Monday, June 12, 2017

Obituary: Maggie Hallard (1978)

Obituary from the November 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Members will be sorry to learn of the death of Maggie Hallard, a Party member for over 56 years. She was born in 1893 in Stratford, East London, a district in which she lived for the whole of her life. After Maggie left school she worked in the clothing trade as a machinist. and she soon came into contact with working class agitation and the class struggle. In her teens she went to the Socialist Sunday School — where one learnt not about religion, but the class basis of society. When she met and married Percy Hallard her long association with the Party began. Percy joined in 1918, and he did many valuable years of work for the Party, including the secretaryship of the vigorous West Ham branch for 37 years. Maggie and Percy had no children and the Party became the focal point of their lives, and for Maggie the members became her family. She loved to reminisce, and was a mine of information on old members and Party history. Until a few months before her death she never missed a branch meeting, and attended every other Party propaganda meeting that she could reach. Even when she was 83 she would turn up to Branch outdoor meetings on the draughty street corner opposite Ilford Station, bringing a cold drink for the speaker. It is hard to recall a Conference or Delegate meeting without Maggie, and we will miss seeing her indomitable old face amongst us
Alice Kerr

Singing the Praises of the Beautiful Banks (2017)

From the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Co-operative bank has had various scandals in recent years, financial and otherwise. The Co-op 'brand' has decided it needs to clean up its image. The result is a current television advertising campaign which is as preposterous as it is insulting to our intelligence. The television ads are voiced by Russell Brand’s former radio show on-air commentator, George The Poet, who utters ponderous platitudes as if these capitalist high-street banks and supermarkets were some kind of socialist utopia. In fact, of course, today’s Co-op bears hardly even a trace of the idealism of the Rochdale Pioneers of 1844. Like the John Lewis Partnership, it has long succumbed to the pressure to act just like any other profit-hungry, hierarchical corporation within a capitalist world.
In 2016 a total of £16 million was allocated nationally by the Co-op to community projects and 'good causes', out of a group turnover of £7.1 billion. Just three of their bank directors (Niall Booker, Liam Coleman and John Baines) that year shared an income of £4 million, a quarter of the entire national community causes budget. So when George The Poet intones 'let’s work together and strive for unity' as 'great things happen when we work together', it is an utter sham. Likewise, when he asks, 'What if communities got a share of the profits? What if everyone could win from this?' he neglects to mention that last year the share handed to 'the community' (in lieu of tax) was only 2p out of every £10.
The recruitment of artistic talent to sell such messages has become the holy grail of companies, and it was a great coup that they had this film directed by one of our greatest living film makers, Shane Meadows (This Is EnglandDead Man’s ShoesSomersTownA Room for Romeo Brass), well known for his working-class realism and affinity. Rather than carp from the sidelines, however, we can rely on the self-description from the horse’s mouth, as it were. The director of the Co-op brand, Helen Carroll, has praised the style of this new campaign, as it 'doesn’t feel like advertising at all. It shows the power of community'.
In using that power to sell products and make millions for people like Niall Booker and Liam Coleman, the Co-op has shamelessly copied a series of adverts run shortly before by a rival bank, also with false pretensions to being less bank-like than other banks, the Nationwide. Those ads featured a whole range of 'cool' and popular young performance poets, telling us through their rhyming sermons that Nationwide is another bank devoted to sharing, caring, community, responsibility and fairness. But try going to either of these banks if you have just been made redundant and can no longer pay your mortgage or rent. Ask them to show a bit of community spirit by covering it for you for a couple of years. Let us know their response.
All of those poets were either incredibly stupid and gullible, or ambitious and easily bought. The Nationwide, like the Co-op Bank, is a capitalist institution, committed to invest in order to accumulate surpluses. It stands right at the heart of the most exploitative system ever to curse the human species. Is this what music and lyrics are for, to praise banks? If only these artists had possessed one tenth of the decency and principle of Ricky Gervais, who once turned down a million pounds rather than advertise something he found tacky and undesirable – and that was at a time when he was not yet wealthy himself. What those cheap, venal sell-outs bought into was the modern trend in which capitalist corporations do not advertise the products they are selling, but rather their proclaimed decency and high moral values. Of course, they protest too much. The people and organisations who really devote themselves to caring about people and working for the community do not need to spend millions of advertising dollars insisting how nice they really are.
Clifford Slapper