Monday, November 27, 2017

Never say oil (2004)

From the April 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard
Truth, it seems, is not just the first casualty of war. It’s also the first casualty of preparations for war. In the days of open imperialism, if a state felt that its “vital interests”, i.e. the economic or strategic interests of its capitalist class, were at stake it simply went to war. Certainly, at least if another major capitalist Power was involved, certain minimum diplomatic niceties had to be met such as sending a 24 or 48 hour ultimatum, to allow embassy staff to withdraw  but that was the only requirement.
After the Second World War the victorious Powers decided to establish a legal framework for future wars. They hadn’t been so rash as to promise, as they had during the first world slaughter, that this had been a war to end all wars and so the UN Charter was drawn up. Basically, this makes war as an instrument of foreign policy illegal under international law unless certain conditions are met. States are still allowed to go to war if they consider that their “vital interests” are at stake (that’s the main let-out clause; the other is “self-defence”), but they have to demonstrate this to the UN.
So, when the Bush/Cheney regime in America decided that the vital interests of its capitalist class required the overthrow of the Saddam regime in Iraq, they had to come up with a more internationally acceptable reason than the real one of wanting to control an alternative source of oil should the Saudi princes be toppled and to control territory where they could install bases near to both the Middle East and the Caspian oilfields. Other UN members, some of whom had their own imperialist reasons for not wanting America to take over Iraq, would not have agreed. So the would-be aggressor states decided to play the “weapons of mass destruction” card.
The US  and British  governments probably knew very well that Iraq didn’t have such weapons and that the primitive ones it had once possessed had been destroyed after the last Gulf War. After all, Bush and Blair would hardly have sent their troops in to face certain death from chemical and germ warfare if they thought that Iraq really had such weapons. The Iraqi regime helped their case by dragging its feet over the matter, but it had probably concluded (rightly, as it happened) that America and Britain were going to invade anyway and presumably decided that allowing some doubt as to whether it might have some weapons of mass destruction was the only chance it had of dissuading the attackers.
The Bush/Cheney regime couldn’t care a fig about the UN  in his State of the Union address. In January Bush baldly declared that the US didn’t need permission from anybody to go to war to protect its “vital interests”  but Blair, ever the unctuous hypocrite, does.
Revelations by Claire Short, who was a cabinet minister at the time and supported the attack on Iraq, show that the British Labour government was prepared to go to great lengths to try to secure UN approval, including listening in on the Secretary General’s phone conversations. When Short revealed this, the whole Establishment turned on her: how dare she reveal the dirty tricks of “our” brave secret service! They must be allowed to do such things to protect Britain’s (read: the British capitalist class’s) vital interests! No doubt, they did other things too, such as trying to bribe or blackmail African or South American ministers and ambassadors but we’ll never know. Under capitalism where a democratic principle such as the right to full information conflicts with “vital interests“, it’s the democratic principle that is ditched.
In any event, it didn’t work. The UN did not back the US/British attack on Iraq, so they had to make do with invoking the other let-out article in the UN Charter, relating to “self-defence”. Bush let the US media put about  the lie that there was some connection between the saddam regime and Al Qaeda even though Bin Laden hated Saddam as much as Bush. Blair let the British media put it about that Iraq had missiles that could be filled with lethal germs and sent to rain down on British troops in Cyprus (all the papers printed maps showing this possibility).
It now turns out that this claim about missiles was untrue and people are demanding an enquiry into whether or not Blair and his ministers knew it was untrue and on whether or not Blair “took Britain into war” on the basis of false or falsified information. But this is all a side-show. It was not missiles of mass destruction that was at issue in the war, but oil. In fact, all this fuss about the (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction is a diversion from the real reason why America and Britain attacked Iraq. Lord Hutton never even mentioned the word “oil” once.
In this sense it is irrelevant whether the information supplied and given out about weapons of mass destruction was accurate or not. This was just the reason invoked to be seen to be complying with the UN Charter. It was not the real reason for the war.
Of course when you don’t tell the truth there’s always a strong risk that you’ll be found out. Blair has been. From his point of view, it might have been better if he had told the truth from the start  that America and Britain went to war for economic and strategic reasons related to oil; that it was a threat to their vital interests that the second largest oil field in the world should be controlled by a unpredictable and hostile regime such as Saddam’s; and that they wanted to install a more compliant set of rulers in Baghdad.
Once Iraq had been invaded and easily conquered (peashooters aren’t very effective against machine guns, since that was the scale of the difference between the two sides), and the Saddam regime toppled, Blair, Shaw, Blunkett and the other Labour leaders came out with another justification for the war: to overthrow a nasty dictator. Saddam was indeed a nasty dictator but, quite apart from the fact that this wouldn’t have made the war any more legal in terms of the UN charter (the UN charter doesn’t outlaw dictators), this too can’t have been the real reason as there are plenty of other nasty dictators around. The Saudi prices for instance, but America and Britain did not propose a war to overthrow them; they are allies and friends, nice dictators. A nasty dictatorship is alright provided it poses no threat to the vital economic and strategic interests of the capitalist class in America or Britain.
Before Bin Laden was ever heard of (except by the CIA operatives training him for guerrilla warfare in Russian-occupied Afghanistan), two nasty dictators were running neck-and-neck for the most evil person in the world. One was Saddam Hussein. The other was Colonel (though, surely, he must be a Generalissimo or Field Marshall by now) Gaddafi. He’s done all the things Saddam did, and perhaps more. But now that he’s agreed to call off his challenge to US world domination (no doubt he doesn’t want to end up living in a hole in the desert), he’s OK. It’s against Britain’s “vital interests” now to call him a nasty dictator. It is even rumoured that Blair’s next foreign trip is going to be to Libya, so he can shake Gaddafi’s blood-stained hands  or rather so they can both shake each other’s blood-stained hands. What hypocrisy!
But what’s so special about Gaddafi? Yes, you’ve guessed it.. He’s not just any old tin-pot dictator. The power and wealth of his regime derive from sitting on an oil-field, which US capital is anxious to modernise so as to increase the world supply of oil.
The fact is that the foreign policy of capitalist States isn’t, and can’t be, based on “ethical” considerations. It is based on what the old 19th imperialist Lord Palmerston called “interests” and what his counterparts on the Continent, Metternich and Bismarck, called “Realpolitik”.  The UN Charter is just a scrap of paper. All it has done is forced governments to be even more dishonest about the reasons they go to war.
Adam Buick

Ramsay MacDonald's Attack on the Workers' Struggle Against Capital. (1924)

From the October 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

MacDonald has written a new preface to a new edition of his book, “Socialism: Critical, and Constructive.” Its denunciation of the workers because they attempt resistance to the encroachments of the employing class has pleased the latter and correspondingly startled many who had never before found cause to doubt the integrity of their leader.

Below are some extracts :—
  Profiteering has become universal and action has shown a deplorable tendency to centre in self. The evil has not been confined to the classes generally designated as “profiteers,” but has infected all sections   The trade unionist has the same limitation imposed upon him in this respect as the capitalist— he cannot advance his interests at the expense of his society. No system of thought except Socialism not only makes these limitations of wise action clear, but indicates the method by which Labour may obtain justice.
  It cannot be over-emphasised that public doles, Poplarism, strikes for increased wages, limitation of output, not only are not Socialism, but may mislead the spirit and the policy of the Socialist movement.
  Socialism calls men to give unstinted service in return for a reasonable reward measured in terms of life, and no one should be more impatient than the Socialist with the fallacy that a man cannot be expected to give the service before he gets the reward.
  The Socialist, therefore, looks with some misgivings upon some recent developments in the conflicts between Capital and Labour. They are contrary to his spirit; he believes they are both immoral and uneconomic and will lead to disaster.
   It is only when the worker by brain or by hand does his best for society that he will create in society that sympathy and support without which the Labour movement will never attain its goal. 
There is no need to criticise these extracts in detail. The worker will recognise in them the arguments used by every exploiter and defender of exploiters, as usual cleverly mixed up with an element of indisputable truth. Of course, no one supposes that strikes, doles and relief, and limitation of output are either Socialism or are in themselves desirable. They are not Socialism any more than they are capitalism. Doles and relief are merely part of the industrial “red cross service"which the capitalists are compelled to organise in order to deal with the increasing number of destitute victims of the capitalist system. Strikes and ca'canny are defensive weapons used by the workers against the employing class. They are difficult, costly, and sometimes dangerous to those who use them, but they are justified if, on the whole, the gains, in the shape of concessions from the masters, are greater than the cost to the workers in loss of wages, hardship, etc.

Capitalism is a system of society in which the wealthy property-owner lives without working, and the poverty-stricken worker toils to provide the wealth of the propertied class. The capitalist to maintain so delightful a situation, makes use of the lockout, limitation of output, and, if need be, the open legal violence of the armed forces. The workers, driven to desperation, make such feeble resistance as they are able, not because the action is in itself something desirable but because it is necessary. It is this which MacDonald sees fit to condemn.

If these actions were in addition, the means of attaining Socialism they would be more than justified from a working-class standpoint, however obnoxious to MacDonald and his masters. Our criticism is that the real way out of the evils of capitalism is simpler and easier than strikes or ca'canny. Given socialist knowledge, the workers have within their grasp the power to control Parliament and the rest of the political machinery, and that control would enable them to establish Socialism. In the meantime they ought and must struggle to defend their standard of living against the employers' attacks. This and the struggle for power is the class struggle which the socialist recognises as the basis of the political parties and political disputes of modern society.

Even Brailsford, editor of the “New Leader" (19th Sept.), had to protest against MacDonald’s words, and was reduced to offering the paltry excuse that MacDonald is a "very tired man." If MacDonald only writes anti-socialist drivel when he is "tired," then he cannot be the man of vigour his biographers represent him to be. But Brailsford deserves our thanks for a delicious little story he tells illustrating the mentality of the I.L.P. membership.

In his youth he once made the almost fatal mistake of referring to the "class struggle " at an l.L.P.- meeting. Then "one of our veteran leaders came to me when I sat down, and whispered in his kindly fatherly' way (though I had shocked him deeply) ‘We never speak.of.the class struggle in the I.L.P.' "

But to be serious again, what MacDonald writes is indeed a piece of staggering impudence. He forgets that he has enjoyed a standard of comfort far above that of the trade unionists whom he charges with profiteering, and it does not fall to their lot to receive the Cabinet Minister's salary granted by a grateful ruling class to treacherous Labour leaders.

And while we are on the subject of “profiteering," we suggest that MacDonald might fittingly offer his advice to his generous friend Sir A. Grant. He it was who endowed a library, open-heartedly made MacDonald a gift of £ 1,500 a year for life, and received a Baronetcy.

He also it is whose firm has the reputation of being one of the most grinding exploiters in the biscuit-making industry.

The Socialist Versus the Vote Catcher. (1924)

A Short Story from the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some few years ago, in the suburb known as Battenham, there lived a poor workman . whose name was Hyam Eezi. He was poor in that his clothing was shoddy, his food coarse and adulterated, his habitation mean, inconvenient and hired by the week, his hold upon life so precarious that starvation or pauperism were ever on the horizon. He owned no land: nor anything beyond the rags upon his back and the few articles of utility with which he had furnished his hired house.

He himself lived by letting himself upon hire, the process being as follows. Being possessed of nothing material beyond the few poor articles mentioned, and driven by the stern goad of hunger, he found that he still possessed one saleable thing—his energy. He had read no history, so he did not know how he and those around him had become landless, propertyless outcasts in a land of plenty. He just took things as he found them, and imagined that thus they had ever been, and thus would remain. And so his main concern was to find some hirer of human labour, and lend his services to him for as long a time as possible and for as large a sum as possible. Unfortunately he found that so many hundreds of those around him were in like case, that the hirers were enabled to select those who would take the smallest sum, or alternatively those who could work the hardest or most skilfully. He, therefore, found that, no matter how hard he worked or at what occupation, the sum he received each week barely sufficed to keep him and his family in their poor standard of “comfort” and security. Security! Ever before him there loomed the prospect of finding in his pay envelope a little slip of paper, bearing the dread intimation that his services were no longer necessary. What puzzled him, when he really did sit down to think the matter out, was the undoubted fact that when he and his mates had worked so hard that the warehouses were overflowing with goods, then was the most likely time for the “sack,”'as they called it. Terms like "over-production,” “slump,” "glutted markets,” etc., filtered down to him, but he had but the haziest idea of what they all meant. The hunt for a master began anew. Presently he found one; or after an interval of semi-starvation the old one took him back again. The process is repeated, and so the years pass.

And then a great excitement stirs his drab life. There is an Election. Certain shiny-hatted, sleek, comfortable looking gentlemen appear, and profess to take an absorbing interest in his welfare. All his troubles, he is told, are directly traceable to Free Imports, lack of Preference, want of Stability, Foreign Competition, and the Crass Stupidity of the existing Government. The remedy is quite simple. Just put a little cross opposite the shiny-hatted gentleman’s name, and Prosperity will dawn upon all.

The next few years are spent in continuing to hire himself out when fortunate enough to find a hirer, and in wondering when the promised Prosperity will arrive, or what form it was supposed to take. Suddenly the mystery is solved. He has been betrayed, swindled, duped. How does he know that? Another gentleman is good enough to devote much of his-spare time to patiently explaining what is wrong. A rash of handbills, cards, posters, etc., has broken out, and he gathers that another Election is arranged for him. The gentleman explains that the individual who cajoled his vote from him last time is one of an unscrupulous gang of self-seekers who are bent on ruining the country. They are hypocrites, liars and fools, their sole aim being the feathering of their own nests at the expense of the honest working man. "What have they done for you,” he asks searchingly. Hyam has no difficulty in replying, “Nothing.” Fortunately the remedy is simple. This gentleman stands for Peace, Retrenchment and Reform; Economy, Progress and a Free Breakfast Table; Justice, Liberty and No Tariffs. The mellifluous flow of high-sounding words leaves Hyam slightly dazed. They are not part of his everyday vocabulary and he cannot connect them with any article of use in his daily life, unless it be the Free Breakfast Table. That sounds promising, anyhow. He can’t do less than the previous blighter, thinks Hyam, so here goes my vote for the gent that has shown him up.

It is needless to recount how the ship of prosperity again seemed to have mistaken the harbour and put into some more distant haven. The cause of this was made clear as crystal to our friend Hyam Eezi by a simple working man. The occasion was another General Election, and this man proved in the most convincing manner that the previous two gentlemen were arrant swindlers, both of them employers of labour and consequently living upon the ill-gotten wealth they sweated from the honest workers. What we wanted was a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, also pensions for mothers, also no taxes on food, also better education. What we wanted was Peace in Europe; Houses to let at low Rents; No Profiteering; No Inhabited House Duty; No Entertainment Tax; Larger Unemployment Dole; More Scholarships; Cheap Electricity; Sugar Beet Factories, and, above all, No Unemployment.

Who could resist it? Not Hyam Eezi! Here was a man of his own class, who talked his own language. Here were thing he could understand. Houses at low rents! No Profiteering! No Unemployment! These were ideas he could handle. And the remedy was so exquisitely simple. Just put a little cross opposite this honest toiler’s name and the Dawn was guaranteed visible within a few short weeks. God!. would polling day never arrive?

Alas! The months have gone by with little to distinguish them from the drab years before. Hyam still hires himself out when he can find a hirer, and starves when he can’t. The honest working man of his last choice is painfully explaining to him how the main caravan missed its way, but how grateful he should be for what has been salvaged. The capitalists of France and of Germany are on much better terms; the capitalists of England and of France are happier together; the “socialist” capitalists of Russia and the ordinary capitalists of England are in a fair way to doing business; the low-rented houses are, er— on paper; the thirty million pounds (think of it, Hyam!) a year off food taxes has reduced the cost of living, except where it has gone up; the landlord has been freed of the irritating Inhabitated House Duty;, your seat at the ”pictures” has gone down a whole penny—in some places; we have increased the pittance to ex-Servicemen whom we sent to be butchered in the War; we have—, but Hyam is bewildered.. He asks himself what all this means to him. Receiving no answer, he seeks out one of those “extremist” fellows who works in the same shop, and inquires rather irrelevantly: “Where the devil are we, mate? ”

“Mate” replies : “Look here, Hyam boy, the main thing that’s wrong is yourself. All these loquacious gentlemen have had one thing in common. They have invited you to trust them. You have done so; that is why you now find yourself ‘trussed.’ Your trouble is glaringly thrust in your face every morning, but you are so used to it, you don’t notice it. You ‘book-on,’ or 'clock-on' at a definite time, and after some hours have gone, you 'book- off.’ But you feel different,  don’t you? Something has gone from you; you are tired; you have less energy. There you have it. The firm have had so many hours of your energy—and what have they given you in exchange? A wage. And what does a wage represent? The cost of replacing the energy, plus a bit to enable you to bring up kiddies to take your place. Many factors make wages vary, but the point round which they vary is the average cost of living. So you see, Hyam, you are a thing of hire, a piece of merchandise, a commodity. In selling your energy, you sell yourself, for you are inseparable. You sell yourself—a piece at a time; and when your energy thins off, you are scrapped. Foreign Agreements don’t help you; Russian and German Loans don’t help you. You still remain a worker. The whole collection of Pensions,' Insurances, Health Benefits, etc., do not really affect you. You remain a worker. Cheap rents, cheap food, low rents, low taxes, cheap everything, do not affect you. Cheap cost of living means cheap wages. With any wages, high or low, you remain a worker. And that is the whole trouble. Palliatives do not palliate; 'benefits' do not benefit; 'something now’ means next to nothing for ever.

"The system under which we live is called Capitalism. Under it the land, factories and means by which we all live are owned by small groups of people. The workers, the great mass of the people, hire themselves out to the capitalist at so much per day, per week or per month. The result of their toil goes to the owners of the tools of production; the workers get their hire. When the capitalists cannot make a profit out of the hire of labour they stop hiring it and the labourer starves. Starving men are desperate men, so good, kind capitalism arranges a scheme of Insurance, that just sufficiently dulls the edge of desperation to secure the continuance of the system of capitalism. Your Labour party has sounded the loud trumpet over their having increased this "benefit” You can read this little lesson for yourself, can’t you.

"The Socialist says there is one problem, and one problem only, before the worker: his wage-slavery. There is one solution and one solution only for his problem; that he and his fellows must own the means whereby they all live. To do this they must capture the political machinery of society—Parliament—not by trusting to any glib-tongued orator to do something for them, but by organising in the workers’ party, the Socialist Party, to capture and use the political machinery in the interests of the whole working class. That is a very brief outline of Socialism, and if it appeals to you, don't trust any more to people who are going to bring Utopia here without the least effort on your part, but come into the Socialist Party and work for Socialism. Socialism will come when enough of you want it. Why not begin to work now, Hyam? ”
W. T. Hopley

50 Years Ago: The Landlord's Paradise (1964)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Landlord's Paradise.

The sale of the Covent Garden estate by the Duke of Bedford for several million pounds to the well-known financial magnate and Tory M.P., Mr. Mallaby Deeley, disposes of all the Liberals’ claims as to bringing the land back to the people. So harmless are Lloyd George’s taxes, and so empty his vote-catching vapourings, that this astute financial prince laughs at the very idea of the danger to property, and calmly ventures millions upon its stability—a safe enough guide for anybody.

But besides showing the utter fraud of the Liberal Land Campaign in a peculiarly convincing manner, the stupendous transaction is interesting for that it records the passing of the aristocratic property-owner as such, and the rising of the commercial king.
(From the Socialist Standard, January, 1914.)

Postscript From Today

Hallmark securities, the £10 million property and housing group, surprise property investors by expecting residential developers to be better off under a Labour Government.

Chairman Mr. Sidney Bloch says: “The Socialists want another 136,000 houses a year, half of which will go to private enterprise. We shall also welcome a Government which buys land for lease back to developers. This will release more of our capital . . ."

He forecasts a dividend rise next year from 36⅞ p.c. to 40 p.c.
From the Daily Mail (4/10/63).

Can we trust the population experts? (1964)

From the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

No doubt there have always been people curious about what the future will bring and other people willing, for due reward, to satisfy their curiosity.

Before our era the foretellers of the future—the prophets, the oracles, the astrologers, the fortune-tellers and palm readers—claimed some special inspiration; nowadays the role has been largely taken over by the politicians and newspapers, who in turn rely on the scientific experts. In a period of about a hundred years their expertise has been more and more supported by the mass of statistics produced mainly, but not entirely, by government departments. And this statistical material is popularly, but quite erroneously, accepted as giving additional authority to the forecasts.

Recently the Tory Government issued a White Paper indicating how the amount of Government expenditure will increase some years ahead, backed by figures; but this is no more reliable than the Tory statement at the 1951 election that they were appalled by the way the Labour Cabinet had increased government expenditure arid would cut it down; a promise completely falsified by events. No government knows what situation it will be dealing with in five years' time; nor do the statisticians.

There is a famous saying that figures can't lie but liars can figure. Whoever said this was worrying about the wrong thing. It isn't so much the liars who feed us wrong information about the future as the confident “experts" who believe they are speaking the truth. Nowhere has this been more glaringly shown than in the field of forecasting the size of the population.

Probably there were people in this country about the year 1330 who went around saying that the population would be much larger twenty years ahead, not knowing that the Black Death would wipe out a third or more of them. They did not have the benefit of statistics about the way the birth rate and death rate had been moving in past years, but it wouldn't have made their forecasts any better if they had. Our modern experts have not even the excuse of a major calamity to explain theirs.

About the beginning of the 19th century quite a lot of the economists shared the view of Malthus about the need to restrain the birth rate because of the supposed inability to provide rapidly growing supplies of food; they failed entirely to foresee the enormous growth of population that took place during the century and before long their views were discredited and largely forgotten.

Just a century later the Malthusian view had a rebirth with Keynes and other Cambridge economists. Keynes started it in his Economic Consequences of the Peace, published in 1920. He feared that overpopulated Europe could no longer feed itself and was faced with a declining standard of living. Other books were published surveying the problem and suggesting the need to seek a solution in a smaller and stable population. Among these was Population, by Harold Wright, with a preface by Keynes (1933).

Although there were other economists, including Cannon and Beveridge, who contested the Keynesian view, it became increasingly the fashion in the nineteen-thirties to predict that the population of this country would rise for a few years and then go into a decline. Some of their predictions were published in a book called The Home Market, 1939, which had the unintentionally ironical sub-title, A Book of Facts about People.

The purpose of the book was to enable manufacturers to know what size they might expect their potential market to be in the years ahead so that they could plan accordingly. It had a foreword by Mr. Frank Pick, Vice-Chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board, who saw in the provision of information the means of avoiding “lack of balance between supply and demand." (Can it be that this may have been responsible for the deficiencies of transport in London?).

The book’s population estimates were those of Dr. Grace Leybourne, but readers were assured that similar estimates had been made by Dr. Kuczynski and Dr. Enid Charles, two other authorities. And what did the stars foretell? The population (excluding Northern Ireland) was then about 46,350,000. The forecast was that it would reach a peak of 46,500,000 in 1941, and then drop by 4 millions to 42,700,000 in 1951 and by another 3 millions to 39,400,000 in 1961.

In fact the population (again excluding Northern Ireland) had reached 51,350,000 by 1961. Instead of falling by 7 million after 1941 it had gone up by about 5 million!

They also tried their hand at foreseeing changes in the age group. They were right about the increase in the proportion over age 65, but quite wrong about the numbers of children. They thought that the number of children under 15 would have dropped in 1961 to 5½ million: it actually turned out to be 12 million.

If perhaps London Transport were misled by the pre-war experts as to the likely size of the travelling public in London, the Education authorities must have been shattered to find that they had to provide for double the number of school children the experts expected.

After the war the government set up the Royal Commission on Population which in its report in 1949 was very cautious about the future, merely saying that the total population would probably go on growing for at least one or two decades, “though the increase in this period is not likely (immigration apart) to exceed more than a few millions.” (Para. 632.) The Government then entered the tricky field of forecasting future population itself, but it hasn’t been any luckier than the experts of “private enterprise.”

It started in the 1956 edition of Annual Abstract of Statistics, in which it estimated that the population (excluding Northern Ireland) would be 51,796,000 in 1960. The actual figure for 1960 turned out to be 587,000 higher than the estimate. Not perhaps a very big error, but large enough to cause headaches to anyone who made plans based on the smaller figure. As the Minister of Health recently complained, how could he be expected to build sufficient maternity accommodation when “the birth rate was rising more rapidly than any experts had foreseen.” Naturally the longer the forecast the larger the error may turn out to be.

In the 1956 edition of the Annual Abstract the population to be expected at the end of the present century was given as something under 53 million. But in the 1962 edition this had been amended to 68 million, a trifling 15 million more. They are not the first to risk forecasting how many people there will be in this country at the end of the century. A Fabian pamphlet, Our Ageing Population, published in 1938, opened by quoting an estimate of the Population Investigation Committee that if “there is no change in the present trend of the birth and death rates" the population at the end of the century will be 17,700,000!

So we are on firm ground at last. It will be 17,700,000; or maybe 53,000,000 or 68,000,000; or some other number, larger or smaller.
Edgar Hardcastle

Finance and Industry: Ford opens fire (1964)

The Finance and Industry column from the March 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ford opens fire 
After a period in the doldrums, the world's car makers had a good year in 1963. Just over 1,600,000 cars left British motor plants, a quarter of a million more than in 1960, the previous record year.

The pattern was the same in other countries, some doing better than British manufacturers, others not so well. German output went up to about 2,500,000, French to almost 1,500,000, Italian to 1,100,000. In the United States, the biggest producer of all, over eight million cars left the assembly lines.

Exports generally followed the same trend. British sales abroad totalled over 600,000, French a little less than this, whilst Germany disposed of more than a million.

The demand for cars continues very strong. But supply, and more important, capacity to supply, is rapidly catching up. Over-capacity has probably already been reached in the British industry, and cannot be far behind in most of its competitors. The result can only be more and more hectic competition, and this has already announced itself.

The first shot has been fired by Ford, who have cut the price of their Anglia by £30. This brings it well below the price of its more comparable competitors, the Vauxhall Viva and the Hillman Imp, and only about £30 above the B.M.C. Mini-Minor. But the latter is already well down to a price which leaves little scope for further cutting, and the two others have still to repay the high cost of their new plant.

All of them will probably be able to take care of themselves during the high demand of the spring and summer, but there could well be the first nasty crunching sound sometime about the autumn when sales normally turn downwards. The managing director of Fords has made no secret of their intentions. He told the Sunday Times motoring reporter quite bluntly a little while ago—“We are setting out to get a bigger share of the small car market, and we shall get it. Wc don't mind where the biggest share comes from just so long as it comes to us.”

Ford are probably in the best position to make the running. With a £35 million profit in 1963, and the big reserves of their American parent behind them, they could no doubt afford to take a lower profit, perhaps even no profit at all on a model like the Anglia, most of whose tooling costs must have been well written off by now.

The same thing will be happening abroad before long. What with competition between private firms at home, and a free-for-all between countries on the international field, it looks like developing into a very interesting situation.

The biggest of them all
Whilst on the subject of cars, let us not forget the biggest maker of them all — General Motors of America.

They also had a good year in 1963. Their workers produced almost 5 million vehicles, more than the whole of British and German production together. Of these, more than a million went for export.

General Motors, of course, make lots of other things besides cars. From all their activities they did more business and made more profit than any other firm in the United States and probably in the world. Total sales in 1963 amounted to the colossal figure of between 16 and 17 thousand million dollars (almost £6.000 million) and their profits to 1,500 million dollars (about £500 million).

No wonder somebody once said that “What's good for General Motors is good for America." For American capitalism, of course)

And one quite small 
Still to do with cars, we like the report in the Economist recently to the effect that the Italians have just closed their frontiers to imports of Soviet cars. These cars are not apparently assembled in Russia, but exported in pieces to Belgium and distributed from there (Belgium, although it has no car industry of its own, has in fact become the biggest assembler of foreign cars in the world).

It must be quite a sight to see all those bits and pieces coming in from so many places—Standard-Triumphs from “free enterprise ” industry in Britain; Renaults from a nationalised industry in France; Moskvitches from state-capitalist Russia. Wc get to sec everything in time.
Stan Hampson

Branch News (1964)

Party News from the April 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much activity is talcing place in the Party and this behoves well for the better weather and the outdoor propaganda meetings. Particularly in Bromley (Lewisham Branch) and in Woodside (Glasgow), comrades are enthusiastically working in preparation for the General Election. Members not able to join in the regular work can help considerably by making great efforts to attend the meetings and take along as many friends as they can. The Glasgow meeting on April 26th is an election meeting and the Branch is challenging all the opponents who arc contesting the Municipal Election in the North Kelvin Ward to state their case.

Readers will note the May Day meetings advertised in this issue. In London, Trafalgar Square has been booked for Sunday, May 3rd, and with the experience gained at the September meeting, providing everyone works as hard and enthusiastically, this May Day should prove even more successful. Such an occasion provides great propaganda possibilities and we must make the very most of it.

Nottingham is following up the recent meetings at the Cosmo Debating Society when Comrade D'Arcy spoke, and the members there are planning a May Day Rally in Market Square on Sunday. May 3rd. in the afternoon and evening. The Cosmo Debating Society meeting was very successful. It is some time now since the Party sent a speaker there and our comrade D'Arcy was made very welcome. There was a debate with the Anarchists later in the evening. This, too. was well attended.

Sunderland Group (details under Groups) has started well and the Group hopes to hold regular meetings. It is hoped to have a full report of the activities in Sunderland in the May Socialist Standard. West London Branch recently had a lecture by our comrade Waters on the General Strike. This was well attended and particularly appreciated by younger members who learned much from the lecture.
Phyllis Howard

Editorial: The lull before the election (1964)

Editorial from the May 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now that the Prime Minister has given some indication of when the General Election will be held, perhaps we shall see something of a falling off in the hectic political activity which has been going on for the past few months. It would be difficult for any party to keep up the pace, the expense, and the interest of an electorate who, although they have everything to gain by taking an intelligent interest in politics, are generally apathetic to such matters.

If there is a lull, it will mean that the big parties will have to revise their strategy. The Labour Party’s costly “Let’s Go" campaign appears to have been timed for the maximum impact during a Summer election; on the evening of Home’s announcement, Labour secretary, Mr. Williams, ruefully speculated upon the expense which the later poll will cause his party.

Perhaps that was one of the effects which the Tories were hoping for. Or perhaps they are simply counting on something turning up between now and the Autumn to save them from what at present seems certain defeat. And perhaps it will. The history of elections does not encourage anyone to hope that the working class are proof against stunts or against being taken in by some issue in which they really have no interest.

It is typical of the modern Tories that they should put off the election until the last possible moment. Macmillan set the fashion for doing the politically dangerous thing and then blandly ignoring the consequent uproar. He did it over the spy trials, over the resignations of his Ministers, over the appointment of Lord Home (as he then was) as Foreign Secretary. And his party carried this on when they chose Home as their leader and delayed the opening of Parliament to give him a chance to become an M.P.

This not only shows the contempt in which the Conservatives hold the voters; it also shows their empirical determination to govern British capitalism, as it needs, day by day, to be governed. The Conservatives have always made a point of eschewing any political theories on the way to run capitalism and this has been much to British capitalism’s liking. It has also been much to the liking of the British working class, who have shown their gratitude for the contempt, for the Suez invasion, for the wage pause, for the housing situation and the rest, by faithfully returning Tory governments with ever increasing majorities.

Now, it seems, they are on the verge of electing a government of another party. Presumably, if the working class decide in the Autumn that the Labour Party should take over, they will do so in the belief that this will improve their conditions, or at any rate help to solve some of their problems.

There is nothing in the history of previous Labour governments to support this belief. Nor is there anything in.the programme upon which the Labour Party is preparing to fight the next election to support it.

The next Labour government—if there is one—will be as much the subject of dissatisfaction as were its predecessors. Workers will grumble about the cost of living, about their housing difficulties and other similar problems. There will be strikes over wages and working conditions, in spite of government appeals not to rock the boat. Pensioners will have a thin time of it. The fact that such problems as these—and many others—continue under a Labour government will probably depress and bewilder many of the people who so hopefully voted for it.

But the explanation is quite simple.

The Labour Party is an organisation which stands for capitalism. When it gets power it runs capitalism in basically the same way as the Conservatives or any other party. The problems of capitalism—war, poverty, insecurity—are therefore bound to continue under a Labour government.

The root of it all is the intentions and the desires of the voters. If the working class want to abolish war, if they want to get rid of the poverty which degrades and distorts their lives, they can do so.

All they have to do is to accumulate some knowledge of capitalism and of how Socialism, by abolishing the basis of capitalism, will also abolish its problems.

When they have got that knowledge the working class will reject all the political parties which stand for the continuance of capitalism. They will opt for Socialism—a world of abundance in which man, for the first time, will be free.

Finance and Industry: Oil under the sea (1964)

The Finance and Industry column from the June 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Oil under the sea

In our April issue we reported on the scramble now going on to stake out claims for oil concessions under the North Sea. As D-day draws nearer the Liquid Gold Rush is becoming more and more hectic.

D-day will be when the Minister of Power announces the regulations covering the issue of licences to prospect the sea bed, and asks for applications from interested firms. According to the Financial Times, the successful applicants may be hard at work by September.

Already the big boys are moving in, consolidating and amalgamating to impress the government that they are well in a position to cope should a licence come their way. Just to be on the safe side I.C.I. has set up shop with Burmah Oil and the Murphy Corporation of America, and the Gas Council has linked itself to U.S. Pan American International. Even more ambitiously, no less than six big British industrial firms, including Dorman Long and A.E.L, have set themselves up into a consortium with the impressive title of the North Sea Marine Engineering Construction Company. Asked about the prospects of finding oil, the managing director of the new company was very terse and to the point. “All I would say,” he said, “is that 46 oil companies would not be doing seismological work if there was not any oil”. Which, knowing our oil companies, seems apt enough comment.

Nobody knows at the moment just how many licences are going to be issued. But it won’t be long before the lucky contenders are announced. It looks as though it is going to be quite a race—with some very tempting prizes for the winner.

and on land

The race for oil near at home should not make us overlook happenings further afield. British troops are not being shot at in Aden by trigger-happy Yemeni tribesmen for nothing; not the least of the reasons they are there for is to keep an eye on the neighbouring oil installations, in which British capitalism has a large stake.

If we include Libya, which is not all that far away, the Middle East produces about 60 per cent by value of British oil requirements. British military pretensions have long since precluded active intervention in Iraq and Persia, but there are still treaties of '‘protection” with the fourteen petty states of the South Arabian Federation—these include, in particular, Kuwait with its annual output of 100 million tons of oil, in which B.P. has a fifty per cent interest. Some of the other sheikdoms are also fair oil producers, and exploration for new fields is going on in all of them, both on land and under the sea.

There are many people in British capitalist circles, who would be very pleased to get away from British dependence on Middle East oil. It has always been a risk politically, and is becoming more and more of a risk economically, particularly as the local ruling classes put increasing pressure on the oil companies for a greater and greater share of the revenues.

Which brings us back home again to the explorations under the North Sea. There is nothing probably the government would like better than for a hefty deposit of oil or natural gas to be found in British territorial waters. Something on the scale of the recent big find in Holland would be just the thing. Then they and the oil companies would really be able to put the screws on when it came to the next squabble over royalties with the sheiks.

The last bastion

Of all man's activities under capitalism, it is agriculture that has most resisted change. But change it does, in spite of all the obstacles, natural or man-made, that serve to impede it.

In the United States, the barriers have long since been broken. But, mechanisation apart, the rest of capitalism has been slow to follow the other developments which have become such a feature of the American agricultural scene during recent years. Yet within the last few years, in Britain especially, there has been a drastic change. Once upon a time farmers could think only of mass production in terms of crops; today, all is talk of applying this process to animals and animal produce.

As we have ourselves reported in these columns, one company alone is planning to produce about one-fifth of future British egg supplies, and it has since been announced that other firms are considering entering the egg industry on a similar scale. Linked with this development is another, again already prominent in the United States. This is vertical integration, the process whereby a single company controls the whole sequence of production — it has already been introduced into the broiler industry where some firms produce the feeding-stuffs, hatch out the young chickens from eggs laid by their own hens, rear them to broiler weight, and handle even the marketing themselves.

All this has come about in Britain in the space of two.or three years—remember that the broiler industry itself was unknown ten years ago. Now the same process is being applied to cattle and to pigs; the Financial Times recently reported a project by one group to set up a gigantic pig-rearing unit estimated to cost £300,000, complete with sausage factory alongside!

One side effect is already troubling the millers and makers of animal feeds, since the fundamental feature of the new combines is that they produce their own fodder requirements. The reaction of the millers has been, as often happens in these circumstances, to jump on to the band waggon themselves. Thus Spillers were quick to move in with Buxted Chicken, the big broiler chicken firm, to operate jointly their own feeding stuffs plant.

The small farmer, already feeling the squeeze from a host of directions, can hardly cope with this type of development. The alternatives for him will be either a constantly worsening existence if he chooses to stay on his farm, or a new life as a wage-worker in the town. Britain already has the lowest proportion of its population living on the land, but it is obvious that the forced emigration to the towns has still to exhaust itself. Agricultural mass production and vertical integration between them look like finishing off the process.
Stan Hampson