Friday, July 27, 2018

Wild Guess Chase (1997)

From the November 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anyone who spends any time observing the erratic workings of capitalism will realise that it almost never lives up to the claims made for it. It is a social system supported by mythology. One myth—that it provides for everyone—is easy to debunk. You only have to look at the Third World, or even the poor sections of the West. Another—that its competitive motor always produces the best products—is also easy to debunk. Here one may point to the market success of theVHS video system over the superior Betamax. or again that of IBM/Intel computer chips over the vastly superior Apple/Risc chips.

But the biggest myth—that which keeps people voting for political parties to run capitalism—is that it is indeed possible to "run” capitalism. With no steering wheel, no brakes and no happy end in sight, capitalism is nevertheless not short of prospective "drivers" who will do and say anything for a chance to sit up front with the big hat on. Governments of the world govern by the myth of control. They persuade us that they can control market forces, but only until the next crisis, whereupon they blame market forces or foreigners, or both.

Evidence for the chaotic nature of capitalism is not scarce. Since the days of Adam Smith in the 18th century, economists have been trying in vain to find the right combination of knobs, levers, sliders, switches and buttons with which to control the monster reactor of the money and market system. Each would-be government has to claim that it has everything finally figured out. so that you will vote for them. If they admitted that they can’t control capitalism, nobody would bother electing these self-styled "market managers" at all.

Peter Day (In Business, BBC Radio 4, 8 August) presented the curious proposition that the present boom might actually continue forever—that is, without the presumed inevitable slump. The wishful thinking behind this daring notion tells you a lot about how much of economics is real theory, and how much is wild guesswork. Peter Schwartz of the Global Business Network points to the fact that where 50 years ago the ratio of measurable to unmeasurable growth was around 60/40, today it is the other way round. In other words. 60 percent of the modern US economy is “invisible" and cannot be measured.

This gives you some idea of how difficult the "experts” find it to measure growth in capitalism. Naturally, all policies and strategies for the future are based on these vague measurements, which should confirm us entirely in our lack of faith. The problem with new technology, says Schwartz, is that you have to wait for the society to learn to use and apply it. And you may have to wait some considerable time. Electricity was around for 40 years Henry Ford in Chicago realised that you could use it to revolutionise the factory, and as a consequence the growth rate for Chicago between 1900 and 1930 was 68 percent per annum, where previously it had been nil. In today's terms we have the silicon chip, but apart from a few geeks on the Internet, this technology has not yet come into its own. Beyond the telecommunications revolution stretches the even more awesome potential of nanotechnology—the building and application of molecular machinery. What the world will look like in 20 or 30 years from now is anyone’s guess, and what the world's economy will look like is also anyone's guess.

So the "experts" frankly don’t know. They can’t predict what the market will do. And they can't control it anyway. It is on this basis that they are suggesting a slumpless economy. In short, when nothing is predictable then anything is possible.

Makes you wonder why people bother listening to them, doesn’t it? In all the breathless excitement about the hi-tech future, those predicting “No end of a boom” are enthusiastically ignoring the past. They do not have the evidence of history on their side, and so are obliged to claim that today's economy is not like yesterday’s. Because telecommunications are exploding, and productivity relies on telecommunications, they reason that productivity will explode too. But in that case the demand also needs to grow, and although it will do for an unpredictable period, the time will come when demand slackens its pace (for instance because people only have so much to spend). Productive forces are never able to anticipate this, and always overshoot the mark, like a man walking over a cliff. It doesn’t matter what is being produced. If it is a commodity in capitalism, it relies on buyers. If there are no buyers, the ground disappears from under foot and production takes the long drop.

The most enduring if not endearing thing about capitalism and the market is that its supporters, fully recognising what has unfailingly happened in the past, always insist that this time it will be different. Allow us therefore our own little prediction, and you can hold us to it: No, it bloody well won't!
Paddy Shannon

The Military and the Environment (2018)

From the July 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The two main threats to the survival and wellbeing of humankind and the biosphere — war and the environmental crisis – are usually considered separately. In fact, however, the two problems are closely connected: neither of them can be solved without at the same time tackling the other.

On the one hand, the environmental crisis generates conditions that make war more likely. Soil erosion, desertification, deforestation, acidification of the oceans and similar processes intensify competition for control over arable land, sources of freshwater, fishing grounds and other natural resources. Alternating flood and drought augment the flow of refugees. Cross-border impacts fuel new international tensions.

On the other hand, war and other military activity — development, manufacture, testing and maintenance of weapons and equipment, military training, military games and exercises, disposal of waste — themselves make a major contribution to the environmental crisis. Danger and secrecy impede attempts to gauge this contribution and assessments of environmental issues usually ignore it. That is one of the main reasons why global heating is proceeding so much more rapidly than predicted. Even in peacetime, for example, the Department of Defense is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the United States, causing CO2 emissions roughly equal to those of Denmark, but military emissions are excluded from international climate agreements.

War devastation
The list of countries and regions devastated by war is long and growing longer, from Congo and Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Yemen and Kashmir. War devastation takes many forms. Some are well known – the bombed-out buildings, the piles of rubble, the landmines lying in wait for their victims. Less well known but no less noxious are the diverse forms of environmental devastation, including:

* toxic heavy metals (e.g., lead, tungsten, mercury, molybdenum, cadmium, cobalt) and white phosphorus deposited by bombing in the soil and the water supply, causing tumors, congenital deformities and other serious effects

* radiation from the depleted uranium (DU) used in manufacturing munitions, spreading cancer, cerebral palsy and other diseases (militaries like bullets made of DU fused with metal alloys because they are better at penetrating armour.)

* radiation and toxins released into the environment by the bombing of nuclear power stations and chemical plants

* urine and excrement in the streets and streams as a result of destruction of the sewage system

* oil pollution from damage to pipelines and refineries (Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait in 1991 torched 630 oil wells, turning the sea and sky black.)

Nuclear war and nuclear winter
Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be an ecological disaster felt throughout the world. The best studied case is that of a 'limited' regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (less than half of these states' nuclear arsenals) are detonated mainly over cities. Besides the 20 million projected short-term deaths and longer-term victims of radiation, such an exchange would inject up to 6.5 million tonnes of soot into the upper atmosphere, cooling the global climate for several years and reducing summer crop yields in various countries by 12-16 percent over a 10-year period.

In a full-scale nuclear war between Russia or China and the United States, direct casualties would of course be far higher and the amount of soot much greater. A prolonged 'nuclear winter' would ensue, leading to the extinction or near-extinction of Homo sapiens and other species (with the exception of primitive organisms in the deep ocean that do not need sunlight).

Routine activities
Even in times of peace the military does enormous harm to the environment in the course of its routine activities. Thus the Department of Defense is not only the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the United States, it is also the largest polluter, generating more toxic waste than the five biggest American chemical companies combined (according to an estimate made in the late 1980s – a tonne per minute).

Let us consider three specific activities: weapons testing, waste disposal and war games.

Weapons testing
Large tracts of land are devoted to weapons testing. For example, Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana, 250 square kilometers in area, is so badly contaminated that it has been cordoned off and abandoned.

Before 1963, when the Soviet Union, Britain and the US banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, these powers conducted a long series of tests of atomic and hydrogen bombs in Kazakhstan, the Australian outback and the Pacific islands, respectively, inflicting radiation sickness on the indigenous people of these areas, who were not evacuated or even warned but used as guinea pigs. China continued nuclear weapons testing at its site in Xinjiang until 1996.

Waste disposal
The manufacture and use of weapons generate a huge quantity of radioactive and toxic waste that somehow has to be disposed of. Often waste is just dumped into the sea. Much is stored in the ground under conditions that do not prevent leakage.

A 100-acre basin for the storage of military waste at Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado has been called 'the earth's most toxic square mile'. However, there are probably sites in Russia that are no less toxic and perhaps even less safe, such as Kildin Island in the Barents Sea, home to used-up nuclear reactors and other parts of old nuclear submarines.

War games
War games and military exercises are a source of less drastic but still considerable environmental damage, both on land and at sea. Naval war games, for instance, poison or otherwise harm numerous species of fish, marine mammals and other sea life. The sensitive auditory systems of many whales and dolphins are injured by underwater sonar from submarines. Many non-marine species are also harmed by noise from military aircraft.

President Trump's decision at his summit with Kim Jong Un to suspend the annual war games in South Korea is some small consolation.

Armaments manufacturing
Then there is the harm to the environment caused directly or indirectly by the process of manufacturing armaments. The production of explosives, for instance, requires toxic chemicals that leak into soil and groundwater.

A telling example of the complex interaction between war and environmental damage is provided by the mining, processing and use of rare metals and rare earth elements. Besides civilian applications, these substances are widely used in military electronic systems for guidance and control, targeting and communications as well as in jet engines. Their extraction causes severe pollution (see The Socialist Standard, MW, May 2011). Moreover, there is high potential for conflict over control of deposits, as in the war in eastern Congo – a rich source of the rare metals cassiterite and coltan (see The Socialist Standard, MW, January 2009).

Thus rare metals and rare earth elements are needed for use in war and war is waged to control them, while both their processing and their use in war cause great harm to the environment.

One World
The problem of war and the environmental crisis will find their joint resolution – if, that is, they are to be resolved at all – in the creation of One World – an undivided global community. Material and human resources will no longer be wasted and destroyed in war. People will devote their energy and talents to repairing a poisoned planet and devising an ecologically sustainable way of life.

Obituary: Mike Bathurst (1997)

Obituary from the July 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mike Bathurst, a member of the Party for over 30 years, died prematurely—a victim of cancer—in late April. Mike was a founder member of the Colchester Group in 1990, and three years later he became treasurer of what is now the Colchester Branch of the Party.

Mike was a steadfast socialist, loyal and true, and all his friends in the branch will miss him dearly. His father, Stan, was a member of the Party and so, too, is his brother John.

It's easy in the welter of minutes, conference papers and the like, to forget why people are socialists: the vision of a world free from poverty, wars and social hostility, where co-operation, freedom and democracy are the order of the day. But Mike never forgot. He was the most thorough of administrators—a careful and punctilious treasurer—but never forgot why we were holding meetings, distributing leaflets, trying to involve others in our enterprise. And when—often after a glass or two of red wine—Mike would talk about socialism he conjured another world—a better, brighter world—and his eyes would shine, his voice would become animated, and his excitement was there for all to see and to hear. Like many of us Mike was transformed by the possibilities of a better, freer, co-operative and caring world.

We will miss him.

Trotskyism in Poland (1996)

Book Review from the July 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revolutionary History, Vol. 6. No 1, Winter 1995-96, £4.

The latest issue of Revolutionary History features "Trotskyism in Poland". Almost all the articles are written by Prof. Ludwik Hass or are about him. This well illustrates the situation of Trotskyism in Poland—there are only a few of them, shouting at each other because of personal quarrels.

Already in the introductory editorial the false claim is made that "Hass played an active role on the left of Solidarity." The editorial committee want to give the impression that he had some links with the workers movement. But it was quite the opposite—he never had any particular connection with Solidarity spending his time rather in the saloons of Central Committee of the PUWP (the ruling Communist Party) trying to soften party censorship.

After October 1956 he was so animated by his belief in a better future for the Polish "People's Republic", that he applied for—and was granted—membership of PUWP. For 13 years he applied every year for a job in the Central Committee of the PUWP. He even appeared on TV soon after the introduction of martial law in 1981 applauding order.

The Editorial Committee also claims that pre-war Poland was one of the few countries where the Trotskyists had a big workers following. It could look like this, because they chose to enter the Polish Socialist Party, the Jewish Bund and the Communist Party. But this reflected the lack of enough members to organise themselves separately in their own independent party.

What did these Trotskyists want? What program did they have? First of all, to seize power and establish a national republic under a "worker-peasant's government", with support from elements of the petty bourgeoisie, under the leadership of the vanguard party, of course. This would simply be the next governing group, a new authoritarian power—only with a different name.

To achieve this, in line with Lenin's ideas, they supported national minorities in cultivating their nationalistic separatism and the creation of new states. In the event of war. they wanted to stage an immediate coup d'état and introduce “the dictatorship of proletariat"—in fact dictatorship over the proletariat. All standing against their order would be deprived of their political rights on the grounds of the special needs of the state.

Work would be compulsory, with a guaranteed minimum wage, social insurance and the like—so what would be the difference with the current situation? The economy would be nationalised and centrally planned, small enterprises would be kept in private hands—which is the same as what did in fact happen in Poland after the war. This was simply state capitalism. There was no trace of socialism. Trotskyism is not at all a revolutionary tendency, it is merely a type of reformism, patching up the current situation, not a radical change of it. Trotskyists don't believe that workers, the huge majority of society, are capable of organising their own mass movement to change the system. Maybe that is why so few workers believe in their propaganda.
Jan Tomas

Getting means to survive (1996)

Book Review from the July 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Modern Environmentalism: An Introduction by David Pepper (Routledge, 1996)

This textbook for students provides a comprehensive survey of the ideas of those who are concerned about environmental problems.

The coverage ranges from the sinister Dark Greens and so- called "Deep Ecologists", with their anti-humanist (and anti-human) philosophy and their irrational Nature-worship, at one end. through other less unreasonable "ecocentrics" who imagine that Green values can be imposed on capitalism (the Green Party), and the reformist "technocentrics" who believe that technological fixes can solve or at least contain the problem within capitalism (the official Establishment view), to, at the other end, people like ourselves who hold that capitalism, with its production for profit and its built-in drives to cut costs and accumulate capital, is the cause of current environmental problems and that humans won’t be able to achieve a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature until it is replaced.

All these views are discussed and compared, including ours (in a section entitled "The moneyless economy and eco-socialist society").

One point though. Pepper implies that it is an exclusively "ecocentric" position to hold that the things we perceive don't exist as separate, independent things but are only parts of an interrelated and interacting universe which alone has an independent existence ("holism", as it is now called) and that everything in the universe is composed of the same "stuff’ or material ("monism”).

It is true that this is a view held by many ecocentrics, but generally in some mystical form. In a non-mystical form it has been the view of Marxian socialists since the time of Joseph Dietzgen in the last century who expounded it under the name of "dialectical materialism" (not to be confused with the official ideology of the former state-capitalist countries which had the same name).

It was in fact because ecology is a science of interrelationships that socialists have always realised its significance. Indeed, because it emphasises the importance of the way living things get their means to survive it is the application to the world of nature of the same approach that Marx's materialist conception of history takes to human society; it is a materialist conception of the world of living things. As such it has nothing in common with the mystical nonsense with which some Greens and ecocentrics have surrounded it. 
Adam Buick

Anarchism and the failure of direct action (1995)

Pamphlet Review from the July 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Anarchist Movement in Japan by John Crump (BM Hurricane, London WC1N 3XX. 1995.)

This is a brief, but informative, account of anarchism in Japan by the author of The Origins of Socialist Thought In Japan.

Crump traces the origins of anarchism in that country to Kotoku Shusui who first edited an anti-war journal, Common People's Newspaper, in 1903 until its forced demise at the beginning of 1905. Kotoku was originally a Social Democrat who, together with Sakai Toshihiko and others, formed a short-lived party of that name. In 1904, Kotoku and Sakai translated Marx's and Engels's Communist Manifesto into Japanese. But shortly after, when in prison, Kotoku read Kropotkin's Fields, Factories and Workshops, followed whilst travelling to the United States, by his Memoirs of a Revolutionist. In America, he read Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, and later he came under the influence of the Industrial Workers of the World—the "Wobblies".

On his return to Japan, Kotoku held many meetings and wrote many articles attacking what he called Social Democratic parliamentarianism, and advocating direct action. In an article in 1907, he wrote:
   "I hope that from now on our socialist movement in Japan will abandon its commitment to a parliamentary policy and will adopt as its methods and policy the direct action of the workers as one."
Thus began the anarchist movement in Japan. Crump emphasises that the ideas which Kotoku brought back to Japan from America were a mixture of anarchist-communism, syndicalism and terrorism, although Kotoku was foremost an anarchist-communist. or Kropotkinist; and that anarchist terrorism never really took off in Japan. Before the First World War, both anarchist-communism and anarchist-syndicalism had their advocates and activists: but. together with mounting repression by the state, the anarchist-communists and the anarchist-syndicalists became increasingly antagonistic towards each other. By 1927, there was a complete split between the two factions according to John Crump.

The Japanese anarchists, like many others at the time, were largely sympathetic towards the Bolsheviks following the 1917 coup d'état. Some even joined the Communist Party, only to leave it again soon after. But after the Bolsheviks' suppression of the Kronstadt Revolt in 1921, one prominent Japanese anarchist, Osugi, "concluded that there was nothing to choose between Russian state capitalism and Western private capitalism".

In 1923. both Kotoku and Osugi were murdered by the Japanese state, and some anarchists attempted a number of rather insignificant acts of terrorist revenge which were, of course, counter-productive. Mass arrests inevitably followed. During the 1930s the anarchist movement in Japan went, according to Crump, into rapid decline. There was. however, an attempt by some anarchist-communists to form an Anarchist Communist Party in 1934. It claimed to be committed to bringing about a stateless and free communist society; yet it used Bolshevik (i.e. Leninist) organisational methods. It was founded as a highly secretive organisation, whose existence was not openly proclaimed, and whose membership was a hand-picked ''élite''. Its main tactic was to manoeuvre its members into positions of influence in other organisations—just like the Leninists! Not surprisingly, it was soon destroyed by the Japanese state.

During the Second World War, Japanese anarchists largely went underground, and many were killed in air raids together with hundreds of thousands of other members of the working class. Following the war, attempts were made from time-to-time to revive, or recreate, an anarchist movement in Japan, but as Crump indicates, anarchism in that country (as elsewhere, but not mentioned by the author) has merely existed on a much reduced scale compared with earlier times
Peter E. Newell

Earth (1994)

A Short Story from the July 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard
  The following is a clumsy attempt by an incompetent historian on another planet in the 21st century to explain what Earth was like at the end of the 20th century. It is full of inaccuracies.
Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth, and some of its inhabitants were known as Humans. They lived in prisons which they themselves had built. The prisons varied in size and there were about two hundred of them.

In charge of Earth was a President called Sam. He lived in one of the largest prisons. He was always reorganising his penal empire and changing the shapes, numbers and sizes of prisons.

In each prison were factories and farms in which the prisoners were forced to labour under the control of warders who took most of what was produced and handed it over to higher warders who, in turn, handed most of it to the highest warders. And so it went up to Sam, and he got the lion’s share.

The warders were always pointing guns at the prisoners to make them work harder, so as to produce more and more. The harder they worked, the less they earned, so they were forced to starve. Many died. Sam ordered the warders to infect the prisons with fatal diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, syphilis and AIDS, with the result that epidemics were common. Most people on Earth lived in unhealthy prisons such as these. Sam called them "developing countries".

Sam kept the biggest and most powerful guns for himself and sold the smaller, less powerful ones to the junior warders of the unhealthiest prisons. This was to prevent mutinies. Junior warders never had enough money to buy these guns, so they borrowed money from Sam and made their prisoners repay the loans. This was supervised by Sam’s Monetary-Fund (SMF).

The highest warders used to move around Earth freely, meeting their colleagues from other prisons. But prisoners usually spent their whole lives in one and the same prison. They were allowed to have children but many died as soon as they were born rather than face a life of brutish hardship. Those that survived were expected to live and die as prisoners. Sam constantly instructed that warders should increase the height and strength of prison walls. Despite this, quite a few prisoners always somehow managed to escape. Some went to other prisons in the hope that life would be better there. Others escaped with the connivance of warders and became warders themselves or Sam’s close advisers. This worsened the frustration of those who could not escape.

An important difference between warders and prisoners was that, while warders had duties and rights, prisoners had only duties. Duties of a prisoner were to labour, serve and obey. The duties of a warder were to be loyal to Sam, to use guns against prisoners, to raid and plunder most of what prisoners produced, and hand it over to higher authority. The warder in charge of each prison had the right to fly its flag and to be a member of his professional body known as the United Warders Organisation (UWO). At meetings of the UWO they discussed how to more efficiently discipline the prisoners so as to prevent revolutions. They also discussed the building of more prisons to cope with ever-increasing demand. They believed that more prisons enabled better control of Earth. Sam called this "democratic pluralism".

Walls around prisons were not actually all that strong. A big united push could easily have demolished them. But what prevented most prisoners from escaping was that each prison was occupied by prisoners who mostly spoke the same language or had similar features. This gave prisoners a feeling of togetherness. Sam did everything possible to inculcate into prisoners a belief in their difference and separateness so they would find it hard to unite with other prisoners.

Sam not only owned all the biggest guns but also the biggest loudspeaker. It was so powerful that when he spoke his voice could be heard almost at once by every prisoner on Earth. This huge loudspeaker was called the Voice of Sam and proclaimed the following truths:
1. All warders have the freedom to choose and to independently organise the internal affairs of their own prisons.
2. If anyone has any problems, it's their own fault — they have themselves to blame.
3. Prisoners are having too many children and this causes their high death rate.
4. It is evil for a prison to withhold its produce from higher authority or to alter its boundaries without Sam’s permission.
5. Humans will always be divided into warders and prisoners. There is no other way to organise Earth. Hell awaits anyone out to destroy this system and create a new one.
And He was believed.
Patrick Heinecke

Economics is bunk (1993)

From the July 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Want to know how to pass the GCSE Economics exam? Then this is what you must do. Ignore the facts, blinker your mind and repeat the following parrot-fashion: all resources are scarce and always will be; human wants are unlimited and so can never be satisfied; without a class of entrepreneurs nothing can be produced.

In case you think we might be exaggerating, have a look at any course textbook. Here, for instance, is what I. L. Hobday lays down in the first lesson of his GCSE Economics in the Pan series "The Complete Guide to GCSE Exam Success":
  Unlimited consumer wants are greater than the quantity of factors of production (land, labour, capital and enterprise) available to produce goods and services.
He goes on:
   Consumer wants are unlimited. This means that consumers (i.e. anybody who buys or purchases) want food, shelter, clothes, etc. These wants are unending. For instance a consumer may want food, then more food and better food. Goods and services cannot, however, be produced in unending amounts because the factors of production (or resources) are themselves limited in supply. Therefore goods and services are scarce (which means limited in supply).
Whatever you do, don't let common sense interfere at this point and make you challenge the unsupported claim that "consumer wants are unlimited". Unlimited? This would mean that each and every one of us wants to consume the whole universe, a proposition that would be well-placed to win a prize in any competition for absurd statements.

Fake scarcity
The truth is, of course, that human wants are not "unlimited". "unending" or "insatiable". In practice what we want is relatively limited and quite reasonable. We want decent food, clothes, housing, household goods, travel facilities, health care and entertainment. What most people want is no doubt greater than what we are allowed to consume today as a result of the restrictions imposed by the size of our wage packets or salary cheques, but this is not at all the same as saying that our wants are unlimited.

The same goes for the claim that resources are scarce. This is just as absurd. Of course if wants really were unlimited then resources will always be insufficient to satisfy them—by definition. But this tells us nothing about the real world, about whether or not resources are in practice sufficient to satisfy people's actual—and relatively limited— wants. 

All the studies that have been done regarding people’s food needs have shown that resources are more than enough to meet them. And the same result can be expected to be reached if studies were done about the amount of clothes, housing, etc that people wanted. In any event, it is not good enough to lay down as a dogma—as the GCSE course does—that resources aren't sufficient for this. Facts to back up such a claim ought to be produced, but none of the economics textbooks ever do this.

And don’t challenge either the peculiar definition of "scarcity" as meaning what is "limited in supply”. Most of the resources needed to satisfy our wants, except perhaps the air we breathe and the rays of the sun, are limited in supply in an absolute sense, but that's not the same as saying that they are "scarce”, i.e. in short supply.

Just the opposite is the case. In relation to people's actual reasonable and limited wants, most resources are not in short supply, but are or could soon be made available in adequate quantities, in fact in more than adequate quantities. But. if you want to pass your GCSE Economics, you mustn’t mention this.

False factor
Pan Books' “Complete Guide to GCSE Exam Success" also tells you want to write about the "factors of production". Basically—we’re talking about the real situation now. not what you have to repeat to pass—for production to take place two “factors” are necessary: materials that originally came from Nature (“Land”) and the mental and physical energies and skills of human beings (“Labour”). The combination of these two is the source of all existing (and past) wealth. It is legitimate to distinguish a third “factor”—human-made instruments of production, which conventional Economics persists in calling, misleadingly, “Capital”—but only as long as it is recognised that this is derived, and can only be derived, from a combination of the first two.

But to pass your GCSE Economics you have to agree to the invention of a fourth “factor” called "Entreprise”. This, you must assert, is the key factor without which the others are useless. You must copy Hobday and write:
   Without the entrepreneur the other resources have no economic importance—they need to be brought together and organized for production.
If you refuse to sing this hymn of praise to the captains of industry and business men and women, then you can say goodbye to passing your GCSE exam. The last thing you must do is to ask whether, perhaps. Labour (which Hobday admits to be “the mental and physical human effort involved in the production process”) could not organise production on its own, without the entrepreneur.

Because if you did, you might come up with the common sense answer that, even today under the profit system, the actual work of production, from start to finish and from top to bottom, is carried out by workers applying their mental and physical energies to materials that originally came from Nature (either directly or as instruments of production fashioned from Nature by earlier generations of workers). All an entrepreneur does is look out for opportunities to make a profit and line their own pockets out of the wealth produced by Labour.
So, if you rteed to pass the GCSE Economics exam to have a chance of getting a better job. our advice is: write down the crap the examiners want to read—but don't believe a word of it.
Adam Buick

Tolpuddle Martyrs Rally (1992)

From the July 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Sunday 19 July thousands of trade unionists will attend the Tolpuddle Martyrs rally. This annual event is held to remember six Dorset farm labourers who in 1834 were sentenced to 7 years transportation to Australia for the crime of attempting to form a trade union.

The early 1830s were years of considerable trade union activity. In 1834 the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union was formed. The aim of this organisation was to coordinate movements for advances in wages and assistance for strikes especially those against a reduction in wages. This same year saw also much unrest amongst agricultural labourers including forms of direct action such as machine-breaking and rick-burning.

As usual the ruling elite acted with naked class interest. Their concern was not with the causes of the unrest but to find and make an example of the main activists in the hope that this would destroy any idea of union organisation amongst farm labourers. Thus six farm labourers from the Dorset village of Tolpuddle were arrested and charged with the administering of unlawful oaths for seditious purposes which was unlawful under an Act of 1797. That this was a false charge and that the real crime they had committed was trying to form a trade union is shown by the fact there there was no evidence that the accused had any seditious intent.

The reaction of trade unionists against the convictions was swift and has lessons for today. A large procession of trade unionists took place in London and a petition was handed to Lord Melbourne at the Home Office. This was followed by more agitation for the sentences to be quashed and in 1836 the Dorset farm labourers were given a free pardon.

Very rarely has the trade union movement been under greater pressure than it is today. The banning of trade union organisation at GCHQ in 1984 and the anti-union legislation of the 1980s and 90s is proof of this. To really pay tribute to the Tolpuddle Martyrs and others like them we need to rediscover the spirit of early trade unionism with the emphasis on self-organisation rather than waiting for leaders to act on our behalf.
Ray Carr

The Socialist Party will have a literature stand at the rally from 10am to 4pm, at Tolpuddle on the A35 between Bere Regis and Dorchester. If you want to help get the socialist message across to trade union activists just turn up.

The Market-Worshippers (1991)

From the July 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

In early, primitive societies, people believed that their lives were ruled by spirits or gods.

Given the extent of their knowledge, they reasoned that things that were vital to life, such as the sun and rain, were in the giving of their gods, and they assumed that if you kept on good terms with these gods, things would go well; and if they did not, you had failed in some way—incurred some god's displeasure.

Today, from the heights of accumulated learning we look down upon these poor savages and say, well, they did not know any better.

But in some ways they were wiser than us, because they reasoned logically (false premise accepted) and acted according to the conclusion of that logic.

Believe it or not—we don't.

We let our lives be ruled by a god of whose existence we are unaware, and whose displeasure is unwittingly taken to be the necessary price of progress.

Let us not talk of primitive people.

We let this god rule our lives, accept all the evils it can throw at us—and do nothing.

There is a touch of irony in the way we really believe we control our destiny, because, for example, we have made the computer. Yet at the same time it is not uncommon to come across people who think computers are taking over that control.

Let us not talk of primitive people.

They would look further; they would look for the god in the computer.

As socialists, we know what this is. We know that computers, or any other machine or tool, have no volition of their own. Pushed to the point, neither does anyone else; it is just part of twentieth century mythology. But so befuddled have people become by the overwhelming dominion of finance, the market, capital, however you see it, that they cannot comprehend their own power, except in terms of the very thing that is their own master. There is hardly any aspect of life which is not free from the touch of Midas; so that the more universal the system becomes, the more difficult it is to comprehend, the more it becomes inseparable from, and part of everything. This is why, to most people, capitalism does not exist.

To primitive people, the sun and the sun god were two things. To the sophisticated of today, the machine and the machine god are one. If we are to substantiate our claim to be intelligent, sophisticated and scientific, then we have to break the circle; to start to use our capacity for rational analytical thought to some purpose. No-one suggests this is easy—it involves starting to think differently. Yet, not so differently. One of the great powers of the human mind is the power of abstraction. This is how primitive people created their gods; from the sun, the sun god; from the rain, the rain god.

From the productive process, let us abstract the act of production, and its god—its financial incubus. For this is the problem.

Consider: what would it be like if the only issue in making something was its making? There is the workshop, the machines, the tools, the materials, the transport; and somewhere the people who are waiting for your product.

What else do you need?

What else have we got?

We have our greatest problem— capitalism and the property system.

The fact is that our work is dominated by the demands of the financial noose around its proverbial neck.The fact is that all work and all production is hobbled by the financial network of the market—the god we created as a distorted reflection of our own productive powers and without whom we believe production cannot take place. How and why this is so is a matter of the past. Why and how we do away with it is a question for the future, which we need to address today.
Ian Jones

Mad cows and Englishmen (1990)

From the July 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Angry noises from the House of Commons: how dare the French and German authorities ban "our" beef? Apparently the British cows have gone mad, largely as a result of being fed on the cheap from the rotten corpses of diseased animals.

Selwyn Gummer, the Agriculture Minister, has been force-feeding his children with beef burgers to demonstrate that British cows are to be trusted implicitly. If his children start to go soft in the head in ten years time nobody will know whether it was the mad cows or Gummer's influence which is to blame. Red-faced British farm-owners appear before TV cameras calling upon the government to tell the workers that British beef is safe to eat. The government obliges, and the mad-cow Prime Minister offers her most soothing of tones as she assures us that roast beef and yorkshire pudding will do us no harm—as long as the eggs used to make the pudding are not infected with salmonella of course.

What is it all about? Cheapness. It is about producing food for workers who cannot afford to pay high prices. So, how can profits be kept high while prices are brought to an affordable level? Simple answer: produce dodgy meat. You do not need to be a Marxist to see that this is what is going on. Jan Walsh, who was Consumer Journalist of the Year in 1986. states in her book, The Meat Machine—The Inside Story of the Meat Business, that:
   More than any other food, meat has been debased. Its finest points—flavour, texture and nutritional value—have been swept aside by an industry ever greedy for an extra penny profit. Price has been its downfall. We spend more on meat each week than on anything else in our shopping baskets. No other staple food costs so much a pound and yet is such a necessity for the vast majority of the population. Manufacturers, too, have to pay a lot for the meat they transform into such high-value products. So every scrap they can save, every corner they can cut, means money in the bank.
One corner which can be cut concerns the feeding of animals. By forcing cattle to eat sheep's offal farmers reduce the cost to them of producing marketable cows. If such feeding makes cows ill it is in the economic interest of the farm-owners to cover this up. Their purpose is not determined by the callousness of agricultural capitalists—many of them are decent folk who do not want to make people ill. But under capitalism profits must always come before care, health and human needs.

An old story
Mad cow disease is just the latest symptom of capitalism's drive to produce food on the cheap. Food adulteration is as old as the profit system. Writing of working-class life in the middle of the last century, Engels described how:
  The potatoes which the workers buy are usually poor, the vegetables wilted, the cheese old and of poor quality, the bacon rancid, the meat lean, tough, taken from old, often diseased, cattle . . . The sellers are usually small hucksters who buy up inferior goods, and sell them cheaply by reason of their badness.
After nearly a century-and-a-half of capitalist reform and "progress", what is new? The wage slaves are still being sold second-rate food because they cannot afford the best. The only difference is that back in the last century the workers living on poverty rations were visibly poor; these days the consumers of cheap and rotten meat are often salaried workers who imagine that they can escape malnutrition because they have a few pounds in the bank.

It is unknown how many workers suffer needlessly and die prematurely because of being malnourished. We know that there are many millions world-wide who die each year due to the lack of proper nutrition and clean water to drink, including 15 million children under five But aside from these obscene images of pot-bellied victims of a system which lets humans starve while food is destroyed in order to keep prices and profits up, there are millions more who are ill not because of lack of food, but because the food which they can afford to live on is bad for them. It is easy enough for government Ministers to tell workers to eat healthier diets—grilled steaks and plenty of green vegetables are recommended—but when you are a parent living on income support the freedom to choose an alternative to a Big Mac—which is adulterated by twenty-seven different chemicals in each hamburger—is pretty limited.

Mad Economic System
It is quite obvious that capitalism can never feed everyone, or allow those who can only afford to buy cheap food to eat well. In terms of both adequate nutrition and quality taste, the diet of workers will always be inferior to that of capitalists who can afford to eat what they like. Capitalism is polluting the very soil in which food is grown, and profit can never be compatible with human wellbeing.

The real problem facing us is not just mad cow disease, but the Mad Economic Social System, otherwise known as MESS. To get rid of the capitalist mess we need to abolish production for profit and establish a global community of production solely for need. In such a new system of society cattle would not be reared on the cheap and killed for sale and profit. If people still chose to eat meat in a world socialist society they would free access to it. The production of meat would not be on the cheap, but would involve care for the health of the animal while it was living and concern for the best quality food for those who consume it.

There would be no need to pump hormones into pigs and cows to increase their market price by increasing their weight, and there would be no need for animals to be fed in ways that would make them diseased. In a socialist society the first priority will be that needs are satisfied, healthily and pleasurably. It is quite possible, once production is no longer under the control of a minority class, people will decide to evolve diets which will not involving the killing of animals at all.

Our society currently faces a major food problem. Millions starve and many millions more are malnourished. Each month brings news of a new foodstuff which is harming us so that some capitalist can make a profit. Only by taking into the common possession of humankind the means of producing food—and all other wealth—can we tackle the urgent task of feeding the starving, providing decent food for the ill-fed. and living in harmony with the other animals which inhabit the Earth.
Steve Coleman

Manifesto of the Equals (1989)

Sylvain Maréchal 1750-1803.
From the July 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
This document should be read alongside the following article that also appeared in the July 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard. 
This manifesto, drawn up by Sylvain Maréchal, for an attempt to organise an insurrection in Paris in 1796 known as the "Conspiracy of the Equals", was never formally adopted by the conspirators. It is nevertheless a fine appeal for the establishment of the same sort of classless communist society as Winstanley and the Diggers had advocated in the course of the English revolution some 150 years previously.
For fifteen hundred years you have lived in slavery and in misery. And for the last six years you have existed in the hourly expectation of independence, happiness, and equality.

Equality is the first principle of nature, the most elementary need of man, the prime bond of any decent association among human beings. But in this you, the French people, have fared no better than the rest of mankind. Humanity, the world over, has always been in the grip of more or less clever cannibals—creatures who have battened on men in order to advance their own selfish ambitions and to nourish their own selfish lust for power. Throughout man’s history he has been gulled with fine words, he has received only the shadow of a promise, not its substance. Hypocrites, from time immemorial, have told us that men are equal; and yet monstrous and degrading inequality has, from time immemorial, ground humanity into the dust. Since the dawn of human history man has understood that equality is the finest ornament of the human condition, yet not once has he been successful in his struggles to bring his vision to life. Equality has remained a legal fiction, beautiful but baseless. And today, when we demand it with a new insistence, our rulers reply: “Silence! Real equality is an idle dream. Be content with equality before the law. Ignorant and lowborn herd, what else do you need?"

Men of high degree—lawmakers, rulers, the rich—now it is your turn to listen to us.

Men are equal. This is a self-evident truth. As soon say that it is night when the sun shines, as deny this.

Henceforth we shall live and die as we have been born—equal. Equality or death: that is what we want. And that is what we shall have, no matter what the price to be paid. Woe to you who stand in our way or try to thwart the realization of our dearest wish!

The French Revolution is only the forerunner of another, even greater, that shall finally put an end to the era of revolutions. The people have swept away the kings and priests who have been leagued against them. Next they will sweep away the modern upstarts, the tyrants and tricksters who have usurped the ancient seats of power.

What else do we need other than equality before the law?

We need not only this equality as it is written down in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; we need it in life, in our very midst, in our homes. For the true and living equality we will give up everything. Let the arts perish, if need be! But let us have real equality.

Men of high degree—lawmakers, rulers, the rich—strangers as you are to the love of man, to good faith, to compassion: it is no good to say that we are only "bringing up again the old cry of loi agraire.” It is our turn to speak. Listen to our just demands and to the law of nature which sanctions them.

The loi agraire—the division of the land—has been the instinctive demand of a handful of soldiers of fortune, of peoples here and there governed by passion, not by reason. We intend something far better and far more just: the COMMON GOOD, or the COMMUNITY OF GOODS. There must be an end to individual ownership of the land, for the land is nobody’s personal property. Our demand is for the communal ownership of the earth’s resources. These resources are the property of mankind.

We say that an end must be put to the situation in which the overwhelming majority of mankind, living under the thumb of a tiny minority, sweats and toils for the sole benefit of a few. In France fewer than a million persons own and dispose of wealth that rightfully belongs to twenty millions of their fellow men, to their fellow citizens.

There must be an end to this outrage! Will people in times to come even be able to conceive that such a situation ever existed? There must be an end to this unnatural division of society into rich and poor, into strong and weak, into masters and servants, into rulers and ruled.

Age and sex are the sole natural distinctions existing between men. All men have the same needs, all are endowed with the same faculties, all are warmed by the same sun, and all breathe the same air. Why then should not all receive an equal share of food and clothing—equal both in that quantity and quality to which all shall be entitled?

But a howl arises from the sworn enemies of a truly natural order of things. ‘Anarchists! Demagogues!" they shriek. “You are nothing more than instigators of mob violence. That’s what you are."

We shall not waste time dignifying such charges with an answer. But to you we say: the high enterprise which we are engaged upon has a single purpose— to put an end to civil strife and to the sufferings of the masses.

No vaster plan than ours has ever been conceived or put into execution. Once in a long while men of vision have discussed it, cautiously and in whispers; none of them has had the boldness to speak out and to tell the whole truth.

The hour for decisive action has now struck. The people’s suffering has reached its peak; it darkens the face of the earth. For centuries chaos has reigned under the name of "order." Now the time has come to mend matters. We, who love justice and who seek happiness—let us enter the struggle for the sake of equality. The time has come to establish THE REPUBLIC OF EQUALITY, to prepare an asylum for mankind. The time has come to set the earth to rights. You, who are oppressed, join us: come and partake of the feast which nature has provided for all her sons and daughters.

A glorious and historic destiny has been reserved.for you.

Hidebound tradition and blind prejudice will set barriers, as they always have, in the way of the establishment of the Republic of Equality. True equality—that alone provides for all human needs without sacrificing some men to the selfish interests of others—will not be welcome to everyone. Selfish and ambitious people will curse us. Men who have grown rich by thieving from their fellows will be the first to cry "thief." Proud men, living in privilege or in idleness, who have grown callous to the sufferings of others, will do battle with us. Men who wield arbitrary power, or who are its creatures, will not unprotesting bow their stiff necks beneath the yoke. The shape of things to come, the common good, their blind eyes cannot see. But how can a handful of such people prevail against a whole nation that has at last found the rapturous happiness it sought so long?

The day after the revolution for true equality has taken place people will be amazed. They will say “The common good was so easy to attain! We only had to will it! Why on earth didn’t we realize that sooner—why did we have to be told so often? It’s absolutely true: when one man is richer and more powerful than the rest of us, everything is spoiled; crime and misery flourish”.

What is the hallmark of excellence in a constitution? Only true equality can serve as a foundation on which to base your Republic and satisfy all your needs. The aristocratic charters of 1791 and 1795 did not break your chains: they riveted them upon you more firmly. The Constitution of 1793 was a giant step toward true equality, the greatest that we have yet taken. It was dedicated to the goal of the common good, but did not, even so, fully provide the basis for organizing it.

Open your eyes and hearts to full happiness: recognize the REPUBLIC OF EQUALITY. Join with us in working for it.

Women inside (1988)

Book Review from the July 1988 issue of the Socialist Standard

Flowers in Hell, Barney Bardsley, Pandora £5.95.

This book is about women and crime. Bardsley interviewed a number of women prisoners and ex-prisoners in order to find out why women get involved in crime. She gives the answer more or less straight away: for the overwhelming majority, in the words of one ex-prisoner, it is "because they cannot find an alternative way of making enough money". Some women may break the law out of anger and frustration, or for kicks, but for most it is a desperate attempt to make ends meet.

One of Bardsley's aims is to expose and get behind the image of the stereotypical male criminal. Women in prison, she claims, have not just committed a crime but have "rebelled against their femininity", contravening the picture of women as passive and vulnerable. This is supposedly why women are far more likely to go to prison for a first offence than men are, and why far more female than male prisoners are treated with mind-altering and hypnotic drugs.

The appalling conditions in prisons are stressed. and a recent case is cited of a woman who died in prison after being refused access to a doctor. She was charged with stealing goods worth 66p.

Bardsley fails to show that there is anything special about women's involvement in crime and prison which doesn’t also apply to men. But the book has some value in showing how the legal system is used to control and intimidate the powerless and poverty-stricken.
Paul Bennett

Running Commentary: Who’s a Beastie Boy, then? (1987)

The Running Commentary column from the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who’s a Beastie Boy, then?

Their name was a warning of what to expect but there was still much outraged surprise when the American pop group the Beastie Boys flew into Britain some weeks ago on a jet stream of invective. The fame which preceded them was based on incidents such as their warmly greeting some disabled members of their audience as "fucking cripples". They went on to perform at "concerts" which featured a predictable uproar.

At an event in Brixton there was something akin to a minor riot. In Liverpool some of the audience tore up seating for missiles to add to the cans of beer which were flying backwards and forwards. When the group left the stage tear gas was fired into the crowd. Presumably some music (actually the Beastie Boys specialise in "rapping", or talking to a rhythm) was played at some point in these proceedings.

As a result the leader of the group. Adam Horowitz, was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to a girl in the audience who was said to have been on the receiving end of a can of beer which he threw.

Their leader's court appearance was an ideal opportunity for the group to grab the headlines again in a show of what incorrigible. fearless rebels they are. They might, for example, have described the magistrates as "fucking geriatrics" or something similar. But it was not to be; the case was notable for a distinct absence of reckless defiance. Horowitz's solicitor told the court that he is not an outrageous anarchist but a good boy who is close to his father (who is an eminent film producer); their lives are "intertwined". The group's reputation for madness and mayhem is no more than an image.

It is not uncommon for some entertainers — musicians, comedians, boxers, tennis players among them — to grow fat on the proceeds of a reputation for abusive and disruptive behaviour. Sometimes this is deliberately created by a cynical publicity machine. While in some cases a genuine ability may lurk behind this nonsense, it is not unknown for a talentless void to be covered by such outrageous, publicity-obsessed gimmickry. A lot of people were anxious to pay to watch John McEnroe (who had real talent) play tennis in the hope of seeing Super Brat get his comeuppance. A lot of people buy newspapers to thrill with anger at the latest excesses of groups like the Beastie Boys, whose talents are not yet as apparent as McEnroe's.

It all expresses the appalling decadence of capitalism, where cash is king and whatever makes money, however execrable it may be, has to be good.

Fast food philosophy

The Wimpy burger chain are clinching a deal with Bulgaria to set up trash-food joints in that Russian-bloc country. Wimpy's marketing director, Trevor Barnes, said on BBC Radio Four (Friday 20 March) that he wanted to "put across a philosophy" in the famous buns.

A fascinating example of metaphysics here — the trans-substantiation of hamburgers into philosophy. Better watch it, the next time you tuck into a Wimpy (if you can bear to, that is): strange things may begin to happen inside your stomach and brain.

They already have, obviously, inside Trevor Barnes's. . . .


The fortyish middle-management people with 1.8 children, a Volvo and a building society to support, yearn for those balmy student days of '68 when they took part every week in the demonstrations intended to revolutionise society. Now, when they read the Sunday heavies, the colour supplements are full of nostalgia — forties furniture, fifties fashion, sixties music. Victorian values, all carefully packaged, sanitised, made desirable. There's money in nostalgia.

Stand in a Post Office queue when the pittance called a pension is being collected by someone whose life has unwittingly been devoted to the continuation of capitalism. Ask them about the good old days. Listen as they recount stories of hardship and poverty. Finally they tell you. with pride, “Everyone was happier then". Through NHS rose-tinted spectacles, they remember balls of whitewash, the sixty-hour week (if you were lucky enough to have a job), fighting for their (?) country and being skint three days after pay-day.

SuperMac said, we'd never had it so good. Did he mean us? As a member of the producing but non-possessing working class, you've never had it at all. Every politician both before and since has endeavoured to con the working class that the capitalist system of society is the only one capable of fulfilling the workers' aspirations. But if these are the good times we'll all back on tomorrow, the future appears quite bleak. Colour television sets, 200 shares in British Telecom and Ford Fiestas are a poor panacea for the ills of the working class.

Poverty, homelessness, wage slavery, making do with second best, are these the things that we want to be nostalgic about? Forget about the past, look to the future. Look to Socialism.

Business as usual

Obviously assuming that no one would object to such an assault on their visual senses, a company called Henderson Administration took advantage of the election furore to publish an advert showing photographs of every prime minister since Ramsay MacDonald in 1934.

It was an uncomforting sight. Baldwin in his bowler hat and wing collar; Chamberlain looking stubborn; Attlee smiling diffidently; Eden earnestly handsome; Callaghan grumpy; Thatcher strong and noble. . . .

"Since our formation in 1934" said the advert. "We've seen 21 general elections and 12 Prime Ministers". Through all that time — bull and beer markets, war and peace. Henderson has succeeded and has grown. Now it describes itself as one of the largest "independent" (whatever that may mean) investment management firms in Great Britain, organising over £7 billion worth of investments.

Now this is very illuminating. A general election is — every one of those 21 was — an opportunity for the capitalist political parties to make extravagant claims about the blissful progress which would follow their return to power and then to warn us about the awful consequences of victory for their opponents. To elect the other side, they have asserted, is to risk a rapid descent into ruin and decay.

Since Ramsay MacDonald's nominally National administration the people of this country have experienced Conservative, Coalition and Labour government. They have tried them all. While all this has been happening, through all the changes, amid the parties' promises and threats, the normal, essential business of capitalism has carried on. Money has been invested; workers have been exploited; fortunes have been amassed; a small class of social parasites has kept its privileged, secure, opulent position.

The small segment of British history contained in that advert told us that anyone who voted on the assumption that they were making a choice about society was wrong. They were wasting their time and their vote. Whatever the parties called it — the Tories with their people's capitalism, the Labour party with their "socialism" — the social system remained the same. Whoever was prime minister capitalism continued with all its problems of repression, war, poverty, famine, disease.. . .

Come the next election the same advert could well reappear, with another photograph as the only difference. The smug message, on behalf of the ruling class to the working class voters, will be the same. We're doing very nicely, thanks for keeping it that way.

Telling it like it is — as Thatcher said to Gorbachev (1987)

Quote from the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard
At one stage they argued about the merits of capitalism versus communism and she told him: We are all capitalists. The only difference is that for you it's the state that invests, while for us it’s private individuals Gorbachev was apparently flummoxed.
[From the article “Mission to Moscow". Sunday Times 5 April 1987.]

Banana Republic (1986)

Book Review from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Richard Lapper. Honduras: State for Sale. Latin American Bureau (London. 1985)

Honduras is the archetypal "Banana Republic" according to the author of this study. Its history can be seen as a series of colonial, political and economic domination from elsewhere and internally the country has been prey to various corrupt administrations. It was a Spanish colony until 1821 when it became politically independent but economically dependent on British financial investment. That British influence waned throughout the nineteenth century as America became increasingly dominant. The Honduran authorities believed that foreign investment would increasingly reap benefits to the whole country but it was Standard Fruit, the Cuyamel Fruit Company and United Fruit who became the dominant forces. By 1918 75 per cent of banana lands were owned by these three companies. Their attitude is epitomised by a letter from H.V. Rolston of United Fruit to his lawyer in 1920 where he laid out his plan for Honduras. This included the need to: 
   take possession of as much state-owned and private land as possible, and acquire as much wealth as we have the capacity and power to absorb . . . secure every possibility of exploiting new areas of operations . . . draw up such irreversible contracts that nobody can compete with us, not even in the distant future . . .
  secure concessions, privileges and exemptions from tariffs and custom duties . . . free ourselves from all public taxes and all those obligations and responsibilities which reduce our earnings
   make it our concern that the privileged class, whom we will need for our exclusive benefit, bend itself to our will. (Quoted p.23)
In this environment the only notion of a state was represented by the companies and their plantations. The success of their operations ensured that internal politics could not be distinguished from the activities of the fruit companies. It was United Fruit who finally emerged as the dominant force after 1929 and this brought an end to the company-backed civil wars that affected Honduras during the 1920s. The banana companies reaped profit of some US $412.5m between 1925 and 1950 and it is estimated that through tax exemptions alone the government lost 50 per cent of its potential revenue.

With increased industrialisation came a rise in working-class trade union activity. But like so much of Honduran life, this activity was influenced by American involvement. In particular ORIT (the Inter-American Regional Organisation of Labour) and AIFLD (the American Institute for Free Labour Development) began to train union leaders into an "anti-communist" pro-American view of the world. At the same time USAID pumped large amounts of money into a number of unions including STRATERCO. the United Fruit Workers' Union. AIFLD is funded by Washington and American corporations (including United Fruit) while ORIT works closely with the State Department.

Politically the military has been the dominant force within Honduras since the mid-1950s. As the author points out, the Honduran elite have been weak because their "political and economic power had been historically eclipsed by the US multinationals" (p.42). The army too has been in close relationship with America since a treaty of 1954. America takes raw materials and semi-processed goods from Honduras in return for military schools, scholarships and military equipment. In 1957 the army had written into the constitution a clause allowing them to disregard presidential orders which it considered unconstitutional and in 1963 the army seized political control. The country has been largely ruled by corrupt military leaders since that time.

By 1980 68 per cent of rural households had insufficient income to cover basic consumption while 10 per cent of the population received 50 per cent of the national income. Five per cent of the population owned more than 50 per cent of the land and seven multinationals controlled 80 per cent of the economy. As part of America's backyard Honduras has increasingly become what the author describes as a "Pentagon Republic" and it is this military dependence that dominates Honduran life throughout the 1980s. Honduras was seen as an ally in combating change in Central America particularly after the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979. Under American pressure elections took place in April 1980 although that has not relaxed the military control of political life in the country. The Honduras/Nicaragua frontier has been described by Ronald Reagan as the "fourth border of the United States" (quoted p.74). Aid has been primarily economic from USAID but also aid for International Military Education and Training. For the Reagan administration Central America represents the battleground between East and West. Honduras is seen as a buffer against the FMLN in El Salvador but it is also a "springboard for the destabilisation of Nicaragua through a US-financed counter-revolutionary force and a base for US military operations in the region" (p.82). Since 1983 US troops in Honduras have numbered 700-800 but have at times increased to several thousand including, in May 1984, a series of naval and land exercises involving some 33.000 troops. This was followed by Big Pine III from February to May 1985. The function of the operation was not only to intimidate the Sandinistas but to prepare for possible invasion. The effect of these operations has been the upgrading of three airports, the construction of ten military bases, the establishment of two radar stations, a military hospital, new roads, communications centres and port facilities. The Honduran government maintained minimal control of American personnel. By mid-1985 it is estimated that at least 11.000 American military personnel were permanently stationed in the country. The study records that:
  Honduras' strategic value remained the priority for the Reagan administration, and not its desperate poverty, (p. 118).
This is capitalism at its most cynical. In 1985 health and education represented seven per cent of the national budget whilst military spending accounted for 30 per cent of total expenditure. In 1984 the Ministry of Health reported the closure of 210 out of 362 of its rural health centres because of lack of medicines, equipment and personnel. Priority is not the fulfilment of human needs but the military and political aspirations of the dominant American economic unit. Honduras is accustomed to this manipulation in terms of its economy, politics and trade union organistions. It epitomises the subjugation of individual nations by dominant economic interests. The people of Honduras have been exploited to satisfy the economic fulfilment of a minority and Honduras as a nation has been exploited for the political and military aspirations of a dominant economy concerned solely for its own self-perpetuation, whatever the level of poverty of the indigenous population. This is a typical manifestation of capitalism. Honduras is the unacceptable interface between East and West. Its domination by America economically, politically, militarily and socially has done little to relieve Honduran poverty. In the propaganda war between the conflicting capitalist interests striving for domination in Central America Honduras is a casualty obscured by the high tech sophistication of the American military machine
Philip Bentley