Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Apartheid Falling Apart? (1985)

From the June 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many of the most obvious superficial manifestations of apartheid have been absent from South Africa for some time. Now a bill to repeal the laws prohibiting "inter-racial" sex and marriage has been placed before Parliament by the ruling Nationalist Party, and seems likely to be passed. The Conservative Party accuse the Nationalists of betraying their own tradition of separate development for different ethnic groups. So is apartheid beginning to crumble and to be dismantled by its originators?

At the same time, the South African state plainly retains its brutal character. On 21 March, police fired at a black crowd in the Cape Province township of Langa. The official death toll in this massacre is nineteen, but unofficial estimates are twice as high. Black trade unionists attending a May Day rally were dispersed by riot police using dogs and teargas. The security laws, which allow for indefinite detention in solitary confinement without trial, have recently been used against members of the United Democratic Front. Striking miners sacked from the world's largest gold mine, Vaal Reefs, have been forcibly deported back to their so-called homelands. If apartheid is in retreat, it remains a powerful and oppressive force.

These developments must be seen against the background of South Africa's history and the economic rationale of apartheid. Essentially, apartheid was the culmination of decades of government policy designed to provide a supply of cheap and easily-controlled labour power to the mining magnates and other industrialists of South Africa. The mining industry had become so large so quickly that state intervention was required to provide it with a pool of workers to exploit. In 1904, for instance, miners were imported from China to replace black workers who resisted wage cuts and new technology. A government commission of 1922 made quite clear the conditions under which a black worker should live and work; he
should only be allowed to enter the urban areas, which are essentially the white man's creation, when he is willing to enter and to minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases so to minister.
It was not until 1948. with the election of the Nationalist Party to power, that the existing pattern of discrimination was strengthened and extended into a fully-fledged system of separate development. Literally, this meant that different ethnic groups were confined to live in different areas. All urban centres and some rural areas are confined to whites, but include ghettoes for Indian and "Coloured" ("mixed race") populations. Blacks are denied residence in white areas, and are permitted to live only in designated "homelands" or Bantustans, such as Kwazulu and Transkei. These constitute just one-eighth of the land area, though nearly three-quarters of South Africans are black.

Since many people did not originally live in areas "appropriate" to their skin colour, forced resettlement was required. Up to three million blacks, and over a quarter of a million "coloureds" have been forcibly removed to their allotted areas. Even so. by 1980 only just over a half of the black population lived in the homelands. It should be stressed that the homelands are not continuous stretches of territory, but scattered parcels of land, so that South African talk of their "independence" is quite absurd. With no industry or mineral wealth, they cannot possibly support vast populations. As some of the homelands are next to large cities, such as Pretoria and Durban, they provide convenient (for the employer) commuter areas.

When blacks are allowed into white areas it is only on the government's terms. Blacks are allowed to live in white areas provided they have a job there, but must "return" to their homeland when unemployed. Black people are thus reduced to migrant workers, living most of the year in hostels, apart from their families. Being on annual contracts, they cannot acquire permanent residence rights in the white areas. The pass laws require every black over sixteen to carry a permit stating where they are entitled to live and work: each year, hundreds of thousands are arrested for violating these laws. With abysmally low wages and little trade union organisation, South Africa's black workers are in a state of miserable poverty.

Apartheid, then, is intended to make available to the South African capitalist class, and to the multinational companies with vast investments there, a plentiful and regimented supply of cheap labour power. White workers have been duped into supporting the system by being given economic and political "privileges" compared to black workers, and by being bombarded by nonsensical claims that blacks are inherently inferior and backward. White trade unions have played a shameful role in keeping black workers in unskilled and menial jobs.

But it is no longer clear that apartheid can deliver the goods. By 1970, the period of boom in South Africa was over, inflation was soaring, and the balance of payments deficit was becoming severe. Black trade union activity grew, and resistance by black nationalist organisations increased. Black workers were no longer as docile as they had been. After the Soweto massacre of 1976, many overseas investors began to see South Africa as no longer a safe haven for their hard-earned resources. The removal of friendly regimes in Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe meant that South Africa was now more isolated than ever. Defence expenditure increased massively, as did the resources devoted to converting coal into oil, as the government became worried about the availability of longterm oil supplies. All this threw into doubt the continuance of the prosperity of the ruling minority.

The South African rulers' response to these problems has been the promulgation of what is known as the "Total Strategy". Internally, this has meant some changes in the precise way in which black workers are controlled. Employers have complained about restrictions on the mobility of labour, while another problem they face is a lack of skilled workers, brought about by the inadequate education of blacks and their exclusion from on-the-job training. Blacks can no longer be confined to the role of unskilled labourers: a stable, skilled black work force is now needed. Two recent government commissions of inquiry, those of Wiehahn and Riekert. have suggested changes to the pass law system. More black workers will be granted the right to live in urban areas and to buy houses there (though only a tiny fraction can afford this). Employers can be heavily fined for employing blacks who are residing illegally in cities — which has led to thousands of such workers being peremptorily sacked. But controls on blacks remain, and with them the brutal police means of enforcing them.

The Nationalist Party's professed aim of removing all blacks into homelands, so that there should come a day when there were no black South Africans at all, shows the "conservative'' side of the coin. The "reformist” side is seen in the 1983 Constitution, which allows for a tri-cameral Parliament, involving whites. Asians and "Coloureds”. The black population are of course excluded, and the powerful President is to be elected by whites only. The Conservative Party sees all this as a betrayal of the Nationalist Party's heritage: in fact, the Nationalists have realised that some kind of concessions to non-white groups are necessary to defuse discontent and allow the system to continue with its essentials unchanged. Chipping away at such matters as segregated buses and the inter-racial marriage prohibition leaves the edifice unscathed. Most importantly, though, the changes in apartheid are to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the class who run it.

Apartheid clearly produces massive inequalities. On 1976 figures, blacks, who are 71 per cent of the population, had just 23 per cent of the national income; whites, who are 16 per cent of the population, had 67 per cent. But figures of a similar order are to be found in other capitalist countries with no institutionalised racism. Not all white South Africans are capitalists who live off the unpaid labour of workers: most are themselves workers who, though better off than black workers, are still oppressed and exploited. Some blacks have even become wealthy businessmen and landlords.

Black consciousness leaders such as Steve Biko argued that only blacks in South Africa were really workers, since any white, however downtrodden, had something to lose if the system were changed. But if it is not apartheid that is removed but capitalism, all will benefit. And that will require the joint efforts of workers of whatever "race", everywhere.
Paul Bennett

The Man From Peabody (1985)

From the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

George Brown began his life as a lorry driver's son in Peabody Buildings, Lambeth and ended it as Lord George Brown of Jevington in the County of Sussex — a place of tranquil prosperity in one of the lovelier parts of the South Downs. In between those two events lay the sort of political career which leads the obituarists to question whether things would have been very different if the dead person had made it to the top. To some, Brown's career was a tragedy of unlucky timing: "(his) political career peaked too late or too early; he was more at home in the commitment world than in the manipulative era of the sixties "(Norman ShrapnelGuardian). Others laid stress on characteristics which might explain why the label of Labour's Nearly Man fell so easily on Brown: " . . . his greatest weakness the emotional extravagance . . ." (The Times, being
kind); . . often he was too drunk. . ." (The Mirror, being frank like Brown himself).

But among commentators, obituarists are uncommonly liable to miss the point which in Brown's case was that he was not a Nearly Man. He did make it — not to Number Ten it is true but to the office where his cherished theories on how capitalism could be controlled and organised to the lasting benefit of us all were put into practice. Had these theories succeeded in the way Brown had promised, then recent political history would have been very different. There would have been none of the chronic economic crises, no disputes over wages, no recession or closures or redundancies. There would have been no winter of discontent for the Callaghan government, no Thatcher government to screw down ever fiercer on working class poverty, no coal strike, no cowed and beaten trade union movement.

But of course Brown's theories didn't succeed. They were tried and they failed wretchedly. The organisation he erected to put them into practice — a government ministry with enormous power — was allowed quietly to die and now lies buried with no memorial except the obituarists' words. In the end. disillusioned. Brown left the Labour Party which he had first heard of in his youth in Peabody — "for the same bloody reasons that 1 joined" he grumbled — for the Social Democratic Party, which also has theories, somewhere, about how capitalism can be controlled, somehow.

Brown's greatest hour struck with the election of the Labour government in 1964. The party came to power after a cleverly conceived campaign which persuaded large numbers of workers that their enormous technological and productive power was being held in check by tweed-suited Tory aristocrats who were more at home on the grouse moors than in the factory or the laboratory or the planning office. Prosperity was there, only waiting to be released from the shackles of Tory bumbledom by something called the White Hot Technological Revolution. As one of their 1964 election publications put it, Labour stood for:
A New Britain:
mobilising the resources of technology under a national plan; harnessing our national wealth in brains, our genius for scientific invention and medical discovery; reversing the erosion of thirteen wasted years of a moribund Tory dynasty . . . (When Labour Wins)
Labour's case rested solidly on planning the economy. The Conservative government they were aiming at ousting from office had been through the normal crises and Wilson was successful in labelling their response to these as "stop-go-stop". Labour guaranteed to do better; they had a plan which would relate growth of incomes — by which they meant not only wages but also profits, dividends and rent — to increases in productivity. In this way. they claimed, inflation — which was supposed to be an inevitable consequence of unco-ordinated increases in incomes — could be cured. The trick had so far eluded every government but Labour were not deterred. This time there would be a specially briefed ministry, the Department of Economic Affairs, to plan and co-ordinate the whole operation — rising productivity through advanced technology, rising (but controlled) incomes and prices. This new ministry would take over a lot of the Treasury's responsibilities, on the argument that it was the Treasury’s miserly concern with purely financial matters which had helped to hold back economic development. The Chancellor (whoever that was to be) would be a lot less powerful than in the past. The importance of the new ministry would be asserted by the fact that its boss would be George Brown, who was to be. apart from other things, deputy prime minister.

With great energy. Brown got to work to set up the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and produce his National Plan. The day after the election he ". . started telephoning all over the place. Sir Eric Roll, Sir Donald MacDougall, Tony Crosland and a number of others came round, and we spent most of the night working out just what we were going to do. Next morning we . . . opened shop ". (In My Way.) It quickly became apparent that before they could think about "economic expansion" the government had to tackle the issue of wages. If the unions, believing all that talk about lifting the burden of Tory stop-go, had begun demanding huge rises, Labour s plans would be in ruins. It has always been their claim that their special relationship with the unions gives them a greater possibility of moderating wage claims than the Tories but it was obviously advisable to combine wage restraint with some sort of check on prices. A government can try to do this by law, as had been the case during the war, or they can rely on a voluntary — or rather a cajoled — agreement by the unions and the employers. It was by no great stroke of originality that Brown chose the latter course.

After a lot of negotiation, on 16 December 1964 he proudly displayed the famous Declaration of Intent on Productivity. Prices and Incomes, signed by representatives of the unions, the employers and the government. The workers seemed hopeful, if not satisfied; perhaps, after all. prosperity could be won through moderation, negotiation, responsibility. . . If the employers had any doubts about the government's intentions, Brown was anxious to set them at rest: "Business men have more hope of making progress and money under a Labour government than they had before". (Interview in The Director, April 1965.)

The honeymoon did not last very long. Labour came to power facing a deficit of £800 million in the balance of overseas payments. They represented this as some sort of debt of the British working class; it was money which we owed and this meant that we had to work harder and receive less until it was paid off. They were also concerned about the effect of currency speculation on the exchange rate of sterling. Now speculators behave in a manner perfectly acceptable in a capitalist society — they concentrate on making as much profit as quickly as they can. In any case, one speculator's gain must be another's loss. But for the Wilson government they were at times almost an obsession; "confidence in sterling" became a priority which, according to Harold Wilson, justified some precautions bordering on the farcical:
  . . . watching the physical movements of the Chancellor, the Governor of the Bank of England, or the Prime Minister. Once, we virtually had to order the Governor, Lord Cromer, to proceed with his plans for a holiday in the South of France. lest cancellation might be construed as portending immediate devaluation.
(The Labour Government 1964 - 1970.)
So it was that a new Enemy of the People was born — the Gnomes of Zurich, sinister, subversive and foreign; Labour was not above stimulating a little nationalistic paranoia.

Crisis by crisis, the assumptions and the theories on which Brown's ministry were founded were chipped away. In 1966 the Declaration of Intent was formally declared to be as dead as everyone had known it to be for some time, by a statutory freeze on prices and incomes. Brown described the failure of the DEA: "We were trying to persuade people to restrain wage demands and to hold down prices at the very time when the rest of the government, as a matter of deliberate policy, was forcing up prices". He also decided, after the event (like Wilson), that the DEA's scope was too wide and that it concentrated too much on prices and incomes and too little on productivity. But these were central to its operations. The plain fact is that the National Plan, and all that went with it, was a fraudulent, foredoomed pledge to do the impossible — to change capitalism so that it worked in an orderly, predictable way to the benefit of all the people instead of a minority. But intentions are not enough. Brown was not the first, nor the last, politician to fail in that. It was just that he seemed to take it rather more seriously than most.

He resigned from the DEA in August 1966 to become Foreign Secretary, in which job he gained a lot of publicity for his drinking (press photographers followed him relentlessly in the hope of getting a scoop picture of him falling over or behaving outrageously — and were not always disappointed). His place at the head of the DEA was taken by a very different character — the arid, schoolmasterly Michael Stewart, who personified the DEA's decline into its impending euthanasia. Brown left the government finally in March 1968, in protest that he had not been properly informed of a decision to close the foreign exchange banks for a day, which could hardly have been a shattering blow to the residents of Peabody.

Did the DEA. and the National Plan, and the Declaration of Intent, have any effect on the conditions of the people who had voted for it? According to Inland Revenue figures in 1964, when the Labour government came to power, the top ten per cent of the population owned 73.5 per cent of the wealth. In 1970. when Labour lost office, the top ten per cent owned 70.1 per cent of the wealth. At the other end of the scale, in 1968/9 there were five million people in Britain living at or below the official poverty line. (Poverty in the United Kingdom. Peter Townsend). What this means is that the Labour government left capitalism undisturbed. We still lived — as we do now — under a social system in which a privileged minority hold a monopoly of the means of life. The Labour Party look back now — when they can steel themselves to face it — on the National Plan as an ill-advised, if well- meant, experiment (Brown remembered it as a "a social revolution that failed"). But his body can rest easy in its grave for his ideas live on; Labour has clearly learnt nothing from the experience of those disastrous days. In February 1983. in the magazine New Socialist, Roy Hattersley argued that an agreement with the unions about wages which an expanding economy can contain, was necessary to avoid inflation. Neil Kin- nock waxed optimistic about Labour's new version of the National Plan, now under the name of the National Economic Assessment.

These ideas are stale and discredited because there is in fact nothing for an organisation like the Labour Party to learn. Capitalism is not only an anarchic social system, it is also bankrupt of ideas. That should have been obvious to George Brown. But it wasn't; so we shall have to rely on the people, in Peabody Buildings and Jevington and everywhere, who have the incentive and the power to change things. 

Hunger for profits (1985)

From the August 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Millions starve; food rots. Why? It is not inevitable that millions of our fellow human beings suffer agonising death for lack of food. We are capable of producing enough to feed them. But world capitalism is not geared to satisfying needs; the object of producing wealth is to sell it at a profit and if those who are starving are unable to buy what they need, there is no reason to bother about them. The economic principle of capitalism is that if you cannot buy you shall not have, even if that means death.

The market, contrary to the claims of its supporters, is not an efficient way of allocating resources according to people's needs. If it is, why do people starve to death in Africa while food is dumped in Europe? Only the most insane social order imaginable can regard such a grotesque contradiction as "efficiency'. The object of the market is to satisfy the capitalists' need for profits, not the workers' need for goods and services.

At the moment the production of food is in a condition of crisis. What does this mean? You might think that it means that society is unable to produce enough food for human needs. In fact, although the productive forces are presently below the level necessary to produce enough for everyone, such a task is quite possible technologically. The present crisis of food production is a crisis of over-production: too much is being produced. But too much for whom? For the starving people in Ethiopia or Sudan or the many other regions of mass malnutrition which don't make the news? How can there be over-production of food while there is such widespread and tragic under-consumption? Under capitalism the concept of over-production is only meaningful in relation to the market: when they say that they have produced too much food they mean more than can be sold, not more than can be used.

In 1984 stocks of surplus (to the market) beef trebled to 52,430 tonnes, worth £95 million. There was no shortage of unemployed workers or workers living on a pittance of a pension who would have been willing to consume this "over-produced" beef. But under the best of all possible systems it was wasted. Under capitalism it is preferable to let nobody have a commodity than to sell it at a price which will damage the profit of the capitalists. 144,430 tonnes of butter were in store at the end of 1984. In short, it was locked away, being wasted, making sure that it did not enter the market and damage profits. What other waste had the market system created in Britain by the end of last year? 92,705 tonnes of skimmed milk. 736,738 tonnes of barley, 10,151 tonnes of bread-making wheat, and 1,945.421 tonnes of feed wheat (Guardian, 14 June 1985). EEC surpluses are even bigger and worldwide waste of food is incalculable. Then there is the food which is not available because governments subsidise farmers not to produce it. In Britain, for example, farmers are required by EEC regulations to limit the amount of milk produced each year so that its price can be kept profitable. Any infant could see the absurdity of paying farmers to limit a product while children are dying and suffering terrible diseases for the lack of it. In a society of co-operative production for use there would be a massive incentive to produce what people need.

In a socialist society there will be no market. no buying and selling, no money, no prices. Defenders of capitalism's chaos claim that without the present economic mechanisms production would be inefficient. But. from the angle of the working class, who produce all wealth and suffer all deprivation, the waste and anarchy of the profit system is far from efficient. Only when the sole criterion of production is the usefulness of the product will we be able to speak meaningfully about the efficient allocation of resources. And only when we have got rid of world capitalism and established socialism will such a condition exist.
Steve Coleman

The Leap in the Dark (1985)

From the September 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Palmerston died in December 1865, shortly after his Liberal Party won the general election of that year. The way was now clear for a second Reform Bill to further extend the franchise, which it was widely agreed was necessary even if there was disagreement about how this should be done and how far it should go. The new Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, lost no time in having one drafted and presented to Parliament, in March 1866.

Agitation for the extension of the franchise had begun some years previously, both among the capitalist class and the working class. A Trades Unionists' Manhood Suffrage and Vote by Ballot Association had been established in 1862 (with which Ernest Jones who, after the disappearance of the People's Paper had resumed his profession as a lawyer in Manchester, was associated). Its chairman was George Odger, a shoemaker who was also the part-time secretary of the London Trades Council that had been established as a direct result of the London building workers' strike and lockout of 1859 60. Odger was one of the new generation of working class militants which this strike had brought to the fore. Among the others were Robert Applegarth, who became the secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Builders in 1862. and three other building workers: William Randal CremerGeorge Howell and George Potter. Potter, who had been appointed manager of the Bee-Hive, an influential trade union weekly, when it had been started in 1862, was the most militant of this group on trade union matters and soon fell out with the others and so was not to be associated with their political initiatives.

But it was John Bright, with his National Reform Union, who got the renewed suffrage agitation off the ground. Although the National Reform Union campaigned for a ratepayers suffrage (those who paid the local property tax) and not the traditional working class demand for universal suffrage, its campaign enjoyed considerable trade union and working class support. Links between Bright and the new generation of trade union leaders had been made during their joint campaign in favour of a Northern Victory in the American Civil War. [1] Marx, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the North, had himself attended one such meeting in March 1863 addressed by Bright and also by Odger, Cremer and Howell.

With his break with Ernest Jones in 1857 Marx lost his link with the English working class movement (though he remained in contact with the German workers' movement in Britain through the German Workers' Educational Association (Deutscher Arbeiterbildungsverein). This link was restored in 1864 when in September Marx accepted an invitation to be present on the platform at a meeting organised with a group of French workers from Paris by Odger, Cremer. Howell and others to discuss international co-operation. In the past Marx had always refused such invitations since he had a generally low opinion of his fellow political refugees from the Continent in London. But he accepted this time because he realised that those involved, on both the French and British sides, were of a different calibre from the Continental refugees whose posturings he knew only too well.

The September 1864 meeting led to the formation of the International Working Men's Association (IWMA). Odger became its first President and Cremer its Secretary. Marx was one of those appointed to draw up a manifesto and rules for the new association. He ended up doing both, virtually on his own. Besides the trade union leaders, the English members of the IWMA also included old Chartists like Benjamin Lucraft (also a trade unionist) and Owenites like John Weston. In 1867 the O'Brienite organisation — the National Reform League (O'Brien himself had died earlier in 1864) affiliated to the IWMA. So there was a direct link with earlier British working class movements and theories.

In April 1865 the formation of a Reform League, [2] under the presidency of a reformer, Edmond Beales, was announced. The League stood for universal manhood suffrage and was dominated by members of the General Council of the IWMA with Howell, a Council member, as its secretary. Marx was very pleased with this development, seeing the Reform League as a sort of revival of Chartism, especially as its demand for universal suffrage made it a rival of Bright's National Reform Union.

But, as on so many other occasions, Marx's confidence was to be misplaced. When the Liberal government published its Reform Bill in March 1866, the Reform League decided to support it on the grounds that it was a step in the right direction, even though it did not even provide for a ratepayers' suffrage, let alone universal suffrage. What it did propose was a reduction of the property qualification, to a level low enough to enfranchise a considerable number of workers. Marx was very disappointed and wrote to Engels on 2 April 1866 about "the cursed traditional character of all English movements" having appeared, according to which a measure is hailed as a victory merely "because the Tories cry: guard".

The Liberal Bill, however, was defeated, not by the Tories alone but as a result of a defection of a number of Liberal MPs. The government thereupon resigned and Queen Victoria asked Lord Derby to form yet another minority Tory government. Following the defeat of the Liberal Bill, agitation for Reform broke out with renewed vigour. The Reform League called a mass rally in Hyde Park for 23 July; the government responded with an order banning the rally. The League refused to accept this ban and on 23 July marchers from all over London converged on Hyde Park. Refused admittance, most of them went on to Trafalgar Square where a short meeting was held. Some, however, stayed at Hyde Park, pushed the railings down and entered. This “riot” was a clear warning to the new Tory government as to what was likely to happen if they tried to resist Reform. They got the message and the following year Disraeli presented the Conservative government's own Reform Bill, which was considerably expanded during its passage through the House of Commons.

The 1867 Reform Act, and the corresponding measures the following year for Scotland and Ireland, introduced household suffrage (for male heads of household) in the towns, increasing the electorate by over a million from 1,350,000 to 2,470,000. Most of the new voters were members of the working class, even though most workers were still left voteless. But a situation had been created — a working class majority among the electorate in most urban areas — which led Marx to later conclude could permit a peaceful capture of political power in Britain by the working class once it had become socialist-minded.

The working class, however, was at this time far from being socialist-minded. Odger, Cremer. Howell, Applegarth and the others did not even claim to be socialists. They were working class Radicals, that is, working class supporters of the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, the party of the industrial capitalist class. They felt that the best way to pursue the interests of the working class was to work through the Liberal Party, a point of view that was to be shared by most trade union militants for the next thirty to forty years. Odger, Cremer and Howell were Liberal candidates in the 1868 General Election (as, indeed, was Ernest Jones who died later on that year). [3]  When the Reform League was dissolved in April 1869, its leading members were to be found in the Labour Representation League which was founded later that year. But despite its name, the aim of this new organisation was not to secure "labour representation" as such in Parliament, but "labour representation" in Parliament through the Liberal Party.

Although none of the trade unionist Liberal candidates were elected in the 1868 elections, the Liberal Party did win. Gladstone became, for the first time, Prime Minister and gave Bright a post in his Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. The new Liberal government proceeded to carry out the reforms which had been held up for at least a decade pending the extension of the franchise: recruitment to the civil service was made subject to passing an open, competitive examination; the purchase of commissions in the armed forces was abolished; the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were opened to other than those who professed the established Anglican religion. All these changes went in the direction which Marx had said was sooner or later inevitable; the aristocrat-dominated state machine was being remodelled into a capitalist state. In addition, the law on trade unions was liberalised and an Education Act in 1870 introduced compulsory primary education for all children. Similar changes were made in Ireland: the Anglican Church was disestablished and a very timid Tenants Rights Bill passed, an attempt to reform the universities failed however. Ireland was, in fact, beginning to emerge as the issue that was to bedevil British politics until the 1920s. In 1867 there was unrest in parts of Ireland led by the Fenians, extreme Irish nationalists. The government replied by arresting the Fenian leaders in both England and Ireland. In November some Fenians attacked a police van in Manchester and released two of their leaders, killing a policeman in the process. Five Fenians were sentenced to death for this attack, and three of them were executed. Both the Reform League and the IWMA — particularly Marx himself — were involved in the campaign against this and a subsequent campaign for better treatment for the Fenian prisoners.

In 1872 a second [4] of the Charter's six demands was enacted: vote by secret ballot. The first election by ballot, however, resulted in the defeat of the Liberals and a victory for the Conservative Party. Gladstone thereupon resigned both as Prime Minister and as leader of the Liberal Party and Disraeli became Prime Minister for the first time. The new Conservative government did not go back on the reforms enacted by the previous Liberal government, on the contrary, it continued the policy of reform in the interest of the capitalist class. Local government. public health, housing, the law on picketing by trade unionists, the Factory Laws were all reformed and modernised. In foreign affairs, the Eastern Question reared its head again with a new war in 1877-8 between Russia and Turkey. Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. In the 1880 elections the Liberals again emerged as the majority party and Gladstone again became Prime Minister. Gladstone's second Liberal Ministry was still in office when Marx died in March 1883.

In many respects British politics after 1868 — the capitalist class becoming the politically ruling as well as the economically dominant class — were more interesting than in the previous period. Unfortunately, we do not have for the 1860s and 1870s the same detailed commentary on political events in Britain as Marx's journalism had provided for the 1850s. Marx was, as we shall see, fairly active in British politics from 1864 to 1872 but he has left us nothing for this period comparable with the articles he wrote for various papers from 1852 to 1862.
Adam Buick

[1] Potter had a different position: he held that the workers should not take sides as this was a war between the partisans of chattel slavery (the South) and those of wage-slavery (the North) between which there was nothing to choose.
[2] Not to be confused with the O'Brienite National Reform League mentioned in the previous paragraph.
[3] Cremer was later elected a Liberal MP and ended his life as Sir Randal Cremer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
[4] The first, the abolition of the property qualification to be an MP. was removed in the 1850s.

Retired Hurt (1985)

From the October 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Under capitalism old workers, like the old machinery they may have been operating, or the old car they may have been driving, lose their commodity value as they wear out — or, more accurately, as their masters insist they wear out. The machinery, having some small value as scrap, ends up in a foundry, no doubt. The old workers find themselves suddenly and ignominiously translated from "useful” members of society into what are euphemistically termed the “senior citizenry". From this moment on they are free, as was Voltaire’s Candide, to cultivate their gardens if they have one. The bitter truth is that the majority of such workers end up as crushed as that elderly car they could only barely afford to keep on the road when they were working. Having sold their labour and brain-power for the smallest sums their employers could get away with; having tolerated for the best part of a lifetime a system which all too few ever bother seriously to question or examine; is it any wonder that when we are unceremoniously cast aside we experience an isolation which can have devastating — even fatal — consequences. Only now are we able to see how insulting are the euphemisms with which capitalist society hardly bothers to cushion this final rejection. Not that the relinquishing of a life of wage-slavery should in itself constitute any great sacrifice. Indeed, it should rather be a matter for rejoicing. So why isn’t it?

It is estimated that of a UK population of around 56 million some 18 per cent, or something of the order of 10 million, are of retirement age (60 for women. 65 for men). In addition we have now to include growing numbers of workers who are accepting early retirement — a euphemism for disguised redundancy resulting from the continuing economic depression. Whatever the exact figure may be. the accumulated experience and wisdom embodied in so vast a number — and this in just one country — is enormous. For it is not to be supposed that, because so many workers are thrown on the scrap-heaps of the labour market they have nothing left to offer. And in a world which is so manifestly in need of all manner of skills it is as obscene to waste such expertise as it is to allow grain or fruit to rot; to pay farmers not to grow foodstuffs, while millions starve. However, as we have already stated, labour-power is a commodity bought by a capitalist with a view to the realisation of surplus value, a proportion of which constitutes profit. But during a depression labour power may find itself without a market in a world which is over-producing — not in terms of need, but in terms of price-maintenance, which alone ensures profitability. So what hope for older workers, whatever their skills, when millions of younger workers are tossed aside to join the dole-queues? What it all boils down to is that we do not live in a society in which men and women may elect to do useful work (or not, as the case may be). What we actually see is something quite different.

The penny-pinching meanness of the standard old-age pension denies many millions of elderly people, who spent their lives producing surplus value for our capitalist masters (not to mention cannon-fodder for their generals) any chance of dignity in what is left of their lives. Quite apart from simple domestic hardship (sometimes lethal in its consequences) there is the inability of the old to play a full part in the life around them. Suddenly the salient feature of the capitalist system — that everything, but everything, seems to cost money you are no longer in any position to afford — dominates your every waking moment. However, since money paid out to old-age pensioners constitutes a tax on the surplus value which would otherwise accrue to the ruling class it is easy to see that no major increases would easily be tolerated. The domestic and social deprivation of ten million units of what, stripped of all cant, is seen by the ruling class as clapped-out labour power is an integral feature of capitalist society. (How long before we are offered voluntary euthanasia along with the barometer and the plastic garden gnome?)

From the cradle to the grave we are subjected. in one form or another, to the depredations and exploitation of the capitalist system. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that there are rich pickings to be had out of the old and infirm despite their own evident penury. The reason for this paradox lies with the arrangements under which numbers of old people are boarded out in private nursing homes. Phil Cohen (Hiving off the Elderly, New Statesman, 7th December 1984) has described how, as a result of "privatising" what have hitherto been the responsibilities of the state, the DHSS has been pouring money into the coffers of the "privateers''. Old people, often ill and bewildered. are being bundled out of NHS hospital wards and dumped, usually against their will, in private nursing homes away from their own communities. The wards are then closed down in an attempt to accommodate the government's financial impositions. In the meantime the capitalist sharks, having smelt blood, are homing in for the kill on the property market ("large country houses, educational establishments, hotels, etc") in order to exploit their new and evidently lucrative opportunities.

The cold steppes of society at large for the retired are one matter (a subject by no means exhausted in the foregoing). But what about that closer, warmer relationship which is supposed to exist within the circle of the family? The harsh truth is, that in the molecular society which is so essential to the survival of capitalism, it rarely exists. We live in a jungle, the laws of which allow for precious little distinction between the familiar and the foreign. Workers who struggle to feed, clothe and shelter a family of their own are bound to find the additional responsibilities of caring for ageing parents an almost intolerable burden. Of course, the same pressures are visited on all those unmarried women who sacrifice their own lives to the needs of their parents. Coupled with such embarrassment is the — understandable — independence of outlook which the old workers bring to their new, and as often as not unwelcome, circumstances. A woman who has brought up her own children. cooked in her own kitchen, managed her own domestic finances, finds it difficult to relinquish such hard-won sovereignty, however threadbare it might have proved. Of course the sparks must fly (and given the cramped living space which most of us are obliged to occupy it is a miracle if they don't). Of course workers, of whatever age, provided they are not reduced by illness — senile dementia, for example — to absolute dependence, would ideally prefer to live their own lives. That this is so rarely possible has to do, not with any omission on their part, or that of their families. It is just another seemingly intractable contradiction of the social and economic system which thrusts so many of the more vulnerable of us into this impasse.

Some might argue that little better should be expected from the heartless bunch that governs us at present. And isn't it true that Labour — or whatever — is stamping impatiently in the stalls only waiting for the chance to put matters right? This is a dangerously naive illusion which can have no reference to events, past or present. Where, for example, were no fewer than seven former Labour governments on being reminded — as indeed they were, plaintively and often — that millions of workers, lifelong wealth producers for their respective masters, have been, and are being, plunged into a thankless and degrading poverty? The answer is, that Labour administrations have found themselves no better placed to deal fundamentally with this problem than have any others. It is an ineradicable feature of the capitalist system. As such it is pointless and diversionary to draw attention to, or attack, this or that personality. The deep and abiding love and affection felt for Thatcher within the Socialist Party is as profound as anything to be discovered within the pulsating breast of her Denis. However, we delude ourselves if we begin to think that any transference of these sentiments to the unlikely Neil Kinnock can make the slightest difference. Indeed, we would deserve our inevitable disappointment. So, what must be done?

The only answer to this and our many other problems is the democratic overthrow of the capitalist system itself — nothing less will do. For it is capitalism alone which is responsible for them. And this historic work is a task for all members of our class — including the "retired".
Richard Cooper

Capitalism — private and state (1985)

From the November 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few months ago a socialist speaker was debating with a conservative exponent of unfettered "free" enterprise the motion Capitalism or Socialism? As the socialist speaker spelled out the catalogue of social evils which are a permanent feature of life today — under capitalism — a member of the audience expressed vociferous agreement — to the extent that the chairperson had to ask him to allow the speakers the opportunity of speaking.

Having dealt with capitalism and its obscenities, the socialist speaker then defined what we in the World Socialist Movement mean by socialism: a world-wide system of common ownership of the resources and productive machinery of the earth; the production of goods and services by the voluntary co-operative efforts of all those able to contribute their skills and energies; free and equal access to all human beings to satisfy their needs from the abundant wealth which could be produced; and the widest possible democratic participation for all in decision making. The socialist summarised his definition of socialism as a world-wide wageless, classless and moneyless society of common ownership and production for use.

Before ending his contribution to the debate the socialist speaker emphasised that it was socialism as defined by the World Socialist Movement that his Conservative opponent would have to address and not the futile reformism of Labour parties or the authoritarian state-capitalism of the so-called communist countries. At this point, the member of the audience who had earlier been noisily supporting the socialist appeared to go berserk. In the manner of those who argue from the standpoint of complete obedience to a religious rite, he launched into a fierce tirade against the socialist, using abuse and invective, shouting cliches and endeavouring to ensure that his democratic right to disagree was protected by his refusal to allow any rebuttal of his hysterical ravings from the platform.

When order was restored and the Conservative had stated the case for capitalism — agreeing that the socialist's charges against that system were true but (blissfully unmindful of the days of laissez-faire) blaming state interference for the ongoing mess — the meeting was opened to the audience for questions. The unruly member of the audience — a now self-confessed "communist" — began with a statement which he thought was a question: "If I stole £200,000 from a bank in this country I could invest it and live on the interest. If I stole £200,000 from a bank in Russia I wouldn't be able to live on the interest". Ironically it was the Conservative, the open opponent of socialism, who was able to tell this "communist" that, if he read his Marx, he would know that if Russia was socialist there would not be any banks to rob in that country!

Apart from the irony of a Conservative demonstrating that he knew more about socialism and the writings of Marx than a loud-mouthed "communist", the story is of interest in that it shows how successful the advocates of the wage-labour system — the politicians of the Right, the Left and the Centre — have been in confusing workers not only about socialism but about the system of capitalism that they live with and staffer under. An understanding of socialism begins with an understanding of capitalism; of the class interest on which it is based; of the mechanism by which it exploits the working class and of the fact that the terrible social miseries that affect all the subject peoples on this planet today are not "problems" of capitalism but inevitable aspects, or consequences. of that system. Make no mistake about it, anyone who understands capitalism and how it operates could never accept that socialism could exist alongside wage-labour, markets, banks or the anti-working class institutions which these distinct features of capitalism give rise to.

There is no argument about capitalism being founded on private ownership. The Left, the Labour parties, and the "communists" and trotskyites have succeeded in canalising the revolutionary fervour of workers who are genuinely disgusted at the effects of private ownership into the safe stream of capitalist reformism by asserting that state ownership removes these effects. Much ink and many words have been used debating the issue. In the past, the socialist had to rely on his or her understanding of the laws of capitalism to demonstrate that nationalisation or state ownership would make no change in the conditions of the working class. Today, the argument is no longer a matter of theoretical disagreement: nationalisation is a fact in many countries — introduced by governments of the Right, the Left and the Centre. It has not solved any problems for the workers: they still have to strike against their state bosses to defend the level of their existing poverty — and the recent coal strike in Britain and the attempts by Polish workers to form independent trade unions have again demonstrated that the state bosses have the power to deal even more viciously with their wage slaves than had the "private" capitalist slavemasters. Nor does nationalisation or state ownership ensure job security for workers; ultimately it is the market, where the commodities they produce are sold, that determines both the level of their poverty and whether or not they can be "gainfully" (profitably) employed irrespective of whether their employer is the state or a private capitalist enterprise.

Still, those on the Left who are more concerned with theoretical abstractions than with the plight of the workers under state capitalism argue that in countries such as Russia limitations on state bondholding and restrictions on private ownership eliminate the possibility of an economic class that, in the form of classical capitalism, can live on profit, rent or interest. Therefore, the argument goes, even if the normal features of capitalism exist, such as wage labour, money, markets and trade, capitalism cannot exist because there is no capitalist class as such. It is a most interesting discussion to pursue in the pub and it would probably fascinate the workers in Russian state-owned industry to know that the aggregate of surplus value they create every working day does not go to a capitalist minority as such but simply to the political magnates and placemen of the state system.

Socialists readily agree that the form of capitalism in countries where state ownership of the means of wealth production preponderates over private ownership is different from that where the reverse is true. We are not concerned with the form but with the fact that in the former countries there is a privileged minority which derives wealth and influence out of the labour of the working class; a minority that has an economic identity separate from, and in conflict with, those of its wage slaves. The capitalist laws of value obtain and it is these, and not the form of ownership or control, that are of consequence to the working class. It is these laws of value that constitute both the means whereby the workers are exploited and the means by which a privileged class obtain their affluent life styles. Whether the privileged class status of the latter is derived from direct private ownership or by political control is a pious irrelevance as far as the working class is concerned.
Richard Montague

Trotskyist Traumas (1985)

From the December 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party is hostile to those political parties which stand for Trotskyism. Such organisations confuse the nature of the class struggle, mislead workers as to the real meaning of socialism and turn the ideas of Marx on their head in order to make them seem compatible with the elitist ideology of Leninism. Like all parties which aim to imitate the tactics of the Russian Bolsheviks, the Trots (as Trotskyists are known popularly) appoint themselves as vanguards, or leaders of the working class. Working on the arrogant Leninist assumption that workers are too stupid to understand the case for socialism, the Trots offer a programme of what are called "transitional demands", which amount in reality to a list of reforms of capitalism. Once workers have been recruited on the basis of such reformist opportunism. the Trots inform the new members that the reform programme cannot be realised by right-wing governments (including Labour governments, which the Trots unfailingly urge workers to vote into power) and therefore it is necessary to plan for workers to seize power in a violent coup d'├ętat. to be led by the self-appointed "revolutionary party", which will establish state capitalism, as did the Bolsheviks in 1917. In short, the Trots offer an anti-socialist political position, both in their tactics and their objectives, and socialists have no option but to expose and oppose them.

Like the Leninist Left in general, the Trots have never been numerically significant in Britain. In the late 1940s there was a brief period when the Revolutionary Communist Party (not the same as the RCP of today) had more than ten thousand members and hopes of ousting the Communist Party of Great Britain as the main Leninist party in Britain. But. as is predictable in organisations so obsessed by leadership, the top men in the RCP could not agree to share power and so spurious ideological differences emerged in order to allow each leader to lead his own splinter party. Unlike the CP, which claims to stand in the tradition of the Kremlin-led Third International, the Trots all claim to be the true descendants of the tradition of the Fourth International, formed by Trotsky in opposition to his one-time fellow leaders of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin and Stalin. The Trots accuse the CP of being "Stalinists" and the CP accuses the Trots of "ultra-leftism". In fact, all are united in their Leninist contempt for the ability of workers to organise consciously and democratically and in their belief that state capitalism is socialism. Since the days of the RCP the Trots have tended to split three ways (although. in talking about Trotskyist splits, nothing is that simple). One section, led by Tony Cliff, became the International Socialists in the early 1960s and the Socialist Workers' Party in the mid-1970s. After a brief spell of growth they are now in decline and doing their utmost to fuse with the second Trot organisation, the Revolutionary Socialist League, known publicly as the Militant Tendency. The RSL is led by Ted Grant, another survivor from the heady days of the RCP, and has practised a dishonest tactic known as "deep infiltration", that is. joining the Labour Party and attempting to take it over. Such an approach has caused RSL members to be disliked by most sections of the Labour Party, although it has been the most successful Trotskyist organisation in recent times. For example, it gained control of the Labour group on Liverpool City council, appointing RSL member Derek Hatton as Deputy Leader of the council. The SWP is impressed by the success of the Militant Tendency (although trade unionists in Liverpool who are losing their jobs as a result of Hatton's tactics are most certainly not) and SWP leaders are doing their utmost to persuade the RSL to leave the Labour Party and enlarge the SWP. At present there seems no chance of this happening. although the latest news is that a split has emerged between the Grant-led London leadership of the Militant Tendency and the Liverpool crowd.

The third section of the Trotskyist movement in Britain has been led since 1959 by Gerry Healy, a man few people would have heard of before late October of this year. Those of us who had heard of Healy know him as by far the craziest of the would-be Lenins: a man who uses violence as an answer to his opponents (the present writer was once the recipient of some of it) and is known throughout the Left for his fanatical passion for demagogic. leadership. Healy started as leader of the Socialist Labour League, formed not long after leaving the RCP, and this became the Workers' Revolutionary Party. It is difficult to trust any membership figures for the WRP: at most the party might have had 10,000 and until its recent split claimed 6-7.000 members, but it probably had far fewer and even less who were active. Despite its small size the WRP published a daily newspaper called Newsline (with racing tips and all) and was able to stage large-scale rallies. It has been alleged that the party received financial assistance from the Libyan dictatorship; certainly. it has received huge donations from its most famous member, the actress Vanessa Redgrave, as well as her brother, Corin, both WRP leaders. The WRP tended to recruit quite a few of its members from the actors' trade union. Equity, and it is no coincidence that some of the daftest working-class policies were devised by leaders who more often than not had no experience of working-class life. The top man in the WRP was always Gerry Healy: it was he who was seated on a large, throne-like chair on a podium at WRP rallies at Alexandra Palace.

In mid-October 1985 those of us who bothered to look at Newsline were stunned by the front-page headline: HEALY EXPELLED. This was equivalent to the Roman Catholic Church expelling the Pope. Did our eyes deceive us? But no, the front page of Newsline continued to run the story for days: the leader had been ousted. This is the first time in British Trotskyist history that one of the triumvirate (Cliff, Grant and Healy) had been thrown out of one of their own parties.

It is difficult to get to the bottom of the recent WRP split and, from the point of view of establishing socialism, it is not of much importance. But there are lessons to be learnt from what has happened. According to Newsline, Healy was expelled for using WRP-owned flats as a base for taking advantage of twenty-six female members. If this is true, then Healy and they are the victims of all that goes with the vanguardist approach to life. If a man is given power over other people it is not surprising when he takes advantage of them. If women workers are taken in by Healy's nonsense in the political arena, who is surprised if they are taken in by him sexually? It is quite likely, however, that the grounds for the Healy expulsion are utterly fraudulent and the story has been concocted in order to discredit a leader the WRP has spent over a quarter of a century urging workers to admire.

Mike Banda, general secretary of the WRP. has been in the forefront of the Healy expulsion and it is not improbable that the action was a smear, used to cover up the real reasons for the split. It is not uncommon for those lacking the courage of a political argument to use smear tactics as a means of alienating a leader from the followers. If this is what has happened, then Healy and his supporters (including the Redgraves) will rightly accuse Banda and his clique of using despicable Stalinist techniques. That will be true but, as socialists have often told the Trots, Stalinism follows Leninism as surely as night follows day. If they want to run an organisation of leaders and led, in which the led must be conned into obeying their leaders, there is no avoiding the dirty struggles which leader- politics thrives on. Healy has left the WRP with its membership records. Banda says that the WRP leadership still wants to question Healy regarding Healy's possession of a £16.000 BMW car. And these are the people who are proposing to show the uneducated proletariat the way to socialism!

The crisis in the WRP can be seen as one episode in the recent decline of the Leninist Left in Britain. The CP is split, with most of its members disowning the Morning Star which the CP rule book instructs them to sell. The Militant Tendency is despised by most Labourites and has been seen to fail in its efforts at running capitalism in Liverpool. The SWP seeks unity with the Militant Tendency. although the former (quite correctly) regards Russia as state capitalist and the latter regards it as a workers' state. The Left within the Labour Party is lying low in order to make vote-winning easier for Kinnock. Indeed, one-time hard-Leftists like Ken Livingstone are preparing for the eventuality of a coalition with the Alliance after the next general election. The Left is in a mess.

The Socialist Party, as a principled revolutionary party, founded in 1904, long before the Bolshevik revolution, will not cease to show the Trots for what they are. They are wrong and we will expose their political ignorance; they are dishonest and we will expose their trickery; they are clownish and we will laugh at their amusing misfortunes. We can do that because, not only have we made a principled analysis of Leninism since its inception, but we stand for the interest of the working class. The same cannot be said for the creatures of the gutter who write newspaper articles on the WRP to discredit the concept of "socialism" or "Marxism'. Journalists made great use of the WRP story: RED IN THE BED proclaimed the Mirror (31 October) and SEX STORM ROCKS VANESSA'S PARTY stated the Star on the same day. In London, LBC ran a five-minute feature on the Healy expulsion and the Channel Four News on 30 October had Michael Crick (a name to remember) searching the gutters for material with which to smear the Trots. When was the last time any of these "democratic" media allowed the WRP time or space to tell workers what they stand for? The fact is that these bogus democrats of the media. like their counterparts in Moscow and Pretoria, are in the propaganda business and they will quite willingly broadcast unsubstantiated smears if they will weaken the ideas of those seen to be dissidents. We have made it clear that the WRP are enemies of the working class - but so are those who have been capitalising on their embarrassment. The WRP are not democrats and would not come to the aid of socialists being smeared by the media. The demise of the WRP is to the benefit of workers as there is one less party of confusion-mongers on the scene. Perhaps some of those who invested their energies in Trotskyism will now wish to find out about the real Socialist Party.
Steve Coleman

Material World: The Road From Burma (2017)

The Material World Column from the October 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
The plight and persecution of the Rohingya have featured in the columns of Material World previously. Like so many problems thrown up by capitalism, the topic slips out of the headlines only to return later with greater tragedy.
Tens of thousands are fleeing Myanmar as best they can, driven from their homes by the violence of Myanmar government troops and accompanying vigilante Burmese mobs inflicting massacres and atrocities, in what now appears customary practice in ethnic cleansing operations. Yet the Rohingya in search of sanctuary find it thwarted by Bangladesh and India border guards,
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, the unofficial leader of Myanmar, congratulates her army and condemns the Rohingya for exaggerating their suffering. She accuses the international aid organisations of complicity in giving the Rohingya 'terrorists' support and succour. Fellow Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai has criticised Aung San Suu Kyi for turning a blind eye to the arson and murder. Myanmar has blocked humanitarian aid agencies from delivering vital supplies of food, water and medicine to the desperate civilians. Each day seems to bring new brutalities and expulsion of Rohingya families.
The violence has drastically escalated the sectarian strife. The Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw, who had never really yielded their power to the civilian government, engaged in the brutal repression of dissent, pushing some Rohingya to call for an armed uprising to stop the oppression.
The problem, therefore, became exacerbated by the arrival on the scene of armed groups such as the Arakan Rohingya Salv (ARSA) – who launched violent attacks against Burma's military. In October 2016, hundreds of fighters attacked border posts which prompted a massive army crackdown, with troops accused of rape and indiscriminate killings. In August 2017 attacks on police posts across the north of the state killed 12 members of the security forces and the fully to be expected backlash was swift. ARSA naturally style themselves as 'freedom fighters' yet some analysts such as the International Crisis Group describe them as jihadists financed, recruited and trained by private individuals in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who have campaigned to enhance ARSA’s religious legitimacy further by obtaining fatwas from senior clerics in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere. The stated aim of ARSA is to secure the rights of the Rohingya as citizens within Burma, however its choice of violent resistance may well have set back that cause. It has fuelled the regime's claims that the Rohingya are not peaceful, and that they are foreign interloper, not truly deserving of national recognition and must be expelled.
What is to be feared by authoritarian states most is non-violent protest. Non-violence is neither passive nor a way of avoiding conflict. A non-violent movement that challenges a well-entrenched dictatorship must be prepared for a long struggle and numerous casualties. After all, only one side is committed to non-violence. However, the alternative entails even larger casualties and holds fewer prospects of success. Peaceful resistance does not mean no resistance. It does not mean non-action. It may invite the other minorities such as the Christian Karen and Chinese Shan to support the Rohingya.
As soon as you choose to struggle with violence you're choosing to fight against opponents who are on their own terrain and in possession of the best weapons. The state's police and army are better trained in using those weapons. And they control the infrastructure that allows them to deploy their might. To fight dictators with violence is to cede to them the choice of battleground and tactics. Using violence against experts is the quickest way to defeat.
Socialists are always spontaneously on the side of the oppressed against the oppressors. As world socialists, we are repulsed by the needless and mindless violence going on in the Rakhine state. We sympathise with our fellow-workers, the Rohingya. We condemn and denounce the senseless killing. But let us be frank, as we presently stand, there is little that can be done by the world socialist movement except our constant campaigning for socialism – as the hope of humanity in ending just another one in a series of slaughters taking place within capitalism.

Machinery? (1952)

From the January 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many objects! in class society stand as a monument to the foolishness of man. One of these in present society is that infernal machine the Underground Railway.

At certain times during the day, a surging mass of humanity descends upon this particular means of transport, as it seems to be the quickest way of getting to and from work, speed being the order of the day.

The first delay that must be taken into consideration in our measurement of time, is the long queue of people who wait for an employee of the London Transport, to present them with a ticket in exchange for money. Then we meet that effigy of wasted labour “The Hole Puncher.” After our ticket has made the acquaintance of his Instrument of Office, we put it into our pocket, for it has nothing to do with the running of the train anyway.

Our next step, takes us onto the moving staircase (a realisation on somebody’s part that the worker has so little energy left after his employer has finished with him that he cannot use a normal staircase). Then, standing on an overcrowded platform, we wait the arrival of “The Monster.”

Man has passed many laws for the protection of cattle in transport yet, during the next part of this journey we will see him voluntarily submit himself to conditions that are a violation of every one of these laws. Even the horse has to be saddled, he doesn’t put the halter round his own neck. Pushing and shoving, the assembled company boards the tram, hardly able to breathe the rotten air that pervades the vacant spaces. At last with a sigh of relief, we arrive at our destination, having kept our hands in our own pockets, and our name out of The News of The World.

We present out ticket to another employee of the London Transport Board, who examines it to make sure that we have not fiddled his employer, and then relieves us of its care. So much for “Our” trains. Who ever heard of a person cheating himself? Unless it be a worker at Election time.

Walking off into the comparative fresh air all we can murmur is Why? Why? We are met with the Socialist case. All these unpleasantries are facets of Capitalism, facets of the undeniable fact that Society is divided into two classes.

The “ticket” we buy has no function in the actual running of the train but measures the value of the commodity we are buying in train service, which like all other commodities is produced for exchange, with a view to profit.

This overcrowding is due to the fact that the majority of society owning no “Property” are forced to sell themselves to the Owning Class. They sell themselves for a certain amount of time, and receive sufficient to reproduce the commodity. It is not the purpose of this article to go too deeply into the measure of Value. Sufficient to say that the worker receives just the value of his Labour Power, which is the commodity he sells. This necessitates him living as near to his place of employment as possible, so we have the advent of large industrial towns. It also necessitates him finding the quickest, and cheapest means of travel, so we have the existence of such social monstrosities as Underground Railways. 

The working day begins for most of us long before we arrive at our place of employment, for travelling for the worker is darned hard work, and it is a long time after we leave our place of employment before we can relax, and try to forget that we have to do it all again on the morrow.

All these rotten conditions of life will be with us until the vast majority sees an alternative. It is these conditions that have thrown up a small minority that can see an alternative, the Socialists, but as Socialism is a system of society, based on the cooperation of Common Owners, to introduce it needs the understanding of the vast majority. Therefore we ask you to study our case, for we are sure that if you really get down to understanding Socialism, you will join with us.

Oh! by the way, the Underground seems to have another use too, by the people who, fed up with the problems of Capitalism, have used its electric rail to find the only way out they knew.
Terry Lord
(Croydon Branch)

A Question On Our Pamphlet: "The Socialist Party—Its Principles and Policy" (1952)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
We received the following letter from Mr. Simcox to which we replied. He now asks us to print his letter and our reply.
Editorial Committee.

To the Executive of the S.P.G.B.

In discussion with one of your members of the 1934 edition of your pamphlet “The Socialist Party," I drew his attention to the second half of the second last paragraph of p. 9 in which it is stated that under Socialism “no able-bodied member of the community would be exempted from rendering his due quota of useful service to the community, in return for the material wealth placed at his disposal by society." This did not seem to me vastly different from what was denounced at the top of page 8 as part of Capitalism: “They (the workers) have to sell their labour-power to the owners of the means of living in order to obtain subsistence."

On inquiry, my S.P.G.B. friend found that, in the 1950 edition of “The Socialist Party" pamphlet, the second half of the paragraph to which I had drawn his attention is omitted on p. 9. The 1949 prefatory note says that the pamphlet is “re-issued with minor deletions and additions made necessary by the passage of time since the first edition was published." May I then ask whether the omission of the passage to which 1 drew my friend’s attention is regarded by the executive as a “minor deletion made necessary by the passage of time since the first edition was published."? It seems to me a very important deletion.
John V. Simcox,
Clapham, S.W.4.
P.S.—Possibly the matter could be cleared up in the Socialist Standard.


Mr. J. V. Simcox.

Dear Sir,

We have your letter in which you claim that “a very important deletion” was made in the 1949 edition of the pamphlet “The Socialist Party—Its Principles and Policy."

May we point out, however, that you only arrive at the conclusion that it is  "very important" by attributing to the deleted passage a meaning which it never had. Your interpretation is that it meant something “not vastly different” from the workers having “to sell their labour-power to the owners of the means of living in order to obtain subsistence.”

But as it was clearly and repeatedly shown that under Socialism there would be no wages system and no class owning the means of living your interpretation is absurd.

The passage (“no able-bodied member of the community would be exempted from rendering his due quota of useful service to the community, in return for the material wealth placed at his disposal by society”) was written in the Socialist Standard in July, 1912, and carried on in the pamphlet. It was intended to emphasise (as you can see by the whole paragraph) that there would be no privileged section of society. The writer, having his attention on that aspect merely meant to show that under Socialism there would not be people, like the capitalist class, “exempted," etc. It was not until we were going through the pamphlet again that our attention was drawn to the possibility of it being misunderstood to mean a form of state compulsion. It was therefore deleted. If it had ever been intended to mean what you suggest its deletion would have been important. As it never meant that its deletion was a minor one to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding.
Yours for Socialism,
Editorial Committee

Muddled Critic of the S.P.G.B. (1952)

From the March 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following reference to the S.P.G.B. was published in the December issue of “The Word” which describes itself as “an organ of the United Socialist Movement, edited and published by Guy A. Aldred.”
   “There is also the attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, who issued a manifesto urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist. This curious attitude— which approaches Anarchism—was the result of the 1950 experience at the ballot-box. Carefully analysed, the attitude of the S.P.G.B is seen to be one of futility and hypocrisy. Instead of uniting at this time of crisis in a stand against war and rearmament, which could have been done without a single sacrifice of principle and actually with a great advantage to the propaganda status of the S.P.G.B., members of this stupid and stagnant party wrote ‘S.P.G.B.' across their ballot papers.”
Mr. Alfred, who contested Glasgow Central constituency in October, 1951, is angry because the S.P.G.B. did not support him. He described himself as a “Peace and Independent Socialist” candidate.

Let us deal first with the several inaccuracies in his statements. Of course the S.P.G.B. did not issue a manifesto “urging people not to vote until everyone had joined the S.P.G.B. or became a Socialist.”

The S.P.G.B. does not commit the absurdity of advising non-Socialists how to vote or the equal absurdity of telling Socialists who know it already, that Socialist votes should go only in support of Socialism and that it is useless to vote for Capitalism. What our Manifesto did—a very different thing from Aldred’s misrepresentation—was to point out to Socialists and to nobody else that in the absence of S.P.G.B. candidates “you will be able to register your vote for Socialism by writing ‘Socialism’ across the ballot paper. This will serve to advertise the number of those who have realised that the use of the vote to support any other candidate no matter how he describes himself, is a vote for capitalism.”

Then Mr. Aldred tells his readers that this “curious” S.P.G.B. attitude “was the result of its 1950 experience at the ballot-box.”

The S.P.G.B. was doing this right from its formation in 1904, which means that it was doing it at the time when Mr. Aldred applied for membership of the S.P.G.B., and in 1928 when he offered to give his support to S.P.G.B. candidates on certain conditions. And although he calls it “curious” he has himself in the past committed the decidedly curious action of standing as an “anti-Parliamentary” Parliamentary candidate, and in the article from which we quote he declares that abstaining from voting “is sound expression of both Socialist and Anarchist principles.” If it is sound Socialist principle to vote for Socialism or to abstain from voting (two views which Aldred professes to agree with) it is hard to see why the S.P.G.B. line should strike him as curious.

But then consistency was never Aldred’s strong point. In his article he calls the S.P.G.B. “stupid and stagnant” but declares that he wanted our “stupid and stagnant” support, and that if it had been given, “ a Peace vote . . . at Central Glasgow, would have been a tremendous event” It recalls his declaration in 1928 (“The Commune” July, 1928), when, after denouncing the S.P.G.B. (quite falsely) for advocating “the nationalisation of the l.L.P. under which the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer,” be offered to support S.P.G.B. candidates at elections; but not on the condition that we abandoned our purely imaginary advocacy of nationalisation, but on the condition that we pledged ourselves to challenge the oath of allegiance!

Elsewhere in Aldred’s article in “The Word” he tries to explain his own policy and his attitude to the Labour Party, I.L.P., Communist Party and Anarchists, a group which for some curious reason he believes to represent “ the Socialist and working-class organisation of the country.”

His chief complaint is that they “substituted Toryism for Capitalism, as the enemy.” It seems to have surprised as well as angered him. But anyone who imagines that the above-named group ever stood for the abolition of capitalism and who can describe them as “Socialist” is capable of being surprised at any normal demonstration of their anti-working class activities.

He even falls for the nonsense of supposing that the Communist Party which runs capitalism in Russia is all right, and it is only their communist stooges in Britain who are no good. He writes: “Surely it is time that the Communists in the Soviet countries realised what a worthless, inept and inadequate bunch the Communist Party is in Britain.”

How the Russian Communist Party would laugh at such simplicity.

And while Aldred takes these other parties to task for lighting Toryism instead of lighting capitalism (as if they didn’t know that their chances of getting elected depended on doing just that!) he himself does the same by substituting “war and rearmament” as the enemy, instead of capitalism. He writes:—“I stood for the recognition of Communist China and the Five Power Peace Pact.” He wanted “Unity on the part of the Pacifist and Socialist thinking groups,” and “a Peace vote, a definite anti-war vote.”

Since he attaches so much importance to the recognition of Capitalist China why didn’t he support the Labour Party which gave that recognition over a year ago, or even the Tory Party which made no statement about rescinding it? If he waits long enough he will probably find Tories and Labourites uniting to support more Five Power Peace Pacts (or 25 Power Peace Pacts), and all the Capitalist Powers including Russia and China getting together to cut the cost of armaments—and of course capitalism all over the world will be as strong as ever, and just a little more firmly established through the confusion spread by people like Mr. Aldred.
Editorial Committee

*See also June 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard