Thursday, August 3, 2017

Greasy Pole: Working For Jeremy (2017)

The Greasy Pole column from the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
It was last September that Theresa May spoke out on the matter of her feeling strong and stable in her place at Ten Downing Street: ‘I think the next election will be in 2020. I’m not going to be calling a snap election’. At the time she had a majority in the House of Commons and the Labour opposition under Jeremy Corbyn was in such disarray that it was usual for the more boisterous Tory benches to show how exultantly they despised him in guffaws of ‘More! . . . More! . . . ’ each time he sat down after speaking. Meanwhile one Labour MP had rated Corbyn’s performance in Prime Ministers Questions as ‘a fucking disaster’ – an opinion which, perhaps similarly worded, was crudely popular on the opposition benches. Except that in May the Prime Minster announced that she had changed her mind so there would be an election on 8 June. And when that day came, after the votes had been counted and all those Tory MPs had been voted out, there been such a change among the Labour ranks that Corbyn was welcomed by them with enthusiastic applause as a victor, which carried him onto the Front Bench wreathed in smiles.
Shipyard Language
That assessment of Corbyn and PMQ came from John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow In Furness where employment is heavily dependent on the production of those Trident nuclear submarines which Corbyn opposes. Woodcock thinks that under Corbyn the party is, to use again what might be called shipyard language, ‘fucked’. In the Labour leadership election he voted for Liz Kendall – possibly under the impression that Corbyn was not a serious candidate, but perhaps his knowledge of the electoral process is not as penetrating as he would like it to be; his majority in general elections has fallen from 5,208 in 2010 to 209 in 2017. Elsewhere, on the fringes of Parliament, the language was less manipulative but equally forceful for its doubts about where Corbyn stood on the issue of the European Union. For example the book All Out War by Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times, claims to provide something of a ‘ringside seat’ on the decision-making processes at work during these tumultuous times. Overall, Corbyn does not feature as one of the more dynamic, demanding influences at work for change because he ‘. . . had no experience of top-level politics until he won the Labour leadership in September 2015’. There is reference to a ‘lacklustre performance’ in the matter of the continuing membership of British capitalism in the EU; his ‘ . . . behaviour stoked bemused irritation among his colleagues..’ Another, but similar, view from the political side came from ex-Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls; ‘If I’d still been in Parliament, I don’t think I could have served in Jeremy’s Shadow Cabinet; not because I believe in sulking in tents, but because it would have been impossible to serve in any kind of senior position if I had fundamental disagreements with the leadership on core policy issues, and I suspect there would have been many’.
De Piero
The matter of whether that would have been good or bad for the Labour government was complicated by the various talents on offer. Consider for example Gloria De Piero, from a family originating in Italy but afflicted with severe and persistent impoverishment because neither parent was healthy enough to hold onto paid employment. But De Piero plugged on through all the stresses, achieving some handsomely relevant qualifications which were enough to carry her into a career in TV journalism with the likes of Jonathan Dimbleby and then into politics. In February 2010 she resigned from GMTV to try for the Labour nomination for the Ashfield seat where the sitting MP Geoff Hoon was stepping down after a varied career including a number of ministerial posts entailing predictable ambitions for the party leadership. But this was not all plain sailing, for Hoon was involved in a series of blunders and worse which eventually earned him the title of Geoff Buffoon. Whatever his defence in these matters it was clearly time for him to give way to a less contentious candidate and De Piero stood out for this. One outcome was that in her first attempt at the seat, in 2010, De Piero had a majority of 192 (compared to Hoon’s 2005 figure of 10,213) resulting from a swing of 17.2 percent to the Liberal candidate Jason Zadrozny – which was quickly wiped out in time for the next election in 2015 after Zadrozny was prosecuted for sexual offences.
However De Piero was not influenced by the stresses, the questions, the doubts about being a Labour candidate. At some stage – when she was 15 years old – she had been persuaded into posing for some topless photographs. The matter remained dormant until 2010, when it was reported in The Mail On Sunday which had bought the photos and again in October 2013 when a news agency was attempting to buy them. De Piero’s protests were supported by a former Tory MP describing the matter as a ‘ . . . quasi-sexual or moralistic assault on her behaviour as a 15-year old girl’ and at De Piero’s request the newspaper sent her the photos and the negatives with a written apology. Now she is more experienced; in July last year she demonstrated the assumed influence of a Front Bencher by contributing a piece to The Sun which was ‘begging’ that paper’s readers to join the Labour Party so that they could vote for ‘ . . . a leader who recognises that the Labour Party was founded to be a Party of Government’. A year later she had changed her mind to such an extent that she had been able to accept a place in Corbyn’s team in the vital job of Shadow Justice Minister.
Gloria De Piero is not the only Labour MP to change their mind over accepting the temptation to work with Jeremy Corbyn. Roberta Blackman-Woods (‘I no longer have confidence in you as a leader’) is one. Another is Karl Turner (‘I’ve eaten humble pie over criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’). And Holly Lynch (‘An ineffective Leader’). This fact informs us, and strengthens us, in our opposition to the people who are elected to rule over us in a social system which is essentially, inhumanely, chaotic.

Religion Retreats (1967)

From the December 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The last decade has seen the rise of a new phenomenon— Christian Unity. Salvation Army bands play in Anglican cathedrals; Baptists, Methodists and Congregationalists co-operate in “Free Church Councils" and, most startling of all, priests of the Roman Catholic Church, that most unbending of bodies, preach in the churches of other denominations.

A glance at the strife-torn history of Christianity will show just how novel such a situation is. Britain, like the United States, has always been particularly rich in religious denominations. Each denomination, with its particular theories held as essential truths, was in conflict with others. These conflicts were bitter, often bloody. What has happened to draw the members of this much divided society together?

The early development of Capitalism in Britain, and comparative freedom from autocracy, produced an unusual degree of religious freedom. Controversy could rage and it became both the right and duty of dissenting minorities to form their own circle, and to proclaim the truth as they saw it. This was unlike Catholic or Lutheran countries, where a strong tradition of conformity prevailed. There, when disagreements occurred, new groups were formed, but within the framework of the main body. A united front was thus presented, that was often deceptive; war to the knife, as between Jesuits and Dominicans, could be fought within the folds of the Church.

One of the results of the religious freedom in Great Britain has been the virtual absence of politico-religious parties. Catholics and Protestants, Atheists and Jews, are found in any and every political party, according to individual conviction, and there are no anti-clerical parties. Only in Ireland, with its tragic and violent recent history, does religion wear a political garb.

Towards the end of the last century a fundamental change began. Scientific discoveries, and the works of biologists like Darwin, ceased to be the prerogative of the educated few and began to be accepted as commonplace by the many. The great retreat had begun. The dogmas upon which each denomination stood began to become obsolete. When you are struggling to prove the very existence of a God, such questions as whether the bread and wine used at the Mass actually turn into the blood and flesh of Christ, or whether they are just symbolic, become academic.

But there was nothing academic about it 400 years ago. Then men were prepared to kill and be killed for it Many people went to the stake for denying the dogma of Transubstantiation, as it was called, while as many more died for upholding it. Faced with this dilemma not only theology, but large chunks of the Bible itself, have been jettisoned in an effort to make Christianity fit in with modern knowledge. It is difficult at times to know just what Christians do still believe. Fundamentalists have become a minority.

There are many denominations, large and small, in Britain, each one a product of a particular stage in history. First, there are the three Churches, the direct descendants of the Medieval Churches of England and Scotland: Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian. In Medieval Western Europe only one religious authority existed—the Catholic Church with ultimate authority in Rome. Any attempt to deviate was ruthlessly crushed. The English Church had always been rather more independent. Britain’s geographical position, plus its excellent army, made Papal intervention difficult and its early emergence as a centralised State produced an extreme chauvinism.

Saintly kings, like Henry III and Henry VI, had always been regarded with suspicion, as being too open to foreign influence, and the suppression of foreign based monasteries was always a popular move. When the Church of England withdrew its allegiance to Rome, it still remained the Church of England. The monarch became its head instead of the Pope, but it remained in all other respects a Catholic Church. Its doctrine, its organisation, its ceremony and vestments, remain to this day basically Catholic. It is Episcopalian, which means the government of the church by Bishops, and it is still the official church. This makes it unique among religious bodies. It is not, contrary to popular misconception, financed and run by the State, but in keeping with the British practice of forgetting out of date legislation, rather than repealing it, the Church possesses vast powers in theory that it has long since lost in practice.

In this it resembles the Monarchy and the Nobility, to whom it is tied. Bishops sit in the House of Lords, the Royal Family must be members of the Church of England and Parliament decides major Church policy. It conducts all State religious ceremonies like Coronations. It is still a very large landowner, and finds itself the custodian of a vast number of historic buildings and works of art. It has always been very liberal in allowing a diversity of ideas within its ranks, even down to a “communist’’ Dean and a near-atheist Bishop. Because it is the official Church, the semi-religious turn to it for marriages, burials, and christenings, as well as somewhere to scamper in times of trouble.

The old joke about people with no fixed views being C. of E., is based on fact. This makes it difficult to gauge the Church’s true strength. The figures for 1964 gave the number of people in England baptised in the C. of E. as 27,005,000, the number confirmed as 9,748,000, but the number on the “Electoral Rolls of the Parishes’’, as only 2,739,023. This is nearer to its true strength. In spite of its landowning, and other special assistance, it ultimately rests, like all other groups, on its hard core of members.

Throughout the 16th century there raged within the Church a three cornered battle for control between the Episcopalians, the Catholics and the Puritans. Fortunes fluctuated; under the regency of Edward VI extreme Protestants got the upperhand. Later under Mary I England returned to Roman Catholicism. Parliament supported this move, but on the very important condition that they hung on to the lands plundered from the monasteries. Neither Catholic nor Protestant had the slightest intention of handing these back. The main body of Puritans favoured the Presbyterian system, a more democratic form of church government with no Bishops, and with government by presbyters or elders who are elected. They are Calvinistic. Once again there was no question of freedom, the Puritans wished to control the church, and were just as keen on coercion as the rest. Presbyterianism reached its peak in England during the Civil War, but lost out after the Restoration. In Scotland however Presbyterianism was adopted by the Church, and replaced Episcopalianism. In modern times Presbyterian Churches have been established in England, but Scotland and Northern Ireland are its main strongholds. Its membership in Scotland is 1,400,000 but in England only 71,000.

The third body, the Roman Catholics, lost out both in England and Scotland, and were forced underground for over two centuries. In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act removed most of the restrictions on them, and they began to build up anew. They are perhaps the largest, and certainly the best organised, religious body in the world, with about 487 million members. They are not very large in Britain—only about 3 million—but they are still the largest single denomination here. The most important factor is a constant influx of members from Ireland. If the Roman Catholics had to rely solely on converts in Britain, they would be much smaller.

The Catholic Church is the most authoritarian and keeps a tough grip on its members. Its organisation is such that it can retain the waverers that others would lose. The Roman Catholic Church is retreating, but it is an orderly retreat. The recent irony, when the Catholic Herald stated that the arch-enemy Luther was really a good Roman Catholic, will take some swallowing by the faithful but they will manage it. They’ve swallowed worse than that. The Hierarchy are masters at the game, and will certainly dig their heels in when they have to.

The Puritanism of the 16th century had another side—the Independents, and in them one can see the beginnings of modern thought. The mass of the people still tended to think in Medieval terms, and still visualised a State Church, but one dominated by their own particular ideas. The Independents, or Congregationalists, as the names imply believed that churches should be self governing bodies composed of believers only. Each church should be autonomous and the congregation itself should be the ultimate authority. In other words direct democracy. This was extremely revolutionary in the 16th century, and for long after, and brought down the inevitable persecution. The independents were sometimes called Brownists, after one of their founders. The Pilgrim Fathers were mainly composed of Brownists. They covered a wide range of ideas, and from the Independents arose the Congregationalists, the Baptists, and the Quakers.

They were strong in the manufacturing and trading areas, such as London, East Anglia, Bristol and Hull. They had their main following among the skilled artisans and the merchant class. Their great breeding ground was the New Model Army of Cromwell, and they found political expression in such movements as the Levellers and Fifth Monarchy Men. In the 18th century they slipped into obscurity and stagnation, to emerge again at the beginning of the 19th Century. The Congregationalists and Baptists each have a membership of about 300,000 in Britain but they have a very wide following throughout the world.

The Baptists are the largest religious body in the United States, with a considerable following in such unlikely places as Spain and Russia. The Society of Friends, or Quakers, have never been very large but their influence has always been much greater than their numbers. They have always carried Puritan simplicity and democracy to its ultimate. Their most outstanding feature has been opposition to war. One effect of this has been that Quaker industrialists have tended to avoid not only armaments but heavy industry, and concentrated on light industry. Their membership is about twenty thousand.

The early stages of the Industrial Revolution gave rise to extensive movements of reform within the Church of England. The most important offshoot was the Methodist movement founded by John Wesley, an Anglican priest, which eventually broke away as an independent Church. Unlike the old non-conformist bodies, the Methodist Church was authoritarian. Its greatest importance lay in its educational efforts among an often illiterate membership. Wesley was an extreme reactionary, although an outspoken opponent of slavery, but ironically in later years the movement became a breeding ground for Radicals. Many leading Chartists were Methodists. The Methodist Church has a membership of about a million in Britain but nearer to 20 millions throughout the world.

A typical product of the late 19th Century was the Salvation Army. Founded by William Booth in the 1870’s, it was proletarian in origin. Its unique feature was its quasi-military form of organisation, and it concentrated extensively on social welfare work. It was completely authoritarian in its organisation. It added nothing very new to religious ideas, its theories being uncomplicated and nothing more than basic Protestant dogma. Alone amongst large Protestant bodies it has not really changed its ideas, although it has ceased its extreme isolation and is prepared to co-operate.

The picture of the main religious bodies is one of retreat before the growth of scientific ideas and a steady but slow decline of membership. Their dilemma is that as they weaken their case, far from increasing membership, they decline. Too much should not be read into this; there are still something like ten million members of Christian Churches in Britain, although this would include a large number of very lukewarm members. Christianity is tough, it has had massive drifts away before, and could very well make a comeback. But at the moment the retreat is on.
Les Dale

Electoral Activity (1947)

From the January 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Clause 8 of our Declaration of Principles commences with a punch—"The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist.” This war the Party has carried on ever since our declaration of principles was first drawn up. Always we have attacked the parasites, their henchmen and apologists with the weapon of Socialist knowledge. Literature on all aspects of the Socialist case against capitalism has been issued; an enormous amount of effort has been expended by Party speakers and others in addressing meetings or discussing with fellow workers, in an endeavour to make more Socialists. This work goes on and will continue until our class has completed its emancipation.

Until recently, our opponents have been able to put up a pretence of ignoring the Party, referring to it as a “small party,” not to be bothered about, or if noticed, to be sneered at in the usual manner of those who cannot, or dare not, answer our case. The following decisions and actions have compelled them to take notice.

In 1927 a meeting of Party members, held in the Friars Hall, Blackfriars Road, London, decided that the Party should contest Parliamentary Elections as soon as possible. At the following General Election it was proposed to contest North Battersea, the job of candidate being delegated to Comrade Barker. In this constituency there were represented the Tory, Liberal and Labour Parties. The possibility of the Socialist Party making a fourth created quite a stir in North Battersea. Unfortunately it remained a possibility only, as there were not sufficient funds to meet the £150 which has to he paid in the form of the deposit. From this time on we slowly built up our Parliamentary Fund. It was slow work, as a large number of our members were out of work or getting a living with difficulty. However, we built up this fund sufficiently to contemplate contesting a seat in 1939 General Election. The outbreak of war, with the postponing of elections till the cessation of hostilities, led us to abandon the work we started in 1938 at East Ham North, which was the chosen constituency.

The General Election, held after the termination of the war, gave us our chance at North Paddington, where we went into action with £230 in the Parliamentary Fund. This fight cost us £900, most of which was contributed by members and sympathisers during the Election. The cost to our General Fund was £130.

As members, readers of the S.S. and a lot of people who had never before heard of the S.P.G.B. know, we contested the bye-election at N. Paddington. This time the cost was £560, and again the funds came in to meet the need.

There is one outstanding feature we have noticed as a result of these contests: it is that there are far more workers prepared to listen and read about Socialism, than many of us believed. To have been at our meetings would have cured any one of pessimism; the reception of our canvassers was also very sympathetic, and the amount of literature sold was also a very encouraging feature.

The S.P.G.B. is definitely on the attack at the place where it hurts the enemy most, that is, the seat of power. We know the struggle is hard, it may he long and bitter, but still we shall go on determined to wage war as we state in Clause 8 of our Declaration of Principles quoted at the beginning of this appeal. Yes, it is an appeal! We want to contest more than one constituency at the next General Election, and the amount of money in the Parliamentary Fund will be one of the factors that will determine how many we shall contest. Donations to this fund should be sent to E. Lake, at 2, Rugby Chambers, Rugby Street, W.C.1, marked “Parliamentary Fund."

Remember our class enemy will not in future be able to ignore us. Your donation will help us to forge the ammunition to carry on the fight.
Parliamentary Committee.

Personalities or Principles? (1947)

From the February 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The conflict now raging between Social Democrats and Communists in almost every European country is receiving far more attention than it deserves. From the working-class view-point the questions in dispute are of little or no importance, and personalities, not principles, are the chief issues.

The corresponding parties in this country are the Labour Party, now in power, and the Communist Party. Both these parties claim to be out for a fundamental change, and to base their respective policies on this aim. Yet the activities of both parties are concerned solely with the advocacy of reforms within the capitalist system.

At the general election the Communists supported the Labour Party and sponsored their programme. They still do so, although criticising details here and there, together with the lack of speed and firmness in carrying out nationalisation schemes. At times these “blind leaders of the blind” endeavour to link their frothy rise to leadership and power with that glorious past when a real social science was in the making.

Such an attempt was made recently on the 50th anniversary of the death of William Morris. According to the Daily Worker (16/11/46), the Daily Herald claimed Morris as a forerunner of the Labour Party, and “the Attlee pastorale.”

W. Holmes, in the Worker, disputed this and claimed him for the Communists because
  “He left the S.D.F. in disgust at its reformist trend. But despite its vagaries, the S.D.F. was the forerunner of the Communist Party.”
   The Herald claimed him because ‘‘by Socialist he meant almost precisely what we mean, although the practical technique of British Socialism had not then been invented.”
We are not concerned with their respective claims on Morris. His chief merit lay in his thorough exposure of working-class conditions under capitalism. He was, perhaps, to some extent a reformist, but one who visualised correctly the real meaning of Socialism. Yet W. Holmes says of him:
   ‘‘But Morris wanted to tell the world that ‘It is not a small change in life that we advocate, but a very great one; that Socialism will transform our lives and habits.' ” “That full-blooded faith,” says Holmes, “led Moms to break with all the reformists of his day. For he was a Marxist, and called himself a 'Communist.’ ”
It is unfortunate for the Daily Worker, and the writer of the above notes on Labour Party gradualism, that in the adjoining columns Harry Pollitt should lay himself open to the same criticism in the following words:
  “Alongside this policy must also go the real fight against monopoly and its profits at home; improvement of the wages and working hours of the workers now; speed-up in the building of new houses, and reorganisation of the basic industries with the full participation of the workers. In this way we can lay, at home and abroad, the firm foundation which alone can guarantee the fulfilment of the policy the people voted for at the General Election in 1945.”
One writer blames the Labour Government for their reformism and the other asks no more from them than the implementation of the programme of reforms on which they were elected!

Gradualism means slowing-up progress towards Socialism and is the avowed policy of the Fabians. They professed to bring Socialism about by evolution, not social revolution. Taken in this sense, the Labour Party’s programme is gradualism pure and simple, its nationalisation schemes are put forward on the assumption that nationalisation must precede Socialism; and form a necessary part of the process. But this assumption has never been justified by the Fabians, or anyone else. The reverse, of course, being true, because of the confusion arising over the two terms, public ownership and common ownership; for which both Fabians and Communists are responsible, and which neither have made the slightest attempt to remove. It is this reformist and nationalisation programme that Pollitt and the Communist Party insist on being carried through; while W. Holmes, in the same paper and on the same day, describes it as gradualism.

To advocate reforms is to slow-up the progress towards Socialism, because it concentrates the attention of the workers on a fruitless struggle for something now. W. Holmes agrees with this, for he quotes Morris to that' effect, as follows:
   “There is, generally speaking, among democrats, a leaning towards a kind of limited State Socialism, and it is through that that they hope to bring about a peaceful Revolution which, if it does not introduce a condition of equality, will at least make the workers better off and contented with their lot . . . nor would some of them be discontented if we could glide into complete State Socialism.”
Which is where Fabians and Communists are heading if we call it by its correct name, State Capitalism.

But in addition to this reform policy which diverts the workers from Socialist knowledge and activity, Pollitt has a further diversion:
   “The Labour Government must be compelled to change its policy at home and abroad so that we stand four-square with those nations which think politically like millions do in Britain. This is the best insurance against the predatory designs of American imperialism. If Britain, the Soviet Union, France and the other democratic nations in Europe now stand together, then for these nations there will be no new economic crises or new wars.” 
In this he helps the capitalists to split the workers of Europe and America into hostile camps, battling for supremacy in world trade, a conflict leading inevitably to future wars. Nothing is more certain to slow up the spread of Socialist thought than to sow dissension between the workers by emphasising nationalist differences that are purely capitalist in character. Far from being a Marxist, Pollitt, in the above paragraph, repudiates Marx and his famous slogan: Workers of the World Unite.

But where does nationalisation lead? According to the Labour Party, Socialism will be complete with the nationalisation of every possible industry. The Communists do not deny this, although they criticise the Government for paying too much in compensation to dispossessed shareholders. Sometimes they say no compensation at all should be paid. If these eventually have their way, the likeness to Russia will be complete. The dream of the Fabians realised: Government by experts, and the working-class still wage-workers: Industry still run for profits, and the results, over and above wages, shared between the experts, political and industrial. As in Russia, they can bring into existence a perfect hierarchy of officials, industrial experts, scientists, economists and technicians, to create an atmosphereof inevitability and permanence to their rule.

Small wonder that G. B. Shaw greeted the Soviet leaders as Fabians, and, incidentally, showed that the aims of Communists and Fabians were identical: Government by the middle-class, as he termed the intellectuals and professionals. In short, a totalitarian form of government in "Socialist" Britain as in “Communist" Russia.

The British Communist Party, adopting the methods of the Kremlin, can only land themselves in the same vicious circle of competitive struggle for markets with its ever-present threat of war. It stamps it as being of the same nature as the Labour Party; thirsting for power, that they may impose their ideas and methods on a working-class not yet alive to their real interests. 

No government can establish Socialism. Only the working class, the overwhelming mass of the people, can do that. Because, as Morris said, Socialism involves revolutionary changes in every aspect of the working-class way of life. The wages system must be supplanted by a democratic administration of production and distribution, based on individual needs and equality. This means the building of a working-class organisation now, where every worker understands and accepts the democratic principles of administration; and is ready to take his place in the scheme of things, both on the productive and administrative side.

Until the workers do this. Society cannot move forward to its higher and freer conception of life. Workers everywhere should concentrate on Socialism and leave reforms and public ownership to those interested in preserving Capitalism.
F. Foan

Exchange Is No Robbery (1947)

From the March 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

If use-value is not the basis by which exchange-value can be measured, what then is the “something" common to all commodities by which this can be effected?

Take the two metals, iron and gold. Both are mined and brought to market where they exchange, weight for weight, in a ratio of some thousands to one. It is not their respective use-values that causes this exchange disparity, for while gold is a commodity essential to the capitalist mode of production, in that it is hoarded by the banks to back up the money-notes issued by them as currency, etc., a more than equal case exists for iron in that it is the material of industrialisation and its modem machinery and tools without which present-day society ceases to function.

Finding in use-value no common factor that is measurable, there is left the fact that all commodities are the product of human labour. Human labour measured by time is therefore the obvious basis for assessing value in exchange. Take again our iron and gold example; miners, according to a recent radio talk, must hew and process some six tons of quartz rock before it will yield gold enough to fill a matchbox, while on the other hand, the same amount of labour would produce tons of more freely found iron.

Exchange is therefore the interchange of one labour product for another of different use-value, the exchange-relation being based on the labour-time that capitalist society allots to the production and reproduction of any particular commodity, while in every exchange the kind of labour that produced the commodities, be it specialised or “unskilled” is reduced to the unity of undifferentiated human labour, i.e., the labour embodied in machinery made by industrial workers, will exchange for the products of agricultural labour, skilled labour being a multiple of unskilled labour. Yet the amount of labour in commodities is not decided by the whims of the individual capitalists but is thrust on them all by those who manage to reduce the labour-time by the latest labour-saving technique and machinery, setting up in effect the “socially necessary labour time” to which one and all must adhere or have their commodities rejected by the market as too “dear.”

Every exchange comprises a sale and purchase and looking at our gold and iron example one can say that either could change position, in that the iron could "buy” the gold or vice-versa. This implication is borne out by the long history of exchange in which first this and then that commodity served as a universal equivalent, the most favoured, being the precious metals because they concentrated labour in a handy form and were easily divisible. Among these, gold holds supreme position to-day as the commodity set aside as the measure of value and standard of price. Thus an ounce of gold of legal fineness, will mint as coinage into just under four sovereigns of legal weight, making it possible for the labour embodied in one or many such portions of this metal to express in currency terms the labour-relation between it and any other product of labour. In brief, while labour is the cause of value, gold measures this value and expresses it in the various national currencies as price. The fact that sovereigns have been replaced by paper tokens does not invalidate the foregoing, except that tokens open the door to inflation by legally expressing price in an unwanted number of tokens over and above the real money of gold.

Keeping in mind the meaning of price, one can say that exchange is but the movement of labour products for others of equal labour value, and the question which naturally arises here is that if exchange amounts to the giving of one value for an equal, how can profit arise? It might appear that the capitalists in the exchange of labour products out-smart each other by giving less labour for more in return, but a seller, to continue in business, must at some time be a buyer and is himself “caught,” thus levelling up any gain. Finally, the “outsmarting” theory is entirely nullified by the fact that the whole capitalist class make a profit regularly. Let us look a little closer at this. The capitalist buys at the proper market price, machinery, raw materials and workers’ energies and when the process of converting the materials is completed and the sale of the new product is effected, he finds that not only has he sufficient money to repeat this process, but enough and more as the business grows to cease all ”work" and hand over his mandate to his paid manager. No “robbery” has been committed by the honest business man, yet he is in possession of values in the shape of commodities for which he has given no equivalent in return. How does it happen? Read the next article entitled “Something for Nothing.” 
Frank Dawe

News items about other Labour Governments (1947)

From the April 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

  “Australia’s industrial unrest has come to a head with the decision by 76 federal trade unions representing virtually all union members in the nation to hold a general strike on May 1st unless their claims are met. This will be a one-day affair as the opening shot in a "direct action” campaign to enforce demands for higher wages and better conditions.”
   "The conference also favoured complete abolition of wage-pegging regulations, an investigation of commodity prices and action against black marketing in essential commodities. It resolved that its decisions regarding wages should again be placed before the Government as the minimum demands of the trade unions.”
(“Sunday Times,” February 9th, 1947.)

    “A strike on the waterfront, lasting a few days, was ended by agreement with the Government and the Federation of Labour, but the cause of the strike remains—a claim by waterside workers’ unions for a five-day week—and trouble may recur any time. If it does, and the threatened split in the Labour front comes to pass, Labour may well be thrown out of office at the next election. As it is, the Government has a bare majority—42 to 38 in a House of 80. . . . The poll was heavy and so evenly divided between the parties—half a million or so each—that Labour had only about 30,000 majority in the million."
("Manchester Guardian,” February 17th, 1947 )

   The French Government is a coalition of several parties, including the Labourites and Communists, under a Labour Prime Minister.
   Recently a strike of civil servants, post office workers and the police took place. The sequel is related below by the "Daily Telegraph" (February 19th, 1947):—
  “Declaring that the assembly must enact laws to limit the right to strike, he (Prime Minister Ramadier) announced that the Cabinet would shortly present the draft of such a law to Parliament. 'The first French anti-strike law which will ever have been enacted must limit in a precise manner the right to strike of employees on which public security depends'."

Workers of All Lands Unite—But not with foreigners (1947)

Editorial from the May 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Biblical legend tells us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter paradise. It never occurred to the writer to stress the extreme difficulty of getting out again, it being assumed quite naturally that it is only prisons and suchlike purgatories that have to make escape impossible. Only in our own day do we witness the spectacle of Russia being held up as a Paradise, while the inhabitants are strictly forbidden to leave; they, it seems, must serve their life sentences to the very end.

This has been brought to prominence by the plight of the few Russian women who married British and other foreigners during the war and vainly tried to get out of Russia to rejoin their husbands; and by the new decree against such marriages. "Marriage between Soviet citizens and aliens was prohibited by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., published yesterday."—(Daily Worker, 22/3/47).

In the mid-nineteenth century it was taken for granted by those who thought themselves progressive that the ending of slavery and serfdom would be followed by the eventual removal of all restrictions on movement. Instead, the comparative ease of movement that then existed and which permitted Marx and Johan Most, the anarchist, for example to leave the continent and settle in England, has been followed by our own era in which registrations, passports and other obstacles to migration have reached a new perfection, more pernicious because the machinery of coercion is go much more efficient. Russia, the so-called land of internationalism, is now about the worst of the lot; its present attitude to marriage with aliens being different in motive but just as reactionary as the laws which prohibit marriages between whites and negroes in various parts of the world.

Russia was one of the countries that subscribed to the principles of the Atlantic Charter. One of these principles proclaimed the intention to establish such a peace as “should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance." How they are to reach the high seas and how to enter port again is not explained.

It is amusing to recall that the First Soviet Constitution (1918) contained a clause favouring “the widest possible fraternising between the workers and peasants in the ranks of the opposing armies." Now the unfortunate Soviet citizen must not even fraternise with members of an “allied" army!

When in 1860 Jacob Burckhardt wrote his “Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy," and wanted to show the depths of tyranny and intolerance of some of the 13th century despotisms he selected as an example Frederick II's "disciplined multitude of subjects; who were forbidden, for example, to marry out of the country without special permission." (Phaidon Press edition 1944, P. 3). Another instance was Bologna where it was the rule "that every passing traveller who entered at one gate must obtain a ticket in order to go out at another" (p. 33). If Burckhardt were writing to-day all he need do would he to say how little things had changed between the 13th and the 20th centuries, except that the coercion of the individual has been renamed "Communism," or Labour Planning, or National Service.

Conscription—A Contrast in Attitudes (1947)

Editorial from the June 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

By its National Service Bill the Labour Government, abandoning the Labour Party’s long proclaimed objection to peace-time conscription, is continuing compulsory military service at least for several years. In the early part of 1939, when the Chamberlain government introduced the Military Training Act in order to prepare for the war that was seen to be likely, the Labour Party reaffirmed its “uncompromising opposition to conscription” and expressed its preference for the “voluntary system." Now the Labour Government, using precisely the same excuses, the failure of the voluntary recruiting campaign, the need to “maintain a reasonable state of preparedness in case we should be engaged in a future war” (Mr. Isaacs, Hansard, 31/3/47, column 1675) does exactly what it denounced the Chamberlain Government for doing. This has not been well received among members of the Labour Party, many of whom feel that something must be wrong with Labour Government policy that the detested expedient of conscription should be necessary. This uneasiness found expression in the refusal of a large number of Labour M.P.s to vote for the Bill while protesting their loyalty to the Labour Government and to its measures other than this one.

Surprising as it may seem to those who do not think clearly the action of the "rebel” M.P.s is entirely illogical. They support Labour Government, but seek to escape responsibility for what all its supporters are committed to doing.

The Labour Government is in office to administer the capitalist system and its freedom of action is strictly limited by that responsibility. Capitalism necessarily involves entering into the struggle for world markets, and for the control of colonies and strategic points, and that struggle leads in the last resort to war. “The cause of war is the struggle of vast private interests for markets,” (Labour Party pamphlet “Labour’s Call to Youth,” 1933). It is true that the Labour Party cherished the illusion that it could find a conciliatory foreign policy that would avoid international tension and rivalry but capitalism pays no heed to the good intentions of its administrators. The Labour Government is committed to maintaining the British colonial empire and is waging a life and death struggle to secure a vast increase in British exports—with the loyal support of most of the M.P.s who draw back from providing the means of war through conscription.

In the pamphlet quoted above the Labour Party declared 
    “We do not believe that patriotism involves the retention of vast armed forces in order that we can parade our power before the world . . . We repudiate the methods of imperialism and exploitation, and shall earnestly seek the freedom of those nations now subjected to the tyranny of arrogant empire-building governments . . .  The elimination of competition and a policy of friendly co-operation with other nations to secure a fair distribution of markets and room for the expansion of population will alone make war an obsolete instrument of human policy.”
They were deceiving themselves as the past 18 months of Labour government have shown. The only means of ending war is to end capitalism and introduce socialism.

Early in 1939 when the Labour Party was proclaiming its uncompromising opposition to the peace-time conscription that it is now imposing, the S.P.G.B. also issued a statement, “The Socialist and Conscription.” The following extract from that statement show how different is the attitude of the socialist and show, too, why it has never been necessary for the S.P.G.B. to change its attitude on the spurious plea that circumstances have changed.
   “The opposition of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is not that of the Pacifists, though all thoughtful men and women will recognise the weight of the observation that 'not one evil that is professed to be avoided by war is greater than war itself.’ The pacifist—unless he seeks the overthrow of capitalism—is in the position of accepting the competitive social system which necessarily breeds bitter rivalries and of thinking at the same time that the rivalries can be settled by amicable discussion at the council table. Nor does the Socialist merely object to that form of compulsion known as conscription. There is little difference between the compulsion of the law which takes the conscript and the compulsion of unemployment which drives 'volunteers' to enlist. It has been truly said by a well-known advocate of conscription that 'nearly all our so-called volunteers for the Regular Army are hunger-conscripts'."
    "The Socialist is opposed to conscription because he is opposed to the capitalist war for which the armed forces, whether volunteer, professional or conscript, are wanted.”
   "The Socialist Party declares its opposition not only to conscription but to capitalist war and to capitalism itself.”

The Labour Party Conference (1947)

From the July 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

If the 1946 Labour Party Conference can be described as a “victory binge,” then using another metaphor, this year’s might be said to be the hangover. Undoubtedly another year of Labour government has cleared away any intoxicating fumes. It was this perhaps that gave to the conference the somewhat depressing and jaundiced air of those who have at last sobered up and are beginning to see things as they really are. “Things as they really are” being Conscription, continued Austerity, Power Politics, etc. It is hardly to be wondered at that even the most optimistic member of the Labour Party is hard put to it to recognise these things as the signs of “Labour’s New Social Order.” Nevertheless party loyalty was the keynote sounded, and the huge Labour Party voting machine went obediently into action and, apart from one or two irrelevancies and minor side shows, automatically clicked its approval of Government policy. In Labour Party circles it was known as "the Unity Conference.”

The opening speech of the Chairman, Mr. Noel Baker, was significant for what it omitted rather than for anything it contained. Unable to give any convincing reason why the record of the Labour Government should merit any working-class support, Mr. Noel Baker played up the Tory “big bad wolf ” theme by telling his audience that bad as things might be under a Labour Government, under a Tory regime they would have been infinitely worse. Or, to use his own words, it would have ended in a catastrophe (Daily Telegraph, May 27th, 1947). On the international field he offered the dismal information "that to end the fear of war is the crux upon which for our generation and for our children all else turns." However, his cloudy idealism trailed a vapour which spelt out "that it was possible for nations with different social systems to live in peace and harmony.” Why it has not hitherto been possible for nations with just one social system to live in this “blessed state” he failed to explain. Of course the idea of Western democratic nations and a communist totalitarian Russia being fundamentally different social systems is a piece of fiction. All these nations are Capitalist Powers merely differing in form and certain incidental details. As a piece of fiction it is, however, both mischievous and dangerous when circulated among members of the working class, because it serves as the basis for an idealogical justification for some future conflict. Strangely enough, Mr. Noel Baker himself supplied a distinctly discordant note in all this “peace and harmony” by issuing a warning—“Let no foreigner believe that Britain is down and out.” His only statement which might have significance for working class consideration was hie admission “that poverty was still the master problem for mankind” (Daily Telegraph, same issue).

The “Socialist” Morrison began, and perhaps fittingly so, by appealing to the capitalist class for co-operation and even enthusiasm for his "Socialist State.” He even asked them to accept in terms of real spendable power, less surplus value (he called it net reward) than they had been accustomed to. (Times, May 29th, 1947). Admitting "great inequalities of wealth and bad examples of luxury spending,” he seemed determined, however, to ensure that there was a level below which the wealthy must not be allowed to sink. "There was little or no more to be got by squeezing the rich,” he declared. Whatever the workers got in the future would only be by hard work and producing more. Mr. Morrison has probably never been told that whatever the workers have got or are likely to get is only the result of their own labour. It might come as something of a shock to Mr. Morrison to be also informed that whatever the rich get is also the result of that labour of the dispossessed majority. Apparently Mr. Morrison views the working class in the light of a set of profligate nephews who have dunned their good-natured and wealthy relatives to the point of pecuniary embarrassment. That the rich have acquired their riches only by squeezing unpaid labour from the workers, and in ever greater quantities, is of course the plain, even if somewhat unpalatable, truth. It is remarkable, perhaps, how one can spend a lifetime in the Labour Movement without ever acquiring these simple elementary facts of working class existence.

Mr. Morrison also played up to what he referred to as “the so-called middle class ” (Times, May 25th, 1947). That is managers, technicians, etc. Asking also for their co-operation and help but unable it seemed to implement it by any increases of salaries, it appears he is prepared at least to confer on them official recognition of the social dignity of a middle-class status. Whether suburbia will feel that this non-material reward outweighs the disadvantages of austerity conditions is of course open to question.

Mr. Morrison then spoke as a Trade Unionist (although not at present following his craft) to his fellow trade unionists. He told them that the battle for Socialism was the battle for production. Being slogan-minded, he would just as readily have made the same claim for “The battle of Britain." He warned his fellow trade unionists, however, that all unofficial strikes were sabotage with violence to the body of the Labour movement (Daily Telegraph, May 29th, 1947). Seeing, however, that most strikes occur not as the result of any action undertaken by the trade union leaders but in spite of them, Mr. Morrison was virtually declaring that strike action for all practical purposes is incompatible with Labour Party Government. Whether a 20th century version of “ unofficial ” Tolpuddle Martyrs will evolve under "Labour’s New Social Order” might at least be reflected on. Mr. Morrison demanded the lifting of all restrictive practices on the part of the workers. No strikes, no wage demands, no action likely to interfere with Government planning; only hard work and more hard work. Mr. Dalton added his quota to Morrison’s “I can offer you nothing but toil and sweat ” formula by telling the conference that non-compliance by the workers in Government planning would lead to economic disaster (Times, May 29th, 1947).

The dangerous implication contained in Mr. Morrison’s speech was apparent from the discussion which followed it. Hampstead D.L.P. moved a resolution—subsequently withdrawn—asking for Government regulation in the distribution of man-power between essential and non-essential industry (Daily Telegraph, May 29th, 1947). Mr. Lawther, of the National Union of Mine Workers, then moved a resolution which was accepted by the Executive Committee and carried by Conference asking for necessary measures to be taken by the Government to attract Labour into the under-manned industries. Mr. Deakin, of the Transport and General Workers Union, opposed it on grounds that it posed a wages policy. He said it was not the Government’s responsibility to fix wages and conditions. He did not, however, comment on Mr. Morrison’s unofficial strike denunciation of which his Union has, in respect of such strikes, the largest number. Several delegates supported the reactionary notion of Government regulation on wages and conditions. Mr. Hawser described Mr. Deakin’s speech “as irresponsible and pernicious,” adding “That there would be trouble in the movement unless Trade Union leaders began to think on Socialist lines. If the Trade Unions are unable to prevent delays then the Government would have to take more drastic steps than it had done so far.” It might seem that certain sections of the Labour Party consider that the conduct of present day Trade Union activities is rendered superfluous by the advent of a Labour Government. The New Statesman, June 7th, 1947, succinctly expresses it by saying “that very soon a decision will have to be made between old fashioned trade union principles and Socialist planning.”

It is ironical to reflect that had proposals for wage regulation and industrial conscription by the Government emanated from any Tory quarter, it would have evoked among Labour Party supporters considerable resentment and hostility. By a curious process of self-deception they are prepared to discuss it within their own ranks in the light of “Socialist measures.” Measures, we may add, that if adopted would convert the Trade Union movement into a department of the Ministry of Labour and put back the trade union clock a hundred years.

In the Labour Party a sentimental pacifism has endured a lingering and precarious existence. It was by the Government’s Conscription Act finally slain. Professor Laski, speaking on the Government’s behalf, had to dispose of the body and ask Conference to return a verdict of “death from natural causes.” Professor Laski, who is not noted for plain speech and direct utterance, was, however, on the subject of conscription brutally frank. "The Government had to defend the country,” he said (Manchester Guardian, May 27th, 1947). ‘‘It could do so by the old method of recruiting an army by way of poverty, hunger and unemployment ’’—which would of course be unsuitable to the higher technical standards and requirements of the modern army (our comment)—“or by offering recruits opportunities and privileges so outstanding that it became a special caste.” That of course we may add would be too dear. Thus conscription is the cheap and therefore ideal method of ensuring for capitalism a plentiful and suitable supply of potential cannon-fodder for possible future wars. Apart from Mr. Rhys Davies, what opposition there was to conscription was in terms of its adverse effect on industrial man-power rather than to any objection to it on principle.

In the debate on foreign policy, Mr. Bevin, spoke as the official representative of one of the three Great Powers. His insistence on the maintenance of oil interests in the Middle East, his opposition to conflicting Russian claims and his insistence on maintaining British capitalists' interests wherever they are, marked him as a worthy descendant in the long line of British Imperialism. Mr. Bevin added a touch of melodrama to the scene in answering certain of his critics—the same critics who had objected to the “cards on the table” pamphlet eulogising his foreign policy—by shouting that he had "been stabbed in the back.” This is, of course, always an emotional trick winning device with a Labour Party audience.

Only on minor issues such as the abolition of tied cottages and equal pay for women doing equal work did the conference vote against the executive. The first is an age-long abuse of agricultural interests. The second is a measure which has considerable support in the Tory party. Its application, of course, is highly restrictive and full of anomalies. Neither of them touches the real problem confronting the workers. Nevertheless Aneurin Bevan complained that the abolition of the tied cottage system would put the Government in a legislative strait jacket, while Mr. Dalton, with a fine disregard for conference decisions, has recently rejected the equal pay for equal work project.

The Labour Party has undoubtedly proved an inestimable boon for existing capitalist interests. British capitalism, weak from the emergence of a great war coupled with the recession of the traditional hold over the workers, exercised by the older political parties, might have found the process of recovery and rehabilitation a grave problem.

The Labour Party, in securing the support of the workers by their claims to be able to run capitalism differently from the older parties, have not only strengthened the hold of capitalism over the working- class but have facilitated its recovery. Looking at the Labour Party Conference one is almost inclined to paraphrase Voltaire by saying that if the Labour Party did not exist it would have been necessary for capitalism to have invented one.
Ted Wilmott

Blame the System (2017)

From the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

The government has set up an enquiry headed by a retired High Court judge to examine the circumstances behind the Grenfell Tower massacre. No doubt he will end up blaming some individuals and a few heads will roll but we can already identify the culprit – it's the capitalist system of production for profit.

Grenfell Tower was 'social housing' as housing for the poor is called these days so, in any event, standards were not going to be high. This was compounded by the fact that capitalism went into a slump in 2008/9, obliging the government to cut back on its spending with a view to reducing taxation on profits.

This began at national level with the government deciding to slash spending on everything in sight. As local government gets most of its money from central government, its funding was slashed and local councils had to cut their spending too. Spending on old people's homes and outings, day care centres, play groups and playgrounds, even street lighting and waste collection was cut – and also on the maintenance of council-owned properties.

Some reformists urged councillors to refuse to do this but councillors everywhere – whether Tory, Labour, Liberal, Nationalist or whatever – took the view that there was no alternative. In fact there wasn't. Or, rather, the one that there was would have been just as bad. A refusal to cut council spending by setting an illegal budget would have resulted in the council being suspended and the central government sending in commissioners to do the job instead. Either way, the capitalist economy's edict to cut spending to save profits would have been implemented.

Grenfell Tower used to be council housing but had been hived off to a 'tenant management organisation' – an organisation to manage tenants, that is, not one managed by them – but which was still responsible to the local council even if at 'arms length'. So, when it came to spending on the building it was the council that had to find the money. Given the cutback in central government funding, the council had no choice but to choose the cheapest option, even if it involved cutting corners. Building contractors and sub-contractors, eager to make a profit out of council business, sought to pare costs even further.

The investigating judge will no doubt find some councillors, council officials and building contractors to blame, and individuals will be named, shamed and maybe even prosecuted. But we can be equally sure that no Cabinet minister will be named even though the Cabinet and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in particular took the decision to cut funding for local government. But blaming individuals will be unfair as they were only working within the limits imposed by capitalism and so making the best of a bad job. Even the members of the Cabinet cannot be blamed personally as they too were only carrying out the dictates of the capitalist economy to put saving profits before spending to meet people's needs.

Grenfell Tower (2017)

From the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
'Warnings Ignored and Money Saved
Regulators Put Cost Before Safety' 
(Headline 'New York Times', 24 June)
The provision of 'social housing' constitutes a charge on the profits of the class of owners whose interests must prevail while class divisions persist. It is this fact that should be borne in mind in any analysis of the wider issues behind the immediate causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster. 

In 1999 a House of Commons All Party Select Committee considered the risks involved in the use of cladding in the five hundred tall buildings in which it had been applied. They reported that they thought that all external cladding systems should be required either to be entirely non-combustible or to be proven by testing not to pose an unacceptable risk in terms of fire spread. The actions they recommended should in their view be applied to old as well as new buildings and they concluded that:
‘. . . we do not believe that it should take a serious fire in which many people are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the risks. The evidence we have received strongly suggests that the small-scale tests which are currently used to determine the fire safety of external cladding systems are not fully effective in evaluating their performance in a 'live' fire situation’
(First Report of the Select Committee on Potential Risk of Fire Spread in Buildings via External Cladding Systems, 14 July 1999 - Link,  emphasis added).

The responsible government department replied agreeing with most of what the committee had recommended but could not ‘find the Parliamentary time’ to legislate and put the recommendations into force.

Note here the use of that innocent sounding phrase 'all reasonable steps.’ ‘Reasonable’ really means that which is not too costly, that which does not bite too deeply into the profit-making system as a whole. All local authorities are constrained by that overarching necessity. The decision-making process in capitalism takes place within this framework – the often unasked question being: ‘Is the price of putting this problem right less or greater than leaving things as they are?’

The other highly political question concerns how little can those who control society spend in their attempt to have the system run smoothly and with the minimum of interruption. One factor that has received more than unusual attention following 14 June is the apparent loss of confidence in authority. While the upper echelons of the power structure of the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council were seen as completely ineffective large numbers of 'ordinary people' (i.e. the ones that actually do run society from top to bottom) came forward and, in the absence of any emergency plan, provided comfort and relief to the victims.

The management of Kensington and Chelsea’s housing stock is delegated to Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) who are monitored by the Housing Department. Their performance during 2015/16 was commended in the Annual Review as there has been considerable success in meeting the agreed targets set. The Grenfell Tower ‘regeneration’ project had generated an income of just over £3.1m from commercial rents in 2015/16. Health and safety continued to be delivered thus:
‘...enabling the Council to meet its statutory duties and strategic aims...[and]... the pro-active asset management ensures that the Borough’s stock, both residential and commercial, is being maximized in terms of use and rental income . . . ’ (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation Performance Review 2015/16, Laura Johnson, Director of Housing - Link, emphasis added).
Compliance with health and safety legislation, the review stated, continued to protect residents ensuring that the Borough ‘...continues to provide quality housing services within the resources available’ (emphasis added). Link.
This overly optimistic view of the workings of KCTMO should be compared with the views of conditions at Grenfell Tower where tenants were struggling with their landlords to bring safety measures back to acceptable standards. They were so incensed with the indifference and lack of concern of KCTMO that they posted several reports highlighting the dangerous conditions at the tower in an attempt at redress. This is from their blog posted on 20 November 2016:
   ‘It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.
  ‘Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation’ (Link).
The Council's response was to threaten legal action.

Kensington and Chelsea Council are not beyond pleading poverty when it suits their purpose, but at the time of the catastrophic fire they were managing a budget surplus of £274m (Independent, 30 June) and had recently been urging cost-cutting measures on the companies undertaking the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. The original quote for the whole project came to £9.2m; the price after the implementation of a cheeseparing exercise was £8.7m. A large slice of the savings came at the behest of KCTMO's project manager eager to please the chairman of Kensington and Chelsea housing committee. He urgently emailed the contractors that ‘We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow’(Guardian, 30 June).

The savings were made by the simple expedient of choosing cheaper, inherently less safe because more flammable material with which to clad the building. The dangers inherent in this practice well recognised in the building industry. In 2014 the Fire Protection Research Foundation had recorded twenty major fires in tall buildings worldwide. In twelve cases cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower was involved in spreading the flames. Subsequent testing of 149 tower blocks across forty-five local authorities resulted in a staggering failure rate of one hundred percent.

The savings to the Council’s budget condemned eighty people to death in a building with no sprinklers, faulty alarm systems, and inadequate means of escape.
Gwynn Thomas