Friday, June 29, 2018

Looking at Unemployment (1982)

Editorial from the June 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Everyone is interested in unemployment. Local authorities are running courses and conferences on its social and mental effects, academics are writing books and papers on it. professional economists are issuing complex and wildly divergent forecasts about its future. Above all, with the next election in view, political parties are producing programmes and making promises which claim to solve it.

What has always happened in the past is that unemployment has gone up when shrinking markets have made existing employment levels unprofitable, and come down when the market has expanded and employers have needed to take on more workers to produce goods to sell at a profit. The interest shown by the “experts’" and politicians has never in itself made much difference to the course unemployment has taken.

Despite this the politicians still hope, or at least give the impression they hope, that they can do something about the problem. That is why Thatcher’s economic advisers are formulating proposals to deal with unemployment and why both the Labour Party and the SDP have produced detailed plans for combatting it. The Tories’ record on unemployment over the last three years speaks for itself and Thatcher will find it hard to carry conviction with any new plan her advisers might think up. The Labour Party may put their trust in short electoral memories but cannot get away from the fact that every Labour government since 1929 has promised to get rid of, or reduce, unemployment and every single one has left office with unemployment higher than when it came in. As for the SDP, it has no record to defend but who can forget that its leaders spent many years in Labour governments helping to administer high rates of unemployment?

How do Labour and the SDP hope to deal with unemployment? Both their programmes, looked at in broad lines, turn out to be very similar to the sort of policies adopted by most Labour (and some Conservative) governments in the past. Both are opposed to “monetarism” and both intend instead to “reflate”- to print and spend large amounts of money to try and stimulate economic activity and “create employment”. The Labour Party aims at “full employment” while the SDP looks to an unemployment figure of 1¼  million or five per cent. These policies and aims resemble very closely the programme to which the left-wing French government under Mitterrand has been committed. Indeed, in a rally in Cardiff last July, Michael Foot praised Mitterrand for deciding to spend his way out of the crisis and said that the French leader’s policies were just the ones a future Labour government would use to get rid of unemployment. In the year since he took office Mitterrand, who had promised to reduce unemployment by 200,000 a year over his seven-year term, has seen the number of French jobless rise from 1.6 million to 2 million plus. So Mitterrand, using the same policies as advocated by Foot and Jenkins, has achieved the same results as Thatcher—increasing unemployment.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this and from the past record of governments is that there is absolutely nothing that politicians can do about unemployment. Unemployment goes up and down according to the natural boom-slump-boom-slump cycle of the world market and does so regardless of the policies of individual governments. If capital cannot be invested at a profit, it is not invested at all and the result is reduced output, closures and fewer jobs. The world economy is in one of its slump phases at present and, inevitably, unemployment is rising everywhere. Even countries with a reputation for “efficiency” like Germany and Japan are seeing cutbacks in production, record bankruptcies and increasing numbers of workers without jobs.

In these circumstances it is hard to see the promises of more jobs and more security made by the different political parties as anything but, at best, exercises in wish fulfilment and at worst barefaced vote-catching frauds. It is equally hard not to see that unemployment and the threat of it are an integral part of the present world economic system which operates on the basis of profit, money, buying and selling and the employer-employee relationship. The only way to solve the problem is to bring in new economic arrangements based on production directly for use, moneyless free access to all goods and services and work carried out in voluntary association by free and equal producers.

British Unity. (1911)

From the September 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

The circulation of the Clarion is on the decline. The “chief” has been making strenuous efforts to apply the brake. He has deserted hie Agnosticism for a belief in a divine God, has joined with Hyndman in advocating a big navy, has scrapped the Free Trade fetish for Tariff Reform with the assistance of the “Daily Mail”—he has sacrificed all to save the “Clarion.”

But all to no purpose. And just when it appears that the compass has been completely “boxed,” and that no other course is open to R.B. than to accept the honourable position of office boy at Carmelite House, Grayson, the vanquished Victor, steps into the breach with a genuine British production, and the situation is saved.

“The psychological moment has arrived,” says he. “The time for the formation of the British Socialist Party has definitely come.”

Undoubtedly. With a party pushing the “Clarion” as its official organ, and Grayson as its official organiser, both will be saved from the oblivion that threatened.

But the object of the proposed party is by no means as definite as the time, for we are told that by signing the declaration form you simply “express your desire to join," and declare that you are “favourably disposed toward the project of a United British Socialist Party.”

”Our basis must be pure Socialism,” but we are not told what this pure Socialism is. Conceptions as to what constitutes “pure” Socialism may differ—which is probably the idea of of the founders of the new brand. For that will permit all to join and none to be sent empty-handed away.

Let us endeavour, from the writings and utterances of the holy trinity, Blatchford, Grayson, and A. M. Thompson, to discover what this “Socialism” is that is to unite all the “Socialist forces” into one great mess—pardon—mass.

A. M. Thompson tells us what we have to do.

“We have sworn to smash and pulverise the gilded gods with the crafty eyes of glass that unceasingly mock our people’s wretchedness from their lofty shrines above our national altars. We are determined to revolutionise England and English ideals and English society. But how? ”

This sounds all right until he reaches the last two words. Then he wobbles. He does not seem to know quite how it is to be done. Parliamentary action is taboo because “Jesus never fought an election, never won a seat, never drafted a Bill, nor ever moved a resolution.” What we have to do is to “sacrifice to the mob, receive its complaint, listen to it touching its faults and touching the faults of others, hear its confession, give it thy ear, thy hand, thy arm, thy heart.”

Not very definite, is it? Yet quite sufficient to bring along a “startling number of unattached Socialists, many of whom belong to the middle-class.” And we are assured that “Hundreds of members of the I.L P., members of the S.D.P., the Fabian Society and the Church Socialist League,” and “ thousands of others, have responded to the call for new Party.”

Whatever the policy of the party is to be, we may be sure of its British diameter. We must give our ears, hands, arms and hearts to the party, but we can keep our heads for other purposes. Which is kind.

Blatchford says (“Clarion” 4.8.11): “Let each man be free on all points outside the mere plain principle of Socialism. If a man chooses to preach religion or anti-religion, let him have his head, but don’t incorporate those ideas into the policy of the Party . BRITAIN FOR THE BRITISH, that is all we want.”

When writing in the “Daily Mail” on the “German Menace,” Mr. Blatchford said that ”the destruction of the British Empire would be a misfortune for Europe and a blow to civilization throughout the world,” while Grayson has said that he was “ready to defend even this rotten country willing to prefer the English to the German plunderer.”

Part of the “plain principle” of “pure" Socialism is to defend the British Empire and to arm in defence of the British capitalists, Rothschild, Cassell A Co, to the discomfort of the German plunderer. Outside that “plain principle,” however, the member is to "have his head,” and surely he will but be following in the footsteps of the holy trinity if be loses it in dealing with Socialism.

As instance Grayson in debate with Joynson-Hicks at Manchester:

“It would have given me more pleasure tonight had Mr. Joynson-Hicks, instead of reading the exoteric, philosophic ramblings of the philosopher, Mr. Belfort Bax ; instead of going to the exotics of Karl Marx, come to the source of English (why not British?) Socialism, the books of the English economists to learn what the Socialist suggestion really is. When Socialism is put into practice as it is in tramways," etc.

This repudiation of the founder of scientific Socialism is supported by Blatchford, who, in the “Fortnightly Review” (Feb. 1908) wrote:
“Dr. Crozier is mistaken if he thinks I take my Socialism from Marx or that it depends upon the Marxian theory of Value. I have never read a line of Marx. English ” (I suggest British) “Socialism is not German, it is English. English Socialism is not Marxian, it is humanitarian.”
So, whatever the constitution of the party is to be, whatever its policy, it is not to be based upon the teachings of Marx. We are told that all theories of Value are “vanity and striving after wind.” “Economic justice is impossible," and that "surplus value is due to the inventor, and not to the labourer or the capitalist.”
(Blatchford in the “Fortnightly Review.”) 

Socialism, according to St. Victor, is “State help out of the large income which the rich have seized from the wealth produced by the workers,” and therefore they (the Socialists) “declare that land and capital are to belong to the community, whether expressed as the State, or the local county or municipal council.”

In the debate mentioned, Grayson affirms his belief in God and “counts the existence of God as part of his life and aspirations,” while Blatchford, known above all as an opponent of religion, and who has declared that “conflict between Socialism and religion is inevitable," writes in the “Fortnightly Review” : “All forms of human genius, like land and water and the fruits of the earth, are the gifts of God, and why should not we, being all of us God’s children, share the gifts of our Father to the comfort and happiness of us all? ”

This, then, is the jumble which is dubbed “pure Socialism” and is to form the basis of the British Socialist Party! It is to this we are asked to pin our faith; under this banner we are to seek the Socialist unity we desire.

The B.S.P. is not to oppose other parties or, in Parliament, to oppose the Labour Party, despite the fact, as Grayson himself has stated, that the Labour Party are “traitors and cowards.” No, it is to support the traitors to the working class, and, in fact, to support anything that will bring members to the “party” and readers to the “Clarion.”

In the light of the facts the workers should have no hesitation in placing the B.S.P., before its formation, in the category of pseudo Socialist parties as another step in the wrong direction, an attempt to lead a section of the workers already fooled and sold by political tricksters, in another chase after the Will o'-the-wisp.

True Socialist unity will only come when the workers realise that would-be bosses of the Grayson type are as futile as would-be leaders of the Macdonald pattern.

Let the workers but grip the essentials of Socialism, and then there will be no need to talk to them of unity; and the winnings of such burnt-out “fire brands" anxious to be rekindled, as Victor Grayson, will find no “thousands" of semi-detached "Socialists” to support them.
T. W. Lobb

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Crooked in every direction (1996)

Book Review from the February 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Straight Left by Paddy Devlin (Blackstaff Press, £8.95)

The vanity that induces someone to think that the public wants to know about their life is well to the fore in this autobiography. The story of a ghetto kid who saw a future in ward healing politics — which, for some undisclosed reason he associates with socialism — is told in a tidal wave of personal pronouns.

There is usually a story in the life of every working class youngster who finds diversion in cheating the reality of poverty and privation. When that life is lived in a Belfast sectarian ghetto, an extra dimension of religious bigotry and strife is added to life’s miseries which, in turn, heightens the need for those forms of escapism which Devlin’s portrayal of his formative years illustrates so well.

But bigotry is no joke and, in Northern Ireland, it frequently carries a gun or a bomb. Here it is composed of the naked viciousness of a primitive Calvinism which, while most reflected in the crude politico-religious vapourings of Paisleyism, has to some extent infiltrated all the Protestant denominations, and that particularly virulent strain of Catholicism which is essentially Irish.

Both, after the fashion of mainstream religion elsewhere, are on the march to what is effectively their end. In Northern Ireland, however, legend, tradition and very deliberately inculcated ignorance artificially respirates these evils into an ugly tribalism that represents the politics of the province. The inadequacies of capitalism, especially in housing, employment and education, act as a convenient catalyst for these malignant forces in the hands of bigots like Paisley and Adams and their religious or political fundamentalist cohorts — who. if local politics demanded any degree of intellectual integrity, would have long since been marginalised.

It is the consequences, political and economic, of this politico-religious mishmash that has formed the background to the mayhem that has given Northern Ireland a central place among the world's trouble spots over the past twenty-five years. Devlin played a central part in the events that led to the present troubles and, while he relates faithfully the bigotry and intransigence that made the Unionists into destroyers of their own cause, he fails utterly to appreciate the part which the false analysis of the Civil Rights movement contributed to the Northern Ireland tragedy.

The leaders of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NiCRA). rightly accused the Unionist government and party of maintaining a regime that discriminated against catholics in the distribution of jobs, housing and local government votes. The inevitable assumption among working class protestants was that they were privileged in these areas — which they were not — and that the demand for a fairer distribution of these needs with catholics represented a threat to their alleged protestant privileges.

Socialists see the imposition of poverty in any of its aspects (jobs, housing, education etc.) on any grounds whatsoever — even when it is given apparent legitimacy by being called ’selection’ — as a feature of capitalism. Within the ambit of that system’s production for profit ethos, scarcity is an inevitable feature. Capitalism cannot exist without poverty, without unemployment and without penalising those who, for whatever reason, do not offer the profit system the maximum surplus value.

However Devlin may protest his ’socialism’, he was at one with those in the NICRA who identified the problems in religious terms; the problems were, they argued, caused by Unionism. Certainly, corruption and maladministration resulted in the uneven distribution of capitalism’s miseries but the miseries themselves were the political and economic consequences of capitalism. Unfortunately, the NICRA analysis led to conflict on religious lines within the working class when an essential part of the solution lay in the unity of the working class.

Like many pseudo-socialists, Devlin has a recidivistic contempt for the lessons of history. The failure of good intentions, Keynesian 'magic' and reforming zeal to remove the social ugliness of capitalism should drive him to consideration of an alternative form of social organisation, such as socialism — defined as it was before its wilful perversion by earlier groups of ward healers who thought they could make a system based on exploitation of the working class function in the interests of that class. Such consideration would, of course, be an admission of failure and acknowledged failures do not write autobiographies.

If you can stand the dreadful political ignorance of someone who suggests that the SDLP is/was associated with socialism, that the Northern Ireland power-sharing Executive of 1974 is a model for the (socialist?) future and that the Workers Party is a Marxist organisation, then the rest is interesting and factually instructive about events in Northern Ireland especially since 1968.
Richard Montague

Does inflation fall from heaven? (1979)

From the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

People like Lord Soper tell us that the Christian Paradise will be achieved right here on earth when we get a socialist society. It seems rather a cheek that after all the thousands of years of suffering on the part of the human race, when eventually we do achieve a world fit for humans to live in, the Christian God will take the credit. If he wants any thanks from us, let him lend a hand now. If he is going to keep mum as he has done ever since humanity created him and leave it to us ordinary mortals to win our new world one day, then he can keep off the stage when the bouquets are being handed out. But there is something else. Bad news for Lord Soapbox. There ain't gonna be no paradise. Even when we have achieved socialism, people will not live forever with wings on their shoulders and little harps in their hands. 

We will still get ill and die. Children may still be born with cancer (as many are now). There will still be earthquakes and typhoons which will kill and maim people. True, socialist society will do everything possible to alleviate suffering, but we will never be immune to it.

I indulge in all this preamble because a lot of people cannot imagine a world without inflation. They seem to think it is like an act of god, some sort of primal curse which the human race must learn to live with. It is not the purpose of this article to deal with the subject from a strictly academic or economic point of view. The columns of the Socialist Standard have often featured articles showing that inflation is simply a matter of a government printing an excess of paper currency. Indeed, this seems to be so blindingly obvious as really to brook no argument. Like saying that if you walk out in the rain you’re liable to get wet. Who’s going to argue? The fact is that politicians and economists do argue and quite fiercely. One can only assume they are either dishonest or daft. (They could of course be both and often are). There was a time, and not all that long ago, when the very word inflation was more or less unknown — or restricted to such things as car tyres.

This train of thought occurred to me when reading the remarks of a Ford worker at the beginning of their strike as quoted in the Guardian on Sept. 27. Here are his words of wisdom: “I’m proud of Ford’s in Dagenham, but we’re working like peasants down there. 'Thirty years ago, I earned £6 a week and 1 was a millionaire. I could buy a new suit every other month. Now, I’m a peasant’’. Let us ignore the unfortunate attitude of a member of the working class in 1978 who is a self-confessed peasant and yet is proud of his Baron Ford. That could well be the subject of another article—or maybe a book. The thing that struck me was his claim that thirty years ago this ordinary worker could buy a suit every other month.

How can this possibly be true, you may well ask? Surely workers are not worse off now than thirty years ago? But with suits running at nearly £100 a time (£200 in places like Harrods), one suit a year is probably nearer the mark than six. But the funny thing is that our worker is probably not far out and his memory is not playing him tricks. Thirty years ago, do you know what the name was of a huge men’s tailoring chain (second only to Burtons)? Fifty Shilling Tailors. Two and a half quid in modern language. But here I am more concerned with the actual name of the firm than the fact that suits were so cheap in those days. Because there is something very striking about that name. And it is this. No firm could dream of giving themselves a name like that today. How could it tie itself to a price when its price goes up every year? It would be an absurd thing to do. Like the slogan of Woolworths in those days. “Nothing over sixpence in the store”. Two and a half pence in modern parlance.

Now the firm from which our worker had bought his suit thirty years ago had been in existence with the same name for thirty years before that. And the mental process of the capitalist who ran the business (ironically his name was Price and he became a Lord just like Wilson’s raincoat manufacturer today) was clear enough. “I am going to sell suits at fifty shillings. So it must be a fine advertising gimmick to put the fact in the name over the door”. It never even occurred to this smart and very successful capitalist that the time would come when the name would be a source of acute embarrassment and would have to be changed. You are obviously going to make a fool of your business if it is called Fifty Shilling Tailors when the price is actually fifty pounds — or a hundred pounds. So just about the time our worker is referring to, when inflation first began to be really noticed (inflation has been with us ever since World War II — though it only broke into a gallop in the last decade), they changed their name to John Collier.

So it is clear that neither capitalists nor workers gave a thought to the prospect of price rises in those days. God might send earthquakes. He never sent inflation. And oddly enough, neither did man for many generations. From the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 to the start of World War I in 1914, prices remained more or less stable. This was the first industrial country in the world. So there was nothing which said that inflation was an essential fact of capitalist life. It just didn't happen. Until governments decided to make it happen. And the very governments that do so are those with the nerve to blame it on the workers for being too greedy. They conveniently overlook that if it's greedy to want to maintain, and if possible even improve, their standard of living within the confines of capitalism then workers were always greedy. But inflation never happened. Workers in England were struggling and striking during the thirties but prices, if anything, went down.

There was of course one country where inflation hit hard and has remained a folk nightmare to this day and that was Weimar Germany in the Twenties. The awful days when workers had to take home their millions of marks on Friday in a wheelbarrow. But, of course, the workers did not print all those millions of notes. The German government did. And when it stopped printing, inflation stopped too. Which brings up another thought. When economists and politicians (and socialists too) discuss inflation, one always hears that in Germany today, inflation is not so serious. It is currently running at around 4 per cent and has never hit double figures, even at times when inflation in this country was over 20 per cent. And the reason is always given: Ah you see, the Germans have such dreadful memories of inflation between the wars. They couldn’t let such a thing happen again. And, for a change, the reason is more or less the right one. Any German government which printed notes on a scale like the British or the Italian governments have done over the last few years would be kicked out of office in quick time. The voters wouldn't stand for it. Even as things were, when Brandt was Chancellor and inflation was showing signs of going over 5 per cent, there was a joke in Germany which said that if he was Chancellor over a desert island you would soon notice the sand getting dearer. So, unlike the British government, the Germans decided to keep their inflation within strict limits. It was entirely up to them. The fact that the German workers are just as “greedy” as the British made no difference. It could not cause inflation unless the government wanted it. And, oddly enough, in another very successful capitalist country, even in these days, there is at present no inflation at all. Despite the high wages that the workers earn in Switzerland, their inflation rate is currently nil. So not only did heaven not send down inflation in the last century, it does not send it down in this century either in countries where the governments decide to solve their problems (or try to) without recourse to the printing presses.

The government in Britain (Tory and Labour alike) decided that the workers could learn to live with inflation. And of course, they are right. Capitalism goes on by and large in the same way whether there is inflation or not. It is true that it is worrying to find that every time you go shopping your wages have to stretch further. And a council flat that cost £2 a week quite recently costs £12 today. All this sort of thing is part of the hassle of capitalism which makes life full of stress and strain. Roll on the day when there won’t be high prices. Or low prices. A moneyless and — within limits — worryless society, too.
L. E. Weidberg

Labour's role in Northern Ireland (1979)

From the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Immigrant Irish workers played no small part in the formation of the British Labour Party in 1906. Labour was hope; hope for the future in the land of their adoption; hope, too, for their loved ones, back on the 'oul sod'. Was not Labour a party of principle? Did not its spokesmen, especially when canvassing the ‘Irish vote’, speak emotionally of the ‘ancient wrongs’ and promise ‘freedom and friendship’ to Ireland?

In the years since 1906, the Labour Party has become a political obscenity that has jettisoned all the lofty principles that attended its birth. Those ‘principles’, begotten of ignorance of the nature of capitalism and the crassest political opportunism, have failed to fight even a rear guard action against the forces Labour claimed it could overwhelm and vanquish. Ironically, the excuses for Labour’s failures, for its total abandonment of principle, are logical only in terms of its continued existence; given its basic premise—that capitalism can operate in the interests of its exploited class—adherence to principle would have cost it its life.

To use the parlance of capitalism, there is no crime against the workers that Labour has not committed; indeed, because of its unholy alliance with the unions, it has often proved a more successful instrument against working class interests than have the Tories. Strike-breaking, racism, assaults on working-class living standards, propping up foreign dictatorships, military murder of defenceless peoples, nuclear weapon proliferation, presiding over poverty, homelessness and unemployment and taking active steps in the interests of the propertied class to extend these miseries. These are some of the crimes of the British Labour Party.

This is the other face of Callaghan, the plump, stooping ‘father figure', the disgusting paragon of capitalist respectability who pokes gentle jibes at his stage-managed counterpart on the ‘opposition’ benches to the accompaniment of the moronic caterwauling of ‘the House’.

That the Tories are even worse that Labour appears to be the prevailing attitude among the ‘Irish Vote’ in Britain and of the majority of workers in Ireland. No intelligent defence of Labour is offered but, ‘on the Irish Question . . .’ a more sympathetic understanding from the Labour Party than from the Tories is expected. After all, did not the Tories, callously exploit the ‘Irish Question’ and the ‘Orange Card’ to suit their political fortunes? Are they not the true architects of the situation now being paid for with working class lives in Ireland? Might they not, if they came to power, give the governorship role to the dreaded Airey Neave whose ignorant vapourings and sanguine aspirations threaten the Province with lakes of blood? On the other hand, didn’t Harold and Jim and many of their political ilk make speeches and write books acknowledging Britain’s part in the Irish tragedy and holding out the promise of unity and reconciliation?

Contrary to its alleged principles, however, Labour has over the last ten years used the full measure of its governmental authority to enact viciously repressive legislation. aimed at the most impoverished section of the working class in Northern Ireland. It has filled the jails with people who have ‘confessed’ to State torturers, allowed sporting military gentlemen to bludgeon or kill without fear of legal constraint and, finally, set in train the armament of the majority side in the conflict.

After Belsen, Dresden. Hiroshima, Vietnam and all the other horrors of capitalism it is a contemptuous hypocrisy on the part of those who accept this system to condemn the Provisional IRA for using violence. Indeed, were it not so disgusting, the sight of Roy Mason, Labour’s Gauleiter in Northern Ireland, condemning the viciousness of the IRA, would be comic. Mason’s last job was associated with preparations for the destruction of life and property with weapons that make those of the IRA look like toys.

Mason and his fraternity respond to criticism of military murder, torture and violence against the person by the forces of State thuggery, with the argument that those concerned or appalled by such practices are giving aid and comfort to terrorists. It was an argument used by some of those who were charged at Nuremberg in 1946 with ‘crimes against humanity’.

Throughout all its periods of office, the Labour Party countenanced, assisted and, in 1949, reinforced the despotic authority of Ulster Unionism. Only in 1968, when British capitalism’s investment in Northern Ireland was placed in jeopardy and the stench of events here was getting a bit much for the sensitive political nostrils of the ‘free world’, did British Labour act.

It sent in the British Army, literally to hold the fort against the downtrodden who, in a backlash of anger, threatened the future of the politicians with whom Labour had always had ‘amicable’ relations. After the Army, Callaghan, the ‘Irish expert’ arrived and offered the populace his wisdom and expertise: everybody should stop fighting because we were really such a marvellous people and, besides, we knew it made sense!

Subsequently, through Labour pressure to create the illusion of change, the guns were temporarily removed from the largely politically-Protestant police force and the exclusively Protestant ‘B‘ Specials were disbanded. But Ulster Unionism was going to be defended by a fitter and more efficient groups of gunslingers; Callaghan announced the establishment of a new, locally based and recruited. regiment to be known as the Ulster Defence Regiment and, also, established a reserve for the infamous Royal Ulster Constabulary. Both—one by association and the other in its choice of name and intention—were immediately anathema to the non-unionist population and, predictably, became almost exclusively Protestant in their membership. It did not require the ‘expertise’ of a Callaghan to appreciate that this would happen, nor to realise that, in the political climate of the times, both organisations would attract the type of recruits that would distinguish themselves in the practice of bigotry—and worse.

Labour was, of course, only doing what is required of those who offer their services to capitalism. But even with their considerable experience of slopping up capitalism’s messes, the task of backing up the oldest of Europe’s repressive regimes could hardly have been conducive to untroubled sleep. True, Labour only laid the foundations of the new phase of Irish troubles before they were kicked out of office in 1970. The Tories, who replaced them, allowed murder and torture and. finally, took over the management of the whole show. In many respects the thuggery of the Tories was carried on with a little less hypocrisy than Labour had shown, and certainly Whitelaw seemed to enjoy the function of Gauleiter less than the present Labour incumbent.

The Labour Party’s ‘conscience’ must be a very sick joke, to those members of the working class in Northern Ireland who find themselves interned, beaten senseless or made to ‘confess’ to murder or other terrorist offences. Or to those who have their homes broken up and their relatives arrested for hours or days, TWO OR THREE TIMES EVERY WEEK, and even summarily executed by ‘‘security forces” whose assertion that their victims were ‘gunmen’ often proves so untenable that the State eventually pays ‘conscience’ money to the next-of-kin— even if it never manages to identify and punish the murderers.
Richard Montague (Belfast)

Party Notes. (1907)

Party News from the July 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Delegate Meeting will be held at the Communist Club on Saturday, 13th July at 3 p.m. Important business will be brought before it, and a full attendance of delegates is requested. 


Full particulars were promised last month of the correspondence that has passed between the Tottenham Branches of the S.P.G.B. and the I.L.P. The Tottenham Herald has since published the correspondence. Our branch challenged the I.L.P. to debate the proposition: “Does the I.LP. deserve the support of the working class?" Two of their local champions had expressed their willingness to meet a representative of this Party on the question, but the branch replied : “Your challenge to debate the claims of the I.L.P. to the support of the working classes duly came before the branch for consideration at our business meeting. I am instructed to inform you that our platform is open to you, or to anyone else who disagrees with us, and that you will be treated with consideration and courtesy at any of our meetings. In view, however, of the extravagant and slanderous statements made by your Tottenham speakers, we cannot see our way to meet you further. Furthermore, we suggest that it would be more honest and straightforward if, instead of allowing irresponsible spokesmen to bring the whole Socialist movement into disrepute by a policy of abuse and misrepresentation, you were to publish in your Journal the charges you bring against us, so that we should know definitely what your Party was prepared to support, and what we were expected to reply to.”


The Tottenham S.P.G.B. said: “I am instructed to acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you decline our challenge to debate. Your reference to the "working classes” is typical of that looseness of expression, or ignorance, or both, which characterises the utterances of so many of the members of the I.LP. May I remind you ; that there are but two classes—the working class and the master class. This branch is unaware of any "extravagant and slanderous" statements having been made by our speakers. We ask you to name the occasions, the speakers, and the essence of the alleged statements. The charge that we bring against the I.LP. is that it is not worthy the support of the working class. We have given the evidence in the manifesto of the S.P.G.B., and month by month, in the columns of The Socialist Standard. . . . If we are pursuing a "policy of abuse and misrepresentation” why not meet us in debate and expose us? Your failure to do so will be accepted by the public as evidence that you cannot justify your position, and that you know our charge is true.”


A reply to this communication is already somewhat overdue!


Up to the date of going to press the first instalment of the discussion on Trade Unionism had not been received from the advocates of Industrial Unionism.
Adolph Kohn

Mr. Barnes and the A.S.E. (1907)

From the July 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard
The letter given below is a copy of one sent to the secretary of Ipswich Branch of the Operative Bricklayers' Society in reply to an invitation to speak at an engineers’ meeting to be held in that town on May 25th, with Mr. G. N. Barnes as chief speaker.
While thanking both Bro. Batchelor for suggesting and yourself for asking me to attend the Meeting of Engineers, there are certain important reasons why I could not appear on a platform with Mr. Barnes, to support him or his views and position in any way. As a Socialist I hold that the working-class can only get out of the slough of misery and degradation in which they exist to day by their consciously organising for the overthrow of the system that produces these conditions—namely, the capitalist system of Society. Until this is done the bad effects which our class suffers under, equally here in London as it does in Ipswich, and, in fact, everywhere that capitalism reigns, will, apart from some temporary fluctuations, tend to become worse. When the working class recognises this fact then it will organise itself into the political and economic organisations, having for their object the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism.

Meanwhile, until the workers arrive at that stage in the development of their knowledge of their own position in Society, which we Socialists term “class-consciousness,” the Socialists must carry on the work of education and agitation, to help in producing that knowledge or consciousness of the fact that their misery and poverty is due to one class in Society owning all the means of life—as the land, machinery, factories, railways, etc., and the wealth when it is produced—while the working class owns only the energy, ability or power to work—inseparable from the workers themselves—which they have to sell day by day or week by week, in order to obtain the necessaries of life.

With every improvement in machinery, with every fresh application of chemistry and science to industry,—as for example the introduction of concrete-steel construction with relation to our own trade the number of workers required to produce a given amount of wealth, or number of articles, continually decreases. We thus get the apparent paradox that while the amount of wealth produced increases the amount of unemployment increases also.

This antagonism of material interests causes a struggle to arise over the share which each is endeavouring to obtain of the wealth produced. And the only way out of this vicious circle is for the working-class to recognise this opposition of interest between themselves the producers—and the capitalist class the appropriators and to end this intolerable system by taking bold of the means of life to be owned and controlled by the workers in their social capacity.

There can be no crying of peace where only the conditions of war exist, and any assistance given to the capitalist class, either politically or economically, is a direct injury to the working class.

When Mr. Barnes assisted the employers on the Clyde in driving the men back to work by refusing strike pay and threatening expulsion from the A.S.E. although the men had twice voted for a strike to enforce their demands—then he showed that either from ignorance or intention he was helping to perpetuate capitalism, and therefore the evil effects, to our class, that it produces.

When Mr. Barnes and his Executive accepted the proposition of the employers on the East Coast that piece-work should be introduced—merely another name for intensified sweating—another direct injury was inflicted upon the workers for the benefit of the employers.

When running for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow, Mr. Barnes played for and obtained Liberal capitalist support at the last General Election, although the constitution of the L.R.C. forbids these alliances and bargains, thus deceiving the working class by joining hands with their enemy. Although he is quite aware that the average age at which the workers die is 29 to 30 years, yet he proposed in the House of Commons to give the workers Old Age Pensions of 5/- per week at 65 years of age—that is, sufficient to buy bread and butter, but not clothing and shelter, 35 years after most of them are dead!

To appear upon any platform with this person —except to denounce him for the misleader he is—would be nauseating to any man acquainted with the facts and understanding the Socialist position, unless he were out playing the same game.

These are my reasons for refusing to speak at the Engineers’ Meeting at Ipswich, which, except as stated above, could have only acted to the injury of our members and the working class in general.—Yours fraternally,
Jack Fitzgerald

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Material World: The End of EtA (2018)

The Material World column from the June 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Euskadi ta Askatasuna, meaning 'Basque Fatherland and Liberty' in the Basque language, was formed in 1959, when its founders focused on  Franco's suppression of the Basque language and culture. The separatist group has now formally announced its disbandment, almost exactly 50 years after claiming its first victim
The reality and the realisation that their urban guerrilla strategy failed has finally prevailed amongst the ETA leadership. The vast majority in the Basque people clearly rejected the tactic of terrorism nor did it force either the Spanish and French governments to make substantial policy concessions.
The Basque region has a greater degree of autonomy than any of Spain's other 16 regions, with its own police force, education system, language and a special financial relationship with Madrid. However, it is questionable if these powers which were granted to the region by the 1978 constitution, were as a result of ETA's actions. ETA has come to the conclusion that terrorism is generally an unsuccessful way for perpetrators to attain their demands.
ETA is said to have killed more than 800 people between 1968 and 2010, the year before it announced a permanent ceasefire. In January 2011, ETA declared that their September 2010 ceasefire would be permanent and verifiable by international observers, later in October announcing the cessation of armed activity. In April 2017 it staged a disarmament ceremony.
For the terrorist the most pressing incentive is belief in the virtue of their cause. The fact that ETA had high-sounding objectives like freeing the population from the tyranny of Franco's fascism and obtaining the rights for Basques does not make any difference to the end result as far as the working class are concerned.  Terrorism uses violence, or the threat of violence, to achieve its ends. It is designed to have far reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target. That is the bottom-line despite trying to disguise the fact.
Political movements which rely on non-violence are more likely to achieve their objectives than are those movements that resort to force. After all, violence usually results in retaliation and counter-violence. The Socialist Party explains that the only one way to achieve lasting peace across this planet involves discarding nationalism and forgoing violence as a means of accomplishing nationalist goals. The case for political violence is the case against the possibility of working class consciousness. On the whole, the Basque workers were viewed by ETA as an unthinking mass that the force of events, guided and accelerated by the hand of the self-appointed elite, would result in a sovereign Basque state.  Success by ETA would have only produced a change of masters.
The concept of the 'nation-state' and those who promote it are the enemies of our class and there will be little hope of lasting peace around the world until the workers refuse to support and sympathy for nationalism.
The Socialist Party certainly hopes that ETA's demise brings a permanent end to the political violence, the killing, and the maiming in the region . Violence and terrorism are not instruments which can be used in the building of socialism.

Running Commentary: Capitalism in Cuba (1979)

The Running Commentary column from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism in Cuba
The overthrow of the hated Batista regime in Cuba, and its replacement by that of Fidel Castro, has provided a glut of romantic nonesense on which the left wing has feasted for the past twenty years.

Castro — bearded, bereted, camouflage jacketed — has been a sort of Biggles to these people and his henchman Che Guevera was even more glamourous — after all, he actually got himself killed fighting a guerrilla campaign.

So the Cuban uprising had to be proven good; after all it was supposed to have brought socialism to Cuba and so everyone should be happier, healthier, more free.

What actually happened was that Cuba suffered a fearsome bloodbath, many of the victims being Castro's own supporters. Only now are they being released from gaol.

And now, twenty years after that event, Cuba is going through a process predictable to anyone who can recognise capitalism even when it wears a red star. Cuba concedes that it was not after all a socialist revolution and that its economy operates on the universal principles of capitalist society.

Cuban industries — all of them state owned — now operate under the goad of something called the "economic calculus”, which is another way of saying an obligation to produce profit. Any which fail this test are liable to be allowed to expire, like the industrial lame ducks which the Heath government once said they would abandon to their fate.

Efficiency and economy have now become favourite watchwords in Castro’s Cuba; industrial managers work under an ever heavier threat of dismissal if they fall below the expected standards — and perhaps hope that the sack is the worst that awaits them.

The rcalease of Castro’s political prisoners may well be linked to Cuba's plans to develop a tourist industry, for which they are hoping to attract foreign investment, including substantial amounts from their old enemy the United Slates.

And — the final irony — little Cuba, which once nearly brought the world to its third — and perhaps its last — great war, is now flexing its own imperialist muscles with troops in Africa on the well worn pretext of protecting some small, defenceless power but in reality in order to establish a sphere of influence.

After twenty years of Castro the nature of Cuban capitalism is revealed starkly enough to convince anyone except those who subject themselves to a massive act of self deception.

Lock Outs
There are many ways, apart from referring to the official statistics, of judging the current state of health of British capitalism.

For example in times of rampant inflation many people will buy all sorts of rubbish rather than hold onto money. Hence the boom in the “antiques" trade, which leads to some very ordinary stuff being sold for pounds more than it costs in Woolworths.

Another guideline is the way in which employers deal with disputes with their workers. In the twenties and thirties it was quite usual for workers to be locked out, notably in the great battles in the coal mines which caused such suffering among the miners.

But of course the lock out is something an employer will consider only when trade is bad. When a boom is in swing he will be inclined to give in to his workers’ demands; only when in a slump will he see some advantage in shutting down the works rather than surrender.

The lock out has recently begun to come back into favour. The most publicised example has been the action of the employers at The Times and the Sunday Times; less publicised, but equally interesting, has been the lock out of 1400 branch managers and supervisors by the Provident Finance Group.

The Provident, whose credit cheques are well used — indeed often essential — in working class budgeting, recently offered its managers an 8 per cent rise, which they rejected. The managers began a campaign of obstruction, which the company responded to by sacking the lot.

Workers who get supervisory jobs often become strangely blind to their class standing and to the realities of capitalism. Perhaps the Provident lock out will turn out to be more than another symptom of capitalism's malaises; it may teach a few workers that, although they wear suits to work and sit at a desk all day they are members of the exploited, degraded class who are constantly at war with their employers.

Chinese Deal
Ar there any simple minded people left who still think that there exists between powers like China and Britain an ideological divide and that, until the Triumph of Right (whatever that may be) the twain shall never meet?

If so, recent events must have caused them a lot of discomfort. When Callaghan announced that Britain was going to sell the Harrier jump jets to China (in the teeth of opposition from Russia) he was showing only a fraction of the picture.

Trade between the two countries has been running at about £166 millions a year, with a big balance in China’s favour. Among the exports from Britain are heavy capital goods — chemical processing equipment, coalmining machinery and a steel plant from British Steel.

Last November a cheery Chinese Vice Premier, Wang Chen, took back to Peking a draft agreement which was designed to increase the trade between China and Britain to between £4,000 millions and £5,000 millions a year and to put British industry on a more equal fooling with the French and the West German.

The Harrier deal was a dramatic confirmation of these developing trade relations. No wonder Callaghan, as he left the Guadelope meetings with the other leaders of Western capitalism, could say “we have welcomed China into the community of nations . . .”

What Callaghan meant was that he welcomed China into the normal day by day trading — which also means the normal competition and disputes — of international capitalism.

He was also saying that China is just another capitalist power (although one which threatens to be a lot more powerful than many of its rivals) interested in the customary commerce of imports and exports, of investment and the building of factories where workers will be exploited, and in developing its armed forces to fight the wars of its ruling class.

He did not mention that at one time the contact between British and Chinese capitalism was supposed to be inhibited, even prevented, by great differences of principle over issues like democracy. In face of the facts, that would have been too much even for Callaghan.

Obituary: H. E. Hutchins (1942)

Obituary from the November 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with deep regret that we record the death of the late Comrade H. E. Hutchins, of Colchester, on September 26th. A foundation member of the S.P.G.B., Comrade Hutchins maintained his work and interest in the party to the end.

“Old Hutch,” as he was affectionately known amongst a wide circle of comrades and friends, was always a hard worker. For a large number of years he was a member of the Tooting Branch, and when Tooting Broadway was a strong propaganda station, “Old Hutch” was always there with the platform and literature, ready to assist in any way he was able. Sometimes he would act as chairman, occasionally he would address a meeting, but always he would have a keen interest in the literature sales.

He was a persistent and most successful seller of the party’s literature, and built up a large circle of readers for THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. At meetings and demonstrations, he was always on the spot with bundles of SOCIALIST STANDARDS and pamphlets.

Throughout his membership, he displayed a great interest in the internal organisation of the party, and many suggestions for the betterment of the organisation was contributed by him. At Conference Delegate Meetings, and other party gatherings, there was cause for comment if he was absent, so familiar a figure had he become.

During the past few years he lived away from London, but despite old age and distance, his interest in the party never flagged. He set about the task of introducing the STANDARD to many readers in that district with the zeal of a young man.

His efforts for Socialism merit our sincere appreciation, and our regret for the loss of a hardworking comrade.

To his widow we offer our sincere condolences.
H. G. Holt

Correspondence: Does Parliament Matter? (1979)

Letters to the Editors from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Does Parliament Matter?
As a lifelong dissenter from the parliamentary system extolled as democracy I totally disagree with SPGB contention that the only road to socialism can be the parliamentary one, as your September issue—The Power of the Vote—propounds.

Parliament since its inception just over 700 years ago under Simon de Montfort has never been anything but the visible manifestation of the power of vested interests—be these rapacious sovereigns, pillaging barons, extorting merchants or exploiting capitalists. Mistaking the accidental for the substance can in certain circumstances have fatal consequences for the unwary!

Parliament has ever been a purely administrative instrument devised by ruler and ruling class for wielding power. But it is not an indispensable instrument, as a study of history testifies, nor can it in any way be described as "the seat of power”. Kings have ignored it in the past, transnational corporations do so now. When “sanctions" can be circumvented quite simply, though decreed by Parliament, and "unauthorised” military or police actions are either ignored or, if impossible to do so, retrospectively “legalised” then clearly the notion that Parliament is the scat of power is a mistaken one.

R. Cox—“The Parliamentary Road to Socialism” — whose championing of the cause of parliamentary democracy (as in a previous issue) is such as to produce a most un-Marxist statement “this fallacious belief that class rule is based on economic power,” holds that “parliamentary democracy is sustained by a general concensus of support for such a tradition." Another instance of mistaking the accidental for the substance. Given an anti- or extra-parliamentary TV network, a mass circulation newspaper and a paperback publishing house the superficiality of such "concensus” would quickly be seen. The pre-conditioned "turn outs" at elections and the media contrived "interest" in Parliament belie the widespread cynicism and contemptuous scepticism about it which most people feel.

Even with 600 plus candidates, which is a necessary prerequisite for winning an election in order to bring about socialism (your theory), how is it envisaged that the working class can see through the one-liners, the potted cliches and the TV-pop press electioneering standards to understand and embrace the socialist case? For the "how" and "why” of the SPGB formula that the great majority of the population will be disposed favourably to socialism before the final election is always glossed over.

More reasons are adduced by ALB, to his own satisfaction, for the need to vote our way to socialism in "Violence and the State." While clutching at a single straw to insist that Marx recognised that workers can achieve social revolution by peaceful means the writer makes a preposterous claim in refuting Lenin’s view that violence was inescapable by suggesting that political changes in the last 100 years have been "in favour of using ‘the force of law’ rather than the ‘law of force’. . .” There has been no change of system in any country where force has not prevailed during this period whereas the converse is true. Every political change, outside of North America, has on the contrary been either a direct or an indirect consequence of world war, civil war or armed insurrection since 1870. But in debasing his argument, poor as it is, with cheap sneers at those who oppose his ‘peaceful road’ theory AI.B forfeits respect and the right to be taken seriously.

In conclusion I would suggest that every objection and criticism made of the anarchist position (in an unconvincing side-swipe at them in your "election issue") can be levelled at the SPGB. What will the police and armed forces which maintain and defend the capitalist status quo be doing when the working class is voting in socialist delegates—playing football against each other? What will the owners of capital and the transnational corporations do when the socialist majority decrees the abolition of money —play Monopoly with pounds sterling?

"As long as capitalism lasts, workers will be plagued with well-meaning idealists who rebel against the double standards and violence of the system.” A fitting description of the SPGB today.
B. J. Clifton 

Of course Parliament cannot make something happen simply by passing laws: otherwise there would be no crime. And some laws — for example, parking regulations — are widely ignored. (It is not yet safe to class "sanction busting” along with these however — there may still be prosecutions.) But Parliament has the power to enforce its decrees and to punish those who go against them; if Parliament chooses not to use its powers, that is not evidence that that power does not exist.

Parliament controls the state machine, which means the armed forces, the police, the prisons, and so on. If socialists were to ignore this and seek to seize power by some means other than capturing Parliament and so controlling the state machine. we would be courting disaster.

The passage from the article "The Parliamentary Road to Socialism” should not be read out of context; the article went on to point out, correctly, that the capitalist class have economic power only because ". . . . the immense majority support capitalism by voting for capitalist parties . . .”. If the working class ceased to vote for capitalism, the economic power of the capitalist class would also cease.

If there is cynicism and scepticism about political activity and about the power of Parliament (which is not borne out by the large turn-out in important elections) this is a side effect of the evident futility of what Parliament does. And far from "glossing over" the problems of persuading the working class to see through the propaganda for capitalism and to consciously opt for a new society, this is our preoccupation (and at times a frustrating one) as the only socialist party.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding former revolutions, the fact is that they have all been in the interests of one minority against another (we assume that by "political change" is meant “revolution"). The overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism must be the act of a conscious majority of the working class and will therefore be democratic and not based on violence — although, if a minority were to try to obstruct the will of the majority, they would of course be dealt with.

Workers who are in the police and armed forces are as susceptible to the case for Socialism as anyone else. With the development of socialist consciousness the state machine’s power will progressively decline to the point at which, when the majority are socialists, it will disappear. The few policemen or soldiers who are left may well prefer to play football to trying to defend a discredited inhuman system at death’s door.

Finally, the case for socialism is based on a materialist interpretation of the evidence of history. Idealism, well-meaning or otherwise, it certainly is not.

Smug Self-Righteousness
Where are you SPGBers? OK, your paper is excellent, your theory is excellent. But while you are sitting around discussing the social surplus value, Asians are being stabbed, women are being attacked and gays are being intimidated. While you are sitting on your backsides in a smug, self- righteous way, the National Front could win electoral power and your paper and meetings will be smashed like those of other organisations who are working for a humane society. You may be right in saying that capitalism breeds racism, sexism etc., but capitalism also breeds parties like the National Front and the threat of the removal of the limited freedoms we now have.

You have a wealth of knowledge and understanding — don't be selfish and keep it to yourselves. Hardly anyone has heard of the SPGB, let alone supports its principles. You can't expect the people to seek you out, you must go to them. Get involved with those who care what is happening even though they may be confused as to why it's happening. Move yourselves before they remove you".
Yvonne Howard 
Hendon NW4

In the left's view, Socialist Party members are intellectual theorists, indifferent to the struggles and sufferings of workers. From the time of the foundation of the Communist Party, through the years of war and CND, to the Campaign for "The Right to Work", the accusation has been levelled that we are divorced from the "real” class struggle; pressing problems of the day had to be tackled before, or to assist, the Fight for Socialism. To-day we are asked to "Rock against Racism".

The reason for the constant repetition of this false picture is to be found in comparison of our and the Left's respective political positions and our contrasting definitions of what is called “a humane society". The Socialist Party stands for the interests of the working class as a whole and not for particular sectional interests within the class, real though these concerns may be. People struggle for socialism because they understand as well as feel strongly about the effects of capitalism. Far from ignoring the latter, our propaganda tries to relate particular social problems to the way in which society is organised. Since the rise of the National Front is a symptom of disease and not the disease itself, the only effective method of opposition is the propaganda of socialism (see the editorial in our January issue).

So while we stand uncompromisingly for socialism, Asians, women and gays may be attacked: but millions of workers are also without jobs, stockpiles of nuclear weapons grow, millions live in slums, the elderly die of cold or work for a pittance to survive, prisons and mental hospitals overflow, and workers' lives are bought and sold like cattle at market. What is there to be complacent about?

What is a Nazi?
In Hyde Park on a recent Sunday, I found myself getting quite friendly with some Israeli questioners until 1 had to point out that the Zionist ideal was as hopeless as any other in the face of the capitalist jungle. I found myself showing the following irony. The father of the Israeli Prime Minister was murdered by Polish Nazis who tied a millstone round his neck and threw him in the Vistula. A Nazi atrocity. Agreed. The victim's only crime was that he was a Jew. Seven years later, in 1948, Begin was himself the leader of a terrorist gang who drowned innocent men, women and children by throwing them down a well in a village near Jerusalem called Deir Yassih. Their only crime was that they were Arabs. When I said that this was just another Nazi atrocity, these friendly and reasonable Israelis just stormed off saying I was “meshugah" (mad).
L.E. Weidberg 

Political Notebook: Gormley the Scab (1979)

The Political Notebook column from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Gormley the Scab

It must be a hard life being a trade union leader. The endless meetings with the Government and the bosses in which they sell out their members’ interests, all those speeches to conference telling the workers to pull their belts in for the sake of the Right For Callaghan To Work campaign. And then there’s the insufferable inconvenience of delegations abroad, especially unmanageable when you consider the five-star hotels, the massive banquets and the tours around the workplaces to observe the sterile lives of those who put their trust in leaders. It is a well known fact that such visits are especially favoured when they are to East European state capitalist countries. Joe Gormley, leader of the National Union of Miners, returned not long ago from an outing to Poland where he met up with his counterpart, the leader of the State-controlled Polish miners’ union. Between cocktail parties the two workers’ representatives discussed the case of a certain Polish miner who was the foreman in a mine and was disturbed by the appalling conditions under which his men were forced to work which were in breach of the union regulations. Needless to say, his union failed to support his complaint so he attempted to set up an unofficial union to fight for better conditions of work in the mines. But real unions aren’t allowed in the People’s Democracy of Poland and the man was thrown into a psychiatric hospital. Recalling the heroic struggles of British workers to form unions like the NUM, one might have expected Gormley to have had a few tough words to say to his Polish counterpart. But. according to a report in the Observer, Gormley accepted that this man’s incarceration was quite legitimate on the grounds that he was an adulterer and a jew — crimes against the people, indeed! Internationalist solidarity and freedom for wage labour to struggle against capital clearly mean less to Joe Gormley than the petty comforts of a free holiday in Poland. By remaining silent while fellow miners arc locked up for demanding the right to organise in a free trade union Gormley has shown himself to be an enemy of the working class. Trade unionists have a name for the likes of Gormley: he is a scab.

Conspicuous Silence

When is a ‘ruthless imperialist invasion’ (Morning Star on the Americans in Vietnam) a case of freedom fighters (equipped with Russian tanks) extending the frontiers of socialism? When it’s Russian-aided Vietnam attacking China-backed Cambodia. Any comments from the Morning Star on this ruthless capitalist invasion in which many innocent people have been slaughtered for the sake of territorial expansion? How about a demonstration outside the Vietnamese embassy? Or even a ’Hands Off Phnom Penh' campaign? Communist Party hypocrisy?

Front Bench Socialists

Here’s a story which might turn a few faces red in the corridors of power. Not long after his resignation. Sir Harold Wilson was due to appear on a certain BBC radio programme for young people in which he was to answer questions from members of the public who made up the audience. Like most BBC operations, the audience was not entirely unselected and members of the ’youth sections’ of each of the major parties were invited to attend. At least, that’s what the BBC think happened. In fact, the producer of the programme mistakenly phoned the Head Office of the Socialist Party instead of the Labour Party. He asked for a bunch of ‘keen young socialists' to go along to Broadcasting House for the recording of the programme. He even said that Wilson was particularly anxious that the socialists should sit in the front row where he could see them. Never ones to disappoint the old and needy, a group of young members of the SPGB turned up at Broadcasting House. Wilson’s smile temporarily dropped when one SPGBer asked him how he had the nerve to call himself a socialist. Oddly enough, no one else from the front row was asked to speak after that.

Nothing To Fear

Another man who wouldn’t have much faith in Wilson’s ‘socialism’ is Peter Tebbutt. Writing in the January issue of Socialist Organiser he says:
   Over and over again Labour in office shows a distinct leaning towards capitalist organisation. Ministerial advisers and appointees are drawn from the ranks of the business and professional classes. Little wonder that the aspirations of the working classes (sic) never reach fulfilment. Capitalism certainly has nothing to fear from a Labour Government . . .
Mr. Tebbutt is prospective parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party for Falmouth and Camborne. Come the next General Election he will be asking workers to elect a Labour Government which will never fulfil their aspirations. The SPGB agrees with Mr. Tebbutt that Labour cannot solve the problems of the vast majority. But we. oddly enough, advise workers not to vote Labour. Perhaps it’s because we put political honesty before personal ambition.

All Honourable Men?

With the police hoping to persuade Lord Kagan back to England to help with their enquiries into some very large currency fiddles, yet another of the businessmen ennobled in Harold Wilson’s resignation honours list is receiving some unwanted publicity.

The last of Wilson's noblemen to suffer this was Eric Miller, a property tycoon who shot himself as the Fraud Squad were closing in on him.

The Labour ex-Prcmier seems to have had a mutual help arrangement with the likes of Kagan and Miller. Wilson’s affection for his Gannex mac probably did a lot for Kagan's raincoat business and the happy friendship was scaled by his making Kagan a Life Peer.

It was only a few spoilsports like backwoods aristocrats and nasty-minded newshounds who wondered whether this sort of thing was a misuse of the Honours List. Wilson might have reminded them that it was all in tradition: the English aristocracy was largely born from the more successful pirates and bandits of mediaeval England and grew up on such inhumanities as the slave trade and the Industrial Revolution.

Honours are awarded for long service to British capitalism, which is why trade union leaders often find themselves, in the twilight of their days, sitting in the House of Lords. Capitalism is itself a massive crime—the depriving of the majority of people of the wealth they produce—a fact which, to say the least, tends to blur the distinction between what capitalism says is lawful and that which it outlaws.

By capitalism's standards, the likes of Kagan and Miller were ripe to receive some entitlement to dress up in outdated and inconvenient clothes, as a formal recognition of what they represent. Their support for the Labour Party—and the reward they received for it—may give food for thought to that dwindling band of Labour supporters who still think their party has something to do with a society where people will stand in equality.
Steve Coleman

A French CPer on the SPGB (1979)

Party News from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our attention has been drawn to the fact that a book published in French in 1977 entitled L’extreme gauche en Grande-Bretagne (The Extreme Left in Great Britain) devotes a couple of pages to the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The author, Claude Journés, is a member of the French "Communist” Party and most of the book is an unashamed eulogy of the British CP. But, oddly enough, it gives an accurate enough account of our history and views derived from a reading of the Socialist Standard and our pamphlets rather than from what he would have been told by the CP hacks, Betty Reid and James Klugmann, he mentions.

Journés quotes from our Object and Declaration of Principles, notes that we oppose the Labour Party and are not interested in reforms, that we regard Russia as state capitalism and are "thoroughly committed to a peaceful conquest of power by way of parliament once a majority of the population has been won to socialism”. He omits to mention our opposition to the First World War, though, and makes a couple of tendentious comments about us being a legacy from the past, one of which ("The Socialist Party of Great Britain is an outdated survival from the past which has not absorbed Lenin's contribution to Marxism") is really an unconscious compliment since Lenin contributed absolutely nothing to Marxism but distorted it to try to justify the State capitalism dictatorship the Bolsheviks had set up in Russia under his leadership.

Journés also contradicts himself when he calls us (p.197) "reformist” like the Labour Party whereas earlier (p. 127) he had got our position more or less correct:
  The SPGB is generally hostile to reforms and committed only to revolution. According to it, socialists who want to achieve reforms within the framework of capitalism arc caught in a trap which leads them to fight the working class.
On the whole, being an apology for the latest CP line, the book is not up to much but if it introduces some people in France to the ideas of the SPGB it will not have been completely useless.

50 Years Ago: The Coming General Election (1979)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

The year 1929 is the most tremendously important year the world has ever seen. Perhaps that is an overstatement. It could be the most profoundly momentous year the human race has experienced. This year that portion of humanity which inhabits the British Isles will be asked to decide whether it wishes the reign of King Capital to continue or that it should come to an end. The preliminary call has gone forth, and those who say it should end and a saner social system established have banded themselves together in an organisation called the Socialist Party. We cannot, honestly speaking, say the response has been overwhelming. Had it been of sufficient magnitude, the year 1929 could have been the most epoch-making year in the history of mankind.

If . . . you decide that Socialism is desirable and practicable, do not fold your arms and wait for something to happen, but do the only logical thing and join our organisation and help to get it.
(From an article “Imagination” by W. T. Hopley, Socialist Standard. February 1929).

The Forum: Does Economic Power Rest Upon Political Power? (1914)

Letters to the Editors from the November 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

Boston Rd, Bronx. 
New York.

July 27,1914.

Sir —

I would like to have your opinion on a certain question to settle a dispute between a friend of mine and myself.

Volume I of “Capital" by Karl Marx, Chapter 3, page 152 (Kerr’s edition), 12th line of the first paragraph, states as follows: “In the Middle Ages the contest ended with the ruin of the feudal debtors, who lost their political power together with the economical power on which it was established.”

I maintain that the line gives the inference that the political power is based upon the economic power. My friend says that the economic power is based upon the political power. What I would like to know is whether Karl Marx was wrong.

J. Brandon.

Our correspondent’s question and quotation leaves several previous questions unanswered. And firstly, the quotation is incorrect. Marx's statement is:
    “In the middle-ages the contest ended with the ruin of the feudal debtors, who lost their political power together with the economic basis on which it was established.” (Italics ours.)
It is easy to see that this alters the entire aspect of the question; while it is extremely significant that Marx carefully distinguishes between “political power” and the economic basis on which that power rests. In its correct form no such inference as Mr. Brandon gives can be drawn from Marx’s words, and that inference, therefore, falls to the ground.

But there are still other questions left. Every student of Marx knows how frequently he warned his readers against attempting to apply the conditions of one system as an explanation of the facts of another system. Mr. Brandon takes a factor from the feudal system of society and tries to use it as an explanation of a condition of capitalism. Hence another failure in his attempted argument. Karl Marx was right, but Mr. Brandon is wrong.

Briefly stated the matter stands as follows :

Under feudalism the individual's right of citizenship was based in towns upon his being a master of a craft, and. in the country, upon his being a member of the manor, with certain portions of the arable land for his maintenance, along with rights of common land and woods. When the increasing taxation by King and Government, along with the competition of the new, uprising, commercial adventurers, drove the master craftsman to the money-lender, and he was unable to pay the latter, he lost his position in guild and town and became an outcast. He thus lost his political power along with the basis upon which it had rested.

The peasant in the country had to perform various services for the Lord of the Manor, who, later, began to commute these services for money payments. But here again, money payments meant debts. If unable to pay these debts, then the peasant lost his holdings in the manor, and also became an outcast, thereby losing his political power along with his previous economic position.

Under feudalism the wage working class did not exist. Under capitalism the position is entirely different.

When the capitalist method of production and distribution became the prevailing one, the capitalist class, as such, had no political position they could claim from feudalism Partly they made one by “lending ' and “donating" large sums to needy monarchs in return for, first, trading privileges, and later, political power; partly by purchasing manors and the political rights attached. But the old aristocracy still were an important section politically. Hence the agitation against “the rotten boroughs" by the capitalists, who urged the working class—now fully fledged wage slaves, without any political rights at all—to demand the franchise. At first extended to the possessors of any form of wealth, as distinct from the old landed forms, it has gradually been extended to a point where mere tenancy for a given time at a small rental suffices to place a man upon the voter’s register. Here we see political power existing without any economic power at all, with only the tiniest economic basis to rest upon, and even I hat tending to disappear—in Adult Suffrage without residential qualifications.

The explanation is to be found—as Marx has pointed out—in the economic conditions of modern capitalism, a matter beyond the space at our present disposal to deal with.

Other phases of this matter are dealt with in the “ Socialist Standard ” of May, 1909.
Jack Fitzgerald

Party Notes (1910)

Party News from the August 1910 issue of the Socialist Standard

Branches of the Party have been formed at Thornton Heath. Nottingham and Frazerburgh (Scotland), for particulars see Branch Directory.

* * *

Socialists in and around Brighton are asked to communicate with G Stoner. 31. Southfield Road, Broadwater, Worthing, with a view to forming the Brighton Branch.

* * *

The Worthing comrades are on the warpath. Routing a Tariff Reformer they turned their attention to the local Liberal I.L.P. branch and challenged them to defend the I.L.P. in debate. After lengthy consideration, however, the local I.L.P. champions reply that they consider "no good purpose would be served by having the proposed debate." We think otherwise, however, and repeat our standing challenge to all other political organisitions in the country to defend themselves in public debate. Let the working class judge between us.

* * *

During July various sections of the enemy have put forward their champions at Watford, Manchester and Paddington, and as a consequence our Party is stronger and happier than ever. The Anti Socialist Union is putting forward another victim in North London , for particulars - wait and see.

* * *

A correspondent informs us that toward the end of June at a meeting of the Whitechapel and Stepney Social-Democratic Party addressed by Mr. E. C. Fairchild (London Organiser), the chairman announced that his branch had challenged the S.P.G.B. to debate, but that after accepting the challenge the S.P.G.B. representative had failed to meet his opponent. No one who knew the S.P.G.B. would believe this for a moment, and we now invite the Whitechapel S.D.P. to put forward their champion and to state the time and place most suitable for him to meet our representative in debate; the subject to be “Does the S..D.P, deserve the support of the working class? ”

* * *

The Whitechapel SDPers must have bad memories. On August 29th 1909 they wrote asking us to supply them with a lecturer to address their branch on "The Futility of Palliatives” We replied that we would send a speaker to address them on “The S.P.G.B. versus all other Political Parties.” They replied (Sept. 2nd 1909) that they would not allow that subject to be discussed in the branch. We then offered to debate with a representative of their Party at any time. Since them we have had no further communication.

* * *

From various parts come reports of endeavours to counteract the malign influence of the Clarion Vans, whose vanners are travelling the country advocating a mysterious blend of Tariff Reform, Free Trade and Municipal ownership. It is suggested that an S.P.G.B. Van should he got. This however means money still while the Clarion Van business is in liquidation it might be easy to secure some of then before they are sold for ambulance work in the Blatchford-Beresford German invasion. Anyhow, let us raise the money !

* * *

The  receipt of a copy of this paper is an invitation to subscribe.