Sunday, August 27, 2017

What is Fascism? (1969)

From the August 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fascism is a political re-organisation of capitalism which occurs in special economic and historic circumstances. The fascists take over the functions of the state and run the country by strong, centralised government. When this happens the working class are usually suffering extreme hardship and insecurity, and it is this factor more than any other which enables political figures like Hitler and Mussolini to point to the failure of democracy within capitalism to solve workers’ problems. This possibility is increased when the population does not have a strong background of democracy as was the case in Germany and Italy. Thus the demagogues are able to insist in the ‘national (capitalist) interest’ that no political or economic opposition can be allowed to rock the boat.

Most certainly fascism is not a new social system distinct from capitalism. In both Germany and Italy the profit motive remained the basis of production while the relationship between capital and labour did not change. What did change was that the state intervened in this to a much greater degree.

Basically, this can be taken as typical of fascist dictatorships. Of course different countries throw up different types since each has its own historical starting point. The Italian brand differed from the German in many ways — for example anti-semitism played no part in Mussolini’s march to power and he openly scoffed at Hitler’s racial theories. So racialism is not a necessary part of fascist propaganda as many believe.

A widely accepted view of fascism is that it represents the last stage of capitalism. The system reaches such a state of crisis that the only way it can continue to produce profit is by invoking fascism to smash the trade union movement and democratic parties in order to keep down working-class demands.

This theory was very popular before the war and was advanced by John Strachey in 1938:
  They [the capitalists] counter-attack because the state of capitalism has become so bad that it . . . can tolerate indefinitely neither the.standards of life . . .  which particular sections of the British workers have won, nor the workers’ liberty to organise politically, industrially and co-operatively for the further improvement of that standard. [1]
In 1968 Chris Harman, a prominent member of ‘International Socialism', wrote:
   First, the ruling class has to decide that it can no longer afford liberal democracy. It begins to see even the marginal reforms that reformist Labour parties and trade unions win for workers as a threat to its profits and to its very existence. It is prepared to utilise any means . . . to destroy these organisations. [2]
Even with the advantage of 30 years’ hindsight, Harman’s view is remarkably similar to Strachey’s and both see fascism just like a spook at a seance, hovering, unseen, only waiting for the summons from the capitalist medium.

What neither realised is what part democracy plays in a modern industrial nation like Britain. The capitalist class well recognise the need for opposing viewpoints in the complicated world of today. To say that two heads are better than one may be a cliche, but it makes the possibility of costly and far-reaching mistakes in the economy less likely. Also, the emergent capitalist class, the world over, fought a whole series of revolutions for the right to control their system themselves. They know that once in control of the state machine a dictatorship is extremely difficult to get rid of.

Nor will the other lesson of the German experience be lost on them: that once installed the fascist gang set about enriching themselves at the expense of the whole owning class. One final point on this: in some of those countries which have fascism today, such as Spain and Portugal, the demand for democratic rights and freedom of expression is coming mainly from those who, according to the left, have most to fear from it.

Is it true that fascism triumphant means the working class can be treated any old way: that once trade unions have been destroyed then wages can be cut down to bare subsistence? Of course it is — if the working class allow it! The facts are that in both Germany and Italy the fascists came to power only through working class support. In the March 1933 elections the Nazis polled 44 per cent of the votes: their allies, the Nationalists, got 8 per cent, giving them a clear majority. The Communists, with 12 per cent, were as much in favour of a dictatorship as the Nazis and both sides swopped tens of thousands of votes in that and preceding elections. Obviously there was no great difference in the level of ideas of German workers and there was no outcry from them when the Nazis abolished the trade unions.

Right through the 30s support for Hitler grew because he appeared to be producing what German workers wanted most of all — work. From six million unemployed in January 1933, the figures fell to 70,000 by May 1939. True, wage rates remained at depression level even in boom conditions but the German workers’ attitude was that this was better than ‘starving in freedom’.

Nor does stamping out trade unions mean that workers cannot make demands if they are determined enough although the task is obviously made more difficult. Despite terrible penalties for violating Nazi Labour Laws some German workers did rebel when the screw was turned too much. Munitions workers in the Rheinland in 1936 threatened to strike over a wage decrease and were speedily compensated by a ‘local allowance’. Significantly, those workers who did not threaten strike action had their wages cut. [3] The story was the same in Italy. When, during the war, the fascists lost their popularity many strikes occurred in the north and concessions had to be made. [4]

Support needed
Another factor in determining working-class conditions under fascism is that, unlike trade unions, capitalism’s economic laws cannot be legislated out of exitsence. As labour grew scarce in Germany employers, although forbidden to do so, had to compete for it. If an employer wants workers when none are available then the only way he can get them is from another employer by offering more money, and this sort of thing went on in Nazi Germany. [5]

But wouldn’t a Nazi occupation of Britain during the last war have produced all sorts of outrageous acts against a helpless population? In one country which the Nazis did occupy, Norway, they attempted to coerce the population and destroy the labour movement. But the people there, with a long history of democracy in their social arrangements, resisted to such an extent that the Nazis had to back down on many occasions. Hostages were taken and sometimes shot, but this only increased hostility and a dead working class is of no use to any ruling group. [6] In the long run, the actions of fascist regimes are largely determined by the level of acceptance of the population.

So fascism is not something which can simply be imposed from above. It must have massive working-class support such as it enjoyed in Germany and Italy. Were the Nazis recruited from the capitalists? Did Mussolini’s Blackshirts have a non-working-class membership? And who comprised the pre-war Mosleyites in Britain? The majority of all these organisations came from the ranks of those who have to sell their physical and mental energies for a wage or salary in order to live. This applies even though many European fascists came from the peasantry and other fast-vanishing social groups. Without ignorance to batten onto, fascism is a dead duck. It is these which opportunist politicians utilise for their own ends: for example it is doubtful whether Enoch Powell is really a racialist.

Having said all this, workers should of course avoid fascism like the plague. Undoubtedly it has caused the greatest suffering and horror and another dose could put back the growth of socialist ideas for decades. How best then to fight it? The extreme left say there is only one way: by emulating the fascists themselves and using physical force to win control of the streets. But this is precisely what the fascists want since it turns working-class attention to strong men with law-and-order solutions. And since most workers probably have some colour prejudice and know little about politics then it is to the side with the simplest-sounding and most backward programme that they will turn. The recent student upheavals have produced a serious working-class backlash in America, West Germany, and Britain. In France the aftermath of May 1968 has seen existing democratic rights threatened at the insistence of the workers themselves. A majority of French workers are now in favour of banning all political discussion from universities.

This is not to say that the streets cannot be used by socialists at all. They can, but in the way the Socialist Party of Great Britain uses them today—to oppose fascism and all other anti-working-class ideas by propagating the case for one world, one people. This may not sound so glamorous as street fighting and breaking up fascist meetings, which despite leftist hysteria remain few and far between, but it is the only effective way. Tactics like those used by the Yellow Star movement during the political punch-ups of 1962 cause a resurgence, not a diminishing, of fascist numbers and activity. [8]

Will fascism come to Britain? At present this seems very unlikely but it is not impossible. Historically, the end of Empire has provided a factor not there before—a wave of coloured immigrants as scapegoats for workers’ social and economic grievances. This, plus the growing disillusion with the democratic process caused by the dismal failure of the major political parties, could lead many to see a fascist political solution as the only answer.

The fascist threat will last as long as capitalism itself. The answer lies not in futile struggling against effects but to establish a society based on production for use and universal brotherhood which is only possible when the world's workers understand and desire it. As this will require knowledge rather than physical strength we emphasise that the battleground is the minds of men and not the streets.
Vic Vanni

[1] What Are We To Do? Left Book Club edition P146 
[2] Socialist Worker No. 84, June 1968 
[3] Big Business in the Third Reich. A. Schweitzer P386 
[4] Italian Labour Movement. D. L Horowitz P182
[5] Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. W. L Shirer P263
[6] Unarmed Against Fascism. A. K. Jameson (Peace News pamphlet)
[7] The Guardian, October 2, 1968
[8] Tribune (letter from Councillor W. G. Russell). Also, see Action, October 1, 1962

Obituary: Tom Garfield Davies (1969)

Obituary from the September 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

With regret we report the death of Tom Garfield Davies of Swansea Branch. Garfield, as he was affectionately known to Party members, joined the Party just after the last war; finding as he put it the “political party he had been looking for all his life”.

Although never very active in the Party he was nevertheless a keen and able advocate of the socialist idea, once succeeding in getting the socialist case clearly expounded in the radio programme ‘Any Answers’. His work as a male nurse brought him into direct contact with human suffering. Qualities of kindness and understanding coupled with a keen sense of humour equipped him well for this task; it also convinced him of the rightness of the socialist case.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his relatives and friends. He will be sadly missed.
Swansea Branch

The Capital Levy again (1969)

From the October 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party National Executive, with an eye to the next General Election, is issuing a series of discussion documents to form the basis of policy to be recommended to the Party’s Annual Conference this month. The first of these, Labour’s Economic Strategy, covers a wide field, much of it already familiar in Labour Party propaganda, including government direction of investment in industry; limitations of dividends and top salaries; regulation of conditions of employment.

It proposes a “Workers Charter” giving the individual worker a legal right to training and retraining and assistance in moving jobs, transferability of pension rights on change of jobs and a new redundancy payments scheme. Special arrangements are proposed to raise productivity and wages in industries with particularly low wage levels.

Although the Report says that the Labour Party's attitude to “public ownership” has not changed and that “more and more of Britain's industries must move inevitably into public hands” the specific proposals relate only to the aviation industry, drug manufacture, North Sea Gas and a State Building Corporation and most this is for government shareholding, or the setting up of a government body competing with private companies, not the creation of new government monopolies. The Times (21 August 1969) reads into it “further evidence of a swing away from Nationalisation policies in favour of greater intervention by the State in the control and shareholding of British industries”.

The item in the Report which drew most attention in the Press is however a proposal for an annual Wealth Tax, a tax levied not on income but on accumulated wealth. Fortunes of less than £50,000 would be exempt and the scheme would start with an additional annual tax of £500 on £50,000 rising to £20,000 on a fortune of £400,000. The rate above £400,000 would be 5 per cent. It would raise an additional £250 million a year.

This is not the first time the Labour Party has advocated a tax on wealth. Under the name Capital Levy the Labour Party's election address in 1918 proposed a levy starting on ownership of £1,000 and with steeply graduated rates “so as to take only a small contribution from the little people and a very much larger percentage from the millionaires.” They later raised the proposed exemption limit to £5,000 but the whole scheme came to nothing as the Labour Party lost the election and it was not seriously revived when the first Labour government took office in 1923.

The outstanding difference between the 1918 proposal and the present one is that in 1918 it was intended to use the money raised by the levy to pay off the National Debt,, thus reducing the government’s annual payments of interest to investors holding Government securities. This time the wealth tax is to provide additional government revenue without reducing taxation.

Quite unintentionally, but with devastating effect, this new Labour Party proposal vindicates the Socialist Party of Great Britain's argument that trying to reform capitalism by gradual inroads into the wealth of the propertied class (not that Labour are trying to do this anyway) is utterly futile. In the 1918 Labour Party election address it was stated that “one tenth of the population owns nine-tenth’s of the riches of the United Kingdom”, and at that and every subsequent election the Labour Party has declared its intention to get rid of this inequality. Now, half a century later, it is frankly admitted that all of the measures supposed to bring about equality—death duties, steeply rising income tax and sur-tax, social services and nationalisation among them — have left: a condition of “extreme concentration of wealth”.

On the official figures quoted in the new Labour Party report, the degree of concentration appears to have changed to that now the top ten per cent own only 74 per cent of wealth, but the Report itself challenges the accuracy of the figures. Being based on death duties these figures “under-estimate the degree of concentration” because they ignore wealth which evades death duties by gifts made during the individual's life time, or by the setting up of trusts and family settlements and the like.

The Labour Party suggests new measure to stop the leaks and evasions but it is well-nigh certain that new devices for tax avoidance will be discovered and the inequality will go on. An example of what does happen as capital accumulates and income from rent and profit increases is the Ellerman family fortune. In the nineteen thirties it was cut from £40 million to £18 million by death duties but within four years it was back to £40 million. (Evening Standard 8 & 9 September 1937), and an article in the Sunday Telegraph (17 August 1969) estimated that it is now £150 million.

Many workers will no doubt be persuaded that new measures to tax the rich will weaken capitalism and benefit wage earners.

The Labour Party Report provides an answer to this too, for in the desire to prove the practicability of a tax on wealth, it states that a wealth tax of this kind is already operating in a large number of countries, including the whole of Scandinavia as well as Luxembourg, Holland, Germany and Switzerland and capitalism is not “weak” in any of these countries.

Proposals of this kind have nothing to do with Socialism, nor do they help to raise working class living standards. As in the countries named, the introduction of a wealth tax in Britain would be just one of a number of alternative methods of meeting government expenditure in the interests of capitalism.

The broad aim of the Labour Party is admitted to be that of raising productivity and efficiency, increasing capital investment and in general to maintain the competitive position of British industry. If they had the opposite intention, that of improving the financial position of the workers at the expense of the property owners, they could quite simply take off wage restraint and encourage wage claims.

Socialism is not a better way of running capitalism but a world wide system of society in which the private ownership of the means of production and distribution would be replaced by social ownership. Not some promised encroachment on private ownership but its abolition.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Pot and the Kettle (1969)

Book Review from the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

How the Soviet Revisionists Carry out All-Round Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR (Foreign Languages Press. Peking. 1968.)

The Chinese Communist Party's current line on Russia is that soon after the death of Stalin in 19S3 there was a “bourgeois coup d’etat" in which political power was seized by a group led by Khrushchev who were pledged to “restore capitalism” in Russia. Since then, in their view, the policy of the Russian government has been aimed at consolidating the rule of the “bourgeois privileged stratum” that has arisen. What is needed now, the CCP goes on, is a “second revolution” to overthrow the government and bring Russia “back again on the road to socialism”.

Accusations of “capitalism” between jCommunist Party governments when they fall out are not new. In 1950 Yugoslavia called Russia “state capitalism” but dropped . this when friendly relations were restored. Such accusations have been a criticism of the particular policies of a government rather than of the economic system within which it works. To go too deeply into economics could be dangerous since there is not much difference between the economic systems in Russia, China and Yugoslavia (it seems that already there is a group in China applying the CCP analysis of Russia to China). As we know, all of them are capitalist.

The CCP accusation of “restoration of capitalism” in Russia rests on two aspects of Russian economic policy. First the “new system” of gearing industrial production more directly to profit and, second, the encouragement of private enterprise in agriculture.

Russian industry has always produced for profit but in the past there was rigid central control. The new policy involves giving more independence to factory managers and allowing them to adjust output to profit and market demands. The CCP allege that this has led to the top managers abusing their new powers to line their own pockets so that the state enterprises “have been turned into capitalist undertakings owned by a bourgeois privileged stratum”. The managers pay themselves large salaries, award themselves huge bonuses, sell machinery, set up underground factories as a side-line, embezzle funds and so on:
   The heads of many industrial enterprises, 'state farms’ and commercial establishments have become new bourgeois elements who draw high pay, receive high bonuses, indulge in unlawful practices, grossly abuse their power, and exploit and oppress the working people. Managers of many industrial enterprises even sell for profit such means of production as machine-tools, hoists, generators, locomotives and seamless tubes which, of course, are all state property”. “Under the stipulations of the 'new system’, a big share of the profit gained by enterprises is directly pocketed by a small handful of persons of the privileged stratum, such as directors and engineers, or used indirectly for their benefit”.
But there is nothing new about this. It went on too under the old system of centralised control (which the CCP mistakenly say was socialist) and has long been one of the ways in which one section of the Russian capitalist class has got its share of the unpaid labour of the working class.

This has happened in the countryside too, according to the CCP, where new “experts” have been put in charge of collective and state farms:
It is these persons who wield all the power in the rural basic-level economic organizations and by both 'legal' and illegal devices are expropriating a great part of the fruits of the peasants' labour.
Russian agricultural policy encourages private enterprise with the following results:
According to Soviet press reports, agricultural products from all the private plots of land in the USSR account for approximately half to two-thirds of the total products of the whole country. From the private sector potatoes, for instance, account for 63 per cent, fruits 54 per cent, meat 40 per cent and eggs 67 per cent.
We would add that while much of this trade will be in the hands of of ordinary peasants there must also be a growing number of private capitalists (merchants, market gardeners, hauliers, etc.) with money invested in this.

This kind of criticism is rich coming from China where, until recently at least, capitalists were still legally entitled to a fixed share in the profits of their old businesses.

Talk about the restoration of capitalism in Russia is nonsense since capitalism has never been abolished there. Ever since their rule was finally consolidated in 1921 the Russian government has tried to develop capitalism in Russia, both by using the state and by encouraging private enterprise. At different times the emphasis has changed, as it seems to be again. Lenin at least had the honesty to admit that this policy was state capitalism.
Adam Buick

Workers v. State Capitalism (1969)

From the December 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

On October 13 thousands of Yorkshire miners went on strike in support of their union's demand for a 40-hour week, inclusive of mealtimes, for all surface workers which the state capitalist National Coal Board had just rejected. At its height the two-week strike, which spread to other parts of the country, involved 125,000 men and closed about 140 of the 307 pits owned by the NCB.

Like most strikes these days it was "unofficial" in that it had not been called in accordance with the constitution of the National Union of Mineworkers. All the same, it was supported by many union members especially in Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales though many in other parts of the country like Durham and Northumberland were opposed to it and refused to take part despite the pleas of pickets from pits on strike. Most newspapers recognised that the strike had widespread support, though the Economist (25 October) kept up its vicious anti-union record by talking nonsense about "the minute but effectively destructive minority of extremists in the union".

The NUM had put in a claim to the NCB for an increase in the minimum wage for working five full shifts from £13 12 6 on the surface and £14 12 6 underground to £15 and £16 respectively. Earlier the union had also demanded the 40-hour week, inclusive of mealtimes. This the NCB had already rejected offering a 40-hour week, but exclusive of mealtimes, a difference of only twenty minutes.

The Board replied that they would grant the wage claim in full, but would stand firm on hours of work. The union's negotiating team decided to recommend that this offer be accepted, a decision which was endorsed by the full executive the day after the Yorkshire strike began. A special delegate conference, however, turned down the executive's recommendation and now the matter has gone to an individual ballot of union members.

Whatever else this shows, it is that opinion amongst NUM members is fairly evenly divided. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always recognised that the people best qualified to run their union affairs are the union members so we are not getting involved in the arguments about the best course for the miners to take on this issue. Are the executive right in saying that the NCB will not move on hours whatever happens? Or, are their critics right in refusing to regard wages and hours as a "package deal" and demanding that the issues be voted on separately? These are questions to be settled, as we said, by the workers who are the members of the union including any who might also be members of the Socialist Party.

The British coal industry is state-owned and at one time people used to look on nationalisation as a form of Socialism. But now even Lord Robens admits that the NCB is a state capitalist body (Times, 1 April 1968). Producing coal for sale with a view to profit, the NCB is forced to behave like other capitalist employers. It must resist demands it cannot afford. It must close pits and workshops that are not profitable. Its workers, on the other hand, have to organise in trade unions and strike just like workers in individual—and corporation-owned—industries in order to protect their wages and working conditions.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain supports workers in their struggles over wages and working conditions and we wish the miners every success in getting 40 hours inclusive, but we do not see it as our task to give detailed advice on how to conduct these struggles. That is something for those involved to work out themselves. We would merely urge workers to recognise that they have a fundamental conflict of interest with their employers (whether private or state); to subordinate sectional demands to the interests of the working class as a whole; and to decide democratically on what action to take, whatever it might be.

Trade union action, whether official or unofficial, has its limits. It defends wages and working conditions, but it leaves the places of work in the hands of their owners. As long as this class ownership lasts, workers will have to —and should—take such defensive action but they should also realise its limits and the need to organise on the political field too in order to capture the machinery of government and make the means of production the common property of society as a whole

Guinea Pigs and Mind Games (1995)

From the January 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The last year has seen a steady stream of reports from the United States about the biological and nuclear weapons testing programmes of the US government and its agencies. As many have suspected, the US has been using military and civilian human “guinea pigs" for several decades in bio-warfare and radiation experiments. Some disclosures have come via requests from concerned individuals under the US Freedom of Information Act while the Department of Energy has released a number of documents which reveal America’s true nuclear heritage.

The liberal Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary offered “full disclosure” early last year of the decades of abuse of an unwitting population by the government, military and scientific establishment. Reports in the US media have so far focused on the release of information concerning the horrific injection of humans with plutonium without informed consent. Rather less has been reported about the facts which first came out, “that throughout the forties and fifties the military dropped radioactive dust over vast areas of the Western States . . .  in an on-going test of the biological effects of radiation poisoning” (EMF, ELF and Cold War Nuclear Guinea Pigs by Jim Martin in Flatland 11).

President Clinton, recognising the potential danger of such disclosures to the authority of the US state, has distanced himself from O’Leary, characterising her stance as “very emotional”. Indeed, in recent months O’Leary has announced that the scope of the inquiry will be limited due to what she terms “national security" considerations. Even so, sufficient information has come forward about the fascistic methods of bio-warfare testing used on the US working class to cause widespread concern, if not in some quarters outright panic. The revelations thus far are only the tip of an extremely dangerous iceberg, and given the nature of some of them, we can only wonder at those horrors that have been deliberately kept secret.

But enough has been disclosed to reveal the true nature of the American ruling class's contempt for its subjects. Here is a cross-section of recent disclosures in the US of experiments in bio-warfare and radiation testing over the last fifty years, (additional sources: Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Flatland magazine and Lobster):

  • 1942-6 Dr Joseph G. Hamilton of the University of California hospital at San Francisco proposed a radioactive aerosol as a military weapon. Experiments were conducted giving “lethal dose” exposures to terminal patients. At least one of the “terminal” patients had been misdiagnosed: he only had an ulcer.
  • 1945 in Miami, Florida, radioactive needles were placed in an Army private's nostrils. At the Vanderbilt University Medical Center 751 late-term pregnant women were given radioactive water 30 times background radiation levels at a free clinic.
  • 1948-52 Twelve “battlefield radiation” tests were carried out over Tennessee and Utah. The US Air Force dropped radioactive cluster bombs dispersing as much as 15,000 curies in open-air fall-out tests.
  • 1951 In Virginia, aspergillus fumagatus, a potentially lethal bacterium, was released upon mainly black workers at the Norfolk Naval Supply Center.
  • 1951 In a nation-wide test 235 newborn babies were injected with radioactive iodide. In Memphis six out of every seven babies selected were black.
  • 1957 Mainly non-English speaking Eskimos in Alaska were given an apple and orange each for their participation in Army tests to inject them with radioactive iodide.
  • 1963 At least 34 underground nuclear tests in the US released significant levels of radiation into the atmosphere.
  • 1953-65 The CIA initiated a full-scale mind-control programme under the code-name MK-ULTRA. Experiments included lobotomics, electroshock, sensory deprivation and drugs According to the book Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion by Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain, “nearly fifteen hundred military personnel have served as human guinea pigs in LSD experiments conducted by the US Army Medical Corps". In one experiment, black inmates at the Lexington Narcotics Hospital were given LSD for 75 days in gradually increased doses. The US government has paid out millions of dollars in recent years to settle lawsuits brought against them over MK-ULTRA.
  • 1966 In a case since well-documented in the British press, retarded children in a school in Massachusetts were given doses of radiation in their breakfast cereal
  • 1970 A recent Freedom of Information Act request produced a NASA report entitled Implantable Biotelemetry Systems, describing the development of radio receivers which could be implanted in the brain. Many US citizens claim to have undergone surgery for such implantation and lawsuits are currently pending.
  • 1973 Prisoners in Oregon and Washington agreed to have their testicles dipped in radioactive water for the princely sum of S5..00 per week.
It has been estimated that it has cost $200 billion in the US alone to clean up after the nuclear research of the Cold War. The human cost is incalculable. Furthermore, it is likely that the experiments conducted in the US have been replicated to certain degrees in other countries with nuclear programmes like Britain, Russia and South Africa. And bio-warfare experimentation continues to be a growth area not only in the "acceptable” and "democratic” citadels of capitalism like the US but in the up-and-coming gangster states also, from Iraq to North Korea.

Meanwhile in Britain it has just been revealed in an answer to Shadow Defence Secretary David Clark by the Director of the MOD’s Porton Down militaiy research establishment that LSD experiments were carried out on British troops in the 1960s. Clark says he is deeply concerned about this — and well he might be, for it was Labour in power for much of the time when the experiments were being carried out. According to a report in the Sunday Times (6 November) retired military personnel are still suffering severe side-effects from horrific experiments, including where they were strapped to a table before being administered with high doses of hallucinogenic drugs. It is claimed that large numbers were involved in brutal tests at Porton Down — 7,000 alone from 1944 to 1959 and many more thereafter. The Sunday Times states that “some were told that they would be assisting with research into a cure for the common cold; instead they say they were given nerve gas”.

What could illustrate the barbarism of the capitalist system better, even during so-called times of peace? Here for all to see is the competitive drive towards armed conflict ensuring that nation states treat the working class alternatively as cannon fodder and as guinea pigs for their inhumane and murderous experiments. As socialists have always contended, capitalism is not worth dying for, it is clear that less and less is it a system worthy of working-class support either - civilian or military. •
Dave Perrin

On our wavelength (1995)

Party News from the February 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Caller: There's been many privatised industries where the company’s made profit and the executives are richer than before and they've still cut back on workers.

Presenter: It must be said that the purpose of the state was to secure jobs while still trying to maintain profit.

Caller: I think that that's why common ownership does work . . . 

Presenter: Well, that’s interesting, because the other day I received some information from the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which is a [pause] shall we say. little-known organisation as far as 1 know, which I think is Marxist but, if I’m right, which is usually the case, they aren’t Leninist . . . 

Caller: Well -

Presenter: . . . shut up! [pause] they aren’t Leninist and they point out one thing, which must cross most people's minds, is that the State still works on a wage or salary basis and therefore they are [pause] still used in the same manner as a private enterprise, still having to make profit to survive, and therefore the State is not in common ownership.
(James H. Reeve’s phone-in programme on Hallam FM, Sheffield, 18 December 1994)

Letter: Ignoring MOVE (1995)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Socialists,

Thank you for taking the trouble to review my anthology Green History. I feel that you are being slightly picky on some points. Bellamy, for example. is normally seen as a socialist (see Kumar's Utopianism, OUP. 1991:65). which was why I believe William Morris felt it necessary to counter his Looking Backwards with the decentralist and ecological News from Nowhere. I have never denied that Morris was a Marxist but equally he wrote an impressive utopia and was concerned in a very central way with ecological issues. Morris was a founder member of Britain’s first Marxist political party with Eleanor Marx and Engels. His creativity is a source of inspiration and education to all of us who see ourselves within a Marxist tradition.

Equally I fail to see how 1 can I be accused of ignoring the central issue of class struggle. For example, although he advocates manifesto promises you would see as reformist. Dumont (p.247) notes "It is one and the same system which organises the exploitation of the workers and the degradation of living and working conditions and puts the whole earth in danger.” On page 145 we find Marx in Capital showing us how capitalism turns the individual worker into a crippled monstrosity.

My only real complaint, though, is the fact that you fail to mention MOVE. This revolutionary group said a lot with which you may disagree but they identified the fact that human liberation and ecological liberation are one and the same thing. They were massively persecuted for rejecting capitalism, leaders and the exploitation of all forms of life. A leading supporter Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row on trumped-up charges since the early 1980s. Most of their members have suffered long prison terms. We are fast approaching the 10th anniversary of the May 1985 massacre when eleven MOVE members were burnt to death in the most horrifying circumstances by an FBI bomb.

Worse perhaps than the bombing is the fact that socialists, anarchists. Greens and other radicals have largely ignored MOVE. I use Alice Walker's essay on MOVE to introduce my study of Green History because MOVE made the links between a system of human exploitation and the exploitation of the Planet better than anyone else.
Derek Wall, 
London N15.

You exaggerate on a number of points not least of which is the assertion that being ignored is worse than being bombed.