Sunday, June 25, 2017

Welsh Nationalism (1968)

From the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Plaid Cymru—the Party of Wales—was set up in 1925 but only in the last decade or so has it become a real political force. Its basic aim is that Wales should be an independent state within the British Commonwealth. It also has a programme of vote-catching reforms ranging from "workers control” to pensions tied to the cost-of-living index. The general character of Plaid Cymru is well epitomised by the man who has been its President for over twenty years, Gwynfor Evans, recently elected MP for Carmarthen. Evans, Welsh-speaking, is a Congregationalist and a pacifist.

Wales is overwhelming anti-Tory. The great majority of Welsh people in elections vote for one or other of the radical parties—Labour, Liberal or Plaid Cymru. The reasons for this are to be found in Welsh history. Wales was joined with England in 1536. As a result of the deliberate policy of the Tudors the Welsh privileged class became English-speaking landlords with Welsh-speaking tenants. In the 18th and 19th centuries Wales, then more or less pagan, went through a religious revival. The significance of such revivals at the dawn of industrial capitalism is now well known. Protestant sects, especially Methodism served to break new workers into the ways of capitalism by encouraging hard, sustained work. Thus a further difference developed between the landlords and their tenants. Not only, did they speak different languages but they were now of different religions. The landlords were Anglicans, their tenants non-conformists. Most of the capitalists in the South—steelmasters and colliery-owners— were also non-conformists. In fact they, backed by their workers, played a prominent part in the campaign for the first Reform bill in 1832. The landowning families were of course Tories while the capitalists, tenant farmers and workers tended to support the radical wing of what was to become the Liberal Party.

In 1847 a Commission inquiring into education in Wales reported. Its report attacked Welsh as a barbaric language and implied that the sooner it disappeared the better. This incident known as the Treason of the Blue Books triggered off a wave of protest and greatly contributed to a growth in nationalist feeling amongst the Welsh-speaking middle class. Some talked of independence, most of Home Rule. In the election that followed the passing of the second Reform Act in 1867 the Liberals emerged as the dominant party in Wales. They particularly demanded disestablishment of the Church, as in Wales the majority non-conformists had to pay tithes to the minority Anglicans. The Liberal Party as a whole was too scared to call for disestablishment in England but eventually backed this for Wales. Parnell’s Irish Party, composed of Irish MP’s at Westminster, was admired by many Welsh radicals and there was talk of a Welsh Party too. Cymru Fydd (Young Wales) with which Lloyd George was associated, favoured Home Rule for Wales and the revival of the Welsh language and also supported tenant farmers against their landlords in riots, boycotts, rent and the tithe strikes. But by this time the capitalists who dominated the South Wales Liberal Federation were becoming conservative and it was they who finally came to dominate the Welsh Liberals.

In the 1906 election not a single Tory was returned for Wales. All were either Liberals or Lib-Labs from the mining areas. After trouble at the turn of the century when local councils refused to subsidise Church schools from the rates the Liberals agreed to disestablishment but this was delayed by the war and was not carried out till 1918. This ended the religious issue but the stigma of supporting a “foreign” church stuck to the Tories so that in Wales it was the Liberals who became the conservative opponents of the rising Labour Party (though between the wars the Welsh Liberal Party was not much more than the personal political machine of Lloyd George). Labour, by winning the industrial areas of the South, became the dominant party in Wales soon after the first world war. Since the last war they have won over the rest of Wales so that now the Liberals have only one seat there.

Carmarthen, which Labour won from the Liberals in 1957, fell to Plaid Cymru in 1966. In March last year in Rhonnda West, a traditionally Red mining area, Plaid Cymru came second with 10,000 votes, getting two out of every five votes cast. Are these just freak by-election results? Or is this the beginning of a process in which Plaid Cymru will replace Labour as the radical party in Wales just as Labour once replaced the Liberals? It is difficult to say at the moment. At the last General Election there was no real swing to the Nationalists. Since then, however, Labour administration. of capitalism has disillusioned many workers and the election of a nationalist MP is a breakthrough that may convince many more that Plaid Cymru could succeed. The Plaid has pursued the policy of building up its strength from the grass-roots, through local elections. Local politics in much of Wales is non-party so Plaid Cymru candidates stand and sit, like Gwynfor Evans on Carmarthen County Council, as independents. Although they have had no success in Cardiff and Swansea (where the Tories are well-organised) it is significant that in the mining valleys (where Tories and Liberals are unknown) it is Plaid Cymru that has emerged as the main opposition to Labour. Workers in these areas have begun to tire of years of unchallenged Labour rule which has turned the local Labour parties into mere machines for selecting councillors. Plaid Cymru already has its own councillors in the Rhondda and Merthyr.

If Plaid Cymru were to become the major party in Wales this would cause a problem for the capitalist class of Britain. They would be faced with the choice of breaking-up the United Kingdom (economic madness as far as they are concerned) or of accepting the consequences of refusing the demand for an independent Wales. But that is their problem. Socialists are concerned about workers in Wales. How would a “free” Wales affect them? Would it be in their interests? As elsewhere it is those who have to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary who make up the great majority of people in Wales. It is for their votes that the various parties compete. Plaid Cymru has to convince workers that their problems arise from the political link of Wales with England and that a break would help solve them. They particularly play up the fact that Wales is radical while England is Tory. That political association with England is the cause of working class problems in Wales is completely false. Working class problems in all lands—and they are basically the same everywhere—arise from the fact that the means of life belong to a privileged few. Their roots are in the social rather than the political set-up. A new state would no more solve them than a change of government or Prime Minister. A social revolution, necessarily world-wide (as capitalism itself is), is what is needed. This is why the Socialist Party of Great Britain opposes Plaid Cymru.

Nevertheless, in the context of reform politics Plaid Cymru is having some success, and why not? Look at the trivial explanations offered for working class problems by the rival parties. The Tories say it is because Labour is doctrinaire and incompetent. Labour says it's Tory callousness and misrule. The Liberals say the two big parties ignore the needs of ordinary people. So why cannot Plaid Cymru get on by blaming “English government” and the “English parties”? Whether workers in Wales vote for the Plaid because they really believe in independence for Wales or because they fed that this is the best way to air their grievances is debatable. Probably the latter, for while it is true that the decline of the Welsh language seems to have been halted there is still no sign of what nationalists would call a national consciousness. What may well happen is that as Plaid Cymru grows the other parties, and especially Labour, will make concessions: equal status for the Welsh language leading perhaps to Home Rule on the lines of Northern Ireland. This would be of no use to the working class and would give Plaid Cymru an alibi for failure. It would allow them to argue that the radical, reforming Regional government of Wales failed (as it must) not because capitalism can not be run in the interests of workers, as Socialists say, but because independence was not complete. In fact the worst fate that could befall Plaid Cymru would be to have to govern a “free” Wales. Then they would find that do matter how sincere or radical their intentions this made no difference. They would have to face the fact that capitalism (for this system would continue after independence) runs on profit and cannot be made to work in the interests of all. They would find that the problems they promised to solve did not arise, as they claimed, from the link, with England or from a conservative England holding back a radical Wales. At least that would be a useful lesson. But how much better would it be were workers to heed what Socialists say now and so avoid finding out the hard way. And independent Wales would not help solve their problems. What we must do for this is to take joint action with workers of other lands to make the means of life the property of a world community, with an end to frontiers and national states.
Adam Buick (Newbridge, Mon.)

Slave to the Algorithm (2017)

The Proper Gander column from the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Panorama’s recent expose of Facebook’s darker side was scarier than Doctor Who, and like a Black Mirror episode come true. In What Facebook Knows About You (BBC1), reporter Darragh MacIntyre looks into what information about us Facebook gathers, and the sneaky ways it’s used.

A cavalier attitude to our profile’s privacy settings can mean that more people have access to embarrassing uploaded photos of us than we might realise. But we can’t change the settings to keep ourselves private from Facebook itself, which collects and uses a worrying amount of information about our lives. As MacIntyre says, ‘Facebook may know more about us than any organisation in history’. Our date of birth and location from our Facebook profile are matched with details of our online purchases, and this data is used to let advertisers target us. In fact, this isn’t just targeting, but ‘micro-targeting’, i.e. sending us adverts specific to our interests and locale. So if you’ve been looking on the internet for fishnet stockings, for example, then adverts for them might pop up next time you log on to Facebook. It has become ‘the world’s most powerful advertising tool’.

We aren’t just targeted by companies wanting to flog us stuff, but also political groups hungry for our support. And the more they pay, the more people get their message and the more votes they get. Major parties invested heavily in Facebook advertising during the Brexit referendum and US presidential election, and social media was ‘decisive’ in the results. The Republican campaign spent around $70 million on Facebook adverts, including micro-targeted ones, while the election as a whole reportedly earned Mark Zuckerberg and his chums $250 million. Facebook says ‘it wants to be the most open and transparent company’, but has been cagey about divulging its finances related to politics, and how closely it has worked with the main parties.

Facebook is also reluctant to reveal much about the mysterious algorithms which are running unseen billions of times a day. It is these algorithms which log our online activity and match it with our personal details, ready to be used by advertisers eager to target us. Apparently, these algorithms are so complicated that no-one understands them enough to come up with a workable way of how they can be regulated. Labour’s Chi Onwurah advocates more controls, saying that without these she can see a future ‘when we are too tied in to Facebook as citizens, where we’re scared to move for it because it’s got all our data’. Facebook is driven by the money it can rake in through selling advertising space, and this tendency will remain whatever regulation might be brought in.

What Facebook Knows About You stretches its remit to also discuss Facebook’s role in spreading fake news. It’s unclear whether the programme’s producers did this just because fake news is still in fashion or because they couldn’t get enough information about the top-secret algorithms or advertising strategies (even after a trip to a remote forest in northern America to meet Facebook’s former Product Manager). Either way, it’s understandable that the BBC wants to take as many pot-shots as it can against Facebook, given that it’s an ever-growing competitor for our attention and what ‘content’ we consume.

These days, more of this content is fake news. While the BBC peddles its own fake news through its biased acceptance of the status quo, Facebook is a main platform for more obviously made-up stories. In the US presidential election, most fake news shared on Facebook was about Hillary Clinton, linking her falsely to sex scandals and murders, and this may have influenced more gullible voters towards Trump. Also circulated were bogus adverts cheekily announcing that Republicans and Democrats should cast their votes on different days. Fake news is in Facebook’s interests, as bonkers stories shared by friends grab our attention until we’re distracted by an advert which Facebook has received dosh for. When questioned, Facebook representatives have downplayed the extent to which it has been a platform for fake news; Facebook’s corporate drone Policy Director says that amount of fake news is ‘very small’ and they’ve made a ‘negligible’ amount of money from it. The organisation says it takes down false stories when reported, but there have been complaints that it’s been too slow in removing both fake news and other inappropriate content. Facebook has been a magnet for revenge porn, online bullying and footage of violent acts.

So, the programme is a useful reminder that Facebook is more than just somewhere we can watch videos of breakdancing cats and share photos of what we ate in Nando’s. As MacIntyre says, ‘It’s a media company that doesn’t check most of what it publishes, it’s an advertising company that no regulator fully understands, and it’s a political tool that seems beyond regulation’. No wonder it’s sucking in money like there’s no tomorrow, and in a particularly underhanded and devious way. The market is shaping Facebook quicker than we can get our heads around it, turning what should be a handy way of keeping in touch with other people into just another cash cow.
Mike Foster

When Labour Ruled (2) (1991)

From the December 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
"As in all recent elections . . .  [the Labour Party] played down any claim to stand, as a socialist party, for a radically different form of society . . . it asked the voters to say that it could administer the mixed economy and welfare state better than the Conservatives".
No, this is not David Butler's comment on the next year's general election but on that of 1959. In the event, the voters judged that the Tories could run capitalism better than Labour. But after a further five years of Tory rule they changed their minds and in October 1964 a Labour government under Harold Wilson came into office.

The 1964 Wilson government was elected on a programme of ending the "stop-go" of what they called "Thirteen Years of Tory Misrule". This was a reference to what happened every four or five years during the 50s and 60s when a boom led to a balance of payments crisis by sucking in imports, to which the government responded by measures to damp down demand. Actually this was a reflection, at the level of government policy, of the minor cycles that capitalism continued to go through during the prolonged period of capitalist expansion that followed the war. In any event, Labour promised to replace "stop-go" by "planned and sustained economic growth".

A Labour government, George Brown had declared in January 1963, would cure unemployment "instantly" (Observer, 27 January 1963). James Callaghan explained how in more detail:
Our first priority will be to make British industry GO, and to make it efficient. We shall ask industrialists, trade unionists, and economists at all levels to help us create a National Industrial Development Plan. This plan will set expanding targets for industry; will collect and analyse information about costs, export possibilities, profit margins; and will reconcile production with demand . . . The plan will aim for a large increase in the output of our factories each year—produced more efficiently than before. (Daily Sketch, 11 February 1963).
After Labour's victory in October of the following year, Brown became Minister of Economic Affairs and Callaghan Chancellor of the Exchequer. Ray Gunther, a former leader of the railway clerks union, was appointed Minister of Labour, Brown's job was to draw up the promised National Plan; which he duly did, unveiling at a ceremony in September 1965. It provided for total output to rise by 25 percent by 1970, a growth rate twice as fast as the percent a year that had taken place under the Tories.

The plan never got off the ground. As early as November 1964 a balance of payments crisis developed with a run on sterling. By July 1965 this had become so serious that Callaghan was forced to curb government spending. After announcing cuts in existing expenditure, he went on "we shall also have to defer some of the desirable social reforms we had hoped to do in the immediate future" (Times, 28 July 1965). Although Labour won an increased majority in the election held in March 1966, in November 1967 they were forced to devalue the pound and impose even tougher austerity; prescription charges which they had abolished on coming to power were restored at a higher rate. And growth never did attain anything near the planned 4 percent. Contemporary newspaper headlines (see box) tell their own story:

  • Mr Gunther Condemns Dock Move by Strikers (Times, 20 October 1964) 
  • Wilson Warns of More Tough and Unpopular Measures Ahead (Sunday Times, 24 February 1965)
  • Wilson's TV Attack on Clock-Watching (Telegraph, 25 February 1965)
  • Britain's Attitudes Outdated—Premier. Country "cannot afford strikes" (Guardian, 25 February 1965)
  • Profit Motive as Test of Efficiency. Mr Brown's Reply to Directors. "Government Not Anti-Business" (Times, 22 May 1965)
  • Wilson Hits at Rail Go-Slow (Observer, 18 July 1965)
  • Spending Cut to Suit Nation's Pocket. Chancellor Curbs Council Mortgages, HP, Building. £100m of Defence Next Year: Social Reforms Deferred (Times, 28 July 1965)
  • "Squeeze" Delays School Building Six Months (Telegraph, 26 August 1965)
  • Brown Wants Strong Powers to Back Incomes Policy (Financial Times, 21 December 1965)
  • Wage Restraint Vital in 1966—Premier (Financial Times, 1 January 1966)
  • Folly To Press For Big Wage Rises—Chancellor (Financial Times, 18 May 1966)
  • Sackings Better Than Short-Time, Says Gunther (Sunday Telegraph, 18 September 1966)
  • Ministers Hint At Permanent Pay Curb (Observer, 18 September 1966)
  • Government Embraces Profitability (Guardian, 23 November 1966)
  • Local Authority Spending Must be Cut—Greenwood (Financial Times, 21 December 1966)
  • Government Justified in Demanding Sacrifices—PM (Financial Times, 1 May 1966)
  • Hint of Change in Social Aid. Mr Gunther on "Means Test" (Times, 21 August 1967)
  • Emergency Powers Ready (Financial Times, 21 October 1967)
  • Prescription Charges Essential—Crossman (Financial Times, 29 January 1968)
  • Standard of Living "Must Fall". Mr Gunther on Last Chance (Times, 29 March 1968)
By 1970 the working class had had enough and Labour was booted out. By its own standards the Wilson Labour government of 1964-70 was an utter failure. It didn't deliver sustained growth and social progress; instead it ended up restraining wages and cutting social services, and it left office with unemployment at its highest for thirty years.

Why do Labour governments fail way? The first thing to notice is that there is nothing special about Labour governments in this respect. Tory governments do the same. In fact all governments do. It is just that Labour's failures are more resounding in that the Labour Party was formed as a trade union party committed to trying to improve conditions for the working class while nobody expects the Tories, as the party of the ruling class and the rich, to behave any differently.

Dismal record
The basic reason for the failure of the Wilson government's attempt to plan a steady expansion of output, so as to keep unemployment down and provide expanding social services, was that his government was a government of capitalism, and capitalism is a profit-making system under which what and how much is produced is determined by considerations of relatively short-term profitability. Ministers and civil servants may draw up grandiose plans for a steady expansion of production, but those in charge of firms react to market conditions not paper plans. If, as happened under Wilson in the 60s, they judge that they will not be able to sell the extra output at a profit then they won't produce it.

Labour has only ever challenged capitalism verbally, and then only sparingly. In practice, when in power, it has always accepted capitalism and capitalism's economic priorities: that, since capitalism runs on profits, profits must be allowed tor be made, and must be maintained if necessary at the expense of wages and salaries

A number of Labour leaders have been quite open about this. Harold Lever, who then an MP (now he's a Lord) and chairman of the Labour Party's economic and financial committee and later a cabinet Minister, writing just after Labour had won the 1966 election, declared in terms which the present leaders of the Labour Party would wholeheartedly endorse:
'Labour's economic plans are not in any way geared to nationalisation; they are directed towards increased production on the basis of the continued existence of a large private sector. Within the terms of a profit system it is not possible, in the long run, to achieve sustained increases in output without an adequate flow of profit to promote and finance them. The Labour leadership knows as well as any businessman that an engine which runs on profit cannot be made to move faster without extra fuel. So, though profits may be squeezed temporarily by taxation and Government price policy, they must and will, over a longer period, increase significantly even if not proportionately to increased production' (Observer, 3 April 1966).
Since profits are needed to fuel the engine of capitalism, one of the tasks of any (and every) government of capitalism is to ensure that the flow of profits is not threatened by strikes and wage demands. In short, one of the jobs of managing capitalism is to try to ensure that the working class does not demand, and does not get, too much. This is why Labour governments, as managers of capitalism, always end up attacking the working class in the same way as the Tories do.

Whenever profits have been threatened, as by a failure of exports to sell well enough or by an economic downturn, Labour governments have reacted by restraining and freezing wages and by postponing and cutting back on social reforms. This is not because they are incompetent or dishonest or traitors but because that is what managing capitalism involves. Anybody who takes on this responsibility has to do this, just as Wilson had to and as Kinnock will if ever he gets the chance.
Adam Buick

Next month we look at the wage-restraining, union-bashing, strike-breaking, service-cutting record of the Labour governments, under Wilson and then Callaghan, that ruled between 1974 and 1979.

The Review Column: Poor People's March (1968)

The Review Column from the August 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Poor People’s March

Typical of so much of the work of the protest movements in America, the Poor People’s March and the setting up of Resurrection City in Washington was a brilliant piece of advertising.

There is no doubt that America has a vast population of desperately poor and that the colour of a person’s skin often determines how desperate his poverty.

Thus a Negro is much more likely to be unemployed, to have his children in their beds bitten by rats, than is a white man. A Puerto Rican is more likely to suffer from malnutrition, to be unemployed, than is a white American.

These are the conditions the marchers were protesting against and as far as that goes there can only be sympathy for them. It would be a sorry day if slum dwellers and the unemployed accepted their lot without protest.

But how constructive are the demonstrations? Apart from sects like Black Power, most of the Negro movement in America supports one of the two big parties, usually the Democrats. That is why many Negroes were crushed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy; they were convinced that with him as President a lot of their problems would be solved.

Many of them—like the Rev. Ralph Abernathy—are Christians who, whatever efforts they devote to improving this life, are convinced that the real reward for all good men will come in the hereafter. 

What this means is that much of the Negro movement accepts the capitalist system which produces their problems along with the religious delusions which are aimed at anaesthetising them to its effects.

The permanent and effective solution to poverty and to racism is to be found in a new society. That requires a more fundamental questioning of the politics and morals of capitalism than the Poverty Marchers are prepared to undertake.

Trudeau: Canada’s Kennedy

The election of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister, shows that the Kennedy myth extends beyond the borders of the Untied States.

Trudeau got a lot of publicity, and support, with his image of the young, modern, unstuffy leader. He wears informal clothes, has his hair cut in the right style, drives a fast sports car. Even a Kennedy was never as way, way out as this.

The new Canadian Premier also impressed people with his uncompromising stand against the Quebec separatists—a stand which, because of the separatists’ tendency to violent demonstrations, put him in some physical danger.

In fact, Trudeau’s stand was not so much courageous as unavoidable. He simply could not run away from the separatists; to have done so could very well have cost him the overwhelming victory which he eventually won.

Now he has to live up to his image. A start has been made with a young Government and with promises to cut through a lot of the procedure which previous governments have followed.

The problem of Quebec nationalism is only one which Trudeau will face. The Canadian workers who voted for him will now be waiting for him to solve the country’s economic ills and to bring in the golden age of prosperity which his election image promised.

But Trudeau, like all other capitalist politicians, has not revealed the magical powers which would be needed to tame capitalism. Since he is only human it can confidently be said that he will fail like the rest—for example like Kennedy with whom he is compared.

Thus another political reputation will be damaged, another shining image tarnished, another working class hope disappointed. Such disillusionment are so common for the working class that it is fair to wonder, when will they ever learn?

Rail Go Slow

Strikes and go-slows are an established part of British Rail life—a comment on the wages, conditions and prospects of a job on the railways.

Commuters who as a result every so often wait for trains which do not arrive, or who when they are lucky travel to work in carriages packed to suffocation, cannot be expected to welcome militant action by the railwaymen. But if they have time and patience, they should consider one or two facts.

The railwaymen are only struggling to improve conditions of employment which are abysmally low. As the recent go slow showed, the railways need an enormous amount of overtime for their efficient running—and the workers also depend on the overtime to make up their wages.

The commuters are also engaged in this struggle, although many of them may not do so in an organised way and would not dream of coming out on strike. This does not alter the fact that, as both commuters and railwaymen are after the same thing, their interests must be the same.

The chaos caused by the work to rule also showed up who are the productive people in society. No comparable confusion would be caused by the capitalist class ceasing to fulfil their function as parasites and exploiters. Society can do without them but it cannot do without productive work.

This point has been made before, when railwaymen or dockers or factory workers have downed tools. It was shown up recently in New York, when the dustmen went on strike.

Outraged commuters are fond of adopting a moral attitude. So what about the morals of a situation in which the people who are important to society can barely get a living?

All noise, no substance (1968)

Party News from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The thistle is defined as a prickly plant with a purple flower. It is also the emblem of the Scottish National Party. However, Glasgow Branch of the SPGB think that another purple flower—the shrinking violet —would be more appropriate.

Over the years we have made strenuous efforts to get the SNP onto the platform with us in order to debate in public the respective viewpoints. This is easier said than done and so far these efforts have met with something less than success.

Just over a year ago we wrote once again to SNP headquarters in Glasgow challenging them to debate with us the proposition “Socialism or Nationalism?”. “Too busy” they replied. We then extended our challenge, through the correspondence columns of several Glasgow newspapers, to any SNP Branch in the west of Scotland. There were no takers, although we did get an unsigned abusive letter from one brave patriot.

In March of this year we challenged the Nationalist MP, Mrs. Ewing, and circularised copies of the letter to eleven national and local newspapers. From the Press—nothing. From Mrs. Ewing—another refusal. We thought our chance had come when the Chairman of the Eaglesham Branch of the SNP issued a public challenge to debate (Evening Times 4/3/68) to a local critic of the SNP. However, when we wrote asking for the same opportunity, it was “no dice”.

SNP members are often extremely vociferous at our outdoor propaganda meetings and even attempt to howl down our speakers, but meet in public, on equal terms, to have their case subjected to Socialist analysis, they definitely shrink from that.
Glasgow Branch.

Politics First (1968)

Book Review from the April 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Industrial Democracy in Great Britain. edited by K. Coates and A. Topham. Macgibbon and Kee. 63s.

It is insolent of those who idealise industrial action to link this, as Coates and Topham do, with Marx. For Marx held that, necessary and useful as industrial action was, what it could achieve was limited; to end wage slavery the working class should take political action to convert the means of production from class to social property. The industrial side of the class struggle is thus in a sense subsidiary. This book is a collection of writings advocating a greater say in industrial administration for workers on the shop- floor and, frankly, is uninteresting. The authors’ comments are mealy mouthed and in places inaccurate. We are told that lames Connolly “split the old Social Democratic Federation to form a new Socialist Labour Party". This move was in fact an expression of the dissatisfaction of the younger SDF members; it is quite wrong to attribute the founding of the SLP to Connolly. Another sign was the founding in 1904 of the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain — not mentioned, of course.

Workers have no special power “at the point of production”. The real seat of power is what controls the government machine and capitalist power rests on their control of this. Industrial action won’t dislodge them. It is significant that Coates and Topham can find nothing to quote on the shop stewards' movement from 1926 to 1935, a period of great unemployment. All the pre-war items on this issue are from members of the so-called Communist Party — Tom Bell. J. T. Murphy. Tom Mann, W. Gallacher, Wal Hannington and Harry Pollitt — thus endorsing the view that at one time the CP was a revolutionary organisation which went off the rails when it embraced parliamentary action after the war. But the CP has always been an opportunistic party, its only principle being to act in accordance with the interests of Russian state capitalism. Thus they called a meeting of shop stewards in April 1940 to protest against the employers using the war as an excuse to attack working conditions. At another meeting in October 1941 the same people were reported as cheering a man who declared “If a man doesn’t pull his weight in war production then, whether he is a labourer or engineer, he should be put in the army". We all know what had happened in between! From 1941 to 1947 the CP supported production drives and this only changed when the wartime alliance broke up. One of the pre-war Communists quoted is J. T. Murphy. Murphy was expelled from the CP in 1932 because he would not accept the slogan “‘stop the transport of munitions"; he wanted "credits for the Soviet Union!" Murphy's following had been built up among engineering workers in eastern Sheffield, an important munition producing area. This incident well shows that the shop steward's following is based on industrial issues. They don't carry their supporters with them when they branch out into politics.

Coates and Topham recognise that democratic control of industry will not work if production is still to be geared to the market (look at the co-ops, they say). They know that for this to be effective the market and money must go. Only they fall for the old stepping stone policy:
Given the establishment of a democratically self-regulating industry in a climate formed and dominated by the market, a struggle will begin between democracy and the market.
Once some people thought that nationalisation was a step to Socialism. All they achieved was to bring certain industries under the collective control of the capitalist class via the state. All this talk about “worker’s control” and industrial democracy will probably have a similar outcome: employers will latch on to it as a stepping stone to involving their workers in production problems—with a view to increasing profits.
Adam Buick

Castro, Guevara and Revolution (1968)

From the October 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

In his study of the guerilla campaign in Cuba Régis Debray assessed its relevance for other theatres of activity, especially elsewhere in Latin America. What he emphasised was the impotence of the left-wing ideologues who argue that every national liberation struggle must conform to the Bolshevik tradition. How, he asked, can you impose a network of party cells and trade unions on a peasant economy or Indian community which dates back to Mayan or Incan times? Even the methods adopted by the Chinese and Vietnamese are of limited value in the South American context, suggested Debray. Thus, while Mao and Giap—the ’classical' exponents of guerilla warfare—are committed to 'democratic centralism'. [1] Castro's conclusions are quite different:
Who will make the revolution in Latin America? Who? The people, the revolutionaries, with or without a party.
Debray's thesis was that it is the guerillas who are the vital factor, who play the vanguard role. “The guerilla force is the party in embryo’’ and, more than that, it alone can guarantee the construction of a socialist system.
(In Cuba) the advance towards socialism was undertaken as quickly as it was after taking power because Fidel from the first day demanded, won and defended hegemony for the rural guerillas.
It was all this that led Régis Debray to choose his iconoclastic title—Revolution in the Revolution? For him, men like Castro and Che Guevara were revolutionary innovators, leaders who had devised a whole range of new techniques for advancing to socialism. Certainly, for anyone accustomed to thinking in Bolshevik patterns, this might be a reasonable conclusion to draw—but it is one which socialists do not accept.

The guerilla war in Cuba was launched towards the end of 1956 when Fidel Castro and his tiny army of 82 disembarked from the yacht ‘Granma’. They were immediately spotted and attacked by Batista’s forces, with the result that only twenty men got through to the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. [2] Then began the long process of building themselves up, of gradually extending their operations to the lowlands and finally of taking power at the end of 1958. What has been generally overlooked is that, far from representing a novel approach to socialist revolution, the guerilla campaign was fought in the classical style of Latin American insurrections. In Cuba itself the numerous unsuccessful uprisings against Spanish rule in the nineteenth century invariably started with a group of exiles on the American mainland plotting to liberate the island. Having collected arms and supporters they would cross to Cuba's eastern coast (the region farthest from Havana — Castro landed at Belie) and then take to the Sierra Maestra, which they would use as a base for their forays. It was in the last of these rebellions that José Martí, Cuba's national hero, was killed in 1895.

But, far more than the poet Martí, the man who really inspired the fight against the colonial powers in South America in the nineteenth century was Simon Bolivar. In many ways he epitomised everything that distinguishes the bourgeois revolutionary. He was outraged by the ignorance and poverty which he saw throughout the continent and identified this with Spanish oppression. In its place he hoped to establish independent republics which would be based on universal ideals of justice and liberty. As a member of the educated, land-owning class he looked to this minority to play the vanguard role in the rebellions. Known as the Liberator, he was idolised as the romantic man of action (Byron is said to have named his boat 'Bolivar' and to have considered emigrating to Venezuela). The similarities between Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and their nineteenth century forerunners are thus painfully obvious. Both Castro and Guevara came from land-owning families and, being isolated from the peasants and workers, both thought in terms of 'going to the people’ and emancipating them. Certainly this is why they have become heroes. Professor Gerassi, of the San Francisco State University, has written about Guevara:
  . . .  he was an idealist, a man who lived . . .  for other people, for people he had never met, for the poor, for the exploited, for the alienated, for those who feel, perhaps only instinctively, that they are merely tools in their society, tools of greedy and powerful men who do not really care about human beings.
But Cuba's apologists have more sophisticated arguments than those of Gerassi. Many of Castro’s defenders will concede that he started out with the mental equipment of a “middle-class reformer”, but then go on to suggest that objective conditions have forced him to take the first steps towards establishing a socialist system in Cuba. They maintain that, while Bolivar had no reason to go beyond the limits of his reformist ideas, Castro was brought into conflict with American imperialism and therefore by “basing himself on the workers and peasants, he was forced to carry through the expropriation of Cuban and foreign capital". In the same way, the fact that the guerilla bands in the Sierra Maestra had no understanding of Socialism and, come to that, not even a programme of state capitalism is dismissed by Régis Debray with the bland comment that any persons who raise such objections “are not yet liberated from the old obsession; they believe that revolutionary awareness and organisation must and can in every case precede revolutionary action." Socialism, he suggests, was being built in Cuba long before it was consciously recognised and long before the leaders formally adopted the term.

What lies behind these various lines of thinking is that in 1959, with Castro in power, a struggle with American interests in Cuba rapidly escalated. It started with the American government cutting its import quota of sugar and the new regime nationalising certain American enterprises in retaliation and ended with Russia stepping in and offering to take the cancelled sugar orders while Castro nationalised virtually all large-scale industry. All that this demonstrates, however, is that the erection of a state capitalist economy in Cuba had nothing to do with ideology and that it was only in retrospect that Castro and his supporters discovered that they had been 'communists’ all along. Far from the basis of Socialism having been constructed in Cuba, what has been achieved is merely that the means of production have been concentrated in the hands of the state. The workers continue to work for wages, as in any other capitalist country, while a new ruling class of party bosses and bureaucrats has consolidated its power.

For all that, the Cuban leaders came to power on a wave of popular discontent and—like any other ruling class—they now have to defend their privileged position with an ideology. Up to his death Guevara was prominent as one of their foremost 'theoreticians' and his skilful mixture of Marxist and nationalist ideas has found a ready audience in left-wing circles. He could be outspokenly critical of Russia and the East European countries, at times referring to “their tacit complicity with the exploiting nations of the West" and inferring that the industrialised, state capitalist countries were “in a way, accomplices of imperialist exploitation". What especially aroused him and Castro to fury were negotiations such as those between Russia and the right-wing Brazilian regime in 1966 when Russia signed a $100 million credit agreement, making Brazil the leading recipient of Soviet ‘aid' in Latin America after Cuba. Coupled with this was Guevara's emphasis on going forward to a new society, of creating a system where people would work voluntarily because they enjoyed it it (the so-called “moral incentive”) and would be able to take freely whatever they wanted, without any restrictions in the form of money or rationing. Echoing Lenin, he talked about “our sons who will live communism".

None of this ought to surprise anyone. Friction between “fraternal, socialist lands" is a commonplace these days, although Castro—because of his extremely vulnerable position and heavy dependence on Russia—is shrewd enough not to push his criticism of other state capitalist countries beyond acceptable limits. At the same time, Guevara’s idealistic yearning for a new social system is the sort of hangover from the revolution which one would expect. Bourgeois revolutions are normally characterised by a belief that a just society is being created and this is inevitably used to encourage the working class to greater efforts. In fact, for each of Guevara’s references to the future communist society, he made at least a dozen pleas urging the Cuban workers to increase production.
  . . .  what I wanted to stress is that the working class is not putting forth its full effort (Television speech, 1961).
  . . . by working on the proletariat’s sense of responsibility, we hope to greatly improve the quality as well as the presentation of industrial products. (Article in Cuba Socialista, 1962). The perfect revolutionary, the member of the ruling party, must work every hour and every minute of his life, during these years of very hard struggle that lie ahead of us. (Speech to textile workers, 1963).
This is not to imply that Guevara consciously set out to trick the working class. There is no reason to doubt that he honestly believed that, by a combination of hard work and sacrifice, Socialism could be constructed in Cuba. But the fact is that, within the framework of a state capitalist economy, his slogan of ‘work now—Socialism later’ functions as a cover for the accumulation of capital by (he ruling class. 

This is not to overlook the important and far-reaching reforms which the Castro regime in Cuba has introduced since 1959. Illiteracy has been virtually wiped out, for example (there were 1,250,000 illiterates under Batista) and at present something like 5.3 per cent of Cuba's national income is being diverted to education. It would be foolish to underestimate the value of this for the working class. Such a gain, however, will better equip the working class for understanding what Socialism entails. The battle for a socialist society has yet to be fought in Cuba, let alone won.

The problem remains, then, what can socialists do today under Latin American conditions? At present the tactics being adopted by those who claim to be interested in establishing Socialism vary from the guerillas—advocating a particular form of direct action—to the pro-Russian Communist parties at the other extreme. Typical of these latter is the Venezuelan C.P. which was legally recognised up till 1962. was then prohibited for its support of the local guerilla forces, but has now renounced guerilla activity. In the current presidential elections it has offered to throw its weight behind the candidate with the most attractive reform programme, the one who will “promise to put an end to repression". Both these strategies are useless for advancing to Socialism. The job of revolutionary socialists, wherever they are, is to make the world socialist revolution and this boils down now to the immediate task everywhere of spreading socialist ideas among the working class. The Socialist Party of Great Britain recognises that the difficulties of doing this in many countries, including the South American dictatorships, are extreme and that, until the working class in such areas have gained sufficient strength to capture the limited democracy which has been won in Western Europe and elsewhere, the efforts of socialists must be severely hampered. There is, however, no alternative.

This would be a more solid contribution to the building of a world socialist community than is agitating for a capitalist state such as Cuba. To try to dodge the issue by talk of a “revolution in the revolution’ ’is mere escapism.
John Crump

[1] “Politics directs the gun" (Mao). The first fundamental principle in the building of our army is the imperative necessity of placing the army under Party leadership, of constantly strengthening Party leadership." (Giap)
[2] The exploits of the guerillas have been surrounded by such a collection of myths that it is now difficult to check simple facts such as these. The number of men to reach the Sierra Maestra has been reported at various times as 7, 12, 13 and 20.