he thought they would the possibility of being exterminated by a comet from outer space—by uniting together to oppose what was threatening them all. By this very analogy he gives the real key to the situation. War is not a comet from outer space. The whole point about war is that it does not come from outer space, but from the social system which exists on Earth.

It is easy for the non-Socialist to fall into the error of thinking that it is in the nation's interest to co-operate. This is because he identifies the nation with the people. In fact the nation is not the people; it is the capitalist class and its machinery of coercion. The people—ninety per cent of them —are not the nation. They are the nation’s employees, the working-class who have no country. It is certainly in the interests of all the peoples of the world to co-operate. But it is not in the interests of all the nations of the world to co-operate. It is not in any nation’s interest to combine with another nation, except to form a supra-national bloc in order more effectively to assault other nations or blocs.

CND supporters stress the importance of “escalation,” and quite rightly so. Escalation is the process by which relatively minor conflicts develop into major conflicts, because of the ever-increasing force which each side finds it necessary to bring into the field to equal and overcome the other. It is a pity people can’t take their realisation of escalation a stage further and see that it is present at the very genesis of war. Military conflict is an escalation from economic conflict. War, it has been said, is fought for vital interests. The trouble is that the same thing is likely to be a vital interest to more than one nation at a time. It is rather naive in these circumstances to discover which nation actually possesses the particular interest (i.e. which nation managed to steal it first) and label the other nation the “aggressor.”

A lot of people talk as though there is nothing really at stake in a war, as though wars were caused by “arrogance" or “hatred” or the desire not to lose face. Russell even compares brinkmanship policies to the American teenagers’ game of “chicken” on the motorways. Surely it should be evident that wars are fought over something, that they are not just misfortunes, that something is at stake.

However at the time when I came into contact with the Socialist Party I was a convinced follower of Russell, of CND and (with reservations) the Labour Party. I first heard of the Socialist Party about four years ago. 1 saw the name in a Central Government textbook giving voting figures for all the parties at general elections, then I saw the advert in Sanity. I asked a Communist Party friend of mine what the party was, and he replied inaccurately: “The Trots.” Later I met members of the Birmingham branch.

At first I was inclined to scoff. It is somewhat difficult acclimatising oneself to the idea that a party of 600-odd members can be right, and nearly everyone else wrong. I already called myself a Socialist, of course. By this I meant something rather vague, to do with support of the “left-wing” of the Labour Party.

My main objections to the Socialist Party were: first, I thought nationalisation was a step towards Socialism, I saw the increase of state control throughout the world as a praiseworthy thing I ought to support (whether through the Labour Party, the Communist Party or some other body I considered merely a matter of tactics). Second, I could not appreciate the Socialist Party’s opposition to CND and other disarmament groups, which I thought had great potential influence for peace. I would say (as scores of people have said to me since): “Let's make sure of our survival first, then we can decide on the system of society.” (As though the two had nothing to do with each other.)

The answers to these points are, of course, first that state ownership is a device for running society more smoothly in the interests of the capitalist class; second that Capitalism is the cause of modern warfare. Capitalism without war is as absurd a proposition as a deciduous forest without dead leaves.

Any effort expended on reforms is effort unexpended on revolution. When we consider that parties which have started out for revolution and “immediate aims” have ended up with no revolution and immediate aims gone sour, we realise what a wild goose chase the pursuit of reforms is, even if they are connected with something as vital as the possible end of civilisation. The only way to prevent war is to establish Socialism.

Eight years of CND (1966)

From the April 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

For CND the great days are over. Nowadays, almost the only sign that it ever existed is the annual Easter demonstration. And yet, in its day the campaign made a terrific impact on the British political scene. Its slogan and adopted symbol were universally recognised; it was half of an argument which split the mighty Labour Party from top to bottom and which consistently hogged the headlines and correspondence columns of the National Press.

CND was the marvel of a time notorious for its political apathy, but the wonder is not that it happened at all, rather why it took so long to materialise. From the moment Rutherford split the atom it became simply a question of time before the warlike, capitalist society would utilise this new source of energy for its own destructive ends.

Nevertheless, those thirteen years between Hiroshima and the formal launching of CND need some explaining. After 1945, most people felt that the Bomb would never be used again. The “aggressors” had been vanquished and anyway only the USA possessed the secret. The outbreak of the cold war plus Russia's entry into the Nuclear Club aroused fears which were aggravated by the Korean conflict and the development and subsequent testing of the vastly more powerful H-Bomb.

With the Lucky Dragon episode the volume of protest gathered force during the early 'fifties. Later on, literature and the cinema reflected this trend; Robert Jungk’s book Brighter Than A Thousand Suns, set many a mind working, while the film, Hiroshima Mon Amour, evoked horror by its display of grossly mutated children born of parents who were radiation victims.

Anti-nuclear groups sprang up everywhere and the Suez affair in 1956, helped swell the ranks. The same year, Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin’s Russia, followed by the brutal suppression of the Hungarian uprising, brought new recruits already well versed in the business of protest. Likewise, disgruntled “left-wingers” saw in the disarmers a lever with which to alter Labour’s defence policy. Add to these religious groups, Anarchists,etc., and we have the ingredients of what eventually emerged as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in February, 1958.

But the majority were not politically involved at all. Mostly, they came from what is wrongly called a “middle-class-background”—Teachers, Students, Clerks. They were not even social reformers, accepting the world more or less as it was, with one reservation—Nuclear weapons Many did not even oppose conventional weapons, considering these, at any rate, necessary to defend “our” country. Alex Comfort, a prominent Campaigner, summed up this attitude at the inaugural meeting when he said .. .
“If we are asked, as we will be, ‘What is your alternative? How else do you think this country should be defended?' We may indeed propose alternative policies. But we are bound to reply, ‘Whatever policy may be right, this one (Nuclear weapons) is wrong'.” This simplicity of aim was epitomised in the slogan which, today. CND is trying to forget—“Ban the Bomb.”
So CND was united by the slenderest of threads and even then only sometimes. The Communist Party, for instance, was prepared to march against the Bomb—provided it was British or American. When Russia resumed testing in 1961, CND held a protest demonstration in Glasgow culminating in an attempt to hand a petition to a visiting Russian Diplomat. The Communists were conspicuous by their absence.

And although the British Party’s Report of its 1963 Conference could say ... “We deplore the tendency of the peace movement to divide, to break up into rival groups on questions of tactics in the struggle,” it did not mention that the Japanese Party had just split the movement in Japan by refusing to condemn Russian tests as well as American.

It seemed to them that they must succeed, as even the famous—scientists, entertainers, clergymen—added to the clamour for Britain to unilaterally renounce nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the point was reached where CND could claim that a third of the population shared their view, but significantly this opinion was never tested at the Polls. The reason is not hard to find. Many of the campaign's supporters were committed to the various political Parties and it was to these, in the final analysis, that they owed their allegiance.

A Mr. Feltz discovered this when he considered standing as an official unilateralist at Barnet at the General Election. He subsequently stood down because he found . . . “CND supporters' loyalties greatly divided. After I had addressed them, I received a telephone call saying they had decided not to alienate themselves from the Labour Party.” (Guardian, 21/2/64). More recently, various CND'ers were engaged in a public squabble over whether or not to support the Labour candidate at the Hull North By-election.

This pre-occupation with the Labour Party provides the key to the Campaign’s efforts to win that Party over to its point of view. If 1960 was CND’s high-point then this was because of its “victory” at the Labour Conference that year, when a unilateralist resolution, backed by leaders of several of the largest Trade Unions, won a majority of votes.

Those CND supporters in the unions were illogical. They knew that, in this jungle-world of conflicting economic interests Nation and Nation, Employers and Employers, are engaged in an endless struggle. All very well Ted Hill of the Boilermakers prattling about Britain facing the world “armed only with moral dignity of purpose,” but he had no answer to his opponents’ invitation to try negotiating with the Employers on the same basis.

Predictably, Gaitskell and the majority of Labour MP’s, recognised a sure-fire vote-loser when they saw one, refused to accept the verdict and by organising a little more efficiently easily reversed the vote the following year. Many CND'ers, dismayed by this, turned to non-democratic action such as sabotage, and when this failed to produce results, dwindled away to the extent that a much-ballyhooed National demonstration at Faslane in 1964 could muster a mere seven hundred supporters.

To-day, CND simply does not know where it stands. The initial idea of unilateralism has been replaced by policies which are extremely vague; its one-time adherents are hiving-off to the futility of reformist politics or to frustrated inactivity.

Has CND achieved nothing, then? What about the Test Ban Treaty? Campaigners like to think that their activities influenced the great powers to agree to a cessation of testing, but the facts are that both sides stopped testing only because each saw it as being in its own interests to do so. Mr. MacNamara, the American Secretary of Defence, claimed that the Moscow Treaty meant that the USA . . . “can at least retard Soviet progress and prolong the duration of our technical superiority.’' The Russian Government denied this, insisting that it was they who stood to gain in a military sense from the Treaty (Guardian, 14/8/63).

Whatever happens, if one side feels it is losing on the deal, then the tests will be restarted notwithstanding the most solemn pledges.

Can we not even agree that whatever its faults, CND fulfilled a useful function by drawing attention to one of Capitalism’s horrors? But the Bomb was too big an issue to be ignored forever and for CND to claim all the credit for the growing awareness is to emulate the Rooster who imagined his crowing brought the Sun up every morning.

And could we not, by joining the March, have used the opportunity to gain recruits? Actually, we did gain new members without marching a single step; we did this by simply selling our literature and discussing. More important, we played no part in perpetuating an organisation which we knew to be wrong and would inevitably lead to disillusion on a grand scale.

Always, there are groups in protest against some aspect or other of this social system. CND’ers come into this category. They leave intact the very thing which spawned nuclear weapons—the private property basis of Capitalism—so their cause is hopeless.

Supposing the Bomb could be banned. If two Nations, possessing the necessary technical knowledge, should quarrel seriously enough over the things wars are really fought for— markets, sources of raw materials, strategic Bases, etc—and even supposing they commenced fighting with “conventional,” “moral” weapons, would not the losing side set its scientists to producing nuclear weapons in order to stave off defeat? If history is anything to go by, the side which was winning would use the Bomb and justify this by claiming it had brought hostilities to a speedier conclusion.

It would require several volumes to deal with every “solution” which CND’ers have dreamt-up over the years. From World Government or alignment with the “uncommited Nations” (some strange bedfellows in this lot), to “disengagement” and the farcical “Steps Towards Peace,” every straw has been clutched at.

Anyway, even if it were possible, Capitalism minus the Bomb would not solve the problem of war; a world based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production, alone, will do that. So, being after something fundamentally different, we have no alternative but to oppose CND.

One final point. We do not deny the sincerity of many campaigners; the energy and ingenuity they displayed in tackling a job they considered important provided further proof that once working men and women get on the right track Capitalism’s days are numbered.
Vic Vanni

Death the Sanctifier (1923)

From the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bonar Law is dead. While he lived he was our enemy. Now that he is dead must we be sorrowful? He helped to send our fathers, and brothers and sons to the European shambles; his life is the history of staunch support of the master’s policy of robbing and oppressing the workers. He did his best to delude the workers into the belief that capitalism was the best of all possible systems, and has hepled to press down the workers’ wages since the armistice was declared. Must we revere him because he has gone the way of all flesh? He was our enemy and those who now speak so nicely of him are our enemies.

Such a one is Ramsay MacDonald. Here is his tribute:—
“It was with profound regret when I landed at Dover this morning that I learned of the death of Mr. Bonar Law. When a man has done the work he has done and passes out it is always difficult adequately to express all one feels. I can say no more.”—(Daily Herald, 31/10/23.)
Strange that there are still some who believe that Ramsay MacDonald is a sincere representative of working-class interests!

Violence On The Terraces (1975)

From the October 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the heyday of organized protests against the Vietnam war, seven or eight years ago, most of them culminated in fights between demonstrators and police and perhaps forty arrests for disorder and assault. This happened two or three times a year, and each occasion was followed by grave enquiries. It was repeatedly proposed that political demonstrations be banned, on the grounds that such violence could not be tolerated and the police were being subjected to undue strain.

Every Saturday, crowds whose numbers were not dreamed of by the organizers of demonstrations go to League football grounds in Britain, and for the past three years sections of them have produced violence on a scale which has made the matter a major social problem. Some weeks there are a hundred or more arrests in various towns. Shopkeepers and publicans close their doors and board-up their windows; cars are overturned and injuries inflicted. Last year a youth died after being stabbed at a football match. Because of damage running to many thousands of pounds, the railways have withdrawn facilities on Saturdays. Some of the most spectacular episodes have been when crowds going to see British teams playing in European countries have run riot.

Attempted remedial measures have all failed so far. Young people going into football grounds are searched for weapons. Some time ago several clubs fenced off areas behind the goals, allowing no-one to stand there, because of missiles (including darts) being thrown at goalkeepers; but spectators have invaded the playing pitches, and last month at one ground a crowd ran over the field and attacked players. Other measures have been the digging of moats and the erection of high fences, but these only direct the violence from one place to another. Magistrates impose heavy fines, apparently without deterrent effect, and there have been cases of men being banned from entering football grounds (how this is enforced is not known). Other “solutions” are advocated. They include bringing back the birch, i.e. corporal punishment for those convicted, and imposing “community work” for them to do on Saturdays.

One other method, apparently partly being put into operation now, is for television and the newspapers not to report the outbreaks. It is argued that pictures and accounts have an imitative effect, and have helped make football hooliganism an infection. Presumably the thought is that any theory is worth trying: the implications of this one are curious. Could inflation be checked by not publishing news of it? How about all the other problems, evils and disasters? Or is it just to lull the Citizens and have them think that no such problem exists? However, the idea which has not been mooted is the one which occurred to so many spokesmen so readily, apropos political demonstrations — that society cannot put up with it, and football for paying spectators should be banned.

Crowds and Competition
In one sense it is not a new departure at all. Physical violence has always been latent and verbal violence a characteristic in football crowds: their “roar” is often an aggregate of abuse, accusation and incitements. The collective identity and security of a crowd can provide extraordinary sanctions for an individual to do what he would not dare by himself. Just as timid clerks conscripted in wartime whistle after girls from the backs of lorries, respectable men can stand among thirty thousand others and shout threats and curses. The step from this “healthy partisanship” to actual hooliganism is not a great one.

The desire of all those who are exercising themselves over the problem is, in fact, to avoid the things which stare them in the face. The politics of it are obvious. Up to about twenty years ago the Football Association’s standard procedure when there had been crowd misbehaviour at any ground was first to order warning notices to be posted and then, on a repetition, to have the ground closed for a period. It sounds just the thing, but has rarely been done in recent years. It is not just that the worst places are some of the biggest and most famous clubs; the rise of violence has coincided with the rise of European and world competition, in which these clubs carry British prestige abroad. The hooligans are always carefully delineated as an uncharacteristic minority, and the sterling qualities of most football followers asserted. There is the feeling too that Saturday football is one of those institutions which help guard against revolution.

Competition plays a strong part. With its extent greater and participation in international club competitions — dependent on national success — essential for the highest rewards, clubs are desperate for results as never before. Thus, ends-and-means philosophies predominate. Much big-time football now is about as attractive to watch as cement-mixing, and is won by “method”; and the result is uncritical spectators attached not to the pleasures of the game but to winning no matter how. Likewise, cynical and vindictive play has increased. The football authorities manoeuvre frantically with disciplinary rules which the clubs and players do their best to sabotage. This obviously rubs off on supporters too: not the rough play in itself, but the sentiment that power supported by dishonesty is the ideal policy.

That takes us to the social and political world outside. There has not been lacking a school of commentators to tell us that the football hooligans reflect social deficiencies; though, as is usual with sociologists, these commentators cannot say what the deficiencies actually are. It is more to the point to note that the same violence and vandalism go on elsewhere without a twentieth of the fuss being made about them. One manifestation for some years has been gangs looking for black men and homosexuals to beat up. Another, resolutely concealed as far as possible, is bullying by gangs in schools. In Northern Ireland it gets its outlet in political warfare. The fields can be seen brought together in Glasgow in the annual football matches between Rangers and Celtic, which are traditional occasions for violence between Catholics and Protestants.

An Irresponsible Society
The single social fact about football violence is that it is not only working-class, but working-class in the limited — and incorrect — sense; it belongs to the poorer-off, poorer-educated sections. (That is why one does not hear complaints about “police brutality” when they are arrested, as there were continually in the demonstration days.) Superficially it might be said that is because association football is a poor people’s sport, but it is not the case today. All grounds have reduced their cheap standing-up accommodation to make way for more expensive seats, and the better-off followers simply do not go by cheap excursion trains.

The problem is connected with that of “youth” at large, since the hooligans are mostly in their teens. Over the last twenty years the traditional waywardness of youth has taken more extreme and violent forms. Previously it could be assumed that schools provided a central discipline, since young people were bound to attend and made to conform in them. Today very large numbers in the cities either refuse to go to school or create havoc when they are there, and there have been repeated reports of teachers being beaten up.

This has happened in the era of the 1944 Education Act and the comprehensive schools, which according to the Labour Party would confer innumerable benefits on society, and have turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. The basis of these reorganizations of education was the idea of selection, of grading children according to their apparent suitability for different rĂ´les in capitalism. But there is always a reverse side. “Selection” implies “rejection” as well, the leaving behind of the not-much-good. A major outcome has been the creation of an army of young people who were written off at eight or nine and treated like that throughout the rest of their schooldays. It is hardly surprising that they respond in kind towards society: an anti-social scheme produced anti-social results.

Behind the educational schemes lie, of course, the needs of the capitalist system. These are what hooligan behaviour in the streets and at football games should be measured against. Saturday afternoons in Britain bring displays of irresponsible conduct; yet the fact is that capitalism depends on irresponsibility. It is not even just a matter of competition and the idealization of the top dog. The mass of people have to be persuaded continually to surrender control of their own lives, to accept paradoxes which should not deceive a child, to act complaisantly while being swindled from all sides day in and out. A revealing suggestion made at the time when “private armies” were in the news was that they be used to keep order among football spectators — implying what we know to be true anyway, that violence is re-named when it is on the right side.

The struggle against football hooligans is to get them to stop their irresponsibility and adopt another kind. There is nothing to be said in their favour. The victims of their violence and destructiveness are other working men and women. The opposing arguments over them are, on one hand, that they must be put down forcibly and, on the other, that they must be treated as victims themselves of social errors. Both show the same misconception. They are products of the society we live in now; and to brush its effects under the carpet in one way or the other will not change its nature, or stop other expressions of it. What a problem like this demonstrates is the never-ending futile scurry of reformers from one ugly spot to another. Instead of facing facts, they are running away from them.
Robert Barltrop

The Face of Capitalism (2016)

The Cooking the Books Column from the March 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
'I find it terrible that we allow companies to behave like this', an unnamed Tory minister told Times columnist, Rachel Sylvester (26 January) commenting on the Google tax row.  'It gives capitalism a bad name'. It's the 'unacceptable face of capitalism' all over again (as if capitalism had an acceptable one).
But those in charge of Google and other corporations operating in many different countries did nothing against either the economic logic or the legal code of capitalism. Capitalism's economic logic is to maximise the 'self-expansion of capital', i.e., to make as much profit as possible to invest as more capital, and it is the legal duty of those in charge of investing other people's money to ensure that the investors get the maximum return on their investment.
So why the complaints from supporters of capitalism? They come from two sources. From those who support capitalism generally and from other capitalist firms.
Capitalism in Britain exists in the context of political democracy, which means that political parties openly supporting capitalism have to be able to command a wide degree of popular support. The Tory Party, which in Britain is the party of Big Business and the rich, cannot just baldly proclaim that it exists to act in the interest of the few before everyone else's. They have to convince people that capitalism is in the general interest. This is why the Tory minister was worried about the behaviour of certain capitalist firms giving capitalism a bad name. As are pro-capitalist journalists such as Sylvester who headlined her article 'Tax-lite companies are a cancer in capitalism.' So, the argument is advanced that such behaviour is not routine for capitalism but 'irresponsible', 'unacceptable' and even 'unethical' (as if capitalism has anything to do with ethics).
The capitalist groups which complain about Google's behaviour are those who feel that, due to Google's tax dodging, they are having to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of taxation imposed to maintain the capitalist state machine. The less Google and the others pay, the more the rest have to. Basically, it's UK-established firms versus overseas-established ones. Another Tory minister, Business Secretary Sajid Javid, well expressed the first group’s complaint:
'I speak with thousands of companies – small, medium-sized as well as of course large companies – and there is a sense of injustice with what they see. They do look at this and they say: “Look, I don’t operate all these multiple jurisdictions around the world. I can’t shift profits around. What about me? Where’s the level playing field?” ' (Daily Telegraph, 31 January).
Tory backbencher David Davies spoke up for them too, or at least for the smaller firms among them, when he told Sylvester:
'It gives big companies an advantage over smaller ones – that's not capitalism, in fact it's anti-capitalism.'
It's not 'anti-capitalism’ of course. Big companies always have the advantage under modern capitalism. As Marx pointed out, there’s a built-in tendency under capitalism towards bigger firms as these are necessary to control the ever larger and more productive instruments of production in which, in search of greater profits, new capital is accumulated.
It is true, though, that the burden of taxation can be distributed differently among the different sections of the capitalist class. This in fact is what the argument here is really about – how much each section of the capitalist class should pay towards the upkeep of their state. It's a purely intra-capitalist dispute of no concern to the majority class of wage and salary workers which we don’t need to be drawn into by taking sides.