Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Specialist Disease (1937)

From the August 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

A novel written by Dr. A. J. Cronin which criticises the medical specialist has caused some comment in the papers lately. A writer in the Evening Standard gave the instance of a friend of his who, after having had a fall from a horse which brought on a form of rheumatism, went to his family doctor and was told that time and rest was the cure for his complaint. Not satisfied with this his friend came to London and spent a hundred pounds or so visiting specialists who did him no good. Finally he had to adopt the rest cure, and after some months was quite all right.

At the invitation of the News Chronicle, Dr. Harry Roberts gave his views in that paper (July 22nd, 1937).

In the course of his article Dr. Roberts makes the following remarks: —
   I have known men who, with no special training and no special qualifications, having failed in general practice, have staked their last few hundred pounds on a room or a share of a room in the Harley Street area, offering themselves to the public as a throat and nose specialist, a skin specialist, or a psycho-therapeutist. . . .
  Numerically, men of this kind constitute a fairly large proportion of the imputation of the fashionable medical area.
One or two ideas are suggested by the above statements. The first one is that people outside the medical profession are groping in the dark when they go to a specialist. They may be led to a competent man and they may be led to an incompetent. Even the competent is likely to be under the influence of his speciality. The man, for example, who is a cancer specialist is likely to twist, quite unintentionally, the symptoms of the patients who go to him into symptoms of cancer. There have been many instances of that kind of thing.

Why is it so difficult to find out the incompetent in the medical profession and why do unqualified people set up as specialists? The reason is quite clear to the Socialist.

The medical profession contains a proportion of competent and incompetent, just the same as any other trade. In the ordinary trades, however, there are men (foremen, managers, etc.) who are paid by the employers to find out and remove the incompetent. The medical profession, however, is one great trade union in which each doctor stands by the other and, so far, they have been able to resist any serious alteration of their methods. They are helped by the large body of wealthy people who are prepared to pay for the attention of doctors. Many of their complaints are due to high living, but quite a lot are purely imaginary.

The doctor, like the engine driver or the clerk, has to get a living. The getting a living (unless he has a private income) overrides all other considerations. If this can be accomplished by a brass plate with a fictitious specialised knowledge then the supporters of the present system cannot complain if the young doctor without patients gains them that way.

As long as a price is put upon knowledge and activity fraudulent methods will flourish. The only way to abolish them is by securing to everyone the satisfaction of his needs. The Socialist is working for this end.

When a man or a woman can devote their whole time and energy to becoming competent in whatever form of activity they may take up, without the haunting fear of being unable to obtain the elementary comforts of life, then there will be some security in going for advice to those who specialise in one way or another.

Why there is Not Enough to go Round (1937)

From the September 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Express, which boasts that it has the largest circulation and the most up-to-date manner of presenting news and views of all the daily papers, has certain merits. One is that its reporting of the Spanish civil war, though concerned only with what editors call “news value," and therefore, scrappy on occasion, has been unusually fair and unbiassed. The second merit — the one which concerns us here—is that the editorials are often models of terse and lucid statement of fact and opinion. So much so that when they contain glaring falsities of argument it is difficult to avoid believing that the twist is deliberate. The issue of August 13th is a case in point. Here are the key sentences out of a three- paragraph editorial: —
  One kind of person goes round saying: “We have now solved the problem of producing all that we need. . . .” He doesn’t know what he is talking about. The world is still a very poor place. Many people in it starve. Many more go short of the ordinary necessities of food, shelter, clothes, and warmth. That is why it is wicked folly to cut down the business of growing more food, making more goods, extracting more material wealth out of the soil.
  The above-introduced fellow will often tell you that it is only the mechanism of the present (individualist) system that holds up the arrival of the Age of Plenty.
    Russia, which has a collectivist system, seems to show otherwise. For there the standard of living is still poor.
Now this is all very clear and all very crooked. A mixture of truth and half-truth, well calculated to mislead the reader. The truth of this matter is of importance to every one of the workers who read the Daily Express, but the distortion of it is of equal importance to the directors and proprietors, hence the discreditable editorial

Let us straighten it out a little.

It is the Socialist who says that we have now solved the problem of producing all that we need, and he does know what he is talking about. For observe that we do not say sufficient is being produced for the needs of all, but only that the problem of doing so has been solved.

In other words, what the Socialist has been saying for a long while is that sufficient for all could be produced but isn’t being produced. The fertile fields and rich mineral deposits are there in abundance, so are the highly developed and productive machines, the railways and motor roads, ships and aeroplanes, and everything else needed for production. So are the human beings who could do the work needed to put everyone far beyond the fear of poverty and deprivation. The Socialist is well aware that enough is not being produced at present, and this in spite of the curious thing that there are numerous instances of production being deliberately restricted and goods destroyed. But when coffee is burned in Brazil or cotton and wheat areas restricted in U.S.A., it is not because the world's needs for coffee, cotton and bread have been satisfied. It is because the people who want more of these things have not money enough to buy them, and the people who have money do not want to buy any more of them. So destruction and restriction go on in spite of the well-established fact that if the hundreds of millions of poor people in the world were suddenly told that they could satisfy their needs free of charge there would be an immediate and immense shortage of the necessities of life.

It will be noticed at this point that, although the Express says that we who say this “don’t know what we are talking about,” what we say is in agreement with what the Express says itself— all except that disingenuous trick already mentioned of pretending that solving the problem of production is the same thing as applying the solution.

The next piece of dishonesty is the pretence that Socialists have in mind Bolshevist Russia; which, of course, they have not. Socialists were claiming that the problem of production had been solved long before the Express heard of Bolshevism, long before there was a Daily Express, and long before Lord Beaverbrook set foot in this country. What Socialists meant and said was, that the problem had been solved in the highly developed and industrialised countries like Great Britain, U.S.A., Germany, and so on. Russia has been dragged in by the leader writer only because he wanted to discredit the Socialist’s claim that it is capitalism which prevents the productive forces from being used to the full. Socialists point out the very obvious thing, that the twofold way of enlarging the supply of goods for those who need them is to increase the number of wealth producers by roping in the idle rich and the unemployed, and to cut out the enormous waste of effort of people whose work is concerned with the unnecessary financial and other operations which capitalism needs and Socialism would not need, including the waste of armaments. What prevents this from being done? Socialists say that it is prevented and will be prevented as long as the capitalist minority controls the machinery of Government, including the armed forces, and can use their control to perpetuate their ownership of the land, factories, railways, and the rest of the instruments for producing wealth. The capitalists are interested in ownership because it enables them to live in wealth and ease without the necessity of working. They are seeking profit, not trying to satisfy the needs of the human race. So they direct policy to that end. They open and close their factories, expand or restrict production, burn coffee and curtail wheat growing, in accordance with their estimate of the effect on prices and, through them, on the amount of profit to be made.

End capitalism and have the means of production owned by the whole community, then goods will be produced for use alone, and the supply of them will not be hindered by artificial barriers of profit and private interest.

What has the Daily Express to say to this? Nothing, except to drag in the red-herring that the “individualist” system cannot be responsible, because in Russia there is a “collectivist” system and still poverty. To start with, the supposed “individualist” system is a myth. The typical capitalist enterprise is no more individualist than is the State capitalist Post Office or the State capitalist concerns in Russia. The Express confuses individual dictatorship over policy with individual enterprise. Lord Beaverbrook and his fellow directors and shareholders can indeed impose their will on the large staff who co-operate to produce and distribute the newspaper, but not by virtue of superior enterprise, only by virtue of legal right of ownership, backed up by the courts and the police. They can prevent the staff from using the paper as a medium for disseminating news and information whenever this conflicts with the shareholders’ purpose of making the maximum profit, but that is no more individual enterprise than is the destructive power of a rat to black-out the electric lighting of a whole town by gnawing a hole in an electric cable. The great-great-grand-fathers of the present generation of capitalists might boast of individual enterprise, but their descendants who do so do not know what they are talking about. They are no more individualist than are the highly organised American racketeering organisations to which they are related by the common purpose of living on the backs of others.

Neither in Russia, nor in the U.S.A. or England, has Socialism, common ownership and democratic control been established. In all countries what we see is a privileged minority tenaciously fastened to the backs of those who co-operate to run the economic machine.

But whereas Russia is still economically a backward country, in England and U.S.A. the production of useful articles could be vastly increased if it were not for the capitalist stranglehold.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letters to the Editors: Socialists and the State (1937)

Letters to the Editors from the October 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received the following letter from a Southampton reader. Our reply follows.

August 22nd, 1937.

Dear Sir,
Your party is certainly uncompromising, but when Marx was studying the Paris Commune he discovered the fact that the State, with all its various offices, was not of the slightest use to the working class. In the Socialist Standard, July, 1937, reference is made there to Lewis Morgan; he, more than anyone, illustrates the fact that with a change in the tool, and the ownership thereof, there came a change in government old forms, old means of repression: everything changed when the character of the tool changed. In our day? social methods of production are decaying under private ownership; the S.P.G.B., as I see, contend that the working class will govern, or be governed, as you will, by the political State; you evidently don’t intend an industrial democracy based on the social mode of wealth production.

       I can quote from Marx, Engels, and De Leon, as proof of my ideas, and your movements policy is, to put it mild, dishonest or dumb. A revolutionary organisation holds a great responsibility; do not avoid the facts.
N. Jolliffe.

Our correspondent thinks that Marx expressed certain views about the State, and that the S.P.G.B. holds other ideas, and that, therefore, we are dishonest or dumb. It would have been helpful if Mr. Jolliffe had been more explicit about the place in which Marx is supposed to have expressed these views, and that we are supposed to have opposed them, for actually both of these assertions are baseless.

But, before dealing with them, we would remind our correspondent that he is very much mistaken in thinking that he can prove any policy to be sound or unsound by quoting from “Marx, Engels and De Leon," or from Holy Writ or anything else. All he can prove by quoting from Marx is that Marx held a certain view. As Marx was a careful, conscientious and very well-informed and experienced student of political and economic questions, his considered opinion is deserving of the fullest attention, not, however, to be accepted as gospel. Marx, like other people, had to learn by experience, and sometimes made mistakes. Even geniuses make mistakes.

However, on the question before us the only mistakes have been made by Mr. Jolliffe.

What Mr. Jolliffe believes Marx wrote after studying the Paris Commune is that:—:
   The State, with all its various offices, was not of the slightest use to the working class.
What Marx really wrote was as different as chalk is from cheese. (The references are to “Civil War in France,” by Karl Marx; Labour Publishing Co. edition, 1921.)

Marx (p. 8) first quotes, with approval, the declaration of the Communists, that: —
   The proletarians of Paris . . . .  have understood that it is their imperious duty and their absolute right to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power.
Marx then adds his own comment: —
    But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.
What Mr. Jolliffe has done (and many others before him) is to ignore the first statement about the duty of seizing upon the governmental power, ignore the word "simply,” and ignore the later passages where Marx explains that, having seized on the governmental power, the workers must amputate the “merely repressive organs,” wrest its “legitimate functions” from the usurping authority, and restore the legitimate functions to the responsible agents of society (p. 32). 

Neither here nor anywhere else does Marx ever say that the State is “not of the slightest use to the working class.”

As Mr. Jolliffe has brought in Engels, it will be fitting to use Engels’ own amplification of what Marx and he had in mind. In a letter to Van Patten, on April 18th, 1883 (i.e., immediately after Marx’s death), Engels wrote as follows: —
    . . .  The working class must first take possession of the organised political power of the State and by its aid crush the resistance of the capitalist class and organise society anew. . . . This state may require very considerable alterations before it can fulfil its new functions.
Now if our correspondent will turn to our “Declaration of Principles” he will find precisely the same idea in paragraph 6.

Regarding the next statement in our correspondent’s letter, concerning the supposed views of the S.P.G.B. as to the "Political State” under Socialism, we deny that he can find such a statement in any of our literature. The S.P.G.B. agrees with Marx and Engels that, with the disappearance of classes, there “ also disappears the necessity for the power of armed oppression or state power” (in the letter quoted above). The State will, therefore, in due course "wither away”—
   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 the processes of production. The State is not “abolished," it dies out.—(Engel’s “ Socialism, Utopian and Scientific.” Chapter III).
Editorial Committee. 

"The Papacy and Fascism" (1937)

Book Review from the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Papacy and Fascism by F. A. Ridley (Secker & Warburg, 6s.)

The above is the title of a book by F. A. Ridley (published by Secker & Warburg at 6s.), which is, as the paper wrapper correctly states, “An analysis of the role of the Papacy through history up to and including the present day.”

In spite of its small size, only 260 pages, this book is very informing and contains a good deal of useful information that is generally only to be had by much out-of-the-way reading. Mr. Ridley has adopted an excellent method which enables him to cover a vast period of time lucidly. He divides his history up into six parts, five of which represent crises the Papacy has survived, while the sixth is the crisis of the present day. The five are, respectively: (1) The fall of the Roman Empire and the migration of barbarian nations; (2) The mediaeval conflict between the Papacy and the Mohammedan world in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries; (3) The Renaissance of free thought and secular culture under the aegis of the Arabs and Moors in the 13th century; (4) The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century; (5) The crisis of modern liberalism that dates from the French Revolution and the enlightenment that preceded it.

Large chunks of history are collected round these central points in short interesting sections.

One basis of the author’s argument is that Catholicism represents ecclesiastical mediaevalism, whilst Fascism represents political and cultural mediaevalism. The two together are the twin enemies that bar the road to Socialism.

He describes the development of the early Church from a democratic institution to one in which the last relics of constitutional government had disappeared and was replaced by an authoritarian Church with an infallible head, using as reasons for this infallibility social and not theological arguments. He also shows how the Church, through the centuries, has been moulded by social circumstances instead of moulding them. It was driven, in self defence, to shield itself behind the bulwark of infallibility: —
   It has been the paradox of Papal Imperialism that it must cloak its acts under a professedly theological guise in order to defend the vast array of vested interests with which it is associated (p. 113). 
On page 117 the author describes how a Church with an unchanging creed and rooted in economic conditions of bygone times secured elasticity that enabled it to meet the challenge of modern times by a fundamental change in the power to make dogma, which was transferred from the Church to the Pope in 1870: —
    From this fate [collapse of the Roman Catholic Church before the intellectual and social revolutions of Europe in the present century] the Vatican decree, which transferred power to make dogmas (of course under the pretence of “revealing” it) from the dead church to the living Pope, from an unchanging to a changing authority, was designed to save the Roman Catholic Church by imparting to it the power of change in accordance with the needs of a changing epoch.
The author further points out that, while it was possible for the Papacy to adapt itself to the slow moving eras of the pre-industrial past, it is much harder for it to adapt itself to the headlong pace of modern life. If the Papacy is to survive, modern civilisation must be destroyed. The means of destruction is the various Fascist movements which, like the Normans and the Jesuits of the past, are the spearhead of the modern Catholic Church. Fascism, he points out on page 173, seeks to play the role of Caesarism in the 20th century; “the forcible stabilisation of outworn forms of society by means of a Totalitarian state, which itself culminated in a permanent dictatorship.”

The last portion of the book examines in detail the statements and actions of the leading representatives of Fascism and shows convincingly their close connection with the Catholic Church. On page 231 he makes the point, “even the Mohammedan Moors are promised entrance into the Christian Paradise if they kill enough baptised Spaniards with rifles ornamented with the insignia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

It may be added that he gives convincing evidence of the debt owed by the Jesuits to Mohammedanism, and makes an effective comparison between the Jesuits and the Fascists.

There are one or two criticisms, however, that we would make, though what strikes us as weaknesses are possibly due to the limited space the author had at his disposal. In the earlier part one has a feeling that there is an undue use of authorities like Lecky, Draper, Renan, and a corresponding neglect of other valuable writers, such as Oman and Ferrero. On the whole the economic bases of different movements and events have not been given the attention one would expect.

For instance, on pages 30-31, the connection between the rise of Catholicism and the rise of feudalism is not discussed, nor is it explained why Catholicism arose at that particular time.

With reference to the fall of the Roman Empire (page 34), Oman points out in his “History of the Art of War” that a considerable factor in the matter was the development of a superior military weapon by nomadic tribes—quickly moving horsemen armed with lances and bows and arrows.

On pages 47-49 the collapse of the Catholic Empire and the immorality of the Popes is described, and the author ascribes something remarkable to the institution which transcended its degraded leaders. Here again it would have been useful, however briefly, to say how this could  come about.

On page 85 it is asserted that the Roman Church would have perished in the Reformation of the 16th century but for Loyola and his company of Jesus. This seems to us unnecessary. Who can say what other means might have been devised by the Church?

There are other points of a like nature that could be mentioned. For this reason it seems to us a pity that the economic foundations of the various movements, and mainspring of the principal changes, did not receive more attention, because the impression left on the reader by some passages is that the author sees history as a spiritual rather than an economic development.

On page 144 the author quotes from one of our pamphlets and refers to it as an "anonymous pamphlet” published by us. For the information of those who might be misled by this we will explain the procedure.

When the Party decides that a pamphlet is to be published one or two people are deputed to draft it. The draft is scrutinised and sometimes cut up by a small committee, and is then submitted to the Executive Committee, who go through it word for word before passing it for publication. Consequently every pamphlet published by the Party has the backing of the Executive Committee of the time.

Finally, in spite of the few comments mentioned above, we can heartily recommend “The Papacy and Fascism” as a book well worth reading by those who want to know where both the Catholic Church and Fascism stand in relation to the future progress of the workers.

Editorial: The Popular Front and the Struggle Against Fascism (1937)

Editorial from the December 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not accept the view that Fascism can be fought by uniting all anti-Fascists into a Popular Front or other group. In Great Britain Fascism will only be a serious danger to the extent that it succeeds (as it did in Italy and Germany) in winning over large numbers of the employed and unemployed workers to its side. In what way might that happen and how can it be prevented? It can happen only to the extent that workers who have for a time placed their trust in capitalist or reformist movements and leaders become disillusioned but cannot find any alternative except Fascism. It is of the utmost importance that Socialism should stand boldly and clearly as an independent movement ready to show the workers the right road of escape from capitalism when they had turned in disgust from Liberalism and Toryism and from the Labour Party idea of reforming capitalism. If it were possible for Labour Government or Popular Front Government to be genuinely successful then there would be justification for abandoning Socialism and concentrating on the administration of capitalism by the so-called “progressives." But it is not possible. No matter how capitalism is governed, the struggle between the propertied class—seeking rent interest and profits—and the working class—trying to resists exploitation—goes on. Where there is capitalism there is poverty and unemployment, the oppression of the weak by the strong, social unrest, strikes and rock-outs, and discontent with the Government which stands at the head of the system.

Popular Front Government or Labour Government is bound to bring eventual discredit on the parties associated with it. It is essential that the Socialist movement should not be engulfed in that general discredit.

Fascism can only be fought successfully by Socialists. Labourites cannot fight it because the Fascist social reform programmes are largely made up of points taken from the Labour programme. Communists cannot fight it because they are tarred with the same brush of dictatorship. Open defenders of capitalism cannot fight it because the workers are sick of naked capitalism.

Only Socialists—themselves consistent critics of capitalism, reformism and dictatorship—can combat Fascism.

The Civil War in Yemen: Britain Supports Our Bastards (2017)

From the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

The poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen (part of which was the former British colony of Aden) has endured years of instability and poor governance. After the 2011 revolution toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh who had been in power for more than 30 years, a new president, Hadi, was sworn in with international backing – but he was never able to fully establish authority. Yemen descended into civil war in September 2014 when the Houthis, a Shi’ite sect, seized power. A coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia launched an air campaign in March 2015, to restore the exiled government of Hadi. The Saudi-led bombardments have resulted in massive loss of life, and damage to infrastructure and millions have been driven from their homes. 10,000 people have been killed, many more thousands injured. In addition, many more are indirect victims of the conflict, including those who suffer from chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, and are unable to get treatment. Fewer than half of Yemen’s health facilities are operational as aid agencies struggle to access war-torn regions with lifesaving medicine, and around 1,000 children die every week from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

The Houthis are endeavouring to take complete control in what is what Boris Johnson has confirmed is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In his words: ‘There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different  strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives... That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in, and puppeteering and playing proxy wars’ (Guardian, 8 December). Saudi Arabia and its regional partners have used the spectre of Iran to justify an extensive bombing campaign over the country. Despite the extent of suffering, the war in Yemen receives less media attention than conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Many people in the UK are still unaware of the extent of the bloody civil war there and the wide-scale bombing by Saudi Arabia.

Arms sales
Back in early 2016, it was revealed that British military personnel were embedded in the command and control centre for the Saudis. Naturally, this carried the standard disclaimer that the UK’s guidance was to assist the Saudi regime to comply with international humanitarian law. Advice that, if it was given, has been ignored in view of the regime’s bombing of civilians and hospitals, dropping internationally-outlawed cluster bombs (made in Great Britain). Cluster bombs release dozens of small ‘bomblets’, which often lie unexploded and can cause horrific injuries long after the initial attack. When ‘our’ allies commit war crimes, a convenient blind eye is turned to it by the government which remains complicitly silent. Parliament’s International Development Committee has said the evidence is ‘overwhelming’ that the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels violates humanitarian law. ‘We are shocked that the UK government can continue to claim that there have been no breaches of humanitarian law by the coalition, and continue sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. We are convinced that there is more than a clear risk that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law. The evidence that we have heard is overwhelming that the Saudi-led coalition has committed violations of international law, using equipment supplied by the UK.’

There is a reluctance by the UK or its media to condemn the military intervention of the despotic Wahhabi dictatorship. Imagine a boat full of innocent refugees, men, women, and children, being machine-gunned by a helicopter gunship, leaving dozens dead and many more wounded. Wouldn’t that make the headlines in the media and lead to very vocal condemnation by the government? Not in the UK. Could the reason be that the perpetrators of the crime happened to be one of Britain’s biggest weapons customers.

Theresa May continues a policy of bending over backward (or is it forwards?) to cosy up to the corrupt Saudi sheiks in order to sell weapons. ‘Riyadh is a key trading partner,’ says George Joffé, a research fellow and professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. ‘The main answer as to why the United Kingdom supports the coalition is as simple as it is shameful: contracts’.

Since the bombing began in March 2015, Britain has licensed sales of arms to the regime that are worth billions. Raytheon’s factories in Essex and Scotland produce the Paveway IV guided bomb which, according to its manufacturer, has proved itself ‘time and again, as the weapon of choice by the end users’. One enthusiastic end user is Saudi Arabia, bombing hospitals, schools, markets, grain warehouses, ports and a refugee camp to turn Yemen into a living nightmare.

Britain doesn’t just sell arms to those dictatorships – it sells its diplomatic silence as well. While Saudi Arabia pulls the trigger, it is Britain and the US which ever-faithfully reloads and replaces its weapons. Calls to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia over war crimes have been ignored. The UK has given political cover to the Saudi regime by preventing various resolutions and investigations from happening. Under UK arms export law, it is illegal to sell arms or munitions to a state that is at ‘clear risk’ of committing serious violations of international humanitarian law. To date, the United Nations has recorded coalition attacks that have violated international law, many of them including shelling civilian installations such as hospitals, schools, mosques or markets. However, the British government is firmly opposed to an arms embargo against its ally, claiming there is no conclusive proof of human rights violations. It also blocked a proposal by the Netherlands that the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent inquiry into war crimes in Yemen.

Oxfam has said the UK has violated the International Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the transfer of conventional arms to ensure there are no violations of international humanitarian law. Governments who sign the arms treaty are obliged to review their weapon sales and ensure that they are not being used for human rights violations. Oxfam accused British politicians of being in ‘denial’ over the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen. Penny Lawrence, Oxfam UK deputy chief executive, told a conference. ‘It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality.’ Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, dismissed evidence from a UN report that the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen had targeted innocent civilians as predominantly based on hearsay and may have been falsified by Houthi rebels. UN Security Council resolution 2216 reads as if Saudi Arabia is an impartial arbitrator rather than a party to the conflict with no mention of the Saudi-led intervention. There was similarly no call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting or safe corridor for aid.

Civilians pay the price
After two years of civil war, the country is on the brink of famine, of Yemen’s 25.6 million people, almost 19 million are in urgent need of assistance. Almost seven million are severely food insecure, meaning they need food aid immediately. UNICEF has calculated that a child is dying every 10 minutes from a preventable illness. Two million children are acutely malnourished. Less than half Yemen’s hospitals are functioning at all, and those that are face daily shortages of staff, medicines, and electricity. Humanitarian groups struggle to deliver aid to large parts of the country. Not only are people starving. Those who try to alleviate the situation are prevented from doing so. ‘Clearly, Yemen is one of the hardest places in the world today to work – massive security concerns, escalation in the fighting and the violence across the country.’ WFP’s Deputy Regional Director Matthew Hollingworth said several medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed. While arms sales to the warring factions are thriving, the key port of Hudaydah, which aid agencies describe as ‘a lifeline’ for Yemen, is now virtually closed, due to a naval blockade by coalition forces and the destruction of its cranes in air strikes is proving devastating for the civilian population in a country that depends heavily on imports of foodstuffs. Imports are essential as only 4 percent of the country’s land is arable and only a fraction of that is currently used for food production.

This Saudi economic strangulation is preventing the import of food and medicine and the targeting of vital infrastructures such as roads and bridges has contributed to the dire situation Yemenis are now facing. ‘If restrictions on the commercial imports of food and fuel continue, then it will kill more children than bullets and bombs...’ said UNICEF’s spokesman, Christophe Boulierac.

The Western states are showing that they value the profits of their weapons industries over the lives of Yemenis, otherwise they would immediately stop providing the bombs, the bombers, the armoured cars and tanks, the Apache attack helicopters, the missiles, the howitzers, the training, the refuelling, and all other military support to the Saudi coalition. The reality is that the Saudi Air Force, roughly half UK-supplied and half US-supplied jets, could barely function without the ongoing assistance from Washington and London. Without a ceasefire between Houthi factions and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and the opening of sea-ports and airports so vital supplies can enter the country to allow for the rebuilding infrastructure, the crisis is unlikely to let up, and it will be civilians who pay the price.

Saudi Arabia does not operate on its own but receives logistical support from Britain and the US. European manufacturers also contribute to the armaments orgy. The media looked the other way when Saudi Arabia blackmailed the United Nations by threatening to pull funding if the country was not dropped from the secretary-general’s ‘list of shame’ of states that kill children. A UN report had revealed that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for over 60 percent of the children killed in the conflict. Yet the country was able to use its position on the UN Human Rights Council (how they got there when there’s no pretence in Saudi Arabia is a mystery) to thwart an investigation into violations committed in Yemen. David Wearing, a researcher on UK-Saudi-Gulf relations with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade report, said: ‘Successive governments of all political colours have prioritised arms sales over human rights. The toxic UK-Saudi alliance has boosted the Saudi regime and lined the pockets of arms companies, but has had devastating consequences for the people of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. For the sake of those people, the UK government must finally stop arming and empowering the brutal Saudi monarchy.’

Britain supplies the Saudi dictatorship with weapons and it provides the diplomatic smokescreen to protect the mediaeval Saudi regime’s war-crimes. The current Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon shamelessly backs arms manufacturer BAE to sell more weapons to the Saudi Arabian government. ‘Are we supporting them? Absolutely.’ A past foreign secretary Philip Hammond pledged to ‘support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.’ Nor should we forget that about 100 Labour MPs failed to support a motion moved by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry to withdraw support for the Saudi regime. Thornberry was subjected to interruptions from Labour MPs. Labour MP John Woodcock, for instance, who claimed that British support is ‘precisely focused on training Saudis’ to improve their targeting, so as to ‘create fewer civilian casualties’, was parroting the official government line. The idea that the Saudi regime’s ‘widespread and systematic’ attacks as stated by the UN on civilian targets are just a series of well-meaning errors is one that lacks credibility. And if decades of training provided by Britain to the Saudi pilots hasn’t prevented these supposed errors by now, it seems rather unlikely that it will in the future.

News In Review: Buchanan Report (1964)

The News in Review column from the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard


Buchanan Report

Almost by stealth, the motor car has crept up behind us and hit us over the back of the head. At one time, the roads in this country were adequate to take the derisory, by present day standards, number of vehicles which wanted to use them. But, as anyone who has spent a couple of hours of his precious life in a traffic jam will know, it is now a very different story.

The Buchanan Report says that this could have been avoided, at least in part. And so it could—if somebody had been able to predict the car boom which followed the war and if the government had been willing to ignore the other priorities which were screaming for attention and if it had been prepared to invest colossal sums of money in town planning schemes of doubtful accountability.

In the event it was cheaper and more convenient, as it so often is, to try short term expedients, to patch up and hope for the best. Rather than rebuild the dyke properly, capitalism preferred to stick a finger in the hole, but the hole has got bigger and bigger and now the flood seems to be winning. Civilised town life, says Buchanan, is at stake.

But the solution offered by Buchanan, sound though it may be in terms of engineering and desirable though it may be in terms of personal comfort, has one big drawback. It would be very expensive; one informal estimate has put the cost at over £9,000 million.

Can anyone imagine British capitalism spending that amount on something which, no matter what value it may have in protecting pleasant towns and the people in them, is of unproven economic value? The Economist of November 30th pondered on what it called the “economic criteria” which it hopes will be applied to the Buchanan proposals:
  It (the investment required) is too large a part of the country's investment and too important to the population for decisions to come simply from sociological and architectural planners. 
And at the moment, it seems, the decisions will not come from these quarters alone. Some sort of balance sheet will be required when consideration is given to reorganising the British road system. This will probably mean that the compromises of the post war years will continue, with each flyover, every widened road, each new confusion of traffic signs hailed as a solution. Meanwhile the motor car will carry on strangling us.

What’s your name

Now listen, there's this guy, his name is Duckworth, which is not such a bad name anyway, not as bad as Osgood or Clarke or any of the others in the buildings. But this Duckworth, when he makes twenty-one he wants to change his name anyway, he wants to add a bit to it. He wants to add Chad, which was his aunt's name, so he becomes Duckworth hyphen Chad.

Now we’re all laughing because Chad reminds us of that awful face looking over the wall and saying, “wot no something or other." But Duckworth-Chad, he’s not amused.

But his old aunt, she said in her will that if he took her name when he was twenty-one he could inherit a lot of money and a lot of land. To be precise, £79,000 in cash, a 2,000 acre estate with seven farms and a couple of villages and a mansion with forty rooms.

Not bad. Now I've worked it out and I reckon that if me and all the other guys in the Buildings worked until we were ninety-five and we didn’t eat or smoke or take girls out we might just about save that £79,000. But I cant figure how we’re going to make all that land and the rest and all.

Yes sir, Duckworth-Chad has done well for himself. If I had an aunt like this I'd be willing to change my name to Adolf Hitler, only if I did nobody'd give me any money, they'd most likely put me away. So I'll stick with Osgood.  And the Buildings.

But I'd like to meet the guy who wrote that old bit about what's in a name.


Closer and closer

Anyone who believes that there is some basic difference between the Labour and Conservative Parties should ponder upon two recent examples of the ways in which they are daily growing more and more alike.

At their last Annual Conference the Labour Party announced a scheme to set up a state Land Commission which would be empowered to buy the freehold of land being sold for large scale development. This scheme was presented as yet another of the steps on the road to what the Labour Party calls Socialism. Perhaps some people believed that it was.

It would have been interesting to have seen their reaction to the announcement which Minister of Housing Sir Keith Joseph made in the House of Commons last November. He then said that ". . .  land planned for major development should be bought well in advance by a public authority for disposal to private enterprise or to public enterprise. . . .” If this is not exactly the same sort of idea as Labour's Land Commission, it is as near to it as makes no odds.

The second example is in the matter of immigrant control. The Labour Party have always offered a formal resistance to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act; Gaitskell, in fact, attacked it strongly when it was a Bill before Parliament and when it came up for renewal last November Labour M.P.s voted against it.

When it suits them, the Labour Party offer this as evidence that they are opposed to the government in principle over this matter. But although they put up a show of fighting the Act which legally limits immigrants, the Labour Party is still in favour of some sort of control. They say that each Commonwealth country should exercise its own control voluntarily at the ports of exit, although they probably know that this is likely to be an unworkable method. 
These examples are not coincidental. They are symptoms of the fact that basically the Labour Party is no different from its Conservative counterpart. Both stand for capitalism and so both must have policies which are relevant to capitalism's needs. Is it any wonder that as time goes by it becomes more and more difficult to tell them apart?


Rootes take a gamble

The Imp was the contribution which the Rootes Group made to the vehicles contesting for the market in small cars. This car came onto the scene some months back, heralded by all the usual admen’s gulf about its alleged superior qualities and style.

Rootes are now taking an anxious look at the Imp’s balance sheet. They spent over £2 million in developing the car and it has contributed to their massive debts — £3.76 million bank overdraft, a £5.57 loan from the Board of Trade and a £4 million mortgage.

This expensive baby is now expected —or rather hoped—by Rootes, to shortly be adding its own little bit to the family coffers.

But the mini-car market is no easy one. BMC are already well dug in with their clever Mini-minor and its variations. Vauxhall have recently come in with the Viva. There are also the several competing models imported from the Continent. And Ford, with their slightly larger, but keenly priced, small cars, are selling on the fringe of the market.

It would not be a surprise if one or more of the mini-cars turned out a commercial flop. (Ford have recently had just this experience with one of their bigger models—the Classic, now replaced by the Corsair.) If this happens to the Imp, the situation will be aggravated for Rootes by the financial risks they have had to take to produce their mini-car.

This is not to say that from the capitalists’ angle the risks were unjustifiable, or unnecessary. Nobody can accurately forecast a market's ups and downs, and investment in a new car, which is often decided upon in an “up" period, can look pretty sick if, when the cars start rolling off the line a couple of years later, the market has turned down.

All investment is a gamble, but it is one which any company wishing to survive must take. The irony is that, just as the capitalist system itself forces the gambles, so its own vagaries provide the element of risk which so often upsets the gamblers’ hopes.

Rootes are treading a very slim, very taut tightrope.

And it is a long way down.

The Trial of Charles de Gaulle. (1964)

Book Review from the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Trial of Charles de Gaulle. by Alfred Fabre-Luce, Methuen, 30s.

Only English readers well up in French politics are likely to face this book on equal terms. And we doubt whether all that number of French readers would have coped so easily either, had they been able to read it; which they were not, by the way, since it was banned in France.

The trouble comes from unfamiliarity with most of the personalities, and the complexity of the events; all capitalist politics are unsolved, we know, but French politics must be the most involved of the lot. The machinations, the intrigues, the conflicts of interest, the complex struggles for power, are really intimidating to the outsider.

Things are not helped by the author's device of a mock trial for the General; the result of this is to allow free scope to the much greater latitude in French courts for fact to be mixed with fiction, and to make it all the harder to sift the real from the opinion and the hearsay.

The idea of political trials does not come too startlingly in France, where they have a long history going back to before the Revolution. We are reminded in the introduction, in fact, that it is not so long ago that a hundred members of the Vichy government were put on public trial, including the former head of state, Pétain. Some of the accused, like Laval, actually ended up before a firing squad. In contrast, the last such trial in England goes back to 1805.

From what we are able to gather, however, Mr. Fabre-Luce himself seems really to be opposed to the idea of political trials and only uses the mock-up of one against de Gaulle to bring the General and his activities into the arena of public debate. In particular, the only punishment postulated for the accused, should he be found guilty, is a vote of censure.

The author extends the device further by allowing de Gaulle to remain silent during his trial, using as actual precedents Pétain and Salan, who also kept silent at theirs. This gives him full scope to marshal the arguments for and against the accused, mostly in the form of real statements by real persons, though he also brings in a few fictional characters; even these, however are used as convenient mouthpieces for real statements representing other general and well-known points of view. The whole thing is done very cleverly, the atmosphere of the trial being particularly well captured.

As for the arguments, suffice it to say that telling points are made, and others seem to be made, by both sides. But, perhaps because one is a very much detached observer, the only feeling at the end is of indifference and unreality. Both accusers and defenders seem obsessed with a personality—de Gaulle. For some, he is the personification of all that is noble, all that is right, all that is good; for the others he is the embodiment of evil, Satan incarnate. For his defenders, he represents salvation; for his accusers, he is the agent of damnation. Leader or devil? Military genius or upstart colonel? Far-seeing prophet or arch-traitor? Liberator or renegade?—these are the terms in which the debate is conducted. It is altogether too superficial and unconvincing.

The result may be witty and entertaining, but it does not get us very far. All the fine words and stirring speeches, the scintillating arguments and witty exchanges, fail to make us forget the harsh realities of French life during the past thirty years—the misery of a second world war in twenty years, the hardships and terms of the occupation, the agony of Indo-China, the criminal folly of Suez, the bitterness and bloodshed of Algeria. Clever fantasies of word battles mock-fought over the alleged motives, virtues, and failings of one man have no relevance to problems such as these.

As a polemical exercise, the book can be given full marks. But for what it tells us of importance concerning the political and economical realities facing French capitalism and—much more important—the French working class, it impresses not at all.
Stan Hampson

Who cares about steel nationalisation? (1964)

From the March 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of the steel companies are spending large sums of money telling us why the steel industry should not be re-nationalised and why therefore electors should not vote for the Labour Party. Large and costly space has been taken in national newspapers to put the views of the Chairmen of Stewarts & Lloyds and the Steel Company of Wales.

What the readers of the statements think of them we do not know, but it would be difficult to find more tedious, trivial and irrelevant utterances, of no concern to the workers in the steel industry or any other and not really of any significance to most of the investors.

The steel company's statements against nationalisation will not pass unchallenged and we may expect a cloud of equally tedious, trivial and irrelevant utterances from the Labour Party in support of nationalisation. But what does it matter either way to the mass of the population in this or any other country? What difference does it make in essentials whether they work for a company, a public board, or a government department? Whichever way it goes the workers will be paid as little as their employer can get them to take, and the policy of the employer, or board of directors running an industry, will in either event be to make profit.

Nationalisation can be of importance to the small group company directors who will lose their directorship without necessarily being given jobs on the nationalisation boards, but for the shareholders it is no more than changing a somewhat larger but not guaranteed income from stocks and shares in a company into a somewhat less but guaranteed income from government securities.

Of course, there is the old myth of high-principled investors who '"would rather die” than countenance nationalisation, but it looks rather silly against the fact that the national debt (now £30,000 million and paying out interest of £600 million a year) along with other functions, is used by the government to finance the nationalised industries.

What does it matter to investors whether they draw dividends directly from a company, or lend money to the government, at interest, for the government in its turn to lend it to the nationalised boards at interest? And what difference does it make to the workers whether they are exploited by a company or by a board for this purpose?

Half a century ago, when argument about nationalisation was really fierce, there was a reason. It was that nationalisation was being advocated by people who thought it could be used as the first stage towards ending capitalism and introducing Socialism, and the property owners feared it for the same reason that they feared Socialism.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain at the time rejected the idea that nationalisation was a step towards Socialism, and foretold the disrepute into which it has now fallen. When therefore the steel companies and the Labour Party engage in wordy battle over it they are both beating the air: the companies pretending to believe that behind nationalisation stands a Labour Party intention to introduce Socialism and an equally false Labour Party pretence that it is so.

When the two sides talk of efficiency, service to the public, national interests, low prices, etc., etc., it is entirely beside the point as far as nationalisation is concerned. Everything that is complained about the nationalised industries would apply equally if they had not been nationalised. Does anyone suppose that if the Railways were still run by half a dozen private companies they would have escaped the troubles resulting from road competition? 'Or does anyone now imagine that the need for the workers to strike in self-defence from time to time is any less under a board than under a company?

Broadly speaking, nationalisation in this country is a fading issue because it not only solves no problem of the working class (it never did or could have done), but it now rarely serves any purpose to the capitalists either. They no longer think of nationalisation as a means of controlling particular monopolies, in the interest of capitalism as a whole, and in face of experience they no longer believe that nationalised industries and services are likely to be any more efficient or cheap than those not nationalised.

One last word, though it will probably fall on deaf ears. Will Mr. Stewart and his colleagues of Stewarts & Lloyds accept our positive assurance that nationalisation is not Socialism and has nothing to do with Socialism? After all, we are out for Socialism and have never supported nationalisation.
Edgar Hardcastle

"Communism" in Latin America (1964)

From the April 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received the following letter from a sympathiser in Jamaica. 

Fidel Castro’s announcement that agrarian reform should be abandoned must have come as a shock to the Communists in other countries of Latin America. The Cubans have at last realised that agrarian reform alone means nothing: it does not change the relationship between the farmer, his land and his market. The distribution of land does not produce food, it often means a drop in production. A peasant farmer suddenly saddled with the responsibility of ownership but without knowledge in modern farming technique finds it hard to keep up his payments on his Government loan. In many cases he finds he would have been better off where he was before, on some landlord's estate.

The Communists are doing much work throughout this hemisphere. Because of the desperate economic inequalities existing in Latin America, students fall easy prey to Communist slogans of “Land for the Landless’’ and “ Bread for the Hungry."

The Alliance for Progress is under fire from all sections. The “Right” are fighting against it because some of the reforms suggested are against their interest; the Communists claim it is Imperialism. The Right Wing and Communists are often in agreement, each claiming to be the hope of the future. Communists are only interested in fighting American capitalism; they fully support local capitalism. Communist tactics vary from country to country; in Venezuela they take the form of open violence while in Haiti the campaign takes a racial line.

While this power struggle goes on, the people of Latin America continue to live in squalor, poverty and illiteracy. Population is increasing at a fast rate and every year more young people are condemned to a life of peasant farming; anyone who actually manages to get a university education automatically becomes a member of the “elite.”

In this atmosphere of uncertainty and poverty, it may not be long before there is a Communist government elected in Latin America. Then perhaps people would have another first-hand opinion (as in the case of Cuba) of Communists trying to solve the country's economic problems. Socialists know that they would fare no better than their predecessors.

The problems of Latin America are the same as those which beset men all over the world, only perhaps they are more obvious there. Only by the united effort of all mankind will these problems disappear from the earth. The establishment of Socialism is there for the taking; sooner or later man will realise that this is his only salvation. 
George Dolphy

Obituary: Freddie Lane (1964)

Obituary from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with regret that Paddington Branch report the death of Freddie Lane, who joined the Party in 1951. In his early years in the Branch he devoted much of his time to literature selling, and had a regular number of Socialist Standard contacts on the Queens Park Estate. Every Sunday he would be seen at Hyde Park with Party literature, and he was well known to many Party contacts and sympathisers. He was always keen and anxious to talk about Socialism to everyone.

Over the last four years he suffered from very bad health, and could only get out when the weather was fine. Despite this, right up to the month of his death he was selling literature and supporting our platform in Hyde Park.

He will be sadly missed.

A historic event (1964)

From the June 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Besides the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, another anniversary that will be universally noted this year is the Jubilee Year of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

During the early days of the present century a group of young people within the Social Democratic Federation, at that lime the most advanced of the English radical parties, aimed at transforming the Federation into a genuine socialist organisation free from the fetters of reformism and leadership. A decade or so previously, dissatisfaction with the Federation had already led to the ill fated breakaway which formed the Socialist League, led by such notables as William Morris and Karl Marx's daughter, Eleanor. Unfortunately the "League" soon abandoned parliamentary action and came under the control of anarchists.

In 1903-4, however, the later group that had formed within the Social Democratic Federation made desperate efforts to head off the reformist policies of the Federation’s leaders and thus help to bring it into line with the class struggle basis of revolutionary political action. But the Federation, refusing to be thwarted from its reformist policies, its penchant for making agreements with capitalist parties, and its idea of working class leadership, commenced expulsion of the militants. 

In London on June 12th 1904 the expelled militants formed the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the members immediately set about framing principles and rules to guide them. The party also arranged to publish a monthly journal which first appeared September 1904.

Though similar parties have since been formed in other parts of the world, all adhering to the same socialist object and principles, the growth of socialist knowledge among the masses has been slow in comparison with the growth of confusion as to what socialism is. This will be readily admitted by anyone who has followed recent world polities, or even local politics. Yet through the past sixty years the S.P.G.B. has remained stable in character and consistent in its attitude and principles in spite of the bitterness and contumely that has appeared in other parties. It has also seen two world wars, the rise of state capitalism in Russia, the undemocratic attempt to impose by force the trappings of capitalist industrialisation on the populations of feudal China and Tibet, yet has maintained its original thesis: that the socialist revolution will not be brought about by its being imposed on the workers by a body of leaders, but will only come when a working-class majority understand and want socialism, and vote for it at the polling booth.

Peruvian Tragedy (1964)

From the July 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Football matches are not usually connected with carnage, but the massacre at Lima showed that human passion can cause untold misery and horror in almost any social activity or in any place, if the conditions happen to be there.

With a death roll at over three hundred, the newspapers brought us a wider picture of the tragedy, with stories of police firing on rioting fans, the exits covered with steel barriers to keep out gate crashers, and riots continuing outside the stadium while the dead were being identified or removed.

Many blame the police, who arrested a certain rabble-rouser nicknamed “Bomba.” Probably many Peruvians will not bother to ask why the police were necessary in force at a football match, why there were steel barriers, why the fans threw concrete lumps and fencing rubble to express their displeasure. One could be excused for dismissing the whole affair as just another example of human stupidity coupled with Latin temperament, but the temptation of such cursory examination must be resisted.

Peru seems a distant land that only figures infrequently in the news; a country that most know little—and care less— about. The economy and politics of the country are something of a closed book to the popular press. Recently a book by John Sykes called Family in Peru was published. By no means a profound work, it is an impression of the outlook and attitudes of some of the people the author met during his stay. He points out that 1.6 per cent. of the population own 76 per cent. of the land—an important enough factor in a country where agriculture is one of the principal occupations. The bulk of the population are Indians or “half breeds,” large numbers of them living on the great estates in feudal conditions, or working in the foreign owned mines. Their social environment is poverty, brutality and despair. Their escape is religion and the chewing of the coca leaf, the latter appearing to have an even more stupifying effect on their minds than the former.

Many of the Indians in some areas, Sykes tells us, were and are free peasants, but they have been tricked out of their land by the big ranchers. They have sold land after bad harvests, or to build churches. Some of them, in the last throes of poverty, have drifted into Lima, which is now surrounded by shanty towns full of unemployed and of employed slum proletariat.

In the towns the professional and student groups, along with the urban working class, have often given their support to a party called APRA whose policies (though Sykes does not say so) seem to be typical of the rising native capitalist class that is also known in many other countries. The main props of APRA’s aims are land reform, greater Peruvian industrial expansion, improved conditions for workers and peasants, more democracy, greater need and opportunities for technical skill. The Peruvian working class is still undeveloped by European and North American standards, weakened and weighed down by peons and peasants and a democracy that is strictly confined to paper. Because of this APRA which, like all political parties, can only rule on mass support, were in 1936 and 1945 turfed from power by the generals and the army in the interests of the large land owners.

Sykes felt the sense of frustration in a land suffering from industrial growing pains, a feeling of simmering violence about to erupt at any instigation. By understanding such conditions, one can get some small idea of the reasons for the pointless violence which spewed up in the football stadium. Sporting events to these people are an outlet for all their hates and fears, which they do not, or are unable to, express in a collective fashion. The blind fury of the depressed mob seeking revenge on any scapegoat was often a feature of 18th and 19th century Europe, and it has not by any means disappeared from the present social scene.

As industry and capitalism develops in Peru the workers will learn to canalise their protests into trade union and political action. Improved though many aspects of life will be for them, they will still be the class that produces wealth for a minority. Poverty, relative and real, will be their lot and frustrations in new ways as well as the old will always be there. They may renounce the escape routes of football violence and coca leaves for less spectacular narcotics, such as bingo and purple hearts, but while they and workers in other lands remain a subject class, that will be their lot in life.
Jack Law

The Legacy of 1914-18 (1964)

From the August 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the first world war was declared amid scenes of hysterical enthusiasm from crowds of workers on both sides, few thought that it would drag on for four dreadful years. Nor did many envisage the weapons that would be produced and developed in that period of carnage.

Much of what has been written recently has touched on these weapons, and criticism has centred on the failure of the high-ups to see their possibilities and exploit them to the full. A few months ago, The Sunday Times Magazine had this to say about air power, for instance: -
For much of the war pilots were more concerned about painted duels than with the destruction of men and material. The hero worship such individuals gained was great for the home front, but didn’t do a lot for the man in the mud . . . real ground strafing did not begin until Messines and Cambrai (1917). Only in the final weeks was the aeroplane fully used as a striking weapon!
Be that as it may, it is not our intention to join the largely futile arguments about who was right and who was wrong, who was far-sighted and who not. Perhaps from the viewpoint of some contemporary historians, the perfect war effort would be one which organised its resources up to the hilt and exploited every weapon to the limits of its potential. Thank goodness there is no such thing as perfection, for had it been achieved, the ghastly story of it all would have been that much ghastlier.

The great lesson is that the war-like nature of capitalism continues, whether or not hostilities are actually in progress. Once a weapon has arrived on the scene, it will be developed, refined and used until changes in the conduct and techniques of warfare make it out of date. Perhaps the brasshats will be slow to grasp when a particular weapon has had its day and there will be the usual controversy among the war councils.

Let us consider one or two examples. In 1916 the first tanks appeared on the western front, much to the annoyance of the cavalry men. The tank was an early sign that warfare was to become much more mobile.. It was the answer to the machine gun nests which had prevailed until then, although some of the Allied chiefs were slow to realise its possibilities. Who, then, would have foreseen the day over twenty years later, when tank warfare would grow to the extent that it did, and Panzer divisions overrun France in a few weeks? But even the tanks of early 1940 were as babies compared with the sixty-ton monsters which smashed their way through Germany from all directions only five years later.

When the first world war broke out, the aeroplane was in its infancy, but at the end it was being used more extensively, and a fleet of four-engined bombers was being prepared to raid Berlin. Here, perhaps, is one of the most apt examples of our point, for the inter-war years saw rapid changes in the design of fighting aircraft. The Spitfire and Hurricane, and their German opposite numbers, could fly at well over three hundred miles per hour, and by 1939 the day of the bomber had really dawned. It is as well to remember, incidentally, that only just before this, the Spanish civil war had provided a testing ground for some of the new ’planes. Even in the midst of “peace” we are in war.

The growth of air power during 1939- 45, and its use against soldier and civilian alike, had its roots in the events of twenty-odd years before. During the first war, the allies had produced incendiary and high explosive bombs which were dropped on enemy airfields with devastating effect. Practically the whole of Baron von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was destroyed on the ground in one such raid. German Zeppelins bombed London and other parts until around 1916. But if civilians found the Zeppelin raids terrifying, a glimpse into the future would certainly have widened their eyes still further in horror. For there they would have seen the firestorms of Rotterdam, Hamburg and Dresden, the flying bombs and rockets on London, and the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The casualty lists of 1914 shocked many of those who had been so enthusiastic for a fight, and the relief when it was all over was matched only by a “never again” feeling. Post-war conferences of the big powers outlawed dumdum bullets and poison gas, and supply us with a fitting example of the futility of such a piecemeal approach to the problem of war. For even by then, developments had rendered these weapons obsolete and far more efficient means of killing were to be our lot. Yet it is one of the tragedies that this attitude has persisted until the present time. Even the anti-war movements of the inter war years never got down to an examination of causes.

They have been succeeded by that prime futility of the fiftiesthe Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. This body has canalised the fright which many understandably felt when Hiroshima and Nagasaki hit the head-lines, but like its predecessors, CND has based its policy on the false assumption that the way to abolish war is to begin by outlawing its worst weapons and then work backwards through the list. “There is no war but nuclear war” was the remark made by one of their young supporters to an S.P.G.B. speaker a few years ago, and it seems a fair summary of at least their earlier attitude.

Last summer saw the signing of the test ban treaty, and this went to their heads a bit, having the effect of diverting their attention somewhat to other sources of capitalism. The words of Bertrand Russell illustrate to some extent their current feelings. At the end of January this year, he said;
  Owing to changes in government opinion, it seems more possible than it did to avert nuclear war . . . friends of peace should look for compromise solutions possibly acceptable to both sides. It should also be part of our work to expose punishments inflicted by governments which are unjustifiable and exacerbate international hostility. (Guardian, 29.1.64.)

It has been left to the SPGB to point out that the danger of war is just as great as ever and that the test ban treaty was only a sign of the changing balance of power between the major capitalist countries. It will be the same sort of story as long as capitalism is with us.

The horror of war weapons past, present and future, cannot be divorced from the social system which produces them. Let us correct the words of the young C.N.D.'er:--There is no war but a capitalist war.
Eddie Critchfield

The "Standard" in America (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was in the year 1909 that I joined the old Socialist Party of Canada, in Vancouver, B.C. All I knew of the philosophy of Socialism at that time was restricted to the fact that I was a wage slave, disillusioned by my contacts with capitalism, and firmly convinced, by listening to lectures and reading Socialist papers and pamphlets, that Socialism was the only solution for working class problems. This was enough to go on at the start

At our headquarters, which were open day and night and at our propaganda meetings, which were held regularly inside and out there were two papers which were always sold and read. These two were the Western Clarion and the Socialist Standard.

It is natural that in a Party that had adopted it as the official organ, the Clarion would be regarded as the more important. Its distribution was advocated by the Dominion Executive Committee, and faithfully carried out by the general membership.

In our study classes we closely examined the material in both papers, and some of us became aware of the fact that, while the main objective was similar, there were differences of a serious and material kind. In the platform of the S.P. of C. was the paragraph: “The irrepressible conflict of interests between the capitalist and the worker is rapidly culminating in a struggle for possession of the reins of government—the capitalist to hold, the worker to secure it by political action. This is the class struggle."

Our reading of the Socialist Standard led us to conclude that this definition of the class struggle was not correct. That the struggle also included the workers who were selling labour power in exchange for wages. Some of the pioneer members even went so far as to contend that there was a commodity struggle as well as a class struggle. But the Socialist Standard explanation was accepted by the younger members as correct.

Again, in the S.P. of C. platform was a declaration of what the Socialist Party would do concerning legislation when in office. This, with the aid of the Standard, we fought so strongly that it was later deleted from the platform.

Here in the United States, the Socialist Standard has always been distributed as widely as possible by the World Socialist Party, and the members continuously advised to read and study the contents. The results have been reasonably satisfactory. It has furnished us with a picture, on a broader canvas, of which the Socialist movement means on the international scene, and the mode of activity in which it is carried on.

Even more important, perhaps, is the stabilizing influence it exerts on the members, particularly on the new recruits who have had no experience, or the wrong kind of experience, before making application for membership in the Party. Our problem with the inclusion of new members is greater than that in Britain, due to the large area in which we operate. In Britain it is feasible to invite the applicant to headquarters, or to send a committee from the branch to his home, to examine his past political connections, his present attitude, and his qualifications for becoming a member.

Here, due to the distances between the applicant and the National Administrative Committee Headquarters or the local, the contact with workers who show a desire to join us has to be made mainly through the medium of the mail. A set of relevant questions are sent. He ponders their significance, makes inquires as to what such and such a query means, a further explanation is given, so that in the end we have just about told him how to answer the questions in order to be eligible to become a member.

It is in such cases that the value of papers like the Socialist Standard and the Western Socialist can be seen. There are articles in each from time to time dealing with every phase of socialist philosophy. In these the applicant can see beyond the matters touched upon in the questionnaire, and they open up a new intellectual area that provides the opportunity for more and deeper research.

In recent correspondence with a young man interested in our work, and anxious to know more about it, I was asked about the import of the Negro movement towards attaining what they consider to be their “civil rights.” He stated that he thought the Negroes’ desire to acquire the franchise should entitle them to our support, as their membership was largely made up of working men and women.

In addition to my own endeavour to negate his theory, pointing out that the great majority of the members in all parties and movements belonged to the working class, and that this fact in itself was not sufficient to warrant our participation in their efforts, I happily dug up a copy of the Socialist Standard, published back in the days when the Pankhurst family were engaged in smashing windows, and going on hunger strikes in their demands that votes be given to women.

The writer of this article, in clear and simple terms, analysed the suffragette movement. He explained the capitalist character of the movement, its lack of recognition or understanding of present society and the social forces tending to its abolition, and ended up with the affirmation that our movement would not be interested in supporting any part of it. I sent this copy to my correspondent. The next time I heard from him he conceded that he had overlooked the real points of the issue, and that the Socialist Standard had set him straight.
Jack MacDonald