Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fairy tales (1991)

Book Review from the August 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Does God Exist? and What is the Bible?. By Carl Lofmark (Rationalist Press Association)

Commendably clear and straightforward, these two small books are a thorough demolition job on the whole idea of god and the bible as a store of wisdom. For some, this kind of criticism is beyond the pale. But Lofmark brings out the absurdities and dangers of religious belief. For socialists these books provide valuable ammunition in the struggle against the ideology of religion which is still the “opium of the people".

Like many other humanists. Lofmark accepts the dogma that overpopulation “causes poverty and war and now threatens our world with ecological disaster". This is somewhat ironic as it was an Anglican clergyman, the Reverend Thomas Malthus, who became famous for proposing the idea that population growth tended to exceed the increase in food supply. The result, he claimed, was a periodic check in population growth by famine, disease and war. This remains a popular apology for capitalism. Yet how is it that in every country a privileged minority manage to escape the curse of poverty?

There exists the means for producing enough to satisfy the needs of the world’s population. Is it then more rational to lay the blame at the feet of the poor masses who cannot afford enough food, or with the system of production? Similarly with the environment and war. Is it more reasonable to say that the cause of these problems is to be found in population size or in a competitive world economic system bent on reducing costs and maximising profits?
Lew Higgins

Racism debunked (1991)

Book Review from the August 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Mismeasure of Man. By Stephen Jay Gould. Pelican.

If intellectual dishonesty was a crime most of the 19th century racist scientists would he put on trial today. What they did was to concentrate on oppressed and disadvantaged groups—races, classes, and women—and come up with evidence claiming to show that they were biologically inferior and so deserving of their inferior status. In this they confirmed existing prejudices and allowed those who held them to believe that these had a scientific basis. It was the worst intellectual crime of the century.

This sordid history has been documented by Stephen Jay Gould in this excellent book where he shows that all the leading 19th century biologists followed the conventional view that blacks were inferior to whites. The lead was given in the 18th century by Linnaeus himself, the man who laid the basis for the classification of all living things which is still used today, and by the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Linnaeus distinguished between a homo sapiens afer (the African black) "ruled by caprice"and a homo sapiens europaeus "ruled by customs". Hume wrote: "I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all other species of men . . . to be naturally inferior to whites".

Cuvier, one of the pioneers of both geology and palaeontology as well as of comparative anatomy, considered Africans to be “the most degraded of human races, whose form approaches that of the beast and whose intelligence is nowhere great enough to arrive at regular government”. Even Darwin took it for granted that Negroes and Australians (aborigines) were biologically inferior to “Caucasians (whites).

Both sides in the pre-Darwin debate amongst Creationists about the origin of different human races— monogenism (which held that all humans were descended from a single Adam) and polygenism (which held that the different human races were descended from different Adams)—argued, on different grounds, that blacks were inferior to whites. The monogenists said that races were the product of a degeneration from the perfect humans of the Garden of Eden, the blacks having degenerated more than the whites. The polygenists such as the leading American naturalist of his day Louis Agassiz said that blacks were a separate, inferior biological species to whites who were not entitled to share in the “Equality of Man".

Scientific evidence to back up these prejudices was provided by craniometry which was the leading numerical biological science of the 19th century. Those who practised it believed that, by measuring skulls, they could establish intelligence. Their findings invariably claimed to show that blacks (and women) were inferior.

Gould shows that this continued into the 20th century when craniometry was replaced by psychological testing as a way of supposedly measuring intelligence. Both were based on the fallacy that intelligence was some measurable thing located in the brain which allowed people to be graded into a single series. Like craniometry, IQ testing came to the conclusion that the poor, blacks and women were inferior because of their biologically-determined mental inferiority.

Gould re-examined the data of some of these scientists and found their evidence to be invalid. Sometimes it was simply faked, but in most cases it had been unconsciously biased by acceptance of the prejudices of the time. His conclusion is a devastating rejection of the claims of all forms of biological determinism:
   The classical arguments of biological determinism fail because the features they invoke to make distinctions among groups are usually the products of cultural evolution. Detcrminists did seek evidence in anatomical traits built by biological, not cultural, evolution. But, in so doing, they tried to use anatomy for making inferences about capacities and behaviors that they linked to anatomy and we regard as engendered by culture . . . We now believe that different attitudes and styles of thought among human groups are usually the non-genetic products of cultural evolution. In short, the biological basis of human uniqueness leads us to reject biological determinism. Our large brain is the biological foundation of intelligence: intelligence is the ground of culture: and cultural transmission builds a new mode of evolution more effective than Darwinian processes in its limited realm—the “inheritance" and modification of learned behaviour.
 Racism, as a variety of biological determinism, has no basis in biology or any other physical science. It also denies. as we point out in our pamphlet on Racism, the real division of capitalist society— class division—and the urgent need for workers everywhere to cooperate to end capitalism. Racism is an issue which the working class must deal with as an obstacle to their progress to a sane, free, humane social system.
Michael Ghebre

Saving time—for what? (1992)

Illustration by Peter Rigg.
From the August 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Saving time" is an expression we hear all around us in our daily lives; in our jobs, driving to work rather than waiting for public transport, writing out shopping lists during the coffee break, running to the shops, popping in here and there on the way, not forgetting driving the children to school and, if you’re lucky, carrying your mobile telephone. All this saves time—but for what?

Travelling recently on a coach journey that used to take at least eight hours and made three stops for refreshments, we had waitress service instead. Once the coach has left London the waitress sets to work, collecting orders for refreshments and snacks from 46 passengers all in one sweep to save time. Can you imagine all the activity going on in the mini-kitchen about three feet square? When your drink arrives you have to perform a balancing act to drink it, for by now the coach is tearing along the motorway doing at least seventy mph. So, once the drinks are down, a look around for—you’ve guessed it—the toilets! Now, most passengers need to make at least one visit during such a journey; with all the drinks flowing freely it would take a super-man-woman to miss this one out. So to the "loo" aboard this "luxury" coach, well that is what it says on the ticket, and this begins a real adventure. Is it free, is it available, will it still be available when I get there? Once at the door a sigh of relief, but on opening the door, one is confronted with a space so small you almost have to reverse to get in. The toilet paper rolls around on the floor beside the hand towels, and the wash hand bowl is about as big as a yoghurt carton. And all this luxury for the convenience of 46 passengers and crew! The all-important time-saving here is the stopping periods previously made to "water" the passengers

Speeding past
What is also interesting while travelling on this "luxury” coach and gazing out of the windows is the hustle and bustle going on outside. Lorries and cars speed past, carrying in many instances the same goods from and to all parts of the country. And company sales representatives duplicating each other, in the competitive struggle for sales. What a crazy system; they’re trying to save time, dodging behind each other to save fuel, often transporting goods that need not be moved in the first place . . . meanwhile on the coach a change of drivers takes place without the coach stopping.

Who benefits from all this saving time? The workers or the employer? If the workers save enough time, they will be found more work to do. More profits will be enjoyed by the employers, whilst many workers will be so tired they will mostly just fall asleep until their next shift. Squeezing a bit more out of the worker’s day and increasing output greatly benefits the profit-seekers, and the pressure by the employer to seek increased productivity is never-ending.

How many of these drivers who regularly ply their way through the blue haze of exhaust, brake and tyre pollution will die from illnesses related to their employment? Lung cancer, respiratory failure and stress are all bound up with the combination of lack of exercise, volume of traffic, bad weather, missed meals, threat of breakdown, etc. Quite a reward for being "King of the Road"!

How much longer are we workers going to put up with this? Can you picture a world without these pressures? Can you imagine a society in which we can enjoy our children, enjoy travelling in comfort and stop worrying about saving time? A society with time to enjoy this beautiful world before it is destroyed by this time-saving lunacy.

Food additives, preservatives and flavour enhancers are all used to promote sales growth, savings on ingredients and to give a longer shelf-life which mean that the products can be transported further, and therefore a larger potential market is available to the manufacturer.

Along with carcinogenic colourants and preservatives and organic foods polluted by acid rain, there is also another problem we all face: the deliberate irradiation of food, itself a side-effect of nuclear development. The adulteration is never-ending, and all because profit is the driving force. Come on fellow-workers, enough is enough. Let us replace this system which gives rise to such anti-social but seemingly "acceptable" behaviour.

We can establish a socialist society which will end all of this drive to adulterate, this drive to pressure us to save time, so that a few make more profit. With the means of living owned and democratically controlled by the whole of the community, it will be a classless society in which exploitation and oppression of man by man, woman by woman, man by woman and woman by man will be abolished.
The coach journey ended . . .  it was an experience to be learnt from . . . and to be thankful it was over, safely.
S. Buchanan

50 Years Ago: The Rise and Fall of Mussolini (1993)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

One myth about Mussolini, still held by many who denounce him, is that he was the creator of modern Italy, the inspired and dynamic leader who moulded events to his will and took power by a brilliant and forcible “march on Rome" in October 1922. Mr. Bernard Shaw is an outstanding believer in the "great man" myth. If it were true that the great man could so mould events to his will, why the undignified and craven exit from power? Mussolini’s path to power was not through any bold and godlike masterstroke, but through the connivance and desire of those who had control of the political machine in Italy in 1922. Is it not related how General Badoglio offered at the time to "scatter this Blackshirt rabble with a whiff of grapeshot", only to be ordered by the King of Italy to let the rabble take office? 

[From article in Socialist Standard, August 1943.]

Sting in the Tail: Time to think (1994)

The Sting in the Tail column from the August 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Time to think

At the last count there were 171,434 registered charities in this country. Most of these charities are engaged in trying to alleviate the plight of the poor.

One of these charities recently sent out a leaflet appealing for funds. It is called Actionaid. Like all of the other charities, it is a futile organisation. It believes World Hunger can can be solved by workers sending a pittance to save a child in "the developing world".

The facts it quotes are heartbreaking. "Tomorrow 40,000 children will die in the developing world." There is a photograph of a beautiful little kid called Sanu and the chilling information that "every two seconds a child like Sanu dies in the developing world."

What a heartless brutal system. All of these children dying of malnutrition and poverty-related diseases could lead useful worthwhile lives if we got rid of capitalism and brought about socialism.

Think about it. It will take you about 80 seconds to read this article. In the same time another 40 children will have died needlessly.

Come and join us

The Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Tranter, complains that market reforms have made the NHS a "system in distress":
   "The patient is reduced to the status of a unit of consumption and exchange. That, in the Christian view, must be wrong" (Independent, 4 July).
Has he not noticed that capitalism reduces just about everything we need to this same status? And does he think it equally wrong that food, clothing and shelter should be subject to the market? After all, they are as essential to our wellbeing as is health care.

To be consistent the Bish should be coming out against the market in its entirety and not just its application to one of the necessities of life.

Loadsamoney (1)

"Art for Art’s sake", was a cry of the aesthete in the last century. It wasn’t true then, but it is even less valid in the crass, commercial world of today.

Commenting on the career of the film actor Jack Nicholson, the Observer (10 July) recalled the words of the head of Columbia Studios in Hollywood on learning of the financial success of the film Easy Rider:
 "I don’t know what the fuck it’s about, but it’s going to make us a fuck of a lot of money."
Films, like novels and other "artistic" creations are mere commodities in the mad market system that is capitalism. Like everything else they are produced for profit, not for their own sake.

Loadsamoney (2)

While workers of Railtrack engage in a bitter struggle for a few pounds a week, it is worth nothing the values put on human efforts by the market place.

Reporting on the financial bonanza of one speculator in the Anglia TV takeover, the Observer (10 July) gave an indication of the loot enjoyed by the owning class:
   "The shares were bought by Lord Archer’s friend shortly before the £292 million takeover bid from MAI last January. The deal netted a profit of £80,000 when the shares were sold a few days after the bid was announced on 18 January. The buyer did not even need to pay for the shares - just collected the profit."
Toiling on their rest days, working overtime and taking home about £200 a week to keep a family, signalworkers may reflect that a system that allows some parasite, with influential friends, to pocket £80,000 with just one phone call makes a mockery of the capitalist apologists’ claim that this system rewards hard work.

The sad warriors

When it suits them the Labour Party like to project the image of being the Party of Peace. At election times they con voters into the belief that they are less militaristic than their Tory counterparts.

The recent threat of closure of the Rosyth Naval Dockyards revealed them in a different light. They spoke patriotically about the Tories threatening the defence of Britain. The threat of less battleships filled them with nationalistic dread.

How vigorously they have pursued this cynical vote-catching stance (there were thousands of jobs - and votes - at stake) can be seen by the letter in the Guardian (19 July) written by Dr David Clark MP, Shadow Defence Secretary.

Replying to the accusation that he had been absent from the House of Commons when defence cuts were announced, he defended himself on the grounds he was attending his daughter’s graduation ceremony and stated:
   "After all my daughter’s graduation ceremony cannot be repeated - but sadly, there will be many more commons statements on defence cuts."
Horror of horrors - there may be more defence cuts by those wicked Tories, hence the sabre-rattling lickspittle’s use of the term "sadly"!

Different class

The TV programme recalling the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914 was an interesting account of the eve of World War One, but even better was Diary of a Debutante, shown the same evening, in which an upper-crust young woman described her social whirl during that same June.

And what a whirl! Ascot, Henley, the Royal Horse Show, lunch with daddy at the Cavalry Club, afternoon teas by the river and grand balls in the evenings.

There were problems, though. She constantly fretted about what to wear, and on one occasion simply couldn’t find a new dress to match her hat, but whatever the problems, money certainly wasn’t one of them.

Such was the life of some people during June 1914. The Socialist Standard that month reported how some other were faring. Old-age pensioners received five shillings (25p) a week and a 72-year-old Pimlico woman cut her throat. Her husband told the coroner that their joint weekly income was twelve shillings (60p).

The Future: Socialism or Barbarism (2018)

From the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back in the glory days of the Blair administration, a soft-left journal like the New Statesman would have confined itself to articles on the Kremlinology of Whitehall: who was a Blairite? Who a Brownie? Perhaps the odd John Pilger article would crop up to deplore some aspects of foreign policy. Discussion of capitalism, much less socialism, would have been a rarity. Fast forward to today, and we have the political editor of that organ, George Eaton, discussing what the consequences of the end of capitalism might be 

Now, the Socialist Party has always been clear that capitalism won't end itself, and that only its conscious replacement by politically organised workers will achieve that. Something, though, is clearly in the air when post-capitalist ideas start to gain air-time. Part of that is the clear sense that technological change is transforming the way we work now.

Eaton notes the slew of books on the matter: Paul Mason's technology-driven book Post-Capitalism has been reviewed in the Socialist Standard, and it does indeed put technology front and centre of social change. Eaton also references a forthcoming book with the intriguing title Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani (which we will no doubt be devouring as soon as it is out). Eaton, though, explores the possibility, despite the shiny stuff on offer, that the future might well be a choice between socialism or barbarism.

He cites Four Futures by Peter Frase, which outlines the possible effects of technological progress: ‘Communism’ (equality and abundance), ‘Rentism’ (hierarchy and abundance), ‘Socialism’ (equality and scarcity), ‘Exterminism’ (hierarchy and scarcity). All premised on the question of response and resolution to environmental catastrophe. We'll leave the small matter of our standing objection to the misuse of the word socialism hanging, and work within Frase's framework for now.

The futurist and science fiction author Charles Stross set out, in a blog post in 2017, how the exterminist option contains its own horrific and plausible logic:
   'Consider Bangladesh, and the Bay of Bengal fisheries collapse, not to mention the giant anoxic dead zone spreading in the Bay of Bengal (which means those fisheries won't be coming back for a very long time). There are nearly 170 million people there, mostly living on alluvial flood plains feeding into the gradually rising ocean. If the sea level rises by just one meter, 10% of the land area will be flooded; most of the country is less than 12m above sea level. It's a primarily agricultural economy (it's one of the main rice and wheat producing nations), heavily dependent on fisheries for protein to supplement the diet of its citizens' 
As he notes, one horrific option is to just contain the population of Bangladesh, and let catastrophe run in a Malthusian genocide that could be passed off as natural disaster. This is a repeatable option for an elite that can jet to their private fortress islands and escape. No need to adjust to climate change, the deaths of others will reduce the environmental impact of humanity.

This can only be made possible by technology creating a relative surplus population of people whose labour is no longer required for market production.

In the light of this, Eaton is entirely correct, technological change alone will not deliver us from capitalism; and he channels Marx in observing that 'Men and women will continue to make their own history – if not in circumstances of their choosing.' The human response to technological change is, though, at the heart of political battles for the foreseeable years to come, and if we are to make our history, it has to be in the conscious effort to choose what might be called 'fully automated luxury socialism.' The choice we will all face is how to use the time won by labour-saving technology. Not that we need a fully automated society to build a society where 'poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom' but we do need to take control of the gains and benefits of labour saving technology.
Pik Smeet

Obituary: Edgar Hardcastle (1995)

Obituary from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Edgar Hardcastle—or Hardy as he was simply known in the Party—died in June at the age of 95.

Hardy gave a great input into the Party, particularly to the Socialist Standard, serving on the editorial committee for over thirty years and contributing articles from the early 1920s onwards. He was also a member of the Executive Committee for decades and a Party lecturer and representative in debates as well as serving on the new pamphlets committee.

The son of a founder member, he went to prison as a socialist conscientious objector in the First World War, formally joining the Party in 1922. After studying at the London School of Economics under Professor Edwin Cannan he worked all his life as a researcher in the trade union movement, first for the Agriculture Workers Union, then for a short while for the international trade union movement in Brussels, then till his retirement for the Post Office workers' union where he was chief adviser to a succession of UPW General Secretaries.

Hardy had the reputation of being a "theoretician' of Marxian economics but in fact he was something different and rarer in the socialist movement: a person who combined a wide knowledge of Marxian economics with a knowledge of the contemporary empirical evidence.

His main interest was monetary economics. From the 1930s on, as his articles testify, he did battle against Keynes on behalf of Marx and also, more curiously it might be thought, on behalf of his old professor, Cannan. Edwin Cannan, a largely forgotten bourgeois economist of the first part of this century (he died in 1935), could be described as the last of the Classical Political Economists and, as such, shared with Marx certain economic views. In particular that inflation was a purely monetary phenomenon caused by an excessive issue of an inconvertible paper currency and that banks were merely financial intermediaries without any power to "create credit". Both of these positions were denied by Keynes whose views became part of the economic orthodoxy. At one time there was talk of reprinting Hardy's 'Marx v Keynes' articles in book form but nothing ever came of it.

Hardy's empirical bent enabled the Party to refute, with the necessary statistical evidence. theories which have sometimes been attributed to Marx such as under-consumptionism, the increasing pauperisation of the working class, the collapse of capitalism (Hardy was the author of the famous 1932 Socialist Party pamphlet Why Capitalism Will Not Collapse) and— more controversially within the Party—the increasing severity of crises.

It was a pitiful business that towards the end of his life, Hardy found himself a member of a branch which was expelled by a poll of all the membership (the only way anyone can be excluded from the SPGB) for deliberately and repeatedly refusing to apply a democratically-arrived-at Conference decision. This was a sad end to a lifetime's contribution to the development of the socialist movement.

A Norwegian sense of humour? (1996)

Book Review from the August 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, Phoenix, £6.99.

This is a highly readable and innovative book. It tells the story of a young girl’s encounter with the study of philosophy. In telling the story more attention is paid to the simple explication of philosophical ideas than to any great literary flourishes. (Indeed, as a novel it is quite pedestrian.) As an introduction to what various philosophers from antiquity to the present had to say the book can not much be faulted for simplicity and the way that it stimulates further thought. The present writer found the early chapters on the Greek philosophers especially enlightening, often clarifying concepts which had always before been a little misty.

Of interest to readers of the Socialist Standard will be the fifteen-page chapter which tries to explain Marx’s basic ideas. Does it succeed as an introduction? Essentially, yes. In the most simple of terms, from which many contemporary Marxist writers could learn a thing or two. Marx’s three key concepts—the class struggle; historical materialism; and exploitation—are outlined. It is pointed out that Marx's ideas were rooted in humans as producers and the theory of alienation, being rooted in the separation between the producer and what is produced, is made clear. It is also emphasised that Marx would not have supported many of the things that have been carried out in his name, although this does not stop the writer from representing Marx as an advocate of “the dictatorship of the proletariat" as a first, transitional stage of socialism.

Quite ludicrously, Gaarder suggests that while Marx's analysis of capitalism is basically valid, it is inapplicable to contemporary Norway were most of the problems of nineteenth-century capitalism have been eradicated. He suggests that this miracle has been performed by social-democratic reformers (inspired by Marx) who sought to change capitalism gradually. Can this be an example of the well-known Norwegian sense of humour infiltrating the text? Or might we conclude that, though a basically good teacher of philosophy, we must say of Gaarder. in the words of Marx, that "the educators must also be educated"?
Steve Coleman

Cooking the Books: Bitcon (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Bitcoin “will never replace money”’ ran the headline of a news item in the Times (18 June) about a report by the Bank for International Settlements:
  ‘Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can never replace conventional money because they lack centralised backing and are riddled with problems, not least that they can simply stop working and have their value totally wiped out . . . In contrast to traditional money, cryptocurrencies become more cumbersome and unstable the more they are used.’
As the BIS is the international of state central banks, which issue conventional money, it is tempting to think ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ They would, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they haven’t got a point.

 Bitcoin was a free marketeer project, a scheme to create a currency that had nothing to do with the state, in accordance with the view that the state was a hindrance to the proper functioning of a genuine market economy. From a technological point of view, its creators succeeded – they did devise a way of making an electronic payment without using state fiat money.

 However, although dubbed a ‘cryptocurrency,’ bitcoin has never really functioned on any large scale as a means of payment. It has served two other purposes – speculation and a means of making transactions without states knowing.

People have bought bitcoins, speculating on its price rising; which is why some have suggested that bitcoin is more a ‘crypto-asset’, something to hold to keep or enhance what you paid for it like paintings or gold. Since bitcoins are intrinsically worthless the price is just a bubble that would burst if there was no other reason for holding them.

 It so happens that there is another such reason. Very few of those who use bitcoins are anti-state idealists. The vast majority are shady capitalists such as drugs barons, arms dealers, tax dodgers, sanctions busters, money launderers and others who don’t want the state to know about their financial dealings. It is their demand that determines the bitcoin price, so enabling it to be a subject of speculation. As one critic has put it, the bitcoin price is an index of money laundering. This is shown by the fact that, following state authorities taking measures to try to stop bitcoins being used for these purposes, the price of one bitcoin slumped from nearly $20,000 just before last Christmas to nearer $5000 today.

 Although a technologically elegant solution to what the free market computer geeks wanted, it is a waste of time and energy. New bitcoins are created by using computers to solve a complicated mathematical problem. This requires a huge amount of computer time and so of electricity, all pure waste from a rational point of view. Further, each time a bitcoin is used this is recorded, so the string of computer code representing it gets longer and longer. It’s as if every transaction using a particular paper note or metal coin had to be recorded. The BIS calls this ‘cumbersome’. Crazy is more like it.

 Having said this, the computer technology which is used to do this – blockchains – does have other uses. Since it is almost impossible to tamper with it could be used, for instance, to confirm the origin of meat so that horse meat can no longer be passed off as beef.

 So the BIS is right. Bitcoins will never replace state fiat money. State fiat money isn’t that stable itself of course but nowhere near as unstable as bitcoins. No doubt it will last till the time when capitalism is replaced by socialism and all forms of money become redundant.

Editorial: Ruling class split (2018)

Editorial from the August 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

By calling a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union in June 2016, David Cameron was counting on a victory for the Remain side to contain the Eurosceptics in the Tory Party and see off the challenge from UKIP. Far from overcoming the divisions within the Tory Party, the resulting victory for the Leave side has blown them wide apart.

David Cameron immediately cut his losses and ran, leaving his successor, Theresa May, to pick up the pieces. She attempted to gain the upper hand in her Party by calling a General Election a year later, but unfortunately for her, she lost her majority and is now more vulnerable to the Tory Party's warring factions.

The referendum result has had repercussions for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the two regions where most voters opted for Remain. The SNP government has used it as ammunition to press for a second Scottish Independence referendum. Leaving the EU could jeopardise the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement, as this was predicated on there being a common customs area between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Initially, partly to poach votes from UKIP and increase support in Brexit areas, Theresa May pursued a so-called hard Brexit, where the UK would leave both the customs union and the single market. However, facing up to the reality that most British businesses need to stay close to the EU and to avoid a hard border in Ireland, on the 6th July, the Government at Chequers produced plans which amounted to a "softer" Brexit. There would be a harmonisation with EU rules in trading with goods (but not with services). However, this was too much for some and there were howls of treachery and several ministers have resigned, including David Davis and Boris Johnson. Tory Brexiteers have threatened to mount a leadership challenge. May backed down and accepted amendments from a hardline Tory Brexit group to water down her Customs bill. This sparked a rebellion among furious Tory Remain MPs. May seems to be caught in a pincer movement between the Remain and Brexit factions of her Party and her authority is ebbing away. Some have argued that a Second Referendum on Brexit is needed to resolve this impasse. Others say that another General Election is required.

We are treated to the unusual spectacle of the Tory Party being unable to serve the interests of the majority of the British capitalist class, who favour staying in the Custom Union. Ironically, it is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party that appears to better represent the interests of British capitalism on this issue.

This political crisis is really a matter for the capitalist class only, but the working class has been dragged into it. At the 2016 referendum, we argued that workers had no interest in supporting either the Leave or Remain campaigns, as either way they will still have to deal with the problems of capitalism, such as job insecurity, low wages and unemployment, and urged them to write ‘World Socialism’ over their ballot papers. Should there be a second referendum, we will again be advising workers to do the same.