Saturday, November 25, 2017

Election activities (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is a tribute to the strength and determination of the tiny band of founder members that in 1906, only two short years after the formation of the Party, Socialist candidates contested wards in Battersea and Wandsworth Borough Council Elections. A total of twelve candidates were put forward—nine in Battersea and three in Wandsworth—and although the votes cast for us were small (Craske and Moody topped our list with 117 each), it was an encouraging start to the electoral activities ranging over the whole of our existence. Particularly is this true when one considers the circumstances then, as outlined in the December, 1906, Socialist Standard: —
  All the candidates fought on the election manifesto published in our October issue, a few were distributed in each ward. They had no programme of ear-tickling, side tracking, vote-catching “palliatives” and did no canvassing. The candidates were practically unknown and had not climbed into popularity on the backs of the working class, by posing as “leaders” of unemployed deputations, “right to live” councils and similar confusionist conglomerations.
Incidentally, it was following the Battersea elections that the Executive Committee ruled that only Party Members should sign our candidates' nomination papers, and this was embodied in a Party Rule which stands to this day.

1908 saw the Burnley branch fighting Gammon and Whittlefield wards. Although the two comrades polled only fifteen votes between them, the Party was by no means discouraged by the results, because around the same time, three candidates polled sixty, fifty-eight and fifty-six votes in one ward at Tooting.

Parliamentary contests were still a long way off for the Party, but, nevertheless, 50,000 manifestoes were distributed during the 1910 General Election. As always, we posed the straight choice of Capitalism or Socialism and exposed the anti-working class policies of the other parties. In the same year, Tottenham Branch was busy, with Comrade Stern fighting High Cross.Ward, and Anderson and Rourke in St. Anns Ward of the local Urban Council elections. The voting was: Anderson 143, Rourke 67, Stern 63. They were the last S.P..G.B. candidates to contest municipal elections for many years.

By 1928, our organisation had recovered sufficiently from the war to think once again about putting forward Socialist candidates, and in February of that year a meeting of members declared overwhelmingly in favour of entering (the Parliamentary lists. But national elections are much more expensive to contest than local ones and with only £21 1s. 2d. in the kitty, a proposal to fight North Battersea in 1929 had to be abandoned. Despite this, however, Battersea branch ran a very successful challenge meeting which the Tory and Liberal candidates attended. There was an audience of about nine hundred, so this first gesture of ours in the Parliamentary field was not entirely a disappointment.

One of the East Ham constituencies was earmarked for our attention in 1937. We obtained committee rooms, meetings were held and comrades did a great deal of door-to-door canvassing. Once again, however, our hopes were dashed, this time by the outbreak of the second world war.

The Party was able to do only a small amount of active work during the war, but 1945 presented us with an opportunity we were quick to seize, and Comrade Groves fought North Paddington for us in an atmosphere of tremendous enthusiasm. The good Summer weather enabled scores of members to canvass our literature and plenty of outdoor meetings were held. But the grand climax to our efforts came with the rally at the Metropolitan Theatre in Edgware Road. Packed from top to bottom, it was a thrilling milestone in Socialist Propaganda.

We fought North Paddington again in the by-election of 1946 and in the General Election of 1950, this time with Comrade McClatchic as our candidate. We also put up H. Young in East Ham South. In yet another by-election we went again to North Paddington in 1953, with W. Waters as our representative and filled the Metropolitan Theatre with an eve-of-poll rally. Sadly, the last one, because the Metropolitan Theatre is no more.

Six years were to pass before we did electoral battle again. A leaflet was distributed during the 1955 campaign but no candidates stood. It was a period of some heart searching by many members on whether the time was ripe for us to enter the ring. Maybe this pause was just as well, for by 1959 we were again ready with a candidate, this time W. Read in Bethnal Green. The district had been canvassed for two years before and the campaign was indicative of reviving enthusiasm for electoral activity. Eight hundred and ninety-nine votes were cast for the Socialist candidate.

Since then, Glasgow Branch have swung into action with both municipal and Parliamentary campaigns. In May, 1962, they fought North Kelvin ward with Comrade Mulheron as their candidate. Even though only seventy-six votes were cast for him, the effort was well worth while, much of our literature being sold and the candidate appearing on Scottish T.V.—surely something for us to write home about! The valuable experience gained in this, their first effort, served the Glasgow members well when they fought the Woodside constituency by-election in December of that year. Some really hard work was done in bitterly cold weather and they were not disappointed with the 83 votes polled. “We are 83 politically mature people," said candidate Vallar in a press interview.

Perhaps by the time you read this article, the opening shots will have been fired in the 1964 General Election. Comrade Vallar will again be standing in Woodside and Comrade Grant in Bromley South, which just about brings the record up to date. No account of this sort is quite complete, however, without a word or two of tribute to the self-effacing and modest Parliamentary committee, working steadily in the background year after year, and in fact to all those members who have unstintingly helped in this great task over the past sixty years. Their hard work and experience will stand us in good stead in the struggles that lie ahead.
Eddie Critchfield

The Passing Show: Why? . . . (1964)

The Passing Show Column from the October 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

So this is the general election month at last. Probably by the time you read this, your letterbox will be bulging with the paper promises of all those who are desperate for your vote. For the first time in five years, you will matter.

But this moment is not something which has landed on us out of the blue, just like that. For some time we have known that the poll would take place in the autumn and the parties have been busy girding their loins for battle. Although you will now have the official election policies of them all, this does not mean that they have been silent these last few months. All sorts of people have criticised and promised to remedy all sorts of problems.

In June of this year, three books were published in the Penguin Special series. They are (as each jacket says) personal and unofficial statements, but they are interesting as an insight to the sort of thinking which characterises the main political parties. For instance, Why Conservative? by Timothy Raison could quite justifiably be called “The Waffler's Handbook”. The Tories have been in power for quite a long time and there’s a fair chance of them winning again, so caution and circumspection—is the keynote of this book.

Politics, he tells us, is “. . . the search for power to achieve ends that the seeker considers desirable”. He does not think that conflict in society is harmful; it may be “essential to creativity”. The Tory Party apparently has “the masculine qualities of vigour, courage, independence, self-reliance and clear sightedness”. It “combines flexibility in policy with a firm psychological and emotional base”. Meaningless, you would say? So would we, but this is the sort of stuff which you arc asked to give serious consideration.

Nevertheless, if we thumb through this book, we can pick out some matters on which Mr. Raison commits himself more firmly. Did you know, for example, that distributed profits are good for the community (he doesn’t tell us how), and that there is money to be made if only you will work for it? -that's an old chestnut if ever there was one. He makes no attempt to square this up later, when he admits the need for the welfare state to alleviate the worst aspects of poverty. For the usual commercial reasons, he doesn't like the welfare state becoming too embracing. Company medical schemes, he thinks, may be preferable, because they would cut down lost production time and old age pensioners would cost less to the State if they lived at home instead of in institutions.

On foreign policy, we are treated to the same old story. The need for alliances, protection of British Capitalist interests abroad. But Raison cannot really make up his mind whether Britain should have nuclear weapons or not.

Now contrast this with Why Labour? by Jim Northcott. His party has had thirteen years in opposition and his writing reflects their current optimistic mood. Not for him the restrained approach of Raison. He is much more detailed in his approach to the familiar problems of working class life, and makes no bones about the actions which he thinks a Labour Government will take, if only we will place our trust in them.

Housing comes early in his list of problems—shades of 1945—and once again we are assured it can be solved. Building Co-operatives, lower interest rates, more council houses, a land buying commission, spreading jobs more evenly; these are some of his suggestions. He admits that working class home ownership is not the unmixed blessing that some people think, involving as it does the worry of mortgage payments, repair costs, etc., but even this does not lead him to the obvious answer—production for use.

He is very proud of the National Health Services — “ the envy of the world*—but opposes additional charges for prescriptions, forgetting that these were started by the last Labour Government. In addition, we are promised more hospitals, medical schools, preventive medicine, improved pay and conditions in hospitals, more trained social workers, and so on through the list. Name some fault or oppressive facet of the present scheme and you're almost sure to find that Mr. Northcott has an answer.

On education he is, of course, in favour of smaller classes and more university places. He puts the naive view that the object of education under capitalism is “to enable all to realise full potential” yet at the end of the chapter quotes the Economic Cooperation and Development Organisation's opinion “that higher investment in education is likely to yield a higher economic return than higher investment in industry”. He admits the superiority of public school education but it is difficult to discern just what position he envisages for them under a Labour Government. Not that it matters overmuch. Most workers will never get the chance to send their children to public schools anyway.

We are guaranteed plenty of all the good things of life. How are they to be paid for? Why, by taxing the rich more heavily and “spreading the burden more fairly”. But that the rich will still be rich enough to pay is an essential prerequisite and one may be sure that a Labour Government, no less than any other, will see that they stay rich.

The cry for increased exports figures prominently in Mr. Northcott's reckoning. He is at one with the other parties on this. But, of course, the exports must be “ planned ” and imports “ controlled ”. In fact this particular chapter (No. 8) is simply loaded with plans of every sort, including steel, electricity, research and manpower. Which only goes to emphasise just how unplannable capitalism really is. Mr. Northcott has not grasped this lesson, despite the record and experience of the last Labour Government.

Why Liberal? You may well be tempted to ask that again when you have read the last of these three, written by Harry Cowie. With many years of wilderness behind them and not much chance of forming a Government this time either, the Liberals can afford to be the sauciest of the three outfits. Mr. Cowie’s book is positively encyclopaedic in the quantity and scope of his promises. Right away, we note that the Liberal Party is the classless party, so everyone must benefit from their proposals.

If you return the Liberals, Mr. Cowie expects them to:—modernise the Government machine, stimulate economic growth, re-plan our cities and stop the Southward drift, solve the housing problem (yes again!), improve transport and solve the traffic problem, have a ten year educational development plan, greatly increase old age pensions and abolish the earnings rule.

Surprisingly he gives profit sharing only a brief mention but thinks that employees should be allowed representatives on directors’ boards, as a recognition of the “common interest of both sides”. But the workers would still be workers and the bosses would still be bosses. That much is painfully obvious from the rest of this chapter.

Mr. Cowie wants a “new partnership with Western Europe” as part of a Liberal foreign policy and quotes the words of former Liberal Leader Clement Davies, that the common market is "the greatest step towards peace which has ever been taken”. He doesn’t tell us how or why, and anyway the stupidity of such a statement is apparent when later in the chapter he enters into the usual discussion on nuclear and conventional arms. As a sign of his confidence in the peaceful influence of the Common Market, he is in favour of the British forces in Germany being increased to four fully equipped divisions.

You could almost ask: What is there to summarise? There is a choice of sorts, if you like, between three variations of the same theme capitalism. It does not matter which one you make from the point of view of solving your problems— they will still be there whichever leader is called to Buckingham Palace. Why Conservative, Labour or Liberal? Why indeed!
Eddie Critchfield

What's happening in East Germany (1964)

From the November 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The information contained in this article is taken from the Democratic German Report (DGR) which is published and printed in East Germany. Its general theme is anti Bonn Government, but in most issues there is an article on some aspect of life in East Germany. Recent articles have dealt with Agriculture, Gambling, Women, Religion and Education.

If East Germany were a Socialist Society as claimed one would expect the economic and social conditions in East Germany to differ from those in Britain. However, a perusal of the articles in the DGR show that the aims of their society, the problems and the suggested solutions are the same as in Britain.

I. Agriculture (Quotes from D.G.R., Vol. XIII No. 6. 20/3/64.)
Having split the land into small units after the war to hand to the peasants they are now .
  “having a big drive to get all farmers , to join co-operatives” and “the final aim is to transform them into enterprises run like industrial enterprises; ”
  “the choice of specialisation will depend on the region, the type of soil or grazing land, and on the traditional farming carried out in a particular part of the country."
   “Labour productivity must be vastly increased through rationalisation and mechanisation of farm work.”
    “Investments will have to be channelled into the most important projects.”
Note that this is the pattern of agricultural development in the “Western World.” Farmers in the U.K. and U.S.A. specialise; they attempt to raise the productivity of labour (i.e., raise the value of the output of the labourer proportionately more than any percentage increase in wages); they are mechanising and enlarging their holdings.

Why do they do this? Capitalism has only one God—profit, and the aim in farming, as in any other enterprise, is to increase the opportunities for maximising profit. It is no different in East Germany. Commenting on the larger cooperatives the D.G.R. states they
  “now had their own machinery and were trying out new farming methods on their larger fields; their bigger herds of livestock were better housed, could be looked after with proportionately less labour power and were more profitable.” (Our italics.)
In this “desirable Socialist” society there is a “steady drain of young people away from the land and into better paid, more comfortable jobs in industry.”

Who paid them so badly in farming? The state farms? The Cooperative Farmers? Or the 50 per cent. of farmers who are not in cooperatives? In the U.K. we all witness the drain away from the land. In the USA the farm population is falling by nearly a million people every year, It seems that in East Germany, the UK and the USA, workers have the same need—“better paid, more comfortable jobs,” and these are not to be found easily on the land.

The subsidisation of farming in the UK has long been a cause of argument between the reformist political parties. Not for, or against, but how much and in what manner. The Presidential Election in the USA was in part fought over the farm programmes of the major political parties, and as in the past subsidies will be one of the central themes. But in East Germany, of course; “Walter Ulbricht, Chairman of the German Democratic Republic State Council gave some examples of how subsidising would work in the future”;

It is well said that one can know a leopard by its spots. The spots of East German farming—Profit, lowly paid labour, productivity not production, subsidies—place it fair and square with its capitalist counterparts in the U.K. and the U.S.A.

II. Gambling. (Quotes from D.G.R., Vol. XIII, No. 9 1/5/64.)
The article in the D.G.R. was in response to a letter from a Miss M.B. of Birmingham, who asked: “Are there any football pools, betting or gambling in the German Democratic Republic(G.D.R.)?"

The following quotes state briefly the situation;
   “There is quite a lot of betting and gambling in the D.G.R., but no overall figures are available on the sums spent on these pastimes. You can lose your money on the horses at two race courses near Berlin, but the most popular forms of betting are football pools, similar to those in Britain, and various forms of “Lotto” in which you pick your numbers which you hope may come up in a weekly draw. In addition, there is the old fashioned lottery in which you just buy a ticket and hope for the best.”
  “All these various forms of taking a chance are nationally owned or municipally owned and nobody makes a fortune out of betting with the exception of a very few winners who may get pay outs ranging up to about 500,000 marks (about £45,000).”
   “What happens to the winnings? They are not subject to income or/and property tax so long as they remain in the bank and are not re-invested, and they accumulate the usual 3 per cent, interest paid on bank savings."
   “Some (winners) say they must go home and think. . . .”
  “Others say they want to buy a car or a house first. Most winners take out the odd thousands and deposit larger sums. Older people sometimes decide to settle sums on their children or open savings accounts for their grandchildren, and many give quite large sums to various good causes, including the Society for the Protection of Animals.”
 “People very seldom seem to give up their jobs on the spur of the moment and go on the spree, although some cases have come to light. . . .”
These quotes (emphasis ours) are of interest. Much of them could apply with equal validity to Britain.

It is evident that despite the claim that gambling is a “pastime,” many gamblers in East Germany, as in Britain, “hope for the best.” Why? Because “they want to buy a car or a house,” “settle sums on their children,” “go on the spree.” As in Britain they seek release from the struggle within society, the need to seek “better paid, more comfortable jobs". Gambling is widespread in East Germany for the same reason as it is in Britain—it may be a short cut to greater social and economic security.

Note that in Britain also, winnings are not subject to income or property tax, and here the only tax free investment that you can make is the first £15 in the Post Office Savings Bank, where the interest is 2½ per cent., not 3 per cent. as in East Germany.

The most significant thing, however, is that some people in East Germany own more property than others, and there are ways in which this property can be passed on to their heirs. Property owners can invest, and not only in savings accounts. The interest on these investments can be met only out of the unpaid labour time of the workers. Workers are exploited in East Germany just as in Britain, or if we believe their propaganda that all their citizens are workers, some are obviously more “worker” than others!

Gambling occurs in East Germany because workers there, as in Britain, are looking for something more in life, and have the desire to change their social and economic situation. They can do the same thing with their winnings as here, including investing them and thereby exploiting the working class and perhaps sopping their consciences by making a donation to a “good cause.”

Only Socialism will change this. In a Socialist society people will be engaged in useful, fruitful pursuits. The property basis of capitalist society will be gone. There will be no need to gamble, nor will be so monotonous that it will require something like gambling to give it a kick.

The "spots" of East German society look even more like those in Britain. There is only one reason—it suffers from the same disease—capitalism!
Ken Knight

Class War in Australian "paradise" (1964)

From the December 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Politically, paradise, it seems, is all things to all men. Among one loosely affiliated group (Labour and Communist Party supporters), it means (A) rising wages, (the Arbitration Commission of Victoria, Australia granted a £1 per week increase in the basic wage a few months ago). (B) a large and increasing proportion of nationalised industries, (recently all state loans have been over subscribed) and (C) little or no unemployment, (lately there have been more vacant jobs than workers to fill them). Among another and opposing group (the ruling class), paradise means (D) an expanding economy and rising profits, (overseas investments into Victoria, and profits have never been higher) and (E) a stable government, (last June elections, the Conservative government was again returned after many years in power). Thus at the present moment of the history of this State there are all of the conditions for paradise.

Yet from the midst of all these idyllic conditions, there is to be heard over the air and read in the newspapers, (Age 16th September 1964) that there exists a condition of “War” in this State. No less a person than the Premier Mr. Bolte, (pronounced Bol-tee) declares it to be so.

Now let us look more attentively at this state of purposeful war, waged by human beings among themselves. Usually we find it to be prefixed by a descriptive term e.g. generalised, such as “ Colonial War,” “Civil” or “ World War”; or, more specifically, “Zulu War,” “Civil War of England,” or “ World War I.” In the case of which Bolte speaks we must read further down into the smaller newsprint to find out what he refers to. Here we discover it to be nothing less than “Class War." It should be noted that Bolte does not directly classify it as such, but the implication is unmistakeable. Yet this implied admission of the existence of class war from the mouth of the Conservative Premier surely sounds strange and awesome to the ears of postwar society. For years we have been told that class antagonism and therefore class wars just no longer exist. These, we have been informed, belonged to the bad old days.

Since Bolte sounds off so urgently on a topic of vital concern to us all we feel it our bounden duty to more closely enquire what is the form of this warfare that he finds so alarming? And by whom is it conducted ? The Age tells us;
  A 48 hr. strike by 120,000 State Government workers was a “declaration of war on the Government and the people” the Premier said last night.
  The Trades Hall Council disputes committee decided late yesterday that the strike would begin at midnight on Monday. It will cancel or severely restrict—trains, trams, some buses, electricity and gas services and the Port of Melbourne operations until midnight on Wednesday.
  Members of 39 unions in 30 Government instrumentalities and departments will be involved in the stoppage.
The Unions thereby were serving 6 days notice upon the Chief executive of Victoria. “The strike will be called off ONLY if the Premier agrees to see T.H.C. officials immediately to discuss longstanding claims by State Workers."

And these claims four in number are : (1) removal of differences in the rate of pay of workers doing the same job in different departments. (2) increased margins. (3) £4 per week industry loading. (4) an extra week of annual leave.

These threatened strikes and ultimatums are not a bolt (no pun on the Premier's name is here intended) from the blue. Immediately before and since the June elections of this year returned his Government to office, Bolte has faced several manifestations of this lately admitted class war. On May 29, Government workers held a 24-hour stoppage of work and on August 12th again a similar stoppage was intended but was deferred by a compromise. Indeed, this latest proposed 48-hour strike of Victorian State employees has again been deferred.

Two more items of interest for those who vaguely feel that perhaps nationalisation of industries is in some manner to their advantage and thereby worth striving for; And both items are provided by the Age Melbourne. In headlines (17th September, 1964), we are informed that “Army to do work of Dock strikers” . . . The Federal Government has decided to use servicemen to load troop transport H.M.A.S. Sydney if a strike of civilian crane drivers continues at Garden Island Dockyard in Sydney.

The crane drivers who belong to the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemans Association declared the Sydney “black " following the dismissal of a union delegate.

So the Army, itself a nationalised institution, under the sole and direct control of the Federal Government, is always ready to act as strike breakers.

The second news 25th September, 1964. Nearly 20,000 railway workers throughout Queensland began a 24-hour work stoppage at midnight last night.

This stoppage stems from demands for restoration of service leave, payment of £4 per week industry allowance, and wage increases.

Yet the Labour and Communist Party trade union leaders and politicians, actual and would-be, still ask us to believe that immediate and future ailments such as poverty can be remedied by more and more nationalisation of industry.

What can we expect for the future ? The answer is simple. Within the prevailing class divided society there can be no paradise, only a parasite/host mode of existence for capitalist and working class respectively.
Peter Furey

How Labour Ruled Mespot. (1924)

From the December 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Truth About The Slaughter
When it became known that bomb-dropping was regularly used by the Labour Government as a means of peacefully persuading Irak Tribesmen that British capitalism had a better right in their country than they had themselves, many simple supporters of the Labour Party were shocked. They had supposed that Empires can be built on love and maintained by soft words, and they were greatly relieved when Mr. Leach explained the whole matter away.

Mr. Leach accounted for British occupancy of the territory by saying that it was a point of honour to remain and fulfill "our” pledges; and he was able to give the assurance that— 
  under our administration British air operations have so far caused no deaths. Thanks to the method of warning notices, submission takes place five times out of six without recourse to bombs, and has succeeded in the remaining cases through the destruction of property and cattle. —Daily Herald, July 15th, 1924.
Now Lord Thomson, Chief of the Air Ministry, of which Mr. Leach was Undersecretary, has disclosed the real facts. It was not honour but capitalist interest in oil which kept the Labour Government in Irak, and with regard to the bomb-dropping Mr. Leach appears to have resorted to complete suppression of the facts.

The following quotation is from a lecture given by Lord Thomson at a meeting of the Central Asian Society on November 21st. (“The Times,” November 22nd, 1924.)
   After briefly tracing the route followed in his tour, Lord Thomson brought home to his audience the efficacy of bombing by describing the manner in which the recent Wahabi invasion of the Transjordan was crushed. The British forces consisted solely of aeroplanes sent out at the shortest possible notice, backed by armoured cars. The effect of our air attack was appalling Some 700 of the tribesmen were killed and the rest, seized with panic, fled into the desert, where hundreds more must have perished from thirst. Unless some such punishment as swift and terrible as this had been inflicted, the task of restoring order would have been long drawn-out, and in the end more costly in lives and money, while the results would not have been so lasting.
   Lord Thomson went on to say that it might be true that oil was the key of the Arabian riddle, though he considered that wheat-production, for some years at least, held greater possibilities. The primary necessity, however, was security. The country could best be opened up by making the process a gradual one. By using it as a link in the chain of Imperial communications, this would be achieved.
    On the question of the duration of British protection in Iraq, Lord Thomson said that Britain had promised an independent Arab State, and we must honour our pledge, which could only be done by remaining in the country until it could defend itself. We could wriggle out of our obligations in various fashions, but the immediate consequence, in his opinion, would be anarchy, disorder, and confusion. Somebody would have to restore the situation, and if we did not, the Turks would. In the present state of affairs, the British Air Force in Iraq was the cement which kept the bricks together. He hoped that the task we had undertaken would not be left unfinished by any form of withdrawal.