Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Communist Mixture (1927)

From the September 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Saklatvala, the only Communist M.P., recently added to the humour of life by calling a public gathering of prominent members of the Labour and Conservative parties and idle society dames to witness the mumbo-jumbo ceremonies connected with the initiation of his children into the Parsee faith. This drew down on him the indignant censure of the Communist Party, on the ground that Saklatvala’s action was contrary to Communist principles, and set a bad example to other party members.

This, however, is not the only case of its kind affecting members of the Communist Party. Francis Meynell, a prominent Roman Catholic, was Editor of the "Communist.” Larkin still boasts of his faithful service to the Mother Church, and it is not long since Miss Isabel Kingsley was advertising in the "Workers' Weekly” asking fellow Communist members who were "idealists” and rejected the Materialist Conception of History to join her in forming a group inside the Communist Party.

A Leaflet just issued by the C.P.G.B., with the title "Has Communist Expulsion Helped,” deals with the relations of that party with its fellow reformists in the Labour Party. It is interesting to learn from this that "It is false for anybody to accuse the Communist Party of favouring a revolutionary coup d’√©tat by a minority of the working class; we are, and have always been, in favour of utilising existing Governmental machinery to the limit of its possibilities.” As has been shown by copious quotations from official Communist publications, the Communists certainly have advocated precisely this thing. But if their present statement is correct, in what way do they now differ from the I.L.P. and the Labour Party?

In the past the C.P.G.B. have, at least in this country, claimed to stand for the working class. It appears they are now preparing to drop this. "We do not say that the Labour movement should have no message for the middle class. We do not say that it should refuse to fight for the demands of certain sections of the middle class, but what we do say is that it should put the demands of the middle class alongside those of the workers, fighting for them both, and not water down the workers’ demands to appeal to the middle class prejudices.”

Will the Communists now explain what is the middle class, and how the aims of non-workers can be reconciled with the abolition of private ownership and all forms of property income?
Edgar Hardcastle

Labourism: A Confession of Failure (1927)

From the October 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. A. M. Thompson of the Clarion, was one of the founders of the Labour Party. He has, throughout a long career, consistently opposed the formation of a definitely socialist organisation striving for Socialism, on the specious plea that the workers could not afford to sacrifice possible present gains for the sake of a solution of the whole problem of their poverty through a Socialism which could not be obtained immediately.

"Half a loaf is better than no bread ”— so declared Thompson and his fellow Labourites. We opposed that view then, as we do now, on the plain ground that people get what they fight for. If they fight for reforms, they get reforms but not Socialism. Whether reforms are worth struggling for is another point. Experience always testifies that they are not.

The miners have suffered as many reforms as any body of workers, and are still asking for more. Yet Mr. Herbert Smith, their president, says this : "Bad as is the miners’ position, the worst is not yet . .  . . Not since 1885 has there been anything to equal it.” (Daily Herald, June 6th.)

And Mr. Thompson is reduced to the following abject confession of the failure of his and the Labour Party’s policy : 'But the way to realisation is still to seek, and after nearly forty years of sowing, I begin to wish for delivery of at least a part of the 'goods’.” (Manchester Guardian, June 22nd, 1927). But even if Mr. Thompson is now convinced that his policy has not justified itself, he is not without hope. Since not. even "part of the goods” have been delivered, and since he does not think that "we shall achieve these results by perpetuating the Government of Britain by men like Lord Birkenhead, Earl Winterton, Sir Douglas Hogg, Sir W. Joynson-Hicks, and Mr. Neville Chamberlain.” his very original remedy, after 40 years’ experience, is a Liberal-Labour election "deal” ! Truly, half a loaf is better than no bread, but if the energy devoted in 40 years to the scramble for the half-loaf had been differently directed, we would by now have had the whole loaf—Socialism; as it is, we have nothing. In view of the weird stuff which the Clarion palmed off as "Socialism,” it is not surprising to be told that "when we started the Clarion, none of us had ever read Karl Marx.”
Edgar Hardcastle

The Anatomy of Capital: Sir Arthur Keith's Economics. (1927)

From the November 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

Professor Sir Arthur Keith is an anatomist with a considerable reputation. He occupied the presidential chair at the annual meeting of the British Association at Leeds barely two months ago, and caused a journalistic stir by his review of that controversial topic, “Man’s origin.” This has recently been published, with additions, by Messrs Watts (price 7d.). It is with the concluding essay that the present scribe proposes to deal.

It is entitled “Capital as a Factor in Evolution,” and advances the view that capital is an indispensable element in all progress, organic and social. We are fairly well acquainted with that type of anti-Socialist to whom all tools are capital, and consequently all tool-owners are capitalists, no matter whether it be plain Bill Smith who has “set up on his own ” as a plumber, or romantic Robinson Crusoe, when he discovered the utility of a hammer.

Sir Arthur, however, presents us with a rather interesting variation of this fantasy. According to him, any means of subsistence not immediately consumed is capital. Thus the bees which store up honey, fowls which lay eggs, our mothers when in a certain condition (with milk available) are all really capitalists, little though they may dream it. One can imagine the bosom of the speculative investor swelling with pride at finding himself classed with such time-honoured institutions.

We fear, however, that Sir Arthur has been too well brought up to be sufficiently comprehensive.

For instance, he omits entirely to mention those interesting examples of industrious capitalists, the bug and the common flea. It is a matter of observation that they cannot pursue their activities indefinitely but make periodical retirements in order to consume the sanguinary fluid which they have so assiduously acquired and stored up within the appropriate portion of their anatomy. Small wonder that the average pseudo-Socialist is staggered when faced with the question, “ What would you do without capital?” Existence would be unrecognisable to him.

To return to our professor. “There is,” says he, “in most of us a wish to save something from our daily income, be it large or small, to carry us over days of dearth or sickness. We save, too, for quite another purpose, namely, to give our children a start in life . . . and if it so happens that those parts of unconsumed wages, etc., are not required for instant use, then we consult the financial columns of a newspaper, or produce a stockbroker’s list, and presently our savings are turned into capital. Before we realise it, our savings are being used to build a merchant ship, or a cotton factory, etc.”

Notice the naive way in which our anatomist (so keen in his own department of knowledge) skips over the vital point. At one moment all savings are “capital,” irrespective of the use to which they are put, from the corn in the granaries of Ancient Egypt to the stores of food which Scottish students used to bring from their fathers’ farms to keep themselves through the winter at the universities. Then, in the same breath as it were, we have the implied admission that savings require to be “turned into capital” by the process of investment. The merest tyro in finance knows that money is not invested simply in order that it may return to its owner at a later date. It is invested in order that it may yield a profit, or acquire an increase. Sums of money cease to be capital when they are simply spent on articles of personal consumption, no matter how long they may have been saved. To "live on capital” is to destroy capital. Capital can only live on labour. It must maintain contact with the process pf production. By ignoring this elementary fact the henchman of "science" loses the meaning of the term he discusses.

In the course of its development capital takes a variety of forms. Here it is means of subsistence of the workers, there it is the tools with which they work; but in either case these things are capital only because they are consumed with a view to producing commodities for sale at a profit. Because capital takes the form of means of subsistence and tools, some people assume that all tools and means of subsistence are capital. One might as well say that because admirals are sailors, all sailors are admirals. If, for instance, the tools of the handicraftsmen in the middle ages and their food stores and raw material are to be regarded as capital, then the distinction between capitalism and all previous forms of society disappears. We are left without any reason for describing other systems as feudalism, patriarchalism, etc. This loose mode of thought destroys the meaning of words and robs them of all value.

All of which goes to show that men of science can be just as useful to the ruling class as agents of confusion as the priesthood. As Sir Arthur himself puts it in his preface, “men of science and religious leaders have the same ideals. ” In other words, they are both maintained by, believers in, and upholders of—capitalism.
Eric Boden

Fascism and the State (1927)

Editorial from the December 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we urge the supreme importance of the working class capturing Parliament, with the administrative departments and local councils which it controls, we are often met with the argument that the Fascists came to power in defiance of the then constitutionally elected Italian Government. Even if this were true it would still not necessarily follow that the overthrow of capitalism could be achieved, or could best be achieved by methods which succeeded well enough in a quite opposite object, i.e., the strengthening of the capitalist state in the interests of a section of the ruling class.

But, as we have pointed out before, the Fascist seizure of power took place not in defiance of, but with the approval and active assistance of, the democratically elected Italian Government. But for that active assistance Mussolini and his followers would have been helpless. Then, as before and since, the possession of the State machinery proved to be the deciding factor.

Our view has received interesting confirmation from three sources—the Italian Communist, Bordiga; Professor Salvemini, a Liberal; and Modigliani, of the Italian Socialist Party.

Bordiga says (Labour Magazine, February and March, 1923):
  After the Nitti, Giolitti, and Bonomi Governments, we had the Facta Cabinet. This type of Government was intended to cover up the complete liberty of action of Fascism in its expansion over the whole country. During the strike in August, 1922, several conflicts took place between the workers and the Fascisti, who were openly aided by the Government. One can quote the example of Bari. During a whole week of fighting, the Fascisti in full force were unable to defeat the Bari workers, who had retired to the working-class quarters of the city, and defended themselves by armed force. The Fascisti were forced to retreat, leaving several of their number on the field. But what aid the Facta Government do? During the night they surrounded the old town with thousands of soldiers and hundreds of carabineers of the Royal Guard. In the harbour a torpedo boat trained its guns on the workers. Armoured cars and guns were brought up. The workers were taken by surprise during their sleep, the Proletarian leaders were arrested, and the Labour headquarters were occupied. This was the same throughout the country. Wherever Fascism had been beaten back by the workers the power of the State intervened; workers who resisted were shot down; workers who were guilty of nothing but self-defence were arrested and sentenced; while the magistrates systematically acquitted the Fascisti, who were generally known to have committed innumerable crimes. Thus the State was the main factor in the development of Fascism.
Professor Salvemini gives similar testimony (Manchester Guardian, October 19th, 1927):—
  Mussolini was assisted in the civil war (1921- 1922) by the money of the banks, the big industrialists and landowners. His Black-shirts were equipped with rifles, bombs, machine guns and motor lorries by the military authorities, and assured of impunity by the police and the magistracy; while their adversaries were disarmed and severely punished if they attempted resistance.
And lastly Modigliani tells us (Daily Herald, October 27th, 1927):—
  It was by their (the Italian Cabinet's) contrivance and with the help of military forces of the State that Mussolini and his gangs were able not only to administer Castor Oil, but to murder and burn for two years. And it is in that way that they finally reached the point of the march on Rome, in face of which the King openly and personally sided with the anti-Labour onslaught.

Open Letter to Jimmy Reid, Communist shop steward, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (1972)

From the January 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Brother,

Some weeks ago I saw you on Television addressing the students at Essex University. In the short extract screened, you were talking about a united working-class and saying (quite correctly) how immensely powerful the working class could be, if only it was united.

“If we all spat we could drown them” you said, with typical working-class directness and humour. Quite true, of course, probably in no other country (including Russia) is the working class in such overwhelming preponderance. The question therefore, is why isn’t the working class united? What is it that blinds workers to their class interests, and divides them? A moment’s thought should supply the answer. It is political ignorance.

Many workers do not think they are workers, at all. Many carry on a pathetic struggle to appear “middle- class”, grumbling the while about the “unjust” prosperity of car workers or dockers.

In fact, even to talk about “Unity” at all pre-supposes unity for something—some aim, some goal. Unity in the abstract, for the sake of unity is meaningless.

Apart from the large number of workers who still think that the boss is their best friend and that they too can become capitalists, there is also a very large number who see the necessity of uniting in trade unions to improve their lot.

These workers are at the threshold of class consciousness—but only the threshold, the first baby step. Lenin called it "mere trade union consciousness”. They have an awful long way to go.

A minority of workers have realised that the problem is not just a question of keeping wages up, but that capitalism is their trouble and its abolition would be emancipation from social problems for everybody, especially the workers, who are on the receiving end. These workers have acquired real class-consciousness, for them it is no longer a question of dockers, or miners, or teachers, but the abolition of the wages system. They are revolutionary Socialists because it is absurd to propose the abolition of capitalism without a superior alternative. When the anti-Socialist says “Yes, but what would you put in it's place?” the answer is Socialism.

This presupposes the overthrow of capitalism, and we can all agree that the last thing capitalists want is to be abolished (by the way, this does not mean physical extermination; we are talking about social relations). Theoretically, it should be possible to abolish the capitalist class without harming one hair of one capitalist’s head.

Over the years, various people have put forward various ideas for the abolition of capitalism. This has brought disunity, even among those who wanted to abolish capitalism. In other words, even the minority who did oppose capitalism could not agree on the methods to overthrow it. Among the various groups holding opposing ideas was one which came together from a number of splinter groups to form a Communist Party in 1920.

Some of these groups left it again, as soon as they realised more about it. Sylvia Pankhurst and the Workers Socialist Federation refused to follow Moscow and backed out. Some prominent Scottish Workers Committee Movement stalwarts, Tommy Clarke, of the AEU, John Maclean, the first Bolshevik Consul in Britain, did likewise.

Under Russian domination, and blindly following their paymasters, McManus, Gallagher, Bell and Co. they started their wearisome howl for “The United Front” which is where you, my dear Brother, get your Unity slogan from.

The idea was to bore within the Labour Party and turn it into a Communist or “Leftist” party. They would have had more luck boring within the Bookmakers Protection Society to transform it into the Anti-Betting League.

To the end of their days neither Lenin nor Trotsky really understood the British set-up and hoped that the economic crises of the twenties would impel British workers to change the Labour Party into a party of “heavy civil war” (Moscow Theses).

Until 1929 the British C.P. screamed for the United Front when for the election of that year Moscow ordered a turnabout and “Class against Class”; they ran thirty-three candidates and lost thirty-three deposits.

Now after years of utterly futile agitation for minority armed insurrection and “heavy civil war” Mr. Gollan and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain have decided that “Socialism in Great Britain can be established by the parliamentary road”.

This destroys the reason for the existence of the Communist Party, whose claim to fame was that it was in favour of violent drastic measures.

There is just one other point, however, concerning what Socialism is. When Mr. Gollan informs the British electorate in a television interview that the British C.P. is concerned only with the British people the British C.P. has lost its last vestige of any semblance of a workers’ party.

This is where we come in. The overthrow of capitalism must be a political act. It must be the united conscious act of a revolutionary working class by some form of election.

Under the stress of difficult and hazardous circumstances, Lenin and his followers had to bend Marx’s writing to suit C.P. tactics. Nowhere, at any time could Marx have envisaged Socialism (or the end of capitalism) without a majority of the workers. The few occasions when he used the phrase "Dictatorship of the Proletariat” meant only this.

Incidentally, in the address of the Working Men’s International Association which he wrote, he had this to say about numbers:
The element of success they possess—numbers; but numbers weigh only in the balance, if united by combination and led by knowledge
So before the workers start spitting to drown the capitalist class, it would be well to realise that Socialism is the abolition, not the reform of capitalism, and that to establish Socialism, the workers must vote for it, because there is no other way of knowing whether they are united for it or not.
Yours truly,

Student Unions (1972)

From the February 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Department of Education and Science have published a consultative document with a view to restricting the finance of student unions. This document will effectively limit the activity of organised students throughout the country. Apart from the obvious effect of severely restricting social life for resident students, all extra-mural activities, such as societies and clubs, will be impinged upon.

The reason given for the restructuring of finance is that the public money is not subject to public accountability, and that money entrusted to students unions can easily be abused. It is strange that the schooling of children can be entrusted to student teachers, yet funds cannot be. This is indicative of the common capitalist maxim that money and property are more important than people.

In point of fact, abuse of union funds is an extremely rare occurrence, and is anyway illegal without these new measures, hence the appearance of some of the officers of Sussex University Students Union in Court recently. The measures contained in the consultative document, therefore, can only be seen as an attempt to silence an avenue of protest that might at times embarrass the capitalist class.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain recognises that all unions (trade or student) are only necessary in a capitalist system where workers are in such an inferior position that they have to “go mob-handed” in order to be listened to. As unions are part of a capitalist system, and no more, it follows that union organisation cannot lead to Socialism, but can only try to provide its members with the best possible living conditions under capitalism. However, it is to be remembered that all working class organisation in the form of unions are a gauge to the maturity and consciousness of the working class. For this reason it is quite correct to protect student unions from any attempt by a capitalist government (Conservative or Labour) to restrict to any degree the effectiveness of an organised body of workers, (or unpaid apprentices in the case of many students.)

This particular set of administrators of capitalism have already seen fit to curb the trade unions, and it seems that like treatment is in store for any section of the working class (which includes the overwhelming majority of students) which dares to question the repulsive system of capitalism.

It is to be hoped that the D.E.S. will be unsuccessful in their attempt to restrict students. After this particular struggle however, it is hoped that students would not be content with a victory that would merely enable them to return to a previous level of exploitation and deprivation. In future, when the National Union of Students and individual college unions confront the forces of capitalism concerning grants, fees, residence etc., we urge them to follow the words of Marx —
Away with the conservative slogan a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and inscribe upon your banners the revolutionary watchword . . . The abolition of the wages system.
 Only when capitalism has been replaced with Socialism, a world without money, governments or exploitation, will students be able to share, with the rest of the working class, the world of abundance which man is capable of producing when he is freed from the restriction of the profit motive and the market economy.
J. P. L.

What is class? (1972)

Book Review from the March 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Class Inequality and Political Order, by Frank Parkin. (MacGibbon and Kee £2.25.)

Parkin defines class by occupation and status, and divides western capitalist society into two classes: manual and non-manual workers, or the "working class” and the “middle class”. The latter he describes also as the dominant, and relatively privileged, class and the former as the subordinate, and "disprivileged”, class.

This won’t do since it includes the mass of ordinary white-collar workers amongst the privileged. They may enjoy more fringe benefits at work than industrial workers, but their overall standard of living is not all that different.

Class is more realistically defined by reference to where people stand in relation to control over the means of wealth production. An analysis of society, in Russia as well as the West, reveals a definite group which, as a group, has exclusive control over the use of the means of production. The great majority of people, whatever their occupation or social status, face this group as sellers of their mental and physical energies. This is where the dominant/subordinate, privileged/disprivileged dividing line runs. The two classes in society are the owners and the non-owners, the capitalists and the workers. The middle class is a myth most of whose alleged members are really in the working class.

Parkin himself has to abandon the absurd view that ordinary white-collar workers are members of the dominant, privileged class when he comes to discuss the attempts of Labour and Communist governments to improve the lot of manual workers.

He argues that the kind of reforms Labour governments have brought in—more educational chances and State welfare benefits for manual workers—have been those which have also benefited the dominant class, “or many influential sections within it”:
Without too much exaggeration we could in fact say that whether or not socialist approaches to equality become politically acceptable depends on whether or not they confer advantages on the dominant class, or at least an important section of it” (Our emphasis; he means “Labour” not “socialist”, of course).
But who are these important and influential sections if not the property-owning capitalists? For how do ordinary white-collar workers benefit from a less discontented, better trained and more healthy industrial workforce?
With regard to Russia and east Europe (which he also calls “socialist” although noting that some regard it as “state capitalist”), Parkin sympathises with the “new class” theory expounded by the former Yugoslav Vice-President Djilas. He notes that in these countries ordinary white-collar workers are, if anything, slightly worse off than skilled manual workers and suggests that the dominant, privileged class are the top industrial and political executives. Summarising Djilas’ view, he finds that as a group the “new class” has features in common, not with his “middle class”, but with the property-owning capitalists!
Djilas . . . argued that the class based on the Communist Party enjoyed virtually the same rights over property as a traditional bourgeoisie. If ownership is defined as rights over the use and products of collective property, and not simply legal entitlement, then the dominant class of socialist society can be conceived of as a propertied class. In this sense it has the same exploitative status as its capitalist counterpart; both enjoy a materially privileged position based upon expropriation of the surplus value created by the subordinate class. If, then, we replace the legal definition of ownership with a sociological one, the similarity between a classic bourgeoisie and the ‘new class’ of socialist society is thrown into high relief.
It is because we take what Parkin calls a “sociological" view of ownership that we say that the ruling class in Russia is a capitalist class. By the same token, the dominant class in the West are the capitalists, not those in white-collar jobs.

We drew attention to Parkin’s inadequate theory of class in the Socialist Standard for December 1968 in a review of his book on CND.
Adam Buick

Capitalism Causes Pollution (1972)

From the April 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many opinions voiced on the resources/population/ pollution problem are in direct conflict with the Socialist claim that, with the present state of our knowledge, and with the present level of technical development, the world is capable of abolishing scarcity. That of course is hardly surprising. Socialist ideas are in conflict with generally held opinion on most things — war, poverty, human nature, leadership, nationalism — even on “socialism”. That does not make our ideas wrong — or right.

Briefly the argument runs to the effect that pollution is caused by an expanding population acting and reacting on an expanding technology. The human race is heading for various forms of disaster unless population is either reduced or stabilised and technology halted or reversed.

Now it is not necessarily the case that where two phenomena occur together that one is the cause of the other. It may be that both, or either, are caused by some other phenomena not taken into account. We argue that the present environmental crisis arises not from population or technology but from the nature of capitalism, the world society in which we live.

The driving motive for production in capitalist society is the hope of making a profit from the sale of commodities on the world’s markets. The surplus value produced by working people and realised by sale is appropriated by the owning class and accumulated as capital which is, by and large, re-invested for the further exploitation of human labour power. Anything which interferes with or diminishes this accumulation is to the detriment of the capitalist class.

When we say that capitalism causes pollution we mean that because production is for profit there is an artificial (economic) barrier to the implementation of known solutions. Technologically, the problem should no longer exist; but solutions cost money and as such bite into profits since increased costs, if taken in isolation, can lead to disadvantaged positions in the never-ending struggle for markets. That this is so has already been admitted by politicians and businessmen alike. For example, Lord Kennet, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government under the Labour government, said: “The techniques are already available by which contamination of air, water and land can be avoided; all that is needed is the will and the money to apply them . . . However politicians are most unlikely to insist on firms spending money on preventing pollution if this means the loss of their competitive position in world markets” (The Times, 5 July 1969). The Confederation of British Industry put their point this way: “If consumers like certain commodities at a certain prices — a low price — they cannot expect industrialists to spend vast amounts of money on environmental controls”; and, wrote Industrial Management in October 1971, the conservationists “do seem blind in many cases to the cost factor; in short, if they want to preserve and save they will have to pay more for the goods. Such moves, unless enforced on a worldwide basis, would make our products uncompetitive abroad. The economy would creak and crash.”

Some frightening predictions have been made as to what might happen if nothing is done pretty soon. “The crisis will be upon us in the next 25 years . . . The self purifying process will be stressed to destruction” warns Barry Commoner at a conference on The Future of Man’s Environment (Soil Association press release 30 July 1969). Nixon’s advisor on Urban Affairs, Moynihan, was even more alarming when he stated, “We may have even less than a 50-50 chance of living until 1980” (The Times, 22 October 1969).

Things look pretty bleak then — which doesn’t say much for capitalism. But what nearly all the prognostications, and most of the criers of doom assume, and what they fail to question, is the continued existence of capitalism, of production for the market, of buying and selling. When confronted with all the evidence for the need for a new way of life all Paul Ehrlich, the shrillest of the population scaremongers, can offer is the observation that “It will involve governmental intervention, changes in tax structure, and formidable changes in attitude” (in Harold W. Helfrich The Environmental Crisis, 1970).

We are due, it seems, for another bout of political reforms. Tough legislative measures have been promised to curb and reduce the menace of pollution. This is nothing new; we have heard it all before. It is in fact the treatment as before. There have been twenty or more Acts of Parliament dealing with water pollution but there are still 950 miles of “grossly polluted” river in England and Wales and it is reported that years of intensive effort are still needed. Some local authorities have recommended the use of pure bottled water for babies as the mains supplies are heavily contaminated by nitrate from agricultural runoff (The Times, 8 January 1969). A survey by two scientists from the University of Liverpool found, in tap water taken by random samples from an area with a population of seven million, that phenolic substances were at concentrations of more than 16 times the World Health Organisation maximum; and that that lead and cyanide were also to be found at dangerous levels.

The fact is that governments cannot legislate capitalism out of business. If the laws are too harsh, or if the cost involved is too heavy, they will be either circumvented or ignored. A World Health Organisation committee of experts who looked into this matter came to the conclusion that “Countries with severe laws against pollution have not in fact avoided the occurrence of wide spread pollution” (Use and Conservation of the Biosphere, UNESCO, 1970).

Yet in all this there are hopeful signs. There is a growing awareness that pollution is a world problem and that as such needs world answers. Effective action however is hampered by the existing division of the world into competing and often mutually antagonistic nation states.

Dr. Kenneth Mellanby, of the Nature Conservancy, is in no doubt that our environment could be safeguarded and improved if we gave it our full attentions and energies: “The same technology that is causing so much destruction could, properly used, safeguard the future” (Soil Association).

The deterioration of the quality of the environment may be easily explained, if not excused. It should not however be equated with doomsday . . .  A rationalisation of use of the resources of the biosphere on a world-wide scale is imperative if satisfactory living conditions of future generations are to be guaranteed . . . The problems which mankind faces in this area cannot be tackled piecemeal. The biosphere, and man's place in it, must be envisaged as a whole (UNESCO, our emphasis).
It is precisely this that the establishment of Socialism will bring about: a society based on the satisfaction of human need (both present and future) through the rational application of human knowledge and energies on a global co-operative scale. The spectre of pollution will then be finally laid.
Gwynn Thomas

Conference Report (1972)

Party News from the May 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 1972 annual conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain was held at Conway Hall, London, over Easter and was attended by delegates and visitors from many parts of Britain. Among the resolutions passed were ones criticising the format of the Socialist Standard for being too formal, calling for consideration of publishing Russia 1917-67 in German and committing the Party to contesting at least one seat in every General Election. Conference again discussed the Party’s attitude to reforms and the following resolution was carried:
That this Conference affirms that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has as its sole object the establishment of Socialism. It is a revolutionary Party based on the class struggle. All reforms are put into operation on behalf of one section or another of the capitalists in their own interests, even though some may contain incidental advantages to the workers. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is opposed to the workers wasting time and energy in attempting to improve capitalism by means of reforms, thus obscuring the class struggle. Consequently, the Party cannot support any action aimed at gaining or maintaining a reform as such support would not only confuse the workers but it would overlook the fact that the Party’s sole object is the establishment of Socialism. We must therefore confine ourselves directly to the furtherance of that object and not take any steps up the blind alley of reformism. This statement deals with reforms, not with the Party’s attitude to the struggle of the workers on the industrial field.
At one point the proceedings were undemocratically interrupted by a group calling themselves “the London Situationists” who noisily stopped a discussion on the need to develop Marxist theory in order to hand out An Open Letter to the SPGB. This turned out to be a peculiar amalgam of Freudian pseudo-psychology (both Marcuse and Reich, despite their opposing views), some organisational ideas and an ill-informed criticism of our policy of conscious political action, via the ballot box and Parliament, to establish Socialism. The organisational criticism boiled down to saying that the time was not yet ripe for a formal, centralised socialist group, while the political criticism failed to take into account that the Socialist Party has never said that the establishment of Socialism involves just a few million X’s for Socialism followed by a parliamentary resolution. We have always said that Socialism can only be established by a conscious, participating working class organised not only politically to capture and destroy the State machine but also outside parliament ready to take over and run industry and society generally.

The best—and most readable (most of it is written in mock political French)—part of the document which called for “the automated economy of abundance’’ was clearly influenced by our thinking anyway. Unfortunately, though they will the end they don’t will the means. The spectre of the Russian Revolution still haunts them: their alternative of our policy is “workers’ councils”, i.e. soviets!

Another Programme For Poverty (1972)

Book Review from the June 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Family Poverty. Programme for the Seventies. Ed. David Bull. (Gerald Duckworth paperback. £1.25.)

Stand up, anyone who is not fed to the back teeth with politicians telling us that poverty is either abolished or is about to be.

Of course, this is a continuous process but sometimes there are notable watersheds, which mark schemes which are more than usually comprehensive— perhaps a tidying up of a mass of old legislation or a really massive reform— which give the politicians another chance to tell us that they are about to end the problem once and for all (yes, they have actually used those words.)

Such a watershed was the last war. After all the promises about the fruits of victory which would erase the bitter taste of the thirties, schemes like Beveridge and the National Health Act of 1948 came as surely as night following day.

The new laws passed by the Attlee government in the fields of pensions, insurance, health treatment and so on made it possible for them to claim, as they fought desperately to hold on to power in the 1950 election, that they had abolished poverty. Abolished it; it wouldn’t come back.

Many people believed them, although not enough to keep them in power for long. Then came the dawn, and a sickly one it was. First it was discovered that the old were still in desperate straits, their poverty outgrowing the meagre provisions made for them. Then the chronically sick and disabled were surprisingly found to be suffering economic hardship.

As the light on the problem grew stronger the men in power clung to the illusion of “full" employment, implying that if a man was in work his family were well provided for, that poverty was an accident of those who for one reason or another could not be fully employed. That held good until more evidence forced them to admit that working families can also be destitute and since then we have had schemes like the Family Income Supplement which are supposed to have cured that problem.

In fact as it becomes more and more evident that poverty is not dead, that it lives as hideously as ever, the investigation of it has become something of a growth industry. As all over the country the newly organised Social Services departments spring up, there is every reason to think that the growth will continue.

These essays, by men like Tony Lynes and Peter Townsend, do something to examine and illuminate the chronic problem of poverty under capitalism and to expose the complete failure of all the post war legislation to cure it. Unfortunately (or would a better word be predictably) they do not recognise poverty for what it is—an unavoidable product of capitalism—and so they must always conclude by arguing in favour of replacing one piece of ineffective legislation with another.

The essays are readable and informative and they leave this reviewer in sadness at the waste of ability and knowledge, which would be better used working to end the system responsible for family poverty.

Is Mankind Doomed? (1972)

Editorial from the July 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard
The sane and sensible method of using the ecological resources to meet the needs of all the people of the world is Socialism.
When a religious group predict the end of the world in the near future very few people sit up and take notice. But what happens when a group of scientists make it clear that they expect the breakdown of present society within the next fifty years? And, that when they are on about the Ecosphere they evince a deep knowledge of their subject and it seems that Man needs to wake up from the present dream and to do some serious thinking indeed. The group have formed a political movement called the Movement for Survival which they hope will become international. They may contest the next General Election. In the meantime they are trying to persuade governments, industrial leaders and trade unions throughout the world to face the facts and to take appropriate action while there is yet time. Their aim, according to their manifesto, Blueprint for Survival, is a new system of society seeking stability rather than expansion.

The ecologists’ case, which they are presenting strongly, concerns pollution in its many forms; “overpopulation”, disruption of the ecosphere by inorganic fertilizers and pesticides; the exhaustion of the world’s resources of petroleum and metals; and social disruption. The Blueprint deals with these symptoms in detail, and the picture it presents, though exaggerated, is grim and ugly enough. But here overpopulation is represented as occurring from an increasing demand rate and a decreasing capacity for the world to accommodate this demand. This demand is not simply based on human consumption of the necessaries and amenities of life, but on "the summation of all man’s demands on the environment, such as the extraction of resources and the return of wastes.’’ Surely they mean all capitalism's demands, for they use figures for this demand based on the UN Statistical Yearbook. They call it Ecological Demand. The annual rate of population increase is 2 per cent; the annual rate of ecological demand is 5 to 6 per cent. Should the world’s resources fail to meet this demand then the result would be “overpopulation’’ — they say. This is a case which Socialists categorically deny. The world has no overpopulation problem; the problem is capitalism’s inability to produce sufficient to feed and meet the needs of the world’s population.

On pollution the Doomwatchers make out an impressive case. Essential to the environment are such features as stability, organisation and complexity, but present trends suggest that “Industrial Man’’ is counteracting these basic requirements of the ecosphere and is thus bringing about its ruination as a fertile means of life. Marx pointed out the trend years ago and since he wrote pollution has multiplied. But the ecologists mis-state the real cause of pollution, which is capitalist profit-motivated production. Instead, they point to certain characteristics and symptoms of capitalism such as expansion, urban drift, and the increased ratio of capital to labour (here they mean the non-profit-creating to the profit-creating part of capital). They appear not to be hard up for euphemisms for capitalism’s dirty words; still, their account of the interdependence of the forms of life and the necessity of recycling the eco-processes are impressive.

What do the ecologists propose as a solution to this “imminent’’ world crisis? They propose to create
"a society which is sustainable and will give the fullest possible satisfaction to its members. A society depending on stability, not expansion; but this does not mean that it will be stagnant. It could provide more variety than the present uniformity . . . The minimum conditions of this society are the minimum disruption of ecological processes; the maximum conservation of materials and energy; a population in which recruitment will equal loss; and a social system in which the individual can enjoy, rather than feel restricted by the first three conditions.”
In the meantime, they suggest, present trends must be arrested by the freezing of current pesticide commitments and a changeover from the "old playing for time” methods of pollution dispersal, etc. The Blueprint editors have arranged a series of talks with Environment Minister, Peter Walker, who says he wants to know more.

However, the situation is somewhat different to that presented by the ecologists, who reveal repressed insight into the real nature of capitalism. This system has often given some of its critics the notion that it is on the verge of collapse, and articles in the Socialist Standard have shown time and again how it fails to produce both the delightful and the dire results expected of it. The fluctuations in a profit-geared system, with its gluts and shortages, make hay of these corny predictions. Crises of inflation give way to crises of “overproduction” and the deliberate destruction of vast quantities of food and areas of production.

Another result of the ecologists’ failing to face up to capitalist reality is that they appear to believe in miracles. By implication, they wish to retain the fundamentals of the present system; i.e. money, profit-making, capital, a ruled and a ruling class, yet they expect to freeze expansion and to substitute stability under it. They seem to have in mind a form of √©litist society in which small self-sufficient and self-regulating communities would take the place of large cities and centralised government. Significantly, they foresee that in the transitional stage a heavy burden would be placed on “our moral courage” and restraint.  “The operations of the police force and the courts would be necessary. “This would be reinforced by creating (concrete) conditions for full public participation and decision-making, and this would be far easier in small societies.”  The idea of decentralisation brings into relief the hopelessness of their belief that they can change capitalism, for it runs counter to the whole tendency of present day society. Capitalism is becoming more and more a world system with an international network of communications and control.

The sane and sensible method of using the ecological resources to meet the needs of all the people of the world is Socialism. The efficient production and distribution of wealth will be facilitated by the use of these institutions. It is true that a transformation in the basis and organisation of human society is necessary and this can only be a revolutionary transformation. It is only possible when the great majority of the workers come, through understanding of their identity of interests, to Socialism, regardless of “prestige”, colour or sex.

A Big Thank You! (1972)

Party News from the August 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always been fortunate in the continual readiness of members to work for years at behind-the-scenes jobs: Branch secretaries and treasurers and members of committees, who have carried out their unspectacular work with quiet efficiency for as long as many of us remember.

Comrade Phyllis George has just given up the secretaryship of the Socialist Standard Production Committee after twenty-seven years. She began helping the old Editorial Committee near the end of the war, and her home became —and remained—the Committee’s regular meeting-place. Acquiring a thorough knowledge of how the Socialist Standard was produced, she was able to tidy-up every loose end and take a heavy burden of correspondence and endless minor details from the Committee members. In the nineteen-fifties she compiled a regular page of Party news for the Socialist Standard.

The Socialist Standard's debt to Comrade George is considerable, but its editors over the years have a special one for her hospitality. Every month her sitting-room was filled with spread-out papers and cigarette smoke and debate, while she supplied continual cups of coffee as well as unfailing stability and competence. Much as we regret her retirement, the rest is well deserved; and our gratitude extends to her husband Arthur, who put up with it cheerfully.

All who have served on or helped the Committee during those twenty-seven years join in expressing our appreciation: thank you, Phyllis. We hope that both the Comrades George will continue to take part in the life of the Party for a long time to come.

Is Socialism Left? (1972)

Pamphlet Review from the September 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is Socialism Left? by George Watson. (Unservile State Papers. 15p.)

This is a pamphlet published by the Unservile State Group, a small body of Liberals aiming to foster the growth of Liberal political and economic ideas.

Rather than refer explicitly to aspects of Liberal policy and principles, however, George Watson, lecturer in English at Cambridge and author of books on literary criticism and thesis writing, sets out to show how certain standpoints popularly referred to as Socialist (and therefore, in most people’s minds "left”) have very close parallels in traditionally accepted features of Fascist (and therefore "right”) ideology. The impressive array of evidence he draws upon to support his case includes the setting up of Bolshevik extermination camps in Russia in 1918, the policies of minority violence advocated by left-wingers such as G. B. Shaw and H. G. Wells, the undemocratic authoritarianism of the Webbs, the founders of Fabianism, the anti-working class policies practised in Britain by successive Labour governments, the conditions of savage political repression the people of Eastern Europe live under.

Nothing here unfamiliar to the Socialist critique of Labourism and State control masquerading as Socialism. But what a pity that in attempting to clarify terms, Watson adds to the already existing confusion about Socialism by defining it as ". . . a spectrum . . . that stretches from a totalitarian extreme in Stalin and Mao, through diluted forms of the same doctrine in Gomulka and Tito, as far (say) as the Swedish and British Social Democrats.” From this comment and others we can deduce that Socialism for this pamphleteer means State control, which he contrasts unfavourably with the private variety. Yet, at the same time, he shows signs of realising that both are forms of capitalism, for he states: "In the socialist countries beyond the Curtain, the state is the only capitalist, or the only major one” and "The power of a Western or private capitalist is necessarily less than that of a socialist one” (a socialist capitalist therefore — how’s that for semantic confusion?).

What a pity too that Watson, despite his hearteningly unexpected awareness of the existence of State capitalism in Russia, goes on to make the elementary blunder of equating Russian Bolshevism with Marxian Socialism. His uncritical assumption that Lenin’s setting up of a one-party regime of political terror constituted Marxism in action compounds the ignorance or misunderstanding of Marx’s writings inherent in such statements as "Marxian Socialism is little short of bloodthirsty” and "Marx himself certainly believed that socialism could only be created through violence on a world-scale”. Serious students of Marx know that he was never an advocate of mass violence and indeed, in his later writings, was quite clear that where electoral machinery existed a class-conscious majority could use the vote to take over the State preparatory to the changeover from commodity production (capitalism) to a system of common ownership and free access (Socialism). Engels, in his 1895 preface to Marx’s Class Struggles in France sums up the Marxist position:
  And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers’ party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion.
  For here, too, the conditions of the struggle had essentially changed. Rebellion in the old style, street fighting with barricades, which decided the issue everywhere up to 1848, was to a considerable extent obsolete . . . The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions, carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past.
Marx’s writings, therefore, contain no warrant for the politically backward, minority violence of Bolshevism. Any association between Marxism and the events of 1917 and their aftermath turns solely on the dishonest use Lenin made of Marx’s terminology. In particular the terms socialist and communist, which for Marx were interchangeable, came, under Lenins’ distortion, to mean two separate stages of development, while Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat, a political condition not a form of government, has nothing in common with the dictatorship over the proletariat established by Lenin.

Watson’s conclusion that the repressive social, political and moral features of Russian society represent conservatism far in excess of anything found in the West is incontrovertible and a view shared by all objective observers. Next to this, however, the question he poses of whether such a set-up can be legitimately referred to as "left” is of little importance. For whatever label a government in the modern world attaches to itself, right, left or centre, its function remains the same — to administer as efficiently as possible a system of production for profit which, come what may, cannot be run in the interests of the working majority. This applies just as rigorously to State capitalism in Russia (and in East Germany, China, Cuba, etc. for that matter) as it does to Watson’s implied favourite, private capitalism in the Western world.
Howard Moss

The I.L.P. as the 'Open' Party (1972)

From the October 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

It would be impossible to describe within a single article of reasonable length the policies of the Independent Labour Party. They stand for just about everything. No cause is too small to merit their attention: Black Militancy; Irish Nationalism; Military Strategy; Liberation of Vietnam; and now, Workers’ Control. These are in addition to their almost unlimited stock of reforms in Housing, Education, Health. You name it, they’ve got it — that is, with the notable exception of a Socialist policy.

With such a universal platform the ILP continues to decay and is, in fact, a political joke. The reasons are that the big battalions of social reform, the Labour and Tory parties, have monopolised the field leaving the ILP and its associates in the position of the small shopkeepers opposing the supermarkets. Another reason is that the policies of the ILP have become so discredited over the years that it appears to them nothing less than a new approach based on new policies will stop the rot. 

At its 81st annual conference held at Scarborough earlier this year the new face-lift (third in its history) was performed. The conference made the discovery that they had been wrong all the time, and had a sectarian approach to politics. Sweeping changes in the constitution were made. By a large majority the delegates agreed that there was no value in participating in parliamentary or local elections at the present stage of the class struggle, and voted that no branch or division of the Party should put up candidates in the future, unless in exceptional circumstances. Coupled with this decision was support for “workers’ control” to subvert the organisation of the capitalist class (Socialist Leader, 8 April 1972), and also that members of the ILP would be free to join other political parties and work within them. (This ancient policy was advocated by the Communist Party forty-five years ago, and described as “boring from within”. It proved to be useless as well as dishonest, but this is lost on the ILP).

Their position on Parliament, despite the conference decision, is confused. On page 3 of their pamphlet Towards Socialism they state:
There is little to be gained by relying on the procedures of Parliamentary Democracy. The ILP must therefore recruit members in local communities, in colleges and universities, and at the point of production, for organised subversion.
But on page 4:
Meanwhile the ILP advocates policies and initiates activity, including direct action and Parliamentary activity, designed to strengthen the institutions of the working class and subvert the organisations of the capitalist class.
This contradictory position is all things to all men, and is nothing more than political opportunism. The curious logic which impels the ILP to partly repudiate Parliament arises purely from the fact that they cannot get in there. Political power, which they have courted dearly and cannot have, now they regard as useless. The Parliamentary system is blamed for the failure of their policies. Forgotten is the fact that the first Labour government in 1924 largely consisted of ILP members, including 45 MPs. The second Labour government contained 111 members.

So we return to direct action and workers’ control — theories which are at least 150 years old. This is the “modern” ILP! These emotive policies, borrowed from other antiquated organisations (anarchists, Trotskyists, etc.) are dear to politically immature workers and students. They have that romantic ring, and are removed from a clear and objective appreciation of what makes capitalism work. Incidentally, they have never satisfactorily explained, and none of the organisations which support workers’ control has explained, how you get the capitalists to relinquish their control. 

Cartoon by Jack Gold.
Whose Power ?
The claim by the ILP “that real power exists outside Parliament and the Courts” (page 3, The Way to Workers' Control) is rubbish. This is based on the assumption that the workers have economic power and can use the strike weapon to enforce political reforms as well as wage demands. They are wrong on both counts. It is the capitalists who have economic power, it is they who can and do dictate the conditions under which they will produce, hire or fire. The economic power of the workers is restricted to fighting a series of rearguard actions through trade unions against the unending encroachments of capital. In the field of political reform, no strike action by unions over the past 150 years has produced any reform even in trade-union legislation. Political power and economic power is the prerogative of the capitalists. They dominate society, and the workers support them. Direct action could only be carried on by isolated minorities, and is doomed to failure as long as the majority of workers give their political support to capitalism.

The most recent example of the workers’ “economic power’’ and “control” was at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. This was inspired and led by Communists, supported by the ILP, Trotskyists, SLL, and IS. Viewed as the revolution they thought would be, it proved to be an utter fiasco. Based on the absurd principle that the workers work for nothing, being paid by other workers’ donations, they produced things for the capitalists to sell. No wonder the capitalists did not bring in the forces of law and order, having reaped the benefits of unpaid labour! It eventually deteriorated into a position where the militants led by Jimmy Reid, a prominent CP member, agreed to sit down with the new owners Marathon, a group of American capitalists, to discuss redundancies. Home-grown capitalists were evidently not good enough.

There are numerous instances which show that sporadic gestures of workers’ control are worse than useless. The ILP, SLL, CP, Trotskyists, etc. — the “militants” — are really the running dogs of capitalism. At election times they will come to heel and urge the workers to vote for the pro-capitalist Labour Party. The strange philosophy which impels these people is one which regards trade-union militancy and reform movements as permanent conditions of the workers’ existence. They see no way out.

None of these organisations understands Socialism, and they do their damnedest to make sure that the working class will not understand it either. They are fighting a losing battle, however. The policy and principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain are easily understood, and we offer them to workers who are prepared to learn something new. Without the understanding of the Socialist Party’s policy and principles the workers cannot achieve Socialism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain will not repudiate Parliament — on the contrary, we aim at political power for the sole purpose of establishing Socialism.
Jim D'Arcy

The Presidential Election: "As Long As It's Black" (1972)

From the November 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Presumably it will change as the day draws near, but the American presidential election has had a hard time competing for the attention of the working class in Britain against the Ugandan Asians, Heath’s £2, Northern Ireland and the antics of their favourite TV star or footballer.

It is said that the personalities of the two candidates have not helped. In the past, the Kennedys always had the capacity to arouse the strangest responses among British workers, who were somehow persuaded that these ruthless, rich politicians cared about the desperations of poverty, racial suppression, war. When one of them was assassinated, it was almost as if a favourite child had died. It is sad fact that workers like to be able to choose between politicians who are puffed up as exciting, glamourous men—men who can make gimmicks. The 1968 election seemed boring—although it was a very close run race—because neither Nixon nor Humphrey came over as dynamic or handsome or alluring.

Writing Them Off
This election has been affected in the same way and additionally because it has always been assumed that Nixon was the winner. It is, apparently, as boringly predictable as if Leeds United were playing Barrow in the Cup. McGovern’s only defence against the damaging assumption that he is a loser is to point out that he was once written off as an impossibility for the Democratic nomination :
   . . .  I won the Democratic nomination through hard work, careful planning, a willingness to move ahead decisively, greater public participation and a determination to take nothing for granted. And this is just the way I intend to win the presidency. (The Guardian 20 July).
The publicity men will be most grateful to McGovern, if he manages to make a contest of it.

To the supporters of either side, this election is described as a struggle between right and wrong, good and bad. There is said to be widespread disillusionment among the voters, at the lack of any real differences between the candidates, as the buyers of Henry Ford’s cars might have felt when they could have chosen any colour as long as it was black. It is fair to ask why there should be such a feeling about only this election —why haven’t the workers in America grasped the fact before now, that the candidates of all the capitalist parties are basically the same? The gloomy prospect is that there will also be a disillusionment with elections and politics as such, that the workers will blame the tools which are misused rather than realise how they misuse them.

Tricky Strategy
Nixon, as many incumbents do, has fought the election from a long way above it, leaving his Vice-President Spiro Agnew to tangle with the opposition. In itself this is of course a political move, since it implies that Nixon is more concerned with running America to the benefit of all its people than in the sordid mess of political squabbling. He has worked hard during the past four years to lose the old labels like Tricky Dick and, on the standards by which capitalist leaders are judged, he may have succeeded.

Politicians make or lose their names not upon any fundamental issues but upon superficial changes in capitalism. In 1968 Nixon fought on the well worn theme of Law and Order, so in order to claim success he must be able to show some progress in making America a more peaceful place to live in. Four years ago there was plenty of scope for improvement; the war in Vietnam seemed to be lasting for ever, organised protest against some of the symptoms of capitalism was often a bloody, murderous business, the city ghettoes periodically erupted into fire and warfare. It was an event almost predictable when Bobby Kennedy was gunned down.

Past and Present
What does Nixon claim as he goes to the polls this time? American capitalism has made, or is about to make, a deal with China and North Vietnam which will carve up anew a piece of South-East Asia and probably halt the war in Vietnam. The diplomatic burrowings of Kissinger have brought home to the American ruling class that they cannot hope to win the war there, only to finish it. As in 1968, Nixon is promising to end the war, by which he means to provide an interval before the next conflict and to set up the battle lines for it.

At home, Nixon can draw comparisons between 1968 and 1972 which are to his advantage. When the Democrats met at Chicago in 1968, they did so within a barbed wire stockade and behind a tight security screen while outside tear-gassing, troops with fixed bayonets and rioting police were accepted sights. Although this was a heavy over-reaction by Mayor Daley, it was also a climax of years of protest in which pitched gun battles and deaths were common. The conventions this year went off with hardly a whiff of tear-gas or swing of a truncheon. Symbolically Bobby Seale, who was gagged at the trial which followed the Chicago 1968, is now standing for Mayor at Oakland, California. The figures say that violent crime is increasing in America and New York (which is not the worst city) recently notched up a new record for the number of murders in a single day. But there is enough scope in the statistics to enable the Administration, with a bit of juggling, to claim that the increase in violence is slowing down and it is with such material that successful election campaigns are fought.

The Real Issues
During Nixon’s term American capitalism has been faced with the customary economic problems which, in the customary way, he has promised to control with some “fine tuning” of the economy. In a nation of car owners, this phrase is easily understood and accepted. In August the American government “floated” the dollar, slapped a duty surcharge on imports and declared that they were going to control prices and wages. Such measures in fact have no effect on capitalism’s economic crises, which are a matter of cycles out of the control of politicians or anyone else. At the crucial time in terms of his re-election, Nixon can claim that the rate of inflation is slowing and that unemployment has fallen; the cycle is running his way and should help him to victory.

Although none of these changes is fundamental, or permanent, they are the stuff of which electoral victories are made and will continue to be made as long as the working class fail to face the real issues. Until they do that, they will continue to vote for a modified capitalism. Against the Nixon record, McGovern has had a hard time to convince the American workers to prefer his modifications.

Deceit, Confusion
McGovern’s campaign has been fascinating for its apparent confusion and hopelessness. He first made his name as an opponent of Johnson’s policies on Vietnam (which did not prevent him trying to get the ex-President to support him) and since then, whenever he stuck to a policy long enough for it to be analysed, he has usually got himself classified as what is known as “a dangerous radical”. McGovern was once well known for something called a “wealth redistribution plan” which was a programme to guarantee a basic wage and to increase some income taxes. This would better have been called a poverty redistribution plan; workers in this country are well familiar with similar attempts to paper over the deprivations of capitalism.

McGovern missed out on the simple fact that as he must work to deceive and confuse workers as to the nature of capitalism, so they are liable to react in a confused and misled manner and to find an attempt at reorganising their poverty very threatening. Seeing some of this rather late, McGovern quickly dropped his “radical” plans and since then made a name for himself as one who organises his retreats like a Napoleon. Once he was specifically committed to cut American troops in Europe by more than a half; then he promised only to “review” the matter. He was once known as an anti-war candidate but he told the nostalgic warriors of the American Legion, when a man of principle might gladly have offered defiance:
   . . . my budget will give us enough fire power to destroy Russia and China simultaneously 20 times over. (Times, 24 August).
Another Goldwater?
McGovern has run on what is called a populist line; he implies (like George Wallace) that he is on the side of the common people against the crafty, manipulating politicians who exploit them. Yet there could be no more cynical examples of political manoeuvring than his performance over the election of his running mate, his appeal for Muskie’s support to get the trade-union vote, for Humphrey’s to get the Jewish and other “racial” votes, for Kennedy’s to cash in on the glamour which that ruthless family still holds for the American working class.

When Johnson was riding high in 1964, the Republicans chose a candidate whose stated policies were more likely to alienate voters than attract them. It is possible that this time the Democrats have accepted the invincibility of the president and that they have chosen their Goldwater, a ludicrous interval of sacrifice who can be quickly forgotten after the election.

Expectant Voters
It is useful to recall here what happened to Johnson, how he fell from his overwhelming popularity of 1964 to the man who would not run in 1968, when he was exposed. The Democrats are possibly calculating that their opponents are also due for disillusionment, which they can exploit in the election of 1976. Perhaps by then they will have settled on a candidate of greater voter-attraction than McGovern. While the election is on they mostly unite behind their man but when the votes are cast the in-fighting will immediately start again, with the candidacy of 1976 as the prize. By then the Republicans will hope to have done what Wilson hoped to do for the Labour Party — to change from the alternative government into the governing party of American capitalism.

The election of politicians to power in a capitalist state is a business in which the expectations of the electorate play an important role. To begin with, the working class like to feel that their leaders are strong men who can control and influence events, even if for most of the time they are not sure of how this is to happen. In many ways this means that something is expected to happen simply because a politician says it will; it is enough for one of them to spout a slogan like Johnson’s Great Society for the problems of poverty, bad housing, social despair, to melt like snow in the sunshine.

Tough at the Bottom
At the same time the workers prefer their leaders to have some contact with what they, rather selectively, see as reality; only in extreme situations like wartime will they accept what they call extremism. Thus it is established now for politicians to fight over the “middle ground” of policies, which means over which party can distort facts and fashion its deceptions successfully enough to appeal to a wide majority of workers. This is the party which usually wins the elections—and on this reckoning 1972 looks like the Republicans’ year.

Nixon is a strange case of a politician who was discredited before he came to power and who since then has won a fair amount of support in his opponents’ traditional ground. This should be enough to keep him in one of the toughest jobs in capitalism, head of the most powerful state in the world. But tough as it is, the people who suffer as a result of it all are those who will vote to send him there.

Work As You Please ("It Would Never Work") (1972)

From the December 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are, rightly, wary of “giving a blueprint” when asked how Socialism will work. On the other hand, when we have sometimes suggested that, even assuming the type of production known under Capitalism would still exist in a Socialist society, many of the stresses known to-day would disappear, we have been accused of being Utopians, not understanding the requirements of these methods. However, strange things seem to be happening.

Without doubt, one of the major stresses imposed not only on workers in factories, but also offices, is the inflexible hours they are expected to work in order to obtain full use of office and production space and machinery. This not only means the tiring frustrations of rush hour travel, but the amount of time spent apart by partners working different hours, the inability to take time off from work for special occasions without loss of earnings, as well as the struggle to get up in the dark for several months of the year and early-morning sluggishness which seems to beset the majority of us, while the minority who feel bright in the mornings wilt at the tail-end of the working day.

The magazine Woman, in the first of a series of articles on life today, deals with this very subject. It appears that the suggestion put forward by Socialists — called “impractical” by our more friendly opponents—is being put into practice by a growing number of large as well as small capitalists. The most common method adopted is to have a ‘hard core’ period —say, 10-4, when everyone is expected to attend. Apart from this, so long as a given number of hours are worked each week or month, employees suit themselves as to which days and when they will put in the remaining hours between the time the factory or office opens at, say, 8.00 a.m. and closes 10 or 12 hours later.

Employers have found that the extra overheads are more than compensated for by reduction of absenteeism and better productivity. Doctors approve the scheme as, not only does it lead to more relaxed people working at their peak capacity, but the chances of spreading infection during rush-hour travel are much reduced. This, of course, leads to less absenteeism due to illness and consequent improvement in productivity.

On the continent of Europe this system of flexible hours is already quite widely used, and investigations are taking place as to how the hard core period could be reduced or eliminated. In this country there are already twelve organisations who have introduced the scheme. As among them are ICI’s Petrochemical Division, Pilkington Glass and Pakcel Converters (one of the three giant producers of cellulose film), we can take it that the system is efficient (that is, under capitalism, profitable!) as well as benefiting the workers concerned. The latter, under capitalism, is a side issue but, in a Socialist society, would be the governing factor.
Eva Goodman