Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Aldermaston Marchers (1960)

From the June 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Easter Sunday and we are standing at the roadside between London Airport and Hounslow. Standing in spring sunshine edged by a cold wind blowing across the subtopia of Hounslow Heath. The traffic is humming along in unending stream, intent upon its own Eastertide massacre.

Small, expectant crowds gather, staring down the road to Aldermaston. Suddenly, the marchers appear, black banners tossing in the wind. They have the appropriate, pilgrimage atmosphere, with people falling in and out of the column, adding to the Indian contingent a lot of white faces and mixing young females with the section which, by its banner proclaiming “Eton Boys,” would have us believe that the famous school is in revolt. It is these youngsters who catch the eye. Are their funny hats, weird hairstyles and beards a substitute for argument? Or colourful manifestations of sincerity? Their political development seems to be youthfully low.

Yet there is some comfort in this march. After the barren years of the delinquents, large numbers of young people seem to be getting active in a movement of protest against a social problem. Comfort, yes. How much?

Illustration from the original article.
The marchers are a mixed bunch, ranging from Communists to Unitarians, but all united (at least on the surface) against nuclear weapons. We should remember that “Ban the Bomb!" is only the latest cry of the Communists, who have shouted their way from demands for “Second Front Now!" to ”Peace!" Anyway, they are only opposed to nuclear weapons this side of a line through Eastern Europe. Of the others, pacifist groups like the Quakers have at least stated an opposition to all wars. We are left with those who are more concerned with the Bomb than with war itself.

To these we say, simply and clearly: H-Bombs or blunderbusses, or any other weapons, are the expression of technical social skill manifested in the field of war. Wars are caused by the conflict between capitalist groups over raw materials, markets, zones of influence and profit. Get rid of capitalist society and we have rooted out the cause of war. Then social skills can be applied to society's benefit instead of to its destruction.

For years, Socialists have been urged to neglect the case for a new society and join the general clamour against some current evil. This has been the argument of, among others, the tail end of the pro-Boer left wingers, the United Free lrelanders, the supporters of Colonial Freedom, the pro-Soviet-anti-Fascist groups and a host of movements for simple Peace and Plenty. In I960, after the De Valeras, the Nkrumahs and the Verwoerds, we can see how shallow were the arguments for these causes. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will go the way of the rest.

For demonstrations, of course, are nothing new. The over-40's will remember the many pre-war occasions, their slogans fierce and denouncing compared to the Aldermaston youngsters piping, "We ain't gonna study war no more!” The police were more numerous in the 20's and 30's, now, they follow the anti-nuclear marchers in a motor coach. But for all the changes, the reformist arguments are the same.

And will these marchers go the way of the pre-war demonstrators? Will they become bemused by full employment, settle down with a little car, a little house and a large mortgage? Become humdrum ratepayers, respectfully voting for the respectable party? We have seen it all before.

The need for Socialist propaganda is greater than ever, to urge people to look deeply into the terrible problems of capitalist society, deeper than the slogans and the banners. As they swing away down the road, that is the thought the Aldermaston marchers leave with, at any rate, one of their observers.
Jack Law

Nigeria (1960)

Book Review from the July 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

New Nigerians, by Mora Dickson (Dobson, 25s.)
This book describes an experiment that was carried mil at Man-of-War Bay in the south east of Nigeria by the author and her husband. The experiment consisted of a highly intensive training course to test the initiative, enterprise and ability to lead, and to follow, of students who were specially chosen from all over Nigeria. The instructor was selected from the Nigerian police. It was his job to set the tone of the course, and the exercises were designed to prove the students “worthy citizens" and “ upholders of the law.” In referring to a special course for schoolboys, the author says this:
   They were picked from the cream of the Nigerian secondary schools. The best equipment and housing had been provided for them. The whole system of living was based on the English public school.
The author makes no attempt to critically evaluate the intentions behind the scheme and leaves the impression of a woman accepting without question that her suburban values are superior to all others. I found this book rather dull, but it was interesting to note the attempts that are being made to introduce western civilisation into Nigeria and to consider the reasons.

Although Nigeria gains her independence this year, there is still a lot of British capital invested there which has to be protected. This is done by instilling into the minds of prospective administrators of capitalism in Nigeria the ideology and values of the western world, and breaking up the workers themselves into different groups. Technicians and officials preoccupied with their own prosperity and high standing in the community can be relied upon not to identify themselves with the great mass of workers struggling to better their standard of living. So we have the new Nigerians, the new broom sweeping away age-old tribal custom, and Mora Dickson playing her part in the debasement of the African with enthusiasm.
Jack Law

The Coalbrook Enquiry (1960)

News From Africa from the August 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under capitalism, mining, like all other industries is run strictly with a view to making a profit. Running costs are always kept as low as possible, and human considerations take second place to the prime motive of making a profit. Now, nearly six months afterwards, the report of the enquiry into the disaster at the Coalbrook mine in South Africa on 21st January, where 430 Africans and five Europeans were entombed, has said that the underground subsidence was due to “ negligence and wrongful acts and omissions ” by certain mine officials.

Mr. W. T. Dalling, Chief Inspector of Mines at Witbank, had many things to say at the enquiry which were not at all popular with the mine's management or its Counsel. He said that the fatal accident rate at Coalbrook North mine was 12 times as high as that in his own district, Witbank. Miners in South Africa did not carry any form of self-rescue gear; miners had survived falls in similar circumstances in the U.S. and Europe. He said his first reaction to the mine disaster was a picture of a mine that had collapsed due to weak supports. The method of mining in Coalbrook was that of cutting the coal and leaving pillars as supports.

Mr. Corbett, who assisted Mr. Dalling in investigations at the mine, said that after his observations, he thought the mine plans were inaccurate. He also said that in the northern area of the mine, there were “active pillars” which were “splitting and making low noises,” and that in most areas he visited, wasting (coal falling from pillars) had taken place. Evidence was given at the enquiry that on December 28th a fall had taken place in the mine, but the Assistant Manager did not consider it to be a major one, as it had been confined to one section of the mine, and the fall had not been reported. When asked if he thought the reason for the January collapse was that the coal pillars were called upon to carry more than their strength allowed, the Assistant Manager said he did not know. This was one of the men in whose hands were the lives of hundreds of other men. Mr. Dalling said that requirements and recommendations that were put to the mine management were ignored. He said that the lowest seam at the Coalbrook mine was mined in a very impractical and hazardous way and had been dangerously undermined. He said that pillar mining should only be used in upper areas of a mine, otherwise the pillars would take on too much strain and burst

Sir Andrew Bryan, world authority on mining and Chairman of the International Conference at Geneva in 1949 which drew up a model code of safety for mines, and who is now adviser to the British National Coal Board, read to the enquiry a lengthy and detailed report which he had compiled. He said there was no evidence that the mine collapsed due to general weighting. It appeared instead that an unusual occurrence, such as a rock-burst or bump had caused the collapse. Counsel for some of the African widows said Sir Andrew was not an independent witness as he claimed, but that his evidence was one-sided. He spoke no Afrikaans and appeared to have made no effort to have the evidence of the Afrikaans witnesses translated. The majority of these Afrikaans speaking witnesses were people who, worked underground and would have had a better knowledge of conditions. Sir Andrew replied that most of the evidence had been in English and had been sufficient to give him a general insight into matters before he compiled his report.

The Manager of the Clydesdale Collieries told the enquiry that the Coalbrook mine was so “popular” with African workers that the mine “had more boys than it knew what to do with.” There was a good recruiting system at the mine and the Africans, mostly from Basutoland and the east coast, “just kept coming.” This statement seems to be the crux of the matter. South Africa has an abundant supply of cheap labour in the Africans, and in order to try to raise their living standards, they go to the mines from the reserves. It is easier for them to go there than try to get to the towns to work because of the Pass Laws.

“The only interests of mine managements appeared to be output and cost,” said Mr. Dalling at the enquiry. This underlines our assertion that under capitalism, profit must be made at all costs—even human costs. Even under capitalism, where everything is measured in terms of how much it costs to produce, methods of obtaining power and fuel, other than coal-mining, have been devised. When we are able to make the best uses of science and new methods without the restrictions of cost, as we will under Socialism, men won’t be called upon to risk their lives in the bowels of the earth for a meagre living, which is the lot of most miners today
Phyllis Hart

The evidence quoted above is from the Johannesburg Star of varying dates during the last four months.

The Congo (1960)

News From Africa from the August 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many, many times, the Socialist Party has been asked to join in support of movement for national independence. Our reply in refusing to do so has always been that not only would such support result in our being side-tracked from our work of Socialist propaganda but that the aims and results of these nationalist movements at best were concerned with pushing forward the local and nascent ruling interests and at worst could be and usually were actively anti-working class. We have not been afraid to point out, too, that these movements which spoke so much of “freedom," “independence,” “liberty,” etc., were they to come to power and were they to find unwelcome opposition or criticism, would not hesitate to act in the same despotic and dictatorial manner against which they were the erstwhile protestors.

A recent case which supports this view is the recently established Congo State. Mr. Lumumba, the new Prime Minister, though new, is learning fast. He is determined to see that the new local capitalist interests are defended at all costs, even if it means getting the same soldiers, who did yeoman duty for the Belgian rulers, to do the same, job for him, as the following quotation from The Times (29/6/60) serves to illustrate:
  Mr. Lumumba gives warning . . . that he has decided to adopt all necessary measures for order to be respected and that these measures will be taken without weakness.
By the side of this article we can see what this means—black soldiers threatening black demonstrators with their rifles. Is this the freedom our opponents would want us to give up our Socialist work for?
Max Judd

Unarmed and Unforgiven (2017)

Book Review from the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Prophets Unarmed: Chinese Trotskyists in Revolution, War, Jail and the Return from Limbo'. Edited by Gregor Benton (Haymarket $55)

A 1,200-page volume on a political movement that existed for just twenty-five years and had at most a few thousand supporters (and generally far fewer than that), this is an exhaustive study of Trotskyism in China, from 1927 to 1952. It is based primarily on memoirs written years after the events or interviews with elderly former participants, as there are very few original documents surviving.

In the 1920s, many young Chinese left-wingers spent time in Moscow, being indoctrinated and learning how to organise political activity. Some of them came under ‘Left Opposition’ influences, especially from Karl Radek, who was one of their teachers. Many of those who sympathised with Trotsky, or were thought to do so, were sent back to China, where they tried to build some kind of movement in opposition to the Chinese ‘Communist’ Party (CCP). Later, Trotsky-supporters were kept in Moscow, where they could be more easily controlled.

The best-known of Chinese Trotskyists is Chen Duxiu, one of the founders of the CCP and its first leader. He was held by Stalinists to be responsible for the failure of the Chinese ‘Revolution’ in 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist Guomindang violently clamped down on the CCP and its supporters (though he and others were basically just following the Comintern’s line). He was expelled from the CCP in 1929, and died in 1942.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Trotskyists in China were brutally suppressed by, at various times, the CCP, the Guomindang and the Japanese occupiers: imprisoned, tortured, executed. Many CCP members regarded them as Japanese spies. After the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, there was a civil war between the CCP and the Guomindang, during which the Trotskyists were too weak to be anything other than bystanders. In 1948–9 there were two Trotskyist organisations, with just a couple of hundred members in total. A number left the country when the CCP took power in 1949; those who stayed behind were for the most part not politically active.

In December 1952 the remaining Trotskyists in China were arrested and imprisoned, apparently in order to gain more support for the Mao regime from the USSR. These arrests were not publicised or made part of a wider political campaign. Some prisoners were not released until 1979, and they have never been formally ‘rehabilitated’, even posthumously. Opposition to Trotskyism remains part of the CCP’s political line, perhaps because, Benton suggests, such opposition ‘is a badge of commitment to political monolithism.’

There are some references to disputes among Trotskyists as to whether post-1949 China was state capitalist or bureaucratic-collectivist, but unfortunately there are no details of what these disagreements involved. Presumably this is because, as the editor states, ‘the focus of the volume is on Chinese Trotskyism as an active political force rather than as detached commentary.’ But it would have been good to see more on these theoretical issues, rather than so much on long-forgotten doctrinal disputes and splits.

If you are interested in the topic but cannot face a book of this length, reading the editor’s forty-page introduction would probably suffice.   
Paul Bennett

Winds of Change (1960)

News From Africa from the August 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

All over the continent of Africa, Nationalism is on the march and the battle cry is “Independence.” Africans are demanding that political power be turned over to them. This, they say, would allow them to set about the problems of illiteracy, poverty and disease which the Colonialists have ignored or deliberately preserved. Offering this as the main reason for their Nationalism, they attract a lot of support and sympathy. What many people forget is that this newly won political power will be used to administer capitalism—with all the problems which white workers are already faced with.

When political independence is procured, the new powers must try to develop the economy. They need all types of heavy and light machinery, electrical equipment, scientific instruments, chemicals, and all those materials which go into the making of the manufacturing industries. They look to this capital as a means of increasing the output of the workers and thereby causing more wealth to be produced by fewer workers in a period of time. As well as foreign investment they require foreign manpower in such fields as education, science, law and technology In colleges and universities all over the world there are African students learning such subjects as will befit them for their respective tasks under capitalism. This and a lot more has got to be done until such times as their workers produce enough wealth to enable the country to find most of its own finance for development. An African government having the welfare of the economy in its hands will often have to warn their workers against striking or asking for higher wages. They will also have to make the normal government appeal to work hard and save and so help the African capitalists to sell their goods as cheaply as possible to compete on the world markets against other national capitalists.

Nigeria, Somalia, Congo, are all receiving independence this year, and Kenya and Tanganyika are not far behind. In all these countries there are the grovelling bands of prospective parliamentarians waiting restlessly to take over their appointed places as the “New Gov’ners” of the African working class. One thing Africa is not short of is leaders—they are ten a penny. Nigeria, which expects independence in October this year, has at least three political notabilities, one of whom has already been knighted for past service. This country should have no bother in attracting capital as it is considered to be “credit-worthy,” for these leaders have re-assured investors about the favourable political conditions in which their investments may flourish. Somalia and British Somaliland have gained their independence. Somalia has been under the jurisdiction of Italian trusteeship, granted by the United Nations. Now Italy is passing over the responsibility to one Abdullahi Issa, hoping quite naturally that he is the right man to protect any Italian interests which are left behind.

As to Kenya, is it to be Jomo Kenyatta or Tom Mboya? What will happen to the European settlers of the White Highlands and the Asian merchants who are in a minority? Can they fit into the African scheme of things? If not, and they have to leave, should the workers of Asia and Europe shed any tears? Or better still, will the replacement of these Colonists by African farmers and merchants be a source of joy for Kenya workers? No, no and no.

Shorn of the Nationalist pomp and false desires, the plain economic truth of this rapidly developing continent means power, position and privilege for those Africans who own the tools, instruments, machinery, transport and communications and all that is produced through them. These are the people who intend to employ other Africans in order that as much profit as possible will be made out of production, just like anywhere else in the world where there is production for sale. Capitalism, wherever it exists, is primarily concerned with the amount of rent, profit or interest it can generate.

Africans, who under Colonial rule were always lamenting their oppression and exploitation, might have been expected, when they became independent, to seek a way of life in which no exploitation could take place. But, as Nkrumah has put it, the Africans must not do anything which might have an adverse effect on foreign investment and lead to a lack of confidence. So then, the supposed freedom of Africa is dependent upon the need for foreign capital. Thus countries which in recent times have thrown off the burden of foreign domination—India and Egypt— have found themselves as free as the horse is from the cart when tied up in the stable. And what has the independence of a country to do with the independence of the workers of that country?

As the social and productive powers of the African workers increase so the surplus which they create will be the source whereby the under-developed will graduate to the developed, with banks, insurance offices, factories, stock exchanges, labour exchanges, and all the other features of a modern "civilisation.” Throughout all this development the workers must constantly seek to better their living conditions and like their counterparts throughout the world, organise themselves in trade unions. There is every reason to believe that these ambitious backward countries will break through the vicious circle of low output, primitive production and semi-starvation and become countries of full- blooded capitalism and nationhood.

When this time comes they will have attained abundant production through modern scientific and technological methods. The African workers—the cause of all this greatness—will have a “wonderful” standard of existence just like you and I. This standard includes finding a job, being at the mercy of the boss, spending the best and major part of each day in an office, factory or some other workplace. All the wealth that he comes into contact with will not have been produced primarily to satisfy needs, but in the interest of buying and selling for profit. All this—and the scheming, working, waiting and wondering, which the working class of the world do throughout their lives, always with a hope of bettering their material conditions.

It will be this that the African, Indian, Egyptian and Chinese workers will be letting themselves in for when they seek to develop capitalism in their countries.
Joe McGuinness

South African Notes (1960)

News From Africa from the August 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The fight between the major political parties of South Africa takes the form of Afrikaner Nationalism versus English South Africanism. The Nationalist and United Parties are really, however, struggling over the control of the labour-power—more truly, over the surplus-value to be realised from the utilisation of the working-power—of the vast African proletariat. More simply, it is a squabble over which group, land-owning or industrial and finance capitalists, shall benefit more from the exploitation of the underfed, under-educated, under-privileged Bantu workers. Of course, the “progressives” and their allies, Liberals and crypto-"Communists,” support the abolition of the quasi-feudal restrictions on the mobility of workers, e.g., the hated Pass Laws, residence permits, etc., and favour the “freeing” of labour to develop into a fully-fledged industrial proletariat, available to add ever faster to the wealth of the Oppenheimers, Hambros, Engelhards and their fellow industrial-and finance-capitalists.

*     *     *     *

Mining in South Africa is based on the unskilled and semi-skilled labour of thousands of low-paid, low-living African workers. Usually, the "coloured” workers are thought to be less poverty-stricken. The following is no isolated example, and surely indicates the poverty, if not actual destitution, of the parents of the children. Headed "Hot stew and clothes for children in rags,” the news-item, from The Star, Johannesburg (1/6/60), contained the information that:
  The Red Cross has adopted a ramshackle coloured school on the Main Reef Road and has undertaken to feed and clothe the schoolchildren.
   The school, Aurora West Coloured School, is housed in a converted church building at the foot of the Maraisburg radio mast.
   The Roodepoort centre of the Red Cross Society described the 40 pupils there as "pathetic little figures ranging in age from five to 12, obviously undernourished and dressed in rags.”
    From today the schoolchildren will receive a daily supply of hot stew. Many of them have already received warm clothing.
    A spokesman for the Red Cross centre said that many local firms had contributed—but much more warm clothing is needed.
   Some of the children walk six miles to the school in almost freezing weather with no food in thin summer clothes ”
It is of interest that many of the parents of these children are more than likely employed by those "many local firms” at very low pay.

By contrast, an item in the same newspaper of the same date, entitled "Profits and distributions,” indicates that the practical application of apartheid in keeping the African "in his place,” i.e., poorly educated and extremely poor, and socially separate from his "white” co- worker, pays off. Top of the list comes General Mining Finance Corporation Ltd., whose taxed profit for 1959 was £1,929,000 (1958: £1,824,0001: of which dividends took £1,067,000 (1958: £912,000). With eleven other listed companies or groups, this news-item totals taxed profits for 1959 as £3,470,000 (1958: £2,377,000); of which dividends took £2,377,000 (1958: £2.144,000). Of course, "we” cannot afford substantial wage-increases!
Alec Hart

A New Foreign Secretary (1960)

From the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Somebody, somewhere, must have been rather disappointed. We were promised a hell of a fight if it happened; but the whole thing went off with hardly a murmur. Mr. Macmillan got Lord Home as his Foreign Secretary and, as usual, he got away with it.

For a long time the appointment had been common leakage, with Mr. Gaitskell, like Ancient Pistol, striking threatening poses; the Guardian, on 25th July, reported him as saying that . . . the Opposition would object most strongly to the appointment. . . ." He went on to say that it would be “. . . most undemocratic and entirely inappropriate in modern conditions ” to have a peer as Foreign Secretary. To some, this may have sounded like a champion of the common man standing up for his rights against the dominance of the upper class. Is not Lord Home a smooth, amiable aristocrat, Eton (president of Pop), Oxford (cricket Blue failed, undistinguished degree), and so on? Is it not undemocratic to have such a man in control at the Foreign Office?

In fact, Labour’s objections do not have even this flimsy foundation. For the whole business of government in capitalist society is undemocratic. In particular foreign policy, with its secret conferences and agreements, its double dealing and betrayals, cannot be openly discussed and decided. This has always been so, no matter who has been Foreign Secretary—when Labour were in power they played the game with the rest. They swallowed the camel of capitalist diplomacy, but now they strain at the gnat of the administering of that diplomacy by a member of the House of Lords. And there are other camels lurking in their digestive tract. The House of Lords itself is one, which is so well supported by the presence of Labour peers. What is democratic about that? In this House, Labour even managed to swallow the gnat of Lord Home. Lord Alexander said, on July 28th, that the Labour Party, although of the opinion that the Foreign Secretary should come from the House of Commons:
  . . . could not fail to admire the stature of the Leader of the House, who is now Britain’s Foreign Secretary. Mixed with our desire to congratulate him . . .  we must regret most sincerely the loss to the House in not having him to continue as our leader.
Anybody who has been following the recent history of the Labour Party may well be surprised at their concern for democracy. Consider, for example, the interesting case of the disarmed Annual Conference. In the past, when the voting has been acceptable to the party's leaders, they have taken the Conference decision as conclusive. But now, with this year’s conference threatening to upset the Labour Executive's policies on such issues as nuclear armaments, Labour has suddenly discovered, with the help of papers like The Economist. that their Annual Conference is not so important after all. It can express an opinion, yes. But settle future policy? No; unless it also happens to be the policy of the party leaders. The Labour Party Conference has never been a democratic affair—the pyramidical sifting of resolutions, among other things, has seen to that. But the fact is going to be agonisingly obvious when the leaders start openly ignoring the wishes of their delegates.

The Tories may not have to worry about such things—their conferences are much more predictably docile. Even so, some of them kicked up rough about Lord Home. More than one Conservative back bencher, when the rumour got about, threatened trouble, but they all' fell into step under a three line whip. So MacMillan got his way, although he did arouse a rather hostile press. One newspaper suggested that the result of all the changes was to promote MacMillan himself—another was unkind enough to recall that the new Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Soames, had once managed Sir Winston Churchill’s horses.

MacMillan's sternness with his own back benchers is easy to understand. He is the leader of a party which, before anything else, means to run British capitalism. This is impossible if his government must continually be fuming aside to deal with squabbles and mutinies among its supporters. The Labour Party learned this in the nineteen-fifties. They also learned how costly in votes such dissensions can be, for workers usually insist that the party which governs them is united in its policies for the running of capitalism. The Tories can stomach one or two rebels—occasional Nabarro does them no harm—but further than that they will not go. And here their traditional contempt for political theory, such as Labour has always dabbled in, helps their leaders to assert control. For the Labour government tried to justify its day-to-day administration of capitalism by calling it Socialism in practice. Many Labour M.P.s opposed inconvenient aspects of their government's actions—and said that they did so because those actions were anti-socialist. Beside these theory-stuffed rebels, the floggers and hangers of the Conservative Women’s Conferences are easy meat.

Whatever the end of the Lord Home affair, one thing is certain. He will not basically change Britain's foreign policy. Whatever decisions he makes or implements, he will carry on the business of promoting the interests abroad of the British capitalist class. This may mean that Lord Home will have to bargain fiercely and long, or coerce some weaker power, or surrender or betray. All of this has happened in the past, when capitalist interests have demanded it. There are many distasteful jobs to be done in a capitalist society, which are necessary for the running of that society. Some of them are prosaic and unexciting. Others are extraordinary and absorbing. One of the most distasteful and exacting is that of Foreign Secretary. Just now, the relations between the Russian and the Western ruling classes are uneasy. The elegant, charming Lord Home has landed himself quite a job.

What Ails The Trade Unions? (1960)

Editorial from the October 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

THE leader-writers had a field day when the TUC tied itself in knots by deciding both to have and not to have the H bomb. “Shabby farce,” “Congress in agony.” “greater fiasco than had been expected,” “muddling and miscalculating to the end.” It all happened because, though the other delegations regarded the two resolutions as being completely incompatible with each other, the AEU voted for both. That meant 900,000 votes each way. It was just enough to carry the official resolution, though the opposing motion (Mr. Cousins, for Britain to give up nuclear weapons) would have been carried without it.

Now the leaders are busy trying to work out a compromise which, they hope, will be adopted at the Labour Party conference and will have enough meaning in it not to look like an obvious contradiction. Of course it is regrettable that a trade union conference should be so confused, or so much at the mercy of block votes, but the real tragedy is that workers should be divided on such an issue as whether to support both "conventional” and nuclear weapons, or only the former. Both sides accept that there is danger of massive war, both hold that there must be armaments because defence can be secured by them, both argue for efforts to secure an all-round reduction of armaments, nuclear and conventional, but while one side thinks that perhaps a British government example of renouncing nuclear weapons might be followed, the other side (like the late Aneurin Bevan) thinks that the better prospect of securing the same end is by negotiating along with the other powers that have nuclear weapons. Neither side claims to have more than a slight hope that it will really work out that way.

Nobody at the TUC got up to speak for the world working class; to declare in their name against all the governments of the capitalist national groups; British, Russian, American, African, Indian, etc.; against all exploitation, competitive profit-seeking, armament building and war making. And to those who tell us that making such declarations, is useless because the workers will not respond—and how long and how often we have been told this—let us point out with all emphasis that both these TUC factions are themselves basing their whole case for getting capitalism to disarm, on making appeals; but not making them to the workers whose interest, if not yet their wish, is to get rid of capitalism, but to the governments which are to defend capitalism!

Of course there isn't an easy cure for what ails the TUC and trade unions; the lack of interest of many members which causes them to stay away from branch meetings and leave the running of the union to an active minority. If members can’t be bothered to form definite views on union policy and go along to branches to voice them, they have not much ground of complaint if other people secure the adoption of other policies. The really deep-lying troubles of the unions and the TUC stem from the wrong outlook of the workers themselves. Right through the Unions there is a belief, based on nothing but self-deception, that there is no need to listen to the Socialist case, no need to act urgently to get rid of capitalism and war, because it is always possible, while leaving capitalism in being to remove its evils and escape its war horrors.

And the curious thing is that this belief is more widely held and complacently accepted by the rank and file than by some of the leaders. It is the latter who have growing doubts about British capitalism being able to go on holding all the foreign markets it needs, and more doubts still about the possibility of Britain being able to escape war in a world of armament competition.

And the truth, though most workers still refuse to accept it, is that "you can’t contract out of world capitalism.”

For all the workers everywhere it is a question of either enduring the evils and miseries of capitalism and its wars or of ending that social system.

Put Not Your Trust (1960)

From the November 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the end of the Labour Party conference there was much speculation upon who, if anybody, might replace Mr. Gaitskell as leader. Some correspondents reported that Mr. Harold Wilson was bidding for the job. Others tried to frighten their readers by mentioning Mr. Cousins or Mr. Michael Foot as possible contenders.

Leader-hunting is an old pastime in the Labour Party; Mr. Gaitskell is only the latest of many who have fallen out of favour. Over the years, we have grown familiar with the dreary process of some Labour politicians starting their careers as left-wing firebrands and ending them as right wing sticks-in-the-mud. We have seen them cheered by Labour conferences for their outspoken reformatory zeal—only to lose some of their popularity later, because they joined the supporters of the leadership they had once attacked. Then it has been their turn to come under the lash of some self-styled militant.

What of the ordinary members of the Labour Party, who are often so dismayed by this apparent betrayal? Do they learn anything from their disappointment? Sadly, no. As one set of leaders falls from grace, so the search is started for a new set and each time the searchers convince themselves that they have at last found the honest, consistent and capable men whom they would like to have at the top of their party. They never, apparently, consider the proposition that all leaders, whatever their sincerity and ability, are futile. That if a political movement is to be worthwhile, it must be based upon something other than leader-worship.

One of the reasons for this can be found in some of the speeches which were made at Scarborough. Again and again speakers sought to prove that the particular policy they were advocating was an effective vote catcher. Mr. Sam Watson, for example, argued that if the Labour Party went unilateralist, it would have little chance of achieving political power. Mr. Cousins replied that the party had lost the last two elections on the old policy and stood a chance of receiving more electoral support by advocating nuclear disarmament. This is not the first time that discussion at Labour conferences has turned on such a point. In recent years, debates on such issues as land nationalisation have been overshadowed by the party’s concern to hold their vote in special areas of the country.

In other words, one of the Labour Party’s first worries is not the effects which their policies may have upon the welfare of the working class, but whether they can convince enough voters that those policies are sufficiently in their interests to warrant support for them at election time. This is an appeal not to knowledge, but to ignorance. And these are the conditions in which leaders are necessary.

Why do so many Labour leaders seem to betray the trust in them? Because they can only administer a policy which, whatever niggling reforms it may contain, leaves the capitalist social system intact. Capitalism has its inevitable problems. The betrayal is in the fact that the leaders promise that, with them in control, we can have one without the other. That is why ex-pacifist leaders of the Labour Party have come to support the production of nuclear weapons, and men who climbed to power through the trade unions have sat in a government which has broken strikes.

Is there no end to this? Leaders, we have said, exist by virtue of the ignorance of their followers. With political understanding, they are unnecessary. If workers understood that, say, nuclear weapons are one of the inevitable products of capitalist society, they would be immune to any plea in favour of manufacturing them. As it is, they are susceptible to appeals on such grounds as political expediency and patriotism. And they are prey to the allurements of leaders, treacherous or otherwise.

Knowledge, then, is the key. Workers must understand the cause of capitalism's problems and realise that they will be solved only by the establishment of Socialism. Without that, we face the chaos and brutality of capitalism. With it, a happy, free and plentiful world is ours for the taking.

Death of a Daily (1960)

From the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fleet Street was knee deep in a flood of crocodile tears. “We didn’t want to do it,” cried Lord Rothermere. "Neither did we,” wailed Mr. Cadbury. Nevertheless, it had happened, and The News Chronicle was no more. Publication had ceased with the last issue on October 17th, and the whole of its assets had been purchased by The Daily Mail. Its sister paper, The Star, suffered a similar fate and was gobbled up by Lord Rothermere’s Evening News. According to the last figures available at the time of writing, a sum of about £1,925,000 changed hands in the deal, with a further payment of £1 for every former Chronicle reader whom the Mail manages to retain.

Everyone will be familiar with the various reactions as the bombshell exploded in the world of journalism, ranging from the plaintive last tribute of the Guardian to the baffled rage of the 3,000 or so workers who overnight found themselves without a job. The general public reaction was one of surprise that even with a circulation of over a million, The Chronicle could not escape this fate.

Somehow, we are told, nobody had really expected it to happen, even though rumours had been circulating for some time before—rumours which only a few hours previously had been dubbed as “without foundation” by a spokesman of the Rothermere Press. Could it be credible that the sizeable body of opinion represented by the Chronicle could be blandly ignored? Yet there it was. And clearly the cloak of secrecy had been pretty effective, as many dumbfounded readers found when the Daily Mail was dropped through their letterboxes for the first time on October 18th.

It is this calm fait accompli which stands out so starkly from all the hullabaloo and wringing of hands. Doubtless, many of the older readers of the Chronicle will not be able to resist a comparison of this with the unctuous lip service to “principle” which has characterised this paper in the past (it even banned racing from its columns in the earlier days). Probably the Guardian leader of October 18th summed up the opinion which many held of its contemporary when it mentioned “. . . the attempt to give to a popular readership . . .  a fair impression not merely of the events of the day but of its culture, its unsmart values, its enduring humanities.” Certainly this was an impression that the Chronicle tried to create about itself, and of course, it was never tired of flattering its readers with its “purity" of approach.

One of the sickening hypocrisies of Capitalism is the implication behind the sales talk, that service to the public is pursued for its own sake. But the News Chronicle was no different from other dailies in that it was run with a view to profit. Advertising revenue played a major part in this and when, for various reasons, advertisers were no longer prepared to use its columns, when in fact the paper was no longer a paying proposition, then the “unsmart values” were promptly sacrificed, and Mr. Cadbury sold out. Possibly this will rank as one of the slickest deals in the history of journalism, and as usual, the people who really suffered were working men and women.

Much has been made of the apparent concern of the employers over the pensions and compensation payments to the staff. How far is this true? The Observer suggested that the sale took place to compensate the staff, yet almost in the same breath, we are told that the very profitable interest in Tyne-Tees Television had been retained. Such touching concern did not apparently induce the directors to part with this sideline. In any case, there were a number of courses open to Mr. Cadbury other than the closure of the paper, but if they were considered, they were rejected. Certainly, one of his erstwhile employees, Mr. Frank Barber, had no doubts about the parsimony of the whole affair. In a scathing television interview, he described the compensation proposals as “meagre.”

The unpalatable truth is that there are no “unsmart values” in a world of private property relationships, although the Chronicle has for years supported this illusion. Its readers were really led to believe in its integrity of purpose and even that sophisticated supporter of capitalism, The Guardian, said that “ it went down with all guns firing.” Nearer the truth was the furious assertion by one correspondent who alleged that the paper was sunk without a whimper of defiance coming from it.

Do not let us get too nostalgic about the passing of the Chronicle. It was always a supporter of British Capitalism right up until its undignified exit from the scene. Do not forget that it has after all only fallen a victim to its own practices, for during its lifetime it took over no less than four other newspapers. With its disappearance, the battle between the remaining giants will probably get that much sharper, and maybe in the not too distant future, we shall see a repetition of the same lying denials that accompanied the demise of the Chronicle, as yet another journal is made ready for the block.

Whichever goes next, it is as well to remember that they are all fervent supporters of the capitalist set-up. The whole sordid story of trickery, deceit and falsehood can come as no surprise to us—it is so typical of a world of dog-eat-dog. When interests so demanded, the reputation of the Cadburys for high principles and good labour relations was worth very little, and quickly gave way to a calculated and cynical move which threw 3,000 workers out of employment. A facade has crumbled as far as the Chronicle is concerned, but the rest of capitalism continues its wearying existence, embodying all the shabbiness and double-dealing with which we are so nauseatingly familiar.
Eddie Critchfield

Protests in Tibet (1988)

From the January 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

In October there was a series of riots and demonstrations in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in which several thousand people took part and perhaps a dozen were killed. The violence was directed against the Chinese-run government and against ordinary Chinese who are sent to work in Tibet. The Chinese rulers responded with a show of military force, imprisonments and expulsion of journalists. amounting to the imposition of a police state.

According to official government policy, the Tibetans form one of the 54 "minority nationalists" who, together with the majority Han Chinese, constitute the inhabitants of China. The minorities, who are primarily distinguished in terms of language, make up only six per cent of the population, though this means over 60 million people. The Tibetans number getting on for four million, about half of whom live, together with a smallish number of Chinese migrants, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. This supposedly means that Tibet is autonomous in internal affairs but its relations to other parts of China and other countries are determined by the Chinese government in Beijing. In fact such autonomy is a sham as, quite apart from the lack of political democracy throughout China, nearly all important posts in Tibet are held by Hans and not by Tibetans.

Most of the minority nationality areas are in the backward and isolated lands around China's borders, which often gives them strategic importance. Many are also sources, or potential sources, of raw materials — in Tibet's case, minerals such as uranium and plutonium and also timber. So for both military and economic reasons many new roads have been built into and across the inhospitable Tibetan plateau, bringing in tourists as well as soldiers.

We can leave it to the nationalists of all varieties to decide whether Tibet "ought to" belong to China. Certainly it was for centuries a theocracy ruled by a king-cum-pope. the Dalai Lama, regarded by the faithful as a reincarnation of Buddha. Lamaism is a variant of Buddhism, involving a massive religious bureaucracy run by so-called monks who were quite prepared to kill and torture in order to maintain their rule. The ordinary peasants were virtually serfs, oppressed by the priests and landowners and mentally stultified by their uncomplaining acceptance of Buddhism.

The Chinese "Communist” Party gained power in the rest of China in 1949 and in Tibet the following year. Their policy of introducing state capitalism was not at first pursued very actively throughout most of Tibet, which was far from China's major population centres but gradually anti-Chinese sentiment (on nationalist, religious and economic grounds) built up. In 1959 there was a large-scale revolt in Tibet, put down by Chinese troops with great loss of life, and the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India. Land was then confiscated and redistributed, industries were started and many Han workers brought in to help run them. The "Cultural Revolution" saw much destruction of monasteries, mostly by young Tibetans, in what are now seen by the government as regrettable excesses.

Tibet is now used by the Chinese ruling class as a source of cheap and abundant labour and raw materials. Goods such as dried milk and leather shoes are made in Tibet and sold elsewhere in China or exported. Vast areas of natural forest are being denuded of timber. Religious feelings remain strong and traditional-style worship is still practised. Few Tibetans speak Chinese and fewer of the Hans sent to Tibet learn Tibetan.

The October protests were probably triggered off by a number of causes. The "reforming" policies of the Chinese government under Deng Xiaoping have led to greater contacts with abroad, which in Tibet's case mainly means overseas tourists (there's now a Holiday Inn in Lhasa). At least some Tibetans now have some knowledge of the outside world and hopes of their views being reported there. The Dalai Lama's visit to the United States in September must have focused their attention and many still regard him as a living god.

But above all, life for the ordinary Tibetans is just plain hard, with no legitimate means of protest. They must work long hours and can afford only poor-quality food. Alas many cling obsessively to their traditional faith, spending large parts of their pitiful wages on religious items and performing prodigious feats of prostration. A recent rainbow and a solar eclipse were widely seen as omens for the end of Chinese rule in Tibet.

It is not clear whether the Tibetan protestors simply wanted an end to Chinese occupation. a return to the pre-1949 situation, or what. No doubt there are various different strands among the protests, including monks anxious for the restoration of religious power and ex-landlords wishing to become part of the ruling class again. But it is clear enough that the view of many ordinary Tibetans that their problems are caused by the Chinese-run regime is wrong-headed. A change of rulers will not lead to liberation — whether in Tibet, South Africa or Nicaragua.
Paul Bennett

Restructuring (1988)

Book Review from the February 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Soviet Scene 1987. edited by Vladimir Mezhenkov  (Collets, £7.95)

This book is a collection of articles and interviews translated from the Russian press. Despite being produced by the foreign propaganda authorities in Moscow, it nevertheless contains some very revealing material.

The main themes dealt with are perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness, transparency). One illustration of the latter is an article that appeared in Pravda on 16 March 1987 denouncing what had been going on in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan under the local Party boss, Dimash Kunaev, who was deposed at the end of 1986:
   A select circle of leaders throughout the republic built themselves veritable stately homes — palatial residences and hunting lodges with saunas, greenhouses, billiard rooms, cinemas and swimming pools. These were luxuriously furnished with all the trappings of a princely lifestyle.
This circle also, explains the editorial introduction to the article, "kept their ’personal' cattle among the herds of the collective and state farms of Kazakhstan's Urals Region alone. Some of them had 250 and more sheep kept for their own benefit and dozens of heads of cattle and horses",

Gorbachev and his clique obviously felt that this was going too far as it brought into disrepute the whole nomenklatura and their system of institutionalised privileges (country homes, hunting lodges and the like, if not herds of cattle). Kunaev and his friends and relatives were purged, especially as Kunaev had been associated with Brezhnev.

Restructuring is introduced by an interview with Abel Aganbegyan, the economist closely associated with this reform. Restructuring is basically an attempt to revitalise the Russian state capitalist economy by freeing enterprises from bureaucratic central control by the state and telling them to go out and maximise their profits.

In Russia the main means of production are controlled by separate state enterprises which pay a percentage of their sales receipts to the state as a tax on their turnover and receive capital for further investment from the state either as direct allocations of equipment or as loans from the State Bank. Up till now the activity of enterprises has been closely controlled by the central state authorities by means of legally-binding directives whose application has been verified by a host of inspectors.

Restructuring involves giving enterprises freedom from state control, both to trade with other enterprises and to keep and invest more of the profits they make. This freedom is to be guaranteed by law. In return enterprises are going to be expected to seek to maximise profits and to practise strict profit-and-loss accounting, so as to build up a fund to finance more of their investments themselves as well as to repay, on time and with interest, the loans they get from the State Bank.

An article from Pravda of 12 January 1987 is very revealing in this respect. Entitled "Putting the Roubles to Work", it states:
   The role played by profits from production in accumulating money and strengthening the financial base of production is growing. Profits today amount to 200 billion roubles. For some time we have shied away from talking very much about profits. Many people still thought in old-fashioned terms taught by certain political economists to see profits as something pertaining only to a capitalist system.
By political economists such as Karl Marx, for instance. Pravda, however, has found someone to replace Marx: Micawber!
  The main law of the financial activity of any industry and any enterprise is that income should always be greater than expenditure. One of the characters in a Charles Dickens' novel said that if a person earns £20 and spends £19 19s 6d. the result is happiness. But if he spends £20 0s 6d. the result is misery
  In our day too, any enterprise manager has to assess income and expenditure and ensure a profit. Otherwise, the enterprise cannot be self-financing.
Enterprises in Russia have always sought to balance their books but until now it has only been the central state that has been concerned with maximising profitability and this only at the level of the economy as a whole. The change that restructuring is designed to bring in is that, from now on, enterprises will be given the green light to seek to maximise profits at enterprise level. This represents a change from a rigid state-controlled capitalist economy to a more market-motivated one.

A leading sociologist interviewed in Moscow News (1 March 1987) attacks the "free "health service in Russia and suggests that there should be charges for certain types of medical treatment. With such views being expressed in Russia, no wonder Thatcher and Gorbachev get on so well together.
Adam Buick

Sexual Liberation and Clause 28 (1988)

From the March 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism is not a mere economic proposition. It is about more than simply "us" owning the factories instead of “them". It is about more than our standards and norms becoming the dominant ones instead of the norms and standards of capitalism. If socialism has any meaning it means freedom for human beings to determine their own lives in a society which is theirs. Not only freedom from the powers which oppress us now but freedom to aspire to new ways of living and co-operating and creating which are currently stultified by the money system.

In a socialist society we shall decide what our own needs are. We shall not be told by the DHSS that this much is what we need, or by advertisers that this is what the really fulfilled consumer ought to want, or by pseudo-scientists, such as psychiatrists, that this is how the properly satisfied human being shall behave. In a socialist society we shall trust our own desires and respect the freedom of those who are different to live as they wish.

It is under capitalism, where everything from the homes we live in to the food we eat and the way we love one another has become turned into a commodity to be marketed, that freedom is crushed. You want to eat good food, but in a buying and selling system rubbish is more obtainable than good taste and high nutrition. You may be house-proud, but if you are poor then you will be destined to dwell in a home which it is not easy to take pride in. Without free access to what you need, the market consumes your freedom to choose and spits it back in your face.

Because we all live in an extremely unfree society we are all conditioned to be unfree. Teaching the behaviour of conformity is one of the prime objectives of capitalism. If you are not "normal" you are a threat. The much advertised "individualism" which capitalism offers is totally bogus. Social survival under this system means obeying their rules, their morals, their code of living. Deviate and you are in trouble.

Capitalism does its best to turn sex into a commodity. The family is the official institution within which this commodity must be confined. If you have a certificate from the state and. usually, a ritualistic blessing from one of the god franchises, then it is unsinful to make love. Woman on her back; man on top — primitives called it "the missionary position" because they had never come across such oppressive and rigid ideas of love-making before the civilised merchants of capitalism came to show them how to make love the "normal" way.

Love for its own sake is a wicked deviation in a system where nothing is done for its own sake. Under capitalism you cook food to sell it; you have sexual intercourse to produce new labour power which can be exploited. Doing these things for their own sake is an indulgence to be frowned on. There is a time and a place for everything and the time will be when you are not being exploited (which is very little time for most people); and the place is within the family. Love and sex outside this straitjacket is an offence.

Because capitalism is an unfree system it legislates against certain free desires. In the last century sexual relations between men were outlawed. Fortunately for lesbians. Queen Victoria could not imagine that women would indulge in such deviant behaviour, so the anti-homosexuality laws applied to men only. Such laws led to decades of emotional agony for vast numbers of men who had to express their love in private, always fearing a knock on the door from the police or the ever-present blackmail threat. Even after the repeal of that law in recent times the anomaly remains that the age of legal consent for homosexuals is five years higher than for heterosexuals. What sort of unfree society is it that tells people that it is illegal to express their love until the state offers its consent?

AIDS, a disease which can be passed on sexually, has created a moral panic. It is seen as being the price that capitalism must pay for having slightly loosened the chains of moral conformity in recent years. A moral backlash is now underway as the chain-tighteners are looking for an excuse to fill in the cracks of freedom in capitalism's sexual edifice. They want to pass laws to push "abnormal" sexuality back into the realm of criminality.

Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, moved by those well-known Tory freedom-fighters, David Wilshire and Dame Jill Knight, seeks to make it illegal for local councils to show positive images of homosexuality. We must assume that the movers of this authoritarian law believe that millions of us are potential homosexuals and that if we are shown in schools or libraries or theatres or art galleries anything positive about homosexuality we shall all be making our way to the nearest sexual outlet. (Public school dorms, army officers' messes and Tory clubs are the most readily accessible outlets for such desires, according to those who know.) They cannot have much confidence in what they assert unquestioningly to be "natural" and "normal" if they must ban its opposite in case their children are instantly convinced that that is the way to be.

The aim to control what images of sexuality we may receive is the action of totalitarian bigots who prefer repression to expression and law to love. They symbolise the fear which makes the moralists of the profit system ultimately worthless and historically fossilised. For example, the would-be sex controllers who moralise in hysterical terms about how "abnormality" must be crushed because otherwise our kids would not be safe from the attacks of devious homosexuals, always forget to note the obvious fact that the vast majority of cases of abuse against children (both sexual and violent) happens within the nuclear family and is perpetrated by heterosexuals. Research carried out in the USA has indicated that children of mothers in lesbian relationships are less likely to be abused than those in typical nuclear families.

Socialism will be a free society. The resources of the world will belong to us all as a human family. Production will be solely for use. We shall all have free access to the goods and services available. There will be no wage labour: each will work according to their ability and take according to their self-determined need. There will be no discrimination on the basis of gender, colour, or sexual orientation. Socialism will offer economic freedom and that will provide the basis for true cultural freedom. The two are inseparable.

Cultural and sexual freedom cannot exist within a capitalist society. How will we ever be free to behave as we want while the means whereby we live are not owned or controlled by ourselves? How can people inhibited by the restrictions of poverty be free to enjoy sexual pleasures to the full? The right to live as sensually happy co-habitants with nature will be possible once we have become free from a society which organises our lives for us, as if our humanity is an impediment to the real earthly purpose of making profits.

In a socialist society we shall co-operate without laws. Some of us will choose to retain many of the forms of living and loving which we have enjoyed under capitalism, only stripped of their moral and legal contexts. If we decide to live in families nobody will stop us. Those who wish to live monogamously will do so, not because it is economically necessary or socially the norm but because for some that is how emotional fulfilment works best. Others will choose other ways of expressing themselves and no state will exist to stop them, no psychological experts will tell them whether they are feeling the right feelings. Only in a socialist society will the basis for real liberation of human feelings and relationships be possible.

It is a sign of life that many teachers, librarians. theatre workers and artists are resisting with vigour the move through Clause 28 to ban and censor and repress what workers may be allowed to see and hear. But even if the battle to defeat Clause 28 is won and in the present climate of hysterical moral crisis that is not likely — all we will be left with is capitalism with the cultural chains minutely loosened. That is not good enough. Until there are no laws against loving, or bans on any books, or states legislating about what it is right to feel, or bigots pronouncing on the terms of normality, society will not be free and those of us who want it to be cannot rest.
Steve Coleman

A Passage to Australia (1988)

From the April 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Australian Bicentennial celebrations, marking the arrival in Botany Bay in 1788 of the First Fleet carrying convicts, were also notable for the protests by Aborigines whose ancestors had arrived at least 40,000 years earlier. Transportation was not a new method of dealing with felons: a law of 1597 provided for banishment beyond the seas for "Rogues. Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars". In the 17th century convicts under commuted death sentences and some prisoners of war (Scots. English and Irish who had fought against Cromwell), were sent to work on plantations in Virginia. After 1717 there was an increase in transportation, including many convicted for minor offences. In a period of 60 years over 40.000 men and women, including 10.000 from Ireland, were sent to the New World. Prisoners were sold to shipping contractors who in turn sold them to plantation owners as indentured servants. Following the American revolution convicts were no longer acceptable there: many thousands of African slaves were working in the fields.

The Hulks Act of 1776 was intended as a stop-gap measure and allowed for convicts to be kept on the old warships moored in the Thames and around the coast, until somewhere else could be found to send them. There was no penitentiary system. The hulks and gaols were overcrowded, and there was fear of the "mob" (later the "criminal class"), so some way of dealing with criminals had to be found. In 1784 a new Act authorised the revival of transportation to places other than America. Captain Cook had landed in Botany Bay in 1770 but little was known about the Continent. The advantages of setting up a colony there were considered — as a base for British ships, to replace lands lost in America — but for the government the matter was settled by the urgent need for a place to send convicts, added to the possibility of claiming a strategic foothold in the area.

The First Fleet was under the command of Captain A. Phillip, first Governor of New South Wales, and carried 548 male and 188 female convicts with an escort of marines. Due to Phillip's care the death toll of 48, including 40 convicts, was comparatively light. In subsequent fleets the prisoners were shackled in rigid irons, grossly ill equipped, and starved; of 1.006 convicts on the Second Fleet 267 died during the voyage, "the worst in the whole history of penal transportation", and at least 150 after landing at Sydney. (The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes). No contractors, or captains, were punished for their cruel treatment and cheating of the helpless convicts. However, conditions did improve, and after 1815 the death rate for convicts was no worse than could be expected on any long sea journey at that time.

The government intention was that the colony should become self supporting in three years but the selection of convicts was made without any regard for the labour needed to establish and run the new colony. The authorities deliberately cleared the hulks and prisons of invalids. Phillip protested that such a policy "clears the gaols and may ease the parishes from which they are sent; but. "if it continued, the colony would "remain for years a burthen to the mother-country" (Hughes, p.105). He aimed to establish something more than a penal colony but his requests for settlers with a knowledge of farming were not met. and the first five years were a desperate struggle for survival. For the government this was the cheapest way of disposing of the convicts.

During the total period of transportation more than 160,000 men. women and children were dumped in that far colony - most did not return. The shortest sentence was for seven years and the homeward passage had to be paid for. Some were brought back by subscriptions raised at home. Drawing on a wide range of material Robert Hughes describes the system of transportation through the testimony and experience of the convicts. Hundreds of letters and petitions were written by, and on behalf of, convicts. It was not unusual for victims of crime to petition for mercy on behalf of criminals - "as I freely forgive him myself — and their families who would be abandoned and in great need. Wives begged to be allowed to join their husbands and husbands implored their wives to raise the money to accompany them. Very few could find the price of a ticket and the wives mostly got the "Usual answer” from the Home Secretary's office.

Yet the necessity for women in the settlement was recognised and the original plan had been to kidnap Tahitian women. Governor Phillip wanted female convicts to be sent out for the male convicts to marry, and offered rewards of land, or free working time, to those who married. It became the policy for women of a "marriageable age" to be selected, though without any explicit acknowledgement that they were required as breeding stock and sexual conveniences. Despite the common view that they were all whores, the women's most common conviction was for theft (more than 80 per cent) and though about a fifth of the 24.000 women transported might have "survived" by prostitution. it was never a transportable offence. Women were "treated as a doubly colonised class throughout the life of the penal system" (Hughes, p.261). Their labour was of low value and many endured humiliation and degradation. In the Female Register drawn up by the Rev. S. Marsden in 1806. all common-law wives, even those in relationships of many years' standing, were counted as "concubines". Some women were given their ticket-of-leave on arrival, while others were lined up to be picked as servants, with military officers having first choice. Those old or infirm, or who became pregnant while on assignment, were sent to the female factories — a loft above a jail.

Many of the early transportations were for small, often ridiculously slight, offences. After 1815 the general tendency was for transportation to be reserved for less trivial crimes, but the effect of the reduction in the number of capital offences was to increase the transportable crimes. Those charged with felonies were for the most part poor and ill educated but (until after 1836) had to speak for themselves in court, it being claimed that the judges represented the interests of the prisoners. Those sentenced to transportation were mostly labourers and city-dwellers. Between one-half and two- thirds had previous convictions, mostly for theft and "only a minuscule fraction could be classed as political offenders" (ibid. p. 159). However, representatives of nearly every English protest movement, industrial upheaval and agrarian revolt, including 100 Chartists, were transported: Scottish Jacobins were thus effectively dealt with. The largest single English group sailed for Australia after the Swing riots of 1830, when starving labourers protested their low wages. Nineteen were hanged and 481 transported — as many were imprisoned.

Most of the convicts did not get to the dreaded penal settlements like Norfolk Island or Port Arthur but served their time assigned to free settlers, with time allowed to work on their own account. In the early years officers of the New South Wales Corps (known as the Rum Corps because of their monopoly of the rum trade) were given 100 acre land grants, plus 10 convicts maintained at government expense. Officers could raise capital against their regimental pay. Freed convicts (emancipists) were given small land grants but they lacked capital and farming knowledge and had greater difficulty contending with the extremes of climate. A few emancipists did very well but as early as 1800 "the community was virtually in the hands of a score or so of farming officers, holding the small grantees in their power, and continually in the process of buying them out" (The Story of Australia, A.G.L. Shaw. p.50). After four years of a seven-year sentence, convicts could get a ticket-of-leave and work for wages (in the early years payment was in kind, there being little money in circulation). Free labour was much sought after, especially for skills in the basic trades, where the wages and conditions were better than in England.

The fate of convicts was a lottery. They might be assigned to a benevolent master in a settled area, or to a sadistic one living in the outback. On Van Diemen's Land the Governor would take assigned servants away from settlers found indulging them. About one-tenth of the convicts were retained by the government on public works like digging ditches, building jails and stores and making roads. Those who committed further offences in the colony could, after trial, be sent to the penal settlements (after 1830 this could be added to the transportation sentence). They could also be made to work in chain gangs — and flogged. Discipline was maintained throughout the system with the cat-o-nine-tails. Sentence by a magistrate was required before an assigned man was flogged, but in the penal settlement the convicts were at the mercy of the governor and a system of convict overseers and informers. Flogging offences included "rebelliousness", "insolence", "refusal to work" and "singing a song". Women were rarely flogged, except on Norfolk Island.

Transportation was supposed to rid England of crime, along with the criminals, but poverty begets theft. It was a time of violent changes. Handworkers were impoverished and agricultural workers driven from the land to face unemployment, or starvation wages in the factory districts. Between 1830 and 1845 more than ten per cent of the working population were classed as paupers. Transportation reached its peak in the 1830s. while in the growing Australian pastoral industry there was a ravenous demand for convict labour. Contrary to the view of criminals as born rather than made, most of those transported completed their sentences with a ticket-of-leave. after a period of assignment, and were absorbed into colonial society as free citizens. Their children showed the lowest crime rate of any group. Unlike England there was always a demand for labour; stories got back of how well convicts were doing (those who sank in the system did not write home) and confirmed the opinion of those who claimed that the punishment was not a deterrent because it was too easy.

Free settlers were encouraged to go to Australia and by 1830 the free settlers and colonial free-born far outnumbered the convicts in New South Wales. By 1840 the main political division was between rich and poor rather than "bond and free". The system of assigned convict labour had paved the way for free settlement and had enabled the continent to be colonised many years before it would otherwise have been possible. Though some employers still wanted convict labour, after fifty years of settlement the colony no longer wished to be a dumping ground for criminals. In England the political and moral climate had moved against transportation (slavery had been abolished in the Empire in 1833). When the Molesworth Committee was set up in 1837 to enquire into the System of Transportation, the decision to end it had already been made.

In the contrary manner of reformist achievement, after fifty years transportation was ended in 1840 — but only to New South Wales. The system of assignment was abolished and conditions were made more rigorous for convicts. The problem of crime had not been solved and the penitentiary system had still to be developed. More jails were built, including Dartmoor and one to replace the hulks at Portsmouth. By 1852 there was space for 16.000 prisoners and prison was cheaper than transportation, at least for shorter sentences.

In the meantime convicts were sent to the by now separate colony of Van Diemen's Land, which was run on harsher lines than the mainland. 26.000 were added to the convict population before 1850. more than the system could absorb. Perhaps the final blow to the system was the gold rush in New South Wales in 1851, which added to the attractions for the thousands of immigrants who now arrived from England each year. In 1853 transportation was officially ended and the colony's name became Tasmania. Western Australia had asked to become a penal settlement in 1850 and the last convict ship, carrying Irish prisoners, arrived there in 1868. More than a hundred years later the jails built to hold convicts no longer transported are still in use, holding many more prisoners than they were designed for in insanitary and degrading conditions, and still an ineffective response to crime.

For the original inhabitants of Australia and Tasmania it was particularly tragic that it was a penal colony established in their land. “A frontier society based on slave labour, run by the threat of extreme violence and laced with rigid social divisions was not likely to treat the Aborigines compassionately or even fairly" (Hughes, p.272).
Pat Deutz