Saturday, February 10, 2018

Beating Racialism (1968)

Book Review from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Racial Discrimination in England by W. W. Daniel, (Penguin Special 6s.)

In April last year PEP released its report on racial discrimination in England, based on a survey of six areas carried out by Research Services Ltd. Research Services used three methods to assess the extent of discrimination, defined as "a practice or policy which affects members of a minority group differently because of colour or country of origin in ways that are of significance either socially or to them personally". They interviewed immigrants (from West Indies, India, Pakistan and Cyprus) and persons in a position to discriminate (employers, landlords, estate agents, etc.) and. organised "validating situation tests" in which they sent a white man from England, an immigrant from Hungary and an immigrant from the West Indies to apply for the same job. room, or motor insurance. What was the conclusion of this thorough and objective survey, here written up by W. W. Daniel of Research Services?
  In the sectors we studied—different aspects of employment, housing and the provision of services-there is racial discrimination varying, in.extent from the massive to the substantial.
In housing it exists in private letting, in house buying and even in council housing. This means that in all sectors of housing only the worst is available to coloured workers. You would expect migrants, and not only from overseas, to live at first in the worst areas but then in time to disperse. The effect of the informal colour bar in housing is to prevent this dispersal. And the racialists have the insolence to accuse coloured immigrants of creating slums! Some employers will only give coloured people unskilled labouring jobs; others provide separate eating and washing places; some operate a quota system. The trade unions, to their credit, have generally opposed discrimination.

What can be done about all this racial discrimination? Daniel rightly says that it will not be overcome as "an inevitable consequence of contact and of time". If racial prejudice is to go it must be fought But how? Should the Socialist Party campaign with others opposed to racialism for laws against colour bar (useful as these might be educationally)? Should we support “black power"? Should we use "fists against the fascists?" None of these. Capitalism gives rise to working class problems and so to working class discontent and, as long as workers are not class conscious, they will remain open to suggestions that this or that conspicuous minority, not capitalism, is the cause of their problems. To give up our uncompromising struggle against capitalism for alliances with groups that openly or by implication support it would be shortsighted. For, in maintaining the system that gives rise to discontent we would be defeating our object—a world without racialism— and would indeed even be encouraging racialism. In the long run the only effective way of combatting racialism is by building up a strong, world-wide Socialist movement, and this demands uncompromising opposition to all pro-capitalist groups
Adam Buick

Socialism in one island (1968)

From the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is well-known that one of Stalin’s distortions of Marxism was to say that Socialism could be established in one country, thus rejecting the international nature of Socialism. Communist parties outside of Russia naturally fell into line with this and since 1935 have given their propaganda a patriotic flavour. The present programme of the Communist Party in Britain, for instance, is called the British Road to Socialism. In the Channel Islands, the programme of the Jersey CP is called Jersey's Way to Socialism. They have made a start, too. At the end of 1966 their leader, Norman Le Brocq, was elected to the States Assembly. Needless to say, he was elected not on a socialist, but on a capitalist reform programme. His party’s programme also is full of theoretical errors, the chief one being as to the nature of Socialism:
  “As there is much confusion as to the real meaning of the word Socialism, we must define what the Communist Party, which works for Socialism, means by this system. To us, Socialism means simply that political power is held by the working people, and that all factories and workshops, transport, banks and the land are publicly owned and worked for the benefit of all."
This is not Socialism, but state capitalism. Socialism is a system of society based on the common (not state or “public”) ownership and democratic control of the means of living by and in the interests of the whole community. The state, or political power, would be replaced by the administration of things and banks would disappear as the aim of production would be use, not sale with a view to profit (even state profit).

Socialism must be world-wide for the simple reason that capitalism, the system it will replace, already is. Frontiers and national boundaries are artificial and irrelevant. The Jersey CP is not so stupid as to think that “socialism” could exist in Jersey alone but they still think along national lines:
  “Socialism in Jersey would owe its existence to the inspiration and protection of a Socialist government in Britain. Linked with the other Channel Islands, it would form an autonomous unit of a British Socialist republic.”
The important part of the programme is a list of immediate demands — slum clearance, higher pensions, unemployment benefit, price controls, comprehensive education, etc, etc. — some perhaps useful but justified thus:
  “This fight for better housing, better social services, lower rents, and so on, becomes a fight to change the system that cannot give these things.”
But is this so? Do reform struggles lead to a desire to change society? Rather, they attract to the party with a reform programme those who only want reforms, not fundamental social change, and so ruin that party as an instrument for such change. This is confirmed by Le Brocq’s report-back meeting (Jersey Evening Post, 22 May 1968). His record has been a determined and persistent fight for the reforms he was elected to get. That is what those who voted for him are interested in, not Socialism.

The Jersey Communist Party, like similar parties everywhere, is a nationalist and reformist party that stands for state capitalism.

The Decline of Coal (1968)

From the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Coal played a great part in the development of capitalism in Britain. Wood used to be the main fuel but in the 18th century coal mining was stepped up as coal was needed for smelting iron. Many mines were in fact owned by the ironmasters. Coal was also used for steam-raising and, with the expansion of steam driven locomotives, ships and machines, in the second half of the 19th century, production increased from about 50 million tons in 1851 to over 240 million in the first decade of this century. The peak year for the British coal industry was 1913 when 287 million tons were mined, of this nearly 100 million were exported or went into bunkers for ships sailing to overseas ports. In the nineteenth century coal had no serious rival as a source of fuel and power. Coal was and still is used to raise steam for electricity generation and also in the manufacture of town gas.

Because of its importance as a source of fuel and power for modern industry, coalmining was particularly hit by industrial depressions, as our graph shows. It also placed coalminers in a strategic position. The miners played a major role in the development of the working class movement in Britain. Their history was one of continuous struggle against rapacious mine owners, often involving bloody clashes with the military. The first working class MP’s, elected for the capitalist Liberal Party, were miners. The Miners Federation of Great Britain, set up in 1889, was at one time the largest trade union in the world. The General Strike of 1926 was called by the TUC in answer to a lock-out of miners. Although the strike was called off after nine days, the miners heroically held out for nine months before being defeated by hunger. Between the wars, and specially at the beginning of the thirties, almost the whole adult male population of many mining villages was out of work. It is probably fair to say that, as a result of their experiences and of living in their own communities, the miners reached the highest degree of industrial class consciousness of any group of workers in Britain; at least this is true of the South Wales miners. 

Coalmining was an industry in whose efficiency all capitalists were interested as they wanted the cheapest energy they could get. The old owners were notoriously inefficient so that nationalisation was advocated by many besides the Labour Party and the MFGB. The Tories nationalised the coal before the war, and Labour the mines after. On vesting day, 1 January 1947, every one of the thousand collieries displayed a large notice proclaiming: THIS COLLIERY IS NOW MANAGED BY THE NATIONAL COAL BOARD ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE. Many miners thought that this was Socialism or at least a step toward it but it was only state capitalism. The miners remained exploited wage-workers even though nationalisation allowed an improvement in working conditions. There has been no official strike in mining since nationalisation; so-called unofficial strikes have been frequent however. The main union is the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), as the MFGB became in 1946. The NUM has rivals organising clerks in the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union (CAWU) and various underground supervisors in the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS). Management grades are in the British Association of Colliery Management (BACOM).

For the first ten years of nationalisation the miners never had it so good. They were in a strong bargaining position as the demand for coal far exceeded its supply. Industry wanted every ton that could be produced but it was not until the early fifties that pre-war output and productivity levels were reached. As a useful reminder that even militant unionism is based on sectionalism, it is worth quoting from an agreement reached in 1947 between the NCB and the NUM on the employment of Polish workers. This agreement, after reasonable provisions about any Polish workers being employed on the same terms as everybody else and on union membership, went on:
  In the event of redundancy Polish workers shall be the first to go. They shall be transferred or dismissed wherever their continued employment at a particular pit would prevent the continued employment or re-employment of a British mine-worker who is capable of and willing to do the work on which the Polish worker is employed and who might otherwise be displaced by redundancy at that pit or at another pit.
Then, in 1957, the bottom dropped out of the market for coal. The change was dramatic. In its report for 1957 the NCB declared:
  Total coal output in 1957, including that from opencast sites, was 223.6 million tons. This was 1.4 million tons more than in 1956 and the highest annual output since 1952.
But in 1958 it was a different story:
  Total coal output in 1958 was 215.8 million tons, including 14.3 million tons from opencast working. For the first time, the Board had to take steps to restrict production to meet a decline in demand; the years output was 7.8 million tons less than that of 1957 and was the lowest for eight years.
The following table illustrates the change:

What had happened, then? The table shows that consumption fell drastically in 1957. It had in fact been falling since 1955 and this represented increasing competition from oil. But an event at the end of 1956 hastened the switch to oil. Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt and the Suez was blocked. Oil supplies from the Middle East could not get through to Europe. The oil companies opened up new sources to meet the shortage so that, when the canal was cleared, they found themselves with a surplus. They brought down their prices and were able to beat coal. Coal production has fallen every year since 1957. It has been the same story in France, Germany and Belgium. Oil use as a proportion of total fuel rose in the period 1957-67 from 15 per cent to over 37 per cent. The government’s Fuel Policy White Paper, published last November, foresees that this trend will continue though oil will be under pressure from natural gas and nuclear energy. By 1970 coal production, they guess, will be down to 155 million tons; still nearly 50 per cent of fuel use in Britain though. Lord Robens has gone further: he says it will be 120 million by 1975 and perhaps only 80 million by 1980. This coupled with increasing mechanisation will mean a huge reduction in manpower. The areas worse hit by the closures are and will be the older coalfields in Scotland, Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland and South Wales. Already there are workers in these areas who have been unemployed for over a year and so are on “supplementary benefit” (the old National Assistance) being subjected, perhaps for the second time in their lives, to a means test. The government has announced fairly generous, by capitalism’s standards, redundancy payments for those who have lost their jobs since July last year—this of course is a reflection of the strength of the workers organised in their unions.

The post-war history of coal-mining in Britain bears out the socialist case: trade union action, though essential, cannot do much more than work with or against market trends. For the first ten years of nationalisation the demand for coal exceeded the supply; for the next ten the position was reversed. All the NUM is doing now, and of course it can do no more, is “retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction” as Marx put it in another context.
Adam Buick

Economics (1968)

Book Review from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Economics and Ideology and Other Essays by Ronald L Meek, (Chapman and Hall, 40s.)

Meek’s essays were originally written over the past twenty years, during which he changed from an orthodox supporter of the so-called Communist Party to the more ordinary kind of reformist, believing that the tendencies Marx saw for capitalism can, and have been, overcome by "social legislation, trade union activity, State intervention, etc.” But he still thinks there is somewhere a “socialist sector of the world”. 

Nevertheless, Meek knows his Adam Smith and Ricardo as well as his Marx. Classical Political Economy, on which Marx built, started its analysis from the relations men entered into when producing wealth and saw the distribution of the social product as between the classes of landowners, manufacturers and labourers. This led them to a labour theory of value. Meek, in his essay on the Scottish Historical School (of which Adam Smith was a member, for he was not just an economist) shows how they had evolved a materialist conception of history, similar to Marx’s, which saw productive and property relations as the basis of societies.

After Ricardo, by about 1830, bourgeois economic thinkers turned away from this approach and began to see economic activity from a businessman’s point of view. Why was this? Meek, following Marx, suggests that this was because the Ricardian labour theory of value implied that capitalism was based on the exploitation of the workers. This indeed was the conclusion drawn by men like Hodgskin and William Thompson. Marx ironed out the inconsistencies in their theories (chiefly by distinguishing between “labour” and “labour power”) and showed how the source of rent, interest and profit was the unpaid labour of the workers.

Meek claims that “it is obvious that the particular 'laws of motion' " developed by Marx can no longer be used today as a guide to what is actually going to happen as capitalism develops further". He takes these laws to be: the falling rate of profit, the increasing severity of cyclical crises, the concentration and centralization of capital, and the increasing misery of the working class. Only the third, he says, has been proved valid. However, it is open to question whether Marx expected the rate of profit to go on falling in practice (remember that it had been falling, and Marx was only trying to solve a problem which Adam Smith, Ricardo and others had already had a go at) and whether he even held that crises would get worse and worse (in any event this view has been rejected by Socialist Party of Great Britain). As for increasing misery, Meek argues that this means that the standard of living of workers would grow worse and worse. We cannot accept this and refer those interested to the discussion of the matter in the Socialist Standard of January 1957.

Though socialists cannot agree with all he writes. Meek is a Marx scholar worth reading.
Adam Buick

Without Comment (1968)

A quote from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
A minute gesture or item, such as the pencil reproduced in actual size on this page, can sometimes acquire great value. That is just what happened when a voluntary organisation asked G.I.s in Viet Nam what their most-wanted items were. Those needs were modest—such things as a pair of dry socks and some writing material. Time provided the tiny pencil, which the Christian Reform Laymen’s League included in 200,000 packets to Viet Nam. Surprisingly, the mini-pencil is serving purposes far beyond postcard writing. Its wooden shaft, wrote one Marine, is being used to clean the hard-to-get-at rifle sights, while the graphite helps sliding parts of the M-16. Hearing of this, the volunteer group asked Time for more of them to be included in a second shipment. This week another 200,000 pencils are going to the men.

Time, April 26, 1968

Activities in Wales (1968)

Party News from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Swansea branch had an unofficial literature stall at the annual conference of the National Union of Mineworkers which was held in Swansea at the beginning of July. Many pamphlets [and] a few Socialist Standards were sold to the delegates and visitors.

Debate with Young Liberals
The merits and demerits of capitalism and Socialism were discussed on 16 July when our Swansea branch debated the local Young Liberals. Our comrade Buick, for the branch, said that as capitalism was the cause of workers' problems, a Liberal government would no more be able to solve them than Tory and Labour governments had been. Capitalism was based on the exploitation of the workers and could not be made to work for the good of all. The Liberal policy of co-partnership would not work as there was an irreconcilable conflict of interest between workers and their employers, which could not be bridged by giving workers shares or putting a few on the board of directors. The Liberal party was a capitalist reform party. The solution in fact lay in Socialism, a world community, without frontiers, based on common ownership, with production solely for use, not profit.

David Davies, for the Young Liberals, said that Liberals supported capitalism as this system was in the interests of all. Socialism was all very fine but it wouldn’t work because there would be no incentive to produce. Abundance for all was not possible. Capitalism accepted scarcity and that human beings were motivated by self-interest. The profit motive ensured that the maximum amount of wealth was produced. There were inequalities in sharing out this wealth as some people were more able than others. But the Liberal Party did not believe in complete laissez-faire. Their policy could be summed up as controlled capitalism.

Obviously, Jeremy Thorpe has nothing to fear from Swansea YLs!

Caerffili by-election
The voice of Socialism was heard, if not heeded, at the by-election at Caerffili on 18 July at which the nationalists reduced Labour’s majority by 19,000. Over 60 copies of the May Socialist Standard (which puts the Socialist view on Scottish and Welsh nationalism) were sold mainly to members and supporters of Plaid Cymru.

Liberate Technology. Liberate Ourselves. (2018)

From the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Technology has evolved to the point where there is no reason why food, clothes, housing, medical care, education, transportation, computers, books, cell phones, digital connections, cannot be freely available to all human beings on the planet. We have the technology to liberate our lives, yet we find ourselves working more rather than less for the privilege of a few. Our amazing technology is rapidly developing into the future, yet our social organization based on working people and employers, buying and selling, money, and nation-states, belongs to the past yet is still around today.

There is no technological reason we cannot have all the food and clothes and other important things we require to live absolutely for free – if the whole community owned the farms, food plants, clothing factories, and all other workplaces where wealth is produced. The only reason money exists is so that the owners of these places of work can generate profit to live off, the value above our wages and all other production costs from the revenue obtained from sale.

It would therefore be true to say that money itself prevents us from having what we need.

Although our culture likes to think of itself as possessing many classes (e.g. the middle class, the lower upper class or the upper lower class), that is really a lot of nonsense. There is only the class of people living off rent, interest and profit, and the class (most of us) which lives by working for wages or salaries. While there are always failing businesses whose owners fall into the working class, the capital class tends to make the most money, while the working class tends to make the least. That is always how it is going to be, as long as money exists. No politician can do a thing about that. Even in the countries our media incorrectly call 'socialist' or 'communist' like the old USSR, or the UK under the Labour government, or China or Cuba today, the laws of monetary value and capital accumulation still apply. Most people in those countries are working people who are paid wages that they must budget all their living expenses out of, while a small clique lives in abundance.

The truth is that real socialism or communism has never existed. It means a society in which the means of producing wealth is owned 'socially' or 'in common.' Obviously if the state owns the railroad that does not mean all the people do, unless they get to ride it for nothing. The government owns the Post Office in the United States but you still have to pay for stamps, don't you? Government ownership in countries such as ours merely means that the capital class decided that there were industries that they could all benefit from or share the expenses for as a class, like the Post Office, most roads, state hospitals or the military. But in countries like China where the government owns most of the industries, there is a whole class of bureaucrats who lives off the hog of the land, just like here.

The time is ripe for us as a species to finally own the means of producing wealth collectively. In such a society we would no longer need money. Everything really would be free, but that obviously doesn't mean it would work if we were all hoarding ten times more than we needed. But we believe that hoarding behaviour is more likely to occur in an economy of scarcity rather than one of abundance. For example, in today's American economy, most of us can afford basic foodstuffs like bread, so we don't store 600 loafs at a time in our freezer. That is because we know we can always get more in the supermarket. Real socialism or communism will be like that. Knowing that we can get what we need for nothing, we will likely store much less (if anything at all) than we do even now in our cluttered homes, where today we keep every piece of rubbish just in case we need it again and would have to pay dear money for it a second time.

A society based on private or state property is also divided into nations. It causes war, terrorism, starvation, child labour, ecological devastation, racism, sexism, inferior quality goods, and totally useless industries that squander our planet's resources while not producing anything, such as those that revolve around advertising, selling, buying, ticketing, investing, taxing, brokering, insuring, militarizing, policing, managing. Think of the millions of wasted buildings, or the vast supply of wasted energy, resources and human lives that go into operating these useless occupations (useless from the point of view of producing wealth, of course the market system requires them, and that is one reason they are so wasteful). When we own the means of producing wealth as a community, we won't need those industries anymore because goods and services will be free. So we will require far less resources and energy than we do now to produce much, much, more. We will probably only need to work about a day or two at most per week to produce a lot more wealth and get everything we need. But since we are not a lazy species (except when forced to work or to do anything else), we will probably choose to work more. We will probably want to spend the remaining five days of the week in athletic, creative, intellectual, social, sexual, scientific or other pursuits, depending on our talents and interests.

It is time for such a change. And we are urging our fellow humans to organize to bring about this new world, which is no pipe dream, but a logical outcome of our technological progress as well as our desire to live a fuller, freer, life.

(from a World Socialist Party of the US leaflet)

Scandinavian Tour (1968)

Party News from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

During a recent tour of Scandinavia four members—our comrades Assirati, Cox, Garnham, and Zucconi —came upon a ‘Free Speech Tribune’ in the concourse next to the Central Station in Stockholm. Needless to say, they required little encouragement to take advantage of this opportunity, newly provided by a considerate City Council, and Dom Zucconi eagerly mounted the raised pulpit.

Introducing the Party to the groups of bystanders, who quickly reformed into a solid audience of 200, our speaker was able to present our case—in English. It was soon apparent that there was no language barrier when the all too familiar, questions and objections were raised.

Although a five or ten minute speech is usual for this democratic innovation, Dom ably upheld the party traditions in resisting one vociferous objector “. . . why don’t you go back to your own country?” and another who actually joined him in the box to insist he’d spoken enough. With the support of the audience, indicated by an overwhelming show of hands, he continued his exposition of the Party’s attitude for an hour.

The four members subsequently engaged in discussion with a number of those interested One promised to pass around, as he finishes with it, the considerable amount of literature sent to him.

It is to be hoped that this outdoor facility, so convenient for our purposes (no lugging around of the platform), will be used by any other Party speakers visiting the delightful capital city of Sweden.

We should also mention the other 'aid to democratic practice’ provided at the same spot—a large expanse of white painted wall on which can be written or stuck slogans, messages and political statements. Another of our group took advantage here of a prominent space to mark up a concise statement of what Socialism is and is not. But the message should be renewed as the authorities periodically re-paint the wall, presenting a 'fresh page’ to cater for the sloganeering of each new spate of alliances, protests and 'immediate demands'.

Although these 'outlets’ may have overtones of civic paternalism and don't compare with Speakers’ Corner, they have their uses and are certainly better than nothing in a country previously devoid of such recognised speaking spots.
Louis J. Cox

Party Names Swindle (1968)

Party News from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Should party names appear on the ballot paper? This has been much discussed in recent years. There can be no objection in principle to it as it might clear up some confusion, but in practice problems would arise over registering parties and over who should use what name. A group of Labour MP's, led by Denis Coe, recently brought in a private members Bill on this subject which was discussed in the House of Commons on 22 March. However, their remedy was worse than the disease. Had it not been talked out it would have discriminated against minor parties, and in particular against the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

The Bill provided for a register of political parties in which the Registrar of Friendly Societies shall "register any political party or association which applies for registration and has a paid-up membership in excess of 1,000 members”. Candidates of non-registered parties would, as all are today, in law be regarded as "non- party”. This would not have presented us with an unsurmountable problem, but another clause was more disturbing. It gave first choice of names to those parties with members in the House of Commons: they register their names first, other parties after a month. This would seem to have allowed the Labour Party to register its own name, and perhaps all variations on "Labour” and "Socialist”. If this was so, and the Labour Party took advantage of it, when after a month we came to register our name we would be refused. Further we would also be barred from using our name on any leaflets and posters we produced for any election in which we had candidates.

We can say then that, in its present form, this Bill would have penalised at least one bona fide political party. Our experience over broadcasting time suggests that this would not unduly worry the larger parties. Nevertheless we take this opportunity to make our views known. 

Nobody can deny that we are a bona fide political party. We have been called "the Socialist Party” or "the Socialist Party of Great Britain” or "S.P.G.B.” since our foundation in 1904. We are not a breakaway group from the Labour Party. Indeed we were formed before them and have been in continuous and active political existence for over sixty-four years. We are a nationwide party and have had branches, at one time or another, in all the major urban and industrial areas of England, Scotland and Wales. Before 1914 we put up candidates in local elections in London and Burnley. Since 1945 we have stood for parliament eleven times and have contested local elections in Hackney, the old LCC, 14 in the GLC last year, many times in Glasgow and again this May in Haringey. We think this is proof enough of our genuiness.

At the end of July the government announced that they agreed that in principle party names should be shown on nomination and ballot papers. 

Confusion (1968)

Party News from the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ted Crawford, business manager of the Socialist Worker, spoke on August 7 at our Westminster branch on “International Socialism”. After tracing the origins of the group in Bolshevism and Trotskyism, he went on to explain the “permanent” arms economy and what IS was trying to do. He confessed that he was dissatisfied with the “class composition” of the group; there were too many lecturers, teachers and students and not enough workers.

Pressed to define Socialism, Crawford said “democracy”, “man in control of his environment”. Asked if this was compatible with the existence of banks, he said he could not give a blueprint but he expected that there would have to be some credit facilities in a “socialist state”. One of his supporters, coming to his rescue, pooh-poohed the idea of a society without money or government.

Socialists present pointed out that his concern about the class composition of IS showed that he did not know what the working class was; as lecturers and teachers were, and students soon would be, forced to work for wages they too were members of the working class. Discussion also centred on whether democratic institutions could be used by the working class to achieve Socialism (we said yes; they said no and thought there would have to be a civil war—but then they don’t aim at Socialism) and as to whether the ruling class could suspend democracy and unleash fascism at will (we said no; they said yes). The Chairman pointed out that there was not enough time to discuss our differing views on nationalism.

Another Lot of Insurrectionists (1968)

From the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the Labour Party and the so-called Communist Party become discredited and workers become more and more disillusioned with these parties in their futile efforts to run capitalism, it is vitally important to clearly present the socialist alternative. The emergence of self-styled leftwing groups is as dangerous to workers as that of their right-wing counterparts. If workers get bogged down with these organisations another generation could be wasted in the futile pursuit of petty issues and in swapping leaders.

One such organisation operates under the unwarranted title of "International Socialism". Their errors are basically the same as those of the Bolsheviks fifty years ago.

During the general elections of 1964 and 1966 they were urging the return of the "biggest possible Labour majority". For them this was a tactic because they knew that a Labour government would act "against the organised working class movement", but they argued that out of the struggles against the attacks made by the Labour government "can and will come the development of a powerful force for socialism". After four years of Labour government we are witnessing 17 per cent swings to the Tories in by-elections. Far from developing socialist ideas the confusion and despair resulting from Labour-run capitalism has helped to foster racist attitudes.

In 1966, even though they knew what the Labour Party's policy was, they lamely suggested:
Every Labour candidate should be pressed to give commitments on at least the following four points:
1. All out opposition to shackle the unions through new laws.
2. Total opposition to the leadership’s support for the Americans in Vietnam.
3. Opposition to the Immigration White Paper and its support for controls.
4. Full support for workers fighting a coercive incomes policy in defence of their living standards.
They knew there would be laws to shackle unions. They knew that Labour supported the American government in Vietnam. They knew there would be race laws. They knew there would be a coercive incomes policy. Now we have all these things and IS are helped to give the Labour government its big majority to be able to enforce them.

How naive they were to ask Labour candidates to give "commitments". Labour candidates are already committed to party policy and vetted by Transport House. If the working class are prepared to vote Labour they vote for official policy. Any undertaking outside this is worthless. IS admit that Labour candidates are controlled by Transport House as they give instances of two whom the party executive refused to endorse because they would give no "written undertakings to make no public criticism of any aspect of government policy until after the General Election".

Referring to racist attitudes, they say:
  If Enoch Powell has done one thing he has revealed just how little socialist consciousness exists today. We have to go back to square one and argue the ideas and theories of socialism to the people in the factories, the docks, the offices and on the vast council estates.
F or socialists it did not take Powell to reveal the lack of socialist consciousness among workers. This has been evident all along and voting Labour has been one aspect of it. As to arguing socialist ideas this is just what IS consistently fails to do. Despite the admitted lack of socialist consciousness they claim, in the same issue of their journal, in a reference to France "revolution in the advanced countries is the order of the day". But the first lesson to be learned at square one is that there can be no Socialism without Socialists. 

During the last election in discussing war preparation they said
   The Defence Review follows the pattern of the whole Labour policy, complete subservience to the most reactionary capitalist interest. Despite the fact that one in six of the population of this country live in poverty, the government like its Tory predecessors has callously decided that defence should continue to be the largest single items of government expenditure, over 26 per cent.
Knowing this they still urged the suicidal folly of voting Labour. They also stated quite clearly, on the penal clauses of the Prices and Incomes Act, that these involved fines of up to £500 and possible imprisonment for trade unionists who threaten to strike while a pay claim is in the hands of the Prices and Incomes Board. And yet, confronted with this outrageous piece of anti-working class legislation, they still worked and voted for Labour's return.

So far as IS are concerned, all this support of Labour candidates is just so much mockery and make-believe anyway as they have only contempt for political democracy and contempt, therefore, for the workers’ ability to understand Socialism. Socialist Worker, for June 1968, looking at the local council election results declared:
  It is clear that working class voters who have probably never voted for a Tory in their lives before consciously crossed the party line last month. Socialists now have a major battle on their hands if they are to recapture these working people for Socialism—for a real socialism that goes beyond the ballot box and the empty ritual of parliamentary elections and poses the question of workers' power in Britain.
What utter confusion! Workers who vote Tory were never socialists in the first place so cannot be "recaptured". When they start to understand Socialism it will be for the first time. This is the aftermath of their "big Labour majority”. Now. it's back to bloodshed on the street!

Like all who dismiss the idea of a socialist working class democratically organising for Socialism IS go along with the idea of leadership. Despite the experience of generations of leaders of all kinds, and their total inability to solve the problem confronting the working class, IS still maintain that out of the present struggle "a new political-industrial leadership has to be crystallised, a new labour movement created, and a new strategy for working class power forged". Where this “new” leadership and strategy will differ from the old they do not say, and they are equally quiet about what they will be able to do do in a situation where the majority of workers are non-socialist and aspire as yet to nothing more than reforms and leaders.

As is to be expected it is when such people as IS try to apply their false assumptions that they really expose themselves. In the June Socialist Worker they show that they thought Socialism could emerge from what was happening in France. Although they had eye-witnesses on the spot they do not seem to have seen very clearly. They thought that even without a socialist majority revolution in the advanced countries was “the order of the day". They said: 
   factory occupation is a crucial feature of the situation in France. . . . When the plant is seized the means of production are recognised by the workers as social property, as theirs to have and hold.
We can but wonder where de Gaulle’s massive landslide came from if workers wanted “social property". As IS sees it, “what is needed is a decisive thrust from the revolutionary left, providing the initiative to get the workers on the streets and expropriate the capitalists". What dangerous nonsense this is! If workers followed this line capitalist governments would not only use their control of the state against the workers (as they did in France) but could use the chaos as a pretext for making inroads into the hard-won rights of demonstration, assembly, organisation and free speech.

For Socialists the task remains one of expounding Socialism. If one thing emerges clearly from the confusion of the “left”, it is that until a majority of the world’s workers understand and vote for Socialism we are stuck with capitalism and all it implies.
Harry Baldwin

Politics (1966)

Book Review from the July 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Idea of Politics by Maurice Duverger. Methuen and Co. 16s.

The French political scientist Maurice Duverger examines in this textbook such questions as What is politics? What causes political conflict? What form does political conflict take ? In two hundred or so pages is given a clear and concise account of the various answers given to these questions by the conservative, the liberal and the socialist. Regular readers of the Socialist Standard will straightaway be able to sec the word Marxist is used in a way we find unacceptable, to refer to the distorted version officially sponsored in Russia. ,

Duverger claims to be a socialist. However by Socialism he understands public ownership or control of industry, overall planning and the like, i.e.. the watered down state capitalism our Labourites (now increasingly only in private) call Socialism. He advances the theory that “East and West are developing along convergent lines towards democratic Socialism”. The East through liberalization and the West through the growth of planning and through the owners becoming mere figureheads on the economic field, as kings have become on the political. True there is a trend towards political democracy in the East and towards more state control in the West but the end won’t be Socialism. Socialism will only come when workers throughout the world take conscious, political action to get it.

Duverger recognises that the state itself is based on violence: "ultimately it rests upon police, army, prisons, and hangmen”. The state doesn’t suppress violence; it concentrates it in its own hands. “Physical violence is replaced by legal, constitutional violence, violence perpetrated with clean hands". This centralization of the means of coercion makes certain forms of political conflict which were popular in the past, like the street battle and the coup d'état, outmoded. (Even in countries now at the stage Europe was in the 19th century protracted guerrilla warfare has replaced the coup.) The Socialist Party has long realised that the growth of the power of the state has meant that the only practicable way for the working class to get political power in the developed capitalist countries is through the vote backed of course by understanding.
Adam Buick

The "New" Theory of Insurrection (1968)

From the September 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

The French political scientist Maurice Duverger, whose books have been reviewed from time to time in these columns (see, for instance Socialist Standard of July 1966), wrote an interesting article published in Le Monde on 12 July. Duverger would say he is a socialist but, as we have pointed out, he really only stands for a mild form of state capitalism. Nevertheless his comments on the May events in France are very pertinent.

In his article, entitled “Une Révolution Impossible”, he. says that before May 1968 even those who stood for violent revolution had written off the developed capitalist world. Hence the popularity of Mao, Castro and Che Guevara. But after May they worked out a new theory of revolution. Duverger describes it thus:
   The first impulse will be given by the young who are less integrated into the present order than their elders, even those belonging to the working class. Among these the students will play the vanguard role. Their growing number and concentration at certain points, similar to the nascent proletariat in the nineteenth century, gives them a power of intervention which the barricades of Paris and the battles at Flins fully show. Further, their intellectual environment gives them a high degree of political consciousness.
   In the second phase, the detonator of the student revolt will embrace the mass of the workers. By means of a general strike they will then paralyse all activity of the bourgeois State and so reduce it to impotence. At the same time they will begin to replace it with a socialist State, themselves taking over the managements of the enterprises and services and putting them in motion again: this will be the third stage. Thus the old power will become more and more unreal and artificial, while a new power progressively takes its place. Finally, the former will collapse and the latter will completely control society.
Only the second stage was reached in May, they argue, because the Communist Party and its trade union wing, the CGT, restrained rather than encouraged the movement.

Duverger’s comments on this are the same as those we have made and are those which one would have thought were the obvious lessons of May: the new theory ignores the great repressive power of the modern state and fails to realise that most workers don't want violent insurrection. The more extreme student organisations have been outlawed and the Gaullists have won a sweeping victory in the elections by playing on popular fear of civil war.

Duverger concedes, and so would we, that there is plenty of working class discontent which could explode if the students gave a lead. But, he says, this discontent should not be confused with a desire for violent revolution. The absence of this, except perhaps among the young, “is not the result of the reformism of the CGT and the Communist party. On the contrary, the reformism of the CGT and the communist party is a reflection of this absence". Most workers, for various reasons are opposed to violent insurrection.

It is this that makes the new theory dangerous:
  The student movements cannot by themselves overthrow the present order. But they can sufficiently threaten it—or give the impression of threatening it—to sustain and increase a feeling of insecurity amongst the mass of society, which will push society towards authoritarian regimes when they can see no other way of avoiding anarchy.
Thus the new strategy could serve to undermine established democratic institutions and to strengthen the repressive powers at the service of the state.

Duverger says that some students are beginning to realise this and
   are today trying to work out a long-term strategy for the transformation of society, keeping their revolutionary ends, but using means better adapted to the conditions of the developed countries.
We are pleased to hear that some lessons have been learned from May (we only wish they would get through to some of the arm-chair insurrectionaries in Britain who want to repeat the French débâcle here). Duverger does not say on what lines they are thinking but he himself points out that nothing can be achieved without the support of the mass of the people.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has something to say on this since, following the lead given by Engels towards the end of his life, we have worked out a policy for social revolution suited to modern capitalism based on the revolutionary use of democratic institutions. Given the growth of the repressive power of the state, insurrections with barricades and street fights are useless. However, thanks to past struggles (including France in 1848 and 1871) in which the workers played a prominent role another way to political power has been opened up: universal suffrage. It is customary in some student circles to dismiss this as a trick, to talk about “parliamentary rubbish" and to call for a boycott of elections. People who speak in this way are refusing to face up to the fact that the great majority of workers do not at present want a social revolution. It is not universal suffrage and the other democratic institutions that are at fault, but the use to which they are put. As long as workers are not socialist-minded (as they are not at the moment) they will use their votes to elect supporters of capitalism, including social democrat and “communist" reformists, and so in effect will hand over political power to the capitalist class—a power, we might add, which can be used to crush student uprising. Elections are the best gauge there is of popular opinion and, unfortunately, they clearly show that only a handful now want Socialism. The task of those who are socialists should thus be clear: not to try to provoke violent clashes with the state in the hope of triggering off a more general uprising, but to carry out an intensive programme of socialist agitation and education. This will involve denouncing the “new" revolutionary theory as dangerous as it could undermine the very institutions which will allow a socialist workers' movement to win power.

We are not advocating that parliament be used to pass a series of social reform measures which are supposed gradually to transform society. We are as opposed to reformism as to insurrection. Compromise with capitalism can be avoided by the socialist party only seeking support on the basis of a socialist programme. In other words, in having no programme of reforms or “immediate demands" to be achieved within capitalism. For such a programme would attract the support of non-socialists and so lead the party towards compromise and reformism. 

We suggest that the twin dangers of insurrection and reformism can be avoided by building up a socialist party composed of and supported by convinced socialists only. When a majority of workers are socialist-minded and organised into such a party they can use their votes to elect to parliament and the local authorities delegates pledged to use state power for the one revolutionary act of dispossessing the capitalist class and converting the means of production into the property of the whole community. This is the long-term strategy for the transformation of society suited to the conditions of modern capitalism that Duverger's students would do well to consider.
Adam Buick