Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two steps back (1983)

Book Review from the March 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two Steps Back by Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson (Socialist Platform)

Do we really need yet another catalogue of the crimes and corruption of the Communist Party of Great Britain during the last war? Is it not well known that there was no filthy trick in the book to which Pollitt, Campbell, Emile Burns, Bill Rust et al did not stoop to justify their existence to their Russian paymasters? Strike breaking, organising shop floor espionage to report and name ‘‘agitators", opposing Labour candidates like Brockway in Cardiff, and calling on workers to support the Tory Minister of War, James Grigg. supporting Bevin's Act to imprison slacking munitions workers, denouncing those workers for slacking on the night shift. Small wonder that the very name Communist Party stinks in the nostrils.

But is there any evidence that the authors have learned anything from this venal and criminal enterprise? The writers show no appreciation whatsoever for the facts of the case. Like true Trotskyists, they are Vanguardists. Pollitt and Campbell may have been scoundrels, but if only the right leaders (Tearse, Haston & Co) had been in charge, all would have been well! They do not understand that the Russian Revolution could not be a socialist one. They write in the foreword that political reformist activity in Parliament is simply the political equivalent of the struggle for higher wages. This is moonshine. The parliamentary action of the Labour Party is the negation of the struggle for higher wages. It is in fact a struggle for lower wages. In spite of everything — the Labour Party in decline, the SDP formed and the Tories still winning elections — they still spout the Leninist claptrap that the Labour Party is the "Party of the Working Class". They have a pathetic belief in the existence of so-called professional classes, writing that the working class cannot come to power unless it draws behind it other support, “including sections of the middle and professional classes and the intelligentsia", whatever that may be. A good illustration of how reading Trotsky can affect you.

They refer to "Marxism" without any idea of what it really is. quoting from the Communist Manifesto that "Communists had no separate interests from the interests of the proletariat in general”, oblivious of the fact that this was written for Germany in 1847.

Jock Haston who, we understand, has retired from politics (like so many disillusioned Trotskyists) and now affects a cynical contempt for their wartime activities, had all this explained carefully to him in a debate before one thousand workers in the Woodside Halls in Glasgow in 1943. He was told that there was not a "Workers Government" in Russia. That the Labour Party was not “the Party of the Working Class". That what makes a working class party is socialist principles, not trade union expediency, and that Trotskyism, like Leninism and the Communist International, would evaporate. It is one thing to write history and another to learn from it.

A birthday present . . . and the future (1989)

From the March 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Yesterday I witnessed a birth. In fact, I did more than that — I assisted in the delivery. Helping someone to be born was an exhilarating experience. It was, though, a distressingly less comfortable time for the mother, but the agonies of labour were soon superseded by the joy of the new arrival. There must be few things as adorable as babies in their state of initial innocence. The process by which babies develop into soldiers, prison wardens, politicians, financial consultants, lawyers, dole snoopers and bailiffs is, however, an awful nightmare.

William Morris once observed that the people least suited to bring up children are parents. While you can often see what he meant, it would be wrong to attribute the misery of our society mainly to parental mistreatment of children. Parents are responsible for indoctrinating many young people with all sorts of social prejudices which encourage them to be politically as- quiescent in later life. This sort of persuasion, though, is probably of minor significance when you consider the torrent of propaganda washed over young people by the schools, television and radio. Several problems of this profit system are put into especially sharp focus when considered from the viewpoint of the newly arrived baby.

Society today is class-divided. The majority of people labour to help produce and service wealth, most of which is owned by a small minority who can afford to spend their lives how they please. "It’s absolutely true that we won’t have to worry about rents or mortgages or anything like that”, said the Duke of Westminster before his marriage. He owns 15,000 acres in Cheshire, 14,000 acres in North Wales. 100,000 acres in Scotland. 900 acres in Shropshire, an estate in Fermanagh, shopping centres in Vancouver and a 12,000 acre industrial estate in Canada. What he owns in Hawaii, Australia and Mayfair is a list in itself. He also owns a plot in Belgravia worth over £l,000 million. It is unlikely, therefore, that the Duke will be stumped to find a space for any offspring or that he will get himself in a sweat about cheap ways to make a decent nursery. For the majority of people the pleasures of caring for and entertaining children are continually spoilt or diminished by money worries. The world has sufficiently advanced technologies and abundant resources to provide bright, stimulating toys made to the highest safety specifications for all children. Yet every year hundreds of children are injured by cheap, unsafe toys.

Every child could have access to open fields with fine facilities and properly furnished, inventive nursery areas. Most children though do not have these opportunities or else get them on rare occasions as special treats. Constrained by poverty, most parents have to make compromises over what they offer to children. Smug manipulators in advertising agencies work ever harder to bamboozle young minds with the desperate need to acquire some particular toy. Toys related to children's television programmes have been marketed for a long time but a new development here is the programme (often a cartoon) sponsored by a toy manufacturing company to plug its product. If parents are constantly worried by the expense of everything they wish to provide for children — food, clothes, books and toys — they are likely to be more tense, less patient and more run down than they would be if needs could be met without the obstacle of money. Unnecessarily vexed parents will not be as good with children as they could be. This in itself may be a cause of resentment in some parents which worsens the situation further.

Health and wealth
One of the greatest concerns among parents is the health of children. Health, however, like anything else in the profit system, comes at a price. We live in a society where money can buy you anything. £4,000 could, until recently, get you a new kidney from a living Turkish peasant whom property-society itself had pushed to that degree of desperation. The scheme, running at the Humana Hospital Wellington in North West London, has now been exposed but it is only a matter of time before another dirty racket is discovered. GPs are now being asked to subordinate clinical medical decisions to financial, accounting considerations in a plan that will give doctors a limited budget for drugs and buying hospital care. These proposals include a carrot and a stick. Dr. Michael Wilson. Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs Committee, has commented:
The carrot will be a lure to provide the patient with less care and less in the way of medicines so that money is saved on the budget. The stick will be that if doctors go over their [drug] budget there are proposals for them to be fined. These, we believe, are not the type of incentives which should be pressed upon individual doctors caring for patients.
(The Independent, 17 February)
Although kidneys-for-cash and account book medicine are repulsive practices they are really no more than savage examples of the general principle of health in the commercial world. Many GPs will tell you that over half of the problems during an average surgery could be cured by a few weeks relaxing on holiday in the sun. The sort of complaints most workers take to their GP are directly related to their work, environment or stress. Moreover, the sorts of treatment generally available are those which are financially viable rather than the best that contemporary technology can offer. Hence the urgent appeals for workers with particularly sorrowful plights (often selected by the press) to be sent to a special hospital in Hungary or the United States.

The maternity ward in which I was giving assistance was staffed by tirelessly dedicated and expert nurses, midwives and doctors who were chronically overworked and under-resourced. By contrast, a privileged few are able to have their pregnancies managed and monitored in lavish comfort in private hospitals and their children given fastidious care from the outset. Socialists do not, of course, begrudge anyone receiving such care. On the contrary — everyone should have access to it.

It is difficult to know how far the superstition and ignorance of religious dogma is a fading force in society. In any event, the arrival of many of the new babies in the maternity unit was greeted with a variety of religious nonsenses. Several babies were to be the unknowing subjects of various religious ceremonies purporting to place the new arrivals in the custody of one or other "gods". It is not unknown for religious people to express gratitude to their "god" for the safe delivery of a healthy baby.

Very young children, who rely entirely on older people for their initial understanding of the world, should never be inculcated with and misled by religious confusion. People who "thank god" for the safe delivery of a child must presumably think that "god" has some control over such matters. Where does that leave the babies who are stillborn? Was “god" negligent or just spiteful, visiting a retributive punishment to a sinful parent? Human society is the architect and builder of its own future. It is not being controlled from outside or above by another force; and nor should workers grind on in the mistaken belief that things will be better for them after they die.

The world outside the cradle
Babies are wide-eyed and innocent. The rat race soon encourages them to become frowning and pessimistic. Babies love affection and companionship. The world outside their cradles can be callous and alienating. Babies love to learn — they do so easily, rapidly and enthusiastically. This proclivity is, in capitalism, dulled and eroded by an education system designed to produce complaint wage-slaves. Babies are born without language, ideas, personalities or codes of conduct. The world outside is embattled with all of the violence associated with property, from the prison cell to the nuclear bomb. Millions of people starve and go homeless while a minority wallow in wealth. Amid the chaos, some people argue strongly that one or other legislative reform or a whole programme of them will do the trick and organise the profit system in a civilised way. That is impossible. Capitalism by its very nature cannot be democratic or work in the interest of the majority.

The baby I helped deliver was my daughter. Her life might involve a struggle through capitalism but it could flourish in a socialist society. The world that she and her generation will inherit depends on what we do now.
Gary Jay

Sting in the Tail: Market Morality (1991)

The Sting in the Tail column from the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Market Morality
While Iraqi and UN forces throw rockets, missiles and bombs at each other in the Gulf with little or no thought of the cost, it is interesting to note that the National Health Service in Britain is somewhat more parsimonious.
   Managers at a hospital in Manchester have refused to pay for a pricey new drug which could save the life of a seriously-ill cancer patient. . . . A course of injections with the drug, interleukin 2 (IL-2), costs around £3,000. Dr Thatcher said that he had been told by the unit general manager, Mike Fry, last week that the money was not available.
The Independent (5 February)
The war in the Gulf is costing the British government billions of pounds. This they reckon is money well spent as it is in pursuance of their policy of ensuring a cheap supply of oil for British capitalism.

£3,000 to save the life of a worker is looked upon as an extravagance. This is the logic of the market place.

God on our side
The Gulf War has seen many reservists mobilised, but one of them must be all of a dither as he has been called up by both sides! He is God, sometimes known as Allah, and The Guardian (1 February) provided a collection of the claims being made for his exclusive services.

For example, George Bush is sure that God's on his side:
We know that this is a just war, and we know that, God willing, this is a war we will win.
But Saddam Hussein rubbishes this and warns that:
  If Mr Bush makes the mistake of attacking us he will repent it for ever. If he depends on technical facilities, we are depending on God.
In case Saddam thinks he has sole right to Allah's muscle then there is his fellow Muslim, a Saudi commander, to put him straight:
  Whatever Saddam Hussein says . . . we are the ones who have been given a special mission by God.
If truth is always the first casualty in war then God is always the first recruit.

Black and white
When apartheid was imposed in South Africa 43 years ago, the Socialist Standard described the idea that 2.5 million whites could forever keep the other 9 million in subjection, as a "forlorn and fantastic hope", and so it has proved.

The South African government is to repeal the laws which are the basis of apartheid, and although there has been no announcement about voting rights for the black majority, it can only be a matter of time.

But political reform alone will not be the salvation of the black majority. Archbishop Desmond Tutu points out:
Black people would remain poor unless real barriers are removed.
The Guardian (2 February)
All he is seeking here is more land for the blacks when what is required is that all the means of production and distribution be commonly owned by everyone whatever their colour.

The Archbishop will probably not consider that proposition but there will come other South Africans who will: the mixture of political freedoms and wage slavery guarantees it.

Media Breakthrough
Any socialist searching through the media for an accurate description of socialism is fated to be disappointed, frustrated and, very often, infuriated. How pleasant therefore to read a report in the Weekend Guardian (12 January) giving an excellent description of socialism:
  "Economic conditions" he says, "are absolutely ripe for the break-through. The only thing that's lacking to build a society based on common ownership, on production for use not for sale, on the abolition of the wages system. . . .  is the intellectual factor."
This is a major breakthrough for a newspaper which at various times describes socialism as nationalisation, state control, municipalisation or some other scheme to run the buying and selling system.

It should surprise no socialist to learn that the quotation is from a supporter of the Socialist Party. After all, who in British politics could give an accurate description of socialism, other than a member or supporter of the Socialist Party?

War and Peace
Politicians are fond of pretending that capitalism is a peaceful system of society; that conflict such as is occurring in the Gulf at present is a mere interruption to an otherwise peaceful norm.

This is of course nonsense. Capitalism is a system based on competition and economic rivalry that inevitably leads to military conflict. If anyone has any doubts about this, the recent report of the International Red Cross should set the record straight.
  Thirty-eight current or recent conflicts - excluding the Gulf war - have claimed the lives of 5 million people, almost all of them civilians, according to a study released in Geneva yesterday by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  The report, which will be used by the Red Cross to spearhead an international campaign on behalf of victims of conflict, estimates that 20 million people have died in 105 wars during the "post-war period" since 1945. A further 60 million have been wounded or uprooted.
The Guardian (29 January)

Danger zones
Every day The Independent prints a macabre death chart that shows the latest Iraqi and Allied figures for deaths in the Gulf war. It is probably all government lies but the figures shown for Day 28 (12 February) according to the Allies are Israeli 12, Saudi 1, Jordanian 7 with no figures for Iraqi dead, although the Iraqi claim is 467 dead.

No one can doubt that Baghdad, Tel Aviv and other cities in the area are danger zones but then so is London. For according to the same issue of that paper here is the position of the homeless in Britain:
  The office of John Patten, a Home Office minister, told the campaign that, in 1989, the last year for which statistics are available, 375 people died from hypothermia on the streets in England and Wales, 83 died from malnutrition and 13 from self-neglect.
The recent cold spell in the London area alone has claimed more victims:
  The death rate among homeless people could more than double over the next few weeks as a result of the cold weather, a leading doctor warned yesterday.
  Mr Jeremy Booth, consultant in charge of Accident and Emergency at the Westminster Hospital, London, said that the number of people attending the hospital had trebled during the cold spell with a significant increase in cases of frostbite and hypothermia. Gangrene of toes and fingers was also common.
Being poor is always dangerous. It is dangerous being a poor Palestinian on the West Bank when you can't afford a gas mask to protect yourself against the possibility of a gas attack. It is dangerous being a poor worker on the South Bank, London if you can’t afford the price of a bed for the night.

Problem of sexism (1993)

From the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before I was a socialist, I was a feminist. As for many women, the discrimination in favour of men was the most obvious and immediate. I gradually came to realize that this fitted into a far larger picture of racism, class oppression, ecological destruction. "third world” poverty, torture, starvation, colonialism, etc.
“From each according to his ability to each according to his need”, wrote Marx and, although calling women “he” raises another issue, this formula offers an answer to women's problems.

As things are, all around the world, women and women’s work are undervalued—by men, other women and themselves. This is serious, not just because of the damage inflicted on that particular half of the adult population, but also because it threatens the wellbeing of the whole human race.

Women’s oppression
In her book The War Against Women, Marilyn French writes:
Women’s gigantic task reproducing the human race, supporting and maintaining it, is specifically excluded from both Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) statistics. Women are not counted as part of the labour force because they are not paid for their work, or because men take their wages or because their work is not considered work.
My own experience was one of near incredulity when after the birth of my first child, I found myself on duty 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and yet not in receipt of an independent income, or the limited sense of autonomy that comes with it.

A housewife in the West is running the equivalent of a small business—managing finance, meeting deadlines, maintaining good relations among those in her care, preparing regular meals, undertaking cleaning and maintenance work . . . She carries a large responsibility. Yet she will habitually be described as "not working”.

Another of women’s needs is the need to feel safe. Many people in the world do not feel safe. The specific problem for women is of being under threat from attack by men, most often in the context of their personal relationships. Both battering and rape occur most frequently with men with whom women are intimate or at least “friendly”. Such experience leaves women with a sense of "no safe place to go”:
Half the married men in Bangkok, Thailand, regularly beat their wives; in Quito Ecuador. 80 percent of all women report having been physically beaten; in Nicaragua, 44 percent of men admit they beat their wives and girlfriends . . .  In the United States, a man beats a woman every 12 seconds, and every day four of these beatings reach their final consummation, the death of the woman.
There is more . . .

As regards rape, Marilyn French points out:
It is especially difficult to counter men's sense that rape is legitimate, that it is their right. Both sexes are raised in a culture that, until recently, implicitly reinforced this idea. Rape within marriage or on a date was considered impossible; rape by a stranger was the victim's fault: she was out alone . . .  she was wearing the wrong clothes or shoes, she had a drink.
What to do?
From boyhood, writes Marilyn French,
males are bombarded with the message that ‘‘real" men dominate women, which means they control women’s behaviour . . . So powerful and pervasive is this formula for the appearance of manhood that a man with an equal, mutual, relationship with a woman may adopt a posture of dominance towards her when other men are around.
Why does ail of this happen? What can be done about it?

Marilyn French’s answer is caressed in the concluding sentence of her book: "After millenia of male war against them, women are fighting back on every front”.

But is it in fact the case that the vast majority of one half of the human race feels compelled to dominate the other half? If so, why? What does socialism have to offer women, that feminism does not?

Cartoon by Peter Rigg.
Socialism involves a complete change in the way the whole of humanity organizes, itself, so that we have a system which provides goods and services because people need them and not because of money. There is no money and there is no property. Land is owned and controlled by the whole of humanity. There are no national boundaries. It must be highly organized, but in a genuinely democratic way. so that all people are involved in making decisions that affect their lives. There are no hierarchies. no distinctions of class, race or sex. 

Such a system seems like the impossible dream, but the potential for it is there. Even in capitalism, men and women can be fair and compassionate and co-operate with each other. People derive pleasure from working for themselves and others without monetary reward. What it will take is for the majority of people in the world to decide that this is how they want to live, and to set about organizing it.

Clearly the resistance to this from certain quarters may be great. The capitalists will not like it, initially at least—and if one half of the worlds population does feel compelled to dominate the other half, such an attitude will have to be challenged or socialism can not be achieved.

Men not the enemy
I became disenchanted with the feminism which holds patriarchy to be the world’s primary problem, because I did not like the logical conclusion to which this kind of thinking would lead. If men are simply women's worst enemies, what should we women do? Shoot men down in the street? Or simply withdraw'? What of hopes for shared childcare and housework? Many women, men and children would like men to be more, not less involved in their families.

It is true, many women are in severely oppressive situations at home and at work. Women get more than their fair share of the work, less than their fair share of the cake and less freedom than the men they share their lives with. Women are subordinate to men. Knowingly and unknowingly, men abuse the power they have over women—but not all men and not all the time.

Men also love and care for women, and work to support women and children. Some men have been women’s best friends at crucial times in their lives—and some men are subordinate to some women: a wealthy woman may hand out orders to a male wage-slave.

The problem of sexism is complex and linked to a larger problem; that of the way the whole world is organized.The majority of women and men in the world feel and are powerless in the face of the minority powers-that-be. Part of the problem of sexism is simply a "kicking the cat” syndrome. a white employed man, oppressed by his employer (or depressed by the dole queue) comes home and puts his wife in her place, for much the same reason that the pair of them will insult their black neighbours. It is an ignoble and inadequate solution to one’s own lack of self-esteem and autonomy, to undermine someone else’s. but without self-respect it is hard to respect others. A feeling of self-respect in our present system is for most people constantly under threat.

It is surely preferable for women to work with women and men to change the whole system than against men in the hope of changing just one aspect of it. Some men are sometimes women’s enemies—but so are some women. Many men and women are women's potential friends and allies.

I hope we can one day realize our potential for mutual respect and co-operation and create world socialism. Part and parcel of this process must be the shifting of patriarchy.
Nicky Snell

Obituary: Ken Leggett (1994)

Obituary from the March 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have just learned of the death of our Comrade Ken Leggett of Enfield & Haringey Branch.

Ken joined the Party relatively late in life in 1968 at the age of 42 after reading an election leaflet put through his letter-box in the 1967 GLC elections. But, many years before, he had already taken a stance against one of the worst effects of capitalism by registering as a conscientious objector during the Second World War. one of the tasks he was given being to look after German POWs.

Ken was an amateur (tenor) singer and had a jovial and irreverent nature. He was at one time Branch Treasurer in the days when he was able to be active. In later years due to having to work long hours his activities were curtailed somewhat and the onset of arthritis finally put an end to this, making it almost impossible even to attend the Branch.

Ken took belated retirement last year and moved with his partner from London to Sussex to enjoy a well-earned rest.
Julian Vein

Reading The Economist (1996)

From the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you’re a strategic consultant flying to Hong Kong for a conference on East Asian futures markets, then it makes sense to read the Economist This is the magazine which depicts a world where markets can efficiently solve capitalism's problems. A world where the only challenge is for each of us to make sure that we slot neatly into this smoothly-running system.

Painting a picture of an acceptable, almost comfortable, capitalism could never be easy. The Economist is the first to call for economic growth (i.e. accumulation of profits) whatever the consequences. For example, Chirac’s recent programme of welfare state cuts in France may be causing “social unrest" but is necessary, given the economic stagnation which could yet turn into recession: The French government “knows that its credibility on the foreign exchanges depends upon its ability to see through these reforms and to cut the budget deficit” (2 December).

In the same issue there is support for Shell’s determination to continue investing in Nigeria, in spite of General Abacha’s dictatorship. After all, Shell is by no means the only multinational investing in Nigeria and “If Shell quit Nigeria, would not some other multinational take its place?” and “Shell is neither better nor worse than most multi-nationals. Every big company worth its salt is racing to invest in China, which is no less prone than Nigeria to bump off its dissidents.”

The recent global trend towards greater “capital mobility” is welcomed by the Economist. More responsive financial markets and fewer barriers on trade now enable companies to be more selective about where they invest. Governments become providers of a "favourable climate for business” (i.e. cheaper supplies of human labour and slacker environmental regulations). The Economist welcomes this extra scrutiny of them as a welcome safeguard against “unwise” government decisions (“The World Economy - Survey”, 7 October).

It is usually by overlooking the social consequences of this economic “freedom” that a picture of an acceptable capitalism is painted. Failing that, they are simply underestimated - for example, we are told that “whatever [Shell] has done to despoil the Niger delta is now being put right.” Economic decisions are approached as intellectual puzzles where getting the right answer involves calculating how to optimise economic growth and profits.

The final sections distract you with the wonders of science and technology - “Is there life on Mars?” and "Is time travel possible?” - followed by some of life’s finer, cultural points - the architecture of Hong Kong offices or “The Car As Art”. This all, of course, fits neatly into the calculus.

Perhaps only from the luxury of a business flight, or the Economist offices, could such a world view seem acceptable. Yet the logic of the Economist is no more ruthless than that of capitalism itself. For this reason we should hardly ignore it, even if we are not left sitting comfortably.
Dan Greenwood

Editorial: The Same Old I.L.P. (1958)

Editorial from the March 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

From time to time the I.L.P. makes proposals for uniting itself with the S.P.G.B. and various other organisations. One such approach to us was made early in 1954. and at the end of 1957 the I.L.P. in conjunction with several small groups, repeated the proposal. The S.P.G.B.'s attitude is always the same. We are not prepared to associate with organisations which carry on propaganda for the reform of capitalism, recruit members on that basis and seek the votes of reformists. Our case is that work for Socialism is the essential end and it cannot be combined with reformism. The I.LP.'s answer to this is to claim that since 1932 they also have accepted this principle. They say so, but their activities and propaganda belie the claim. In 1954, for example, their unity scheme was a manoeuvre to detach the local Labour Parties from the Labour Party, on the plea that the “well- meaning Socialists who are members of the political section of the Labour Party are continually frustrated . . .  when their ideas and resolutions are voted down with soul-destroying monotony," by the block vote of the trade unions at Labour Party conferences. The reply of the S.P.G.B. pointed out that the membership of the local Labour Parties is no more Socialist than the rest of the party. This was illustrated at the time from the list of resolutions put on the Labour Conference agenda by the local parties, all of which were for reforms of various kinds, all assuming the continuance of capitalism.

The I.L.P. has been in the news with its candidate at the Kelvingrove by-election, running in opposition to Labour and Tory. The I.L.P. claimed that their candidate was fighting for Socialism. against the Tory “ political gangsters of the ruling class," and against the Labour politicians who on all issues behave no better than the Tories.

The editorial of the “Socialist Leader” (1st Feb., 1958) ended with a declaration of “socialist” independence:—
“The party of Keir Hardie and James Maxton enters the fray with a song in its heart. It has nothing to fear from the charlatans and lick-spittles of the other parties. It will seek to convince the men and women of Kelvingrove that only by Socialism can the challenge of these stupendous times be met. And it will not compromise its policy and programme to win votes."
Unfortunately, even if the Editor meant what he wrote to be taken literally, it is evident that other members of the I.L.P., including their candidate, Mr. William Park, do not

“Cross-Bencher” in the Sunday Express (9/2/58) reported that the Labour Party leaders were worried about the I.L.P. intervention because they feared that the I.L.P. candidate would filch from the Labour Party its “pacifist" voters. Was this imputation of I.L.P. vote-catching unjust? Mr. William Park, the I.L.P. candidate, made it clear that it was not. While reiterating his refusal to “indulge in vote-catching” he hastened to inform the Press that he did not mean it:—
“In a statement to the Press . . .  William Park said that among the main points in his campaign would be a demand for unilateral disarmament, as well as the abolition of the hydrogen bomb.”—(Socialist Leader, 1/2/58.)
There you have the never-changing I.L.P. “Socialism is the only hope they say, and they only want the votes of Socialists: but if you happen to be a non-Socialist with pipe-dreams about Capitalism disarming and British capitalism disarming on its own, or if you think that Capitalism would be all right but for the H bomb (like it was in two world wars or in the slump between the wars!) Mr. Park wants your vote.

This disarmament policy was elaborated a week later in a resolution passed by the Annual Conference of the London and Southern Counties Division of the I.L.P. It demanded that British Capitalism should “at once” bring home all troops from abroad, and disband the armed forces, and also that it should at once take the action of “denial of British bases to all other countries.” Could political ineptitude go further than this! Just how do unarmed civilians “deny" bases to the armies occupying them? Do these amateur policy-makers for British Capitalism really imagine that the other Powers would leave a strategic vacuum unoccupied? Does the I.L.P. not remember how two years ago large numbers of Hungarian workers tried to “deny” to Russia capitalism its occupancy of bases in Hungary?

The Keir Hardie-Maxton Tradition
When their editor called the modern I.L.P. the “party of Keir Hardie and James Maxton” he was certainly right, for between them these two used every conceivable form of vote-catching. Hardie, the arch-compromiser, was the originator of the I.L.P. policy of building up a reformist Labour Party with trade union backing. In his “Confession of Faith” he claimed that achievement as the measure of the success of the I.L.P.

One of his vote-catching side-lines was the advocacy of coal nationalisation "in order that the country should have a supply of the coal without which the navy was helpless and powerless.” (Manchester Guardian, 4/3/1912).

Maxton was a fitting successor to Hardie. At the 1923 General Election, for example, when, as usual he fought as candidate of the Labour Party, he combined a pledge to overthrow capitalism with vote-catching demands for government action to raise wages, to fix maximum prices, to reduce rents and to give Scotland "a Parliament of its own” (this to catch the nationalist vote).

On occasion Maxton, like Keir Hardie. could, with some lucidity, state the case against his own reformism, but it never cured him of it. In August, 1930, he was writing that a quarter century of reforms had convinced him of their uselessness because “before these reforms have been fully operative such advantages as they seemed on a superficial examination to offer were eaten up by the development of new evils or by a further extension of old ones” (New Leader, 15th August, 1930). but within a few weeks he had become unconvinced again. He introduced a particularly stupid bill in the House of Commons designed to make capitalism pay a "living wage.” The amount was to be determined by a government committee which, among other things, was to have regard to the need for “replacement and extension of capital.”

But for the I.L.P. times have changed. A quarter of a century ago it had been so successful in building up the reformist Labour Party that 200 members of the I.L.P. were able to sneak into Parliament as Labour M.P.'s. and had all but destroyed the Liberal Party. Now. while the I.L.P. vote catcher at Kelvingrove was filching reformist votes from the Labour candidate, over at Rochdale it was a slightly revived Liberal Party whose candidate was doing the same.

Tory and Labourite agree (1974)

From the March 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

To say that large numbers of workers who endured six years of Labour government from 1964 to 1970 and five years of Tory government since 1970 are not enamoured of the ugly face of capitalism is an understatement; it has the two larger parties worried. To see voters falling away from both parties at the same time calls for some dramatic re-vamping of policies, and both parties have given thought to it.

Simpletons in the Labour Party who take at its face value what the Party says about the Tories and about itself will expect the outcome to be, on the Tory side, a publicity campaign to prove that capitalism is really quite all right as it is, and, on the Labour side, a promise to end capitalism. Barbara Castle tried to comply a few months ago by asserting that Labour was the only party “committed to remove capitalism” (Times, 3rd July 1973). But the reality is quite different, as will be seen from two speeches by party leaders published in The Times and the Financial Times on 2nd February. One speech (Times) was by the Tory, Mr. Peter Walker, Secretary for Trade and Industry. The other (Financial Times) was by Mr. Edward Short, deputy leader of the Labour Party.

The interesting thing about the speeches is that most of Walker’s speech could have been put over by Short, and vice versa. The speeches have a common theme — a promise to keep capitalism but to give it a facelift. First the Tory:
A transformation of the capitalist system in the next 25 years was forecast yesterday by Mr. Peter Walker. Secretary for Trade and Industry . . .  He said that in Western Europe a big part of the system consisted of free enterprise and private capital. A dramatic period of change was beginning. In Britain, the government had done much already to transform the basis of capitalism, yet it had passed almost unnoticed.
Now the Labourite:
He warned that the next Labour administration must arm itself ‘to act decisively’ when any company or industry fell short of what the national interest demanded and this would involve ‘a major change in the capitalist system’.
The two had no disagreement about the method. “Much greater public control over industry would be necessary’’ (Short). “We are doing this . . .  by the power of the State — a new kind of interventionism’’ (Walker).

Both indicated that there was no intention to end capitalism, but with subtle differences of emphasis. Walker intends to make capitalism “more responsible, more responsive, and therefore stronger”, while Short said that “the assertion of control would be partly by an extension of public ownership where it was absolutely necessary . . . and by planning agreements between the Government and some of the major companies”. Lest this should sound rather too drastic, Mr Short reassured his listeners by explaining that the latter means “a system which has been very successful in France”, and that “most industrialists [are] public-spirited people who would co-operate”.

Both talked about controlling inflation and maintaining “full employment”. Both talked about the so-called “mixed economy” (i.e. private and state capitalism), but Walker claimed that the Tories are better at it:
Fortunately for Western Europe . . . the moderate Conservative had been able to appreciate the rationale for a modem mixed economy far more rapidly than the socialist. [For “socialist” read “Labour Party”.]
And it all adds up to nothing at all. In the past century Liberal, Tory and Labour governments have passed hundreds of Acts of Parliament “reforming” capitalism, and the sum total is the shambles we see around us.
Edgar Hardcastle

Prejudice in the name of socialist thought (1995)

Book Review from the March 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Victorian Encounter with Marx: A Study of Ernest Belfort Bax by John Cowley, British Academic Press. £34.50.

A fatal political contradiction marred the socialist contribution of Bax. To begin with his positive work. Bax wrote in the magazine Modern Thought in November 1879 what was the first article in an English publication to explain and support Marx's ideas as presented in Das Kapital. Bax described Marx's great work as providing “a doctrine in economy comparable in its revolutionary character and wide reaching importance to the Copernican system in astronomy, or the law of gravitation in Mechanics generally". Marx re-read the article to his wife two days before she died, pleased to see the recognition of his ideas in an English-language publication. (Hyndman had summarised some of Marx’s ideas earlier, but failed to mention Marx lest the German origin of the writer put off British readers!)

Bax went on to become a friend of Engels, visiting him often in Primrose Hill. He joined the SDF and with Morris he resigned, in opposition to that organisation’s opportunist reformism, and with Marx’s daughter. Eleanor and other socialists he joined the Socialist League. The present writer's view, which is supported by Cowley’s book, is that Bax was not much of a Marxist when it came to philosophical analysis - which is what he prided himself upon. In fact, he was rather more under the influence of the pessimist, Schopenhauer. The old myth that Bax had to press Marxist ideas upon Morris does not ring true; the evidence is that Morris understood the fundamentals of Marx’s revolutionary thought rather more than Bax did.

But there is a little more to this than a sterile debate over the bones of Marxist skeletons. A living political issue was at stake. Bax was a confirmed misogynist. He regarded women as being naturally inferior to men, joined the Anti-Suffrage League (from which he was prevented from speaking by Tories in case his socialist background damaged their case!) and treated both of his wives (the first died) with indifference bordering upon cruelty. The question is: Can a man who regards one half of the working class as being inferior to the other be regarded as a socialist? Obviously no; no more than those who preach the inferiority of blacks, gays or men can be.

Of course. Bax was a personally screwed-up, repressed and morally confused product of a horrible Victorian age. But why did his fellow socialists fail to censure his male chauvinism, when they opposed unequivocally Hyndman’s obscene anti-Semitism? The only contemporary socialist to take on Bax was Eleanor Marx, who offered to debate his chauvinism in public - but, like most proponents of prejudice, Bax preferred to duck the debate.

Why has Bax been given such a decent press in the years since his death? Quite apart from his support for the First World War (which he had in common with other pseudo-socialists like Hyndman and Robert Blatchford), we should surely have learned the lesson that, at least as far as we have any control over our own lives, the personal is political. That does not mean that we should blame workers for being trapped by the necessary callousness of the capitalist system, but when they try to present offensiveness or prejudice in the name of socialist thought we should surely disown them.
Steve Coleman