Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fascism, democracy and the war (1986)

From the February 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workers who suffered under the monstrous Mussolini and Hitler dictatorships were clearly worse off than their fellow wage slaves in the so-called democratic countries. It is a popular fiction that Britain and its allies went to war against the fascist nations in 1939 to defeat an evil ideology and save the world for democracy. This is a lie, just as false as those invented to persuade workers to be slaughtered in the trenches in 1914. The fact is that Britain and its allies were motivated by a political and economic desire to protect their long-held interests in the world market against the expansionist aims of the fascist nations which had arrived late on the scene of world imperialism. The claim that a major war was initiated to liberate workers from fascist tyranny sounds very noble, but has little to do with the sordid motives of the capitalist class.

Fascism and the British capitalists
The first fascist state in Europe was Mussolini's Italy. It was established in 1923, long before the British capitalists contemplated going to war to save workers from the fascists. Far from regarding this new type of capitalist government as a deadly threat. Britain's leaders approved of Italian fascism. Winston Churchill told the fascists that
If I had been an Italian, I am sure that I should have been wholeheartedly with you from start to finish in your triumphant struggle . . . (Quoted in The Times, 21 January 1927.)
Churchill took the same attitude to Hitler, stating that if Britain was ever threatened with "communism", he hoped that a man such as Adolf Hitler would be available to lead the nation to safety. Indeed, the capitalist leaders admired Hitler's ability to keep the workers in check; consider the words expressed by Ramsay MacDonald to the National Government's Labour Committee on 6 November 1933:
The secret of the success of the dictatorships is that they have managed somehow or other to make the soul of a nation alive. We may be shocked at what they are doing, but they have certainly awakened something in the hearts of their people which has given them a new vision and a new energy to pursue national affairs. In this country the three parties in co-operation are doing that . . .
So much for the opposition to fascism of Britain's first Labour Prime Minister. He was simply stating the desire of the capitalist class: that workers must accept the needs of the profit system and if the fascists were succeeding in such a task they cannot be condemned. This was well summed up by the Tory, Lord Melchett, who stated that:
I admire Fascism because it is successful in bringing about social peace . . . I have been working for years towards the same peace in the industrial field of England . . . Fascism is tending towards the realisation of my political ideals, namely, to make all classes collaborate loyally.
David Lloyd George, the hero of the modem Liberals, was so impressed by Nazism that he went to visit Hitler in 1936. This visit was arranged by Philip Conwell-Evans. an enthusiast for the fascist cause, who had been a senior figure in the 1929

Labour government. He kept notes on the talks between the Fuhrer and the Liberal and reported that Lloyd George told Hitler that:
. . . public opinion in Great Britain was to an increasing degree showing more and more understanding for Hitler’s position and the one anxiety of British public opinion today was to bring about the closest co-operation between the two countries. (Quoted in Appendix II of Martin Gilbert's The Roots of Appeasement, London 1966.)
On 17 September 1936, Lloyd George had an article published in The Daily Express which was full of enthusiasm for Nazism and referred to Hitler as "a born leader of men". In another article he stated that the Nazis had "effected a remarkable improvement in the working conditions of both men and women" (News Chronicle, 21 September 1936). Two years earlier he had told the House of Commons: "Do not let us be in a hurry to condemn Germany. We shall be welcoming Germany as our friend" (Hansard., 28 November 1934).

As with Hitler, so with the fascist General Franco. The Conservative historian, Maurice Cowling, has written that "most Conservative MPs sympathised with Franco from the start . . . and did not regard Franco as a Fascist . . (The Impact of Hitler, p.266, Cambridge. 1975). Among those who were enthusiastic in their initial support for Franco was Churchill. Numerous examples can be cited to demonstrate the widespread enthusiasm within the British capitalist class for the tactics of the fascist governments. They were seen as models of efficient capitalism and were respected. The idea that capitalism could be managed democratically (which has never much impressed the capitalists) was becoming unfashionable in the 1930s. Typical of this was a speech made by Gordon Selfridge to the American Chamber of Commerce in London; The Times of 22 June 1932 reports him as stating that:
as an American he spoke to fifty representative men in America and did not find one who disagreed with his view that democracy in that great country could not possibly succeed as a system of government . . .  a country should be managed as a great business was managed.
Francis Yeats-Brown, who was the assistant editor of The Spectator between 1926 and 1931, expressed a popular ruling-class sentiment when he wrote that "the hope of order in Europe depends upon the abolition of democracy and the establishment of Corporate States" (10 November 1933).

Not only capitalists, but many workers also, were no longer prepared to place their faith in capitalist democracy. One of the main reasons for this is that the political parties all seemed to be standing for the same system and pursuing policies which led to the same old problems occurring again and again. Who can blame workers for feeling that elections and the other features of democracy are a waste of time if they do not lead to people being better off? It was capitalist politics, particularly the policies of reformism, which brought democracy into disrepute. This sentiment was well expressed by a character in Shaw's play, On The Rocks, written in 1933: he was a Prime Minister who knew that reform policies could make no difference to the working class and he undemocratically concluded:
The people of this country . . .  are sick of twaddle about liberty when they have no liberty . . They are sick of me and sick of you and sick of the whole lot of us. They want to see something done that will give them decent employment . . . They can’t set matters to right themselves, so they want rulers who will discipline them and make them do it instead of making them do the other thing. They are ready to go mad with enthusiasm for any man strong enough to make them do anything, even if it is only Jew baiting, provided it’s something tyrannical, something coercive, something that we all pretend no Englishman will submit to. though we’ve known ever since we gave them the vote that they'd submit to anything.
Shaw, who was as confused as he was condescending, was of the view that Mussolini and the Italian fascists had gone further in the direction of Socialism than the English Labour Party could yet venture if they were in power" (Quoted in Bernard Shaw and Fascism. London 1927). It was not until the late 1930s, when fascist foreign policy began to interfere with the imperial interests of the older capitalist powers, that British capitalist leaders began to use fascism as an ideological stick with which to beat their economic rivals. For example, it is an accepted fact that the British Foreign Office was well aware that German Jews were being subjected to state persecution and many dissidents were being tortured and killed by the fascists years before war was declared. If it was "the menace of fascism" which our bosses were so opposed to why were so many of them praising it until the moment that fascism threatened their economic power?

The Leninist attitude
No small contribution to the anti-democratic atmosphere in Britain in the 1930s was made by the Communist Party of Great Britain. As the main party of organised Leninism, the CP propagated two ideas which were both confused and dangerous. Firstly, it was CP policy between 1928 and 1935 to label all its opponents as "social fascists". The term was attributed to anyone who rejected the claims of the Russian state to be socialist. It was argued that there was no difference between fascist parties and social democratic ones: if they were not Leninists they must be fascists. This view, adopted because it was laid down by the Communist International (Comintern) led to the absurd conclusion on the part of the CP that "bourgeois democracy" was indistinguishable from fascism. Secondly, the CP pointed to Russia as the example of real democracy in action. The Stalinist police state of the 1930s arguably more dictatorial than Russia today - was described as "people’s democracy" and the CP maintained that instead of the limited democracy granted under private capitalism workers should aim to achieve the higher form of democracy of Stalin's Russia. Of course, this "people’s democracy" amounted to state-capitalist dictatorship and was feared by many workers as being no better than fascism. So. the CP added to popular confusion about what democracy means and. in presenting Stalinist dictatorship as real democracy. they led many workers to oppose the idea of democracy.

In 1935 the CP changed its policy and regarded fascism as a threat to the working class. This change was a reflection of Kremlin-dominated Comintern policy: the CP was then, as now. a party whose function was to defend the policies of the Kremlin. In September 1939. when the British capitalists went reluctantly to war with the fascist powers. the CP supported the war and published a pamphlet, written by Harry Pollitt, called How To Win The War. The following month the Comintern informed the British CP of the non-aggression pact which had been made between Russia and Germany and as a result the CP changed its position and opposed the war. Pollitt’s pamphlet was withdrawn from circulation and a new one. written by Palme Dutt. was issued, arguing the opposite of that being put forward a month earlier. Pollitt was forced to apologise for having supported the war. stating that
I recognise that my action in resisting the carrying out of the line of the Communist Party and the Communist International represented an impermissible infraction of our Party’s discipline. I request the Central Committee to give me facilities to prove in deeds that I know how to take my place in the front ranks (Quoted in 1939: The Communist Party and the War, London 1984).
On 2 September 1939 the CP issued a manifesto stating that "We are in favour of all necessary measures to secure the victory of democracy over fascism ”. (Remember: until 1935 the CP did not distinguish between the two.) Then, on 7 October 1939. after a British CP delegate had returned from Moscow with instructions to oppose the war because Russia had come to terms with Germany. a new manifesto was issued stating that:
The truth about this war must be told. This war is not a war for democracy against Fascism . . . This war is a fight between imperialist powers over profits, colonies and world domination.
The CP had turned its policy on its head because of Russian foreign policy. In fact, its revised policy made more sense: the war was not about ideology and was indeed a fight between economic competitors. In June 1941 the Nazis broke the pact with Russia and Stalin became an ally of Churchill - two great defenders of democracy! Once again, the CP line changed within days and the war was no longer to be opposed, but supported. Indeed, during the war the CP urged workers to place faith in Churchill’s great leadership and was instrumental in strike-breaking in areas where workers’ trade-union action might damage the war effort.

In 1979 the CP History Group held a conference to discuss its war policy and the proceedings have been published as a book: 1939: The Communist Party and the War edited by John Attfield and Stephen Williams. The CP is evidently anxious to explain away this sorry episode in its anti-socialist history but, judging from some of the contributions, it has no option but to admit to the fact that its role has been to echo, in the most unprincipled fashion, the decisions of Kremlin dictators. Monty Johnstone - supposedly a more critical leader within the modem CP - argues (p.24) that Russia was correct to make a pact with the Nazis. Perhaps such a pact was in Russia’s interest, but is it not then necessary for the CP to point out that such an interest could have nothing to do with socialism? The slavish response of CPers to Kremlin policy was summed up by the contribution made by Eric Scott who was secretary of the High Wycombe branch of the CP in 1939: he had supported the CP's September policy and was worried when he heard that it had been changed:
. . .  I thought that this was a betrayal of the anti-fascist fight. I spent a very uncomfortable forty-eight hours scratching my head and thinking it all over, and then I said. "well, if the Soviet Union takes this attitude. I suppose we can’t do anything else but take the same attitude". (pp. 128/9)
This uncritical dogmatism, so characteristic of the British CP. explains how workers who were advocating one view at one moment adopted a completely different one the next. They were victims of their own faith in leadership from Moscow. Again, in the contribution made by the late Lon Elliott:
The Soviet Union had tremendous prestige in the Communist movement, tremendous weight in the Communist International. We all of us felt, perfectly rightly I think, that the defence of the one and only socialist state was an absolutely paramount question at the time—it was the only socialist state. It seems to me . . . that the decision of the Comintern that this was an imperialist war was decisive (pp.68/9)
Apart from the obvious nonsense of referring to Russia as a "socialist state", it is a sure indictment of the willingness of Leninists to be told what to think that a decision made by the Comintern, in response to Russian foreign policy interests, led CPers to decide how to respond to fascism. The CP’s attitude to fascism was that it should only be opposed if Stalinism was threatened — just the same as the policy of the British capitalist class who only opposed fascism when it conflicted with their national interests.

The socialist reponse
Socialists have never been in any doubt as to the crucial importance of democratic methods as a means of achieving socialism. Unlike the parties of the Right and the Left, which contemptuously use the rhetoric of democracy in order to maintain capitalism in one form or another, the Socialist Party has always accepted that a fully democratic system of society can only be brought about by thoroughly democratic tactics. For that reason socialists (while recognising that capitalism will never be fully democratic) have urged workers in countries where they lack democratic rights to obtain them for the sake of building a socialist movement. It was therefore, quite obvious that the socialist response to the fascist dictatorships was one of total opposition, firstly because they were capitalist governments, but additionally because they were anti-democratic. This hostility to fascism was not determined by political opportunism, but by clear socialist principles. In 1850 Engels wrote of the working class that
They must see now that under no circumstances have they any guarantee for bettering their social position unless by universal suffrage, which would enable them to send a majority of working men in the House of Commons (The Ten Hours Question, The Democratic Review, March 1850).
The importance of democracy for socialists was expressed in the June 1939 Socialist Standard:
Under democracy, the workers are allowed to form their own political and economic organisations and within limits, freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press is permitted as well as the freedom of the electorate choosing between contending political parties.
This was not to say that democracy in itself was enough:
Democracy, in itself, cannot solve a single problem of the working class . . .  As long as the working class supports capitalism and capitalist policies, it will, in the long run. ultimately give its support to that policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs of capitalism - even though that policy may be fascist.
At the time of the Spanish Civil War some members took the view that democracy had to be fought for that the war was in defence of democratic rights and deserved workers' support. This was the view of A. E. Jacomb, who had been an active founder member of the Party, and by a number of members of then then Islington branch. The vast majority of Party members rejected this attitude, understanding that
If Fascism arose in Britain, with or without war. it could only be because the British capitalists wanted it and the workers supported it or were apathetic (The Socialist Standard, January 1939).
It is not possible to terrorise workers into a respect for democracy: if they are persuaded. as they were in the fascist countries. that democracy is not worth having, then no army will succeed in imposing democracy on them. So while maintaining at all times that "We much prefer a democracy to a dictatorship" (Socialist Standard, January 1941), the Socialist Party opposed the war. pointing out in 1939. as in 1914, that the war was between capitalist rivals and was unworthy of the shedding of working-class blood. On 24 September 1939 the Socialist Party's war manifesto was published and it contained the following sound analysis:
The present conflict is represented in certain quarters as one between "freedom" and "tyranny" and for the rights of small nations.
   The Socialist Party of Great Britain is fully aware of the sufferings of German workers under Nazi rule, and wholeheartedly supports the efforts of workers everywhere to secure democratic rights against the powers of suppression. but the history of the past decades shows the futility of war as a means of safeguarding democracy.
Indeed, the history of the Second World War proved the validity of this contention for, after 1945, when the dictatorships were apparently defeated, the process began whereby more workers in Europe are living under dictatorships today than in 1939.
Fascist dictatorships today
Using the term fascism in its broadest sense, we can see that in 1986 there is no shortage of governments in the world which can be well described as such: the military dictatorships of Central and South America; the one-party states of Africa; the racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa; the centralised tyrannies of the state capitalist countries. including the Russian Empire and China. In relation to the so-called communist countries, it has been stated that:
Russia must be placed first among the new totalitarian states. It was the first to adopt the new state principle. It went furthest in its application. It was the first to establish a constitutional dictatorship, together with the political and terror system which goes with it. Adopting all the features of the total state, it thus became the model for those other countries which were forced to do away with the democratic state system and change to dictatorial rule. Russia was the example for fascism (Otto Rühle. The Struggle Against Fascism Begins With The Struggle Against Bolshevism. 1981. p.5; originally published in 1939).
These days it is popular for those on the Left to attack the openly capitalist tyrannies, such as the monstrous regime in racist South Africa, while making apologies for equally dictatorial governments such as the one in Poland which uses thugs to beat trade unionists with truncheons and incarcerates dissenters in prisons. At the same time the Right wingers are very articulate when it comes to showing the undemocratic nature of the state capitalist countries, which are military and trade rivals of the Western nations but close their eyes to the overtly capitalist tyrannies. Socialists are alone in our total and equal hostility to all dictatorships. We are on the side of the workers in Russia and South Africa, Chile and China against their oppressors. We point out that only class-conscious workers can make full use of democracy but democracy must be obtained in order to build a movement of class-conscious workers.

Like in the 1930s, when the so-called democratic politicians in Britain were not that averse to fascist tactics, we know that the leaders who make a great noise about how democratic they are today could adopt more ruthless and dictatorial methods tomorrow. During the coal strike we saw all too dearly how readily these "Democrats" who rule over us will suspend rights, such as the freedom of movement within Britain, when it is to their advantage in the class war. The fact is that as long as workers follow leaders whose job is to run capitalism we are all the victims of power which is above us: the dictatorship of capital tyrannises us. whether it is wearing the mask of democracy or not.

The way to counter the racist nonsense with which British fascists today poison the minds of workers is not for us to become more capable thugs but to present a clear, practical alternative to the frustration bred by the system. Fascism is part of the messy business of running capitalism; only socialists. with our principled case for social revolution, offer workers a weapon which will blow fascism and capitalism from the face of the earth.
Steve Coleman

Greasy Pole: MayDay . . . MayDay . . . (2016)

The Greasy Pole Column from the August 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the beginning it was a major event in British politics but then the election for David Cameron’s replacement as Conservative Party Leader began to crumble away, until Theresa May stood supreme with no other contenders. The first to fall, in the first round, was Liam Fox, who was eliminated with only 16 votes. Fox is a politician with a not-entirely-creditable past. His standing as a Party favourite was once asserted in his being the Secretary of State for Defence but this perished when he allowed a particular aspect of his ministerial relationships to become what he described as ‘blurred’. This imaginative euphemism referred to his contact with one Adam Werritty, a friend and flatmate from his past. According to Fox they happened to meet again when he was on ministerial business abroad and their previous friendship was allowed to flourish to the extent that Werritty was included on a succession of such trips and gave out his own business cards, encouraging the impression that he was an official adviser and assistant to Fox, attending meetings with foreign diplomats, contractors and military commanders. It was inescapable that Fox should be sacked, but he seems now to have been regarded as entitled to enough remission to be rewarded by May with the new Ministry for International Trade.

Stephen Crabb
The next hopeful to crumble away was Stephen Crabb, who since his first promotion in 2012 to Under-Secretary of State for Wales, had risen to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. When he declared his intention to stand for the party leadership Crabb was careful to announce that he had already appointed his prospective Chancellor of the Exchequer in Business Minister Sajid Javid. During his brief campaign he made much of his materially deprived history, including when he was eight and his mother left his father who had lived on the old Sickness Benefit since before Crabb’s birth. Crabb then indomitably studied his way up the educational and career ladder, into Parliament and then as a Minister. Whatever Crabb’s background may have taught him it was not to have any reservations in the matter of the so-called welfare scroungers, so often denounced as the serious cause of their own chronic misery rather than to face the cruel reality of poverty in a class divided system. In May 2015, after the introduction of an example of ‘welfare reform’ by Iain Duncan Smith, Crabb commented ‘We can’t go soft on welfare reform in a place like Wales – it’s precisely the place that needs it’.

He went on to vote in favour of the reduction by £30 a week of the Employment and Support Allowance to disabled people in the ‘work-related activity group’. Soon afterwards he was asked ‘Why do you hate the sick?’ in some graffiti on the vandalised façade of his office. With all this it is not surprising that Crabb is a firm believer in prayer as an aid in making way through the turmoil of capitalism and its structures of family, class, deprivation, human relationships and the like. He has links with Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) which is opposed to full LGBT rights and which, while asserting that it does not actively support the concept of ’gay cure theology’ did sponsor a conference which discussed ‘therapeutic approaches to same sex attraction’. CARE supported him as a parliamentary intern and has supplied interns to his office. Recently he voted against same-sex marriage. Crabb has been married for 20 years to a woman he met at university; they have two children and he has respected his family for its ‘core values of resilience, optimism and humility’. However it has recently been revealed that he has resumed contact with another woman, who is in her twenties. They met several years ago and at the time of the Referendum they were exchanging suggestive internet messages such as his telling her of the ‘toxic mix’ faced by MPs who are ‘risk-takers to one degree or another. Usually in the areas of money, sex, political opportunism.’ According to the newspapers he also provided her with detailed versions of the sexual activity he desired to share with her.

A certain source of relief for the Tories in their struggle was the defeat, in the next election round, of Michael Gove. Which left Theresa May as the favourite for the final ballot, challenged by Andrea Leadsom, the MP for South Northampton and Minister of State for Energy, who emerged as a formidably forceful opponent when sounding off in a succession of TV debates from the base of her claiming a high-rank career in banking, finance and the like. Except that there were some inconsistencies behind all that power and assertion. Her present strong opposition to British membership of the European Union was in contrast to her previous stance; in April 2013 she was clear that to leave would be ‘…a disaster for our economy and it would lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty’. There were also serious questions about her record of her previous work status; in one typical case former colleagues of hers described her claims as ‘categorically not true’ and ‘just ludicrous’. At the same time she was busy reminding us that she is a mother of three in contrast to Theresa May who is childless: ‘She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next… I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake’. But her assumed experience had not developed any suitable sensitivity or any alarm that it would help May gain votes. Among the media she was re-named ‘Andrea Loathsome’. But she was unable to carry on her campaign and withdrew in favour of May. And now May has promised, from the door of Number Ten that her government will be driven ‘…not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours’. Which would be a lot more impressive if it did not remind us of Thatcher on the very same spot in May 1979, declaring that ‘Where there is discord may we bring harmony. Where there is error may we bring truth. Where there is doubt may we bring faith….’ To put it another way, we have been here before and as long as this society continues with its exploited people we shall have to be here again.

Socialists and General de Gaulle (1958)

From the July 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are opposed to what de Gaulle stands for on principle, because he stands for French capitalism, and Socialists do not support any capitalist faction anywhere or at any time. But the Socialist principle on which we oppose de Gaulle just as imperatively lines us up against the French political parties that oppose de Gaulle, the so-called “Communists" and the minority of the French party misnamed Socialist (its majority supports de Gaulle).

The immediate issue which so bewildered de Gaulle's opponents of a few weeks ago that many of them ended by voting him into power, was the alleged “defence of democracy." Faced with a threat of civil war from the rebel generals and French settlers in Algeria and their sympathisers in France, they chose what they thought the lesser evil making de Gaulle head of the government in the hope that he could and would control the generals. The French Communist Party, which defends the Russian dictatorship and still applauds the bloody suppression of the Hungarian workers by Russian troops in 1956, came out hypocritically for the “defence of democracy" against the “Fascist" de Gaulle. We need waste no words on them except to wonder whether their failure to back up their outcry against de Gaulle with something more than words may not have been due to a lurking fear—that perhaps de Gaulle may do a deal with the Russian government behind their backs.

But although the Communist Party did not change its ground while the crisis was on, the French Labourites, the so-called Socialist Party, made themselves ridiculous with a series of somersaults. Starting with a resolution not to support de Gaulle in any circumstances, they followed this with a decision to let the M.P.'s have a free hand either to follow their leader Mollet who backed de Gaulle, or to vote against him; then another decision a few day later to let them abstain from voting on the question of handing over power to de Gaulle. With Mollet and others of their leaders in de Gaulle's government the party is split into nearly equal halves; with likelihood that more will swing over to Mollet.

The time-worn tactic of the lesser evil is the philosophy of the reformist labour movement in France as in Britain, but both movements might recall that 25 years ago the German Social Democrats in the same dilemma helped elect Marshal Hindenburg to the Presidency of Germany “to keep Hitler out" but as it turned out to open the door to Nazism. It does not necessarily follow that matters in France will take the same course, with Soustelle or some other playing Hitler to de Gaulle’s Hindenburg, but the “lesser evil" supporters of de Gaulle in France have no guarantee at all that this will not happen. They have taken a leap in the dark because they did not know what else they could do. Standing by the Socialist principle in the matter did not enter into their minds.

Are we entitled to condemn them and disregard their plea that they had to make a cruel choice? Emphatically, yes! Had they been Socialists, adhering to the Socialist principle which recognises as basic that working class interest is opposed to all supporters of capitalism, they would never have had to consider the matter at all. But that would presuppose that their organisation, their thinking, their propaganda and their actions in the past had all been fundamentally different from what in fact they have been.

In the last resort they accepted de Gaulle because, like, the British Labour Party and Trade Unions which rallied round their “enemy” Churchill in 1940, many of de Gaulle’s capitalist aims are acceptable to them. De Gaulle stands for French patriotism and “ greatness,” so do they—almost their last act in the Assembly before they changed sides was to stand singing the Marseillaise, the battle-hymn of French capitalism in its triumph over the old regime, in the French Revolution.

De Gaulle still lives in the atmosphere of the wars against German capitalism—so do they.

De Gaulle stands for a forceful foreign policy as in the Franco-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956—so did the French “Socialist” party under its leader Mollet.

They believe not in Socialism, but in Republicanism and patriotism, nationalisation and the reform of capitalism—so does de Gaulle. In his declaration of his aims at a Press Conference on May 19th, he stressed the grounds calculated to appeal to social reformists:—
“I fought the war to win victory for France. But I did it in such a way that it was also the victory of the Republic. I did it with all those without a single exception who willingly wanted to join me. And at their head I restored the Republic to its place. In its name, on its behalf, in conformity with its spirit, my Government accomplished an enormous task of renovation. Political renovation: the granting of the right to vote to women, citizenship given to the Muslims of Algeria, the beginning of an association within the French Union of peoples who formerly depended on us. Economic and social renovation: Nationalisation of the mines, gas, electricity, of the Bank of France, of the main credit institutions, the State-owned Renault car works, works committees, a social insurance organisation on such a scale and in such a way that workers are covered against century-old scourges . . . ” (Times, 20th May, 1958.)
So he went on reminding the workers and their organisations that if what they wanted is reforms of capitalism he was the man who did what they wanted.
The French “Socialist” party supported him before and served in his government, so why not again?

Thus do years of reformist propaganda rise up to mock those who used it. Elements in the British Labour Party fall for the same stuff and for the same reason. Philip Noel-Baker, writing in the Labour journal “Forward” (May 23rd, 1958) joined in the praise for de Gaulle, while reserving judgment as to whether he would succeed in resisting pressure to go in for “Fascist courses.” Noel Baker wrote about the General’s work for “nationalisation, economic planning and social reform” and ended his article:—
“But, whatever the fears and suspicions of the politicians, de Gaulle is one of the great Frenchmen of the modem age, with matchless courage, and great achievements to his name. I believe that history will judge him to be a writer of the finest modem prose, and, in his instincts, a democrat, and a reformer inspired by a visionary belief in the enduring greatness of his country, France."
The British Labour Party is divided in its attitude to de Gaulle for the same reason as the French party, with their leader Mr. Gaitskell counselling a waiting attitude and no hasty condemnation of Mollet, while others, including Bevan, taking a line of strong criticism. But neither side is guided by an over-riding Socialist principle, each treats it just as an issue in everyday practical politics.

Mr. Gaitskell in a speech at the conference of the Boilermakers Union at Scarborough paid tribute to de Gaulle’s past, hoped he would succeed, and ended by calling on his listeners to express “our support for and solidarity with all those French comrades, whether they voted ’for’ or ’against' de Gaulle, who are striving to preserve the democratic system and to resist the continuing threat of Fascist dictatorship” (Daily Telegraph, 4/6/58).

What will de Gaulle's efforts aim to achieve and actually achieve? French capitalism, after losing to England in the Napoleonic wars, the dominance of Europe and the seas of the world, built up a great colonial empire in the late nineteenth century. But, with the rise of the U.S.A and Russia as the two great world powers, with the decline of Europe and, with the emergence of local capitalist dominance in many of her African, Middle East and Far Eastern colonies, French capitalism, as an empire, even more than British capitalism, faces a hazardous battle to avoid relegation to the ranks of second class powers.

Whatever course events may take we have to face the lamentable fact that there does not yet exist in France, any more than in any other country, a united Socialist working class aiming internationally to end capitalism. As facts are, all the rival sections want to do is to play capitalist politics over the question whether French capitalism should be governed in the chaotic manner of the past 20 years or placed under an authoritarian regime with de Gaulle. The French scene presents us with another example of the emptiness of the reformist argument that because most workers are not yet Socialists, only a programme of reforms can unite the workers. Far from being united against de Gaulle they are divided for and against him, and on each wing there are yet other bitter divisions over yet other relatively minor issues. Socialism cannot unite the world’s workers now, but in the long run there is no other programme capable of bringing them together, for Socialism and against all the forces of capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Publish and be damned (1996)

Theatre Review from the October 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blinded By The Sun by Stephen Poliakoff (National Theatre)

Many people have very strange ideas about the nature of science and the behaviour of scientists. Television adverts, for example, tend to perpetuate the myth of scientists as seekers after “the truth”; dressed in spankingly-clean white coats, wearing regulation horn-rimmed glasses they stride the floors of massive laboratories piled to the roof with complex pieces of glass apparatus from which emerge ominous gurgling noises. More generally scientists are still seen as essentially impartial, rational, dispassionate individuals, engaged in uncertain laboratory experiments. The reality, however, is very different.

True some scientists are involved in fundamental research, an activity seemingly both intensely romantic and intellectually mysterious, but one which commonly involves little more than "crawling along on the frontiers of knowledge with a hand lens”, as Sir Eric Ashby famously had it. Most scientists are employees and, as the insatiable demands of capitalism for more profit take their remorseless hold, they are increasingly employed to solve mundane problems. As an onetime industrial chemist I can remember the quest to reduce the amount of mineral oil in a proprietary hair cream (from 45 to 44 percent as I recall), a subject which detained some of the best minds in the "research” department for several months; and later being involved in a similar attempt to save money by making the hair cream at lower temperatures.

Scientists, like the rest of the labour force are under pressure to produce—more research papers, books and consultancies in universities; more savings on routine analysis and safety control in public service laboratories; and more economically (i.e. profitable) outcomes in the brave new world of industry. Sometimes the pressures become too great and some scientists cheat. They produce fraudulent results.

Blinded By The Sun, a new play by Stephen Poliakoff at the National Theatre is about scientific fraud. Or is it? Poliakoff tells the tale as a detective story, but it is a story with an inconclusive ending. Did Christopher fake his results or was he simply the victim of pressures to publish? Certainly in contravention of the usual conventions he announces his spectacular triumph to the press—he has succeeded in producing hydrogen, a clean fuel, by irradiating water with sunlight—rather than describing his work in scientific literature and allowing his peers to repeat his experiments. But is his subsequent failure to confirm his results evidence of fraud or simply a quirk of fate? His high-flying colleague, Elinor, is in no doubt; he is entirely innocent. The laboratory manager—a pushy administrator under pressure to save a failing department—is suspicious. We are left to make up our own minds.

But if we are unclear about what happened, we are left in no doubt about the pressures which might have pushed Christopher towards faking his results. Problem-solving of the kind which underpins Christopher’s work is rather like solving a puzzle. The initial insight may seem conclusive: a solution is at hand and further work points to all the major difficulties being overcome. Ninety percent of the puzzle has apparently been solved, but the rest seems elusive. Perhaps time to announce your triumph to the world—before someone else gets there first—and manage the rest of the work later?

Writing in the programme David Jones draws parallels between the events of the play and a "recent scientific scandal which came close to fraud”. He notes that “Scientific frauds are not common, but they occur; indeed they are probably increasing. This perhaps reflects the growing pressure on scientists. Scientific research is no longer a hobby for a distinguished gentleman, but a career. Its motive is not only the search for understanding, but a quest for advancement and recognition in an overcrowded profession. Its rewards—grants, promotion, tenure, prestigious jobs, titles and other goodies, are fiercely contested.”

So, far from being dispassionate seekers after truth, contemporary scientists, wherever they are employed, are exposed to the same pressures as other workers. If they are not effective—if their work is not associated with profitable outcomes—they will be seen as unacceptable failures, and they may be dismissed.

Blinded By The Sun makes for a wonderful evening in the theatre. Poliakoff unfolds his tale with an effervescent élan which is entirely appropriate to a tale set in a science laboratory; a spirit matched by the performances of an excellent cast in a quicksilver production. Highly recommended.
Michael Gill

Cooking the Books: Crocodile Tears for the ‘Have-nots’ (2016)

The Cooking the Books column from the August 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Commenting the day after the result of the vote for Brexit, Times Economics Editor Philip Aldrick wrote:
‘Working class Britons have treated this momentous referendum as a protest vote to register their anger with globalisation, immigration and elitism’.
He was using ‘working class’ in the occupational sense of manual and industrial workers whereas, in the economic sense, it refers to all obliged by economic necessity to try to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer for a wage or a salary. In other words, nearly everybody except for capitalists and other rich people, making up well over 90 percent of the population. Nearly half of these who took part in the referendum voted for things to remain as they are.
This said, many manual and industrial workers do seem to have voted for Brexit, and in many cases this will have been a protest vote against ‘globalisation, immigration and elitism.’ The leaders of the Leave campaign certainly angled for this, even if themselves members of the ‘elite’.
A case in point is Iain-Duncan Smith in a speech on 10 May when he said:
‘Leaving the EU provides a vital opportunity for us to be able to develop policies that will protect the people who often find themselves at the sharp end of global economic forces and technological change … Because the EU, despite its grand early intentions, has become a friend of the haves rather than the have-nots.’
Sounding as if he might be Bernie Sanders, he went on:
‘But if the EU is working for Germany, for banks, for big corporates and for the public affairs companies with large lobbying operations in Brussels, the EU isn’t working for over regulated small businesses and lower-paid and lower-skilled Britons’.
He praised one Remain leader for acknowledging that ‘wages will go up for many Britons if immigration is restricted’.
So, what was being promised was that, if Britain left the EU, measures would be taken to protect the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘lower-paid and lower-skilled’ workers. This from a man who until recently and for the six previous years had been the cabinet minister in charge of bashing ‘have-nots’ on benefits, making their life a misery as well as cutting their money.
This vote-catching manoeuvre seems to have worked enough to help the Leave vote get past the 50 percent mark.  But those who fell for this and voted Leave to gain protection against the effects of globalisation are going to be cruelly disappointed. The members of the ‘elite’ who led the Leave campaign were just as much in favour of the free play of global market forces, of so-called ‘neo-liberalism’, as their counterparts in the Remain campaign. These ‘liberal leavers’, as they are now coming out as, never had any intention of protecting workers from the effects of globalisation or to raise the wages of the least skilled. They only wanted the votes of the victims of the closures of unprofitable coalmines, shipyards and steelworks.
But even if they had genuinely wanted to try to stand up to global market forces, they wouldn’t have been able to, at least not without undermining the competitiveness of British companies on world markets. The resulting loss of exports, and the economic and financial consequences of this, would sooner or later force them back into line.
The only way that Duncan-Smith’s ‘have-nots’ – and the rest of the working class – can protect themselves from the adverse effects of globalisation is to get together with their counterparts in other countries to replace global capitalism with global socialism where the Earth’s productive resources will have become the common heritage of all humanity.