Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Shadow of Anti-Semitism (1960)

Editorial from the February 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

This “Brave New Year” of 1960 has opened sinisterly. Outbreaks of slogan daubing and swastika painting have occurred in many parts of Germany and there have been similar incidents in a number of other countries, including Britain. People have been reminded, rudely and violently, of something they had almost forgotten—those terrible days of the thirties when the shadow of Nazism first fell upon the world. The photograph on our front page is a vivid reminder of those times and of the way in which the German working-class took its first steps along the road that was to end in conflagration and ruin.

For some strange reason these outbreaks appear to have come as a surprise to many people. They have been shocked to see again something they thought was finished for ever. It is hard to understand why, unless it was from a deeply hidden fear of having their thoughts again disturbed by the horrors of the past.

Did they really think that the people of Germany could change their thinking overnight? That after twelve years of being conditioned to hating Jews, to being the only true “Aryan Supermen,” to belonging to the “Master Race,” they could each and every one turn into an apostle of brotherly love and racial tolerance? Or did they really believe the notion trotted out to them in wartime that the ideology of Nazism would disappear with the defeat of Germany? If so, they must be incredibly naive.

And if they really thought this, how explain the similar outbreaks that have occurred in something like twenty other countries, at almost the same time? What about the incidents in this country itself? The real facts are that the virus of anti-Semitism is to be found wherever there are Jews. Given the right conditions, this virus will come into life, grow, and flourish—unless the working-class decide otherwise.

As to the incidents themselves, what importance are we to attach to them? Are they the work of some lunatic tinge, or of a few die-hard Nazis and fascists still lingering on from the past, or are they evidence of more serious forces at work in Germany and elsewhere? Can they perhaps be dismissed as a petty example of imitative hysteria brought on by the widespread coverage they have received from the newspapers, radio, and T.V.? Concentrated publicity, especially on a subject that lends itself to sensationalism, can often set up a chain-reaction, the effects of which can be particularly strong upon the young and the mentally ill. The Guardian of 14th January, for example, mentioned the case of the individual who went round Woolwich at night inviting people to “join the English Reich party.” Even more absurd was the further instance they quoted of the schoolboy in Western Germany who confessed he had painted his swastikas because “my village hasn’t been in the news at all.”

On the other hand, serious and apparently reliable sources have spoken of new Nazi organisations with memberships running into tens of thousands, and of periodicals and pamphlets with circulations of the same order.

Which of these is the truer reflection of the actual state of affairs? Should we, in short, be heartened or should we be alarmed?

We suggest that there is no reason for the moment to be one or the other. First, because we have not yet enough sound evidence to form a judgment. It is still difficult to establish, through the haze of newspaper and other publicity. just what the real facts are. Second, because not enough time has gone by as yet for the incidents to be seen in their proper perspective. The whole thing may die down as quickly as it arose. On the other hand, it may only be a prelude to more serious events.

For the moment, therefore, we prefer to reserve judgment on the incidents themselves and their significance. What we do want to state, or rather re-state, because it is not something that we suddenly think up for occasions such as these, is the fundamental Socialist position on anti-Semitism and on all other forms of “race" prejudice.

This position is that “race” prejudice today is bound up with the capitalist system. That like a virus it dies away or flourishes according to the state of health of that system. That if capitalism is passing through one of its more “prosperous” periods the virus will tend to lie dormant. But that if capitalism is in crisis, as it was in Germany in the early thirties with its terrible unemployment and all the misery and other evils that stemmed from it, then the virus is capable of coming into swift and virulent life.

The only means whereby the working-class can be sure of immunity from racial intolerance is through an understanding of the forces at work in capitalism. This means Socialist understanding. It means the realisation that the conflicts, the crises, the frustrations, the miseries, the threats of war, and all the other evils of capitalism, are fertile ground for the workers to find a convenient scapegoat in the Jews, West Indians, Irish, or any other minority that happens to be at hand. It means the realisation that such race prejudice can be part and parcel of nationalism, dictatorship, and the drift to war. It means, finally, the realisation that race prejudice is useful in taking their minds off the real cause of their troubles—the capitalist system itself.

It cannot be said too often. The working-class fall for the myth of “race” at their peril. 

Cinderella Men Win Premier League (2016)

Jamie Vardy against Liverpool.
The Action Replay column from the June 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Against all the odds and prognostications of sports journalists and pundits, Leicester City, the team that narrowly missed relegation last season, silenced the doomsayers and doubters by winning the English Premier League.

Leicester could be described as a team of journeymen who have been rejected by former clubs or have joined from lower leagues. But led by manager Claudio Ranieri they have been transmuted from base metal into gold. The total cost of the team is £55 million, only 2 million more than the £53 million Manchester United spent on one player, Ander Herrera.

Now after the joyful celebrations that took place in Leicester and echoed in other parts of the country by neutral football fans impressed with Leicester’s endeavour, Ranieri will look forward to next season knowing that without significant investment to strengthen the squad it will be difficult to compete for the top prizes.

Since wage bill data was first released by the Premier League 16 years ago, the ledger shows that the clubs with the biggest wage bills claim the top four places 80 percent of the time. Only twice, Manchester United in 2013 and Chelsea in 2001, have the team with the biggest payroll finished outside of the top four.

Leicester are by no means paupers. Actually they are one of 17 teams on the Deloitte list of the world’s 30 richest clubs, coming in at no 24 with revenues of £137m. Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabba features in the Forbes rich list at 714 in the world.

They are, however, competing against clubs that have far deeper pockets. Even with the £90 million winner’s prize, £19m up on the club’s take last season and the increased handout from the new Premier League broadcast rights deal, which sees an increase in value of 71 percent from last season, Leicester do not have the same financial underpinning as the elite clubs they triumphed over this time.

It’s been an invigorating season watching the big teams flounder against them and getting a timely comeuppance.

End Not Mend Capitalism (2016)

Editorial from the June 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
The basic nature of the society we live in, where we make human relationships, where we contribute with our ideas and our work, also fashions the problems we face. For good reason that society is known as capitalism, historically a developed human arrangement in which a minority class dominates in the exploitation of the rest of us to its own advantage and to enduring frustration and damage to us as humans.
For example a recent survey revealed that a serious health risk is needlessly imposed by the enormous amounts of sugar which are included in what are described as ‘fashionable’ hot flavoured drinks. This contributes to Britain suffering Europe’s highest rate of obesity – a condition which can fertilise a host of menacing illnesses such as diabetes, strokes, osteoarthritis. This highly dangerous addition is actively promoted by the street coffee shops, particularly the likes of Starbucks and Costa Coffee – a situation recently blasted by a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine as ‘scandalous’. Starbucks and Costa, balancing it out with their profits, must have another word for it.
In another field, also relevant to our health, is a recent report by the Ministry of Justice which revealed that in 2015 in England and Wales a total of 42,728 ‘households’ were forcibly evicted from their homes by bailiffs because they had failed to pay their rent – the highest recorded since records were opened in 2000. This whole matter is a symptom of the most desperately dehumanising effects of poverty – at a time when George Osborne and David Cameron habitually insist that we are luxuriating in the shelter of a ‘strong economy’.
The conventional political parties – Conservative, Labour, LibDem, the Greens, UKIP, the Nationalists – strive to persuade us that they have the ability and the intention to wipe out the current problems in society. To this end they produce policies relating to problems such as health, housing, crime, poverty, education, transport, along with less prominent issues such as planning, art and culture.
This is often effective in persuading enough people that they should take serious notice of their pronouncements, however transparently populist. But for people to do this entails them ignoring the fact that these parties have promised many times before to solve these problems, so that at times the remedies being put forward clash with those in the past. It also entails ignoring the vital – indeed crucial – fact that, as these problems are engendered by the capitalist system itself, they cannot be solved within its framework of minority ownership and production for profit, a system which all these parties uphold in one form or another.
In contrast, the Socialist Party is an organisation which is distinctive through its principle of refusing to promise to ease the problems of capitalism as they are inevitable results of that social system’s basic nature. Our objective is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement with socialism – a classless, moneyless society based on common ownership – a universal system which cannot exist separately in Britain or any other part of the world.