Monday, May 22, 2017

Drum (1957)

From the September 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received a recent edition of the magazine Drum, published in Accra, in the new state of Ghana, edited by Mr. Drum and claiming the “Biggest Sale in Africa.”

What is it like, this paper of the rising continent? Is there anything fresh about it? Hardly. Here are all the well-known features of the less-respected and therefore well-established British journals. Consider the advertisements. A Negro woman applies, with a fetching smile, the same brand of skin cream as a million budding English roses. Successful men (Negroes, sitting at many-telephoned desks) underline their success with the right shoe polish. And here is the father and wife and picaninnies, beaming vigorously and full of a popular laxative. Detergents and blood tonics jostle on the page with disinfectants and pep-pills.

There is an interesting article alleging the existence of slavery on the Spanish-held island of Fernando Po, in the Gulf of Guinea. This article reproduces a poster issued by the Anglo-Spanish Employment Agency, which promises a life of sophisticated leisure on Fernando Po. the poster sketches a Negro in traditional pukka-sahib garb, complete with topee and carrying an umbrella! A few pages are taken up with a chillingly meticulous description of the procedure followed in executions in James Fort Prison, Accra, including pictures of a doctor and a priest leaving just after a hanging. There are comic strips (one of them about a Negro boxer taking on a Chinaman in, of all places, Switzerland), some tit-bits, jokes, and a mystery story. 

A heartbreak column is run by Dolly. A young man complains that his girl-friend drinks heavily, swears at him, has secret love affairs. Dolly's advice, If the girl is given to having secret affairs, forget her, . . .  as such a situation is not a desirable one” To a teacher who has fallen for one of his pupils she says: “To have an affair with one of your pupils would be abusing your position. Maybe when she has completed, yes. ” And there is the usual heavily guarded reply to the anonymous, desperate one whose problem cannot be discussed in the column, but who had better tell her mother.

Many African nationalists think that the developing independent states of Africa will throw up some vague and far-described moral and cultural superiority over their European counterparts. Drum gives the lie to that. Apart from the black faces and crinkly hair of its illustrations, it would not be out of place in the hands of any typist on the rush-hour tube to the West End. Capitalism always must fill the workers’ leisure with the inferior and shoddy, for to encourage them to think is dangerous. Hence the growth of die trash-press in this and other countries.

Now capitalism, lured by the markets and minerals, is developing in Africa. The markets it will exploit and the minerals develop. It will bring industrial organisation and the harsh, acquisitive sophistication that we in England know so well. That is in the future. For the present, if a reading of Drum is any guide, it has already brought, among other things, constipation and rheumatism, indigestion and neurasthenia.

Odds and Ends: The Workers’ Paradise in Russia (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the May 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Workers’ Paradise in Russia

When a Communist or Communist-dominated delegation visits the Soviet Union they generally publish a report containing much praise and wonderment at the marvels of the Moscow Underground, the Kremlin Palace, the Church of St. Basil, and the new Moscow University building; but they say very little about the life—and living conditions—of the ordinary workers and peasants of Russia. When a non-Communist delegation visits the Soviet Union the position is often reversed.

Last year an official Mineworkers’ delegation went to Russia. They have just published their report, summarised in the Manchester Guardian (15/3/57). They visited Moscow and a number of other towns, where they found that “an average of sixteen people are housed in a living space equal to a British council house.”

They report that hours of work exceed those worked in the mining industry in Britain; and “women in the Soviet Union are in many cases required to do work that is the hardest of manual work—to work in the pits, to do the heaviest types of jobs, including the handling of heavy materials and the mixing of concrete on the surface.”

And this the Communists call “Socialism.” Some Socialism!

Smash ’em up!

Socialists have always claimed that things are not produced to satisfy people’s needs, or to last long—if it can be helped. Most things today are cheap and shoddy. But if it was not for the fact that things are produced primarily for profit, some things if desired, could last virtually for ever. For example. The New Scientist (14/3/57) brings us an interesting story about glass—and tableware.

A leading glass manufacturer is producing some tableware which is very strong: plates can be crashed together like cymbals, and nails knocked into wood with the bottom of a glass with little or no damage done. But, continues the New Scientist, even stronger glasses and plates could be produced. But this would be uneconomical for the producers.

During the last war drinking glasses used by the American marines had a life of only seven trips to and from the kitchen. A specially strengthened glass was then produced which lasted nearly one hundred trips. But, alas, the manufacturers found this unprofitable. Eventually, a glass was made toughened only round the rim which lasted an average of twenty-three trips. Such are the workings of our present society. A sane society would produce glassware—and everything else—solely for people's use. because they wanted it; and only the best would be made.

The Perversion of Science

It has often been claimed that scientific discovery and development is misused and perverted in our modern capitalist society. The following passage from The New Scientist (14/3/57) bears this out.
  "In Europe, the search for better navigational methods arose from the desire for trading and from the warfare that ensued. Harrison's famous chronometer, which he perfected in the eighteenth century, was made in order to win an Admiralty prize of £20,000 for a method of determining longitude at sea. Even today progress in navigation is usually to meet military needs, and now it is the development of guided missiles which is throwing up the commercial navigation of the future."

Calypsos Next?

According to the people who are supposed to know—in Archer Street and Fleet Street—Rock 'n' Roll is on the way out, and the Calypso is in. But, so far, those who have cashed in on “Rock”—Tommy Steele, Winnie Atwell and others—are still “coining the loot,” and very few Calypsos have been heard yet on the radio. This writer does not think that the Calypso will be such a money-maker as Rock Y Roll with its simpler beat and lyric, its noise and gimmicks. Anyway, if the Calypso is going to take the place of Rock 'n' Roll it will have to be “cleaned up” a bit, since many of its lyrics are hardly suitable for the B.B.C., or the record companies. For example, “Chinese Children Calling Me Daddy”:—
“Since I am small I am living with women
And all I can get from them is false children.
Some with blue eyes and some like Chinese,
Any kind of child my girl make she stick me.
But I'm waiting on her patiently.
Its about ten months now she aim't kissed me.
And you know the bold-faced woman is telling me.
Any kind of child that born in my house. I'm the daddy.
I'm so ashamed I don't tell nobody
Chinese children calling me daddy.
You know my mother does want to beat me when
Chinese children calling me daddy.
For I black as jet and she just like Tar Baby, still
Chinese children calling me daddy.
Left, right, in front and behind,
Chinese children calling me daddy. ”
For the time being it looks as though we shall be stuck with Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog or Bill Haley's Don't Knock the Rock. There's more money in it; and it won't upset anyone's moral susceptibilities!

The Church and Socialism

In Britain only about 10 per cent. of the population regularly go to Church, although many more say they believe in some sort of a god or Creator, whereas in the United States about 60 per cent. are Churchgoers. The American workers, it seems, are more superstitious than their British counterparts. But even in Britain, one Church—the Catholic Church—claims 3,000,000 members (including the backsliders?). All the various Christian churches and sects oppose Socialism, but the Catholic Church is possibly the most vociferous in its opposition (and misrepresentation) of Socialism.

In a pamphlet called Socialisation, and “published with the authority of the Archbishop and Bishops of the Catholic Church of Australia,” we are told that “Socialism, in its strict sense, is a theory which advocates that the State should take over and operate the entire machinery of production, distribution and exchange.” That this statement is a complete lie from beginning to end does not worry our Catholic Bishops and Archbishops. For the information of any Catholic who may read this column, Socialism means the common possession of the means of life; an absence of a state apparatus, and no machinery, or means of exchange.

Man will no longer pray for his daily bread; he will just make it and consume what he requires!

It is not only the Catholic Church which propagates the figment that State ownership of the means of production is Socialism. Political parties, such as the Labour and Communist Parties, also make the same claim. The Communist Party, which, when it suits, boasts of its support of the theories of Marx and Engels, is perhaps the most shamefaced. For did not Engels explode this hoary old idea for all to read. In his book, Socialism : Utopian and Scientific (which all workers should read), he writes:—
   "But the transformation . . .  into State ownership does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. . . . The modem State, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers—proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution” (pp. 71-72)
With the establishment of Socialism the State dies out. “State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and by the conduct of processes of production” (pp. 76-77).
Peter E. Newell

Editorial: Another 1926? (1962)

Editorial from the March 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The background of industrial unrest and resentment at the Government's wages policy, highlighted by the stoppage of work by three million engineering and shipyard workers for one day on February 5th, led many newspapers to surmise that perhaps we may see a repetition of the ”general strike” of 1926, when upwards of two million workers came out in support of the miners who were on strike against a reduction of pay. The Government, under cover of a Declaration of Emergency, used troops and the courts and its control of propaganda to defeat the general strike in nine days, and the miners, though they endured semi-starvation for nine months, eventually had to go back on the employers’ terms. The propertied class had won, though it cost them £100 million.

Could it happen again? The Government possibly thought that it might and according to the Sunday Express (28/1/62) a plan to meet that eventuality was prepared last July at the time the Chancellor announced the "pay pause.” If the Government had wanted to provoke a repetition of 1926 it could probably have got it by enforcing an immediate freezing of all wages for an indefinite time some of its self-appointed advisers in the Press said that it ought to do this in the name of “logic” and “fairness.” But perhaps the outward appearance of muddle, uncertainty, vacillation and illogicality were not just stupidity but a flexible Government policy of dragging out the dispute, dividing the workers and preventing what they failed to prevent in 1926.

They bought off the teachers, then the electricity supply workers, and got the miners and railwaymen negotiating over small offers made to them—it is, of course, absurd to suppose that the Government, if it had really wanted to, could not have barred all concessions in the three nationalised industries. In January they announced the restoration of powers to the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal. except the right to back-date awards past April 1, 1962, thus inducing the civil servants to call off their “work-to-rule”; brought the main Post Office work-to-rule to an end and left the Post Office engineers working-to-rule on their own.

Then came the White Paper, The Next Step, with its prospect of small wage increases in stage two of the wages policy. Six months respite had been gained, six months nearer to the time, they hope, when some improvement in exports will ease the position. This left the Government and the employers still facing the main threat, a possible prolonged strike in the engineering industry. But in the meantime they had induced the TUC to join the National Economic Development Council, thus further lessening the possibility of any united trade union support for an engineering strike. True, the TUC had declared that it would not endorse the Governments' pay pause, but the Sunday Pictorial (4/2/62) discloses that the TUC rejects the pause because it is considering the alternative of replacing wage increases at the present time by increased old age pensions or sick benefit, or by allocating savings bonds redeemable within three to five years. By contrast, the TUC had in 1926 been pushed by the rank-and-file into leading the general strike.

While we are on the subject of comparisons with 1926 some other aspects ought not to pass unnoticed. The railwaymen. miners and electrical workers were then demanding a “solution” of their problems by nationalisation: now they have it and are not so sure, but the engineering workers and builders still cherish the same delusion.

They were all longing for blessed relief in the next Labour Government which turned out to be the great debacle of 1929-1931. And then, as now, the economic journals carried the outpourings of the “new men” who had, they said, at long last discovered how to manage Capitalism, rid it of crises and make it function smoothly.

The more Capitalism changes, the more it is the same thing!

A Push For Socialism (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

A friend has written asking our advice as to what he and his friends are to do on May 30th. Are they to vote for the “do-nothing Labour Party,” or to write the word “Socialism” across their ticket once more. Our friend confesses himself tired of waiting for the Socialist Party to put up candidates, and expresses his wonder that the teachings of Karl Marx and Engels are not more stimulating on such occasions. It is unfortunate, but this issue was not published in time to help our friend to make up his mind, but if he is a regular reader of our paper, he will have perused our April number, where this point was purposely dealt with in ample time for the General Election. It may comfort our friend to know that we are more tired than he, awaiting the opportunity to vote for the first Socialist candidate. That opportunity would have occurred last week but for one thing: the workers were not ready. We had the candidate and the constituency. All we wanted was the deposit money. The Representation of the People Act provides that a candidate must deposit the sum of £150 on nomination, and be prepared to forfeit that sum if he fails to poll an eighth of the total vote cast. Among the differences that distinguish the Socialist Party from the Labour Party is the marked paucity of millionaires, majors, peers, professors and divines in our ranks. We therefore have to rely solely and entirely upon the voluntary coppers of the poor. We have not, nor would we desire, a loose arrangement with the Trade Unions by which they provide the funds and we the candidates. Nor do we receive subsidies from the Russian Government. So that until a sufficient number of the working-class want the Socialist solution of the poverty problem, and further are prepared to stint themselves to provide the immediate sinews of war, we can only do what is within our powers.

Our Correspondent is disappointed. So are we. But in our disappointment there is no despair. On the contrary, we were never more hopeful. To anyone who can read the portents, the future is full of promise. Although these lines are written before the General Election, it is obvious that we are in for a politically livelier time for the next generation. It is extremely doubtful if any Parliament in the immediate future will last the time or have the heavy majority of the last one. Political instability, coupled with economic worsening should, as rationalization proceeds apace, give us the audience we wish for. Five years of political torpor dulled concern in things parliamentary, but with interest keyed up by change and economic insecurity, we believe the working-class will respond to the message of the Socialist. Our overwhelming concern of the moment is to get that message across, and to keep hammering it home. Thousands of pamphlets, thousands of leaflets, monthly, weekly and daily journals, those are what we want. Then will follow thousands of members, hundreds of thousands of members, and then — Socialism.

Perhaps our correspondent will feel more hopeful if he learns that after years of patient and crippling effort, we have succeeded in getting offices a little more worthy of the Party. With a building of four stories and a basement, we shall be better equipped to make our name and message known throughout the world. When one thinks of the work that has been accomplished in the old cramped premises, and contrasts what should be confidently anticipated from the new, one feels youthful again and filled with golden hope. When we are settled down, we hope our friends and those interested will come and see us. But more of that another time.

And what about our motor propaganda van? Ah! you have not heard of that. There is every possibility that you will see it in your district before very long. Does not that open up visions of wide and rapid propaganda; of our message being earned wherever a road exists; of provincial towns; of relays of speakers and batteries of literature? The possibilities are immense. Why, instead of feeling disappointed, we know that we are just about to commence in earnest. We see that things are moving and that we are about to take a great leap forward. There is one great and pressing immediate need: MONEY. If we were presented with a whole fleet of motor-vans to-morrow, not one would turn a wheel without petrol. And petrol is not bought with promises. As our dear friend the Prince said recently, "Sympathy is not enough.” It won't buy an eyeful of petrol. So if there is any friend, sympathiser, or well-wisher, who would like to see not one, but a hundred Socialist candidates at the next General Election, let them implement their good wishes with something more solid in a Capitalist world—money.

It can be done in hundreds of small ways. Remember the Thames has been flowing night and day for thousands of years, and it is made up entirely of raindrops no larger than a pea. Buy an extra "Socialist Standard” every pay-day and give it away to a pal. Buy our pamphlet, "Socialism,” 48 packed pages, for twopence; better value than Benns’ sixpenny booklet, three times the price and only double the number of pages. Keep on buying the pamphlet and sending to your friends. They will never become Socialists if they never hear about it. Above all, no matter how small the effort you can make, be regular. A regular income to the Party means regular progress, and regular progress means Socialism — in our lifetime. Look out for the Socialist Van, but if it does not show up soon enough for you, reflect that we have petrol and oil to buy, and tax and insurance to meet. And then, be practical.
W. T. Hopley