Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Passing Show: Magic of the New Year (1964)

The Passing Show column from the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Magic of the New Year
The beginning of last month was the signal for church bells to ring out, for everyone to wish everyone else a happy new year (probably few believing that they would achieve it), and for silly people to risk a chill and throw themselves into the fountains at Trafalgar Square. Every year it happens with monotonous regularity—every year it is just as futile and stupid.

It all stems, of course, from the time-honoured illusion that somehow the advent of a new year automatically wipes out the mistakes, horrors and heartbreaks of the last 365 days. A sort of magic aura surrounds this arbitrary dividing line, with the old year depicted as a very old man plodding wearily to his grave, and the new year as a lovable little baby—as if youth itself were any guarantor of our fortunes. A new leaf has been well and truly turned, and the way ahead is clear.

What a false idea, but it is one to which most people cling and to which politicians, press and pulpit all pander, although it depends on whether you are a member of the government or opposition party, just what sort of new years message you utter. For instance, Prime Minister Douglas-Home thinks that we are in for a year of "splendid opportunity . . .  five years of exciting progress . . .  prosperity widely shared . . . etc. But Liberal Leader Grimond talks of increased inflation and " . . . a decisive year for Great Britain . . .”

Further afield the new U.S. President Lyndon Johnson tells Mr. Khrushchev of his confidence that “peace on earth, goodwill towards men . . .  we can make it a reality," at the same time as his French opposite number de Gaulle is announcing his determination that France shall have the H-Bomb as quickly as possible. You see what a silly season it is? A time, in fact, when anything can be said and excused, no matter how senseless, because nobody really means what he says then, anyway.

And what, belatedly, do we think of the prospects for 1964? Why, the same as for any other year or at any point in any year. It doesn’t take an Old Moore's Almanack to tell us that capitalism will continue, and its problems with it. For most of us it means a drab and insecure life, and as much as ever the threat of war hanging over us like an angry black cloud. Nothing very magic in that.

Profit trends in 1963
For most of us drabness and insecurity, but for a minority just the opposite. This is the standard condition of capitalism with which we are so familiar, but now and again it is thrown into relief by a news item such as the Guardian report of January 1st. This tells us that 1963 was a good year for company profits with a net rise of over 12 per cent, in the case of 199 firms listed in Exchange Telegraph’s statistics service during December last.

The total for almost 4,000 companies exceeds £1,450 millions and is over three per cent. higher than 1962. Just shows, doesn’t it, the exploitability of the working class—and this in the year of the great freeze-up and close on a million unemployed earlier on.

But not for them
There is one thing (among many others) on which all the capitalist parties agree, and that is the need for “wage restraint.” They have all said it—in fact Mr. Grimond is in favour of a national maximum and of sanctions against firms who “grossly exceed what is justified.” All sorts of arguments are used to try and persuade workers that the less they have, the better off they will be.

But when it comes to M.P.s’ salaries, we hear a very different story. It was not long after the last war that they voted themselves a rise of £400 a year, and now a three-man committee is going to look into the whole question of M.P.s’ and Ministers’ pay, with the promise of an early report. This has the support of all parties in the Commons. What is the betting that: (a) the committee will recommend an increase, and (b) it will be speedily voted into existence by the grateful members? And will you hear then of any argument about restraint? Not very likely.

Colonial “Freedom"!
The oppression in Ghana worsens almost daily. A judge there has been dismissed for bringing in a verdict which displeased President Nkrumah, and the acquitted prisoner has been re-arrested under the Preventive Detention Acts. He’ll be lucky to get out in ten years.

The president is not resting there, however. He is seeking by referendum to confirm his dismissal powers, and it’s a fair bet he will get his way because opposition to his wishes is a punishable offence. Then one more nail will have been driven into the coffin of whatever limited political democracy once existed.

We cannot help remembering at a time like this that we were urged to support the struggle for the establishment of Ghanaian independence, and it was the Movement for Colonial Freedom who assured us that it would hasten the removal of the old colonial yoke and the birth of democracy. The Socialist Party was not popular because we refused our support, but our arguments are the same now as then, and subsequent developments have proved the soundness of our stand.

So let us repeat that colonial freedom means freedom for the rising native ruling class. The workers in Ghana and elsewhere are becoming painfully aware that they have changed their white bosses for ones with darker skins, that is all. It is no part of our job to encourage the establishment of capitalism, whether democratic or dictatorial. Our aim is a world of Socialism, and then democracy in the fullest sense of the word will be a reality.

The Movement for Colonial Freedom is obviously not a Socialist body, but even the limited freedom which they hoped for in Ghana has not emerged. It is a time for them to eat their words. But more than that, it is a time for them to seriously consider the case for Socialism.
Eddie Critchfield

The Passing Show: Death of a President (1964)

The Passing Show column from the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Death of a President

Who would have dreamt, on the morning of that fateful November day, that within a matter of hours, the thirty-fifth U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, would be dead, as well as his assassin and a Texas policeman? Yet this was the news which burst upon an astounded world, and sent all the capitalist politicians into huddles.

Kennedy's death was a tragedy for his family and friends, but at times like these it is as well to get the whole business into some sort of perspective and try to dispel some of the concentrated nonsense to which we have been subjected since the event. It was The Observer for December 1st which said that the shot which killed Kennedy ". . . must change the course of the world." But this is really just another repetition of the “great men make history" theory, and has precious little evidence to support it.

The more sensible remark was that overheard between two young men in a London street the following morning. “Assassinations don’t really make a lot of difference," said one. “Things go on pretty much the same as before." Probably he was not a Socialist, but he certainly hit the nail on the head, for this is precisely what the newspapers were hastening to tell us a few days later. President Johnson would continue the Kennedy policies, said Richard Scott in The Guardian of November 28th. He could have added (but of course he didn't) that these would as usual be a reflection of the needs of contemporary American capitalism. They were ably expounded by the new President thus:
. . . the unswerving support of the United Nations . . . the honourable and determined execution of our commitments to our allies . . .  the maintenance of military strength second to none . . .  the defence of the strength and stability of the dollar . . .  the expansion of our foreign trade . . .  our programme of assistance and cooperation in Asia and Africa . . . 
There have been two Democrats and one Republican at the White House since Roosevelt and any one of them could have uttered those words. For American capitalism has become a giant in world affairs; its days of isolationism are well and truly over.

Rush to Pay Homage 

This point was effectively, but probably not intentionally, underlined by Alistair Cooke when mentioning the huge number of foreign dignitaries at the Kennedy funeral. Reporting in The Guardian he said:
It now appears that no comparable gathering in one place of the great of so many nations has been since the royal trek to London for the funeral of King Edward VII.
In King Edward VII's time, Britain was still just about the most powerful capitalist nation in the world, although her position was soon to be challenged. She had a large empire for which the might of her navy afforded protection. There were also considerable investments abroad which brought in a handsome income. Not surprising, is it, that so many came to bow and scrape at the monarch’s funeral?

But how times have changed. The mighty of yesterday are the minnows of today, and the rush to pay homage is away from British shores, across the Atlantic.

Both Mr. Khrushchev and General Franco are reported to have condemned the murder of the U.S. president. Both these gentlemen are past masters in the art of bumping off their opponents, and are not really in a position to attack anyone else for the same thing. But as we said in a previous issue, humbug is nothing unusual for capitalist politicians, and anyway, both Russia and Spain are  at pains to keep in with the U.S. at present, although for different reasons. The Soviet Union has a growing threat from China to worry about. Spain is an important area strategically, and lots of American capital is invested there.

More Promises 

You can tell there's an election on the way. The promises are falling thick and fast from the lips of the various party spokesmen. At the beginning of November, the Prime Minister promised British youth nothing but the best. In his words: “Education, prosperity, opportunity, leading always to wider horizons . . . ” A month later, Sir Keith Joseph made yet another promise to solve the housing problem, this time to the electors of Marylebone. Speaking in support of the Conservative Quintin Hogg, he pledged that every bit of available and suitable railway land in London would be used for houses. He held out the prospect, for example, of a housing estate on the site of the present Marylebone goods yard.

The Labour Party is not far behind with its promises to end Rachmanism and the land prices racket, and, of course, to build houses fast. And up and down the country the big poster adverts are appearing again asking for your support, urging you to place your trust in these parties once again, despite the fact that they have failed to solve your problems in the past. Alone at the next election the S.P.G.B. will put the sole proposition—“Capitalism or Socialism?" Why not give it some consideration for a change?
Eddie Critchfield

The Passing Show: Lesson in Democracy from Moscow (1967)

The Passing Show column from the April 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lesson in Democracy from Moscow 

Radio Moscow may fairly be described as the mouthpiece of the Russian Government. At times in the recent past, I have tuned in and listened to the ‘news’ bulletins in English, being a mixture of talk about Soviet achievements and abuse hurled at the Western Powers, particularly the ‘American Beasts’. Now because of a new threat in the shape of China, there has been a bit of a thaw in the cold war, and if Mao and his boys got really troublesome, we could well see the ‘Soviet Bear’ doing a deal with the ‘American Beasts’ to defeat the ‘Yellow Hordes’. Then, no doubt, the programmes from Radio Moscow would assume a more dulcet tone.

For the time being, however (and until told to do otherwise), the station beams its propaganda westwards, although perhaps there is a little more restraint in the presentation of the programmes. One of our members has been having a bit of an argument with the station over its misuse of words like ‘Socialism’, ‘democracy’ etc., and has sent me a copy script of one of their programmes called ‘Let’s Talk it Over’, which was broadcast towards the end of last year.

This is a discussion between two men, Kuprianov and Martynov, on the vexed question of democracy, and contains the usual platitudes such as: ‘All men are born with the right to have their own thoughts and to express those thoughts’ or . . . ‘Democracy implies power.’ It adds nothing to our knowledge of the subject and in fact contains suggestions fraught with danger to the working class. For instance, there is a sneer about the traditional right of assembly in Hyde Park with the words: ‘Such Freedom of speech can change nothing’. Which leads Kuprianov to say that Hitler rose to power ' . . .  not because he succeeded in persuading anyone in his street corner harangues but because he was spotted by such men as the Ruhr magnates.’

Now it is true that Hitler made a bid for the support of powerful German industrialists, but it is equally true that he would have been nowhere without millions of workers’ votes in his pocket. This was the lesson he learned well when his earlier attempts to seize power landed him in gaol. And after he was safely in the saddle, he made sure that he had a powerful propaganda machine working day and night to bolster him; he also took good care to suppress democratic institutions, free speech, and so on. Why bother to do this if they did not represent a threat to his position, if in fact they ‘can change nothing’?

And for the same reason, although it is true there have been some relaxations, why does the Soviet political set-up still forbid the existence of more than one party, and make it pretty hot for those who do not toe the line? The speakers do not attempt to pose or answer either of these questions. They are too busy telling lies about Russia being a democracy and talking of the ‘real freedom’ of the Soviet workers (whatever that may mean). According to Kuprianov and Martynov, Russia is the ‘youngest (democracy) in existence’. What a sickly child it must be. then.

Racial Prejudice Society

The Racial Preservation Society (or ’Society for the Preservation of all Races’, to give its revised name), looks like getting itself into legal trouble, according to The Times of 6.3.67. Copies of one of its papers Southern News have been sent to the Attorney General for possible prosecution under the Race Relations Act 1966—that pathetic attempt by the Labour Government to illegalise the very prejudices to which they themselves had pandered only a few months before. Copies of another of the Society’s papers The British Independent have reached us recently. They are more subtle in their arguments than those of some of the other racialists.

Not for them the crudeness of the ‘nigger hater’. They are concerned to preserve the races as God created them ‘in all their infinite variety and beauty’ —whatever that may mean. To back up their argument, they reproduce front page pictures of two beautiful children, one English and the other Nigerian. ‘The need for racial preservation’, they say. ‘can best be illustrated by the fact that one cannot un-mongrelise a mongrel race.’ Now the precise point of that escapes us at the moment but we do know that if they want to preserve the purity of the ‘English Race’, they’ve got just about the most crazy mixed-up mongrel of the lot.

They deny they are racially prejudiced, yet go to some length to blame coloured people for almost every social evil under the sun. Their issue No. 1 of Spring last year for instance, lists such problems as murder, rape, prostitution and vice, robbery, bad housing and venereal diseases. At that time also they were running an opinion poll on their ideas, with a loaded questionnaire.

Racial prejudice still does not seem to have got more than a large toe-hold in Britain, and therefore the RPS is regarded generally as something of a bad joke. However, the danger lies not only in the ideas it propagates, but also in the simulated respectability and humaneness with which it clothes them (‘repatriation on generous terms’ is one of their slogans), so that usually quite tolerant workers could be persuaded at least that there is no harm in supporting them. And so long as that is happening, the growth of Socialist ideas will be severely hampered.
Eddie Critchfield

Rough Winds and Rattling Knockers (1956)

Party News from the May 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Rough winds,” sang the bard, “do shake the darling buds of May." Many party members are hoping that during this May in particular the winds will blow a little more kindly, because for the first time we are making a combined effort to increase sales of the Socialist Standard by widespread canvassing. A number of branches in London and elsewhere are taking part and have sent representatives to a meeting at Head Office to set up a co-ordinating committee, with the general object of doubling their usual monthly Standard sales. If everything goes to plan, a great many knockers will be rattling during this month.

These are difficult times for Socialist propaganda, when workers are more inclined to stay in for television soap operas than come out to listen to a speaker on a windy platform. To this problem canvassing is part, at any rate, of an answer—if people will not come to us, then we must go to them. And there is no need to be hesitant about knocking them up—a surprising number are quite willing to leave even Miss Shirley Abicair to talk about the problems of the live-a-day world. Apart from that, canvassing has its exhilaration of hard work and its fun—one comrade who disappeared from a Sunday morning expedition came puffing up half an hour later to explain that a housewife had mistaken him for the rent collector and he had drunk three cups of tea and promised to mend her drainpipes before she had realised her mistake.

At all events it is worthy activity which over the years can build up a solidly regular readership for our journal. We hope to publish the results of the drive in our July issue. Meanwhile, there is a lot of work to be done.

African Atlas (1962)

Book Review from the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

An Atlas of African Affairs by Andrew Boyd and Patrick van Rensburg. Methuen, 14s

Maps are fascinating things and most of us enjoy browsing over them. Andrew Boyd, in this book and in his Atlas of World Affairs, exploits the technique of selectively drawing maps so that they reveal not only the geography, but also the history, of a continent.

This atlas has about 50 maps backed up by a potted history of Africa. Here we can see where the European traders, uninterested in the continents rich interior, set up their coastal colonies. Here, too, are shown the ancient states of Africa: where in 5.000 B.C. one of the worlds first agricultural systems was developed: where in 300 A.D. the Soninke created Ghana, which throve on the export of slaves and gold to Morocco. The great tribes of modern Ghana claim descent from the inhabitants of the ancient state -  hence the revival of the country's name.

The maps show up the growing European interest in the African hinterland and the scramble for colonies in the late nineteenth century. It is easy enough to appreciate the author’s contention that Africa’s map of frontiers was drawn by Europeans, whose rule lasted for a bare seventy years.

But Africa is more than a bloody history of slavers and colonisers. It is a dark, brooding continent with enormous wealth and great natural barriers of desert and jungle and disease. These are the physical conditions in which the natives and the colonisers must go about their business and which has such a definite effect on that business. The Atlas does not forget this.

A small book, but full of interest and information.

Apologies to Karl Marx (1963)

Editorial from the August 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Future historians interpreting our eventful epoch will note outstanding happenings like the two world wars, the overthrow of Czarism in Russia, the rise of independent countries in Asia and Africa, the decline of the British and other Colonial empires, and so on. Possibly the single event that will loom the largest will be the rise of Russia as a world power under the half century of government by a party calling itself Communist.

And if the historians have any insight at all they will be astonished to discover the almost total failure of politicians, economists and other so-called leaders of thought in our age to understand what has been going on before their eyes. And they may well comment that, if there can be degrees of ignorance, the products of the public schools and universities seem, if anything, to have been even more remote from reality than the rest.

So for over forty years, apart from the Socialist few who recognised from the outset that Socialism (Communism) was out of the question in Russia and that that country was ripe for the building of a modern capitalist state, we have had the endless stream of alleged information about Russia describing it in terms of “Communism” or “Socialism” or “Marxism,” all three of which are completely inapplicable.

It is hardly possible to open a newspaper or political journal without meeting this nonsense. Three recent examples within a week were “Does Marxist Economy Work?” in the New Daily, “Communist Economy Under Change” (title of a book published in June), and the following from the Financial Times: “ The Russians have lived through 45 years of Communism.”

Translating these statements into real terms, the first is an argument to the effect that centralised planning in Russia is not the success it is claimed to be; the second and third likewise refer to Russian State Capitalism.

What then would the writers offer as their defence for such misdescription? The fact that the Russian leaders call themselves Communists or Marxists? But this has about as much relevance as to describe British capitalism as a Christian economy because Macmillan goes to Church, or to say that the British lived for a number of years under vegetarianism because the late Stafford Cripps did not eat meat.

Of course, as the years have passed by and the nature of the Russian economy has been seen more clearly through the mists of propaganda and prejudice, some of the Western politicians have grasped the truth.of the matter. Two examples are the late John Foster Dulles telling the Russian Minister of Trade, Mikoyan, that Eisenhower and he recognised that Russia is a State capitalist economy: and an article in the 75th Anniversary number of the Financial Times last February saying that what Lenin and his party did in Russia in the name of Marxism seemed at least to some Marxists “to be standing Marx on his head.”

But time really does have its revenges. The book referred to above was reviewed by the New Daily, which draws the moral that the deficiencies of the centralised planning in Russia, Poland and Yugoslavia are the failures of “Marxism as an economic system.” The same book, reviewed in the Economist (June 29th) induces the reviewer to admit that the failures described in the book are not the result of Marxism but of Keynesian doctrines:
With all due apologies to Karl Marx, the economic experiments now being carried on in his name are really mainly experiments in Keynesianism à outrance. They have the virtues of Keynesianism (full employment of resources; and thus construction of productive power) and the vices of à outrance (maldistribution of resources and thus a lower standard of living than those nations' massed productive power should warrant). If there were any justice in idolatry, Soviet economists would soon be taking down Marx's statues for replacement by Keynes’s; but should then hold interesting dialectical debates on the respects in which Keynesianism is being deviationistically applied.”
The Economist writer stops too soon. When the Russian Keynesians have finished arguing about Keynes among themselves they could discuss with the Economist the respective merits of carrots and big sticks for keeping the workers under control and then continue to discover some defence of Russian, British, American, Chinese, etc. capitalism against the Marxian criticism advanced by Socialists.

Pathfinders: The Mismanagement of Measuring (2016)

The Pathfinders Column from the September 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
See what you think of this recent statement by a genetics researcher, commenting on the long-running political war over IQ testing: “The left-wing view is that everyone’s born the same and you can make everyone achieve the same way. From genetics research, we’ve shown that’s not true” (Link).
Chances are you’ll first bridle at the phrase ‘the left-wing view’, this being the sort of careless and sweeping precursor to some equally careless right-wing prejudice. Then you’ll try to recall if you’ve ever heard anyone, regardless of political orientation, come up with the fundamentalist view that ‘everyone’s born the same’. You’ll probably decide that you haven’t, because in your experience nobody really buys this ‘blank slate’ argument. Your conclusion? That the above statement is a pretty vacuous straw man argument which reflects badly on its owner and indeed invites some suspicion over the ‘genetics research’ being thus promoted.
Research into human intelligence, what it is and how to measure it has made great strides since the days of the craniologists and their tape measures, but the debate is as plagued now as it was then by political bias, and by the tendency of both sides to dig trenches and fire heavy caricatures at each other. The ‘left’ trench had a big hitter in the form of palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who launched a flamethrower with his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man, which set out to savage the ‘genetic determinists’ and their class-based obsession with rankings, reification and hierarchies. But opponents responded angrily that Gould had missed the point by attacking largely out-of-date research and methodologies and ignoring new research, and that ultimately his argument assumed what he set out to prove. Richard Dawkins, with whom Gould had a famous spat over the question of ‘adaptations’ in evolutionary theory, would likely agree that Gould was not above caricaturising the views of his opponents for the sake of a good polemic. But Gould was also the subject of savage caricature, notably by the philosopher of science Daniel Dennett, known by certain wags as Dawkins’ bulldog.
Complex and heated as the arguments are, the basics of the IQ question are simple enough. Modern computing power combined with big data and meta-analyses (discipline-wide reviews of all relevant studies), together with a torrent of new knowledge from MRI scans of the working brain, present a forceful case that genetics has a clear role in human intelligence, almost regardless of how you care to define that word. To put it bluntly, everyone can’t be Einstein, even given all the opportunities in the world.
On the other side of the scale sits the ponderous and imponderable combined weight of social, environmental and other factors. Nobody argues that these don’t exist, but nobody knows how to control for these factors in testing, so no scientific test can realistically be pronounced conclusive or even fair. To be sure, studies of twins, raised separately yet exhibiting identical IQ scores, mannerisms or other habits, are powerful genetic evidence that lead some researchers to claim that the genetic component of intelligence is anything up to 70 percent. But while these twin studies seem to remove much of the common environmental background noise, nobody can say what other factors might have been introduced instead. You can’t control for coincidence. If you meet and talk to 10 random people at a bus stop, the chances are you’ll share certain behavioural, emotional or intellectual tics with at least some of them. Thus the interpretations based on twin studies may look strong without necessarily being so.
The well-known Flynn Effect, named for the observation that IQ scores have increased on average by three points per decade for a century, also throws a hefty spanner in the genetic works. If IQ really is genetic, how can it keep getting better at a rate far in excess of the glacial pace of natural evolution? James Flynn himself thinks he has the answer, in short that people are drawn to environments that suit their genes, thus creating intellectual feedback loops that amplify their genetic differences (New Scientist 30 July) This is similar to Dawkins’ idea of the extended phenotype, which sees not just your physical body as a uniquely identifiable genome, but extends the idea to include your house, shoes and career choices too.
What do socialists say? Obviously, that we don’t know any better than scientists, and await their further research with interest. We are committed to the view that humans should be able to live in an equitable world in which they can give to the community what they are able and willing to give, whatever the practical limitations on that may be, while at the same time being entitled to receive whatever it is that they need, with similar provisos, and crucially, without the one in any sense entailing the other.
But we might also say that capitalist society is a terrible test bed on which to study intelligence or any other human quality because being in no sense a ‘fair’ system it can therefore in no sense deliver a fair test. Riddled with bias and rigged by the rich, it can never be the definitive authority on who we are as humans or what we’re really capable of.
The real ‘mismeasure of man’ that blights the human condition is not some reductionist mission to isolate, count, measure and label every atom of what it means to be a sentient human. It is the fact that all this science is done in the interest of the plundering of our bodies and minds and abilities by the rich elite. The ugliness behind the façade isn’t the feuding partisanship of the technical arguments, it’s the fact that the rich elite who ultimately bankroll the debate don’t look upon us, the vast majority of humanity, as people or even as workers, they look on us as a natural resource, a money-generating human ‘ore’ with the magical ability to mine itself and refine itself and then grade and polish and put itself to use for life until it wears out and discards itself, but not before helpfully providing its own replacement. The IQ debate isn’t really about science, it’s about quality control on the capitalist production line, and that’s why socialists should refuse to get drawn into it, either on the nature or the nurture side.
In socialism, in most normal circumstances where risk to others is low or zero, the real arbiter of a person’s ability should, like that person’s needs and that person’s interests, be that same person and nobody else. Whether objective estimations of IQ continue to be seen as valid or relevant may be a moot point. After all, it was people with such objective expertise who told Einstein he would never amount to anything.
Paddy Shannon

The Tyneside Communist Collapse. (1931)

From the January 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is common knowledge that the membership of the Communist Party in this country has for a long time been on the downward grade. At one time it could boast of a membership of over ten thousand, but to-day its enrolled adherents number only two or three thousand at most. One of the distinguishing features of this self-styled "revolutionary" party is the violent revolutions which have occurred in both its membership and its policy.

The large industrial area of the North-East, known as Tyneside, has experienced a deluge of Communist activity second to none in the whole country. Huge quantities of literature, dozens of full-time organisers, and demonstrations by the score have been utilised in an endeavour to create on Tyneside what the Communists term a "revolutionary mass movement."

According to Communist reasoning, the workers of this country are "waiting for a lead.” This is a phrase which they have reiterated again and again.

After ten years of feverish and often farcical activity, they have succeeded only in leading their dupes either to gaol, victimisation or despair. The collapse of their organisation on Tyneside, where they were relatively strong, marks another stage in the general disintegration which has been sapping their strength for a considerable period.

This latest disaster is the expulsion of all but three members of the Newcastle City local, simultaneously with wholesale defections from the other locals in Tyneside.

The bitter disappointment which has been engendered by the utter failure of the Communists to produce the mass movement which they have aspired to lead, and for which they alternatively supported and then opposed the Labour Party; fraternised with the leaders of the T.U.C. and then denounced them in the strongest terms; allied themselves with Cook and Maxton, whom they now brand as tricksters and betrayers, is a complete vindication of the position taken up by the Socialist Party of Great Britain. That position, in brief, is that the workers can only advance towards Socialism in the light of Socialist knowledge.

A class-conscious Socialist working class presupposes the acceptance and understanding of the essentials of Socialist principles by a majority of the exploited class.

To the Communist, this is a process either impossible of achievement or too long to work for. A "proletarian dictatorship”—whatever that may mean—must be set up; and, in pursuance of this somewhat hazy objective,, the most startling and bewildering political somersaults have occurred.

Even in the initial task of attracting a considerable amount of support from a minority of the workers in this mad and dangerous undertaking, the Communists have signally and miserably failed.

It is hardly necessary to point out now to the Tyneside ex-Communists that their mistaken policy resulting from the non-acceptance of sound Socialist principles, the policy of political shuffling, compromise and expediency, leads not to Socialism, but to the shambles.

The realisation of the futility and incorrectness Of Communist methods is being forced upon them more and more.

In a debate with the writer, held in Newcastle some months ago, the Communist Party representative, T. Aisbitt, was compelled to defend and endeavour to explain the tortuous path of Communist policy. It is now admitted that it was known all along that this policy was dangerous and unsound. The truth, evidently, had to be hidden because "loyalty” to the party demanded it!

The Daily Worker, once held up as the organ of the 44 militant workers,” is now frankly described as the organ of the Communist Bureaucracy.

It is asserted that corruption and autocracy are rife amongst the officials, who resist any attempt to cleanse the organisation of these evils.

The path to Socialism is clear. It entails the acceptance of the principles and policy of the S.P.G.B. as laid down clearly and simply in the Declaration of Principles of the Party.

The Tyneside Secessionists would do well to study these principles attentively. They will then recognise that the Socialist Party is the only party worthy of the workers' support.
Edmund Howarth

The I.L.P. and The German Independent Socialist Party. (1931)

From the January 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

[The following letter was forwarded to Freiheit, organ of the German Independent Socialist Party in order to remove some common, but quite erroneous, notions about the I.L.P.]

24 November, 1930. 

To the Editor, Freiheit.
Chaussee-strasse, 121,
Berlin, N.4.

Comrade,—In the issue of Freiheit dated 23 November you publish an article under the title, "Die neue Initiative fur eine Internationale." In the article there is a statement that the British Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.) is not reformist in its outlook. Since that statement can only have been made without full knowledge of the aims and activities of the I.L.P., we would like to place the following facts before you.

The I.L.P., is not a Socialist party, but a party which aims merely at nationalisation or State Capitalism.

In spite of its name, it is not an independent party at all. It is affiliated with the British Labour Party, and accepts in all essentials the reformist programme and policy of the Labour Party.

Two hundred of the Labour Party Members of Parliament (about 70 per cent, of the total) are also members of the I.L.P. Therefore the I.L.P. shares responsibility for every action of the so-called “Labour" Government.

Not a single one of the I.L.P. members who are in Parliament was elected as a Socialist, or even as an I.L.P. candidate. Every one of them was elected as an official candidate of the Labour Party, and fought his election on the reformist programme of the Labour Party. The Labour Party does not permit its candidates to come before the electors as Socialists or as I.L.P. candidates. They are all compelled to stand as Labour Party candidates.

During the War the I.L.P. allowed its members in Parliament to vote war credits and to take office in the Conservative-Liberal-Labour Coalition Government. At the present time it allows its members in Parliament to vote credits for armaments, and to take office in the Labour Cabinet.

The I.L.P. permits prominent members to advocate an alliance with the Liberal Party.

While a section of the I.L.P. criticizes the actions of the Labour Government, and the Chairman of the I.L.P. (Mr. Maxton) has declared, in speech and in writing, over a period of years, that the programme of the Labour Party is merely a programme of Liberal reforms and a programme of Capitalism, yet at each ensuing election the I.L.P. and Mr. Maxton tell the workers to vote that Capitalist party into power.

While some members of the I.L.P. claim, on occasion, that they are Marxists, the I.L.P., as a party, repudiates Marxism and the whole conception of the class struggle.

We consider it desirable that you should be made acquainted with these facts.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain

Must wages come down? (1931)

From the January 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

A most deadly weapon in the armoury of the politicians who defend the interests of the employing class is the assertion that wages must come down because the present rates of pay are “more than industry will bear.” It is put forward by Liberals and Tories, and has been supported by the expert advisers called in to help the Labour Government. It is accepted by large numbers of workers, and is more than half-believed by the Labour leaders themselves. It is not true.

The Capitalist class are not poor, nor are they becoming poor. The powers of wealth production are not declining, but increasing. The Seventy-second Report of Inland-Revenue (Table 47) tells us that the gross income assessed to income tax (excluding weekly wage-earners) amounted, in the year ended March, 1929, to an estimated total of £2,765,000,000. That figure is the largest amount in any year since the War. It is £41 million more than the highest preceding year, and is £650 million more than the first complete year after the War (1919-1920). Sir Herbert Samuel, in a letter to The Times, published on December 1st, stated, on the authority of Professor A. L. Bowley, that in spite of the so-called depression the total national income in 1930 would probably be £100 millions more than the national income in 1924, the year when the last comprehensive calculation was made by Professor Bowley and Sir Josiah Stamp. This will put 1930 only slightly below 1928 and about on a level with 1927.

The vast surplus wealth of the rich minority, at a time when about two and a quarter million workers are jobless and dependent on unemployment pay or relief, is well illustrated by the huge sums of money seeking investment. The Daily Express on December 11th drew attention to the fact that “bank deposits are very considerably higher than they were this time a year ago. People are hoarding instead of investing. Money is so cheap as to be almost unlendable.” The Financial Times on November 10th gave details of one recent loan after another which had been heavily over-subscribed. A typical example is the London Electric Railway issue. The company wanted to raise about £3,500,000. They received offers totalling nearly £140 millions, or forty times as much as they wanted. It is true that some applicants would apply for more than they expected to receive, but they would do this only because they were aware of the superabundance of money seeking investment. This is nowhere denied. Mr. Snowden, in the House of Commons on October 30th, stated categorically, in reply to a question, “There is no shortage of credit.” The Evening Standard's City Editor (November 25th) estimated that about £1,000 millions had been offered for investment in response to invitations to invest less than a quarter of that amount. This had all happened in the first ten months of 1930, the year of “depression.” In Australia, another “depressed” country, a £28 million Government loan in December was promptly over-subscribed.

What, then, is this “ trade depression ”?

It is a condition which arises normally and inevitably out of Capitalism. It is a crisis of over-production. Millions of the world’s workers are suffering want because the world is glutted with goods which no one will buy. In spite of what was described by the Observer on June 22nd as ”frantic efforts to limit production,” the competing combines which struggle for control of production are faced with bursting grain elevators, overflowing oil tanks, over-stocked warehouses, and shops filled with unsaleable goods. Ships lie idle, farmers are burning wheat in Manitoba, and South America is convulsed with political upheavals owing to the suffering caused by vast quantities of unsaleable coffee, grain, nitrates, etc.

The owners of industry have allowed the workers they employ to produce more food, more fuel, more ships, more raw material, more machinery and more of everything than they can sell. Not that there are no people in need—far from it. Three-quarters of the population have never known the pleasure of satisfying their modest desires to the full. It has been estimated by American Trade Unions that this winter will see one-sixth of the men, women and children of the U.S.A. on the verge of starvation. Contrast that with the American Standard Oil Companies’ estimated record profit in 1930 of £57 millions.

Those who are in need lack money to buy. Those who have surplus money have no more needs left unsatisfied. That is the key to the depression. That is why prices are forced down and workers are thrown out of work by the hundred thousand. There they will stay until the accumulations of goods are slowly disposed of. Then the anarchic system of producing faster than the market can absorb will begin again.

Lower wages will not remedy this evil. Lower wages aggravate it. With less money to spend, the working class buy less than before of the goods offered for sale. The employers increase their incomes as a result of the reduced wages bill, but much of the increase merely goes to swell the fund of money which is surplus to their requirements. They seek to invest it, but find fields for investment limited. Nobody will extend plant and factories at a time when the existing ones are shut down because the owners cannot find buyers for their goods.

Since 1921 the total annual wages of the workers have been reduced by over £550 million. That has not solved the unemployment problem. It has merely served to make the rich richer than before.

There is, then, no economic necessity for lower wages, but is it possible in the existing situation for the workers to resist demands made by the employers for wage reductions?

Let us first make clear what wages are. The owners of the means of production (the land, factories, and so on) are the owners of all the wealth which the workers produce. They give to the workers wages which cover their cost of living. Nevertheless, there is, for most workers, a margin between the standard of living and the cost of providing the bare physical necessities of life. The  employers seek constantly to reduce the level of wages in keeping with any fall in the cost of living, and to press wages down still further towards the bare physical minimum. If there were no resistance, they would do this. The workers’ economic organisations, their Unions, can be centres of resistance. They may, as happened in Germany only a month or two ago, play the humiliating role of inviting wage reductions. On the other hand, they may put up a stiff resistance. If they do this, the employers will pause and count the cost before embarking on an attempt to force acceptance of their terms. It is true that the employers have behind them their wealth and the forces of the State to starve the workers into submission, but it is also true under certain conditions that they will hesitate to launch out on this costly and provocative course. It is admitted that increases of wages give the employers added inducement to employ more labour-saving machinery. But here, again, it is worth noticing that the vast accumulations of capital which to-day are sunk in plant and machinery make a factory re-organisation scheme more expensive than it was when the amounts of capital so invested were less.

The first essential is that the workers should clear their minds of the employers’ propaganda which harps continually on the so-called depression. The Capitalist class as a whole are not depressed. They are richer than they have ever been.

Ever since 1920 we have had it drummed into our ears that industry is depressed. But the Economist newspaper’s index of the rate of dividend on ordinary shares shows a remarkable stability at about 10 per cent. The average rate in 1919 was 10.7 per cent. Since then it has never risen above 11.1 per cent, or fallen below 8.4 per cent. In 1929 it was 10.5 per cent., in spite of falling prices. We have been solemnly warned that the unfortunate Capitalists were living on their capital. But Sir Josiah Stamp (Times, November 20th, 1930) estimates the total national wealth in 1928 as being over £18,000 millions, as compared with only £14,310 millions in 1914. He has deducted from his 1928 figure the National Debt of £6,400 millions,: the gross total being £24,445 millions.

Again, the workers must not be deceived by the specious argument that if they refuse to accept lower wages they will lose their employment altogether. If the Capitalist class have need to preserve any industry or branch of industry which is in financial difficulties, they will themselves find excuses for protecting it with tariffs or for giving it subsidies. They will keep it on its feet, whatever the level of wages. Thus we see the Capitalist class prepared to give State grants to air service companies and (in Australia) to gold-mining companies. In 1926 we saw the Conservative Government heavily subsidise the mines. And we have seen the inland telegraphs maintained permanently at a big annual loss because the Capitalist class have need of that service. Millions of pounds were paid as subsidies to overseas cable companies.

On the other hand, if the Capitalist class have no need to maintain a particular branch of industry, they will let it close down in spite of lower wages. Where combination is far advanced, it is now quite common for the federated employers to buy out particular units simply in order to close them down. “National Shipbuilders’ Security, Ltd.,” is a company formed for the express purpose of buying and dismantling redundant shipyards on behalf of the shipbuilders in general.

The arguments referred to. above are used by the employers to make their wage reduction policy easier of attainment. The arguments need only to be examined for their purpose to be understood.

But something more is required of the workers. Even the most effective action on the economic field, i.e., that action which is based on an appreciation of the common interests of the workers as a class, cannot solve the fundamental problem. Only Socialism can do that.

And if the workers would turn their attention to Socialism, the whole form of the struggle with the employing class would change. So far, despite heroic fights by Trade Unionists against wage reductions, the employing class have never had reason to fear that the working class were turning away from their belief in the Capitalist system. But when a considerable body of workers learn the lesson that no reformist policy or party is of any use, and begin to understand and support the demand for Socialism, we can confidently anticipate a less aggressive and less cheese-paring attitude on the part of employers. They will, when that time comes, be anxious to surrender part of their wealth in the hope that by so doing they may stave off the day when they must yield it all. We shall then be well on the way to the acquisition by society of the means of wealth production now privately owned by a privileged class.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Cosy Days are Over (1977)

From the January 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

“The cosy days are over”, our Labour Leader told us at the Blackpool Conference. You must have blinked, mustn’t you? Ever since the last war (and before that) a procession of capitalist leaders has told us to accept less financial return for greater productive effort in order to bring about that prosperous, contented state which can only result from such an arrangement. Harder work, wage restraints, wage freezes, social contracts — it’s never stopped — for as long as anyone can remember. One would have expected the long-promised good times to appear at any moment. But what in fact happens? Mr. Callaghan suddenly tells you they’ve been and gone!

You must have blinked! When and what were those cosy days he’s now referring to? Surely not the “You never had it so good” days MacMillan told us about? MacMillan was a Tory, and a self-styled “socialist” like Callaghan would surely advise you not to listen to such capitalist claptrap. So listen to Mr. Callaghan’s capitalist claptrap instead: “Because we are socialists we have to be practical!”

He went on to reveal that by being practical he meant that investments and profits must come first. “Practical” socialism to Callaghan, Healey and Co. means keeping British capitalism going at all costs. Ask these “socialists” why we are in such a state of need and deprivation (“we” meaning the workers — the Callaghans and Thatchers of this world enjoy all the luxuries of life whatever the social climate) and they will tell you: “You are not paying your way. You are not producing enough to foot the bill for the things you need.” 

In fact, “not paying your way” consists of having worked yourselves out of a job. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been sacked because their bosses just can’t find profitable markets, and the same thing’s happened all over the world. But it doesn't bring the cosy days. You don't get to consume more, you don’t get longer holidays and shorter working hours: a million and a half get sacked and the rest are urged to work harder than ever! Just what have the workers to do to satisfy their “Red Flag”-singing champions? One heart-breaking aspect is that the world’s workers who produced the boom which produced the crisis don’t think of anything to beg for except more work! In Britain, they still accept the “socialist” announcement that cutting wages and public spending at the behest of the profit-makers is in their own interest — an assertion the Wilsons and Callaghans would have torn the Heaths and Thatchers to shreds over had the latter been in power. But “when you’re in you’re in — when you’re out you’re out.” When it is in “Labour” — backing profits against workers’ interests — doesn’t even say we must be “practical” despite being socialist; they have the gall to say it’s because they’re socialist!

And so our “egalitarian”, right-wing leftist leaders tell us to work even harder (if you can find a job) to save the situation; and accept less though prices of necessities inexorably rise. This, they’ll tell you, is your only salvation — for as long as you continue to listen.

Tragically, whilst they continue to support and promote the exploitation of the working class — they still receive the backing of the majority of that class. It is amazing that by the mere expedient of adopting the label “Labour” a capitalist party can still hoodwink those it has helped to exploit for seventy years.

It is less amazing, in view of the working-class support the professional politicians get, that the latter not only forget their prophecies and promises, but live with their consciences and do not even lose sleep over them.

No Government anywhere, Labour, Tory, Communist — you name it — has ever backed labour against capital. Not once has one said to the owners: “Give way to the workers’ claim.” The only thing to choose between such parties is that the Tories don’t sing “The Red Flag”. They all represent the ruling class Ask the British seamen. Did their Labour government support them in their struggle against their exploiters — or vice versa? And where did the TUC stand? Side by side with the pro-capitalist Government — four-square against the workers they claim to represent. Quote, Edward Heath, the Conservative Party Conference 1976: “Trade union leaders should take the credit for what they have done in income restraint.” And the government doesn’t even have to pay the union leaders to represent them against the workers — the workers do the paying for them. Remember the enormous signboards we saw after the second world war — “Hard work now means better living sooner”? Union funds went into those signboards. Then as now, workers contributed part of their wages in order to tell themselves to work harder!

So who have the workers to turn to in their fight against the class that live on them? Only themselves. They are in the vast majority and able at any time time to vote out the system that plagues us all. It may seem disheartening that they still won’t listen to the small voice of the SPGB and its companion parties who urge them to do so. But the voice will continue to be heard because it speaks historic fact and logic. In that cause there are no failures — only delayed success.
R. B. Gill

Marx in Soho (2001)

Book Review from the April 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Marx in Soho. By Howard Zinn. South End Press, distributed by Pluto Press.
Granted his request to return to earth for just one hour, to clear his name and refute the rumour that his ideas are dead, a bureaucratic mix-up finds Karl Marx in Soho, New York, instead of Soho, London where he once lived.
This short, one-man play sees Marx alone on stage, with only a table, a chair, books, newspapers and a glass of beer as props, reminiscing about his family life, enthusing about the Paris Commune and reliving an imaginary confrontation with the “shaggy anarchist” Bakunin.
Zinn's Marx can be humorous one page, and deadly serious the next in vitriolic condemnation of a system he spent his life trying to overthrow. One moment Marx is recounting his countless journeys home from the British Museum, past open sewers telling how it was “only fitting that the author of Das Kapital should slog through shit while writing the condemnation of the capitalist system”. The next he is grappling on the floor with a drunken Bakunin. Then, just as suddenly, we can hear the bearded man launch a vehement attack upon the notion that the Soviet Union was socialist: “Do they think that a system run by a thug who murdered his fellow revolutionaries is communism? Scheisskopfen . . . can that be the communism I gave my life for? . . . Angry. . . Socialism is not supposed to reproduce the stupidities of capitalism!”
For anyone coming into contact with Marx's ideas for the first time, dreading the thought of long, studious hours in front of volumes of insipid texts on political economy, having only ever heard second-hand, distorted accounts of Marx's theories, fear not; this is a welcome first point of reference in which Zinn makes his ideas accessible and the man himself, less the spectre that haunted Europe, than some 19th century alternative comedian who just happens to know what capitalism is really all about.
The Labour Theory of Value, the Materialist Conception of History and the Class Struggle are all Marxian ideas that get aired in this short work, as well as concepts such as nationalism and alienation.
And one thing is certain; Marx in Soho is not just Marx speaking. Zinn is very much in agreement with Marx. When Marx, despairing at the consumer culture that has evolved says; “Doesn't anyone read history? . . . what kind of shit do they teach in the schools these days?” this is the real Zinn speaking, the Zinn whose books such as A People's History of the Unites States, are proscribed in US schools.
His hour up, Marx is about to leave the stage but stops and turns. “Do you resent my coming back and irritating you?” he asks. “Look at it this way. Christ couldn't make it, so Marx came.”
It's been an hour well spent. Marx is vindicated. His theories are still relevant. Socialism is not dead—it was never tried. The philosophers are still interpreting the world, whilst the point is still to change it.
John Bissett

Sixty inglorious years (1977)

From the December 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our issue of October last, we printed an article quoting remarks made by Carrillo, the leader of the so-called Spanish Communist Party, saying that Russia is not Socialist and their Communist Party is not Marxist, thus confirming what we have consistently stated in these columns right from the start. (Of course this has not prevented Carillo from accepting a gracious invitation to join in the banqueting in Moscow to celebrate the great anniversary of the State-Capitalist Revolution.)

Just in case further confirmation was needed, those other glorious “Communists”, the rulers of Red China, have not missed the opportunity of the anniversary to revile their Russian comrades. The Guardian of November 1 quoted an article from the People's Daily of Peking which Reuters says is a restatement of the views of Mao and which is certainly a statement of the views of the present ruling gang. Comparing the two super powers, they say that the Soviet Union “is therefore more aggressive and adventurous” than America and then goes on to make the following choice pronouncement: “It has a highly centralised State-monopoly capitalist economy without its equal in any other imperialist country and it is a state under fascist dictatorship.” You can’t get blunter than that, even in Chinese.
L. E. Weidberg

Those twisting tongues (1977)

From the December 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
The loose-lipped Labourite likes ladling out the lies.
The calculating Conservative clearly croons over clichéd cries.
The lamenting lacking Liberal leans loosely left and right.
The Kremlin-coated Communist careers confusedly out of sight.
But the scientific Socialist sees it all as a serious sleuth
Takes the twisted tasteless tattle and traces out the truth. 
Paul Breeze

Wage-labour and capital: The case of Grunwick (1977)

From the December 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

A year ago few people had heard of the dispute at the Grunwick film-processing laboratories; today, the effort of the strikers to win union recognition has become a national cause célèbre. The events surrounding the dispute have been obscured by the press, which would have us believe that Grunwick is some kind of elaborate game in which one side tries to drive a bus through a gateway and the other side tries to stop them. The principle involved is lost amid reports of how many policemen were injured and how many demonstrators arrested. It is also difficult because socialists, while seeing the trade-union struggle as necessary, also recognize its futility in terms of the revolutionary political action we call upon workers to take.

Members of the SPGB have attended the Grunwick demonstrations in order to sell literature and distribute a leaflet putting the Party’s view on the dispute. The first paragraph of that leaflet states:
The dispute at Grunwick will come to an end . . . but the class struggle will go on. The Socialist Party of Great Britain believes in the urgent need for workers to join together, not simply for the defensive right of union recognition, but for the purpose of organizing for social revolution—NOW. The need for class unity for Socialism is the pressing task of the age.
That, above all else, is the message of the SPGB. To abandon it would be to abandon our claim to be socialists.

So what’s Grunwick really all about? The strike began over a year ago when one of the employees at the firm walked out as a result of an argument about overtime. She persuaded fellow-workers to go out on strike with her. A majority of the workers from the mail-order section of the factory in Chapter Road, Willesden, walked out. They were disgusted by the conditions in the factory where managers shouted at and abused the workers, where they had to put their hands up before they could go to the toilet, and where employees were instantly dismissed for disobedience.

The owner of the factory, George Ward, dismissed them for going on strike. They took their case to Brent Trades Council (the representative body of local trade unions), which referred them to APEX. For months they picketed outside the factory, demanding higher pay and better working conditions and union recognition. Nobody listened to their case. In June this year the TUC was persuaded to take it up. Trade- unionists from all parts of the country came to support them. Mass picketing has now gone on for some months, so far without resolving the dispute.

What do the Grunwick strikers want? One thing they clearly do not want or even know about is Socialism. They want the opportunity to belong to a trade union, and for their employer to recognize it and reinstate the workers who were sacked for joining it. Without being organized in trade unions, the working class would be in an even poorer state than it is now. Trade unionism alone, however, will not solve the problems capitalism throws up for the working class. Union combination can improve wages and conditions only in accordance with the economic anarchy of the profit system. It cannot be stressed too much that if workers want an end to exploitation, it is political action to capture the state and establish Socialism they must be committed to.

Nevertheless, disputes like Grunwick demonstrate the inherent problems of capitalist society. First, it shows clearly the role and the immense power of the state. Why are thousands of police brought to guard the property of one man? Because the state is the executive committee of the ruling class and is bound to protect capital against wage-labour. In private, representatives of the state try to persuade Ward that he’s swimming against the tide and should recognize the union; but in public, the workers must be blamed.

Second, it is interesting to note who is in control of the state on this occasion. Not the Tories, the traditional representatives of private property and freedom to exploit, but the party of the trade unions and Clause Four: Labour. No doubt more Labour ministers are sentimentally attached to the unions than their Tory opponents, but when their commitment is put to the test they prove far more concerned with the right to exploit than with the right to strike.

Third, the fact that most of the workers at Grunwick are Asian immigrants means they are more easily intimidated, more desperate for work (immigrant unemployment is much higher than the average, especially in this area of London) and that they are less experienced in trade-union organization. The main reason for Ward’s employing them is that they will accept worse pay and conditions than other workers. Similarly many of those involved are women.

Socialists are not concerned with the “rights” and “wrongs” of the Grunwick dispute. We do not see the class struggle in terms of moral injustice. Under capitalism everything, including the prevailing morality, is loaded against those who are forced to sell their labour-power. To see George Ward as the root of all evil, as the Left has done, is to create the illusion that the defeat of Ward is more important than the defeat of capitalism.

What of Ward’s supporters? There is the National Association for Freedom which represents the more backward and reactionary section of the capitalist class. The Conservative Party is divided over Grunwick. The division is an index of the attitudes within the ruling class towards trade unions. The “right wing” of the Tories, represented by Sir Keith Joseph, stand for the traditional Tory attitude that the capitalist should be the sole master of his business, answerable only to the demands of profit and in no way to his employees. The other Conservative view, represented by James Prior, Shadow Minister for Employment, is based on the so-called “free market” in which trade unions are free to negotiate with employers and reach settlements without state interference.

That was the view taken by the Scarman enquiry which was set up to look into the Grunwick dispute:
The company by dismissing all the strikers, refusing to reconsider the reinstatement of any of them, refusing to seek a negotiated settlement to the strike and rejecting ACAS offers of conciliation, has acted within the letter but outside the spirit of the law. Further, such action on the part of the company was unreasonable when judged by the norms of good industrial relations practice. The company has thus added to the bitterness of the dispute, and contributed to its development into a threat of civil disorder. (Our emphasis.)
Clearly it is in the interest of the ruling class to strike a balance between excessive exploitation and threats to the smooth running of capitalism. That is why they reject open hostility to trade unions in favour of “enlightened capitalism”.

What of the Left at Grunwick? As usual, they have confused the issue. They have vastly overestimated the importance of it. It is not, as they claim, an attempt by the capitalist class to destroy trade unions. In fact, trade unions are of use to employers (especially when reformist hacks like Ray Grantham are in control of them). In our leaflet we told workers to reject leaders:
Whilst the organized labour movement accepts reformism they are happy—it is time to reject their leadership and organize independently. THE EMANCIPATION OF THE WORKING CLASS MUST BE THE WORK OF THE WORKING CLASS ITSELF.
The Left, far from telling people to reject leadership and organize democratically, naively call for yet stronger and more militant leaders. These are the people who see themselves as the vanguard of the working class, who are going to lead us to the barricades. They have been conspicuous by their silence when members of the SPGB have been arguing the socialist case to people at Grunwick. They have been seen standing in the background selling newspapers and muttering something about “traditional demands” and “the need for action”. Perhaps it is because these self-appointed leaders share Lenin’ belief that workers are too stupid to understand Socialism—far better have them shout slogans at a bus-full of confused workers. As our leaflet said:
The enemy is not those still working at Grunwick. We must unite to persuade them to the side of their own class interests. The enemy is not the police. They too are members of the working class. When the movement for Socialism grows they will stop doing the dirty work for the parasite class who give them their orders. THE REAL ENEMY IS THE SYSTEM OF SOCIETY WHICH PUTS PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE AND PARASITES BEFORE WORKERS. We must unite to abolish the cause of the sickness of society, not just fight against the symptoms.
Marx argued the case for a future society without buying and selling, wage-labour or capital. That alone is the object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. We urge all readers to involve themselves in the struggle for a world in which trade unions will be unnecessary because the buying and selling of useful things, including human energy, will be a thing of the past.
Steve Coleman