Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Pacifists and Socialism (1927)

From the April 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party claims (sometimes) to represent the interests of the workers. An illustration of its method of doing this occurred in the House of Commons recently.

On March 17th Mr. Ponsonby (one of the Liberal “converts”) moved that the Air Force be reduced by 32,000 men. This is, of course, quite consistent with the general attitude of the author of the “Peace Letter” on the question of Disarmament. Such a motion, however, is about as practical as asking the master-class to commit suicide outright.

It would, of course, be of financial advantage to considerable sections of the property owning class if their system could be maintained without expensive machines of destruction. If only other capitalists would not butt into the world-markets struggling for their place in the sun—if only the workers would peacefully accept wage reductions whenever necessary and never, never, never ask for a rise in their scale of fodder supplies—what a beautiful world it would be. There would be no need for the machinery of government to protect property and none would be more ready to apply the principle of disarmament than the Conservative Party.

The representatives of capitalist interests, however, have learned by grim experience that a system of exploitation such as the present can only be preserved by force and in this conclusion they find themselves at one with quite a considerable section of the Labour Party. Only twenty-four members of that Party supported Mr. Ponsonby's motion. The official Labour Party could not do so without jeopardising their whole position.

Representing the opinions of millions of workers, who accept the capitalist system as the necessary form of society, the Labour Party as a whole can do nothing but maintain that system through the machinery of government. They cannot entertain any suggestion of weakening the forces which are the essential element in that machinery. The disarmament of the capitalist class can only be accomplished by a political party representing a working class awake to its position as the slave-class in society and determined to end that situation.

Ponsonby, Lansbury and the rest of the Pacifist crowd in the Labour Party know that the confusion in their ranks makes their position safe. On this point they will always be treated as harmless cranks by their stodgy, respectable colleagues. Variety is the spice of life, and it would most certainly not do for a party trying to run "the nation” to think in unison.

The New Leader of March 18th (p. 4) informs us that there are no less than five distinct groups of opinion within the Labour Party on this question.

First, there are the out-and-out Pacifists; secondly, those who profess to believe in the class-war and who only condemn arms in the hands of the capitalist government; thirdly, the S.D.F. "citizen army” group; fourthly, the bulk of the Party which wants to wait till all the thieves have agreed to stop squabbling over the booty; finally, "the die-hards, who really believe in armies and navies.”

Whatever they may "believe” or not believe, these groups all joined hands in supporting the MacDonald Government, which did the dirty work of the Capitalist Class in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of Ponsonby's supporters, a Mr. Shepherd, advertised himself as a Quaker, who had been misled by propaganda into actually fighting during the recent carnage. This illustrates once more the worthlessness of religious and so-called ethical scruples to the workers. Only Socialist knowledge can prevent them yielding themselves up a willing sacrifice on the altar of capitalist necessity. Millions of Christians slaughtered one another, firmly convinced that God approved of their conduct.

To the workers who understand their position in society it is a matter of indifference which section of the international master class is the best equipped with engines of war. Whichever side wins or loses, the workers of both sides lose their lives or gain nothing if they survive.

The Socialist Party advocates the organisation of the working class for the capture of the political machinery in order that a new social order may be established in which the means of life will be owned in common by all and in which therefore there will be no need for the forcible protection of property and the slaughter of millions of producers in order to decide which bunch of parasites shall control the trade routes and markets of the world.
Eric Boden

A. J. Cook Returns To The Fold (1929)

From the April 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last year Mr. Arthur Cook joined with Mr. Maxton in publishing a document called “Our Case,” in which these two “rebels” explained their dissatisfaction with the Labour Party.

In “Our Case” they made it perfectly clear that, in their view, the Labour Party’s programme is not a Socialist programme. On page 17, they say :—
“Does the new Labour Party Programme aim at the speedy transfer to the State, under the control of the workers, of the great basic industries of the country, and the development of these industries towards a Socialistic system of production for use? Not in our opinion. If every measure in the Labour Party Programme was carried, then we would not have Socialism but rationalised capitalism, in which the main industries of the country remain in the hands of the exploiting capitalist class, supplemented by State ownership of the transport, electricity supply and coal-producing services with a view to giving the owners of capitalist industry a cheaper service in respect of transport and power.”
On page 23 they continue with their denunciation of the Labour programme :—
“We believe that the Labour Party should scrap its existing programme and develop a vigorous Socialist Programme. That is our case, and we leave it to the working class to judge whether it is a good one or not. We do not enter upon this campaign light-heartedly, but having entered upon it we mean to go through with it to the end. We are engaged in no merely emotional campaign. If the workers accept our policy then they must work to make it the policy of the Labour Movement by electing to positions of trust those who support this vigorous Socialist policy. The fight within the Labour Movement to-day is a fight between the forces of Socialism and those who have fallen under the influence of capitalism." (Our italics.)
Since the writing of that pamphlet no essential change has occurred in the economic or political situation, nor in the contents of the Labour Party’s programme. Yet we find Mr. Cook writing in the “Miner” (March 9th, 1929) as follows:-
The only Party whom we can look to for help and support in time of need' and trouble is our own Labour Party, which is pledged to repeal the Eight Hour Act, amend the Compensation Act, secure pensions at 60, raise the school age, institute a minimum wage and safety in the mines, with a practical scheme for the nationalisation of the mines, minerals and by-products. We know this cannot be accomplished in the twinkling of an eye, but will take time, but they are the only Party who can and will do it. Therefore it is the bounden duty of all of us to put on one side disagreements or personal differences and work for a majority Labour Government at the next General Election.
Mr. Cook calls himself a socialist, yet he tells us that the only party deserving of working-class support is that party whose programme, in his own words, means “rationalised capitalism.” Naturally, Mr. Cook’s change of front has brought on his head wild denunciations and charges of “treachery” from the communists who so recently were backing him. But in truth it is not Mr. Cook’s lack of knowledge of the elementary principles of socialism which is the real source of injury to the working class, nor his quite natural inability to resist the pressure of his colleagues even when he vaguely sees the unsoundness of their policies. The real source of danger is the state of mind among the working class which permits them to put their trust in the Cooks, or the Baldwins, or any other political leader, and for this the communists who now direct their man-hunt against Cook are as much responsible as any one. The power for harm of Mr. Cook or any leader depends directly upon the amount of trust placed in him. Those who teach the working class to trust in leaders are thereby preparing the ground in which are sown harvests of treachery or disillusion. If Mr. Cook had no following of people in the habit of placing implicit and uncritical trust in his judgments, his change of front would have no particular significance. As it is, however, those who have followed Cook in the past will now either follow him again and give their support to the Labour Programme, or perhaps allow their disappointment to disgust them with any kind of political activity. Our method, and the only effective method of building up a genuine socialist party, is to base our organisation on socialist knowledge, and the clear grasp of socialist principles by each member. Such a party is incapable of being harmed by the defection of individuals due to whatever cause.
Edgar Hardcastle

Farewell to the Middle Class (1993)

From the September 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an article entitled "White Collar Wasteland’, U.S. News and World Report (28 June) informs its readers that "For the first time on record, white-collar workers have surpassed blue-collar workers in the nation’s unemployment lines, and many of the casualties are still reeling". These were the complacent salary slaves who were duped into believing that life under capitalism would be rosy for them if only they deluded themselves that they had a stake in the system. They wore the slave’s badge of honour as members of the non-existent middle class. Although the US recession was ’officially" declared to be over in 1991, today the number of unemployed white-collar wage-slaves stands at over 3.1 million: 300,000 more than when the recession was recognized as being on.

US salary-slaves who have kept their jobs are finding cuts in pay and conditions to be the price they must pay for their precarious freedom to be employed. According to the New York business research group. Conference Board, over half of all white-collar workers finding new jobs after an average of six months of job-hunting had to take pay cuts. This is what is known as the freedom of the market place: the freedom of the exploiter to kick a man when he’s on the ground looking for a few dollars to pay the mortgage with.

The great problem of the so-called middle class — who sell their labour power to the highest bidder — is that when the boss needs them no longer, as is happening now that world capitalism is in a deep recession and managers are also being thrown on to the scrapheap, they have further to fall than the average wage slave. Capitalism never offers workers a break without there being an inbuilt catch.

Cartoon by Peter Rigg.
The semi-brainwashed loyalty of these white-collar salary slaves is pitiful to perceive. The present writer spent a recent train journey to Swansea sharing a table with two pathetic specimens of corporate dedication who spent nearly three hours in passionate discussion as to how best they could boost their boss’s profits. The faith of such corporate corpses in the economic interests of those whose prosperity rests upon their exploitation would be comical were it not so tedious to overhear and so tragic in the extent to which it stifles the lives of the true believers. One such believer is described in the above-mentioned article: a $40,000-a-year salary-slave for IBM, 30 year-old David Shahbazian was called in to the 'human resources” office one day and told that he was 'a surplus employee’ (their words). Now on the scrapheap, he says "I felt insulted, betrayed . . . I never missed a day, I believed in the white shirt. I placed on IBM a higher trust”. No doubt if a socialist had told him that he was living in a highly unstable, insecure system where IBM’s capitalist owners were only interested in exploiting him to make profits he would have responded a few months ago with ridicule or contempt. But we can still feel sorry for the sucker. He’s learning the hard way. So too is Jim Turner, out of a job now after having made $60,000 dollars a year in IBM computer sales. He tells how his family spent Christmas at Disney World in Florida where he spent most of each day on his cellular phone selling computers for IBM. "I breathed IBM, ate IBM, I went for it hook, line and sinker", he now says. Replace the initials IBM with the word "capitalism' and there you have the biographical tragedies of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of men and women who once dreamed of being middle class and are now wage-slaves without wages.

In Britain the same hopes of middle-class affluence, fostered by the lying propaganda of the Thatcherite "property-owning democracy", are now being seen for the illusions that they always were. Record business bankruptcies, accompanied by all of the force of the law against the failed entrepreneur and all of the humiliation of financial failure, has hit countless thousands. Ten years ago they were the complacent dupes of "the enterprise culture". To have told them they they stood no real competitive chance against the banks and the multinationals would have been dismissed as mere socialist scaremongering. Now they have had to learn the hard way that workers can never beat the capitalists at their own game. The only serious option is to change the game.

Memories of the housing boom, when banks were lending money for mortgages with the zeal of a drug pusher in a hostel for crack addicts, are now nightmares for tens of thousands of workers who imagined that they were becoming "home owners". They had not entered the kingdom of ownership, but signed up for the prison of debt. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, in 1992 the British banks and building societies took 68,340 properties into repossession. By December 1992 a record 332,030 households in Britain had mortgage arrears of six months or more. And last year county courts in England authorized 33,263 possession evictions — with a further 64,642 suspended eviction orders, giving an indication that the present housing crisis is by no means over.

The system of production for profit can never operate in the interests of the majority. Many workers have a sense that this is the case, even if they are not yet conscious of production solely for use as a feasible alternative. But there is still a minority of workers who are deceived, not least by their own illusory ambition, into thinking that capitalism will allow them a place in the sun. The harsh fact which they must learn is that the difference between the most affluent "middle-class" worker and the poorest of wage-slaves is smaller than the difference in power, security and privilege which divides the richest worker from the poorest capitalist.

There are two classes in society: the ones who need to work and the ones who don’t; the ones who make the profits and the ones who take them; the ones who can say "This world belongs to us" and the rest of us — the overwhelming majority who have world to win.
Steve Coleman

A socialist pamphlet from France (1981)

From the June 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

For some time a group of people in France have been helping to propagate the same socialist idea as that held by the Socialist Party of Great Britain: a world of free access to all goods and services with everyone giving according to their ability and taking according to their need. They have seen too that the only way this can be achieved is by democratic political action on the part of the majority of wage and salary earners throughout the world.

They have called themselves Socialisme Mondial (“World Socialism”), regularly publish a French-language journal of the same name and hold regular public meetings in Paris. Now, as a further support to their activities, they have produced a pamphlet Pour le Socialisme Mondial (“For World Socialism”).*

The pamphlet has a translation of the SPGB’s Object and Declaration of Principles on its inner front cover and then eleven chapters explaining different aspects of the socialist case.

Four of these chapters (“Capitalism”, “Socialism”, “The Less Developed Countries” and “War”) are more or less directly translated from the SPGB’s own pamphlet Questions of the Day. A fifth one, on “The Establishment of Socialism”, is a translation of a fundamental article that originally appeared in the September 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard. It is as thoroughly up-to-date reading now as it was then.

The other six chapters are new. “Marx and Socialism” takes a critical look at Marx and explains that, while socialists accept Marx’s basic analysis of capitalism and his arguments for socialism, some of his views can no longer be considered valid today. “The Myth of Socialism in Russia” examines the background to the Bolshevik revolution, the circumstances of the revolution taking place in a backward country before socialist ideas had spread world wide. It traces the development, since the revolution, of Russia’s state capitalist dictatorship in which “those who occupy the highest posts in the Party form a sort of corporation which collectively monopolises the means of production and which shares out among its members the products of the exploitation of the Russian workers and peasants in the form of huge “salaries”, rewards, gifts, bonuses and various privileges in kind”.

The remaining four chapters, with their specific reference to France, are especially recommended to anyone with a reading knowledge of the language for their excellent analysis of French affairs over the last 100 years or so.

The astonishingly treacherous zigzags of the French Communist Party, which between 1930 and 1964 “did not deviate once from the line traced for it by the rulers of state capitalist Russia”, are dealt with in factual detail in the chapter entitled “The So-Called Communist Party”.

A chapter on trade unions points out the essentially defensive, non-political role of trade union activity with examples taken from the history of French trade unionism.

Finally the two chapters on reformism. Nowhere in socialist literature in any language has this reviewer seen our position on reforms and the futility of campaigning for them better expressed and illustrated than in the nine pages of “Reform and Revolution” and “The Futility of Reformism”. They explain the reasons for the inevitable failure of the massive amount of reformist activity that has taken place in France and conclude that “Reformist action fails because it attacks effects (bad housing, poor education, poor health services, etc.) leaving the cause (capitalism, its class monopoly of the means of production and its production for profit) untouched. The fact is that you cannot reform capitalism to make it function in the interests of the working class who are the vast majority in capitalist society”.

The first of these two chapters also gives a succinct statement of how to achieve the socialist alternative. What is needed, it says, is “a Party composed solely of convinced socialists, a Party which does not go in for reforms of capitalism. When the majority of wage and salary workers become socialists and are organised, they will be able to use their votes to send to Parliament and to Local Councils delegates with a mandate to use their political power for the single revolutionary act of dispossessing the capitalist class through converting the means of wealth production and distribution into the common property of the whole of society”.
Howard Moss

•Available (65p post paid) from Literature Dept., SPGB, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN or from Socialisme Mondial, PO Box 26, 6700 Arlon, Belgium.

Between the Lines: From Hamlet to Hilda Ogden (1991)

The Between the Lines column from the January 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

From Hamlet to Hilda Ogden

In 1769 Garrick organised the first ever Shakespeare Jubilee: a celebration of the work of "England's greatest writer". Ironically, so few people had read Shakespeare or appreciated his plays that the Jubilee events involved not a single performance of a Shakespearean play, but instead the highlight was a huge fireworks display.

Last month ITV celebrated another landmark in British cultural history: the thirtieth anniversary of the first performance of Coronation Street. Unlike Shakespeare, whose greatness has generally had to be forced down the throats of unwilling recipients of his state-approved messages, Coronation Street has tapped a genuine social vein. In 1981, when Ken Barlow married Deirdre Langton, more viewers tuned in than to the televised marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di which took place the same week. Like it or detest it, Coronation Street is popular, fifteen million viewers watch its three episodes each week.

Coronation Street purports to be about working-class life in a friendly northern community. It is not. In friendly northern towns there are tower blocks where they double lock the doors, paint racist graffiti on walls and sniff glue. The unemployed, the old and hypothermic, the girls who can only make ends meet on the game, the smack addicts, the desperately lonely single mothers - these are not the stuff of which Coronation Street fiction is made. Down the Street everyone calls everyone else "chuck" and the world revolves around booze and gossip, although the booze never leads the characters to get drunk or go to the toilet and the gossip is devoid of anything remotely concerned with the pressing social problems which most wage slaves must tackle alone. Mike is having it away with his boss; Deirdre is having it away with a bent councillor, Phylis wants to have it away with Percy; Curly is desperate to have it away with the simpleton in the supermarket. Poll tax bills never arrive. Hospitals are never closed down. Bus services are never withdrawn because they are not profitable enough. Life is one long dash from the bar to the condom machine.

Soap operas are about life divorced from history. Coronation Street is in a town that does not exist within a country that does not intrude within a senseless social system whose senselessness never invades the major question of the day: To have it away or finish my pint, that is the question.

For all of that, Coronation Street is (at least in the view of this writer) one of the finest dramatic offerings on British TV. Great acting combined with sensitive writing. The snobs hate it. And every so often — or, to put it another way, all too rarely — a little bit of real life under the profit system infiltrates the cosy life of the Street. On 10 December 1990 Don Brennan confronted the problem of a single mother whose gas was about to be turned off because she could not afford to pay the bill and feed the baby. Of course, Don paid the bill. Just like, when Newton and Ridley were going to evict Alec and Bet from The Rover's Return, the sudden appearance of a mystery director saved the day: humanitarianism defeated profit. This is a modem version of the Dickensian romance in which Scrooge ceases to be an exploiting swine because of a frightening dream. Down the Street problems are resolved because "folk help out". This side of the screen the problems persist, despite what "decent northern folk" might want to happen.

The Coronation Street birthday show (Sunday 9 December. ITV) was presented by Cilia Black, that phoniest of phoney images of decent northern folk. Messages of congratulation were sent from the snivelling rogues of East Enders and the cardboard cut-out Neighbours. Cilia made imitation friendly northern noises and a jolly good time was had by all. The Queen sent a telegram saying how much she enjoyed the programme, though it is not quite clear whether real life in a terraced house in a grimy industrial town would cause her as much enjoyment.

Perhaps it says something about contemporary British drama that the Royal Shakespeare Company (the offshoot of Garrick's fireworks party) is to be closed for the first part of this year because of lack of money; the Queen and Cilia celebrate thirty years of a soap opera — and later that night the South Bank Show had Mary Whitehouse discussing morality with Spitting Image puppets of Kinnock, The Pope and Princess Di. It must all mean something, as Hamlet said to the ghost.

From Lenin to Thatcher

The newsreader announced that Armand Hammer is dead. (BBC, 6pm, 11 December 1990) Hammer (whose father was the doctor to the pioneer American Marxist, Daniel De Leon, incidentally) was described as "the capitalist that the communists loved." What confusion will they come up with next to drive the workers crazy?

Hammer was an American multi-millionaire, the owner of Occidental Oil. In the early days after the state-capitalist coup in Russia in 1917, Lenin approached Hammer and asked him to organise the trade of Russian furs in the West. Hammer has been a friend of every Russian ruler since Lenin, including Stalin and Gorbachev. He was also a great admirer of Thatcher. In short, this man knew more thieves than the governor of Wormwood Scrubs. He is not known to have appeared on Coronation Street and Cilia Black will not be singing at the funeral. Like the lady said. "It's a funny old world."
Steve Coleman

Gun and knife crime (2007)

From the October 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard
The recent spate of gun and knife crime has been taken as evidence that the country is descending into a chaos of uncontrolled violence
There are lies, damn lies and statistics. And beyond that  there are the criminal statistics, which are supposed to tell us how much of which crimes have been committed during whatever period but which are so beset by misreporting, faulty mathematics and at times political manipulation as to be pretty well worthless. For example, some offences are not reported because the victim sees no point in doing so; ask someone who leaves home in the morning to find their car has been broken into whether they will tell the police and you are likely to be treated to the kind of pitying smile usually bestowed on the stupefyingly naive. Or ask the same question of someone who has picked up a black eye in a Saturday night fight at the pub and prepare for the scorn at such a slur on their resilient stoicism. Examples like these are drawn together in some of the statistics; between 1995 and 2005 reported serious wounding incidents in England and Wales rose by 50 per cent but some 70 per cent of that type of offence are not reported.
The recent spate of gun and knife crime – including high profile murders such as that of the 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool, apparently by another young person – has been taken as evidence that the country is descending into a chaos of uncontrolled violence, overwhelmingly the work of gangs of young feral psychopaths hiding their faces under hoods and escaping on mountain bikes while their victim dies on the street – or, in some cases, in their own home. “There is no doubt” said Enver Soloman, Deputy Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies recently, “there are more kids carrying knives, but it’s not clear why”. In the first eight months of 2007 no less than 17 teenagers were shot dead in London alone, six of them between February and August.  The response has been predictable, from the tabloids and from opposition politicians: the government must shake themselves out of their apathy about crime, employ more police officers and encourage courts to send more people to prison for longer terms (a suggestion which the courts have eagerly taken up). In fact New Labour can hardly be accused of complacency about crime; since they came to power in 1997, energised by Blair’s promise to be tough on crime they have added some 3000 offences to the statute book – which means that behaviour which was recently legal will now land you in trouble with the law. At the same time the choice of sentences available to the courts has been extended, for example there is the Indeterminate Sentence which in theory can result in someone doing life for an offence which once attracted a term of imprisonment of only months. And as a result the prisons are crammed and inmates are forced to spend time in emergency cells in police stations and court houses.
This is the kind of mess likely to cost some politicians a lot of votes and to win lots for others. Hoping to be among the latter is Tory leader David Cameron. It is only just over a year ago - in July 2006 - that, in his efforts to establish himself as a new breed of boss of the nasty party, he drew on the insight into the struggles of working class life instilled in him by an Eton education and a posh address in Notting Hill to declare that everyone else had misunderstood the problem of youth crime and that we have to show a lot more love to the people who commit it: “ hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They’re a way of staying invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, don’t stand out. For some, the hoodie represents all that’s wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, adult society’s response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right. So when you see a child walking down the road, hoodie up, head down, moody, swaggering, dominating the pavement – think what brought that child to that moment ”. Having spent the last year or so reflecting on this slice of wisdom and spurred on by the latest news of violent youth crime, Cameron has decided that a different approach would be more voter-attractive: no longer in favour of understanding hoodies, on 22 August  he lashed out at what he called the rising tide of youth violence and anti-social behaviour: “Common sense suggests that with young  people you need to hit them where it hurts most: in their life style and their aspirations” was how he revealed his conversion to a more traditional style of vote chasing with a proposal that young offenders, apart from any other penalty imposed on them, be disqualified from applying for a driving licence. He is apparently under the impression that seasoned practitioners of anti-social behaviour would be impressed enough by such a restriction to persuade them to do as the court and a Tory leader wanted.
Apart from its other defects, Cameron’s suggestion does not have even the merit of being original; in fact it has been in the law since 2004. The same is true about his other proposal, that magistrates courts be able to impose a maximum of twelve months imprisonment instead of six as they are at present. His other views are also stale and impotent, such as his ranting about “moral decline” and a “broken society”, but we must excuse him on the grounds that he also needs a lot more love as a politician desperate to keep his fragile control of his party, knowing that an election defeat would probably see him go the same way as Hague and Howard. The assumption that tougher laws must reduce crime is based on confusion between punishment and an orderly, controlled society, as if putting a new law on the statute book will discourage some types of behaviour and stimulate others – which is not supported by what has been happening over gun and knife crime. There is no doubt that this is a serious problem, which makes life in some places even uglier than it is at present. But apart from the bogus, unhelpful media outrage the reality is that children and young people are the human product of the society they are born into; when so many of them behave so destructively  there must be questions about the nature of that society, why it works as it does and the effect on its people.
What is the attraction for young people in gangs (according to the police there are 18 in London alone)? In numerous interviews with reporters and others it has emerged that the gang offers safety, a sense of belonging, of rank and of inviolability – which are obviously missing in the lives of many who are facing the prospect of growing up in a class society where they must reconcile their own denial with the privileges of the other class. A police schools officer operating in the territory of two Liverpool gangs put it: “A lot of them see that life has just left them by+Most of them can’t even read or write+” So far none of the interviewers has pointed out that the values of the gang – loyalty and invulnerability maintained with aggression against those outside – are invaluable requirements in the armed forces, for example among the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or wherever they are at arms in the defence of the interests of the ruling, privileged class. The analysts, commentators and experts probe for presentable stratagems to repair what they define as gaps in social morality but they pay little useful attention to some of the real hard facts about violent crime.
When, as has happened recently, there is an incident of a gun or a knife being used to kill in a place like Letchworth or Bishop’s Stortford the shock and anger is mixed with bewilderment that something like that can happen in places with a reputation for being green and tranquil. That was a response to the fact that such offences flourish in areas like the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool and London  - where the population is concentrated and the pressures of urban capitalism are especially acute. Within London, for example, the boroughs with the highest levels of gun and knife crime include Hackney, Lambeth and Newham and those with the lowest include Bromley, Sutton and Richmond on Thames. A Council report (Mind The Gap — Strategy To Reduce Inequalities And Poverty 2005) from Hackney, which is about the poorest borough in the United Kingdom, described high rates of infant mortality, cancer, heart disease and mental illness. A Public Health Report from Newham Council for 2006 said the borough has the lowest male life expectancy in England, that 64 per cent of the children there were officially in poverty and 41 per cent of the population were “economically inactive”. Lambeth’s Economic Development Strategy for 2006/10 described it as “among the most socially and economically deprived local authority districts in the country” and set out the link between such conditions and youth crime: “The social and economic pressures faced by young people in a world city can create tensions in some local communities where high levels of crime exist alongside a growing informal economy”.
Does all this matter? Can’t people simply drag themselves up from the deeper levels of poverty, go to evening classes, get a degree, end up as Chairman of one of the Big Five banks? Take the case of Learco Chindamo, who as a 15-year-old gang leader killed head teacher Philip Lawrence outside his school in Maida Vale, when Lawrence was defending 13 year old William Njoh from attack by Chindamo’s gang. There was a great deal of unhelpful media froth about the crime and more recently when the government was legally prevented from deporting Chindamo at the end of his sentence, which obscured the fact that, when he killed Lawrence, Chindamo was unable to read or write and all that was known about his absent father, a hardened and ruthless criminal, was that he was either in prison or on the run from Interpol. The intended victim of the attack, Njoh, subsequently dropped out of school and committed crimes such as robbery and possession of a pistol and ammunition, which brought him long custodial sentences. It is evident that the background to Chindamo’s offence was one of widespread poverty, hopelessness and alienation – and that Philip Lawrence paid for it with his life.
Challenging the popular notion that, in face of the evidence of an increasing incidence of knife-related robberies there is a policing or punishment solution, Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, insisted that the problem will require an approach which recognises that  “the social antagonisms caused by poverty and inequality are the key”. This a valid comment but it needs to be taken further. The key to social antagonism, poverty and inequality is in the fundamentals of this social system, in the class monopoly which secures and enriches a minority and impoverishes the majority. Politicians who are preoccupied with their next vote will take care not to emphasise that reality – it is more advantageous to stimulate and exploit the latest hysteria. And as long as such a superficial attitude is allowed the problem will endure and there will continue to be blood on the streets.

Cooking the Books: Never Been Tried (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the April 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The right-wing think-tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, published an article on its website on 17 February by Kristian Niemietz entitled 'Has “real” socialism never been tried?'.  It was aimed primarily at those who at the time claimed Russia was socialist but who now say it never was. We are specifically singled out as an exception:
'And yet there are exceptions to this, such as the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB). They are not, and as far as I know, never were, apologists of Soviet-style socialism, which they describe as ‘state capitalism’. They are among the few socialists who have at least some idea of what they mean by ‘real’ socialism. They use that term to describe a hypothetical system in which working-class people own and control the economy’s productive resources directly, not via the state; a system in which public ownership is not mediated through a government bureaucracy.'
This is a passable, if not entirely adequate, definition of what we mean by 'socialism' but Niemietz went on:
'I have no idea how this should work in practice, but I suppose we could imagine some combination of public ownership with Swiss-style multi-level direct democracy. '
And then proceeded to criticise this:
'This would mean referenda on the production of razors, carpets, gloves, ink cartridges, curtains, hair straighteners, kettles, toasters, microwaves, baking trays, washing-up liquid, tiles, hand blenders, pizzas, and many, many other things. You would need literally thousands of referenda to organise an economy in this way. '
According to him, this wouldn't work and decisions would soon be left to experts who, he implies, would become a new ruling class.
We don't envisage the market being replaced by direct democracy. In socialism the means of production will be subject to overall democratic control and individual workplaces will be run democratically. There will also be an extension of democratic decision-making beyond the present boundary of local and national administration.
Referendums are not the only or, in most circumstances, the best way to decide matters democratically. They are appropriate only where there's a simple yes/no choice, whereas in most cases there is a whole range of compromise options and solutions. Such decisions don't have to be left to 'experts' but can be taken by democratically elected councils able to examine the matter in more detail before coming to a decision.
In any event, Niemietz has got it wrong in imagining that decisions as to how much of everything to produce would have to be decided by a vote. The amount of consumer goods, such as those he lists, to produce could be more or less self-regulating in accordance with the amounts people took from the distribution centres in conditions of free access. What they took over a given period would be a signal as to how much to reproduce, in the first instance to the bulk supplier and then down the line to the places where they are produced. In other words, much the same as the market is supposed to work and as stock control does today.
Only large-scale projects would need to be decided by some elected central council. So, no, there would not be a danger of voting fatigue in real 'real socialism'.

Welcome to a New Socialist Journal (1934)

Party News from the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few months ago we were able to welcome the first number of the Western Socialist, organ of the Socialist Party of Canada. Our New Zealand comrades followed suit in January with the first number of the Socialist Review. The propaganda of Socialism in Canada and New Zealand is thus strengthened by the circulation of journals putting the same point of view as THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, but written with knowledge of local conditions. We congratulate our comrades on the excellent journals they arc producing in circumstances of great difficulty. Readers of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD in those countries are urged to give all the assistance they can, whether in the form of donations to cover the loss inseparable from the publication of a new Socialist paper, or in the form of efforts to gain more readers.

In New Zealand the usual financial difficulties are rendered still more acute by the Government’s ban on public meetings.

The addresses OF the Canadian Western Socialist and the New Zealand Socialist Review are given elsewhere in this issue of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD.

We are now looking forward to the time when our comrades in U.S.A. and Australia can also publish their own journals.

The Socialist Party of Australia: A Splendid Election Fight (1935)

From the April 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our companion party in Australia contested the Melbourne Ports constituency in the recent elections to the Australian Parliament (House of Representatives). The candidate was Comrade W. J. Clarke, Honorary Secretary of the Socialist Party of Australia, but of course the electors were not asked to vote for the man but for the principles of the Party. The opposing candidates were two in number, the Labour Party candidate and the candidate of the United Australia Party. Simultaneously with the holding of the elections to the House of Representatives there were in progress elections to fill half the seats in the Senate (Australia’s equivalent of the House of Lords, but elected).

In consequence of this, the Socialist candidate also came into conflict with a Communist candidate for the Senate, whose constituency included the Melbourne Ports area. The result of the election was instructive in many ways. First, it showed that while the amount of support for Socialism is small it is by no means negligible. The Labour candidate won the seat with 27,081 votes, followed by the United Australia Party candidate with 12,173 and by the Socialist with 3,872. That there are 3,872 prepared to vote for Socialism and against capitalist and reformist candidates is highly encouraging.

What is more the Socialist vote was considerably higher than the vote cast for the Communist candidate for the Senate in the same constituency. The Socialist vote, as stated, was 3,872, compared with a Communist vote of 2,359. Not only was the total Socialist vote higher than the Communist vote but it was higher in every one of the 12 sub-divisions into which the total was divided.

As for the campaign we cannot do better than quote from the report we have received from the Australian Party.
   “From the outset we were hampered by a campaign of silence, and whatever publicity we obtained in the press was grudgingly given. Like tactics were adopted by our opponents; the Labour candidate never once mentioned the name of our candidate or the Party. As he had been posing as a “Socialist” for years this attitude of his can be readily understood.
  “Another drawback was the brevity of the campaign. Starting with an open air meeting at Albert Park on August 24th, we ended with an open air meeting in the same place on September 14th, the night prior to election day. Two large indoor meetings were held in the Port Melbourne Town Hall, right in the heart of the electorate. Another not so well attended indoor meeting, was held in the Mechanics’ Hall at Williamstown, while a fine, attentive and well attended meeting was held at the Clarendon Single Unemployed Men’s Group. Open air meetings were held in all the sub-divisions of the electorate. . . .
   “With rare exceptions our meetings were surprisingly well attended and the Party’s propaganda was received with marked approval by the majority of those present. Objections were raised by supporters of the Communist Party and the Labour Party in some instances; but no member or supporter of these parties would take our platform to state their opposition to our policy when invited to do so by our speakers.
   “The best meeting of all was held in the open at Albert Park on September 14th the night before polling day. At this meeting Mr. Laurence, the United Australia Party candidate, took our stump in answer to a challenge by one of our speakers. There were nearly 700 people present. The meeting was lively but orderly, and lasted until after 11 p.m. . . .”
   “Right throughout the campaign we stressed our object and principles and the whole burden of our appeal to the electors was, ‘If you do not want Socialism, we do not want your vote,’ an attitude which met with hostility from the Communists whose candidates were running on the usual programme of immediate demands.”
Under Australian electoral law the deposit, of £25, was forfeit because the Socialist vote was less than one-fifth of the vote of the winning candidate. From a propaganda point of view the campaign was highly successful and has served to put the Socialist Party definitely on the map, while at the same time given encouragement to the members.

Further information is that the Sydney branch of the Party proposes to run a candidate in the New South Wales State elections, where no election deposit at all is required.

The King's Question Answered (1936)

From the April 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

Slums and Luxury Liners

After some caustic remarks about the Glasgow slums, King Edward VIII, on his recent visit to the new wonder liner, “Queen Mary,” turned to a member of his party and said, “How do you reconcile a world that has produced this mighty ship with the slums that we have visited?” Lord Melchett, who reports this (Daily Telegraph, March' 12th) does not say what answer, if any, was given to the King’s question, nor does his own toying with it throw any light on what to him is evidently the unsolved mystery of our age. Lord Melchett, faced with a problem which can only be solved by a complete change, a social revolution, could only recoil from such a notion and proffer its opposite, “ The only inkling I can give you in regard to its solution may be summed up in one word — equilibrium. . . . We have got to produce things in a balanced way, and in relation to all other things of which the community has need.”

Here Lord Melchett just touched the fringe of the problem, but without having even an inkling of what is under his nose. There is no such thing as "the community,” and its "needs” are, therefore, an abstraction that has no meaning. We live in a world which consists of two communities, those who own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth—the capitalists—and those who, not having property on the income from which they can live, have to work for wages or salaries. Lord Melchett is so accustomed to viewing the monetary aspect of things that he cannot be expected, without assistance, to see below the surface. Let us, then, assist him by pointing out that the wages system, which looks so natural and inevitable when viewed from above, is purely capitalistic and will pass with capitalism. It disguises a conflict of interests, an exploitation of one class by another, every whit as callous as chattel slavery. The chattel slave produces wealth for the slave-owner, but must, of course, be provided with the necessities of life. The wage- and salary-earners, making up the great majority of the population, produce wealth for the capitalists, the owners of the means of production and distribution. In return the workers receive, when they are at work, the price of the commodity they sell, their labour-power. If their standard of living is sometimes above the chattel slave level they suffer the torments of insecurity unknown to the latter.

Now let us examine Lord Melchett’s phrase, “Things of which the community has need.” A glance is sufficient to show its absurdity. The community of the rich needs good and abundant food, roomy, luxurious and well-situated houses, expensive cars, and foreign travel in luxury liners. The community of the rich, having property rights in all the wealth produced by the workers, and having to return only a part for their upkeep, not only wants these things, but can pay for them, and has them. It is their privileged position, their ability to pay for whatever they want which determines how the world’s resources shall be used.

On the other hand, the workers also want these things, but cannot pay for them and, therefore, do not get them. The workers lack what the economists call “effective demand.” They get slums, poor and inadequate food, shoddy clothing and ineffective advice from Lord Melchett.

In face of these two worlds, the world of the rich and the world of the poor, talk of equilibrium gets us nowhere. Producing more and better food, so far from improving the state of things, would actually increase the disequilibrium Lord Melchett has in mind, for the workers could not buy it, and the capitalists already buy all they need. Like a bumper crop, or a big increase in productivity in any industry, any such increase of food production would merely throw out of work thousands of the workers in the food trades, because the owners could not sell the increase at profitable prices.
What, then, is the remedy? It is so plain and reasonable that the slowness of the workers to accept it is a matter for recurring amazement. Abolish the capitalist ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Rid society of this institution which has now become a fetter for the mass of the population. Let society itself, through its own democratic control, utilise the land to produce food for the needs of the whole community, and the factories and railways, etc., likewise. Let us have our means of life turned into means of producing the requirements of humanity, not the profits of a class. Let us turn our two hostile communities into one real community, freed for ever of the rivalry of interests between those who own and those who do not own, a rivalry which restricts the production of useful and beautiful things, condemns vast masses to sordid poverty, excites class hatred and international war, and poisons human relationships in a war of the jungle instead of a co-operative endeavour to enrich life.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Passing of Comrade F. Maby (1937)

Obituary from the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret the loss of an old comrade, Fred Maby, who died on Monday, March 8th, in his eighty-first year.

He joined the Battersea Branch of the Party in 1907, and for thirty years was a consistent and efficient worker for Socialism. From the early days of his membership he acted as either secretary or treasurer for his branch, and continued until a few years ago, when work he had undertaken at Head Office compelled him to pass his part in branch organisation on to other members.

For the past eight years he has dealt with the postal subscribers to THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, and during that time had the satisfaction of seeing the number of subscribers nearly trebled.

When we moved into the present Head Office we were faced with the task of sorting and storing our stock of binding copies of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, which dates back to 1904. Our late comrade undertook this work, and completed it in a most satisfactory manner.

While attending to his business at Head Office on the Tuesday evening he had a stroke, and collapsed. From this he did not recover consciousness, and quietly passed away on the following Monday morning.
E. L.

An Open Letter to the Electors of East Ham North (1938)

From the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow Worker of East Ham, North,

You are interested in what are known as "bread and butter" questions. As a worker, you have to be. Doubtless you are interested in politics as well. You should be. Because politics and bread and butter questions are closely bound up with each other—in fact, they cannot be separated.

Low Wages—High Prices—Unemployment
to mention only a few, are still the burning questions of the day. We say “still,” because they were the burning questions half a century ago. Political parties then promised immediate remedies if returned to office. Half a century of failure will not prevent them from again announcing immediate remedies to cure these evils—next time.

Political parties have their pet schemes which they claim will solve your problems. The Liberals say "Free Trade," the Tories “Protection" and the Labour Party point to ”Nationalisation” as the way out. You have tried the first two, and are now being persuaded to try the third. But even if you do, we say it will leave you in exactly the same position of insecurity and poverty.

Why Is This?
It is because these “remedies” do not touch the root cause of your troubles. It is the cause that must be understood first. The remedy must follow. This you will agree, is sound commonsense. Let us apply it, then.

At present, your only means of getting a living is your job. But, strictly speaking, “your" job is not yours: it belongs to those who give you your wage-packet, the employing or capitalist class, and they can take it away when it suits them. They are in a position to do this because they not only have the means to pay wages, but they also own the places where the job is carried on, and all the necessary things for it, the machinery, raw materials, etc. The only thing in all this which does belong to the workers is the energies they sell in return for wages, and the amount in the packet is the market price of those energies—about enough, on an average, to keep the worker in working condition. But the wealth the workers produce is more than they take home. What is left behind belongs to the capitalist. This, after paying all other expenses, is his profit. This profit is the sole reason for turning out goods, and how much of this profit the state of the market will allow will decide how much wealth is to be produced, will decide whether you work overtime, short time, or no time at all, and whether, at different periods, your wage packet is a little bigger, a little smaller, or there is no wage packet.

This, then, is why the workers are poor— because the greater portion of what they produce is transferred to the pockets of those who own the means of living. It is the ownership alone that gives this privilege to a small minority of people. That is why for them there are country houses, yachts, costly food and expensive clothes, and for you—jerry-built houses, shoddy clothing and cheap food. What is more, you live all the time in uncertainty, insecurity and strain. This condition for the workers is a perpetual one, because the capitalist is always seeking means to increase his profit. He can only do this by increasing the output of the workers, and labour-saving machinery, cut rates, speed-up, are the results. Relatively fewer workers are required to produce existing requirements. The workers who are no longer required are forced to look for another job, and their competition for jobs is a constant threat to the wages and conditions of those in work. From time to time, as a result of this frenzied rush for profit, a crisis occurs, and there follows more unemployment, less wages, and greater insecurity than ever.

You can see that under the present scheme the capitalists and the workers obtain their living in totally different ways: one by property, the other by working; one by buying labour-power, the other by selling it, if he can. This opposition of interests between worker and capitalist is inseparable from capitalism, and for that reason all the efforts of other political parties to solve the evils arising from these conditions are rendered futile.

Have We a Remedy?
Our answer is that we have the only remedy to cure these bread and butter problems of yours, and ours. Perhaps you don’t believe it? You may well be doubtful. For over fifty years politicians have come, promised, and gone their ways, leaving only high prices, low wages, unemployment, and the shadow of war. May ours not be just another story of claiming to succeed where the other fellow has failed? you may ask. We hope you do. Because it is the purpose of this letter to show just how the Socialist Party of Great Britain differs from all other political parties. Our proposals do not consist of pet schemes, immediate remedies, or fancy slogans dealing only with effects and leaving causes untouched. What we say is this: You cannot plan prosperity under a system in which the privilege of the few rests upon the poverty and exploitation of the many. And because all other parties accept this system as the basis of their schemes they fail, and must fail.

The Plan of the Socialist Party of Great Britain has as its first step the removal of these conditions, and replacing them by conditions which will make it possible for the problems of the workers to be completely solved. The capitalist system (the private ownership of the means of living) must go, we say. Its place must be taken by a system of common ownership, based on production for use only. This remedy is the only one worth while for the workers. Nothing, we say, can be accomplished until this is done.

Let us test it. Take unemployment. Why can’t the whole of the unemployed be re-absorbed into industry? With the ample means at our disposal they could be set to work producing not only for themselves but for others. Thus everybody would benefit because more wealth would be produced. But, as we have seen, the taking away of jobs, as well as the giving of them, is essential for a profit-making system. That is why political parties who accept and work within the present order can only suggest doles, and pious hopes for better times. Only in a system of production for use will unemployment be banished, because the good of all being the common end, it will be to the advantage of all to have all taking part in producing goods and services. The fear of losing your job, the constant dread of millions, cannot arise under Socialism. Your job will at last be your job, because it will be a part of the community ownership in which you have equal voice. The drudgery and monotony of present-day work, carried out under orders, will be replaced by responsibility and interest, because you will then have a voice in what is produced and the conditions in which it will take place. The workers' standard of living under Socialism will not be based on the thing necessary for mere working efficiency, because there will be no surplus going to an idle and useless section. Workers will enjoy what the resources of society are capable of supplying.

The programmes of other political parties are unable to guarantee you this, because all other political parties are concerned with the interests of the profit-makers or owners. They have not altered, and cannot alter, the amazing contrast between riches and poverty. The only things they have to offer are tide-overs for your poverty in the shape of doles, pensions, free medical services, etc.

In contrast to the futile reforms of other political parties, Socialism is the Remedy for which the S.P.G.B. seeks the support and understanding of the working class, and offers itself as a means by which the workers, through the ballot box, can obtain political power for this purpose. Since 1904, when this Party was founded, Socialism has been our sole aim, and for that reason we are opposed to all other political parties.

Now you have read this letter we ask you to think over our proposals. Compare what other parties say about your conditions with what we say about them. Ask yourself: Does our examination of existing things square with your everyday experiences? Is our plan one that meets your real needs? If, after reflection, you are inclined to I agree, learn more about THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN.
E. Wilmott.