Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lenin's capitalism (2018)

From the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

'Lenin on Cooperatives. And Other Articles on Marxism, Philosophy and Society'. By Alan Spence (New Interventions Publications, 150 pages)

This is a collection of articles published in the Trotskyoid journal New Interventions between 1991 and 2008 by a former Communist Party industrial militant who become a ‘Labour & Co-op’ reformist. The subjects range from Lenin's 1921 'New Economic Policy', through 'proletarian philosophy', the NHS, the land question in Hong Kong, to Aristotle and Ancient Athens.

As predicted by those who had understood Marx's theory of social development, once the Bolsheviks had stabilised their rule they were faced with the problem of how to feed the urban population, which, in circumstance of an isolated and economically backward Russia with an 80 percent peasant population, could only be done by allowing and encouraging capitalism to develop in the countryside. During the civil war period the Bolshevik government had simply requisitioned – taken by force – food from the peasantry. Lenin realised that this could not be a permanent policy and in 1921, with the civil war over, introduced the 'new economic policy' of encouraging peasants to move away from subsistence farming to producing a surplus for sale in the towns; at the same time the state industrial enterprises were encouraged to produce farm equipment to sell to the peasants.

Lenin openly described this policy as 'state capitalism', or the development of capitalism under the auspices of the state. It meant that the Bolshevik government was in the same position as other 'Labour' governments, except that it had come to power through a coup d'état and was determined to hold on to power come what may. Spence well describes this policy and the reasoning behind it, with which he thoroughly agrees, criticising Stalin for abandoning it in favour of forcibly expropriating the peasantry.

Spence, however, is not an uncritical admirer of Lenin. In the articles on philosophy he defends Joseph Dietzgen's view that ideas are equally a part of the real world as what is tangible, as opposed to Lenin's view that 'to say that thought is material is to make a false step, a step towards confusing materialism and idealism.' Lenin's condemnation was enough for the Communist Party to wage a campaign against Dietzgen's view as set out by Fred Casey, of the old National Council of Labour Colleges, in his book Thinking. In regretting this Spence has a point.
Adam Buick

Capitalist Hypocrisy (1938)

From the December 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a letter to the Manchester Guardian Weekly (September 16th, 1938), Jawaharlal Nehru, an Indian Nationalist, asks how the British Government can claim to be interested in democracy, Czechoslovakian or any other, when it denies independence to India. He writes: —
    The people of India have no intention of submitting to any foreign decision on war. They only can decide, and certainly they will not accept the dictation of the British Government, which they distrust utterly. India would willingly throw her entire weight on the side of democracy and freedom, but we heard these words often twenty years ago and more. Only free and democratic countries can help freedom and democracy elsewhere. If Britain is on the side of democracy, then its first task is to eliminate empire from India. That is the sequence of events in Indian eyes, and to that sequence the people of India will adhere.
No, the concern of the British Government is not democracy, or the maintenance of independence of foreign states. It is the representative of the British capitalist class, and its function is to defend the interests of British capitalism at home and abroad.

British workers, beware! Appearances are often deceptive.

Democracy? Humbug!
Clifford Allen

50 Years Ago: Work and Want (1969)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1914 your masters appealed to you as ‘patriots’ to save 'your country' from the fury of their enemies. To-day in flaring posters on the same hoardings they beg you to ‘save your country’ from bankruptcy. Greater production, they tell you, is necessary, and that is where you come in. They call on you to put your backs into it because you are the only producing class. Without an increase in the aggregate wealth your class, they say, must suffer deeper extremes of poverty. But is it an increase in the aggregate wealth your masters want? No, for if it were they would set the unemployed to work instead of increasing their numbers by wholesale dismissals weekly. Prices are high they tell you because there is a real shortage of wealth—of the necessaries of life. If this is true why are there unemployed? Because your masters are not concerned with increasing the total quantity of wealth; their desire is for more surplus value i.e., the difference between the wealth you produce and the wages you receive . . . What they ask from you is more work from the individual worker, in order that the total wages bill can be reduced, the very conditions that have always made for increased unemployment.

If you rely on the government’s schemes of reconstruction, in your simplicity believing in their fair promises, they will strengthen the position of their class, and correspondingly weaken the position of your class. If you support the Labour Party, they will sell your support for fat jobs. If you dream that nationalisation will save you, you will, when you awaken, find yourselves under the rule of the bureaucrat and expert—still wage slaves, exploited in the interest of all capitalists instead of that of a company or trust.

(From an article by Fred Foan in the Socialist Standard October 1919). 

The British CP (1969)

Book Review from the October 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Sociology of British Communism by Kenneth Newton (Allen Lane. 50s.)

As the title suggests, this book sets out to study what sort of people join the Communist Party and why, but it does not get very far as Newton himself admits that interviews with a couple of dozen Communists is not much to go on.

Newton is fair to the Communist Party pointing out for instance that it is silly to blame them for fomenting strikes. After all, he says, when during the war they were strikebreakers and blacklegs they could not prevent strikes. He notices, as any impartial observer must, that over the years the Communist Party has dropped its mock revolutionary phrases and become an openly reformist party:
   “The British Communist Party . . . has come to accept the philosophy of gradualism and piecemeal reform, though the reforms it demands are still more radical than those of the other political parties in Britain”. 
Newton is also fair to the Socialist Party of Great Britain pointing out that, in contrast to the CP, we “demand a knowledge of socialist prindples before (we) allow applicants to become members” and also that we are a “thoroughly democratic” organisation.

There are a number of mistakes like saying the Socialist Labour Party was the largest of the groups that formed the Communist Party. In fact, the British Socialist Party was, and only a breakaway faction of the SLP joined.
Adam Buick

50 Years Ago: The Capital Levy Exposed (1974)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

In previous issues we have dealt with the Labour Party’s scheme for a levy on capital to pay off part of the war debt. It was explained why the levy is merely a matter for the consideration of the capitalist class, who have to decide, on purely financial grounds, whether the levy is advisable in principle and secondly whether it would be wise to institute it so long after the war and in a period of depression.

#    #    #    #

It was . . . from a vote-catching point of view, probably a mistake for the Labour Party to make it their main plank. But for that they would have received the valuable support of the section of the Conservative Party which centres round the Observer . . . but the Conservative Observer was strongly against the levy on account of the undoubted disturbance it would cause (serious if only temporary) in the British financial world.

#    #    #    #

The leaders of the Labour Party were, of course, not blind to the political situation . . .  Mr. Snowden had only a week or so earlier tried to find a way out by proclaiming that while the levy was good, the time was not so opportune, and that the proper moment was just after the war. And then, on Saturday November 26th, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald went considerably farther, and in fact admitted explicitly what we have always said; that the levy was a device to stabilise the capitalist system . . . These are MacDonald’s words in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester :-
   Referring to the Capital Levy, Mr. MacDonald said he found it a most popular topic. It was not a special Labour proposal. Some people imagined they wanted to use it as a malign or magical leverage for the complete change of society. If he were a capitalist and opposed to Socialism, he would support the capital levy.
(Observer 25 November 1923)
During the same week he spoke at Northampton and at Bristol and showed again how little the levy had to do with the workers.
  The capital levy proposal did not come from the Labour Party in the first instance. It came from business men, economists, university professors, and others and the Labour Party had not taken it up until they had enquired into it. When the Labour Party had educated the people it (the capital levy) would become popular and would be applied by other parties.
(The New Age 29 November)
From an article “The Capital Levy— Ramsay MacDonald Supports Our Case”, by H., in the Socialist Standard January 1924.

A Letter to the Liberals (1974)

From the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following letter was sent to Focus, a local Liberal Party news sheet.
It is often suggested that a change of leader and/or party might make a real difference to our everyday life. Those of us who look intelligently at the kind of social system in which we live know that it would not.

We live under capitalism which operates according to its own economic laws, irrespective of changes of government, whether it be Conservative, Labour or Liberal.

There is a basic contradiction in capitalism between social production and class ownership. For while the actual work of producing wealth is done by the cooperative labour of millions — the working class — the means of production (lands, mines, factories etc.) and the products belong to a relatively small section of society only — the capitalists. It is this contradiction that causes modern social problems since it means that production cannot be carried on to meet human needs. The economic law of capitalism is that all enterprises, whether private or nationalized, are operated for profit. If their products cannot be sold at a profit, production is curtailed or brought to a stop. All governments administering capitalism, no matter what principles the individuals profess, have as a clause of their economic policy one which enables profits to flow.

Let us look at one or two problems that this situation creates. Unemployment is an inevitable part of capitalism. Periodically hundreds of thousands, even millions, are thrown out of work for the simple reason that it has become unprofitable to employ them. The pool of unemployed can be called on in times of boom and is as such needed by capitalism. It can also at times serve the purpose of keeping down wage claims. 

People often talk of there being a housing problem, but there is no such problem. There is no reason why enough good houses for all should not be built. The materials exist, so do the building workers and architects. What then stands in the way? The simple fact is that there is not a market for good houses since most people cannot afford to pay for them, and never will be because of the restrictions of the wages system.

Is there a way out? Of course there is, but it demands self-reliance and bold thinking on the part of everyone. The economic system under which we live is man-made and can be altered by man’s action. You can go on frittering away the years in the sterile dispute whether the Conservatives, the Labour Party or the Liberals make a better job of running capitalism, or you can consider the alternative of ending capitalism and putting Socialism in its place. Rely on your own experience and recognise that capitalism has never been and cannot be made to work in the interest of the working class.

The alternative is a social system in which production of goods and the operation of services are carried on solely and directly for use, without buying and selling, profit-making or the wages system. This is what Socialism really means and its basis would be the ownership of the means of production and distribution by the whole community.

Its achievement demands understanding, organisation and democratic action by a Socialist working class. It calls for international co-operation, not of the world’s bankers, but of the world’s workers.

A revolutionary idea and hard to grasp? You have to choose. Either you take action to get Socialism or you have to put up with the consequences of capitalism. There is no third choice!
                                                                                                                   Yours etc.,

Party News Briefs (1957)

Party News from the August 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bloomsbury and Ealing Branch Meetings.—Bloomsbury Branch will not be meeting during August as Conway Hall is closed for that month. Meetings will re-commence in September on Thursdays the 5th and 19th. Ealing Branch will meet on Fridays. August 2nd and 9th, only during the month owing to the holidays of Branch members. From September 6th the Branch will meet as usual each Friday.

May Sales Drive.—The Literature Sales Committee report that nine branches made a special effort to sell the May Standard, and 5,000 copies were sold. The Committee is planning ahead and look forward to even more successful results in their future sales drives.

Indoor Meetings
The Indoor Propaganda season is well under way, and four of the projected six indoor meetings have already been held—one at Denison House, entitled “Russia—Success or Failure?” and a further one at Islington Co-Op Hall on “Labour’s Social Insecurity.” Comrades Wilmot, Fahy, Grant and D’Arcy were the speakers at these meetings.

The Lambeth Town Hall meeting on “Wage Freezes and Rent Increases” was held on the 15th July, and Comrades Reed and R. Critchfield were the speakers. The meeting at Ealing Town Hall held on 31st July, subject “Rearmament and Disarmament,” had Comrades May and La Touche as the speakers.

The Propaganda Committee organised a further meeting at the Chorlton Town Hall, Manchester, on the 21st July. Comrades Wilmot, Coster and D’Arcy dealt with the subject “Wage Freezes and Rent Increases.”

No indoor meetings are planned for the month of August, but a further meeting will be held at the East Ham Town Hall in mid-September, and finally the closing meeting of this present series, in October, will be at Denison House. The Propaganda Committee have already a very heavy programme for the winter, which will be submitted for E.C. approval, but the present intention will be to maintain at least two meetings per month, apart from whatever Branches individually arrange.

The support of all members and sympathisers is required wherever these meetings are held, not forgetting the necessary donations which are urgently required to keep the programme running.

Comrade Gilmac is making a visit to America, and will attend the conference of the World Socialist Party in September as a fraternal delegate of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Phyllis Howard

Party News (1998)

Party News from the May 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is a revealing commentary on the coverage the media give to minority political parties that the only national mention we have had so far this year has not been about our stance on some issue but on the occasion of the death of a former member who became a Labour MP and a junior Minister and who ended up in the House of Lords.

All the obituaries mentioned that Baroness Lestor of Eccles, who died at the end of March, and her father had been members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Her father was described as an actor, journalist and One Big Union organiser who came over from Canada to help "organise the SPGB", of which he became a "leading member" but the Glasgow Herald's (31 March) statement that he "became leader of the Socialist Party of Great Britain" was absurd. They did however have the grace to publish a correction.

The prize for bad journalism goes to Michael White, political editor of the Guardian, for writing (28 March) that Joan Lestor "had passed through a Trotskyite phase by 1955", but MP Tam Dalyell came a close second with his statement that her father had been a member of the "Socialist Workers Party of Great Britain" (Independent, 30 March). The Times described us as a "far left doctrinaire movement" while the Daily Telegraph wrote about "extremist dogmatism", but there was no mention of the fact that by leaving the Socialist Party to join the Labour Party in 1955 Lestor was changing her aim from socialism to the reform of capitalism. She found out the limitations of this first hand when she felt obliged to resign as junior Education minister in 1976 in protest at the cuts in nursery education spending imposed by the Wilson Labour government of the time in response to an economic crisis. She died a few days before the cuts in benefit for single mothers imposed by the present Labour government came into force and which was against everything she had fought for as a reformist.

Overproduction Baffles the Capitalists. (1931)

From the December 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Times" on September 5th, had an editorial on the present world economic situation that was strangely frank and illuminating, as the following extracts will show:—
   How disastrously the financial machinery of the world is out of gear was strikingly illustrated the other day, when, in order to effect an exchange of commodities, the Brazilian Government and the Federal Farm Board of the United States had to resort to the primitive method of direct barter. They signed an agreement exchanging 1,050,000 bags of coffee for 25,000,000 bushels of wheat. That method of meeting the situation is, at any rate., better than some of those which have been adopted. In Texas and Oklahoma the military took charge of the oil wells, not to prevent any interference with production, but to stop production, and in Kansas orders were given to stop production in specified areas  . . .
    The cotton growers of the Southern States were recently urged by the Federal Farm Board to destroy one-third of their crops, and, though they indignantly rejected this suggestion, they themselves are seriously considering proposals to prohibit the growing, gathering or ginning of cotton next year. In Brazil hundreds of thousands of bags of coffee have been draught and destroyed by the Coffee States Council.  . . .
     Every one knows that there is over-production in the sense that there is more cotton, more wheat, more sugar, more coffee, and, apparently, more of every kind of food and raw material on the market than the consumer is able to buy at prices remunerative to the grower. . . .
    Over-production is hard to imagine in the sense that more wheat, for example, is being grown than the world can use. At any rate it cannot be said to exist so long as there are people who cannot get enough bread to eat.  . . .
    Half a dozen professors of political economy, discussing the practical questions on which their studies should enable them to throw light, can disagree among themselves as wholeheartedly as any half a dozen business men in a railway carriage. But somehow or other, with or without the aid of the scientific economist, answers will have to be found for the economic riddles over which the world is now bewildered. Until they are solved, or, perhaps, solve themselves, there can be no general return to prosperity.
Detailed comment would spoil this picture.

Too much of everything, but we are poor because we can’t buy! America can’t sell so she takes to barter. The owners in the producing industries have taken fright and are destroying or restricting production! The sum total of opinion in Tory, Liberal, Labour and T.U.C. camps is that the only way out for this country is a general cut in wages or an increase in prices—a reduction in buying power! Under it all is the hope, frankly expressed above, that somehow or other things will straighten themselves out.

The capitalists, their guides and scribes, are impotent in the face of productive machinery so prolific that the wealth turned out is clogging and weighing the system down. The only real answer they have is to find a means, satisfactory to the bulk of their class, for restricting production and parcelling out markets.

Debate with a "Douglas Credit Association" (New Zealand) (1934)

Party News from the January 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

A debate was held in St. Andrew’s Hall, New Lynn, on August 14th, on the question, “Which should the Workers support, Socialism of the Douglas Credit Proposals? ”

Comrade Philips, for the Socialist Party of New Zealand, pointed out the inequalities of the present social system of capitalism and the urgent need for a change. He explained that the present depression merely accentuated the misery amongst the working class and that even in so-called prosperous times there is a large army of unemployed.

He traced machine development in industry and the evils caused, by the private ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, and the need for the overthrow of capitalism and the emancipation of the workers through the introduction of Socialism.

He stressed the fact that the trouble to-day was not shortage of purchasing power; as claimed by the Douglas advocates, but the concentration of wealth in the hands of the master class; not that the banks controlled credit, but that the capitalists, through ownership of the forces of production, controlled the means of mankind’s subsistence.

Colonel Closey, for the Douglas Credit Association, stated that he agreed that Socialism would come some day, but his conception of Socialism was purely Nationalisation of industry, and he claimed that the present system had proved itself capable of producing sufficient for the needs of the people, so it did not need abolition, but that amendment of the monetary system was imperative. He claimed that the depression was caused by the curtailment of credit by the banks, and stated that immediately their proposals were adopted relief would be obtained and the depression vanish.

Comrade Philips agreed that the present system meets present requirements in the field of production, but stated that our quarrel was with the appropriation of the products. He showed that under Socialism, when production was according to a plan and for the use of the people as a whole, the volume would increase, with, on the other hand, more leisure for all. He pointed out that Nationalisation was not Socialism, but a form of capitalism.

He then dealt with the Douglas proposals and, showed the fallacy of the claim that banks are able to . create credit, and instanced the failure of numerous American banks which could not ”create” sufficient credit to meet their own obligations and thus avoid collapse. He pointed out that the movement was not in the interests of the workers, but in the interests of a section of the master class, who were trying to capture the workers’ support by the promise of higher wages and steady employment, and stressed, the point that the proposals, if adopted would not be a solution to the bondage which holds the workers, and that only by the. total overthrow of the present order and the institution of Socialism would they be freed.

Colonel Closey admitted that if that was Socialism he had not previously understood Socialism—a remark which was confirmed by many present. He appealed for the aged, and solicited their support on the plea that Douglas Credit Proposals would give them something before they died. He asked for a trial of their plan, and, if it was not suitable, Socialism could then be striven for.

A large number of questions were put to our representative which were satisfactorily answered and brought more light on the futility of Douglas proposals and the necessity for the workers to unite to achieve Socialism.
A. Humphrey,
For National Executive, 
Socialist Party of New Zealand

Profit in Agriculture: A Negative for People and the Planet (2018)

From the January 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rift between governments, big corporations and transnational trade agreements on the one hand, and majority populations the world over on the other, is reinforced by global factors linking large-scale commercial agriculture, and its food production and manufacture, with climate change.

Examples abound of laws being changed to negatively affect people, while corporations and businesses are encouraged to expand their reach and their profits. We currently have a global David and Goliath situation in which millions of Davids are being thrown to the wolves by a much smaller number of Goliaths in pursuit of sheer profit. Those Goliaths are neither interested in good, wholesome food crops, nor in protecting the health of the soil, nor the viability of the long-term water supply, nor the state of the planet. They are not even remotely concerned for the future of any of the Davids thrown off their lands.

The four biggest crops grown by large-scale commercial agricultural companies are soya bean, palm oil, rapeseed and sugar cane – all monocrops, some grown for energy production, but most for processed food commodities for the global market. These crops are grown on land once used to feed local farmers and populations with a wide range of fresh crops and animals, or in mega plantations created by destroying prime forests, which previously provided food and materials to indigenous peoples and grazing for their animals, and for whom the land is now off limits. In fifty years, 140 million hectares of these fields and forests (a similar area to the whole of the EU farmland) have been taken over for just these four crops.

Commercial fertilisers and greenhouse gas emissions
The very basis of farming to produce food is soil. Soil provides necessary nutrients for plants, and to be healthy and balanced it needs thoughtful husbandry. For hundreds of generations humans have recognised the symbiosis of plants and animals; the need for nutrients from animals and rotation of crops for continued healthy, balanced soil filled with humus, worms and useful microbes.

One huge problem for soil and consequently for crops, exacerbated by the profit system, is that of commercial fertilisers. The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, launched in 2014 at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York would seem, from its name, to represent a positive move towards achieving good results for people and planet, but of the twenty nine non-governmental founding members three are fertiliser industry lobby groups, two of whom are the worlds largest fertiliser companies (Yara of Norway and Mosaic of the US), while several others work directly with fertiliser companies on climate change programmes. Currently 60 percent of the private sector members of this alliance come from the fertiliser industry.

Nitrogen fertilisers need huge amounts of energy to produce and are made almost entirely from natural gas. Production of this fertiliser from natural gas is expected to grow at around 4 percent a year over the next decade, relying increasingly on natural gas from fracked wells which can leak 40-60 percent more methane (25 times more potent than CO2) than conventional natural gas wells. These emissions during production, however, are just a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions which occur once the fertilisers are applied to the soil.

The global commercial food system
The global commercial food system, increasing annually, has proved to be a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Besides the problem of fertilisers, there is the question of extensive mono-crop cultivation of feed for animals kept in enormous compounds. Crops for animal feed may be grown in Argentina, fed to chickens in Chile, shipped to China for processing, and exported to the US for sale in McDonalds. Cows and pigs are bred for meat in massive lots, producing tons of waste, fouling water systems, and releasing huge volumes of methane. Added to this, sheep in flocks of thousands eventually reach their optimum weight and, as with the beef and pork, are shipped thousands of miles before being on display for sale. When all the available data on the various sources of GHG emissions from the global food system is put together, farm to table, it reveals that this system is responsible for about half of all global emissions, from chemical fertilisers, heavy machinery run on petrol, hugely concentrated livestock operations, global transport, manufacture and processing, to unbelievable amounts of waste.

Small farms and productivity
Although small farms on average consist of about 2.2 hectares (5 acres) globally, they hold less than 25 percent of world farmland (excluding China and India small farms control 17.2 percent), yet their numbers total between 85-90 percent of total farms. Shrinking numbers from forced expulsion and shrinking sizes due to inheritance laws mean that year on year small farms constitute less of the whole. Even within this scenario, small farms continue to produce considerably more food than the conglomerates and more productively, i.e. more food per acre, as this is recognised by the UN Environment Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Two examples:

Brazil – 84 percent of farms are small and control 24 percent of land, but produce 87 percent of cassava, 69 percent of beans, 67 percent of goats milk, 59 percent of pork, 58 percent of cows milk, and even 30 percent of cattle.

Russia – small farms have 8.8 percent of land, from which they produce 56 percent of total agricultural output including 90 percent of potatoes, 83 percent of vegetables, 55 percent of milk and 39 percent of meat.

This may be a surprise to many, but studies certainly reveal that overall small farms are considerably more productive than big farms and produce is less contaminated with chemicals. Twenty countries of the EU, for instance, have a higher rate of production on small farms and nine of those countries register productivity which is at least double that of big farms. The remaining seven countries where the big farms are more productive reveal that it is by a small margin. One of the reasons offered for this is the low levels of employment used on big farms in order to maximise return on investment.

Other examples are Kenya, where data shows that if all big farms had productivity equal to that of small ones, then national production would double; in Central America and Ukraine it would triple; in Hungary and Tajikistan it would increase by 30 percent; and in Russia it would increase six times over.

These small farms tended by millions of global citizens, both female and male, have the knowledge and the great diversity of crops and animals to farm productively without the use of chemicals, improving soil fertility and preventing erosion. Currently, all over the planet, millions of these individuals and families are living a precarious existence, because of the pressures from global capitalist measures stacked against them.  Surely food is sustenance necessary for all, simply to survive, not a commodity to be bought and sold. The current system views anything but profit as secondary, something to be ignored or eliminated. Simple logic says profit is a negative in food production.

We can only begin to imagine how agriculture could thrive and develop post capitalism when all thought of profit has disappeared from the scene, when no time has to be spent by organisations trying to counter the negatives of capitalism, trying to conquer the hunger of huge numbers of people, and when farmers are recognised for their pivotal role in the well-being of both the planet and all its inhabitants. When farmers are free to use methods that help to alleviate harmful emissions and begin to cool the planet as they restore, rather than destroy, the soil.

(Acknowledgement to which is a mine of information on this and related topics).

Janet Surman

World View: The African tourism trade (2000)

From the October 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
The tourist industry is increasingly playing a significant role in the economies of many African countries. This is evidenced by the innovative programmes that are, day-in-day-out, being introduced to attract tourists. In Ghana there is what is dubbed PANAFEST (Pan African Festival) and in Gambia the Roots Homecoming Festival is of premium importance. In fact many governments claim that the tourist industry is one of their major if not the main foreign currency earners. Huge sums of money are therefore spent to develop historical and exotic monuments and spots.
It is important to understand that in this part of the world tourism is seen by the authorities to mean Americans and Europeans coming to Africa for a few weeks or months for holidays. The official view of tourism being a mainstay of the economy, however, crumbles in the face of the massive evidence of negative consequences of the industry on the people of Africa. Governments maintain that the tourist industry generates employment for their citizens. But a closer look at the so-called employment opportunities reveals a lot. Many of those considered as employed are tourist guides or "bumpsters". In most cases these youth are not salaried.
They hang about the hotels and beaches and if lucky they find a tourist who wishes to be shown about town. At the end of the day the "lucky" bumpster gets a tip. There are a few who get employed in the hotels and restaurants as cleaners and cooks. Others more fortunate than the two latter groups, carve and sell artefacts to the tourists. Unfortunately, tourism is a seasonal affair and so during the off-season most of these "employed" youth are unemployed and many resort to petty crime to survive.
Another detrimental effect associated with tourism in Africa but which government officials turn a blind eye to is the introduction of the young ones to "heavy spending". This particularly affects those living in and around areas of high tourist concentration. In their search for pleasure and heavily loaded with pounds sterling, dollars, marks, etc, they easily entice the youth—male and female alike—to be instruments of sex. They pay generously as the youth fast become spendthrifts. When these partners leave for home the children, used to big spending, resort to petty crime.

It is also known, especially from the high frequency of arrests at local airports, that a good lot of these tourists and tourist agents are drug traffickers. The industry provides a favourable climate for the drug business. Serving as safe havens and transit points these poor African countries, which have elevated tourism to the status of major sponsor of government programmes only expose their youth to hard drugs. Though not originally meant to be consumed here, drugs easily find their way into the local market.
Thus, contrary to what the governments claim, the cumulative adverse effects of the activities of tourists and tourism on the people far outweighs the scanty revenue derived. Having gotten used to "big money", many youth prefer running after tourists to going to school. There is a growing culture of begging among the people as everyone has mastered the tricks of squeezing "something small" from tourists. Tourist infrastructure—hotels, casinos, restaurants, bars, etc become breeding grounds for prostitution, gambling, drug abuse, petty thievery, etc. These, coupled with the heavy cost of treating people with STDs, the refusal of the youth to attend school, arming the security forces to fight crime, etc certainly indicate that governments lose rather than gain from this type of tourism.
Who profits?
If African governments do not derive as much as they claim, who then does? To answer this question one needs to answer a second, more pertinent question: is tourism today organised for people to enjoy their leisure or is it organised to make profit? If it is organised purposely for people to enjoy, then no tourist would need to pay money to come to Africa, nor would they need to pay for hotel accommodation and food. Therefore one can safely conclude that tourism is organised for the sole aim of making profit.
Tourism is a business venture undertaken by the owners of the means of production—in this case the aircraft, hotels, bars and restaurants, etc. Governments only come in to play their historical role of making sure that the owners of the means of producing the pleasure of tourism reap their profits in a peaceful environment.
Thus this exploitation of the workers and youth of African countries is made possible because they do not own the airlines, hotels, etc-—the means of producing the wealth of tourism. To ensure that such exploitation is halted the means of production must be commonly owned. Now since this system where a few people are able to exclusively possess the means of production is global, destroying it cannot be an African affair. The struggle to do away with the profit system (and make, for instance, the tourist industry benefit everyone) must be fought on two planes. On the one hand it should be an overall struggle encompassing all aspects of life—healthcare, feeding, clothing, education, protecting the environment, tourism, etc. On the other hand such a struggle must involve the concerted action of all workers of the world. There is the need for workers to understand the class struggle; to get actively and consciously involved in it; to persuade others to join in; and with a majority of willing members the struggle will be won.

Capitalism's Dilemma (1974)

From the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is in the nature of governments to promise to eradicate evils and make things better for the voters who elected them. It is also in the nature of capitalism to go on being an exploiting system and to be subject to periodical crises and depressions. In the life of any government therefore there is always an even chance that things will get worse instead of better. When this happens, the politicians who masterminded the policy and the economists who advised them look round for an excuse—the workers who didn’t work hard enough, the strikers who didn’t work at all, (even occasionally the workers who worked too hard and produced unsaleable surpluses), the speculators, the greedy bankers who pushed up interest rates, or the capitalists who didn’t invest enough (one of Heath’s excuses).

Now, and probably for several years, a lot of blame is going to be laid on the oil-producing countries which banded together to get a monopoly price for their oil, an action branded as “blackmail”—as if every government which controlled a much-needed commodity did not always get a monopoly price for it if possible.

This excuse is going to be used to obscure the fact that the Heath government’s policies were already in deep trouble before the latest blow from the oil capitalists, and that in many countries there had been for months growing signs of crisis and recession: notably the widespread falls in stock-exchange prices, latterly drastic falls but themselves from levels below those of recent years. What the Financial Times (28 November 1973) found particularly disturbing was that “there is a growing tendency in the market places of the world” to recall that the depression between the wars began with the great fall of share prices in 1929 on Wall Street:
  For the message is clear enough. It is that the pace-setting countries must demonstrate that they are planning meaningful measures to halt the long-term drift towards chaos in international economic and financial affairs which serves to give such new bugbears as the oil crisis an even more devastating impact. Indeed, unless this happens, we may soon be in even greater danger of travelling down the world recession path than we are already.
Professor Alan Day (Observer, 25 November) also fears that there may be a world depression, firstly because “the industrial world as a whole has enjoyed a boom in the last couple of years” and all may now move into depression together. His second reason is concerned with unemployment and inflation:
  Another reason to fear a world recession is the worldwide struggle against inflation. Our great and universal problem is to achieve reasonably full employment along with reasonable price stability. Indeed taking the world as a whole, this problem is further from a solution than it has ever been.
It is of some interest to note how his views have been modified since, in 1959, he wrote The Economics of Money. There he thought that the cycle of boom and depression “may now have been mastered as a result of the insight into economic processes which has been acquired in the last generation” (p. 66); though he still evidently half believes (against the evidence) that full employment can be achieved by accepting inflation as the price to be paid.

Here is one of the dilemmas of capitalism. In the past twenty-five years every election has been won by a party which promised full employment and no inflation and which then, without a mandate, futilely tried to enforce a “prices and incomes policy” to stop inflation. So where do they go from here. It seems highly unlikely that an election could be won on a policy of “more inflation and full employment” or on a policy of “no inflation and more unemployment”, though of course there is nothing more certain than that they will go on promising one thing and doing another until such time as the workers get wise to it.

Among the possibilities being canvassed is the formation of a coalition government, which, until in due course it falls apart, can ignore what the separate parties promised when elected. Peregrine Worsthorne (who recently scored a bull for silliness by attributing inflation to “the spirit of evil”) hopefully counts on the dissension in the Labour Party as a possible means of enabling the Tory Party to be elected with so large a majority that it can take "authoritative powers including presumably the power to direct labour” (Sunday Telegraph 2 December 1973).

In the meantime Enoch Powell has been gathering support for his policy of going back to nineteenth-century free-for-all, no government control of prices or wages but with the definite commitment to halt inflation. Those who are attracted by the notion that capitalism really would be all right if only inflation is halted should take note of what did happen when, in 1920, inflation was halted by stopping the issue of additional currency notes. Prices did come down with a run; so did wages notwithstanding a big increase in strikes, and unemployment jumped and remained at well over the million mark for years and jumped again when in 1929 a Labour government came into power pledged to reduce it.

Half a century has passed since then. It would seem that most of the non-Marxist economists have learned nothing and forgotten everything, and the trade unions and Labour Party (not to mention the so-called “left- wing” organizations) are still bemused with nationalisation and the other irrelevancies which make up their impossible schemes for improving capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Franco, Fascism and Modern Spain (2018)

From the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

I regularly drive along the A348 – a meandering secondary road that cuts through a long valley – the Alpujarras – sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada and Contraviesa mountain ranges in Southern Spain. Just off that road, between the towns of Orgiva and Lanjaron, there lies what some historians reckon is possibly the largest mass grave in Spain dating from the Civil War (1936-39). El Carrizal is a barren ravine, desiccated by a recent bushfire, which may contain the remains of up to 4000 individuals, including children, brutally executed by the fascists in that horrendous war.

Burying the Past
The story of El Carrizal is recounted in Juan Gonzalez Blasco’s Orgiva: Hitos de su Historia (2002). Night after night truckloads of prisoners were brought to the spot and summarily executed. They came from all over Granada province and beyond. El Carrizal was not the only site of execution – there are reputedly 25 mass graves locally – though it was the largest. Throughout the Alpujarras Franco’s forces rounded up suspected Republican sympathisers and had them shot. Little ‘pueblos’ like Torviscon, not far from me, lost a sizable chunk of its population to the Terror.

The physical reminders of those years still remain – the monuments to the dead, the occasional lookout post and the trenches hewn into the craggy mountainside from which anarchist snipers sought to resist Franco’s advancing army. Then there are the psychological scars. The valley retains the memory of those years as a sponge does water; squeeze it and the bitterness soon oozes back. Even today some people are reluctant to talk about the subject. In a merciless war that pitted neighbour against neighbour and relative against relative, with atrocities being committed by both sides (though far more died at the hands of the ‘White Terror’ than the ‘Red Terror’), that is perhaps not all that surprising.

Spain, post Franco, never really had something akin to South Africa’s’ post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a model of its kind. As David Smith writing in the Guardian, noted:
‘Spanish judges’ hands are doubly tied when it comes to investigating the thugs who served General Francisco Franco’s right wing dictatorship. Abuses not covered by the statute of limitation are protected by an amnesty law passed two years after Franco’s death. Politicians anxious not to place Spain’s fragile new democracy under stress, tacitly agreed to sweep the past under the carpet in what became known as the ‘pact of forgetting’ (24 June, 2014).
A belated attempt to change this situation came in 2007, when the PSOE government of Zapatero passed its Law of Historical Memory, which effectively condemned the Franco regime and cleared the way for the victims’ relatives to seek some redress. However, resistance to investigating the crimes of the Franco era is deeply embedded within the Spanish judiciary and when one leading magistrate, Baltasar Garson, sought to do just that, he was stymied in his efforts and eventually expelled from the judiciary in 2012, albeit on another matter.

It’s not just the judiciary that put up resistance, it came also from the official opposition to the Zapatero government at the time, the Partido Popular. The PP under Mariona Rajoy, now the governing party of Spain, had its origins in the Alianza Popular (AP), founded by one of Franco’s former ministers, Manuel Fraga. Fraga was on the reformist wing of fascism and sought to steer his party more towards the centre ground. This he succeeded in doing by joining forces with moderate conservatives. An organisational metamorphosis then followed, going through a succession of coalitions, culminating in the formation of the PP in 1989.

Spanish nationalism
We tend to associate fascism with extreme nationalism. However, the odd thing about Spain before Franco was the comparative weakness of nationalist sentiment there. True, the war of independence against Napoleon in the early 19th century had fostered some nationalist fervour. But this was the nationalism of a liberal elite. It chafed against, and was effectively blunted by, the institutional hegemony of the Catholic Church which constituted itself almost as a rival to the state in the enormous influence it wielded over Spanish society. 

Nationalism and the nation-state are essentially the products of capitalist development but in Spain, this occurred comparatively late in the day. Significantly, it was focused initially on just a few pockets – like Catalonia, the Basque country and around Madrid. Though agriculture began to be organised on a more capitalistic footing from the mid-19th century onwards, the largely backward rural hinterland provided poor soil in which nationalist sentiments could take root. Indeed, according to Jared Spears: ‘In the rugged isolation of Spain’s poor mountain villages, early anarchist adherents pioneered the organisational forms that later shaped the Civil War-era trade unions and peasant assemblies.’ (Jacobin magazine, May 2017). In a sense, geography aided the remarkable spread of anarchism in Spain and its emphasis on decentralisation and local autonomy. However, anarchist influence declined sharply in the course of the Civil War, ground down on the one hand by the rising power of the Stalinists on the Republican side and, on the other, by military defeat at the hands of Franco’s nationalist forces.

Thus, to the extent that nationalism existed in Spain at the beginning of the 20th century it was relatively muted and, furthermore, tended to take an ‘inverted’ form – a nationalism of the regions rather than an all-embracing Spanish nationalism. In fact, this is what marks Spain off as somewhat different from other European countries. For it was precisely in some of these regions that industrial development was most advanced. Sharp inequalities in the spatial economy of the country, reinforced by a pattern of cultural and linguistic differentiation, meant that the project of 'nation-building' in Spain could not be fully completed.

The Rise of Fascism
It was against this somewhat inauspicious background that fascist ideas began to circulate within Spain – essentially as a foreign import, to begin with. Mussolini’s Italy was the primary source of inspiration  (Stanley Payne in his 1996 book, A History of Fascism, 1914-1945 charts in detail the growth of Spanish fascism).

The first openly fascist group operating in Spain was the short-lived (1931-33) Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista (JONS) led by Ramiro Ledesma Ramos. However, JONS proved spectacularly unsuccessful in making any kind of impression. It was succeeded by another grouping, the Falange Española ('Spanish Phalanx'), led by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, son of the dictator who ruled Spain from 1923 to 1930. José Antonio, Payne points out, ‘had become interested in something rather like fascism (Italian-style) as the vehicle for giving form and ideological content to the national authoritarian regime attempted so uncertainly and unsuccessfully by his father’. Falangism was anti-monarchist and populist in orientation, attacking what it called ‘capitalism’, as many radical rightists are prone to do, in a language that sometimes sounded distinctly leftist.  Up until the Civil War the Falangists, like JONS, made little headway in attracting support, though.

The ascent of Hitler’s Nazis to power in Germany in 1933 engendered more interest in fascism – and funding too. Although Spanish fascism exhibited many of the core attributes of generic fascism – its hyper-nationalism and rigid authoritarianism - it also differed from other fascisms in ideological content - most notably in its accommodation of Catholic traditionalism. There was even a certain reluctance to clearly identify itself as fascist or to employ the usual street tactics of fascists elsewhere.  Unlike with the Nazis, little emphasis was placed on notions of racial purity (not surprising, perhaps, given Spain’s Moorish past, particularly in Andalucía)

It was the army rebellion led by Franco against the Republic in 1936 that changed the fortunes of the Falangists whose numbers swelled to several hundred thousand in the course of the Civil War. While Falangism was deployed as an ideological battering ram to infuse nationalist sentiments into the populace, the movement itself was effectively contained and subordinated to the military. In 1937, Franco unilaterally imposed a unification plan, bringing together the Falangists, pro-monarchists (Carlists) and a number of small right wing parties within a new organisation called the ‘Falange Española Tradicionalista’ with the Generalissimo himself at the helm.

Though Franco’s forces had received decisive military support from Germany and Italy during the Civil War, Spain was unable to reciprocate upon the outbreak of World War Two, with so much of the economy in ruin. This, plus the failure to secure a deal with Hitler on a post-war carve up of the world that would grant Spain its territorial claims in North Africa, meant that Franco had little option but to declare Spanish neutrality. That was just as well for neutrality ensured the survival of a fascist regime long after the Allied Powers had triumphed in their 'war against fascism'. The differences between Spanish fascism (or ‘semi-fascism’) and other, no-longer-extant, fascisms subsequently become more accentuated. An opportunist at heart, Franco increasingly began to lean towards monarchism and the traditional authoritarianism of the conservative Right in a bid to distance himself from Falangism. He also set about liberalising the economy which would have been anathema to a die-hard Falangist. His rabid anti-communism led to a rapprochement of sorts with the West as the Cold War got underway. America extended its Marshall Aid plan of economic assistance to Spain and in 1953 entered into military pact with it. The economic boom of the 1960s cemented Franco’s reputation as a popular leader among some sections of the population but, for many other Spaniards, he remained a reviled figure and his death in 1975 was regarded as a cause for great rejoicing.

The post-Franco years and Catalonia
Franco’s legacy was, thus, one of a bitterly polarised society. The strong association between nationalism and fascism provided a powerful subtext, shaping the contours of a post-Franco settlement.  Compromise was considered essential. One example was the Amnesty Law of 1977 already referred to.  Another was the decision to divide Spain into 17 ‘autonomous regions’ each exerting decisive control of such key services as social welfare, education and health. However, and crucially, the central government retained control over finance. It was empowered to levy and collect taxes from the autonomous regions – apart from the Basque country and Navarre which exercised tax autonomy – and to redistribute the proceeds back to the regions in a manner that ensured ‘fiscal equalisation’. In effect, poorer regions paid less taxes and got more revenue while conversely, richer regions paid more and got less.

However, this has become a major bone of contention between Madrid and, above all, Catalonia – one of the richest regions of Spain – fuelling the ‘independista’ movement there in its bid to secede from Spain. While Catalonia accounts for 20 percent of Spain’s taxes it receives back only 14 percent of the revenue. The 2008 economic crisis made matters worse with the highest level of budget cuts falling on Catalonia.

For its part, the central government is in no mood to accede to the separatists’ wishes. Catalonia has 16 percent of the Spanish population but accounts for 19 percent of the GDP and 25 percent of Spain’s exports, quite apart from paying a disproportionately large share into the state’s coffers. The loss of Catalonia would be a serious blow to the Spanish economy and the Rajoy government has moved decisively to prevent this happening, obstructing the independence referendum held in October 2017, organised by the Catalonian parliament, with a bungled police crackdown and then declaring the vote that delivered a thumping 92 percent in favour of independence (on a turnout of 43 percent) as legally null and void. It also invoked article 155 of the constitution, suspending Catalonia’s autonomous status and imprisoning some of the leading independistas.

Though independence would adversely affect Spain the likely impact on Catalonia would probably be even more severe. Two thirds of Catalonia’s exports go the EU but the EU has pointedly declined to recognise Catalonia’s right to secede, fearful that it might spark off secessionist movements in some other European countries. Since the October referendum more than 3000 business, including some major banks, have moved their headquarters out of Catalonia.

How do socialists view these developments? The unedifying choice between Catalan nationalism and Spanish nationalism is one that we point-blank refuse to make.  The political theorist, Tom Nairn, once declared that the ‘theory of nationalism represents Marxism 's great historical failure’ (‘The Modern Janus’, New Left Review, Nov/Dec 1975). If so, it is failure of influence, not of analysis.

Nationalism is predicated on the myth of a common interest uniting the citizens of a given country.  This has been cynically and opportunistically promoted by the Catalan nationalists particularly in relation to the tax issue. However, taxes are ultimately a burden on the capitalist class, not the working class, though the accounting ploy of routing some taxes via the workers’ payslips might very well prompt some to embrace the concept of a “stakeholder society” so central to nationalist mythology. At the end of the day, the real wages workers receive boils down to a question of economic circumstances – whether, for instance, the capitalist trade cycle is in its boom or recessionary phase – as well as what Marx described as the ‘respective powers of the combatants’ in the class struggle (Value Price and Profit, 1865). You don’t enhance the power of workers in their economic struggles against the capitalists by taking the same side as those sitting opposite you at the negotiating table and fraternally regarding them as your 'fellow citizens'.

Nevertheless, in a manner that has become depressingly predictable, large swathes of the Left have opted for a course of action that effectively submerges and obliterates working class identity in favour of national identity in the current constitutional crisis in Catalonia. It is the perceived threat of an emergent fascism that drives such class collaborationism. As the philosopher Anna Hennessey put it in an article in Counterpunch (29 September): ‘Franco was victorious and did not lose his war, as Hitler and Mussolini lost theirs, but this must not mean that we should let the dictator’s toxic ideological infrastructure persist any further into the twenty-first century. Supporting Catalonia is a necessary step in putting an end to fascism in Europe’.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything was calculated to encourage the growth of fascism it is Hennessey’s recklessly naive endorsement of Catalan nationalism. We should not be beguiled by the anti-monarchist and superficially ‘progressive’ character of this nationalism. Boris Kagarlitsky characterises it as a self-indulgent and greedy ‘revolt of the rich against the poor’ in sharp contrast to the Civil War years, when ‘Red Barcelona’ was the throbbing heart of a Spain-wide republicanism: ‘More developed regions with a high standard of living do not want to give up their resources to support less prosperous and backward provinces. “We don’t want to feed Andalusia anymore”, they say in Barcelona’ (Counterpunch, 11 September). He talks of the Catalan-language press being ‘full of racist delirium about dirty and lazy Spaniards trying to live at the expense of hard-working Catalonia’. That is surely a grotesque exaggeration but there is unquestionably some tension between incomers and natives. While Franco banned all languages except Castilian Spanish, the Catalan authorities have recently pursued a policy displacing the Spanish language with Catalan – for instance, making it a requirement for government jobs – to the detriment of many non-Catalan speakers.

There is a Fascist presence in Spain but the movement is small, fragmented and backward-looking in its nostalgia for the Franco era . Whatever populist appeal it might have has been effectively contained by the rise of the Leftist anti-corruption party, Podemos. Fascists may brawl and sieg-heil on the streets of Catalonia but their high visibility in the media is nowhere near matched by electoral success. Furthermore, for all their fanatical opposition to any kind of break-up of Spain as a centralised unitary state, they have also been comprehensively outflanked and side-lined on that issue as well by mainstream parties like the Centre Right and vehemently anti-independence, Ciudadanos (‘Citizens’) Party, which after the December 2017 elections, emerged as the single largest Party in the Catalan Parliament.

As for Rajoy, he clearly misjudged the situation, hoping to benefit politically by calling for these elections. Not only did the PP lose seats but Rajoy himself has been hoisted by his own petard. Having denounced the October referendum as illegal he sought to decisively stop the juggernaut of Catalan nationalism in its tracks by legal means. As it happens, the pro-independence parties emerged victorious as a result, having between them, won a majority of the seats– something that is likely now to prolong and aggravate the Catalonian crisis.

However, while the Far Right might currently be marginalised it would be rash to rule out a renaissance. There are suggestions that it might adopt the approach so successfully used by Le Pen in France in tapping anti-immigrant sentiment. What has been most striking about the Catalan crisis is the surge in Spanish nationalism it has provoked. In other words, Catalan nationalism has awakened Spanish nationalism, not just in Catalonia but throughout Spain. This nationalist groundswell may, indeed, bode well for the Far Right – a point those left-wing supporters of Catalonian independence would do well to heed.

The relationship between nationalism and democracy is more complicated and vexed than liberals like Hennessey would have us believe.  While Catalan nationalists invoke ‘democracy’ in defence of their cause, an independent Catalan state, like any other, would be operating within the framework of a capitalist society that, by its very nature, can never really be democratic. How could it be when the means of wealth production are monopolised by a tiny minority to the exclusion of the great majority who produce that wealth? That aside, and disturbingly, this escalation of nationalist hostility we are witnessing on all sides is likely to further erode what limited bourgeois democratic rights there are. In 2015, for instance, the government introduced its Orwellian-sounding ‘Citizens Security Act’, popularly known as the ‘gag law’, among other things banning unauthorised gatherings and making acts such as desecrating the Spanish flag punishable with a fine of up to 30,000 euros – possibly with Catalan and other separatists in mind.

Back in the Alpujarras, a young man of my acquaintance, normally quite left wing in his opinions, was holding forth in a bar.  Venting his anger towards Catalan nationalists, he intermittently blurted out ‘Viva Espana!’ in a loud voice, whilst jokingly (or perhaps only half-jokingly) making fascist salutes. I remonstrated with him for his tactlessness, pointing out that, conceivably, there were individuals in that very bar whose relatives had perished at the hands of the fascists back in the 1930s. To me such behaviour was symptomatic of the times we are living through, an ominous portent of what might come.

Truly it might be said that nationalism is fascism’s Trojan horse.
Robin Cox

Obituary: Peter McKenzie (1974)

Obituary from the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with regret that Glasgow Branch report the death of long-serving member Peter McKenzie. Peter had been a Glasgow member since 1940. He was an active and enthusiastic one who was specially valuable as a chairman at Branch meetings: when Peter was in the chair the business was always dealt with in an efficient and thorough fashion.

He was in many ways a link between the younger members of the Branch and the pre- and early-war periods. He was full of anecdotes and stories of the Party’s activities in those days. A cheerful character who had a clearcut, no nonsense style of propaganda, he introduced many workers to the Socialist case. A railway worker, he made many useful contacts among his workmates.

One story illustrates the effect he had in discussion in railway bothies, when the talk got round to politics. During the war, when hysteria and hatred gripped many workers, he argued consistently against war and the other horrors that capitalism produced. Returning to his home from work, after midnight, he found two “gentlemen” awaiting him. They asked where he was born, where his father was born and—being thorough—where his grandfather had been born. After Peter had convinced them that he wasn’t a German spy, they told him he had been reported by one of his workmates. With great relish, Peter told how he returned to his bothy discussions and tried to figure out who among his political opponents was the "patriot”!

He was an outstanding example of the older generation of Glasgow members—a mature man thoroughly grounded in the basics of Marxism and a fearless advocate of Socialism. Besides the Branch’s loss of a valuable member, many of us have lost a warm friend. He is survived by his wife and five children, one of whom is a Party member. To all of them we extend our sympathy at their sudden bereavement.

Subsidizing Food Destruction (1974)

From the January 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the first pieces of legislation to be presented to the House of Commons this session has been the Horticulture (Special Payments) Bill. The intention of this bill is to provide for payments to be made to commercial growers of horticultural products, especially growers of apples and pears, facing “special difficulties” as a result of Britain’s entry into the Common Market.

These “difficulties” are likely to arise after 1978 by which time Britain’s markets will be completely open to competition from EEC producers. The strength of this competition can be gauged from the fact that British production of pears this year is an estimated 40,000 tons while in the EEC the total amount “withdrawn from the market” (i.e. destroyed) were an estimated 378,000 tons in 1971-72. Obviously with the tariff and quota barriers down these surpluses could provide British growers with plenty of bracing competition which is supposed to do so much good for everyone. However the government intend, through this Bill, to shelter and cushion British growers from any such thing. Minister of Agriculture, Anthony Stodart, told the House of Commons that as a specialised branch of agriculture which had problems of its own horticulture justified different treatment from the rest of industry, and that the government “. . . had a responsibility to growers who must not be sacrificed in the wider national interest” (Hansard, 16 November 1973).

As we have pointed out before, governments, of whatever political persuasion, exist to protect the interests of the capitalist class (i.e. the owners of the means of life). This they do in a number of ways—tariff barriers and subsidies to producers for example — always bearing in mind that by such measures they expect a healthier national capitalism to be the outcome.

The Horticulture (Special Payments) Bill is just such a measure, and has been welcomed as such. Payments are to be made to growers of apples and pears who discontinue production. The scheme is expected to cost £4.5 million to £5 million over the period 1974-78. This figure is far in excess of the £440,000 spent up to mid 1972 under a similar scheme (see Socialist Standard January 1973). There are to be checks on the growers who apply for the “grubbing up” subsidy to ensure that the orchards dug up are not replanted for at least five years. In effect the government are subsidising the destruction of productive resources.

In this way, it is hoped, the competitive efficiency of British horticulture will be improved by reducing the amount of produce reaching the market. As a result market prices are expected to continue their upward trend after a period during the ’sixties when prices stagnated while costs increased. “Surpluses”, that is more being produced than the market can absorb profitably, could upset this state of affairs. As Roger Moate, M.P. for the Kent constituency of Faversham, pointed out:
   It needs only a small amount of surplus at any moment to disrupt the market entirely, and a grower can quickly lose almost his annual profit because of the disruption.
(Hansard, 16 November, 1973)
So once again, in a world where food is short, market considerations get priority over the needs of people. All we need now is for a cynic to point out that the trees dug up could help to alleviate the fuel crisis.
Gwynn Thomas