Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holiday Home (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

As he trod amongst them with his trolley of coffee, the orderly knew that this was one of their bad days. Sometimes they were cheerful—gratingly, hysterically so. Sometimes apathetic. Today, they were sombre, only wanting lo talk about their afflictions, to tell each other what it was that had laid them paralysed and incapable in the forecourt of the Holiday Home.

"Experiments with atom bombs, messing about with nature," , said Wilkie, ’'That’s what I reckon gave me my stroke.”

"What’s the good of war," gloomed the man alongside, “Cost me my arm and paralysed my thigh. Now I’m just a burden to my family. Might as well be dead."

I should break this up, thought the orderly, this is the worst mood of all. Then Old Harris chimed in, bringing what he always imagined was sunshine and relief into the invalids' depression.

“I’m as helpless as any of you," he said, he eyes gleaming. " But I don’t blame it onto war or bomb tests. Our troubles are sent by the good god, to test us. We must suffer gladly. I may be laid up, with only a small Army pension. but thank God I get by."

"Good god." screamed Ethel from her chair. "If he’s so good, why does he allow all this badness in the world he's supposed to have made, eh? Answer me that:'

The orderly broke in with quick words, clashing the cups as he spoke.

"Now, now," he said, ’’You know you mustn't get so het up. Anyway, you’re all going down to the front for some sunshine and fresh air, That’s what you’re here for, sunshine and fresh air."

That calmed them. In their secret selves, they were appalled at the thought of another parade along the sea front. They fell into silence and suffered themselves to the attention' of the orderlies, who came from inside the Home to wheel them off.

They were a tragic lot. Here was a mail who had lost his limb because of an apparently trivial scratch at work. Here another whose back broke when he fell from a ladder on a high job. And there were the war wounded. These human wrecks were some of the unfortunates who had felt the concentration of capitalism’s bitterest effects.

For although we know that capitalism cannot be blamed for every illness and accident, the fact is that it is responsible for many of them.

Some of the most common, and persistent ailments which people nowadays suffer are traceable to the stress of modern living—to the working, travelling, eating pace which modem industry and its profit incentive sets for us.

High time for accidents is the time when everybody is going to work — they call it the rush hour and it is in the rush that so many accidents happen.

Capitalism’s wars maim hundreds of thousands, and undermine the health of countless others.

But you know all this.

What you may not realise is that, as long as capitalism lasts, there is little chance of society ever really tackling the problem of ill-health and accidents, and of reducing them to the very minimum possible.

We know, for example, that cancer research comes a long way behind arms production in the priorities of modern society. Why is this? Simple answer: arms are more immediately important to the capitalist class than finding a cure for cancer. Arms can be used to defend their commercial interests. Curing cancer would only save a few million lives a year. Who, other than cancer sufferers, would care?

The majority of people get a very measly sort of medical treatment. Who knows — or cares — what future damage is being stored up by the "Get-you-back-to-work palliatives" which the working class are handed by their doctors when they are ill? And who has not noticed that society’s medical resources are concentrated only when a member of the ruling class — someone who can afford the best — requires them?

Yes, capitalism stands in the way of many aspects of human advance. Socialism will set free our scientific ingenuity, so that we can really get down to dealing with medical problems.

We hope the invalids enjoyed their outing. And let us look forward to the day when a crippled world can throw away its crutches.
Dick Jacobs

The Case for Sanity (1961)

Editorial from the October 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in an insane world, one that becomes more and more insane with every day that passes.

To pick up a newspaper is to find a daily catalogue of wars and threats of wars, hatreds and atrocities, murder and violence. Over all lies the shadow of nuclear destruction.

In Berlin, the two big power groups face up to each other like squabbling children, each trying to shout “Yah” louder than its rival, each daring the other to strike the first blow. In the Congo, still rent with violence, that monument of ineptitude, the United Nations, decides to intervene and chooses to do so in a sordid scramble of colonialism mixed with petty economic rivalry, the whole sorry business made worse by the usual intrigues of the big capitalist powers.

Russia, after a short period of quiet, proceeds to explode nuclear devices at a frenzied rate, sending clouds of poison into the atmosphere to threaten the health of all the earth's inhabitants, and of even the unborn. The United States hardly waits to do the same, its rulers weeping crocodile tears the while. Between times they have both been spending astronomical sums in perfecting the ways of delivering their bombs. Huge crowds have been cheering the astronauts of both sides for their heroism, apparently oblivious that behind it all lies the terrible threat that missiles can now be directed with pin-point accuracy to annihilate places thousands of miles away.

There is uneasy peace in Tunisia, but in Algeria the dreadful carnage goes on. Laos has dropped out of the news as quickly as it came into it, but could just as easily erupt again. In South America, Brazil looked as though it might develop into another Cuba, but has not done so, at least for the moment. In East Africa, the Rhodesias, and South Africa, things remain only outwardly quiet. The fact is that we are hardly surprised any more at anything anywhere. Such is the terrible pass to which capitalism has brought humanity.

And yet, against this background of tragedy and folly, which might be expected to reduce us only to abandonment and despair, we record with pride that, far from being discouraged, the Socialist Party has not for many years been so active in its propaganda, nor its members so enthusiastic.

We have just come to the end of an excellent outdoor season, opening up several new areas and developing old ones. Audiences have been good and generally interested and receptive. Literature sales have been high. Even more encouraging are the preparations for the winter season, the indoor programmes of branches being more ambitious than ever as the meetings advertised in this issue will show.

Most encouraging of all in these days of alleged political apathy, when even the big guns of capitalist politics find it hard to hold a good meeting, is the fad that we have run two really successful indoor rallies.

The third of these is being held this month and we are confident that it will prove more successful than those previously, a fitting conclusion to the fine summer season and an auspicious opening to an even finer winter one.

In an insane world, the issue is more than ever—Capitalism or Socialism. Let us hold fast to sanity and demonstrate for Socialism!

Britain on the Brink (1961)

From the November 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

British Capitalism has decided to take its chance with the Common Market. After shivering at the water's edge for a long, long time it has at last ventured as far as the end of the diving-board. It even shows signs this time that it is really going to take the plunge.

At least its political representatives do. Re-inforced by the support of the Brighton Conference, even if it was apparently only given after some heavy gunning from, the platform, the Conservative leadership can contemplate the next step with easier minds.

Their special envoy, Mr. Heath, has lost no time. He has already told the Six how anxious Britain is to join them, how keen she is to abide by their principles, and with what determination she is ready to carry them out. What a come-down and what hypocrisy!

Ever since the Common Market came into existence, and even before that when its predecessors like the Coal and Steel Community were being formed, British Capitalism has held aloof. For what it no doubt considered quite good economic and political reasons it preferred the safe and easy markets of the Commonwealth to taking risks in Europe. Even when it became clear that the Common Market was becoming a strong economic threat, the U.K. still attempted to thwart it by setting up a rival firm (EFTA or the Seven) as a counterweight. They tried all the other well-known Capitalist dodges into the bargain, such as playing off their rivals against each other, in particular by trying to drive a wedge between France and Germany.

When it became clear that EFTA was hardly in the race the Government immediately set to work to condition British Capitalism to the fact that there was no alternative but to jump on the Common Market band-wagon. In the words of the well-known phrase, “ If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”

Since then, they have calmly proceeded to swallow most of what they had said before (as well as a considerable amount of pride) and now calmly go forward, cap in hand, to try to get in as though this had been their intention right along. As more than one commentator has pointed out, the Government spokesmen at the Conservative Conference shot down all the arguments against joining without mercy—every one of which arguments they themselves had been using only a little before!

All the countries concerned with the Common Market are, of course, manoeuvring for position just like Britain. One of Britain’s problems, for example, has been how to cope with its obligations to the other countries in EFTA. It need not have worried so much. When the time came for them to make application to the Six it was to find that the “neutrals,” Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, had already been negotiating with the Community behind their backs and had in fact succeeded in obtaining some quite useful concessions. So much for the niceties of international agreements under Capitalism.

At the same time, the Six themselves are jockeying for positions of self-advantage. The Netherlands are the most inclined to let Britain join, the French the most opposed. These attitudes have nothing to do with anything other than hard economic and political facts. The Dutch would be very pleased to see a further large market for their agricultural produce come into the Community whilst the French are still almost as suspicious as ever that British Capitalism’s only motive for joining is to get inside and smash it.

These are only a few examples of the conflicts of interest underlying everything connected with the Common Market. Every one of the countries involved has its own economic and political interests to safeguard by almost any method it can. There are few holds barred.

The Conservatives managed to bulldoze through their Conference an overwhelming vote of support for their decision. But a lot is going to depend on how the negotiations go. If they get the Six to look favourably on their difficulties with the Commonwealth they will not have too much to fear. If the Six also prove cooperative over agriculture, they will be even happier. But should the discussions on either of these topics run into trouble, the Conservatives will be in trouble, too. There is a large element within the Party which is very touchy on both aspects and which would break out into full cry again if things went badly in the negotiations.

As for the Labour Party, immersed more than ever in the day to day affairs of Capitalism, they hardly know where they are. Out of office, they can afford to argue amongst themselves without the need to come to a decision one way or the other. But if they had been in power, it is a pretty safe bet that they would now be doing exactly the same thing as the Conservatives are doing, with probably the same misgivings and certainly the same dissensions. It is not, after all, by accident that Tribune and the Daily Express find themselves in one camp with Mr. Shinwell and Lord Hinchinbrook, and people like Mr. Heath and Mr. Woodrow Wyatt together in the other. In such ways do the economic forces of Capitalism speak louder than the pretences of Capitalist political parties.

For the essential thing to remember about all this hoo-ha over the Common Market is the harsh Capitalist reality underlying it. The reason why British Capitalism has at last got to the point of joining the Six is because its economic interests are pressing hard upon it to do so. Just how hard is demonstrated by what it is having to suffer in injured pride and swallowed words. And it is these same forces which helped to bring about the Common Market itself and which will again largely determine the attitude of its members to Britain’s application to join and that of any other interested nation.

Politics also play their part, of course, politics which again have their roots in the harsh economic reality of Capitalism. The Common Market is to some extent the reflection of the realisation by such countries as France, Germany, and Italy, that their days as Big Powers have gone and that it is now the giants, such as Russia and the U.S.A. that dominate the world scene. The European Community seeks to present itself as a force on a par with these—with a population of 160 million and an industrial and agricultural production that can stand comparison with the giants. It is the forces of Capitalism again, at work in the drive towards bigger and bigger units within individual countries, and in the urge towards bigger units like the Common Market on the world scene. The smaller national units of Capitalism see cheaper and more efficient production in a larger international unit.

What is not an issue in the Common Market is the interests of the working-class. True, there, are such things as plans to standardise working conditions within the Community and, in theory at any rate, the aim eventually to allow completely free movement of workers inside it, but essentially the workers’ position will remain unchanged. Instead of working for a purely French or German firm, French and German workers may find themselves belonging to a Common Market one, but such a situation has been developing for years and the Common Market, if it succeeds, will only complete this process.

No, the motive force of the Common Market and the events now associated with it is economic interest—the drive for profit. The task of the working-class, whether Britain joins it or not, will still be to get rid of the system that generates this drive for profit.

And in setting about that task the workers of Britain and of the Common Market do have a common interest.
Stan Hampson

The Passing Show: Ghana Visit (1961)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ghana Visit

It has finally been decided, after many comings and goings, that the Queen's visit to Ghana is still on. Mr. Duncan Sandys, the British diplomats in Ghana, the Prime Minister himself—-all have been called on to take some part of the responsibility, all have had a hand in the final decision along with the other members of the Cabinet. The only person who doesn't seem to have been consulted is the person whose safety, after all, is at stake—the Queen herself. There could hardly have been a more striking illustration of the position the monarchy now holds as against the ruling class. The Capitalists having taken over the state and the machinery of government, they have either converted the governmental instruments of the old landowner-ruled society to their own uses, or have allowed them to survive merely as powerless ceremonial appendages. Even though at the beginning of the visit it seemed not improbable, after several recent anti-Nkrumah bomb explosions, that there would be some attempt at violence as the Queen and Nkrumah rode together through the towns of Ghana, the Queen had no choice in the matter. The Government, the Capitalists' executive committee, had decided that she was to go. And since the monarch in Capitalist society is no more than a puppet, she was constitutionally bound to “take her minister's advice"—i.e., do as she was told.


Recently Nkrumah, as the chosen right hand of the Ghana ruling class, has been revealing more and more clearly what kind of society the Ghana rulers have decided on. It is now an offence punishable with jail to ”defame" the President, which seems in practice to cover any kind of criticism of him. It is not the first time a Capitalist class have decided that a dictatorship suits them best in a given set of circumstances, nor will it be the last.

But what can be said of some of the newspapers, such as the Daily Express. who are now deploring Nkrumah's dictatorial methods? Only a decade ago, when there was just as much of a dictatorship in Ghana as there is now— the only difference being that the dictatorship was then run by the British ruling class instead of the Ghanaian ruling class — the Daily Express had no objection to the dictatorship at all. It seems that it isn’t the dictatorship itself that they object to: only the particular set of people who happen to be running it. The record of the Daily Express on the matter deprives it of the right to criticise. Only those who criticised the British dictatorship of the past can logically now criticise the Nkrumah dictatorship of the present.

Fall Out

A most significant fact of the giant Russian H-bomb which was exploded at the end of October—the one intended to be fifty megatons, which apparently turned out to be even larger—was that Russia exploded it at home in its own territories.  The people who will suffer most from the fall-out from this bomb are the Russian working class. Which is another demonstration that the Russian rulers, for all their pretence that their state Capitalism is a form of “Socialism,” in fact show as much contempt for the interests of their own workers as any Western ruling class could.

Horrible to think

In an article in The Observer (5/11 /6I) on this explosion, Mr. John Strachey, M.P., said :
   It is horrible to think that an appreciable number of human beings will be crippled either mentally or physically over ensuing generations in order that Mr. Krushchev should attempt to terrorise the world in this way. But 1 am afraid this may be part of his calculation.
Mr. Strachey is somewhat illogical. Of course it is horrible to think of the crippled or mentally deficient children who will be born as a result of the bomb's explosion, merely in order that Mr. Krushchev should take another step in his attempt to terrorise his enemies into submission: but how does this differ from the millions of human beings crippled or killed outright by the British ruling class in the last two world wars, undertaken so that the British rulers could impose their will on their then enemies? Do we have to remind Mr. Strachey that at least  in the second of those wars he was a prominent Labour M.P.. supporting the war to the hilt? If it is "horrible" for the Russian ruling class now, why was it right for the British ruling class then? Mr. Strachey is a little too selective with his horror.
Alwyn Edgar

Party Pars. (1908)

Party News from the October 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

Comrades everywhere should make a special point of sending in to the Editor any paper, cutting or book extract containing facts and figures of value in propaganda. The capitalist system is continually giving itself away; continually giving indications of the growth of that seed of its own destruction which is inherent in it. We can, by the simple expedient of keeping our eyes open, get every month enough dynamite from the enemy’s own magazine to blow him and all his works to the hell out of which they came. This is something that any one can do. Do it!

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Councillor Gorle, S.D.P., has accepted the challenge of the Watford Branch to public discussion. Arrangements are proceeding. Mr. Gorle intervened in the correspondence which the Watford Branch were conducting in the local Press, in reference to the position of the Party and the hooligan tactics of the Tariff Reformers, and promptly found himself in the pillory and very much on the defensive. The pending debate is the result.

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The Islington Branch are holding a ‘‘Grand Social and Dance” on the 3rd inst. (Saturday evening), at 7.30 p.m.. in the Fairfax Hall, Portland Gardens (close to Harringay Park Station). The North London boys (and girls) have a reputation for quality in entertainments of this description, and Islington may be relied upon to keep their end up adequately. Visitors will find, therefore, full value for the sixpence which they must pay to secure admission. Tickets of Branch Secretary or at the doors.

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Through the columns of the Burnley Express a debate between representatives of the Temperance Party and the S.P.G.B. has been conducted upon the question : “Is the position of the Temperance Party economically sound?” This is an effective change from the oral method normally adopted. The representative of the Party had small difficulty in disposing of the Temperance advocate, although the latter may not he disposed to accept that view. However, and here is one of the advantages of this method, the printed word of the debate remains.' We are quite satisfied to take the verdict of the worker who is prepared to weigh both sides of the discussion without prejudice.

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Owing to the great pressure on space, several important articles, besides some of the regular features, have had to be omitted from this issue. There would be little difficulty in doubling the size of the paper if sales warranted the increase. Verb, sap., Q. E. D., etc., etc.

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Scotland Yard have refused to issue to the Paddington Branch the permit supposed to be necessary to enable collections to be made at public meetings, notwithstanding that the Salvation Army seems to possess such authority and make collections without interference. On the other hand, the Islington Branch has been informed that the permit is no longer necessary. On the third hand, as Mr. Dooley would say, a permit has been applied for and obtained by the Earlsfield Branch since the application of Paddington was made. Either, therefore, Scotland Yard are at sixes and sevens, or, which is more probable. persons of local standing are pulling the leg of the police in Paddington, to the detriment of the Paddington Branch. The E.C. are taking action and will report developments.

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The comrades who spent their holidays in propaganda work in Nottingham, report large and interested audiences and good literature sales. The seed has been sown on good ground, and in due season may be relied on to bring forth much fruit. Already several members have been enrolled.

Party Pars. (1908)

Party News from the November 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

The four volumes of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, strongly and neatly bound in one, are now obtainable for 6s 6d., post free. The number available is limited and orders will be executed in the order of their receipt. It is, therefore, necessary to apply early. The volume is unique. It contains more real information upon current working-class questions in their relation to Socialism than any other publication obtainable. To the workers it is of high educational worth. To the propagandist it is invaluable. Therefore stand not on the order of your orders but order.

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The Hyde I.LP. beg to decline to entertain the challenge of the Manchester S.P.G.B. to debate. They do not see what good purpose will be served. They mean they do not see how the I.LP. will benefit. Neither do we. We only think the working-class audience would benefit by having their outlook cleared. But perhaps the Hyde I.L.P. are not concerned with working- class enlightenment.

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A branch is in process of formation in Liverpool. All those who accept the position of the S.P.G.B., but only those, are urgently requested to put themselves in communication with Sam Myers, 53, Mount Vernon Street, Liverpool.

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The British Columbia Trades Unionist in its special Labour Day number reproduces with due acknowledgment, “ Fritz’s ” translation of “World Crises” from our Party Organ, in addition to the Declaration of Principles in its entirety. The latter is cheek by jowl with an article upon the progress of the “Socialist” movement as expressed by the “ Labour” Party in England ! We have done nothing, surely, to deserve this. It is very hard.

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At an open air meeting of the Romford Division Branch Last May, held outside the “Cock” Hotel, Mr. C. W. Peachy, on behalf of the S.L.P., challenged our speaker to debate. The General Secretary of the S.L.P. in Edinburgh was at once notified and requested to say if Mr. Peachy was a duly accredited representative, so that we could proceed to arrange details of the debate with him, Mr. Peachy being, as a matter of courtesy, informed of the stops that were being taken. Up to the present the rest has been silence from both the General Secretary and Mr. Peachy. Why? We pause for a reply.

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During the Winter months many opportunities may be found of pushing the sale of the Party literature at the innumerable indoor meetings which the other political parties are organising in the vain endeavour to stay our progress. The members of this Party are not expected to hibernate.

The "Spectator" On Courage (1908)

From the December 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Spectator has eulogised Burns of Battersea mainly because he has had the real but unusual courage to do those things that a man might not be expected to do from his previous record. Titus Oates and Judas Iscariot were possessed of the same heroic quality. The parallel between Burns and Judas may, indeed, be pursued to greater length. Both sold themselves for a price. That Burns was able to demand a higher fee and get it shows that the market value of Burns was greater than the market value of Judas; that Bums was worth more to his purchasers than Judas to his. But then Judas, as if anticipating that competitors would arise to challenge his claim to the highest niche in the temple of Spectatorial courage, enormously strengthened his position by going out and hanging himself. When Burns has the courage to follow so excellent an example, he may be sure that the verdict of history, as well as of his friends, will be unqualified and enthusiastic approval of the thing above all others that he was not expected to do from his previous record.

50 Years Ago: Socialism or 'Something Now' (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard 

For years we have been told by Labour Party supporters (who had never tried to teach or even to understand socialism) that the working class did not want socialism, they wanted ‘something now’. We return the jibe and ask when the Labour government is going to give it to them. We were told that ‘half a loaf is better than no bread’ and that the way to get socialism is to build it up piecemeal, adding one gain to another until some day we shall wake up and find that capitalism has imperceptibly changed into the cooperative commonwealth.

One ‘half loaf’ has already been delivered to the cotton workers by the Labour government — a 6¼  per cent reduction in pay instead of the 12½ per cent asked for by the employers. May we ask how many such half-loaves will be required to produce socialism?

From an article ‘Labour party’s main plank gone’, Socialist Standard, January 1930.

50 Years Ago: The Cost of Armaments (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the moment of writing the stage is being prepared for the Five Power naval conference, whose object is to solve the problem that could not be solved in the 1927 Geneva conference.

What is the problem? To those who have not given much thought to it, the problem appears to be the question of the peace of the world and this view is supported by the frequent references in newspapers, pamphlets and books to the ‘spirit of peace’, the ‘spirit of humanity’, the ‘spirit of the Kellog Pact’ and various other spineless spirits . . . In fact, the problem is not the peace of the world but an attempt to set a limit to the ruinous expenditure upon armaments.

Where will it all end? The capitalist can see no end but the continued production of ever more terrible means of causing destruction. He is not concerned with the scrapping of implements of war, but only with decreasing their cost.

So, finally, the high ideals of the Naval conference are really £sd and have as much real concern for welfare of humanity as the capitalist has for the real welfare of his wage slaves.

From an article “What is behind the Naval conference?” by G. McClatchie, Socialist Standard February 1930.

50 Years Ago: Religion and Capitalism (1980)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

As for the Church, it has to be recognised that the great majority of the electorate, including the majority of the workers, would continue to vote for capitalism even if there were no churches. They would do so because they are satisfied with things as they are, or because their dissatisfaction is not directed against capitalism but merely against the administration of capitalism by a particular party or particular persons. Capitalism remains because the political machinery is in the hands of people who have no wish and no mandate from the electors, to replace it by socialism. Parliament, the centre of power, is controlled by capitalist agents because the electors vote them there, either because they find capitalism good or because they are not convinced that there is a practical alternative.

Organised religion plays its part in moulding the opinions of voters, but it is a relatively small part and probably one that is decreasing in importance.

From a reply to a correspondent. Socialist Standard March 1930.

Questions from a Turkish Journalist (2018)

From the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
1- How do you define socialism?
Socialism is a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the natural and industrial resources of the world by and the interest of all humanity. On this basis production can be carried on to provide directly for people’s needs, with distribution of the products on the principle of ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’. It will be a world without frontiers, a classless, stateless, moneyless society. Socialism has never been tried anywhere and in fact could not exist just in one country,
2- How do you define capitalism?
Capitalism is a system of society based on the ownership and control of the means of production by a minority class and where production, carried out by wage workers, is for sale on a market with a view to profit. Capitalism has been the predominant world economic system for well over a hundred years and now exists all over the world.
3- As a socialist party why didn’t you support Corbyn in the 8th June elections? Opposing austerity measures is not enough to be called a socialist but isn’t it more
favourable to think building a social state is easier and more realistic than building a full socialist society? We didn’t support Corbyn and the Labour Party in these elections as the Labour Party does not stand for socialism but seeks merely to reform capitalism to make it work for the majority. The reforms it proposes are attractive at one level – who would not like to see an end to austerity? – but both experience and an understanding of how the capitalist economic system works show that no government can make capitalism work in the interest of the majority. Capitalism
is governed by economic laws which dictate that priority be given to profits and conditions for profit-making. In the end, all governments, including previous Labour governments with a similar programme to what Corbyn is now proposing, have ended up falling in line with this capitalist economic reality and maintaining austerity (or, if they initially relaxed it, re-imposing it) in the form of wage restraint, service cuts, benefit cuts and the like. So, no, it is not ‘easier and more realistic’ to build a ‘social state’ under capitalism than to build socialism. It’s impossible.
4- What do you think about the outcomes of the 8th June elections?
The better than expected result for Labour will have reflected some increase in discontent with what capitalism imposes on people, even though Labour was not offering a viable way out and would not have been able to deliver on its promises if it had won. And Brexit was clearly an issue for many, boosting the Labour vote considerably in pro-Remain areas. But ultimately, it was a routine election in which the workers again voted to continue to allow the capitalist class to retain its control of political power through parties which all stood for capitalism, the Labour Party under Corbyn included.
5- What is ‘world socialism’? What are the differences between your thought on world socialism and Trotsky’s permanent revolution theory?
Socialism can only exist as world socialism since the society it will take over from, capitalism, already is global. So, Trotsky was right to say that socialism could not exist in one country and that the socialist revolution would have to be a world revolution, even if it was not clear what he meant by socialism and that his conception of revolution, where merely discontented workers would be led by a vanguard party, is not ours but is deeply flawed.
6- You’re not supporting Corbyn’s plan of nationalisation of railways because you are supporting common ownership. What are the differences between state ownership and common ownership?
Nationalisation is where the state becomes the owner of an industry, usually by buying it but sometimes by confiscating it. It is not the same as common ownership as
the state represents the interest of a minority only, whether the capitalist class as a whole or some group who have got control of it. As the industry continues to be operated by wage workers and continues to produce for sale on a market with a view to profit, it is best described as ‘state capitalism’.
Common ownership on the other hand, is where all productive resources (not just selected industries) belong in common to society as a whole; which is the same as them belonging to nobody. They will simply be there to be used, under various kinds of democratic control, to provide what people need.
Common ownership implies that people no longer need to sell their working skills to an employer and so the abolition of the wages system. It also implies production directly and solely for use, so making money redundant.
7- What do you think about post-materialist movements like environmentalist, feminist or LGBT movements?
Are you advocating the argument that ‘we are not living in Victorian Britain any more, the times have changed and these groups are useful for our cause’ or are you
defending the idea that ‘industrial revolution has passed long ago but still the working classes are the most progressive ones’?
We have never held the view that industrial workers alone will be the agent to establish socialism since our conception of the working class has been broader than this, including all those obliged by economic necessity to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary whatever the job they do, today in the developed capitalist parts of the world the vast majority of the population. We have always held that socialism will mean ‘the emancipation of all mankind, without
distinction of race or sex’. In other words, that it will end all oppression and discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Such discrimination divides the class of wage and salary workers whereas socialism can only be achieved when workers unite to bring it about. We are opposed to ‘identity politics’ as this, too, divides the working class. We still see socialism as the outcome of the class struggle of the working class (in the broad sense) pursuing its interest for a better material life and a better quality of life. We don’t know what will spark off the mass movement for socialism but concern for the environment could be a factor. In any event, as capitalism and its pursuit of profit is the cause of damage to the environment, the aim of the environmentalist movement can only be achieved in socialist society; at some point they may come to realise this.

Dead Economic Man (2018)

Book Review from the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

'The Death of Homo Economicus. Work, Debt and the Myth of Endless Accumulation', by Peter Fleming (Pluto Press, 2017)

It’s a good title for a criticism of the view that economics can be explained as people behaving as if they were profit-seeking enterprises. Fleming says that this has now led to a ‘wreckage economy’  where the economists' ‘dollar-hunting animals’ perform meaningless work and lead empty lives; homo economicus is dead and survives only as a zombie.

Today, Fleming argues, the preferred way for capitalist firms to make money is not to create new value but to devise ways of tapping in to pre-existing income streams, to pursue interest rather than profit. There is some truth in this ‘financialization’ of parts of the capitalist economy, but a rip-off economy cannot exist without something to rip off. There still has to be, and of course still is, a sector of the economy creating new value to feed the income streams.

A large part of the book is devoted to discussing work – office work as boring and meaningless and the various employer theories and practices to manage it; the growth of ‘self-employment’ which is really a way for employers to off-load the costs of directly employing workers (holiday pay, pensions, time at work not actually working); and resistance by individuals, sometimes violent, sometimes passive withdrawal, to the meaningless work capitalism imposes on them.

Some of the book is heavy going due to its postmodernist and French pop sociologists’ style but Fleming is basically on the right wave-length. The reduction of all (his emphasis) social life, not just economic, to the logic of profit-seeking, which latter-day capitalism has brought about, has led to all sorts of problems, social and psychological, and needs to be ended for the sake of people and the planet.
Adam Buick