Tuesday, September 12, 2017

News In Review: Police (1964)

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



As many people who have been roped in for some minor offence know, the “half bricks’' case is only the part of the iceberg above the water. It does not need a cynic to wonder whether the official, explanation for the rampages of Detective Sergeant Challenor, that he was overworked and mentally sick, is just another cover-up.

To be imprisoned for something which you have not done is galling in the extreme; no sum of money can restore a period of lost liberty. To be submitted, in addition, to the sort of indignities which Challenor and his men were accustomed to visit upon their unfortunate arrests is intolerable.

Yet outraged sympathy for the victims is not enough. Why is it only now admitted that Challenor was unbalanced? Did this not show up in court when he gave his evidence? Was it not apparent to his superior officers?

The plain, awful fact is that a system of law-enforcement must rely in some cases on men like Challenor, and upon magistrates and high police officers closing an eye to any doubts about the methods he has used to gather the “ evidence” which puts people away.

Crime must be an undercover business, which means that some police work must also go underground. It is a known fact that often, when the police think they have a criminal in their grasp, they are not above cooking a bit of evidence to make their case conclusive. Only occasionally are these practices uncovered—in most cases the accused is guilty anyway.

But sometimes he is not. Challenor's victims suffered nothing worse than a spell in prison, bad as that may be. In the case of Timothy Evans there is good reason to believe that the police technique cost a man his life.

Capitalism is not without its legal rights and it is anxious that these should be protected. But in the end the complex scientific police force and massive judicial machine which capitalism has developed to protect its property structure depends on the man on the beat.

It depends on the distraught detective, the not over-sensitive constable, the inspector with a down on political demonstrators. These men have an awesome power over someone’s life—and too often there is nobody to call them to account for their actions. Property society is a dirty business and so are the various organisms it has fashioned to maintain itself. It is hard going for anyone who tries to keep it all clean and above board.



Politicians say some silly things, some of which live on to mock their memory long after they are dead.

One of these was Alan Lennox Boyd's famous “Never” over Cyprus. When he said that, the British government seemed immovable over the fate of the island, basing their attitude on the 1956 Colonial Office Report:—
  Her Majesty's Government formally recognised the principle of self-determination, but considered its application not to be a practical proposition at the present time on account of the existing situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To support that classical piece of diplomatic evasion, hundreds of British soldiers—and not a few civilians—were killed. The strife and the confusion in Cyprus have persisted until today, even after the so-called truce, the island remains one of the world’s ugliest spots.

And among the confusion, a certain fact gleams. Lennox-Boyd—now Lord Boyd—is a political ghost, his foolish words gone down in history. The policy he applied is almost dead. Britain is no longer hell bent on staying in Cyprus.

Only reluctantly did Whitehall agree to send a British contingent to the UN force in Cyprus; they are now anxiously pulling their soldiers out. Lennox Boyd made many biller attacks upon enosis but his latter day successor, Duncan Sandys, now refuses to be drawn on the issue.

This sort of volte face is not new, nor particularly remarkable. But it is pari of a very sordid story and someone should point out the moral of it.

The British government have now virtually admitted that, even by their own standards, the casualties of the war against EOKA were incurred for no good reason. This sort of things has happened before and each time it happens it should rouse the working class to a fury of dissent.

But they are never so roused. Each time the call goes out for another lot of colonial cannon fodder—for Aden, for Malaya, for Borneo—there is no hanging back. The official propaganda about primitive savages desecrating the graceful achievements of the British colonisers, continues to be accepted almost without question. There seems to be no end to it. No wonder politicians say so many silly things—they get away with them so easily.



The Tories are doing their best to blow up Nationalisation into one of the big issues of the coming general election. In this, they are helped by organisations like Aims of Industry (Say No To Nationalisation) and most of the big steel firms, who are preparing to sell themselves dearly if they are taken under State control.

Naturally, this side are rather careful in their choice of arguments. They stress the large deficits which, after payment of interest, are declared by some nationalised concerns. This impresses many workers who, although they live on the edge of insolvency, like to think that the Bank of England and the other State industries belong to them.

The anti-nationalisers make cracks about slate in the coal and dirty railway carriages, although they know perfectly well that these existed before the State took over.

All this is good for a laugh. It may even win a few votes. But it ignores the basic facts of nationalisation.

State control is not something dreamed up by the Labour Party in the nineteen forties. It has nothing to do with Socialism. It is an old established method, which the capitalist class have used from time to time, of trying to deal with particular problems. All three big parties in this country have had a crack at it—including the Conservatives.

Because of this, the capitalist class generally take a view of nationalisation rather different from that of the theorists of political parties who, apart from their concern with their theories, are also worried about getting into power.

This viewpoint is being pressed, as the election draws nearer, by some of the papers which speak with the voice of the capitalist class as a whole. The Economist, although it does not welcome the prospect of steel nationalisation, was pleading last May for the “least bad way" of imposing it. The Observer of June 21st concluded that:
  Ideally it ought to be possible for a Government, whether Labour or Tory, to launch new, competitive publicly-owned enterprises . . . public ownership and competition, far from being contradictory, are complementary.
The Guardian at the beginning of last month went into the figurework of the matter, comparing the incomes of some private and State industries. They pointed out that what the Prime Minister has called “the junkyard of nationalisation" in fact has “some extremely healthy giants ” in it.

The meaning behind this is that capitalists as a whole are not over interested in political theories on nationalisation, or indeed on any other matter. They treat political policies on their merits, by which they mean their profitability, sometimes in isolation, sometimes to the economy as a whole.

Thus they may require some industries to be nationalised, because they are large and nationally important or because they have an appetite for investment which only the State can guarantee to satisfy. (The Guardian says that the Electricity Boards are investing enough money every ten days to build the Channel Tunnel.)

Both Labour and Conservative Parties, as their recent policies show, have broadly adopted this attitude. On the hustings they grapple with each others' shadows but in the background the business of capitalism goes on undisturbed.

1904-1964 (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

When our party was formed in June, 1904, the world was, in some ways, vastly different from what it is today.

The British Empire was flourishing as one of the greatest empires the world had so far experienced, and radicals waxed eloquent on topics like “Home Rule for India.” This huge land mass was under British rule, and British capitalists were being enriched out of the exploitation of the Indian peasant. “Home Rule for Ireland” was also another favourite topic, plus the women’s suffrage question. Africa was split up amongst the Western Powers; Germany,- France, Belgium and Britain taking the lion’s share, and various measures were adopted to force the natives to be exploited in the mines, diamond fields and rubber plantations. Harrowing stories were told of the brutalities they suffered. Canada and Australia were being settled with a cynical disregard for the interests of the aboriginal inhabitants.

Russian peasants, in the vast ramshackle empire of the Czars, were steeped in almost hopeless misery to produce luxury for the Russian nobility. China was a hotch potch of conflicting war lords and petty peasant culture in which the Western powers were trying to force their trading interests. Japan was on the verge of emerging as a great power, whilst the United States was in a fever of internal industrial expansion that was building up huge fortunes for the Rockefellers, Astors, Carnegies, Morgans and other multi-millionaires.

Cutting across all the sectional interests was the cleavage between workers and capitalists, owners and non-owners of the means of production, and frequent strikes were a common result.

In Germany the adherents of the Social Democratic Party were numbered in hundreds of thousands. In other countries smaller Social Democratic Parties also carried on a great deal of propaganda. In America they had even reached a point where a member of one of the radical parties, Eugene V. Debs, was a candidate for the Presidency and received a large vote.

In Britain there were a variety of radical parties like the Social Democratic Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Fabian Society, Industrial Unionists, Land Reformists and a number of others, all with a variety of reformist proposals. Since those days these parties and groups have either gone out of existence or become moribund.

At the time our party came into existence men whose names figured prominently on the theoretical side of the working class movement were either still alive or not long since dead; men like Engels, Leibknecht, Lafargue, Kautzky, Plechanoff, Labriola, and others. Thus theoretical questions loomed large at meetings, particularly at indoor meetings. The early members of our party, who had broken away from the Social Democratic Party on account of its reformist and political trading attitude, were pioneers; enthusiastic, fanatical and uncompromising. To them the Socialist movement was all that really mattered, and many of them suffered economically for the position they took up.

The world the Party was born into was a much slower world than the world of today. There were no aeroplanes, wireless or huge ocean liners; no world wars, belt systems or traffic problems; no petrol buses, electric trains or tube systems; no cinemas, dog racing or jazz; no health or unemployment insurance, and one could travel widely without passports. Horse buses, hansom cabs, bicycles and steam trains were the means of locomotion. Hours of work were long but, in general, not as intense as today. Translations of foreign radical literature were scarce. Printing, premises and halls were relatively cheap. Outdoor meeting places were prolific and a platform could be set up almost anywhere. The outstanding questions of the time were religion, Home Rule, Reforms and the suffragette question—and the abolition of slums!

What vast changes, in some respects, have come over the world since those days. Russia and the United States have become the major capitalist empires, seeking to split the earth between them but threatened by a developing and populous China. India has secured its “freedom” without much advantage to its teeming and poverty stricken millions. The African natives are struggling to free themselves from the older bandits; some have developed independent states that have made little difference to the oppressed; they have simply exchanged exploiters.

All the territories of the world have come under the sway of international capital. Areas that were once undeveloped are rapidly being transformed, and the world is seething in a maelstrom of conflict and confusion such as has never been experienced before. Cutting across all sectional interests is the cleavage between capitalist and worker, owner and non-owner, privileged and unprivileged, dominant and subjected— just as in 1904. Progress has been in the accumulation of wealth for the privileged, frustration and nervous tension for the unprivileged. The class position of the working class has remained the same.
The root of the troubles that afflict the world today is the same as it was in 1904; the ownership of the means of production by one class, the capitalist class, whose members can lfve without the need to work, and the subjection of the working class, whose members must work in order to live.

Production under capitalism is carried on for the purpose of profit and, just as in the past, sections of the international capitalist class came into conflict over markets, sources of raw materials, routes to these markets and raw materials, and strategic bases for domination. The seeds of war are sown with a prodigal hand. Today even the sky above the earth has become an area for strategic manoeuvres. Nation faces nation full of suspicion, armed with more terrible means of destruction than mankind has ever contrived, and workers are forced into armed forces to slaughter each other.

Myriads of reformers, some with the best of intentions, have sought to relieve some of the worst aspects of social existence. In spite of decades of reformism their efforts have brought no material change. The main evils still flourish. Abolition of slums was on the programmes of the main political parties in 1904—it is still on the programmes of the main political parties today. The reformers failed to attack the source of the trouble, the capitalist ownership of the means of production. Planning against slumps and booms, peace movements, proposals to abolish poverty and slums, all break to pieces against the ramparts of capitalism.

The cynical degradation of labour; the exploitation of workers of all colours and creeds in all parts of the world to enhance the wealth of those in the position of power and privilege, is basic to the present system. What is produced is produced solely for the purpose of profit, regardless of the misery it involves. That is capitalism, and so it will always be while capitalism lasts.

Thus, in spite of the vast superficial changes in the world since 1904, it is still, fundamentally, the same old capitalist world, with its exploitation, misery and frustration for the mass of the population.

The BBC says "No" to the SPGB (1964)

Party News from the October 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

On a number of occasions over the past few years, we have approached the BBC with a view to getting time on the air to state our point of view. Always we have been refused.

Again, just recently, we learned of a new programme series Let Me Speak, which the BBC is planning and which apparently is for the purpose of allowing minority parties to state their case. In all innocence we applied again, and what was the reply? That’s right—No! Here is the text of the BBC’s letter of August 10th:-
    It was at no time intended that an opportunity should be given for the expression of all minority points of view in “Let Me Speak," and this would indeed have been impossible. The series aims to allow a representative cross-section of minorities whose views may be of interest to the British public a chance to air them. It has been made on the basis of those whose views are thought likely to be of most interest to the public, and at the present time there is no intention of adding to the list of groups chosen.
So the BBC will be the sole arbiter of what is “likely to be of most interest to the public,” and a unique and old-established minority party with a consistent and uncompromising viewpoint, does not seem to meet its requirements. After numerous efforts, it would be difficult to know just what else we have to do before the BBC drops its evasive attitude and grants us a few minutes of its precious broadcasting time. Perhaps we shall learn the answer when we hear some of the groups in Let Me Speak. Of one thing we may be sure; most of them at least will be nowhere near as well established and constant as the SPGB.

Political Organisation (1964)

From the November 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why must the working class organise as a political party to achieve Socialism? The answer to this question is to be found in an examination of the nature and role of the modem State.

At present the capitalist class control society through their possession of political power, through their control of the machinery of government. They did not construct this machine for this purpose, as the anarchist claim; the machinery of government evolved along with the evolution of society as a whole. It is one of the facts of social life that the government machine is the centre of social control. The working class must base its policy on a recognition of this. If the working class is to become the master of society—which it must do in order to change it—then it too must recognise itself as a class, and organise itself politically. This political party must be Socialist expressing workers’ recognition that their emancipation can only be achieved by the expropriation of the capitalist class and the establishment of Socialism.

Given the need for a Socialist political party, on what lines should it be organised? A movement which aims at the establishment of a social democracy in which human instead of commercial values can flourish cannot employ means which are in conflict with this end. It must to a certain extent reflect the new society it aims to create. This means that it must be organised on democratic lines. Its membership, even when it is only a small group, must have complete control over policy; all its officials must be responsible to the membership; there must be complete freedom of discussion within the party; there must be no division into leaders and led; there must be no secret meetings from which any section of the membership is excluded. But not only must the party be democratic, it must also be open in its methods.

It must hold no meetings from which members of the working class are excluded. A Socialist political party can have nothing to hide from the working class. No gain can ever accrue to a Socialist party from seeking and getting support by subterfuges. Nor can it gain from using political dishonesty or terrorism. Such tactics would fail in their object. It's not a question of the end justifying the means. The end just cannot be reached by such means. Workers cannot be tricked or coerced into booming conscious of their position as a subject class. They can only come to such an understanding through their collective experiences as a class.

The Socialist political party will not appear ready-made. Like other social phenomena, it will grow out of social conditions. This raises the whole question of the role of a Socialist party in the class struggle. At present there are two obstacles which stand in the way of achieving Socialism: the political ignorance of the working class and the control of the machinery of government by the capitalist class. To overcome these obstacles Socialist understanding must come first. For this reason the main activity of a Socialist party in its early days must be propaganda. It must seek to dispel the political ignorance of the working class.

This does not mean that the relation between the party and the working class is to be that of teacher and pupil. Socialist understanding is not something that can be constructed out of nowhere; it must grow out of social conditions. Such understanding—or class consciousness—will not arise purely as a result of the propaganda of the Socialist party. Ideas only grip the masses when they are relevant to social conditions. There are any number of cranks around with utopian schemes for social reconstruction. What distinguishes Socialists from them is that Socialism is in the material interest of the working class. Socialists have social evolution on their side. The cranks have not—that’s why they’re cranks.

Education is not just a question of learning from books and pamphlets; that is just one aspect of learning from experience. The class experiences of the working class under capitalism will teach it that Socialism is the answer to its problems. The party can help this development of Socialist understanding by storing up and propagating the past experiences of the working class so that these are easily accessible. The principles of the Socialist party will be based on these experiences and will serve as a guide to social issues, being used to expose useless remedies. To carry out this task its members must necessarily have a fairly high degree of political knowledge, know their opponents’ case and be able to expose the flaws in their arguments. In its educational phase, precisely because it is such a phase, a higher degree of political understanding must be required of the members of the party than the working class need have to establish Socialism. As Socialist understanding spreads the number and importance of its opponents, and hence also of the need of a knowledge of their arguments, may well decline.

Once Socialist understanding grows to any appreciable extent, political conditions will completely change. Socialism will become a political issue. The comparative trivialities of present-day politics will be cast aside. The issue will be Capitalism or Socialism. With the changed conditions will come a change in the role of the party. It will become the political organisation of the working class which they can use to capture political power.

It is decidedly not the function of a Socialist party to lead the working class either in the struggle to live under capitalism or in the struggle for Socialism. The working class cannot be led to Socialism; it must emancipate itself. A Socialist working class will require no leadership; all it requires is organisation to put its aim into effect.

The day-to-day struggle of the working class, the economic phase of the class struggle, goes on in the place of work. To carry out this struggle is the task of the trade unions. In so far as they carry out this task they are class weapons. The task of bargaining with the employers is not one for which a Socialist party is at all suited. Of course, the members of a Socialist party, precisely because they are class conscious workers, will be active trade unionists, desirous of getting the highest possible price for their labour power.

Some workers are today organised in various political parties, in this country mostly in the Labour Party, but to a smaller extent also in the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the so-called Communist Party and the various Nationalist parties. But they are not organised as a class, they are not organised for Socialism. Those who make a political principle of joining and trying to lead the trade unions frequently also make a principle of joining such pro-capitalist workers' organisations as the Labour Parties. But here they overlook the essential difference between the political and the economic organisations the working class need. Trade unions are class organisations when they are used correctly in the economic phase of the class struggle. They cease to be such when, for instance, they back productivity drives or finance politicians and political parties. In no sense are Labour Parties class parties, working class parties. They can correctly be said to be organisations serving the interests of the capitalist class since they are an expression of the fact that the working class are still imbued with capitalist prejudices. As it is one of the functions of a Socialist party to dispel such prejudices its members cannot work within such parties which only stand in the way of Socialist understanding and organisation.

These Labour parties frequently struggle for reforms within capitalism. A Socialist party struggles to end capitalism. It is no part of the role of a Socialist party to campaign for reforms. To do so is to invite degeneration into a pro-capitalist party by attracting politically ignorant workers who are only interested in reforms. When the Socialist political party is small a reform programme is futile, indeed farcical. When it becomes large enough to have some effect it doesn’t need such a programme anyway. For when the Socialist party is the working class organised politically for Socialism the capitalist class will no doubt be only too eager to offer concessions in a bid to ward off their expropriation.

To sum up, the movement for Socialism must be open and democratic. At present its role is largely restricted to propaganda, but in the future it will be the working class organised consciously and politically for Socialism. It will be the instrument they will use to capture political power. The Socialist Party of Great Britain offers itself for this task.
Adam Buick