Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Old Harmony (1968)

From the February 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The story of the Kibbutzim the golden egg of that peculiar version of Social Democracy in Israel, Mapam, (though all the major parties run a few settlements all on fairly exclusive lines, politically), seems only too reminiscent of the utopian ideals of early 19th Century Europe. Substitute the name Ber Borochov for Owen or Fourier and we get surprisingly near to the misguided adventurers of those days.

At a time when the rising European bourgeoisie was still battling to break its feudal fetters, and when the proletariat was still in its early formative years, it is understandable that here and there socialist ideals, lacking the materials basis for their implementation, should find expression in the attempted establishment of utopian communities. In the modern world however, where technology and the forces of production have been raised to an unprecedented level, the notion that isolated communities can be established unaffected by the anarchic and alienating conditions of capitalism is completely unrealistic.

The Kibbutz provides, it is true, a living example of the practicability of the socialist demand for a society in which each shall give according to his ability. The problem of the “lazyman” is almost non-existent, but this was true also of the communities established in America some 160 years ago. (Charles Nardoff in his Communistic Societies of United States wrote in 1874 that “the lazy men who are the budbears of speculative communists are not so far as I have heard to be found in the existing communes".) The experiment has been performed and in this direction proved successful, now is the time to progress. We must move away from this variation of the ‘opt out' illusion and consciously pursue the class struggle to a successful conclusion. This means building up international class solidarity without the provision of illusory escapes into the little world of the Kibbutz.

The fact is that the Kibbutzim, like its earlier models in the New World, have merely paved the way for class-divided capitalism. The pioneers regarded these communal farms as the pattern of a future nation, but those remaining have seen instead the growth of a way of life which is the very antithesis of what they stood for. In the United States those communities were invaluable in developing the previously uncultivated areas of the West, and in doing the hard and exhausting work necessary in the opening up of the country for others to exploit. They extended the boundaries of ‘civilisation' and vastly increased the value of surrounding land. Precisely the same purpose has been served by the Kibbutzim of Israel, though on a more planned and systematised basis. The settlement of the arid and desert zones, and the extension of effective Israeli state control has been their contribution to the increased dominance of capitalism in the Middle East.

In the 19th Century America dozens of these communities went painfully out of existence. Those which remained so changed in character that they were no longer recognisable as 'experiments in communism', they became experiments in capitalism. The freedom from any lord or master which, for instance, the Rappites so cherished did not it seems extend to the two hundred Chinese workers whom they exploited in their cutlery factory. Similarly the Perfectionists employed some three hundred persons in manufacture, and even went so far as to hire servants. They became just another employer of labour, industrial and agricultural corporations, despite some unusual characteristics. The kibbutz, by definition a small scale enterprise, cannot hope to be self-sufficient. It could never fulfil the fundamental requirement of a Socialist society that each should take according to his need, but even to maintain the modest standard of living which they now have they are required to sell their produce on the capitalist market in exchange for those necessaries they are unable to produce. To this end they have entered the field of light industry, producing plastics, crockery, furniture and a host of other goods. Here again, as with their American predecessors, they become hirers of labour. They face all the problems of capitalism in regard to price fluctuations, wages, strikes and, as a capitalist organisation, are not backward in their methods of dealing with them.

The old communities of the United States relied heavily for their continuation on attracting more immigrants and, to a lesser degree, on financial contributions from their country or origin (which in many cases was Germany).

Similarly the kibbutz relies for its survival to some extent on the increase of Jewish immigrants encouraged by such organisation as the Mapai-Habonim and the Mapam-Hashomer Hatzair (“the builders” and the “young guardian”), also to contributions from Zionist organisations, and to government and private capital aid. The idealistic kibbutzniks have of course been a very useful adjunct to the Israeli military forces. The Shakers young men joined in Civil war on the side of Unionists, but this was exceptional for such communities. In this respect the kibbutzim have not even reached their predecessors standard. But if and when their use in these respects diminishes the government’s benevolence and support will undoubtedly fail.

Persecution in Europe by state and established church authorities has more than once led to emigration and attempts at forming a new and saner society. Some of the qualities achieved may be applauded but it is an unfortunate fact that their desired aims have not been fulfilled. The limited success and abundant failures of the 19th century experiments and those in the 20th century should be a lesson to workers everywhere. The building up of a strong revolutionary Socialist movement on an international scale is the immediate task to be faced.
Michael Bradley

What is Class? (1968)

From the March 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Class’ in the sense with which most people use the word means more than a simple classification for a particular purpose. But there is a great deal of disagreement and uncertainty when it comes to identifying or defining a class in the social sense.

There are a number of demands which must be fulfilled by any satisfactory attempt to outline distinct classes in modern society. In the first place, such an outline must take into account people’s subjective feelings about class. More important, however, is to acknowledge the objective reality underlying such feelings. Also, any satisfactory definition of class in modern society should apply equally well in all modern countries, and so it would have to discount vestigial survivals from earlier forms of society, such as royalty and aristocracy. And it should not accept as a class something which is merely a section in a uniformly graded scale. However fuzzy the boundary lines may be, a class should have at least one characteristic which differs in something other than degree from any other class. Finally, such a definition should take into account, if not all, at least the great majority of people.

Most definitions of class fall short in one or another of these requirements, and so lay themselves open to the charge of giving a partial (in both senses) picture of society. For example, it is common to group people according to their income. Yet the majority of statistics show that income is virtually a uniformly graded scale, and any attempt at grouping is purely arbitrary. This fact, together with the growth of graded income taxing in most countries has led many people who favoured this method of grouping to feel that class has ceased to exist in the last few years.

Closely related is the attempt to group people according to occupation or education. But the degree of fluidity with which people can change their occupations, and the growing rapidity with which economic and technological developments are changing the occupations themselves, has shown this, too, to be inadequate as a basis of class distinction. The post-war rise in the importance and income of the engineer, and the contemporary decline of the clerical worker are cases among many which demonstrate not only the parochialism of people’s subjective feelings about class but also the invalidity of classification by occupation as such.

Neverless, people’s feelings about the class nature of occupation and income cannot be entirely without foundation, but what is the reality which underlies them? In the first place, the occupation of most people is their job, which is to say that they must do it in order to make their living. In the second place, job and income are closely tied together, so that it is fair to say that it is upon his job in all its aspects that a man is judged by his fellows.

But what is a job? A man’s job is the central part of his life, and if he is unemployed for any length of time he deteriorates not only economically but psychologically. This has for a long time been recognised as true for lower paid workers, but even the executive is doing exactly the same as the men he has been responsible for employing—offering his skill, experience and energy for sale—by the hour, day, week, month or year.

The reason for employing a manager or an executive is the same reason for employing anybody—profit; that since these are the people who undertake the employment of the £16-£20 a week workers, and yet are themselves employed, both must be employed by someone else; and that the size of the wage packet makes no difference to the buyer-seller relationship of a job. This is where the jargon of ’management v. workers’ has repeatedly clouded the facts in the last few years. A recent Guardian article draws attention to the importance of a manager’s identifying himself with ’the objectives of the enterprise’. But, as his primary relationship with the firm for which he works is that of buyer and seller, he is being asked to do a piece of double-think since, in any market, the buyer will always try to buy as cheaply as possible and the seller to get as high a price as possible.

Since the majority of people are in the position of having to sell their working ability for roughly fifty years of their lives in order to gain a livelihood, to whom can they sell? The salaried executives who undertake their employment do so in the name of the company they work for, and the company exists for the sole reason of making profits. If it did not, it would go out of business. The company is owned by its shareholders. These are, through their paid executives, the buyers of people’s skill and energy. In this they form the other side of the buyer-seller relationship, and in this they constitute a distinct and opposed class. That some of them may participate in the running of the business in which they have shares, or even that of someone else, is incidental. Their main function from society's point of view is as providers of capital if they have enough of it. With the enormous growth and ramified development of limited liability companies, holding companies, and unit trusts, with the flowering of a sophisticated stock market and the international ebb and flow of capital, any one capitalist may well be only a minority shareholder in a great number of companies. But, together, they own all companies and—through state bonds and government stock, local authority borrowings and building society shares—the great bulk of nationalised industries, houses and land.

Of course, anyone may become a shareholder, and there are thousands of people who, although they have no choice but to work for their living, nevertheless own some shares. In aggregate, however, they own a very small proportion of the total. The class division in modern society is statistical; the dividing line is not as clear-cut as in mediaeval society; the edge is blurred and mobility from one class to another goes on to some extent all the time. But, if the curve is cut at different points, it can be shown that one per cent of the population of Great Britain owns 50 per cent of the wealth, ten per cent own 90 per cent, and so on. As a reasonable approximation, therefore, it may be said that 10 per cent of the population owns the civilised world (as well as large stretches of the underdeveloped countries) and employs the other 90 per cent who must seek, and try to maintain, employment simply because they do not own sufficient wealth to live without working.

In latter years it has become unfashionable to be ostentatiously wealthy. As Mrs. Maitland-Robinson said to William Hickey of the Daily Express recently when interviewed about the selling of £6 million worth of the family’s shares in Radio Rentals, "Although my husband is a millionaire we all lead a simple life really." Paul Getty, with a financial empire of about £300 million has often said the same sort of thing. But since the relationship between the two classes appears as one of buyer and seller (reflecting the basic one of owner and non-owner) however it may be dignified by euphemisms, and since there is no motive for the buyers to buy except in expectation of increasing their wealth, it follows—and is borne out in the perpetual practice of wage and salary negotiations —that their interests are inevitably opposed. They thus form the only two classes of any importance in modern society.
Ron Cook

Grand Old Dukes of York (1968)

From the April 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard


"For the first time, racism is to be written into British law. British citizens are to be excluded because their skins are dark, or their grandfathers foreign . . .  In the past we have voted and worked for the Labour Party. This is the turning point. We cannot see ourselves voting for a party that goes through with this policy"
letter to The Times 27 February signed, among others, by Richard Titmuss and Peter Townsend.


"Some of your readers might like to know that we have no intention of quitting either the Labour Party or the Labour movement. In reacting to the Government's Bill on the Kenya Asians, we wanted to say that this was a turning point in our attitudes to some of the policies of the present Government. Without changes in policy our allegiance will be in question. But as always we would do what we can to influence discussion about social policy within the Labour movement”.
—letter to Tribune 8 March signed by Richard Titmuss and Peter Townsend.

Labour's New Race Law (1968)

From the April 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Attacks on wages and the trade unions, defence of profits and unemployment, bringing back health charges and now, again, a colour bar law. Thus, one by one, Labour abandons its old principles, partly under pressure from capitalism, but partly also from a desire to stay in office. While economics has been responsible for the failure of Labour’s futile attempts to make capitalism work in the interests of all, politics is behind this, their second, capitulation to colour prejudice. For, as they themselves pointed out in 1962, if anything economics demands free immigration: there is a relative labour shortage in Britain which could delay expansion.

This shortage has existed since the beginning of the last world war. First the demand for workers was met by the immigration of persons displaced by the war in Europe and then by people from the old empire and the colonies, from the West Indies, from India and Pakistan, from Cyprus and from West Africa. Figures show that this migration was mainly a matter of supply and demand: when the economy was expanding more came; when the economy was stagnating the rate of entry slowed up and many returned home (and many British-born workers left for Canada and Australia). In the meantime demagogues, such as former Fascist leader Mosley, exploited the frictions that arose between workers thrown together in the terrible housing conditions capitalism created in parts of the expanding Midlands and South East. Mosley stood in the 1959 election as a “send-them-back” candidate in North Kensington, where the previous year there had been the Notting Hill race riot.

In 1961 the Tory government decided to act. They introduced a Bill whose purpose was to keep out “coloured’’ immigrants. The Labour Party, then led by Hugh Gaitskell. opposed this measure in and out of Parliament. One of their leaflets headed Immigration, the Facts began:
  By restraining the right of Commonwealth citizens to come to Britain, the Conservative Government has given way to the pressure of colour prejudice.
   The Labour Party is determined to oppose any form of colour prejudice.
The leaflet went on to point out:
     The fear of some people that millions of immigrants will come to these shores is quite unfounded, for as the number of unfilled jobs falls, so the number of immigrants falls. And we need more workers if our economy is ever to expand.

Gaitskell died, six months after the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into force, in January 1963. Gradually, with the prospect of power after thirteen long years in the wilderness, Labour’s enthusiasm for fighting racial prejudice weakened. The results of the 1964 election, in which Labour scraped home by a mere four seats, confirmed their fears that opposition to immigration control was a vote-loser. Racialist Peter Griffiths, despite a national swing against the Tories, had defeated Patrick Gordon Walker in Smethwick, a traditional Labour seat in the outskirts of Birmingham. Deprived of power for so long Labour was determined not to lose it by sticking to a mere principle. The policy of “fight racial prejudice”, they decided, should be replaced by one of “pander to racial prejudice”. Accordingly, in August 1965 Labour announced that it would strengthen the colour bar Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Their Home Secretary Soskice, himself the son of a Russian immigrant, went about talking vaguely of “illegal” immigrants thereby encouraging prejudice.

Compared with the present Labour leaders Gaitskell almost seems a man of principle. Indeed, Roy Hattersley, now a junior Minister, has criticised Gaitskell’s stand against the Tory immigration Act. In a series of essays called The Left published in 1966, Hattersley made this cynical statement referring to Labour’s about turn on this issue:
    In some fields rationalism has taken over where even under Gaitskell emotion reigned.
So even Gaitskell was not pragmatic — or opportunist — enough!

It is true that in 1965 Labour did bring in an Act outlawing racial discrimination in certain public places. But any effect this might have had was nullified by the government’s capitulation over the immigration colour bar. If the government can discriminate, many argued, why can’t pubs and hotels too? The Act also contained a dangerous innovation: section six made the mere expression of racialist views a crime, and thus represented an attack on freedom of speech and the press in Britain. The Socialist Party, although opposed to racialist views, stands for full and free discussion of all social problems and is quite opposed to any and all restrictions on such discussion. The Labour government, however, in an effort to get the best of both worlds, has pursued the stupid and dangerous policy of trying to suppress the very views it has encouraged by pandering to — besides of course maintaining capitalism, the system that gives rise to working class problems and to racialism as a mistaken reaction to them.

When the Tory Conference met in Brighton last year Sir Cyril Osborne, wrote to the Daily Telegraph (18 October):
    Some African States are driving out their Asian immigrants. They number over half a million. They are entitled to settle in Britain. Today they are clamouring to come, and the British Overseas Airways Corporation is offering cheap air fares.
He went on to allege that the surplus population of India also wanted to come here and commented:
  We cannot assimilate them. They have their own language, religion, literature and culture, which they mean to preserve. They remain an alien race in our midst.
This is the kind of prejudice the Labour government has given into and, who knows, perhaps shares. Osborne of course is no great intellect. He is only popular amongst certain Tory activists since, as a narrow-minded provincial company director, he typifies them and their prejudices. But at least it has always been clear where he stood. Long ago he declared himself against a “coffee-coloured, multiracial society" in Britain. Osborne, however, was not alone in stoking up racial prejudice among the Tories. The same day in a speech in Deal shadow defence spokesman Enoch Powell called for stricter immigration controls to keep out “coloured” people and particularly for new legislation to stop any Asians coming in from Kenya. Over the years Powell has been building up his image as a man of principle, as a frank and fearless defender of capitalism without controls. He has risked unpopularity by insisting that the law of supply and demand be allowed to work unhindered. Now he stands exposed as a hypocrite. He is all for controls to stop the free movement from country to country of workers seeking jobs. For Powell, as an MP for colour conscious Wolverhampton, himself runs the risk of becoming a victim of the law of supply and demand: if he came out in favour of the free movement of labour he might not be re-elected! Another former Tory minister, Duncan Sandys, has also been running his own one-man racialist campaign. Despite the fact that he was a member of the Tory government which, in granting Kenya independence, gave the Kenya Asians the right to come here. Sandys joined with Powell in demanding action to “keep-them-out”.

This campaign put the Labour government, already unpopular enough for its attacks on living standards, in an awkward position. Should it run the risk of again being blamed for “letting-them-in”, or should it try to outmanoeuvre the Tories? By now, after more than three years of governing capitalism, Labour was used to breaking promises and abandoning principles so the choice was easy. On February 22 Home Secretary Callaghan announced Labour’s Bill to stop the Kenya Asians. These unfortunate people were holders of British passports so the Bill had to provide for the extension of the immigration colour bar from Commonwealth to British citizens. Sandys was delighted:
   The Government have now themselves introduced a Bill similar to mine and I am giving them my full support . . . (Spectator, 1 March 1968)
Extending the colour bar to British citizens abroad needed careful drafting to avoid keeping out “white” as well as “coloured” people. In the end Labour found a solution that only those whose father or father’s father were born in Britain would from now on have free entry into Britain. One lawyer, writing in New Society (29 February) commented:
     Each lawyer will recognise the finger print of the formula that has been evolved: it is designed to draw a racial distinction by finding a dividing line which approximates to the racial division yet is capable of expression in words which make no specific reference to race.
The Socialist Party, basing its principles on the fact that workers the world over have a common interest, is opposed to all racialism and to all nationalism. We are opposed to all legislation to prevent the free movement of workers, whether in search of jobs or fleeing from oppression. We denounce the Labour Party’s new race law as a shameful sell-out lo colour prejudice. Let them never dare speak of the brotherhood of man again!
Adam Buick

Cooking the Books: Capitalism and Property (2017)

The Cooking the Books column from the August 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
When Jeremy Corbyn proposed that the survivors of the Grenfell Tower massacre should be housed in nearby empty luxury properties he was expressing a thought that will have occurred to many others. The Times (16 June) reported it under the front-page headline 'Corbyn: seize properties of the rich for Grenfell homeless' and wheeled out a Tory backwoodsman, Andrew Bridgen, MP, to say of Corbyn's suggestion that
'calls to requisition private property when there is empty student accommodation available locally fits in with his hard Marxist views where all private property should belong to the state.'
Where to begin?
First, Corbyn doesn't claim to be a Marxist, not even a 'soft' one.
Second,  while Marx did speak of the 'Abolition of Private Property' he meant only of the means of wealth production, not of personal possessions. As he and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto:
'The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. '
In the last-but-one chapter of Volume I of Capital, on 'The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation', Marx wrote that the negation of capitalist private property will be the restoration of 'individual property' in the sense of the access by individual producers to the fruits of their collective work:
'The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production. '
Third, Marx did not call for everything to belong to the state as he envisaged that the state, as the public power of coercion needed in a class-divided society would disappear once the means of production had ceased to be privately owned (including state ownership which is still 'private' ownership as it is ownership by section only of society); its place would be taken by unarmed, democratically-controlled administrative centres.  There would not be state ownership but the 'possession in common of the land and means of production'; these would belong to everyone and no one and would simply be there to be used, under democratic control, to turn out what people needed both as individuals and as a community.
It is the capitalist state, representing the general interest of a country's capitalist class, that has wide powers to seize property. It could, if it so chose, do what Corbyn suggested, but is very unlikely to do so as this wouldn't be in the vital interest of the capitalist class as whole. When this interest is involved then the capitalist state can be ruthless, as when they requisitioned the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean and deported the whole population to clear them for a US military base. An example of hard capitalist state requisition if ever there was one.

A Chinese Bolshevik (1968)

Book Review from the May 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Li Ta-Chao and the origins of Chinese Marxism by Maurice Meisner (OUP. 40s.)

The dust cover of this work claims importance for Li Ta-Chao “as a Chinese interpreter of Marxist theory”. A co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party and a principal leader until his arrest and execution in 1927, it is claimed he was the first to “adapt Marxism to the Chinese historical environment".

This is a scholarly work, of great interest to Socialists, in which three points are apparent. First, that the author’s understanding of Marxism is better than was Li Ta-Chao’s. Second, that the author considers present day China to be communist by Marxian standards. And third, an admirable development of the life and thought of Li Ta-Chao which demonstrates quite conclusively that he never understood or accepted the three basic tenets of Marxism—the Materialist Conception of History, the Theory of the Class Struggle, and the Labour Theory of Value.

Apparently Li “expressed ‘great regret’ that Marxism had been erected on so shaky a foundation as the Labour Theory of Value”. “In Li Ta-Chao’s hands” says Meisner “the theory of the class struggle tended to break away almost completely from its socio-economic moorings and to become almost wholly centred upon the element of consciousness”. In fact Li developed the class struggle into the concept of the “proletarian nation” to fit with his lifelong patriotic sentiments, a far cry from Marx’s “the workers have no country”. Li’s views of history were so un-Marxian as not to consider that only at certain crucial times social and political conditions make revolution possible. To the contrary, he held that conscious human action could shape historical reality in a series of equally significant “nows”. This belief leads him to the point where he could clear by bold leaps, eventually through peasant uprisings, the obstacles offered by successive phases of China’s development, to the point where Socialism would be achieved without passing through a capitalist phase.

It might appear that this work is in the general run of biographies of Leninist leaders. Whilst this is true with regard to the vaccillations of Li Ta-Chao’s life and thought it nevertheless has certain redeeming features, not the least of which are the explanation of the vaccillations, and the reasons, so much in the ‘communist’ mould, for the adulteration of Marxist theories. Further, there are one or two admirable precis of Marx’s position, and the explanation of these vaccillations, and nature of the Materialist Conception of History.

However, this work does raise an important question—the definition of a Marxist. Meisner intimates the answer when referring to Lenin’s concepts of party organisation and the principle of ‘democratic centralism’ as having “no organic relationship to the Marxist tradition and could exist quite independently of Marxist premises". Li Ta-Chao, like other Leninist leaders, acted and thought in line with non-Marxist premises, as conditions in Russia and China substantiate. A better title might therefore have been: Li Ta-Chao and the origins of Chinese Bolshevism— and may we hope a future title from Meisner’s pen may be: Ch’en Tu-hsui (Li's rival for the leadership of Chinese CP), a Chinese Menshevik.
Ken Knight

Obituary: Bill Hegney (1968)

Obituary from the June 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to have to report the death of Comrade Bill Hegney at the age of 51. Bill joined the West Ham branch in 1945 through contact with other members. He immediately began looking for work to do in the Party. He set about the job of equipping himself with knowledge attending meetings and lectures all over London and attending classes at Head Office in History and Economics.

He read every piece of Party literature he could lay his hands on as well as many of the more advanced works of Marx and Engels. A few months after becoming a member he took on the job of literature secretary for the West Ham Branch, a job he held for many years and in doing so he was an ever present at the outdoor and indoor meetings run by the Branch, and on very many occasions he took the platform as Chairman. He worked particularly hard during the time of the Party’s Parliamentary campaign in 1950 when we contested the East Ham South Constituency, when he had control of literature sales for the Branch.

Bill Hegney by nature was a quiet person, more a listener than a speaker, but when he did speak he revealed that he had a sound knowledge of the Party’s case and could always explain World events from a Socialist point of view. He was the steady reliable type of member, and his passing is a great loss to the Party and to the Newham Branch in particular.

Members like Bill are not easy to replace.

The New Narodniki (1968)

From the July 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

On June 15 a “Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation” was founded by students representing groups all over England. As might be expected at a meeting in which trotskyists (of various hues) were prominent the air was thick with such words as mobilise, orientate, perspective, programmatic, transitional and, of course, vanguard. The programme adopted in fact declared:
"Revolutionary students can play a vanguard role by detonating a wider social conflict in which the working-class becomes decisive. Students must seek to ally themselves with working-class struggles: they have also shown that they may anticipate and instigate them.”
So yet another group has appeared to liberate the working class ignoring the long-established Socialist principle that the workers must free themselves.

In Russia in the second half of the 19th century many privileged young men and women decided to “go to the people”, by working and living among the peasants whom they believed to be a revolutionary force. They were thus known as Populists or Narodniks. A similar theme dominated the meeting: only the workers could overthrow capitalism, so students should go to them by leafleting, and perhaps working, in, the factories. As one (Widgery) put it “the talk about the new Narodniki going to the factories is right”. A small minority, from the South Coast, were still in favour of “working within the Labour Party” (as they all were two years ago), but their views were not well-received.

Prominent were members of the alleged “International Socialism” Group. Also, frequently to be seen hovering in the background was Pat Jordan, the trotskyist who runs the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. The anarchists and another trotskyist group (the SLL) did not seem to be present.

The RSSF programme commits it to Student Power, Anti-Capitalist Alliance with Workers and Struggle Against Imperialism. These aims are to be achieved by so-called direct action (that is, occupying college buildings, fighting the police, preventing exams taking place, shouting down speakers). As one (Fishman) frankly put it: they are out to “seize the leadership of students as a group”.

At a meeting the previous evening a member of the Socialist Party was prevented from continuing his speech after he had criticised talk about “parliamentary rubbish” and support for the nationalist and state capitalist Vietcong. For his troubles he was called a “fascist” (“Against fascists there is only one weapon: physical force", one LSE student leader, Harman, has written). This is perhaps the shape of things to come for any who dare to stand up to this self-appointed vanguard.

Capitalism in Kenya (1968)

Book Review from the August 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Not Yet Uhuru, by Oginga Odinga. Heinman Educational Books. 35s.

The people of Kenya have had the misfortune, reserved for colonial peoples, of experiencing two sorts of capitalism. One at second hand through colonial occupation, and the other, a more modern version, exploitation by capitalists of local origin and by the economic interests of the ‘advanced' countries.

Today, control of the resources of Kenya is in the hands of large international firms and of the Kenya government. The local would-be capitalists and bureaucrats have certainly derived much benefit from independence, but the vast majority of the people of Kenya, who were at one time led to expect a post-independence egalitarian Utopia, have been disappointed.

In this autobiography we learn well how the “benefits” of capitalism were first introduced to Kenya. There is an interesting survey of early land-appropriation by the British authorities and of the break-up of the tribal system through forced wage- labour. Odinga is particularly good in his account of the Mau Mau uprising and the reasons for it. Once the rebellion presented a real threat to British authority in Kenya, and thus to British economic interests, ruthless measures were taken. All civil liberties were suppressed—an African could be arrested in the street at any time. All Kikuyu (the main tribe concerned in the rebellion) were forced either to collaborate with the authorities or to join the Mau Mau bands as a result of persecution. British capitalism wanted to hold on to Kenya so as to have an assured and cheap supply of raw materials and a market monopoly.

Today, some four-and-a-half years after independence, things have not changed much. The people of Kenya are now exploited not only by businessmen with white skins, but also by civil servants and politicians who have somehow succeeded in securing company directorships and land. Little free expression of opposition to the government is allowed. The only consolation that the people may draw is perhaps in seeing men with skin the same colour as theirs replacing white colonists at the wheels of large motor-cars manufactured in West Germany.

Odinga is allowed, probably by virtue of his popularity (he was at one time Vice-President of the republic and Kenyatta's right-hand man) to lead a tiny opposition of nine in parliament. His party is, however, allowed few extra-parliamentary ‘privileges’ such as the holding of public meetings or recruiting campaigns.

This autobiography, as well as being a good document of British colonial history, is worthwhile reading because part at least of Odinga's conclusion is acceptable. Odinga himself left high state office for the political wilderness because he saw that national independence does not in itself end servitude for the mass of the people. He also recognises the oligarchic character of the present Kenyan government. To solve these problems, however, he presents a creed which he calls “African Socialism". The use of the word “Socialism" in independent Africa is very common but worth little. It is used, for instance, by both government and opposition in Kenya. The general purpose of this is clear: to give obviously oligarchic governments a facade of popular support and concern for justice and equality.

Odinga’s “African Socialism" would take the form of “a Kenya government backed by popular enthusiasm and national mobilisation". We suggest to the people of Kenya, and indeed to the people of the world, that the only way they will solve their problems will be by overthrowing capitalism which deprives and degrades them. This can only be done, not on a national scale, but by an internationally united working class who reject all leaders and governments.

Not Yet Uhuru (freedom) is the personal and political testament of a sincere, but unfortunately misguided, political figure. It is well worth reading for the insights which it offers into the lot of the people of Kenya.
Amit Pandya

Myths about Munich (1968)

From the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Diplomacy is a business not famous for its honourable men, but even the diplomats have to admit that Munich was a classic of deceit. And it was not only the men in the Foreign Office who were deceived; many of the myths which were popular thirty years ago are still accepted today and even those which have been discarded have been replaced by others.

According to the myths, the Nazis in 1938 were a cunning and treacherous lot and against them Chamberlain, because of either a secret sympathy with Nazism or a weak and simple personality, was helpless. Cowardly, he delivered Czechoslovakia to the Nazis’ tender mercies and then allowed Hitler to trick him by signing a meaningless declaration of friendship. He came back from Munich claiming peace with honour in our time when in fact he had betrayed Europe, and the war which might have been averted by a firmer stand became unavoidable.

Those are the myths. Now what are the facts?

It is true that between the two world wars Germany broke many pacts. The injured innocence of the Foreign Office was meant to hide the fact that there was nothing new in this; in fact part of the Munich story was the unilateral revoking by the French, with British support, of their 1925 alliance with Czechoslovakia. A state usually breaks a treaty arrangement when it is under some sort of pressure, as the Germans were during the Thirties.

At that time German capitalism had resumed its expansion, which had been abruptly halted by the first world war. L. S. Amery once said to A. L. Rowse “Germany came so near to bringing it off the first time that it was only to be expected that she would have another try.”[1] Since that first “try” Germany had been stripped of her colonies; she had lost the valuable raw materials of the Ruhr, Silesia and Alsace Lorraine. Partly from her allies Austria and Hungary the state of Czechoslovakia had been created at the Versailles Conference. The German attempt to break the stranglehold imposed at Versailles was the infamous March to the East. First Austria was annexed—then Czechoslovakia stood in the way.

The expansion of a capitalist state is never a peaceful or honourable business. The expanding state meets with opposition from the established powers, who often try to control the situation with pacts and alliances which they are more or less forced to try to keep. The expanding state is under no such compulsion. This is not a matter of honour; where capitalist interests are concerned there is no good and bad but only an irreconcilable clash. The Nazis—brutal, intractable, ruthless—were apt expression of the expansionist ambitions of German capitalism and this gave them the role of double crossers which other ruling groups have occupied at other times.

The Nazi record provided convenient evidence for the fallacy that Hitler was an evil historical accident, whose personality (he actually did chew the carpet) was solely responsible for Munich and what followed. But the Nazis did not cry in the wilderness; in 1932 Hitler won over 13 million votes in the election for the Chancellorship; by the time of Munich Henlein’s pro-Nazi Sudeten German Party had virtually all the German vote in Czechoslovakia and forty four members in the Czech parliament.

This sort of support is no accident. The Nazis were men of their time, personifying the interests of German capitalism as it struggled to re-assert itself, and the patriotic hysteria and mob violence which that re-assertion needed. Nazi theories were hardly new; they were a ferociously extreme version of ideas which had been around for some time, in similar circumstances in other lands—for example in Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and Tory Imperialists in England.

Complementary to the Hitler personality myth was that of Chamberlain. The British Prime Minister looked like a late Victorian gentleman and in fact he did express a preference for living in that age, before the motor car and the telephone. Modern art roused him to a fury and the intrusively ample nudes of Berchtesgaden disturbed him enough for him to mention them again and again in a letter to his sister. Chamberlain’s wing collar about his scrawny neck, his pouting moustache and his umbrella, made him look dull and narrow-minded. He suffered, like all self-respecting Victorian gentlemen, from gout.

He provoked many cruel epithets. Churchill, who said that in twenty years he had only one intimate social conversation with him, accused him of looking at world affairs “through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe". Masaryk raged about the " . . .  calamity that this stupid and ill-informed man, a nonentity, should be Prime Minister of Great Britain".  [3] 

His was certainly an arid personality but just like any other politician Chamberlain expressed himself within the confines of his job of representing the interests of his ruling class/ He may have been duped by Hitler; he did allow himself, in an emotional moment which he later regretted, to appear to believe in the durability of the Anglo/German agreement of Munich. But his general policy was quite clear. In the House of Commons on 24 March 1938 he listed the places which Britain would fight for—France and Belgium (to protect the Channel coast); Iraq (to protect British oil investments); Egypt (to protect Suez); and Portugal.

These were places where the interests of British capitalism were immediately and vitally involved. Czechoslovakia was not among them; Chamberlain had already ". . . abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia, or to France in connection with her obligations to that country."[2] This was not his policy alone; a lot of the press, including the Times, Express and Observer, supported it and, according to Sir Samuel Hoare (as he then was), it also had the backing of Chamberlain's colleagues.

The British policy of appeasement, which included the abandonment of Czechoslovakia, was the product, not of any man's personality but of the European situation at the time. Behind the more publicised examples of political appeasement, out of the public eye, the policy was carried out in the fields of economics and trade. In the Thirties both Britain and Germany were trying to protect their economies with high tariffs and rigid exchange controls. The British Imperial Preference system denied Germany access to the markets of the Empire but Germany had to expand into somewhere. This they threatened to do by military conquest and a lot of their war equipment included imported materials paid for with exports financed by credits in the City of London. (There were £36 million of these outstanding on 3 September 1939.) [4]

The British solution was twofold. First, they would allow Germany to expand into an area where British interests were not vitally at stake and, by thus encouraging Germany’s economic development, ease the pressure of her re-armament, which would have allowed British industry to stay out of an arms race. This amounted to nothing more than a carve up of Europe; Dirksen, the man who succeeded Ribbentrop as Ambassador in London, wrote of the soundings which preceded Munich " . . a delineation of economic spheres of interest was mentioned as a point in the programme."[4] (Dirksen regarded Chamberlain, rather than Hitler, as the farsighted planner of foreign policy). In this carve-up South East Europe was recognised as Germany's sphere; Halifax wrote on 1 November 1938 "Henceforward we must count with German predominance in Central Europe" which, he said, “once Germany recovered her normal strength .. .was inevitable for obvious geographic and economic reasons."[4]

The second part of British policy was the development of her own trade with Germany; the declaration of friendship signed by Hitler and Chamberlain at Munich, which the British Premier flourished so triumphantly on his return, was supposed to be a start to this. In December 1938 the Board of Trade got negotiations going between the British and German Federations of Industry, with the object of reaching a comprehensive agreement on prices and markets. In January 1939 the Anglo/German Coal Agreement was signed. On the very day in March 1939, that the Germany Army marched into Prague, British and German industrialists put their signatures to another commercial pact.

The carve up meant that Czechoslovakia, in spite of the French guarantees to her, had to be swallowed up in the German expansion; the Czech coal and iron was a very acceptable bonus to German industry. It meant that millions of people were handed over to the Nazi dictatorship, to suffer and die in the concentration camps. But it served the purposes of capitalism. Munich was no accident. It was no historical turning point, when a different policy might have stopped the German expansion and avoided the second world war. The only other policies (apart from Socialism) which were on offer would have had a similar result. Munich was a chapter in the long story of capitalism's economic disputes, a stepping stone towards the next war,

At the time, the agreements of Munich were greeted with hysterical relief. Chamberlain was honoured as an old man (he was sixty-nine) who braved an adventurous journey by air to try what was then the unusual method of face-to-face diplomacy. (Halifax said it “rather took his breath away"). This was why M.P.’s were in tears, when Chamberlain announced the invitation to his third visit to Hitler. It was why the people lined the roads from Heston to Buckingham Palace when he came back. It was why George Lansbury told him “You have done a most wonderful piece of work and done it under the guidance and providence of God."[2]

It might have occurred to Lansbury, or Halifax, or somebody, to tell those people what treaties were worth; they might have told them that Czechoslovakia was itself created by a “peace” treaty, as part of “collective security" and that the disputed areas of that country had been deliberately tacked onto it to provide a natural, mountainous barrier to invaders from the west. Chamberlain might have mentioned that he was anything but a peace lover; he had written that he wanted to avoid a war with Germany " . . .  unless we had a reasonable prospect of being able to beat her to her knees in a reasonable time."  He was making his preparations; he said in the House of Commons on 3 October 1938 “For a long period now we have been engaged in this country in a great programme of rearmament. which is daily increasing in pace and volume."

September 1938 was not a pleasant time to be alive. There was the rising nationalism on all sides, the gruesome stories from the concentration camps and the start of an official campaign to condition the people who would have to fight the war into accepting its necessity. The government had people digging trenches in the parks and commons, often by floodlight at night. They distributed the gas masks which they knew would be virtually useless. They circulated a masterpiece of bureaucratic waffle—a leaflet which told us that falling bombs could be easily recognised (and presumably dodged) because they looked like silver arrows.

And in the end it came down to the day when the deceits and the fallacies of the diplomats had to be suspended for a short time, as Chamberlain told us that war had been declared. Appeasement was dead but it didn't take them long to think up the next trick, which went under the name of Unconditional Surrender.

Books Cited:
[1] The Hollow Men, by Margaret George.
[2] Neville Chamberlain, by lain Macleod.
[3] Munich, by Henri Nogueres.
[4] The Appeasers, by Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott.