Monday, November 20, 2017

Letter From Europe: Wage-freeze in France (1983)

The Letter From Europe column from the January 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The (total) wage and (partial) price freeze imposed by the French government following the devaluation of the franc last June came to an end on 1 November. Since the government had expected prices to rise by at least 2.7 per cent during the freeze in other words, it believed the real purchasing power of wages would fall by this amount the 1.5 per cent increase is being heralded as a success.

In fact however this slow-down in the rise in the general price level was due more to the current world depression than to the French government’s price controls, as is shown by the fact that over the same period prices rose by less in Britain and Germany.

As far as the general price level is concerned, two contradictory factors are now at work in all countries: first, there is the continuing inflation of inconvertible paper currencies which exerts an upward pressure, and then there is the world depression which exerts a downward pressure. In the 19th century, when the value of money was relatively stable, the general price level still tended to rise in times of boom (through demand for goods tending to exceed supply) and to fall in times of slump (through supply tending to exceed demand).

This latter downward movement has not ceased to operate, but it has tended to be obscured by the inflationary monetary policies pursued by nearly all governments since the beginning of the second world war. Due to the overissue of paper currencies. the general price level has continued to rise even in slumps, a phenomenon which has been dubbed “stagflation” or “slumpflation”. Nowadays the depressing effect of a slump on the price level is only discernible in the slowing down of the rate of price rises. Such a slowing-down has become particularly noticeable over the last six months or so. enabling both Thatcher in Britain and Mitterrand in France to claim the credit for something for which they are not in the least responsible.

The other result of a slump is falling real wages — what wages will buy in relation to the prices of consumer goods. In the present era of chronic inflation, this does not necessarily involve a fall in money wages (though this can happen, and has been happening). Real wages fall also if money wages increase less than the increase in consumer prices. This has been happening for some time in Britain, where trade unions have had to settle for wage increases below the rate of inflation. The recent government-imposed wage freeze in France has had the same result.

During the four-month period of the wage freeze, not only did prices rise by 1.5 per cent, representing an equivalent cut in the real purchasing power of wage and salary earners, but any rises under previously negotiated agreements due during this period were banned by law from being paid.

Naturally the employers were the last to complain about this since both the decrease in real purchasing power (from their point of view, a decrease in real wages costs) and the non-payment of contracted wage increases meant an increase in their profits. In other words, the money lost by the workers went into the pockets of the employers.

The government claimed at the time it introduced the wage and (partial) price freeze that this was part of a necessary national effort in face of the crisis, but the Minister of the Economy, Jacques Delors. has recently disclosed that the real aim was to increase profits. In a speech to the congress of a catholic employers’ organisation called “Ethic" on 26 October, apart from announcing that the minimum wage would not be increased as much in 1982 as originally promised (which attracted most of the publicity), he also spoke about the investment problems of private capitalist firms:
Gross operating revenues have fallen for the last three years to such levels that enterprises no longer have the minimum margin of self-financing to allow them to ensure a balanced financing of their investments (Républican Lorrain, 28 October).
"Gross operating revenues" (revenus bruts d'exploitation) is a term used by accountants to refer to the income of enterprises over a given period, normally a year, over and above their production costs but before payment of taxes, social insurance contributions. interest charges and dividends. In other words, gross profits.

After complaining, then, that these gross profits were not high enough. Delors went on:
A recovery of the gross operating revenues of enterprises is needed to restore a dynamism to our economy, and without a minimum of transfers of the national wealth to these gross revenues the minimum conditions for investment will not be met (our emphasis).
“National wealth" is a vague term, but what Delors has in mind is the "gross national product” (GNP), or the total amount of new wealth produced in a year before deduction of that used to renew used-up fixed capital. But the wealth newly-produced in a year only has two elements: the gross operating revenues of enterprises and the wages of productive workers. Clearly then, the wealth Delors wants to transfer to gross profits can only come out of that currently going to workers as wages. Which is precisely what the four-month wages freeze achieved. Indeed, the real reason for the freeze is quite clear: to decrease wages so as to allow enterprises to make bigger profits.

Although the wages freeze ended on 1 November, government-backed wage restraint is to continue until at least the end of 1983. The government has set the target for price rises in 1983 at “only” 8 per cent and has proclaimed this as the limit too for wages increases this year, though it is allowing provision to be made for additional increases negotiated in January 1984 if in the end prices rise by more than this limit. As has frequently happened in Britain under similar circumstances, it is civil servants and workers in the nationalised industries who have been the first victims of this policy of wage restraint, a case of the government as employer setting an example to private employers. One of the “benefits” of nationalisation (or state capitalism) that its advocates forgot to mention to workers in newly-nationalised industries?

We have even been treated to the spectacle of one group of employers, those in the sugar-beet industry, being told by a government composed of "socialists" and “communists" that an agreement under which wages were automatically linked to rises in the cost of living and which they had been applying for some years was illegal and should not be applied either for 1982 or for 1983. The PS/PC government unearthed a statutory order dating from 1959 declaring such indexing illegal, even though such agreements, which provide workers with a minimum protection from the effects of inflation, have in fact been widely applied in France in recent years. The government's invoking of this order now is yet another proof of their intention to reduce the real purchasing power of wages and salaries.

This blatantly anti-working class policy pursued by an allegedly socialist/communist government merely confirms that it is not possible to run capitalism in the interest of the working class and that any party which tries to do so is bound to end up running capitalism in the only way it can—as a profit-making system in the interest of those who live off profits derived from their monopoly over the means of production.
Adam Buick

Women's Estate (1983)

From the February 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Women's Liberation Movement could be said to be divided into two groups: Socialist Feminists and Revolutionary Feminists. In one editorial of Scarlet Women the Socialist Feminists say " . . . we have to examine Socialist Feminist thought and seek to redevelop it. What we are looking for is nothing less than a total redefinition of Socialist thought and practice. We are looking towards a Socialism that abolishes patriarchy”. The Revolutionary Feminists stress the primacy of the sex struggle for women, in contrast to the Marxist emphasis on the class struggle. Their focus is on issues which directly concern the sexual subordination of women to men — rape, prostitution, control of reproduction and pornography. They claim that Marxist analyses which are based on the primacy of the class struggle are incapable of adequately dealing with these issues or any others which they say cut across class boundaries. They see women as a sex class. So there is a tendency in the women's movement to be critical of Marxist theory as neglecting the sexual division.

Simone de Beauvoir, in her book Second Sex, says men are encouraged to play out their lives in the realm of transcendence, whereas women are confined to immanence. In other words, men work, create, do things, are in positions of authority and make their own histories, whereas women are confined to the home where their function is not to create but to maintain. Women keep house and raise children. Of course, reality is not quite like this, since work in a capitalist society is often stifling and stunting and men engaging in it could hardly be described as creating their own histories by transcending themselves. Within the present social context, however, it is still true that men are trained to go out, work and, within limits, shape their own lives and that, even bearing in mind the alienating nature of work, they have more opportunities to satisfy their need for creativity than women. The myth that woman's natural place is in the home and that naturally she will find the fulfilment of her creativity in bearing and raising children is terribly destructive.

A woman may, and does, work while living with a man, although many a wife maintains a home for her husband and lives for him and through him rather than for and through herself. A mother’s job outside the home may offer the family more than week-to-week subsistence. It is her wage that enables the family to eat better food, have a holiday or new clothes. It does not follow that the job will be satisfying; many jobs open to women are unpleasant — waitresses, clerks, salesgirls, typists and factory hands. Usually the nature of these jobs makes marriage seem more attractive, and often girls hope to find the best available man for financial security or to escape from the crowded and repressive home.

The pattern of wifely subservience is changing, however, and the myth that child bearing and rearing is the fulfilment of a woman’s destiny is being questioned. Having children is no substitute for creating one's own life, but many women are conditioned to devote themselves to nothing else and so end up as intolerable burdens on their children.

Much of the resentment in Women’s Liberation movements against men is sexual — they feel they are being treated as objects (as. in fact, many are). Fashions, advertising, films and magazines all betray the fact that women are culturally conceived of as objects and, worse still, often accept this definition and try to make themselves into a more desirable commodity on the sexual market. We must recognise that this self-definition and conscious acceptance is related to economic and social structures. Men and women are oppressed together and must be liberated together. Women will not achieve anything by venting their hostility on men. They must recognise that capitalist society inculcates destructive beliefs about themselves and must understand the extent to which they have been conditioned since childhood.

If we recognise that the problems facing women are related to the structure of the whole society, then we see that the only solution is to change society fundamentally. We live in a capitalist society where goods are produced for sale with a view to profit. Simple manufacture has evolved into a gigantic electronic technology. The world retains the same basic social relations, in both public and private sectors, of capital and wage labour. All over the world there is poverty, famine, insecurity, inequality and war. The basic reason is the commodity nature of wealth under capitalism — the fact that wealth is socially produced and privately owned. Every social system has its basis through which almost every feature of it can be traced and explained. The morals, attitudes and institutions of capitalism are explained through the class ownership of the means of producing and distributing the world’s wealth.

A section of the population, as direct proprietors or company shareholders, own the land, factories, mines, workshops, ships, banks and any other trading concern, or invest their money in government or municipal securities. This is the basic social condition which forms social relationships like buying and selling, employing and being employed. It is also responsible for social institutions like shops and markets, which are needed for the relationships to operate. On one side is the capitalist class and on the other the working class.

A class is a group of people who, although they may differ in their nationality or background or their so-called race, have economic interests in common. A class, with its common economic interests, exists whether or not its members realise it. A capitalist is someone who has enough ownership to be able to live without going to work for a wage or salary. Because of this ownership the capitalist's interests are opposed to those of the working class — those people who do not own enough to give them a living but who rely for their livelihood on selling their labour power to the employer for wages.

Whenever a commodity is bought or sold there immediately occurs a clash of interests, for it is to the advantage of the seller to sell for the highest possible price and of the buyer to buy at the lowest price possible. Therefore it is in the interest of the working class to get the highest wages and best working conditions they can, and in the interest of the employers to exploit workers as intensely as they can for as little as possible. This dooms the majority of capitalism’s people to poverty. Capitalism produces for profit — when profit is not available production ceases or wealth is destroyed. Because of its basic characteristics, capitalism is unable to satisfy the needs and desires of the world’s people. It must always deprive, undermine and suppress them.

If the Women's Liberation Movement achieves all its immediate demands, such as equal pay, educational opportunities, 24 hour nurseries, free contraception and abortion on demand, there will remain the need for a revolutionary change in society.
Although Women’s Liberation came into existence in the late nineteen-sixties, feminist organisations were in being long before. Juliet Mitchell in Women’s Estate says of the Suffragettes " . . and indeed when in 1918 in England it (the vote) was given to women over thirty who owned property the most powerful wing of the movement was satisfied and the struggle evaporated”. The Women’s Liberation movement is not different from other reformist organisations which choose to put immediate aims before a revolutionary change in society.
Doreen Davies

Marx the journalist (1983)

From the March 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

For the first two years of his exile in England Marx actively involved himself in German refugee politics. He was still a member of the central committee of the Communist League and was in contact with the League's members who had stayed in Germany. His English contact was Harney whom he met again at a banquet organised by the Society of Fraternal Democrats at the end of 1849. In April 1850 Harney, for the Fraternal Democrats, together with Marx. Engels and Willich for the German Communist League and Adam and Vidil for the French Blanquists signed a declaration setting up a “Universal League of Revolutionary Communists" committed to “the overthrow of all privileged classes, their subjection to the dictatorship of the proletariat under which the revolution shall be maintained sine die until the communist society, the final organisation of the human family, has been realised". In June Harney started to publish his own paper The Red Republican, in whose November issue was published the first English translation of the Communist Manifesto, identifying Marx and Engels as its authors.

Throughout 1850 Marx and Engels contributed a regular column to the Revue of the Neue Rheinische Z'eitung which was published in Hamburg. Among the things they commented on was the political scene in Britain, such as the death of Sir Robert Peel and the prospects of the Chartist movement, but the bulk of the material they sent on Britain concerned the economic situation there. Some time in the autumn of 1850 Marx came to the conclusion that there was a direct connection between economic crises and revolution. He read through the back numbers of the economist and a volume of Thomas Tooke’s History of Prices which had just been published to try to understand the economic crisis of 1847 which had preceded the revolutionary outbreak of 1848. The result was the detailed account of the course of this crisis which appeared in the Revue.

Marx's position about there being a direct link between crises and revolution led him to a further conclusion: that in the then period of prosperity there was no immediate prospect of revolution; the revolutionary wave sparked off by the 1847 crisis was over and it was pointless to continue to try to provoke an immediate revolutionary uprising. This was a revision of the view Marx had expressed as recently as April 1850 in the statement he had signed with the Blanquists and Harney and it led to a split in the Communist League. It also led Marx to break with Harney who, as a romantic revolutionary, sympathised with those, including Marx’s opponents in the Communist League, who wanted to continue plotting a more or less immediate insurrection. When Harney's position became known, Engels at Marx's request immediately stopped contributing articles to his paper, which had in the meantime changed its name to The Friend of the People. Their other pre-1848 contact, Ernest Jones, was released from prison in 1850 and was soon involved in an acrimonious dispute with Harney over the use of the title of O'Connor’s paper The Northern Star, which ceased publication in 1852. Marx and Engels took Jones's side in this dispute and in 1851 Engels was contributing instead to Jones's Notes to the People which later became The People's Paper.

The split in the Communist League occurred at a meeting of its central committee held on 15 September 1850. According to the Minutes. Marx explained his opposition to the policy of plotting immediate insurrection on the grounds that workers must be told that "if you want to change conditions and make yourselves capable of government, you will have to undergo fifteen, twenty or fifty years of civil war", by which he meant many years of intense class struggle, certainly involving occasional violent confrontations with the state, rather than "civil war" in what has become the literal sense. This was to remain Marx's view for the rest of his life and represented a return to the pattern for the evolution of working class political consciousnss which he had outlined, on the basis of experience of the English Chartist movement, before the bourgeois-revolutionary interlude of 1848-9. He first acted on this when he participated, through Jones's People's Paper, in the English working class movement between 1852 and 1856.

But Marx's immediate concern was to earn a living. If he can be said to have had a profession it was journalism. He had been the editor of a democratic newspaper in Germany in 1842-43 and again in 1848-9. It was as editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung that he had met in 1848 an American journalist. Charles Dana, who was touring Europe. Dana was the editor of the New York Daily Tribune, one of America's leading newspapers. It had been founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley and took up a generally democratic position on the issues of the day. Three years later Dana, who was anxious to increase the paper's circulation among the German immigrants (and refugees) who had come to America after the final failure of the German bourgeois-democratic revolution in 1849. wrote to Marx asking him to contribute a scries of articles on this revolution. Marx gladly accepted this offer but. although it was submitted in Marx's name, this series — later published as Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany — was in fact written by Engels, partly because Marx had not yet acquired the confidence to write directly in English. Dana was very pleased with the contributions Marx had sent him and Marx became the regular London and European correspondent of the New York Daily Tribune for the next ten years. The first article written by Marx — an introductory article on the political parties in Britain in the context of the then impending General Election appeared on 21 August 1852. The last article appeared in March 1862. Marx's first articles were written in German and translated into English by Engels — indeed, Engels throughout this whole period continued to write articles in Marx’s name — but later Marx began to write in English himself; which explains the peculiar grammar and vocabulary of some of the earlier articles.

The sub-editors of the New York Daily Tribune felt free to alter the articles as they considered appropriate. Marx eventually objected to this, since not all of the changes were of a purely editorial nature. One of the sub-editors was pro-Russian and often toned down the anti-Russia views expressed by Marx in his articles on the Eastern Question and the Crimean War. As a result of Marx’s protests, it was agreed that his articles should no longer be published with his signature. The last article signed by Marx (though ironically in fact mainly written by Engels!) was “Prospect in France and England" which appeared on 27 April 1855. Even before that date, Dana had used some of Marx’s articles as unsigned editorials.

Marx was a conscientious journalist who always read up a subject before writing an article on it. But his main source of information was inevitably the London daily and weekly papers. Apart of course from The Times, the main dailies Marx relied on were the Daily News, The Globe, The Morning Advertiser, The Morning Chronicle, The Morning Herald and The Morning Post. Marx also occasionally, through his contact with Engels who was living there, used the Manchester Guardian. Marx gives a useful run-down on the London dailies and their polities in an article published in Die Presse of Vienna on 31 December 1861. The article describes the press scene at that time rather than in the early and middle 1850s, when Marx did most of his writing for the New York Daily Tribune, but it had not changed all that much during this period. As to weeklies, Marx relied on The Economist, The Leader, and Jones's People's Paper.

But Marx also did some direct reporting himself, especially for the articles he wrote in 1855 for the Neue Oder Zeitung. He attended political meetings and rallies in London and was present in the Visitors’ Gallery for some of the debates in the House of Commons which he reported.

Marx came to be the London correspondent of the Neue Oder Zeitung through Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864). whose cousin. Max Friedlander (1829-1872). became one of the paper’s owners at the end of 1854. This paper had been published under this name since 1849 in Breslau on the river Oder (now Wroclau in present-day Poland) and, like the New York Daily Tribune, took up a generally pro-democratic position, though Marx had not agreed with the line it had taken during the German revolution when it had attacked workers’ organisations and “socialists". Marx contributed articles, some again written by Engels, some translations or German versions of articles he had sent to the New York Daily Tribune, throughout 1855. Marx's last article appeared on 8 October and the paper ceased publication soon afterwards. Marx seems to have felt freer to express his pro-working class position in the Neue Oder Zeitung than in the New York Daily Tribune, though this position is evident in the latter too, even if not so pronounced.

When collected together Marx’s articles do indeed provide an analysis of British politics and society in the 1850s by the same journalistic pen which wrote the much more widely known analyses of French politics over a shorter period, in the Class Struggles in France and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.

The other paper for which Marx regularly wrote paid articles was Die Presse in 1861 and 1862. This was the leading liberal daily published in Vienna, indeed one of the leading papers in the Austrian Empire. Marx had had opportunities to write for it earlier than 1861, but had turned them down on political grounds. The contact was again Lassalle's cousin, Max Friedlander, who had in the meantime become the paper's editor. In 1861 and 1862 Marx contributed a number of articles to Die Presse, a large number of them dealing with the American Civil War. especially about relations between Britain and the United States but also covering other subjects.

Marx's work as a paid journalist came to an end with the publication of his last article in Die Presse on 4 December 1862.
Adam Buick

Failure of Keynesian policies (1983)

From the April 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the depression of the thirties, with unemployment rising to peak levels and governments toppling because of their inability to do anything about it, most economists and many political parties were overjoyed to adopt the theories of J. M. Keynes, which held out to them the guarantee that capitalism's principal troubles were over. This is not surprising since Keynes promised continued full employment — the end of depressions with their accompanying massive demonstrations of working class discontent, the removal of one of the causes of war, and the arrival of lots of other good things. Keynes, they said, had revolutionised economic thought, blotted out the growing interest in Marx’s theories, and made capitalism safe. In 1944 the three parties. Tory, Labour and Liberal. all part of the war-time National government. formally endorsed the main Keynesian doctrines in the government White Paper, Employment Policy, which set out the principles to be followed by post-war governments.

The attitudes of the three parties have partly changed since then. While the Labour Party, the Liberals and their allies the Social Democratic Party are still unrepentant Keynesians — as also are some Tories—the main body of the Tories, under Thatcher's leadership, have thrown Keynes over and adopted the theories of Professor Milton Friedman.

Some leaders of the Labour Party went through a phase of doubting their saviour when Callaghan the Labour Prime Minister and Healey the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted the “monetarist” policies now followed by the Thatcher government. It is for this reason that the present leader of the Labour Party, Michael Foot, gives 1976 as the date of the abandonment of those Keynesian principles which, he says, "for a quarter of a century or more, worked with such beneficial effects" (New Statesman, 26 November 1982).

The Keynesian argument is that if the demand for goods is maintained at a high level, industry is kept busy and unemployment will remain low. The "demand management" cure for rising unemployment is therefore for the government to increase its expenditure and investment, meeting the additional cost by borrowing: this will, the Keynesians say, increase the number of jobs. It is crucial for the Keynesian argument that the increase of government expenditure and investment should not be offset by a simultaneous fall in the investment by private industry. The Keynesians claim indeed that increased expenditure by the government will positively stimulate investment and activity in private industry.

The Keynesians have an early showpiece, supposed to vindicate Keynes, in the Roosevelt New Deal in America. A Keynesian admirer of the New Deal is Dudley Dillard, sometime Professor of Economics at Maryland University who wrote about it in his The Economics of J.M. Keynes (Lochwood & Son, London. 1948). In his book Professor Dillard compared the Keynesian policy of the New Deal with what happened in Great Britain at the same time, under the anti-Keynesian National government. His specific claim for Roosevelt is:
The economic expansion between 1933 and 1937, despite occasional minor relapses, was one of the most rapid in the history of American business cycles. The speed of this recovery was undoubtedly conditioned by the depths to which activity had plummeted in 1932. It was, nevertheless, a remarkable recovery which was nurtured by fairly large-scale loan expenditure (p. 127).
So how successful was the New Deal with its Keynesian policies? Unemployment in America was 24.1 per cent in 1932, the year when Roosevelt became President, and 25.2 per cent in 1933. By 1937 it was down to 14.3 per cent, though it rose again in 1938 to 19.1 per cent, which is nearly double what it is in America in 1983. In Britain at the same time, with a government running a non-Keynesian policy, unemployment fell from 22.1 percent in 1932 and 19.9 per cent in 1933 to 10.8 per cent in 1937. and it was 13.5 per cent in 1938. So, as Marxist theory would lead us to expect, the trend of unemployment was much the same whether the policy was Keynesian or not.

And what about the Keynesian argument that increased government expenditure stimulates private industry? In the pre-depression year. 1929, “government expenditure, including capital expenditure” was $22 billion, and “gross private domestic fixed investment” was $39.5 billion. In 1938 the former had risen to $34.2 billion but the latter had dropped to $21.5 billion. As the one went up and the other went down. Dillard admits that private investment “remained abnormally low". He and Keynes met this with the plea that it might have been different if the Roosevelt government had increased its expenditure still more. It is difficult to counter arguments of the “what might have been" variety, but it is worth remembering that in Germany where the government in 1920 not only increased expenditure but multiplied it enormously (also in the belief that it would create jobs) in 1923 about 25 per cent of the workers were out of work and nearly as many again were on short time.

Michael Foot believes that Keynesian policy was a success for 1945 to 1976 in Britain. But did it work as he thinks it did? Unemployment for years after 1945 was abnormally low. In fact it was considerably lower than Keynes expected from his Full Employment policy. But was it the result of Keynesian policy? One Keynesian, Joan Robinson, in her Problems of Full Employment (1950) said it was not. “Employment after the war would have been high in any case.”

Another Keynesian, Alvin Hansen, in his Guide to Keynes (1953) said the same: “Full employment was however primarily the result of the war and post-war developments, not of consensus policy”. And Aneurin Bevan, Minister in the Attlee government, attributed the low unemployment to Marshall Aid. These hundreds of millions of dollars enabled British industry to obtain materials the lack of which was hampering production. Bevan said, in 1948: “Without Marshall Aid unemployment in this country would at once have risen to 1½ million.”

So it wasn’t Keynes but Marshall and the American government who kept unemployment abnormally low for some years after the war. From the mid-fifties until 1976, in spite of Keynesian policies, unemployment has been on a more or less continuous upward trend. It touched 575,000 in 1958, 747,000 in 1963, a million in 1972, and 1½ million in 1976, and so on to the present 3⅓ million. Keynesian policy had nothing to do with the very low unemployment in the early post-war years, and nothing to do with the subsequent steady increase.

A major factor was first, the war-time destruction in Japan, Germany and some other countries which pul them for all practical purposes out of the world market, and later on their return to the world market in strength after their industries had been rebuilt and modernised, largely with American finance. They came back as cheap producers able more and more to undersell British products.

In 1955 British capitalists’ share in world exports of manufactured goods (based on 11 industrial countries including Japan and Germany) was 19.8 per cent. It had dropped to 13.8 per cent in 1965 and to 10.6 per cent in 1970. The fall has continued so that for the first time British imports of manufactures now exceed exports. And with this change of conditions unemployment in Britain went on rising, well before the start of the great depression in 1979. So Keynesian “demand management” is based on fallacious theory and its two showpieces, Roosevelt’s New Deal and Foot’s golden age of 1945-76, demonstrate that it does not work.

Two other aspects of the doctrine deserve mention. The 1944 White Paper looked forward to more or less stable prices, and Keynes himself looked to slowly rising wages “while keeping prices stable" (General Theory, p.271). What we got was continually rising prices, so that the level in 1976 was more than four times what it had been in 1945.

Lastly. Keynes held that many wars are caused by “the competitive struggle for markets” and they would be ruled out by the adoption of his full employment policy (General Theory, p.381). It is therefore interesting to notice that the Labour Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, while all professing to accept Keynesian policies, are all busy with schemes for increasing the competitiveness of British exports against foreign rivals, by such devices as lowering the exchange rate of the pound. In the House of Commons on 10 November 1982 Roy Jenkins, Leader of the SDP, said that “Britain’s lack of competitiveness was the central problem requiring solution”, and he agreed with the Labour Party spokesman, Peter Shore, that “a reduction in the exchange rate could make an important contribution".

According to Keynes, his full employment policy makes it unnecessary to go in for the war-promoting, competitive struggle for markets. Is the explanation that the three Keynesian parties do not now believe that full employment works, and are hanging on to it only because they have to oppose Thatcher’s policies and believe that the empty promise of full employment may still be a vote-catcher at the next election?
Edgar Hardcastle

Power struggle in Zimbabwe (1983)

From the May 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent massacres in Zimbabwe have shown more clearly than ever that the real choice facing black workers in Africa is not between “white” and “black" rule. The issue runs deeper, and is a question of power itself. Zimbabwe, like Russia, is a capitalist state masquerading under the name of socialism. The rich resources of gold, chromium, tobacco, asbestos, copper and diamonds are controlled by a minority, including private shareholders and state bureaucrats both within and outside its artificial national boundary. The majority of the people are wage-workers, earning under £25 a month in many cases, so that their “national” bosses can accumulate capital.

At the end of March, the government stepped up a campaign of terror aimed at “dissidents” supposedly associated with Joshua Nkomo’s opposition ZAPU party. The Fifth Brigade, a government force of specially trained ex-guerrillas, were reported to have slaughtered whole villages in Matabeleland, in a series of horrific atrocities. Thousands were detained without trial, opponents were tortured and trade unions suppressed. Government denials of these barbaric examples of a capitalist state in action rang very hollow. For example, in the Assembly on February 3, Nkomo accused the Fifth Brigade of having raped "masses of teachers” near Tsholotsho. The Deputy Minister for Education hotly denied this, pointing out that it was six teachers who had been raped, not “a mass”. Brigadier Garver, in charge of National Army operations, was sent to instruct the Fifth to be less brutal in future. Food aid and drought relief to Matabeleland was cut off by the government as part of its "anti-dissident" campaign. Thousands are on the verge of starvation and relief was resumed in some parts only after some ministers said they had seen local people eating grass.

There is a long-standing animosity between the Shona and Ndebele tribes, with the Shona forming the great majority, except in Matabeleland. There, former members of Nkomo’s Z1PRA guerrillas had imposed a brutal reign of terror "on behalf’ of the Ndebele agricultural workers, whose white farmer employers are protected by the government. This was the reason given for sending in the Fifth Brigade, known to many as the “Shona hitmen". But the real issue is one of class, not tribe. The tribal divisions are to some extent being bridged. The new head of ZAPU, since Nkomo’s departure is himself a member of the Shona tribe. At least one government minister (Mark Dube) is of the Ndebele tribe. Clearly, neither the self-appointed "dissident" guerrillas of Matabeleland nor the government shock troops can serve the interests of the majority who are excluded from all power and property. The new black and white élite  drink in the exclusive Harare Club (known as the Salisbury Club under the previous regime) and dine extravagantly at La Fontaine. They know that their wealth is secure as long as their wage-slaves kill and maim one another over past divisions and diversions, instead of rejecting political violence and demagoguery and uniting for socialism.

News reporters from various foreign newspapers have been expelled or banned from working in Zimbabwe for revealing the details of the government campaign. The slogans of peace and freedom on which Mugabe won support have been rapidly abandoned. It is just one of many ironies of the situation that one of the banned journalists was Nick Worrall of the Guardian, whose father was banned by the Ian Smith regime in 1969 when working for the same paper. There are many other examples of continuity between the former “colonial” and white-racist regime of Smith and the "black nationalist” rule of Mugabe. The Central Intelligence Organisation is run directly by Mugabe, as it was by Smith, and the Ministers for Security and Defence are now answerable directly to him, rather than to the Cabinet. The notorious Emergency Powers Act, under which some members of the present cabinet were once indefinitely detained, has been renewed every six months since independence three years ago. The traditional tortures of electric shock and suffocation by water have been kept in use for opponents of the state, and some claim to have been tortured by the same white officers as during the war for independence. The Law and Order Maintenance Act has never been repealed, and there has been a renewed use of Smith’s Indemnity and Compensation Act, which prevents any prosecutions from being brought against state forces. Ministers have even complained publicly that the judges are not as keen to enforce these oppressive laws as they were under the previous regime. Political rallies can now only be held with government permission, and Mugabe has been pressing for the abolition of the Senate and the further consolidation of state power for his party.

For many workers in Zimbabwe, 1980 was a year of great hope. After years of poverty. violence and institutionalised racism, there was at last a chance to vote for a black leader of the newly-established independent state. The election was hardly democratic, with widespread intimidation. Mugabe (ZANU) called himself a "Marxist" and promised wide-scale nationalisation and social reform in contrast to the “free market” capitalism of Bishop Muzorewa. He also depended to a large extent on Shona tribal loyalty. The government now claims that it has had to resort to all the oppressive actions of its predecessors because it has come under pressure from multinationals, white farmers, armed dissidents, militant socialists, drought and world recession. But this is merely a rather belated admission of what Mugabe could not afford to admit during his election campaign. Without democratic revolutionary action by a majority of workers, the system of production for profit remains, with all its violent contradictions. Mugabe is not a Marxist, but a Leninist. Although he opposes the Leninist state dictatorship in Russia, nevertheless he stands not for workers freeing ourselves by taking over the world’s wealth democratically, but for the control of society by a bureaucratic elite who “charitably” grant crumbs of reform “if conditions allow".

In this he represents a continuity with the history of oppression in Africa, rather than radical change. Like the rest of the continent, Zimbabwe has passed under the control of one band of parasites after another over the last hundred years, while the impoverished majority of black workers have worked to produce wealth which they do not own. In 1890, the British South African Company used armed force to invade Matabeleland (Southern Rhodesia) and take from King Lobengula its rich mineral and agricultural resources. The natives were herded into “reserves” and the fertile land was handed over to white European settlers. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were taken at the same time, and these states were linked by Britain in 1953 into the Central African Federation. This was an attempt to form an enlarged and lucrative market area under the control of the “settler” government. The Federation was broken up under African pressure in 1963 and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became independent as Zambia and Malawi.

Rhodesian state racism
The white settlers in (Southern) Rhodesia had ruled from their own parliament in Salisbury (now Harare) since 1923, but the British government refused to grant them full independence until the Africans who formed 19 out of 20 of the population were given more of a share in the government. This the colonial government refused to do and in 1965 Ian Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The resulting United Nations sanctions were widely broken, but it took fourteen years of negotiations, culminating in the Lancaster House talks, before independence was granted to the new state of Zimbabwe. From 1973 a violent guerrilla war had been waged by the Patriotic Front, representing the forces of native rather than settler nationalism. Through all these struggles since 1890, there is one common factor. Developments in the productive forces of the region have produced a succession of propertied interests competing for state power. It may appear strange to trace a line of descent from Mugabe, through Ian Smith to Cecil Rhodes himself, but each of these has stood for a particular sectional interest, always dressed up as something with more popular appeal. Mugabe represents a trend which is already prevalent in Africa, in which the traditional capitalist exploitation of wage-labour for the accumulation of capital is organised to a large extent by the state, rather than by private individuals. This nationalisation, often referred to as “public" ownership, is popular with would-be rulers of states which are not highly industrialised. since it allows the rates of profit and the pace of capital accumulation to be rapidly increased by organising industry in larger units.

Since 1890, most workers in Zimbabwe had suffered not only the poverty and insecurity of all those who depend on selling their daily ability to work in order to live but were seen by the colonial government as barely human, because of the colour of their skin. Almost inevitably, the constant fear and terrible indignity of this second-class existence was assumed by many to be simply the result of white rule and foreign domination. By the 1970s many black workers had gained the political confidence and strength to challenge that rule, and the arguments for “self-determination" and "democratic national independence" gained many committed supporters for the Patriotic Front. But the vote for Mugabe in 1980 was a vote for state capitalism. The informal apartheid of Rhodesia was to become a thing of the past, but the pervasive contradictions of world capitalism were to be allowed to flourish, under the enthusiastic leadership of Robert Mugabe. We do not just make these observations with hindsight. Before the election, the Socialist Party of Great Britain stated:
Whoever gains power, we may be sure he will be hell-bent on building up the capitalist economy and on training his citizens to become hard-working, obedient wages slaves, regardless of whether his advice, investment and technical assistance comes from the Soviet Union. Great Britain, South Africa or wherever. The hollow phrase “Victory to the Patriotic Front", beloved by the left-wing, means for African workers the victory of a different style of exploitation. (Socialist Standard, March 1980.)
Many lives were lost in the war for "self-determination" and "majority rule”. It is now clear that even with a black figurehead in Zimbabwe to represent international capital, the problems of class division and violence persist. Events in Zimbabwe have shown that capitalism, as a system of production, is truly world-wide. Seventy per cent of industrial and commercial assets there are owned by multinationals. I.onhro controls over a million acres of ranchland, and the South African-based Anglo-American corporation dominates the sugar, mining and banking sectors. Any notions of national self-sufficiency are unrealistic and backward-looking in a world of rapidly growing interdependence. The capitalist class ignore national boundaries when they are seeking profitable investments. The nationalist response to the oppression of imperialism is its mirror image and leads to further oppression on a local scale.

The pressure of global uniformity is so great today that it has not been possible to implement even Mugabe's cynical programme of state capitalism. As early as 1980, his party policy-makers encouraged "the continuity of private enterprise in Rhodesia" and accepted “the need for a close commercial and logistic relationship with South Africa". (Guardian, 28 January 1980.) Now Bernard Chidlero. Minister for Economic Planning and Finance, has produced a National Development Plan which stresses the importance of foreign companies:
Government recognises the need to stimulate private sector investment by creating a favourable investment climate and taking necessary fiscal, monetary and other financial measures. (Guardian, 24 March 1983.)
Nationalisation has been held back for fear of losing the particular capital and technology tied up with European interests and the Western trade which is linked with them. There is also the fear of military interference from South Africa, which has occurred in Angola and Mozambique. Land reform has been held back for fear of alienating the 4,600 English commercial farmers who own 38 per cent of the land and receive 47 per cent of foreign currency earnings. A clause in the Lancaster House agreement threatens that if any land is seized, British land resettlement funds would be withheld; 700,000 African families are still struggling to survive on the poor soil of the old Tribal Trust Lands, which have simply been renamed the Communal Lands. The overwhelming point which arises from this is that a small minority, of whatever colour, monopolise the resources of Zimbabwe, as in the rest of the world. The shareholders of the Anglo-American Corporation are of a great variety of nationalities and colours.

In a speech in the Zimbabwe Assembly in July 1982, Robert Mugabe said of dissenters:
Some of the measures we shall take are measures which will be extra-legal . . .  an eye for an eye and an ear for an ear may not be adequate in our circumstances. We might very well demand two ears for one ear and two eyes for one eye. (Guardian, 23 March 1983.)
The time is long overdue for us to turn with disgust from this vicious talk of murdering workers for opposing one of the national state governments of capitalism. This is where the "practical politics" of administering the profit system lead. The suffering of black Africans at the hands of white colonisers was often beyond description, so that a great deal of emotional energy has gone into the forming of the newly independent states. Similarly, the Jews who formed the state of Israel after their experience of Nazi Germany were committed to the idea of the Jewish national state. But all these nationalist movements whether Irish. Polish or Pan-African. are tragically caught within the net of capitalist social relations. As such, they have no future except as administrative units for the profit system.

Socialists are engaged in the enormous task of persuasion and organisation to build a powerful world-wide movement for democratic revolution. There can be no socialism without a majority of socialists. One of the most popular strip cartoons in Africa in the 1970s was Seraphina in Jeune Afrique, in which the heroine fights against Octagone. headquarters of the “Soviet-American Republic”. Many Africans are aware of how the Warsaw Pact countries merely mirror the West in their capitalist policies of profitable investment, military expansion, state oppression of dissent and, above all, the persistence of the exploitation of wage-labour for the accumulation of capital. At the moment, Africa is still itself reflecting the same domination of the world by the interests of private and state property. The political leaders are looking for sheep to follow them to the semi-realisation of their empty, divisive dreams. But the power of class consciousness has been accumulating for centuries, and the African workers know what has happened to them. They have only to take the next step towards human liberation, and the arrogant élitism of Mugabe and the others who offer to act “on our behalf" will be broken forever. There are not three worlds — just one, and it is ours for the taking.
Clifford Slapper