Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Proper Gander: ‘One Does’ (2018)

The TV Review column from the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

If nothing else, the recent royal wedding was a fluffy distraction from all the other grim goings-on around the world. And helped by the blanket media coverage, a lot of people lapped it up. The nobs’nuptials have been the most-watched TV event of the year, netting 11 million viewers, around four million more than the FA Cup final later the same day. The Scottish Cup final was also held on 19th May, at which thousands of Celtic fans made their own tribute by chanting ‘you can shove your royal wedding up your arse’.

Predictably, the mainstream media was abuzz for months before the big day itself, finding any angle to draw in the punters. For instance, the tabloids and the telly thought we’d be on tenterhooks over whether Meghan Markle’s father would attend, with brash headlines like ‘Meg Dad: I’ve Got Heart Op Today’. Thomas Markle himself thought we’d be fascinated by him, having staged paparazzi-style photos and been interviewed for money. Also reported, and more deserving of our attention, was the bus which offered a refuge to rough sleepers in Windsor being impounded by the police just before the wedding. Although Thames Valley Police said that The Ark Project’s bus was taken off the road because its paperwork wasn’t in order, it’s easy to assume that the real reason was to airbrush away people who don’t fit in with the occasion’s fairytale image. The local council’s Conservative leader had previously told the police he thought that rough sleepers should be removed ahead of the wedding.

On the day, the event itself took over much of the BBC, Sky News and ITV (without adverts, unusually). Sycophantic presenters such as Huw Edwards, Kirsty Young and Phillip Schofield interviewed people swept up by the knot-tying, including guests from charities connected with the royals. And between the interviews and footage of the flag-waving crowds and photos of people dressed up at their own wedding-themed parties, there was celeb-spotting whenever a Beckham or a Clooney was around. The word ‘modern’was used a lot by the pundits, especially when saying how ‘diverse’the wedding was, partly through the mix of guests and officiators, but largely because of Meghan’s heritage. Munya Chawawa of Reprezent Radio even suggested that she represents ‘a massive thumbs up from the top’for the rest of us to make progress towards ‘equality’and ‘inclusivity’. But it’s a massive thumbs down for Chawawa for thinking that Meghan’s different shade of skin stops an elite from being an elite. During the TV coverage, there was some discussion of whether she will face challenges as someone who claims to campaign for equality entering a privileged, exclusive club. Either way, she’s being used to help rebrand the royal family, to make an outdated institution appear more relevant and inclusive.

But in a sense, we are all part of the royal wedding, because it’s ultimately the profits we produced which paid for it. The event was funded through the Windsors’coffers, which gets its income from profits of the Crown Estate, the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, a parliamentary annuity, and income from private investments. Another wedding which broke the tradition of being paid for by the bride’s family was William and Kate’s, which was officially state funded, which still means worker funded.

So how much did it cost us? The average price of getting married, including the service, catering, dress and d├ęcor is £17,913, already more than a year’s income for many. Harry and Meghan pushed the boat out a bit, though, including £90,000 going onbespoke silver plated fanfare trumpets. The bill for their wedding was around £2 million, although even this is only a small part of the overall estimated fee. Security arrangements cost a whopping £30 million, including a couple of million on ‘drone destroyers’to target any craft used by terrorists or journalists. However, the occasion is predicted to rake in £500 million to the economy from tourism and souvenirs, so overall it was quite a lucrative investment for those at the top.

As well as a financial lift, the royal wedding probably also gave the system a psychological boost. Events like this stir up patriotism, reinforcing a blinkered acceptance of the status quo. Even a cynical socialist might find something to admire in the spectacle of it all. Beneath this is the rather sad view that we can live vicariously through people enjoying pampered lives we’ll never be able to have. The costs of the wedding alone highlight the gap between them and us. For all the talk of ‘inclusivity’, ‘diversity’ and being ‘modern’, the royal family is about as far as you can get from a beacon for equality.
Mike Foster

Bunglers at Work. (1932)

Editorial from the March 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Collapse of the Communists
In our February issue attention was called to the change of view on the part of a leading Communist (Mr. R. P. Dutt) regarding the long-heralded collapse of capitalism.

Mr. Dutt is by no means alone in having beat a retreat from the position occupied by the Communists practically since the formation of their Party. According to the Daily Worker of January 20th, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain arrived at certain “important decisions” concerning its “revolutionary mass work.” "The Election results had shown that the isolation of the party, its main weakness, was not yet overcome.” Hence a “new line” had to be hunted for once more.

In the course of the discussion Mr. Rust remarked that— 
   the loose talk about "No way out for capitalists from the crisis” led to fatalism, and passive waiting for the "collapse" to the "Let them Starve!" theory, and actually helped the Labour Party.
Speaking at the Tivoli Theatre, Sheffield, on January 24th (when he should have been debating with a representative of the S.P.G.B. at Stockport), Mr. J. T. Murphy spent over three-quarters of an hour riddling this and kindred delusions of the Communist rank and file. “There is no reason,” he declared, “why capitalism cannot stagger on from one generation to another, from one crisis to another, unless the workers end it.” Unfortunately, he did not enlighten his hearers as to how they were to do this.

Vague talk about ”fighting back” and dark hints about “inevitable civil war” (they promised civil war in the winter of 1921) were the only things offered in the way of “a constructive policy.”
   The man who says the workers will only fight when kicked in the belly only shows that he is not prepared to carry on the work of education,
proceeded Mr. Murphy.

What terrible "theoretical stuff” is this with which to feed red-blooded "men of action”? And then the speaker let the cat out of the bag; he commented on the frequency with which the I.L.P. leaders have of late been working up the idea of an impending collapse. The I.L.P. have stolen the Communist thunder. They have been out-ranting the professional ranters. In their indecent haste to distinguish themselves from their offspring, the Labour Party (from which, however, they dare not disaffiliate), the I.L.P. have thought it good policy to try to annex the Communist Party’s following. Hence attempts to run a rival unemployed organisation.

In turn, therefore, the leaders of the Communists. find it necessary to abandon the slogans once so lustily chanted, in order to preserve their distinction from the "phrase-mongers” of the I.L.P. The propaganda of the “united front” has given way to “exposure of left manoeuvres,” because “to many workers the difference in principle between the policy of the C.P. and the policy of the reformists was not at all made clear ” (Daily Worker, January 20th).

The issue, however, is by no means a purely national one. Wiring from Moscow on November. 3rd, 1931, Mr. Walter Duranty reported an interview given by a Soviet official to the New York Times (November 4th), in the course of which the official made the remark that— 
  "capitalism was not yet at death's door and the growing rate of under-production during the past year must ultimately stimulate demand and raise prices."
Mr. Duranty proceeded to comment as follows:—
  Like all Soviet utterances, this tallied with the "Party Line” as expressed by Joseph Stalin and other leaders who believe the present depression is not the end of capitalism. Black as things look everywhere Soviet opinion holds this is no more than one grists in the long series which capitalist economists regard as indicative of capitalism's “growing pains."
How unfortunate that in their General Election manifesto, 1931, the British Communists should have committed themselves to the definite statement that “capitalism has gone bankrupt " (p. 4).

A further example of the humble and contrite heart that has become increasingly noticeable at Communist Party Headquarters is provided in the Daily Worker of January 25th. Most Socialists and a large number of non-Socialists are familiar with the Communist Party’s boasts of their leadership of the local strikes all over the country in the day-to-day struggle with capital. The Daily Worker now says:—
   The textile workers, the hosiery workers and the London lightermen are all on the streets. In no case are we in the leading role.
Further on they account for this by saying:—
   We are slow to learn from our mistakes and there is such a rich experience to learn from. (Italics ours.)
   What have been some of our chief mistakes in the strike struggles? First a very formal and frivolous attitude to questions of strike policy and organisation.
  We have brought forward demands that have been worked out in the Party rooms by a few Communists, and many times by Communists who have not the faintest contact or knowledge of the industry in which the strikes are taking place.
  We set up rank-and-file committees, which are committees composed of ourselves, destitute of representative authority, and which only succeed in degrading the conception of what a rank and file strike committee ought to be.
  Many times we lightmindedly call for strike action without the semblance of preparation having been made, so that in some districts, when workers see our comrades, they are apt to say, “Hello, what are we to strike for to-day? ” Why do we mention these weaknesses so openly? Because, unless we can kill such methods we shall never correct our work. (“Daily Worker,” 25th January.)
Alas! even the Christians have for centuries confessed themselves as miserable sinners regularly every Sunday—without apparent effect. They still go on sinning.

The above “mistakes” of the Communists have been repeatedly pointed out for years in these columns, but, as they admit, they are slow to learn.

When the workers generally acquire an understanding of their position under capitalism, they will not require to be told what to do, either upon the political or the industrial field. They will then be in a position to dispense with leaders of the Henderson, Thomas and Clynes type, with their poisonous doctrines of conciliation; but just as little will they need the crew of conceited busybodies who have failed so conspicuously to dislodge these leaders from their position.

The Rent Strike Stunt. (1932)

Editorial from the February 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Independent Labour Party, like all reform parties, is constantly faced with the need to discover a new programme to hide the failure of all the old ones. Family Allowances and the Living Wage Scheme are already fading from the picture and going the way of nationalisation, bulk purchase, housing schemes, rationalisation, trade boards and all the rest of the junk that has served the purpose temporarily of keeping alive the illusion that the I.L.P. is doing something and getting somewhere. At the moment the nationalisation of the banks is sharing the honours with public utility corporations and with the latest stunt, a “rent strike." The I.L.P. are backing the London and Manchester Trades Councils in a demand that, wages having fallen, rents should be reduced. The I.L.P. has, time after time, pointed to Vienna as a city where their ideal of low rents has operated to perfection, and they have talked of the millions of pounds supposed to have been saved to the workers by the Rent Restriction Acts in this and other countries. The whole of it is based on illusion.

Rents were kept low here and in every European country at the instigation of the employers. They knew that high rents would raise the workers’ cost of living and leave the employers to face either lowered efficiency among their wage-slaves or the alternative of paying a larger wage. Rent restriction has lowered the average cost of living, and wages on the whole have fallen proportionately, leaving the workers just where they were before. Even where this policy of plundering landlords to help industrial capitalists has been carried to its furthest point, as in Vienna, the workers were not the gainers, but their employers. In 1925 the International Labour Office published the results of an inquiry into rents, wages, etc., under the title “The Workers’ Standard of Life in Countries with Depreciated Currency.” The Report dealt especially with the effects of rent restriction. Writing of Germany, it says:—
   Since wages no longer had to cover rent, the cost of labour was correspondingly reduced. (P. 37).
In other words, the employers reaped the advantage. In Austria the same thing was found by the investigators:—
  Most of the workers were in the same position as those in Germany; they had practically no liabilities under the heading of rent, but the corresponding amount was not included in their wages. The actual gain was thus nil. (P. 97).
The Report continues:—
  Industry, on the other hand, benefited, as in Germany, by the reduction in the cost of most labour by the full amount which rent represented in wages before the war. (P. 97).
In Great Britain the policy of rent restriction has had the further defect that it has badly hit the section of workers who have had to get into houses whose rents have been “decontrolled.” The average wage has not allowed for the exceptionally high rents in decontrolled houses, and these individuals have been the sufferers.

The only sound policy for the working class under capitalism is to use whatever strength their economic organisation can give them to press for higher pay from the employers, not to lend themselves to stunt campaigns whose only result will be to make reputations for a few Labour leaders, and help the industrial capitalists to secure more profit. The workers should, however, face up to the limits of Trade Union action. Socialism is the only remedy for the workers' poverty problem, and Trade Union action cannot bring about Socialism.

Returning to this latest I.L.P. stunt, we read in Forward (December 26th) an amusing account of what happened some years ago in the last Clydeside rent strike. Mr. David Kirkwood, M.P., made a fighting speech in which he said that there would be no evictions in Clydebank "except over my dead body." In spite of this, as his local critics complain, the evictions took place, but the "dead body" goes about—talking as usual.

The Prospect of the Future. (1932)

Editorial from the January 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

At this time of the year it is usual to take stock of the present position and of the possibilities in the near future. It is true that all times of the year are the same from the point of view of the working-class struggle, but the point fixed by the calendar as the beginning of another year is a convenient excuse for a brief survey.

From most aspects the year that has just ended has been one of the best that our Party has had. The increase in membership has been larger than we have ever had in one year before, and it is gratifying to notice that during the past few years the number who have joined each year has been larger than the previous year. A further feature is that the applications for membership are coming from places farther afield than formerly; places that were not accessible to us previously on account of our limited finance.

The sale of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD is steadily growing, and during the past few years there has been a very considerable increase in the number of regular postal subscribers. In fact, at present we have three times the number of postal subscribers that we had three years ago. This is chiefly due to the work of a committee who have developed a new method of making our Party and Paper known throughput the country without making calls on the Party funds. There is no doubt that a part of the increased membership is also due to their efforts, because working men who carefully read THE SOCIALIST STANDARD and become acquainted with the aims and methods of the Socialist Party of Great Britain are bound to realise, sooner or later, that the path marked out is the only certain way out of wage-slavery.

Although traffic conditions and official interference are yearly increasing the difficulties of holding successful outdoor meetings, we are still able to maintain our outdoor propaganda, and supplement it during the winter with indoor meetings. We also have many requests to place the Party's position before groups of workers.

Our tenderest point is finance, and it speaks much for the spirit of our membership that, in spite of the long industrial depression, we are better off financially than we were a year ago. Of course, we still badly need funds to publish new pamphlets and re-publish old ones, but the fact that we are not deeper in the mire holds out much hope for the future.

Abroad the movement is making genuine progress, and a Socialist International, in the real sense of the words, will, at no very distant date, be an accomplished fact. From time to time we receive encouraging information from our comrades abroad that shows how the principles we advocate are taking root in other countries.

The Socialist Party of Australia is making good progress, holding successful propaganda meetings and debates, and their growing activities have compelled them to look out for larger premises. Occasional articles from them have been printed in these columns. 

The Workers’ Socialist Party of U.S.A. are still carrying on, in spite of the lack of funds due to the industrial depression in America which compelled them to suspend the publication of their paper for the time being.

Recently we have been advised of the formation of a strong Party in New Zealand based on principles similar to our own and with branches in Wellington and Auckland. The name of the new Party is the Socialist Party of New Zealand, and we print a notice concerning it elsewhere in this issue, to which we would draw the attention of all our New Zealand readers. For the present, lack of finance will compel them to use THE SOCIALIST STANDARD as their paper, but when funds are sufficient they will publish a paper of their own. May that day be soon !

Apart from the above-mentioned parties, there are supporters of our principles and policy scattered throughout the world (in Canada, for example, there arc many) who are working hard, in some cases in isolation, doing the pioneer work towards the founding of other parties to form a part of the Socialist International of the future. It is interesting also to find that our articles find their way into papers in unlikely places. Our attention has been called to the republication of articles in journals in India, Yugo-Slavia, Rumania, France, and elsewhere.

And so we commence another year in a very hopeful and enthusiastic frame of mind. In spite of the work and the power of the enemy and their blind and their unscrupulous tools, knowledge of Socialist principles is spreading both here and abroad. The tide that will sweep slavery and oppression into oblivion is gathering force and coming in; slowly, it is true, but it is coming in. The pity of it is that some of those who did the hard, thankless, and difficult spade-work have “passed out” without seeing the fruits of their efforts.

To those who, while convinced of the soundness of the Party’s position, yet do not take the step of joining up or contributing to the funds, we would point out that every additional member and every additional penny increases the propaganda capacities of the Party and brings nearer the time when the working class will capture the seat of power for the introduction of Socialism.