Friday, June 29, 2018

Looking at Unemployment (1982)

Editorial from the June 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Unity (1911)

From the September 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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