Saturday, June 3, 2017

Manifesto (1983)

From the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

You are again faced with a bunch of politicians who can only be distinguished from one another by the colour of their rosettes, but there are thousands of people not prepared to support any of them. About one in four did not vote for any of the candidates in the 1979 General Flection. It is particularly to men and women who are not prepared to follow leaders or to believe the bogus promises of Thatcher, Foot, Jenkins and Steel that this manifesto is directed.

Most of you will not know much about the Socialist Party of Great Britain — this may even be the first time you have heard of us. Certainly, many people have heard the word “socialist" and imagine that it has something to do with the nationalised industries or dictatorships such as Russia and China. It is understandable that many people regard “socialism" as just another political cliché, used to win votes for Labour politicians, but having very little meaning.

The Socialist Party stands solely for socialism because we do not think that the present social system — capitalism — can ever be made to work in the interests of the majority of people. This is not the fault of government policies, but of the present social system in which they are operating. Capitalism always puts the needs of the minority who own and control the factories, farms, offices, mines, media, the means of wealth production and distribution, before those of the vast majority — we, the working class — who produce the wealth, but own little more than our ability to work, which we have to sell for wages or salaries.

It is a hard but undeniable fact that no political party — including the Socialist Party — can legislate to humanise capitalism or make it run in the interests of the wage slaves. That's why it’s time for you to stop giving your votes to politicians who stand for the profit system. None of them can solve unemployment, which has increased steadily under both Labour and Conservative governments, despite their proclaimed recipes for economic success. None of them will provide decent housing for everyone. None of them will end hypothermia. None of them will prevent thirty million people from starving to death each year. None of them will end the threat of human annihilation as a result of war, because militarism is inevitable within a system based upon the market, trade and ferocious competition. Why waste your vote on parties that cannot make any of these urgently needed changes? Why go on in the hope that a miracle will happen and the insanity of the profit system will be put right?

So what's the socialist alternative? We say that the resources of society must be taken into the hands of the whole community — and by that we don't mean the state, but all of us, organised together, consciously and democratically.

In a socialist society we will produce for use, not profit. This means producing food to feed the world's population, not to dump in the sea if it cannot he sold profitably. Producing for use means ending the colossal waste of resources on armies, armaments, trade, banking and insurance, and all the other social features which are only necessary within capitalism; it means devoting human energies and natural resources to producing the best of what people really need and want. By running society on the basis of common ownership, democratic control and production for use we can all have free access to all goods and services.

Two points will be clear to you by now. Firstly, this is no ordinary manifesto. We have made no promises; we have not asked for your support. Indeed, the Socialist Party does not want your support unless you are convinced that the case for socialism is a sensible one and is in your interest. Socialism can only be established when a majority of workers understand and want it, so there is no point in seeking support on any other basis. Secondly, you will have noticed that what we are advocating is different — it has never been tried. That gang of political has-beens, the SDP, have nothing new to offer. The Labour Party, if elected, will continue its futile exercise of trying to reform capitalism. The Tories, if given a chance, will pursue their vicious policy of dancing to the tune of profitability while human needs are ignored. Thatcher’s “Victorian values”, Jenkins’ “consensus politics" and Foot’s “Keynesian” reformism have all been tried — they’ve failed. This is the only manifesto to come through your letterbox which is making a proposal to transform world society from the chaos and waste of the market into the co-operative democracy of production for use.

This manifesto can be summarised. Do you agree with the following statements?
★    CAPITALISM puts profits for the few before the needs of the many.
LABOUR governments, “communist states”, and proposals to reform the profit system cannot establish socialism.
SOCIALISM means a society of common ownership and democratic control where production is solely for use — not profit.
WHEN a majority of workers — including the quarter of the electorate who did not vote last time, the disillusioned members of the old parties and those who have turned to the SDP — understand and want socialism, the new system can be established immediately.

If you think that the above statements are wrong, please take the trouble to tell us why. If you agree with us, then why not take the next step and contact the Socialist Party?


The Power of the Vote (1983)

Editorial from the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

Have the millions of workers who were fooled in 1979 by the bogus promises of the Tories learnt not to trust their social destinies to these guardians at the gate of capitalist privilege? Certainly, many blame Thatcher and her party rather than capitalism itself for the sick condition of society today. Capitalism is the cause of poverty, mass unemployment and the weapons of mass destruction. As open defenders of the capitalist system, the Tories undoubtedly belong in the political museum of bankrupt ideologies.

Then there is the Society for Devious Politicians (the SDP) who, together with their Liberal allies, aim to woo those who have lost faith in the two main capitalist parties. They stand before the working class with a bag of vague, stale and unworkable policies which we are supposed to believe will make capitalism decent and pleasant. Recent local election results have indicated that few workers arc prepared to waste their votes on the non-alternative, presented by the new party of old opportunists. The unity of the Alliance is cemented by their joint commitment to the continuation of the anti-social, destructive, insecure profit system. A vote for the Alliance is a vote for more of the disgusting same.

So, is Labour the only alternative? Desperate Labour canvassers plead for working class votes on the basis that anything would be better than Thatcher. Socialists do not want something better than Thatcher (what a limited ambition!) but something better than capitalism.

The trade union leaders who have united with Labour governments in the past to impose anti-working class incomes policies and productivity deals are preparing once again to drag the organised workers into an alliance with a Labour administration of capitalism. Workers must make clear to the Labour mis-leaders that never again will a Labour government receive the support of those over whose exploitation it presides. Socialists have clear memories of the winter of 1978/79 when Labour ministers used all the power they could muster to attack the striking public service workers. We remember Grunwick, where workers were struggling for trade union recognition, and the Labour government sent in the Special Patrol Group (which it established) to smash up the picket line.

The Left, who spend most of their time between elections devising plans to “smash the state” (1789-style) and writing articles pointing out that the Labour Party cannot be distinguished by its actions from the Tories, changes from a playful monster into a slave of political opportunism when the election bell rings and the faithful are called to work like horses (or sheep) for the return of a Labour government. For all of their rhetoric about agreeing with the socialist objective “in the long-term”, the Leftist sects will fight like mad for the return of Labour-controlled capitalism

Even those who concede that a Labour government will be no more able to control the anarchy of capitalism than their Tory and Alliance mirror reflections might still cling to the false hope that Labour in office will at least end or reduce Britain's nuclear stockpiles. Such voters will be disappointed as they have been before. A Labour government started the work on the British atomic bomb; the Foot-led Labour opposition demanded that British troops participate in the Falklands slaughter last year. A Labour government would stay within the nuclear-based NATO alliance; it would be forced to defend British capitalist interests in the most effective way possible. The only hope of ending the dangers of international trade rivalry and military conflict is to get rid of capitalism.

Any worker who votes Labour, after all the experience of the last half century, is an enemy to himself and his class. The workers must put the reformists of the Labour Party where they belong: on the political scrap-heap. Labour, Alliance and Tory all stand for the profit system and therefore they and their rotten system must be destroyed by democratic action.

What, then, is the alternative? In 1979 approximately 25 per cent of those entitled to vote did not do so. An election is a valuable political instrument for the working class; to abstain is to abandon the power of the vote. Many of those who do not vote believe that there is no alternative to the present system; it is the urgent task of socialists to show them the democratic revolutionary alternative.

If you are a convinced socialist you should vote for your principles whether there is a socialist candidate in your constituency or not. Where there is no socialist candidate, write SOCIALISM across your ballot paper. But do not leave it at that. Persuade your friends, relatives and workmates to consider the socialist case. Give your support to the socialist campaign in Islington where there is a genuine socialist candidate. Use this election as an opportunity to join the Socialist Party (we know that there are many workers who have been meaning to join us for a long time) or to persuade your fellow workers to do so. No effort can be too great in relation to the urgent political task which faces us.

In this election the choice, as always, is simple: capitalism or socialism; chaos or sanity. We know which side we are on. Do you?

Strike-Smashing in New Zealand (1953)

From the September 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

From New Zealand comes a book that will boil the blood of every class-conscious worker. Even workers who have not yet recognised their class status will feel their gorge rise when they read in this book of the trickery, the double dealing, the brutality and the callous bludgeoning of their fellows.

151 Days” by Dick Scott is the official history of the great waterfront lockout and the supporting strikes in New Zealand from February 15th to July 15th, 1951. The book is published by the now deregistered New Zealand Waterside Workers' Union and has been made possible by the advance orders of hundreds of trade unionists.

If there is any man in doubt about the role of a capitalist government in a major industrial dispute—let him read this book. If there is any man who doubts which way a Labour Party will line up in a major industrial dispute—this is the book for him. If there is any man who thinks that the days of brutal treatment of workers are past—he also must read this history. If there is any man who needs evidence of the class struggle—here it is, right up-to-date. If any man can read this book without his emotions being stirred—then he is lacking in elementary human feeling.

As in Britain, living costs in New Zealand have risen sharply during the past few years and workers’ wages have lagged a long way behind. Also, as in Britain, many New Zealand workers had to work long hours in order to get overtime pay and a pay packet that would give them and their families a decent living. The waterside workers applied for a pay increase and received an award from an arbitration court. But the ship owners tricked them and refused to pay the full amount of the award, so the watersiders said they would work no more overtime till they got their due pay increase. The ship owners were after a show-down. The waterside workers' Union was too truculent; it must be brought to heel and its members rendered docile. When the waterside workers showed up for work on Wednesday, February 15th, the Port Employers confronted them with an alternative to either work overtime or get the sack. They said “no overtime"—and were locked out

Within a few days the Government stepped in with a set of emergency regulations that made the British Trades Disputes Act and the American Taft-Hartley laws look like Sunday School picnics. The government declared a state of emergency because it claimed that the watersiders, by refusing to unload ships, were depriving a large proportion of the people of New Zealand of the necessities of life, despite the fact that the men were at the dock gates everyday offering to work a forty hour week.

When the harsh regulations were imposed, miners, seamen and others came out on strike. From then on the government, employers, top-layer trade union officials, press, police, pulpit and every job-mongering, back-crawling lickspittle turned his attention and spite towards breaking the solidarity of the workers effort and getting them back to work on the employers terms.

We haven’t space to detail all the events and legal crimes of those six months. The book sets them out with documentary evidence and ample illustrations. We will give just one sample.

Amongst those who suffered most were the miners in the small inland mining towns. On a bleak plateau, seventy miles by a rough bush road from the nearest coastal town, was the tiny mining community of Ohura.
   “500 people . . .  a hard working peaceful community where tar-sealing the main street and building a new social hall were more urgent matters than 'Wrecking,' 'intimidation' or 'violence' and where the policeman's house stood empty and no one felt insecure." Page 83.
When the 100 or so miners in this town heard the truth of the situation after receiving misleading telegrams from their Union national headquarters, they downed tools. Then the police moved in.

At their first meeting the police entered, took the names of all present and ordered them to their homes. Local Union officers were placed under house arrest. Police broke their way into private houses where miners were meeting together and ordered them to their respective homes. One man was arrested and charged for talking to some miners who were working. Members of a miners’ committee travelled a dangerous 55 miles across the bush to meet in another town, only to have the police again close their meeting. The police blocked the roads to prevent miners or other strikers from entering Ohura and chased suspects in squad cars. Groups of men on the streets were broken up and ordered to their homes.

Despite this isolation and police rule the Ohura miners held out. They could collect no relief, their womenfolk could not go out to work, their savings vanished, their possessions were sold, debts mounted, the hardships of winter were great, but after over four months they remained solid. When the strike was over and the Ohura miners received a grant of £59 10s. from the Australian miners' £6,700 New Zealand relief fund, they voted unanimously to give it to the Auckland watersiders.

You should read this history of the workers of New Zealand where.
     “Government was reduced to a thing of helmets and uniforms, cells and batons, where the highest civic duty could be measured in terms of a willingness to arrest one's parents for a crime against private property." Page 129.
We in Britain who, apart from letters from our Socialist comrades in Wellington, have only had the press accounts of the happenings of those 151 days, thank and congratulate Mr. Scott and all others concerned, for this detailed and stirring history.
W. Waters