Sunday, February 18, 2018

Waste and Destruction

The following piece, written by the late Pieter Lawrence, is the ninth chapter of his 2006 work, 'Practical Socialism - Its Principles and Methods'.

Chapter 9

Waste and Destruction

In comparing the capitalist system with the ways that production could operate in socialism we find that whilst the free market system sees itself as being most efficient it is in fact hideously wasteful.  Yet, in socialism, whilst efficiency would not be a primary concern, communities would be able to apply their productive resources to the needs of people in a most economical way.

Over a century ago, Karl Marx drew attention to the wasteful use of labour.  In a passage that also predicted how it would develop he said, “The capitalist mode of production, while on the one hand, enforcing economy in each individual business, on the other hand, begets, by its anarchical system of competition, the most outrageous squandering of labour power and of the social means of production, not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous.” (Capital, Vol 1, Part V, Ch XV11-1V).

This was an early indication of the extent to which the capitalist system diverts possibly half or more of its labour resources into jobs that are socially useless and in the case of the military, lethally destructive. To set this in perspective we must keep in mind a clear view of the basic object which motivates and sustains world capitalism.  It does sustain life but not all the time and certainly not in every country.  Many millions die of disease, starvation and in war and civil strife.  But regardless of the degree to which the capitalist system succeeds or fails in providing for our needs, this is not its primary purpose.  It is primarily a system of profit and capital accumulation. It is these objectives that set its wheels in motion. This is demonstrated by the fact that regardless of human needs, when no profit is made, production shuts down. It is in two sectors of the capitalist economy where most waste is generated:   these are in the financial organisation of the markets and secondly, in the state machine, particularly the armed forces and arms production.

We have a simple test as to whether on not a particular job provides for needs. This is based on a concept of ‘real needs.’  It could be said that the subject of “needs” is problematical, that it is both relative and subjective to the extent that it defies a definition that can apply sensibly to all people.  But we can take a practical, reasonable and general view of what we mean by “needs”.   This would define needs in a modern context in relation to our great social problems that we need to solve and a secure material basis for preferred life styles.   In this view we can argue that  “real needs” include good quality foods, clothes which are a pleasure to wear, a comfortable home with heating and good services, etc.  It could also include entertainment, books, art, health and education, leisure, mobility and communications. 

So one test of a useful job is whether it contributes directly to any of these needs or whether it is only necessary to operate markets, or perhaps the military or arms production. For example, does an accountant provide for needs? Accountants spend their lives calculating profit and loss, preparing accounts, income tax returns, etc. Accountancy is certainly necessary for administering the economics of the market system but otherwise it contributes nothing to the material or cultural well being of our lives. In this sense, the work of accountancy is socially useless. 

Bank workers do not contribute to real needs. In their work they spend the day counting out money or transferring totals from one column to another. This work arises from the servicing of bank accounts, the lending and borrowing of money for investment and purchasing, and so on, and therefore the work is inextricably bound up with the day to day operation of the money/market system and profit. It is not necessary for the production of goods and the running of services for needs. In fact, as a part of the market system the work of banking functions as an economic barrier between useful production and human needs.

Statisticians, systems analysts and computer programmers present them¬selves as being useful and. undoubtedly Socialism would require these skills, but at present one use of information systems by companies is to monitor the cash values of their stocks in relation to continuing inflation and exchange rates.  Printers might present themselves as being useful and again, this is a skill which Social¬ism would require, but much of the present paperwork, including millions of documents concerning invoicing, taxation, the law, insurance, the administration of the dole system would be unnecessary in a socialist system.

Waste In A Big City – London.
The distribution of occupations in London is a further indication of the extent of wasted labour. In March 2002 Ken Livingstone, world famous Londoner and Mayor, issued his document Planning for London’s Growth.  The document shows population trends and changes in London’s pattern of employment since the 1970s.  It also projects these to the year 2016.  It appears that London is going to get even bigger.  “The Capital’s population, which fell to 6.8 million in the 1980s but is now above 7.4 million, is projected to exceed 8.1 million by 2016.”  Having absorbed numbers equal to Sheffield during the 1990’s London is set to grow by the equivalent of the population of Leeds.

And what jobs will all these people be doing?  London’s problems should indicate where the work will be concentrated.  On housing the document says that London has “… some of Europe’s worst slums less than a mile from a central financial district that is the richest region in the continent”.  “A disturbingly large number of London’s homes are unfit for people who will be expected to contribute to an expanding economy of new employment opportunities.”  “It has become impossible for people on average incomes to afford homes in many parts of the capital.”

On health, “The number of patients treated within one hour in London’s accident and emergency services is the lowest in the country.”  “Life expectancy for men in East London is among the lowest in the country.”

On poverty, “Child poverty rates in London, after housing costs, are 43 per cent, by far the highest in the UK.”  “Income distribution between the wealthiest and poorest households is far more polarised in London than elsewhere.”

Much of this echoes the Strategic Planning Advice For London issued in 1988 by the then London Planning Advisory Committee.  For example, on housing, it said, “About one million households have insufficient income to house themselves satisfactorily.”  So, it appears that between 1988 and 2002 very little had changed.

If meeting people’s needs were the aim of our society we would have expected a forecast of massive expansion of building and construction jobs so that poor housing could become homes fit for people to live in.  Curiously the number of people in construction is forecast to reduce from 211,000 to 160,000 between now and 2016.  There should surely have been a forecast too of more jobs in health services.  The document lumps health and education together and shows a modest increase of 50,000.   But as a proportion of the extra numbers of population by 2016 this is not significant.

The document does anticipate more jobs but not in anything to do with real needs.  Mostly these will be in Business and Financial Services which are forecast to increase by almost 500,000.  And what will these people do?  They will be part of the Stock Exchange, the offices of the Bank of England; they will be in the Money Markets, Clearing Banks, Overseas Banks, Merchant Banks, Discount Houses and the Insurance Companies.  They will be in the commodity markets and export and import merchants.   They will be in the growth of the Government machine.

This will be a modern example of  “ .. the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous.” Marx himself became a Londoner but it is doubtful if he could have imagined the number of people now concentrated in London as a great accumulation of wasted labour.  As highly trained people, workers in financial services often command high incomes, occupy buildings and devour useful services such as transport and energy supplies.  By 2016 the number of people in Business and Financial Services in London is forecast to be 1,865,000. In a society organised solely for needs these almost 2 million people would be immediately redundant and therefore available for socially useful jobs.

A Picture of National Waste
From “National Statistics – Labour Market Trends 2003, Stationary Office,” in the UK we had a total of 29.5ml jobs.  A breakdown of this total indicates the number of jobs that would be unnecessary in a society organised solely to provide for needs.

It is apparent that the numbers of jobs contributing to our real needs was as follows:-

Agriculture               409,000
Energy and Water                 212,000
Manufacturing            3,800,000
Construction                      1,893,000
Transport and 
Communications               1,802,000
Public Administration       1,410,000
Education                     2,144,000           
Health and Social 
Work                    2,724,000

Socially useless jobs:-

Finance & Business
Services             5,696,000

From these figures we might conclude that perhaps about 1 in 3 of all jobs exist only to administer the market system and therefore do not contribute to the real needs of the community. This would be wrong.   In fact the number is much greater.   Waste of labour extends throughout the structure of production to parts which may appear to be socially useful but which in fact only contribute to waste.
For example jobs in transport may present themselves as being useful but when we consider what transport is used for we find that to a large extent it is socially unnecessary and is therefore a waste.   During World War II, to relieve pressure on an overworked transport system, numerous posters asked the question, “Is you journey really necessary?” This question could equally apply now to the countless millions of daily journeys by train, bus and car, from suburbs to every city centre.   In London and throughout the country, many of the 5½ million people with jobs in finance, insurance and banking, etc., are commuters travelling to work by train.  At the same time, throughout cities, cars and buses carrying people to useless occupations are stuck in traffic jams with vehicles coughing out a poisonous mix of gases whilst power stations generating the electricity for millions of useless train journeys do the same. From the available statistics it is very difficult to tease out the number of people in transport that are socially useful and therefore necessary.   It is evident that in a socialist system the existing transport system would be re-organised whilst much of it would become redundant. 

Some jobs under the heading of “Public Administration” are useful but many would disappear.  For example departments such as Inland Revenue and Customs would no longer be necessary, nor would the thousands of workers distributing doles, social security payments and housing benefits, etc.

Similarly, the 3.8ml jobs in manufacturing present themselves as being useful but here again, not all of these provide for real needs.  The millions of people in buying, selling and financial services use buildings, equipment, computer hardware and communications systems all of which represent a waste of manufacturing and energy resources.

From any social standpoint the category of “unemployed” is particularly bizarre.   These are people who could be making a useful contribution not just in their own interests but for the benefit of their communities.  They are prevented from doing so, generally, because there is no prospect of profit in employing them. The numbers fluctuate with the movement of the trade cycle.   Over the ten years from 1992 – 2001 the numbers of unemployed fell from almost 2.8 million to 1.42 million.   In 2002 it rose to 1.52 million.

The “opportunity cost” of these lost work days is incalculable.  Over the ten years 1993 – 2002 the average number of unemployed per annum was 2,065,000 people.  This means that every week over 10 million work days were lost; every year 500 million and over the ten years, 5 billion work days lost.  Given that the unemployed represent a broad range of skills we can only imagine what the output could have been over ten years from these 2 million workers.  Inevitably, as a consequence of the constraints of the market system, unemployment will continue with year on year additions to the number of work days lost.  Seen over past decades and anticipated into the future this represents a vast accumulation of wasted labour.

Throughout the world millions of undernourished people are incapable of sustaining work activity.  In 200/1 The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation recorded 820 million seriously undernourished people (living on a daily intake of 1,600 calories or less).  This world wide trap of poverty not only denies them the basic necessities of life, they are also denied the means of self development through education and access to skills.  This accounts for a further almost billion people who in a socialist society would be able to make a contribution to their communities.

The Military 
Nothing demonstrates the destructive waste of the capitalist system more than the work of vast numbers of people in the arms industries and in the armed forces.  On a world scale many millions of people are involved both directly and indirectly in war machines. As well as the numbers in the armed services every branch of industry, manufacture, communications and transport has been used to mine and process every kind of material for the production of the missiles,  fighter aircraft, bombers, warships, tanks, lorries, guns, bombs, shells, bullets and much more, all of which make up the military in capitalist states.   Increasingly, the military uses the most advanced technology.  We face the prospect of more and more capitalist states holding nuclear weapons. 

In 2000/1, the U.K. spent £25billion on Defence.  But this was not only on armed forces and their civilian staffs. Part of the Defence Budget was also distributed to energy, industry, manufacture, and transport for the production of armaments.  This included coal, coke, oil, gas, electricity, chemicals, steel, engineering and electrical, ship¬building and marine engineering and construction, etc.
This is yet a further example of jobs which may present themselves in the national labour statistics as being socially useful but which in fact are dedicated to producing the means of death and destruction. This means that for the year 2000/1, a significant number of the 3.9 million in manufacturing were not providing for real needs but were engaged with the military.

The Military of Six Nations
The “Financial Times World Desk 2003” gives figures for military budgets and numbers in armed forces for various nations.    For 68 nations from a world total of about 170 nations “World Desk” gives an approximate total of 15½ million men and women in the armed forces.

 For 6 leading nations the “World Desk” gives:-

                                                        Combined Army,              Budget                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                        Navy & Air Force

 United Kingdom                             211,430                            $40    billion
 France                                             258,600                            $34    billion
 Russia                                             677,000                            $58.8 billion
 China                                           2,270,000                            $41.2 billion
 India                                            1,263,000                            $14.5 billion
 USA                                            1,196,000                            $295  billion

                                                     5, 876,530                           $477.7 billion

These six nations have at their disposal over 42,000 main battle tanks, over 10,000 combat aircraft and over 1,159 war vessels.  In addition, each country has an arsenal of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. By far the largest share is held by the United States with 7,620 main battle tanks, 73 submarines, 12 aircraft carriers, 27 cruisers, 54 destroyers, 35 frigates, 21 patrol boats, 4,147 combat aircraft, hundreds of short to long range missiles plus 550 inter continental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear war heads.  This array of weaponry provides the strike power of over 1.2 million men and women in the US armed forces. 

In time of war the numbers in the armed forces are rapidly increased.  For example, “On August 31st 1939, the strength of the armed forces of the United Kingdom was 681,000 men.  Including reservists mobilised, a further 5,215,000 men were taken into the services between August 31st 1939 and June 30th 1945, making a total of 5,896,000 men (sic, including women) who served in the armed forces during the war.”  The peak number actually serving was 4,683,000 in June 1945.   “History of the Second World War: Casualties and Medical Statistics: UK Stationary Office 1972.”

At the same time the civilian population was mobilised for arms production. “The total number of those employed directly on munitions work rose from 1,150,000 in 1939 to 4,300,000 in 1944.”   “In all, the iron and steel industry produced and handled a grand total of 86,000,000 tons of steel during the war.”     “British War Production 1939 – 1945.  The Times.” 

In itself, the use of armed forces together with people in industry and manufacture for armaments production and the use of materials, represents a great waste but the purpose of war resources is to inflict death and destruction, which leads to further waste. This results in a socially insane circle of destruction which accumulates.  We shall never know how many people were killed as a result of war since the beginning of the 20th Century. With each contestant inflating their enemies numbers whilst minimising their own, official figures are unreliable. We can only be certain that the bare statistics indicate countless personal tragedies.   The deaths of every million blighted the lives of more millions who survived and went on to live with the loss.  For World War II, a consensus view is that about 50 million people were killed and these were about 20 million in the armed forces and 30 million civilian deaths.   In all wars since the beginning of the 20th Century it is likely that more than 75 million people were killed. 

War objectives include the destruction of industrial, chemical and manufacturing installations with their machinery and equipment.  Targets also include communications systems such as railways, roads, bridges, port facilities and telephone networks.  Following the development of the bomber, towns and cities became prime targets.  “It should be clear that the bomber was always a ‘terror’ weapon.   It was the ability of the bomber to fly over defence lines and reach centres of population that made the bomber threat so effective.   Claims that bombing could destroy the enemy’s industrial base are always cited to justify the use of bomber forces, and to a certain extent this claim is true; but it was the effect of bombing on civilians that gave the bomber threat its greatest potency.   Inspiring terror, causing massive destruction and killing civilians, was what the strategic bomber was for.”  “The Bomber War  - Robin Neillands.”

Those who can recall World War II may remember the long list of cities that were destroyed by shell fire and bombing.  As the Bomber Commands of the British and American Air Forces gathered strength, those living under the flight paths of the air routes to Germany will perhaps never forget the image of skies on moonlit nights made dark with bomber formations and the constant drone their engines as they left Southern England with their deadly loads. For those who did not live through it, the names of Plymouth, Coventry, Rotterdam, East London, Caen, Warsaw, Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden, Leningrad and Stalingrad, are just some from the long list of cities recorded in war histories, their pages filled with photographs of stark ruins.   It is said that in the bomber campaign of the Vietnam War the American Air Force delivered even more high explosives than in World War II.

In a sane society these towns and cities together with power stations, industrial and manufacturing plants, bridges, railways, ports and communications networks would continue to serve out their useful lives for the benefit of communities.

The Capitalist System and the Cause of War.
It may be thought that the deaths and destruction brought about by war with its waste of labour and material resources should not be attributed to the capitalist system of production.   It is true that war pre-dates the capitalist system and has been waged throughout history but a common cause has been that wars both now and in the past arose mostly from competing material interests.  In the modern world these take a capitalist form.  What should be discounted is the view that the ideology of war, that is, the given moral reasons, provide a cause of war. For example, the war by Britain and America against Iraq was said to be for the removal of a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and the delivery of democracy to the Iraqi people. The ideology of war provides a justification for war and its propaganda but it is not a basic cause.  The main reason for the war in Iraq was to achieve a strategic economic objective; this was for America and Britain to gain control of the second biggest oil reserves in the world.  It is true that within this context of national economic rivalry the ideology of war has a potent power to become an aggravating factor, especially where war leaders believe their own propaganda, which for political reasons they tend to do.   

War happens in the modern world between rival capitalist states in pursuit of strategic economic objectives.  These include an ability to maintain trade from a position of strength, access to and control of important materials (such as oil), access to and control of important trade routes, the retention and expansion of economic and political spheres of influence. These objectives of war are an extension of the economic objectives of capitalist production, which are to maintain a monopoly of ownership and control of the production process and an ability to trade, as a basis for the accumulation of capital.   Therefore, because modern war is inherent in the national economic rivalries of the capitalist system, it can be rightly said to represent a vast waste of human and material resources, together with bringing about unimaginable misery and suffering.   This waste and destruction would not happen in a system in which all humanity shared a common interest in co-operating to produce for their mutual needs. In a world socialist system, the oil reserves of Iraq, together with the material assets of the entire planet would be for the benefit of all people. 

Social productivity.
The truth behind the image of efficiency projected by the ideologues of the profit system is that it is a miserable, chaotic and destructive mess.  In each business, to keep down costs, there is of course a constant pressure to produce goods and services using minimum labour and this may tend towards business efficiency.   But from a wider, social point of view, that is, the ability of society as a whole to apply its resources of labour and the natural assets of the planet directly to our material and cultural needs, the market system is chronically inefficient.   It was well said that it results in “…  the most outrageous squandering of labour power and of the social means of production, not to mention the creation of a vast number of employments, at present indispensable, but in themselves superfluous.”   It is for these reasons that a socialist system would be able to approximately double the number of people able to make a useful contribution to society.
Pieter Lawrence

Information, Planning and Decision Making

The following piece, written by the late Pieter Lawrence, is the eighth chapter of his 2006 work, 'Practical Socialism - Its Principles and Methods'.

Chapter 8

Information, Planning and Decision Making

Whilst the self regulating basis of production and distribution so far outlined may be adequate for an established structure of production, it could not provide for any large scale development. Expansion would require the work of information, planning and decision making. 

It remains a permanent feature of the capitalist system that its structure of production is inadequate to supply the needs of all people.  Agriculture, mining, energy,  industrial and manufacturing organisation, construction and distribution systems are all limited in their productive capacity to what the market will bear as sales of goods.  The present evidence is that on a world scale, productive capacity in relation to total human needs is decreasing.   I repeat the example that in 1975, approximately 435 million people were seriously malnourished; by 2000 this number had increased to 820 million (FAO).  Similarly with housing; over the past 25 years the numbers of people existing in shanty towns, slums and sub-standard housing has greatly increased. But even the world production system that does exist is distorted by waste, allocates vast resources of labour and advanced technology to armaments and sophisticated death machines and creates more and more socially useless jobs such as those in finance and banking.   

The great projects that communities in socialism would need to undertake would involve a rapid expansion of all useful parts of production.  Practicality would require this to be carried out in some order of priority. Its aims would be achieved in stages, first doing what was manageable, monitoring the progress made and then taking further steps. Such a strategy would provide an overall direction for day to day action in all countries as part of world wide co-operation.

Planning of large-scale development would begin with information. As an open society there would be a great contrast between the supply of information in a socialist system compared with the industrial secrecy of rival corporations in capitalism, which is supported by state secrecy with its networks of spies. In socialism there could be no trade or state protection of information on production methods, technology, design, disposition of production units or use and stocks of materials. For example, there could be no corporate or state monopoly of  “strategic materials” such as scarce metals.  With all parts of world production sharing a common purpose, there would be no difficulty in making information available through a decentralised world information system. Such an information system would be easily within the capability of existing technology.  Information technology cannot achieve its full potential for the benefit of all people except in a socialist world.

We can anticipate that in socialism, industrial and manufacturing organisation would be structured in an economical way throughout the world, regional and local scales. This would be partly determined by distribution of population and such natural factors as the world distribution of resources. Mining and processing of raw materials such as metals, chemicals, oil and coal and some basic agricultural products, particularly cereals, could be organised as a world resource with its products distributed to regions.

Once processed, materials would be supplied to regions for manufacture of component parts and final assembly of goods; these regional units could serve the needs of regional populations. At the smallest scale the supply of some needs would take place within the local community, as for example, local food production for local consumption.

Such a structure of world, regional and local production could operate together with a decentralised information system.  On the smallest scale, a local information centre, could collect statistics on the position of stocks, productive capacity, use of materials, energy etc. By collating these local statistics, regional information centres would be in a position to know the complete picture of demand and supply within a region. On the largest scale, a world information centre could collate regional statistics in a similar manner. This would present a mapping of world production.  It would be achieved by an integrated but de-centralised information system, providing any combination of information people may require on any local, regional and world scale.

There have in fact been previous attempts to produce a comprehensive mapping of an economy on a national scale. We can recall the work of W.W. Leontief which was published in the l950/60’s as “Input-Output Economics”. This was defined as, "Concerning a new method which can portray both an entire economy and its fine structure by plotting the production of each industry against its consumption from every other." Leontiff worked with statistics on the US economy and produced a table showing the exchange of goods and services for the year 1947.

One aim of Leontiff’s work was to use input/output analysis to indicate disproportionality.  (This is the recurring problem of the market system where over-expansion of one sector of production in relation to other sectors leads to a pile up of goods surplus to market capacity.  Such disproportionality can lead to cut backs in a sector which may have knock on effects throughout an economy, sometimes leading to general recession.)  Leontiff argued that if such disproportion was indicated by input/output analysis steps could be taken to keep the steady expansion of the economy in even balance, thus avoiding the problems of the trade cycle.   (A good account of Leontiff’s work can be seen in the “Scientific American”, October l951, April 1965 and April 1966.)

This part of the work on input/output analysis was irrelevant to how a socialist system could work because disproportionality would not be a problem. If one sector over expanded in relation to other sectors this would be adjusted without the devastating effects of a market system recession.  In fact there could be circumstances in which it could be desirable to go in for intense production runs of components, etc., which would be surplus to immediate requirements and then stock pile them for use over a period. This could suit the work practices of people in socialism without in any way disrupting general production. In socialism it would not be necessary to maintain production in even balance.

The methods that Leontiff had to use were so slow they almost defeated the object of the work. This is what he said. “. . . the construction of an input/output table is a highly complex and laborious operation. The first step, and one that has little appeal to the theoretical imagination, is the gathering and ordering of an immense volume of quantitive information. Given the inevitable lag between the accumulation and collation of data for any given year, the input/output table will always be an historical document." 

It might be argued that if Leontiff had been able to work with modern information technology he could have been more successful.  There may be some truth in this; however, he also hit up against a different problem which was more intractable. Even equipped with computer power his reliance on Government statistics, drawn partly from tax returns, would always result in a time lag between the actual position of production and consumption and the publication of his tables.  Also corporate secrecy rules out any possibility of immediate and direct public access to the state of production and consumption. An added difficulty was that Leontiff worked within a single national economy, albeit a large one, the United States.   Even so, modern production is world production with events in one national economy having repercussions in other national economies.  This means that even where Leontiff was able to produce a retrospective mapping of a single economy, in the context of world production, it was of very little use.

Nevertheless, although the work of Leontiff may now seem na├»ve and perhaps doomed to failure, its general aim was useful.  Perhaps like other such useful ideas, it could best be practised only in a socialist society.  We could look again at the work of Leontiff with a view to seeing what part a mapping of production could play in planning any significant expansion of production.

An up to the minute mapping of world production, broken down into its various regional and local parts could be maintained though the work of a decentralised information system. To begin the work of housing the world’s population in decent conditions our proposals should anticipate a large scale expansion of building and construction, part of which is the glass industry.  We noted that a unit producing flat glass uses at least eight basic materials as follows, silica sand, soda ash, limestone, magnesium oxide, aluminium oxide, potassium, so3 and iron oxide. In an open society producing glass directly for needs, a glass works could post its figures on orders, current output, stocks and required materials to its local and regional information centres. At the same time units supplying the materials for glass manufacture would post their figures on to the same centres.  In combination these related statistics would give an up to the minute view of the state of glass production and stocks throughout a region. With regional figures posted on to a world information centre it follows that the state of glass production throughout the world would be known.

With the same procedure practised by every main branch of mining, industry, manufacture, transport and energy supply, the total state of world production would be readily known. This is not to suggest that every kind of production activity would need to be added to the list of statistics. For example, with food production, it is likely that most local food production for local needs would not be relevant.  A probable exception here is regional cereal production which is already collated and recorded by the International Wheat Council. As a basic foodstuff, cereal production would need to be co-ordinated on a world scale.  With information on current production being fed into local, regional and world information centres, it would mean that although dispersed amongst the many thousands of production units, the overall state of the most important parts of total production would be readily known. 

This could provide an overview of world production and stocks with cross section or horizontal views, that is, of production as it is dispersed throughout the various regions and localities.  It could also provide vertical or sequential views of production from mining of raw materials, to processing, through worked up components in manufacture and industry, then to final assembly and distribution. It could also include statistics on resources such transport and energy supplies. From this pool of statistical information there would be no difficulty in extrapolating any particular input relative to output, for example, how much energy y is used for the production of a tonne of steel.

This would be a statistical, input/output mapping of the production system but it would not be drawn up by a central bureaucracy. It would be kept up to date by producers themselves in the de-centralised manner described. It should also be emphasised that the function of such a world information system would be to assist the various production initiatives that may be taken by local or regional communities. It could not replace the self-regulating mechanisms on which the operation of the whole production system must continue to depend. Its important function would be to supply data, indicating how some parts of production should be expanded in response to needs. Information would therefore be an aid to planning and decision making enabling any particular expansion to be undertaken in a balanced way, that is, in proportion with other lines of expansion according to the priorities of policy.  

We anticipate that in the early stages of socialism planning will be concerned with world wide initiatives to increase food production, housing and the construction of a safe world energy system. . However, with an increased demand for building materials, resources would first need to be allocated to creating the means of producing them. Building materials are produced throughout the entire structure of production which means that any large scale increase in their supply would first be an input into industry and manufacture.   Accordingly, planning offices in the various world, regional and local spheres of organisation could have the job of presenting specific proposals for development in agriculture, mining, industry, manufacture, transport, communications, energy supply, etc.

In line with the principles of democratic organisation, such planning offices would work within the policies decided by the wider community.  There is nothing inherently wrong in many of the present local procedures for planning and decision making. For smaller scale development, planning proposals could be placed before councils. For some proposals, perhaps the siting and construction of a new factory or workshop, or the use of land for housing, sports facilities or any other purpose,  councils could be delegated the responsibility of making a decision. The practice of delegating various responsibilities is one which would operate within a wider framework of democratic checks. These could include local or regional polls in, perhaps, controversial cases.

For informed decisions on large scale development, councils or parliament could have the option of setting up a public planning enquiry.  Such enquiries are already in use, but the decisions arising from their reports and recommendations are mostly made by a government minister. It is unlikely that this could be an acceptable practice. The functions of ministries should be technical and administrative and more directly accountable to the wider community through parliament. Public enquiries in socialism concerned with large scale development would assemble information on the widest possible basis from every relevant or interested source. This would involve priorities of need, required materials in relation to their world supply and reserves, technologies in relation to alternative technologies, siting, conservation, protection of the environment, available skills and so on. As with planning in general, the job of such enquiries would be technical and would not include decision making. Their work would be to collate information and issue a report, so that democratic decisions might be better informed.

Planning would extend to a world scale. It should be assumed that communities in socialism would inherit an uneven world distribution of production facilities. In these circumstances, communities in the more developed countries, as part of their world responsibilities, may want to respond to the needs of people in other, less developed regions. In these places, although people would be doing what they could through their own initiatives, it is likely that they would have urgent needs which they would be unable to provide for themselves. This would apply particularly to areas where farming methods are basic and over dependent on favourable weather. Also in areas where millions live in shantytowns.

For example, for every 1,000 hectares of arable land in Europe, up to recently, there were 60 available tractors and over 6 combine harvesters, while in Africa, for the same land area, there were only 2 tractors and 0.2 combine harvesters. In South America, where food production could be vastly increased through irrigation schemes, of the 108 million hectares of arable and permanent crop land in use, only about 6 million (5.5%) irrigated. Similarly in Africa, only 4% of the arable land was irrigated. With the much greater problem of housing, before large scale housing projects could begin, it would be necessary to construct the extra brick making facilities, cement and glass works, etc., for producing the materials. 

So, for needs such as food and housing, and to assist with greater self sufficiency of local production in all places, initially, the regional centres of developed industry and manufacture would be called upon to supply machinery, installations and storage facilities, etc., to assist with such projects as irrigation schemes and housing development in these areas. Also, there is likely to be an urgent need for the setting up or improving of services and infrastructures such as those needed for health, transport and communications. This would also be part of inter-regional co-operation.

To achieve this, a world planning office, assisted by specialised world bodies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation, and working with data provided by a world information system, could present proposals for inter-regional co-operation, through a world council.  This, as suggested, could be an adapted form of the United Nations Organisation. As now, but with its procedures thoroughly democratised, it would comprise delegates from every country and region, and would have direct links through its own administrative bodies with every kind of regional organisation.

Nor would inter-regional co-operation in socialism arise solely from uneven development inherited from the capitalist system. A safe world energy system would be necessary, treating the planet as a single resource and as a common environment for all people. The use of natural materials would also be a matter of world concern. Inter-supply of some foods would continue to take place between the tropical and temperate regions. For a varied diet of good quality food, this would be in the interests of all people. Therefore, inter-regional co-operation and development would be a necessary feature of world organisation. A strategy for the solution of problems could be achieved through supply of information, planning, democratic decision making and finally the actions of people across the world, co-operating in a common world interest.
Pieter Lawrence

Organisation of Production

The following piece, written by the late Pieter Lawrence, is the seventh chapter of his 2006 work, 'Practical Socialism - Its Principles and Methods'.

Chapter 7

Organisation of Production

It is often argued that because in socialism the free market will be replaced, production would have to be organised through a system of central planning.  This idea is wrong, and is one which results from the false association of socialism with state capitalist systems as they have operated, for example, in Russia and East Europe.  Certainly those state capitalist economies were run extensively through central state planning but this has nothing to do with the ways in which production would be maintained in socialism.

Of course, planning, in the various spheres of life would have an important part to play in socialist organisation.  This would be especially true in its early days when there would be so much to do by way of re-organisation and development.  However, development would be from a basis that would be mostly self regulating. We can describe this as a practice of “self regulating production for use.”  I first proposed this in two articles published in the “World Socialist,” a journal issued by the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain, in April and Winter 1984.

There is, of course, nothing new about production for use.   It is a self evident fact that every form of society must produce goods for use or consumption, otherwise we could not live.  In socialism, naturally, this would be continued but after being liberated from the economic constraints that dominate useful production in capitalist society.  

It is true that the free market system is mostly self regulating but this is not due, as some imagine, to economic factors such as exchange and the use of money.   It is self regulating as a result of the interaction of the materially useful parts of production.   This is to say the application of labour and the order and supply of worked up materials and final products throughout the structure of production and distribution.  For example, the order and supply of manufactured goods and their worked up components throughout the production system begins with an order from a final user and is passed on from shops to places of final assembly; then to the manufacture of components and further to industrial processing of materials and finally to the mining of raw materials.

Whether it is capitalism or socialism, production units would respond to the communication of required quantities of things without the need for a centralised planning authority.   So, in arguing that this would be continued in socialism as a system of self regulating production for use we are not arguing from a theory of anything new.  The ways in which production in socialism could be organised would, in principle, be a continuity of existing practice but free from the limitations of the market system.

Free market mythology
Theorists of the free market have not been content to simply emphasise its once progressive role in history, they want to make us believe that we could not exist in the modern world without it. It is acknowledged that the growth of trade and the development of the capitalist system swept away feudal society in Europe. It revolutionised our powers of production and distribution; vastly increased productivity of labour; created administration, instant global communications and some limited democracy. It can be accepted that the productive relations of wage labour and capital provided a social basis for a new and dynamic society which once took communities out of the hideous relations of feudal overlord and serf

Whilst this is not denied, the change from feudalism to capitalism only replaced one exploitative system with another.  Since capitalism became the dominant world system its productive relations of wage labour and capital have remained fixed and although it has created great powers of production, the constraints inherent in the market system prevent these powers being used freely for the benefit of all people; this is the main reason why it now acts as a barrier to the solution of problems. 

But some theorists of the free market have taken their arguments much further than proclaiming its dynamic part in historical change. They say the free market system is not simply a means of making profit but is the most efficient way of making modern production work. It is said that given the complexities of modern world production which result from the many decisions and dispersed factors that are involved, it works best when the self regulating features of the market system are allowed free play. For this reason it is argued that the market system achieves more than a viable method of producing and distributing goods, it is said to be the best practical way of running modern production in all circumstances.  It is even argued that the abolition of the market system would make modern production impossible.

These arguments centre partly on the use of cost pricing which it is said allows millions of different factors of production to be reduced to common unit of measurement which is money. In this way cost/pricing provides a market language that enables a world wide system to be co-ordinated without any kind of overall plan; it allows comparisons, and therefore decisions to be made, selecting the most efficient production methods which maximise labour productivity. It thus enables society as a whole to make the most use of productive resources which in turn provides for optimum supply of consumer goods. It is true that cost calculation can be a means of making economies in a particular business but the object of this is to maximise its profits. In general, the market system dissipates its productivity gains by creating a vast number of wasteful employments which do not in any way contribute to the real needs of the community. (See chapter 8).

But it follows from these arguments that any attempt to either abolish cost/pricing or the countless millions of economic decisions made by individuals and companies who run world production as a self regulating system, would impair the operation of the free market system in ways that would lead to inefficiency or breakdown. In this way its admirers have idealised the free market system, criticised any kind of centralised planning, and claim to have predicted the breakdown of command economies such as in Russia and Eastern Europe.

As has been emphasised, in no way are socialists in favour of government intervention or state economic management. These have mostly been a disaster for working people, but we also note that when production was expanded in the Britain of the 19th Century with trade more or less free, its benefits were hardly shared by all. A small class of capitalists took on average about 50% of national income. Some individuals became immensely rich whilst the desperate plight of many in poverty continued.   Then, as in later years, the free market system lurched from crisis to crisis, culminating in the Great Depression which continued throughout the last two decades of the century.

The free market system collapsed again with the 1920/30’s slump and it was these problems and the ravages of the trade cycle that caused people of various political persuasions to take up the name of John Maynard Keynes.  It was his theories of government intervention and economic management that suggested that the market system could be steered on an even and steadily expanding course for the benefit of all. In retrospect, it may be thought that if the benefits of the free market had been so obvious, presumably, Keynes would have gone unnoticed.

Instead, his interventionist views were taken up by many governments; his theories dominated the politics of Western Europe during the post World War II period, with even the British Conservative Party becoming converts to the Keynsian cause. Eventually Keynsian theories were mostly abandoned.  For example this happened in Britain under the Labour Government of 1974/9, when recession again bit deep into the economy.

During the 1980’s, free market theorists enjoyed renewed popularity but again it should be noted that even with Frederick Hayek a great exponent of the virtues of the free market, advising the Thatcher Government, unemployment soared to over 4 million in the early 1980’s which is a very curious way indeed of seeing how the free market system can ensure the maximum use of productive resources for the benefit of the whole population. 

It is also significant that during the 1930’s, with Western economies desperate to recover from deep recession, under the administration in America, which included many “new deal” Keynesians, and under the British Government which was more committed to laissez faire policies, both economies performed in similar ways.  Both began to emerge from the world slump at a more or less even rate. This indicates that various theories of economic management have little influence over the performance of the market system which operates according to its own economic laws. As we have emphasised the laws of the market are not susceptible to close political control.

It is true that the state capitalist economy in Russia eventually collapsed with the consequent collapse of its East European empire and this has been attributed to the absence of a free markets system.   But again it is doubtful if this was caused solely by faults inherent in state control. These were all countries with deeply demoralised work forces, living under tyrannies run by gangster regimes.  The economies suffered appalling problems of waste, distortion and corruption. It is likely that the breakdown of the state system in Russia was not solely economic but due more to political and social causes.  We also have the different example of the World War II economy in Britain, 1939/45, which was certainly state capitalist with almost complete central control and yet was highly successful in converting industry, manufacture, agriculture, etc., with great speed to its war objectives. 

Left to the free market this could never have happened. Within the limits of the war budget which paid for production, having decided what arms, aircraft and increased food were wanted, industry, manufacture and agriculture were organised to produce them. The normal operation of the free market was suspended. Although this example of the British  war economy may seem perverse, and as a command economy could not be applied in a socialist system, it does indicate what can be achieved when production and distribution can be organised directly for given production targets and when it is free from the constraints of market forces.    

But the fallacies of free market theories mostly arise from a misunderstanding of the function of its economic features. Even a cursory look at how the market system operates indicates that, for example, cost/pricing has little to do with the practical organisation of production. Quite the contrary, the mechanisms of sales for profit work as barriers at every stage of production and distribution. 

When it is said that cost/pricing is an indispensable means of co-ordinating the many thousands of material factors that make up a world production system, this is simply wrong. When it is said that market forces result in the most efficient use of resources for the production and supply of consumer needs, this is simply not true. Neither of these two alleged pillars of the moral and material worth of the free market will stand the least scrutiny when tested in the real world of capitalist production which, as we have noted, staggers from crisis to crisis, unable to use our immense potential powers of production directly for the needs of people.

It is useful here to apply our method of making a distinction between the socially useful, material factors of production which tend to facilitate production and the economic factors of the market system which tend to inhibit production.  When it is said that the use of money and cost/pricing enables consumer choice to be communicated to production and therefore activates it into supplying that choice, this is not what actually happens. Signals to produce may well pass from consumers through the shops to relevant parts of production but not as economic signals. In reality, it is every day experience that a customer will go to a shop or store and ask for an article of use. In the case of a television set a consumer may approach a salesperson and say, “I’m looking for a television set.” The salesperson will then say, “Certainly,” and after offering various models will add, “this one will cost you £250.00,” – or whatever may be the price. 

A television set is a complex thing. It would be very difficult indeed to trace and identify the productive history of every component. Its basic materials are glass, plastics and metals. So at the beginning of the sequence of order and supply, the customer asks for a model of his or her choice.  If the sale is agreed, the television will be supplied from stock or perhaps ordered from a nearby wholesaler. Then, according to the wholesaler’s stocks, more sets will be ordered from the manufacturer whose function will mostly be the final assembly of sets from their component parts.  Again, according to stocks the manufacture may order more components from his suppliers.  The work of producing components will involve glass and plastic moulding, metal casting, wire production and cutting, and circuits. From this point in the sequence, the ordering of supplies extend to the oil industry for plastics, the glass industry and the various sources of metals where these are mined and processed throughout the world distribution of raw material deposits. 

What is apparent in this network of productive links is that the order and supply of goods begins with a consumer choice which is eventually transmitted throughout the entire structure of production, first as a finished product and then on as worked up materials. At every stage the information being communicated consists of required quantities of material things. But the notion that this network is co-ordinated by the communication of economic, cost price signals is wrong. In reality, cost pricing is not passed from users to producers. The sequence of economic signals is in the opposite direction, from producers to users. For this reason, they could not possibly be signals to produce, nor can they have any practical part to play in the co-ordination of production. The idea that cost/pricing is a means of integrating modern production is free market mythology. 

But of course, cost/price signals do have a function but it is not a practical or useful function. Contrary to what market theorists believe as part of their idealisation of buying and selling, the cost/price signals that pass from producers to users act as a barrier against the free use of productive resources. When a consumer wishes to order a television set it may be an instruction to produce. But this depends on whether the would be user has the money to pay for it.  Clearly, the television salesman is not in the business of providing goods directly for people’s needs. He or she is in the business of selling television sets with a view to making profit. So goods may well be distributed for use but only on condition that distribution takes the economic form of a sales transaction from which the seller makes profit.

If we trace the sequence of production from extraction of raw materials, through  industrial processing, manufacture of components, final assembly and transport to stores, we find that each addition of labour throughout this sequence not only brings the work forward, it creates an expansion of value in the various commodities that is expressed as their prices. These prices are specified on invoices for the worked up materials or finished goods and if the bills are not paid, distribution of the goods stops. Distribution is dependent on payment not on any indication of a particular material need. The general rule of the market is “no profit – no production.”

Moreover, this economic determination of production subjects the market system to cyclical break down. If a particular market becomes over supplied or sales decline, cut backs take place, workers are sacked, machinery and equipment becomes idle and if the knock on affects become extensive, production can sink swiftly into general break down. This happens irrespective of whether there may be a real need for the goods that could be produced.

Examples of profit before needs are all around us; they are a normal part of our every day life. But a particular example that was both cynical and tragic occurred during the 1980’s when the world prices of cereals had fallen to unacceptable low levels for profit hungry agribusiness. The response of the government in America, an important source of cereals, was to arrange with farmers to take 83 million acres of farmland out of production.   This resulted in increased prices at a time when according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, over 435 million of the world’s population were seriously undernourished. 

The power of the market system to maintain its existence is ubiquitous. For example it has sometimes been argued that different kinds of production units such as worker’s co- operatives could better work for the benefit of their communities. But this in no way could avoid the economic pressures that would compel it to work as part of the market system. Nor would its work arrangements matter.  It could be a kibbutz or a co-operative taking decisions collectively; it could be a monastery producing pottery, honey or herbs; in whatever way they may be internally organised, authoritarian or democratic, and in whichever scale they may operate, as a part of social production, they could only function as part of the economic circuits of the capitalist system.

In buying in its machinery, equipment, materials, premises and transport; and in paying its rates, any unit, including worker’s co-operatives must pay all these costs.  A generating company is not going to supply electricity free simply because a production unit declares itself to be working for the benefit of the community. The running costs of any unit include the profits made by all other units previously involved in the production of the materials, machinery, and power supplies, etc., which are bought in.  In addition, the people working in the unit must have income to cover personal living costs such as rent or mortgage repayments, food, clothes, leisure activities, and so on.

It is elementary that the pressure of economic selection determining the existence of production units exerts itself as daily book-keeping. Regardless of any aspirations to operate on principles different to those dictated by the market system, production units can only exist whilst they remain economically viable, that is, where income exceeds expenditure.  If expenditure exceeds income then sooner or later they must disappear, as the constant number of bankruptcies well attests. It is these pressures of economic selection, which cannot be set aside, that maintain the market system as an exclusive, self-perpetuating capitalist structure.

It follows that the economic pressures that compel production units to operate on a profit making basis rule out any possibility of combining the productive relations of capitalism with the relationships of socialism. This also indicates that a socialist system can only be commenced with the removal of the economic factors from production as a result of a democratic and politically conscious act.

Self Regulating Production For Needs.
The description of production in socialism as being for need is not strictly accurate; this should be expressed as production “solely” for need.  This recognises, as is self evident, that every social system must produce useful goods for consumption. So, even with all the economic constraints imposed by production for profit, the capitalist system does operate as a system of useful labour producing useful goods for consumption. What follows from this is that when we come to look at how production will operate in a socialist society, we do have something of a working model in front of us. This is the reason why we can say that our proposals for the organisation of production in socialism arise from experience and not from theoretical or futuristic speculation

It is true that modern production could not be run according to a world wide plan laid down, in advance, by a central planning authority. But the point is hardly worth making because the question does not arise. We have acknowledged that production embraces activity across the world as a vastly extensive network of links. It depends on millions of independent decisions and actions by individuals, small units, and large organisations. Its interactions are complex and fast changing in ways that constantly change the patterns of the whole system. It can only operate in a self regulating way with all its parts being self adjusting to the whole as a result of information being communicated to them.

But we have discounted the false notion that the structure is co-ordinated by economic factors such as cost/pricing. In fact it operates with the order of finished goods, worked up components and raw materials being communicated throughout the structure from points of distribution to final assembly and on to mining and processing of raw materials.  This stream of material information also calls up requirements of transport and energy supply and is not confined to industry and manufacture but also applies to agriculture of every kind.

We have illustrated this with the order and supply of television sets but perhaps a less complex example is with glass. A main producer of glass in Britain is the firm of Pilkingtons in St. Helens, Lancashire. Its various glass products are distributed throughout Britain and overseas for a wide range of construction, manufacturing, horticultural and domestic purposes. In socialism, whether or not it will keep its name, Pilkingtons Glass would be commonly owned and the workers and technical staffs who run it would be freed up to respond directly to the requirements of the users of glass. The orders for glass would be registered and therefore the total quantities of required glass would be known.

Materials for the making of flat glass include silica sand, soda ash, limestone, magnesium oxide, aluminium oxide, potassium, so3, and iron oxide. Given that the requirements for glass would be known in an area of supply, it follows that the materials required for the making of that quantity of glass would be known and these would be communicated to the suppliers of those materials. In practice the lines of communication would extend beyond these eight units to their own suppliers. However, the example outlines the means by which all the materials required for final glass production would be known throughout all relevant parts of the structure of production. Each unit would know its position. If orders are high in relation to stocks, this would indicate that production should be increased. If orders are low in relation to stocks this would indicate that production should be reduced.  This would be a self  adjusting system of stock control indicating to each production unit what needs to be done to supply consumer requirements and also to maintain the various stages of production in more or less  even balance.  It would be a basis for a system of self regulating production, solely for use.

In practice it would use the same self regulating mechanisms which now maintain the market system as a self regulating system.  This is the communication of required quantities of finished goods and worked up materials throughout the structure of world production.  The difference being that in the market system we have profit motivated production in anticipation of sales.  In socialism production would be a direct response to needs. The motive of sales and profits with its uncertainties and destructive effects prevent production being a controlled social effort, carried on by communities directly in their interests.
Pieter Lawrence

Link to Chapter 8.

The Review Column: Rhodesia (1968)

The Review Column from the December 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard


Harold Wilson, who knows where the votes come from, has never lost any sleep over upsetting his left wing. So we know what to expect from any negotiations over Rhodesia.

It was clear that the stands originally taken in both London and Salisbury left no chance for discussion. Something had to give, if the two sides were ever to talk to each other again. In other words, some promises would have to be broken, some vows once fervently taken would have to be betrayed, some fierce political infighting take place.

Smith’s political problems were severe, only partly solved by the purge which got rid of men like Lord Graham and by the Rhodesian Front’s recent by-election victory. The big advantage he had was that the Rhodesians could make concessions which were more apparent than real.

Wilson’s problem was to drop the albatross of the original pledge that there would be no agreement to independence without some copper bottomed guarantee (to use one of the Prime Minister’s favourite phrases) of majority African rule.

The "No” in Nimbar was as unrealistic as Lennox Boyd’s famous “never” over Cyprus independence. Wilson quietly abandoned NIMBAR and suddenly most of the newspapers were telling us that this once-sacred principle was foolish and unreal. Of course the left wing fumed but who cared about them? None of the M.P.s who protested went so far as to risk their career on the principle by resigning their seat. The left have always stopped short of that.

Wilson went on governing and the negotiations continued by his man George Thomson in Africa. At the time of writing the talks have reached deadlock and Thomson is back in London, although it was clear that both sides were straining to reach agreement. Even so, now that there is this apparent readiness to abandon what were once called principles, there will probably be further efforts in the future.

After all, capitalists in Rhodesia and Britain, as well as the Rhodesian farmers, have a lot to gain by the resumption of friendly trading relations. They will not let a little matter of the suppression of a few million people obstruct the noble enterprise of profit.

Troubled Air

The British Eagle pilots were really very foolish if they ever thought that, because they were earning several thousand pounds a year, they held a secure and privileged position in the working class.

In fact, their fat pay packets were a reflection of what it takes, in terms of social labour and organisation, to put a multi-million pound jet into the air with a man at the controls who is trained and fit to avoid the expensive business of pushing its nose into the ground.

Basically, this is exactly the same way as the wages of all other workers—dustmen, miners, engineers;—are determined.

But of course wages, high or low, are paid only so long as it is profitable for an employer to buy labour power. The glamour of a pilot’s job may obscure the fact that it is all done to make profit, but that is the way it is.

The employees of British Eagle could not escape from this although as the glamour faded around them it was clear that their understanding of what was happening to them was no better than that of the average dustman, miner, engineer.

They simply trod the well-worn class path of seeking a scapegoat—in this case the state airlines and in particular BOAC, which has successfully opposed the granting of licences to the independent lines for the more lucrative airlines of the world. But BOAC are themselves not free of troubles.

Their chairman, Sir Giles Guthrie, complained that a half year’s profit of £8.2 million had been cut in half by the 17 days’ pilots strike last summer. These figures take a bit of swallowing but if they are correct then they are an indication of the importance which BOAC’s workers have to the line’s operations.

Striking workers are constantly being blamed for financial troubles and social disorder (although this was one excuse British Eagle could not use). The only thing this proves is that wealth is made by workers and that they, and not those who directly or indirectly receive the profits, are the useful, productive class.

It's Nixon

Richard Nixon’s victory in the American Presidential election came after a long campaign—over twenty years long, in fact — during which he won a reputation for being ready to say or do anything to win political advantage.

This is one possible interpretation of Nixon’s early campaigns for the House of Representatives and later to the Senate, during which he rode on the widespread American neurosis about Communist activities. It also could explain a lot of his work while in Congress —for example his zealous pursuit of Alger Hiss.

The surprising thing is that the. allegation of a ruthless political ambition should be used against Nixon—that he almost alone among big time capitalist politicians should be condemned as the man it would be unwise to buy a used car from.

For where would any of capitalism’s leaders be without ambition? How far would he get, without a ruthless determination to exploit every fear, every prejudice, every facet, of mass ignorance? Would it have been wise to buy a used car from Lloyd George? Macdonald? Baldwin? Macmillan? Wilson?

Nixon is very much a political man, which means more than that he is ready to lie. It also means that he will approach the problems of American capitalism, to use a current word, pragmatically. He will not be tied by the emotions he has roused in his supporters; a lot of them are probably in for a shock.

The Republican campaign gave the impression that Nixon would be tough on demonstrators, would push a hard line on Vietnam, would cut back federal power and interference. This classical Republican image has never had any more reality than its opposite of the Democratic Party.

Faced with a situation which must be judged in terms of the interests of American capitalism, Nixon will find in many cases that he has no more power to keep his election promises than any one of his predecessors.

This will cause him no lost sleep. Presidents have to be even harder and more cynical than car salesmen.

Exhibition Review: Savage Ink - the Cartoon & the Caricature (2018)

Exhibition Review from the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Political and satirical cartoons have been around since at least the second half of the eighteenth century. An exhibition ‘Savage Ink: the Cartoon & the Caricature’, on at the People’s History Museum in Manchester until the middle of May, provides many examples from the work of William Hogarth down to contemporary comic books and graphic novels. A quote from former Tory minister Kenneth Baker makes the point that for a politician to be caricatured shows that they have arrived on the political scene.

A variety of cartoons are shown from over the years, from Hogarth’s attacks on electoral corruption to Steve Bell's criticisms of Thatcher in his ‘Maggie’s Farm’ series. Many cartoons have involved opposition to the political and economic establishment: a particularly powerful example from 1830 shows a wealthy absentee landlord haunted by the ghosts of his Irish tenants who had starved to death. In 1805 James Gillray depicted Pitt the Younger and Napoleon carving up the globe between them (a much-copied illustration), and in 1830 George Cruikshank showed Great Britain as a beehive, with Victoria as Queen Bee at the top and having nothing in common with the worker bees at the bottom.

But Cruikshank also had some very unpleasant views. He attacked Robert Owen, and the title of an 1819 cartoon needs no commentary: ‘Universal Suffrage or the Scum Uppermost!!!’. In another example of nastiness, in 1924 the anarchist Emma Goldman visited Britain, and one cartoon shows her having been beaten up, possibly by Ramsay MacDonald, who is shown in the background.

An anonymous cartoon from 1812 is a vicious sexist depiction of women reformers at a public meeting, where a member of the crowd says, ‘Come home and get dinner ready, you old baggage.’ There is no reason to think that this is criticising those who opposed women’s involvement in reform movements, but sometimes a cartoon can be, at best, ambiguous. For instance, a New Yorker cover from 2008 showed Obama dressed as a muslim and his wife as a fighter with a gun: did this satirise the scare tactics used against him (as its author claimed) or just reinforce prejudices?

An interesting exhibition with a range of cartoons, mostly focusing on individuals but sometimes addressing more general issues. 
Paul Bennett

50 Years Ago: The Political Organisation of the Working Class (1955)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Political Organisation of the Working Class

When the worker has learnt his lesson; when be knows he must rely upon himself and upon his fellows what is he to do? How is he to apply his knowledge to matters of everyday importance to him? It is evidently futile for him to assert his independence of the other political factions if he is independently to strive for measures which those factions advocate. It is also useless for him to organise himself into a party which is unable to agree upon a working programme and a common line of action.

To us as Socialists it is clear that, the Liberals and the Tories having been thrown over as parties, the principles for which they work must also be thrown over, and that, therefore, anyone holding the opinions either of Liberalism or of Toryism must be left outside the workers’ party. The party of the workers has interests which have no common bond with Liberalism or Toryism, and the party of the workers must, therefore, steer clear of anything which is in any way allied with these parties.

The political party of the workers must be the reflex of the economic interests of the workers who are the propertyless class, in the same way as the other parties reflect the economic interests of the propertied class. We are then driven to the necessity of searching for the economic interest of the worker. And this we find in the principle that the working-class having created all the wealth of society are the rightful owners of that wealth. Every man should receive the product of his own labour, but as in modern society it is impossible to determine the portion which any individual adds to the value of the articles he helps to create, we must be content to let all those who labour remain joint owners of the aggregate product.

This, however, is not what obtains in modern society where the reverse is the case. In modern society to-day the non-producers of wealth are the joint owners of the aggregate amount of wealth produced. In this fact we have surely the true differentiation of the party of the workers from the party of the property-owners. And the first object of the political party of the workers, therefore, should be the securing for workers as a class the fruits of their own labour.

If they can only secure this they will have no need to worry about limiting the hours of work, securing a legal law of minimum, or returning to the status quo ante Taff Vale. These trifling matters will soon adjust themselves when the workers take as their own the product of their own labour. And resulting from this would come the necessity of the present property-owners, unable longer to live on the fruits of other men’s labour, working so as to secure their own livelihood.

English Hypocrisy and Russian Outrages

The huge wave of indignation that has lately been sweeping over the country on account of the massacres in Russia is typical of the hypocrisy of the capitalist-class and the ignorance of the man in the street. Big headlines and stirring articles have proved effective in arousing a strong and quite unjustified feeling against Russia. The English attitude towards Russian affairs has for long been intensely pharisaical, and its real origin, imperial and commercial jealousy in Asia, has been quite lost sight of by the public. . . .

This feeling is quite unjustified from a capitalist point of view, and further it is only hypocritical, for no one, except a Socialist, can with honesty support the working-class in its efforts towards freedom. Yet we find the same people that would cheerfully starve out English strikers or shoot them down if more convenient that ignored the fearful outrages in Colorado, and that approved the recent shooting of strikers in Italy, pretending to be horrified at the actions of their fellow-capitalists in Russia!

(From the "Socialist Standard," March, 1905)