Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Socialismo au naciismo (1969)

From World Socialism '69

Kutime oni supozas ke la interesej de homare dividighas lau nacieco. Ekzemple, britaj laboristoj decidis labori duonhoron potage seapage, por subteni ‘Britujon’ en internacia komerca konkurado. Sed tia patrioteco ne profitos ilin, sed nur la bilancon de la brita dungantaro. Kiom ajn da eksportoj ili produktas, ili ankorau estos salajrsklavoj: ili devos vendi sian laborkapablan, jaron post jaro, por akiri la vivnecessajhojn.

Internacia komerca konkurade, politika luktado kaj milito estas la afero de grupoj de nacioj kapitalistoj, reprezentataj de shtatoj, pri la defendo kaj akiro de influsferoj merkatoj, devenoj de krudmaterioloj kai komercvojoj. Naciisme estas ilo uzata por fortigi la disciplinon, unuecon, kaj subtenon de la laboristaro en tiaj kuktoj, kiu ne kamprenas ke la lukte ne temas pri iliaj interesoj. Tio aplikas egale al la shtatkapitalistaj landoj kia Rusujo, kie klaso de shtatkapitalistoj posedas kaj controlas la ekonomion, kune dungantaj la laboristaron.

Ekzemple konsideru la militon en Vjetnamio, lukton inter la usona kapitalista klaso, kiu volas teni Sudvjetnamion en sia infusfero, kaj oponi la entendigho de la potence de ghia shtatkapitalistaj rivaloj en Sudorientan Azion, kaj la vjetnamaj ‘komunistoj', kiuj volas disvolvigi kapitalismon en Vjetnamion si mem, sen usenaj korporaciegoj.

Socialistoj celas je demokrata monda komunumo, sen nacioj, kie chio sub kaj sur la tero estos la kemuna posedo de la tuta homaro. Homoj kunlaboros sendevige por produkti abundajn richajhojn, kaj chiu prenos kien ajn li bezonas por ghue vivi. Tia socio estos ebla nur kiam la plimulto de homoj deziros ghin, kaj do eni povas establi ghin nur per demokrataj metodoj. Socialisme estas praktikebla, kaj necesa venonta, stadio en socia evoluade. Ghi estas la sola celo de la frataj socialistaj partioj.

To readers from overseas (1978)

Party News from the August 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Standard is the journal of the Socialist Party of Great Britain but this does not mean that it is concerned exclusively with what goes on in Britain. Just the opposite in fact. It is our view that the social problems that affect wage and salary earners in a particular country cannot be solved within that countries borders.

Capitalism is the cause of these problems and capitalism is world-wide, existing not only in obviously capitalist countries like Britain or France or Germany but also, in the form of state capitalism, in countries like Russia, China, Cuba or Yugoslavia. Because capitalism is world-wide so too must be Socialism, the system which will replace it and whose common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use will provide the framework within which today’s social problems can finally be solved.

This is why we sometimes refer to our object as “world socialism”, making it absolutely clear that we reject all nationalism and all national approaches to working-class problems. It is also why we are linked with Companion Parties in other parts of the world, with the same objective and the same principles as us and which exist in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland and Australia.

We have also published leaflets in various other languages — French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Esperanto so far — while our Companion Parties and sympathising groups produce regular journals in German, French and Swedish. If you are from Europe and would like to contact socialists there in any of these languages you can write to the following addresses:
  • GERMANY and AUSTRIA: Bund Demokratischer Sozialisten, Gussriegelstrasse 50, 100 WIEN, Austria.
  • FRANCE and BENELUX: Socialisme Mondiale, B.P. 1578, 1000 BRUXELLES, Belgium.
  • SCANDINAVIA: Varldssocialism, c/o Ake Spross, Bergsbrunna Villavag 58, 75256 UPPSALA, Sweden.

Her majesty’s justice—lies in action (1979)

From the August 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

Her Royal Majesty the Queen of England is to all British workers the fons justiciae or fountain of justice. The word ‘workers’ is used because members of the capitalist class and politicians do not seem to be disposed to become involved with these courts of law. Lord Kagan and Sir Eric Miller have recently demonstrated this. In order to discover to what extent justice is actually splashed over British workers by our Royal Fountain, some days of observation were spent in one of her courts.

The magistrates court at Bow Street is one of the most busy and famous of its type in England. Here, dispensing (with?) justice, are not the lay magistrates (unpaid factotums) of local courts but stipendiary magistrates: qualified lawyers of at least five years’ standing, but usually with a bit more ‘standing’ than that.

The three courtrooms are craftily designed to elevate the importance of the presiding magistrate in a high throne-chair, humiliate the defendant in a small caged stand, and deter the inquisitive public visitor with either no public seating or very small wooden benches.

On Monday morning some charges of prostitution were first up for trial. The policeman confidently read the charge to a frowning magistrate; there was no defence, and after a procedural conviction a fine was levied for the Crown. This is not very harsh, for although a prostitute sells her skills like any wage-slave, her pimp-employer will pay the fine for this occupational hazard. An atmosphere of moral censure was provided by various lawyers in the court who, it is said, sometimes exit from the courts with the prostitute only by coincidence.

Next up were a series of workers charged with ‘obstruction of the highway’. Hamburger vendors and photographers were ordered to pay comparatively lenient fines. They had been acting within the ethos of capitalism, if not within some of its minor rules. However another defendant charged with exactly the same offence was punished with a heavier sentence because she was a ‘moonie’ distributing free records.

The next offender was a young visitor from New Zealand charged with assaulting a police officer and with multifarious offences concerning a dilapidated caravanette. In a fracas the defendant had struck the policeman in the ribs, which accounted for the first charge, and the other charges were made by the policeman with technical legitimacy but with not over-subtle retribution. The policeman, no doubt remembering his injured ribs, gabbled out the copious petty charges concerning the motor vehicle — “failure to install workable windscreen washers; displaced registration plates . . .” The New Zealander submissively re-affirmed his intentions made in his visitor oath, to be a law-abiding subject, and was punished with what the magistrate called a ‘fair fine’.

Who could be dissatisfied with our decent, honest police force? Witnessing some of the jackbooted, uniformed haircuts blustering through notebooks of ‘written evidence’ does leave room for cynicism. Should we be grateful for ‘our’ police force? The police are agents of whom? Of the members of the working class whom they daily caution, bludgeon, arrest and incarcerate? In whose interest is the protection of private property; the workers who own about ten per cent of the accumulated wealth, or the capitalists who own about ninety per cent?

In another courtroom, a penniless, parentless fifteen year old lad was convicted of wilfully damaging the window of a restaurant. He was sentenced to pay a heavy fine from his ‘living wage’, and to psychiatric care. Do we really need psychiatrists to explain to us why an underfed, overworked, maltreated child would be likely to batter against the tinted window of a restaurant? A uniformed Martian in the courtroom might have wondered who was on trial for the damage; the child in the dock — the perpetrator of the act — or the magistrate as representative of the brutal social system which was responsible for the damage to the child.

In the next case an alleged car-thief with substantial evidence against him was given a heavy fine, escaping a prison sentence because the defence lawyer was able to persuade the magistrate that the defendant had just been offered full time employment in the building industry. The defendant avoided incarceration on the condition of prolonged honest work. By relentless use of this ploy, the courts have been able to socially impregnate the notion that employment — the whoring of mental and physical labour-power for money — is socially inevitable, necessary and desirable. It is all very simple. Wage slavery is the order of the day; if you opt out of this system you either go hungry or are imprisoned, and if you sell yourself to someone you are taken to have automatically signed the social contract of the allegiance to the profit system with the countless millions of others who are only living for the work they have to do for someone else tomorrow.

On following days at Bow Street, the methodical fraudulence became tiresome to observe. Policemen marching up to the witness box to perjure themselves after swearing to be honest on a book none of them had ever read, let alone believed; magistrates deciding cases with overt sympathies and prejudices (and even ignorance of the law), and childish excuses from frightened defendants: “I did not mean to assault the bartender, I was having a fit of hiccoughs”.

Cases varied in length from a few minutes to about an hour, depending on the amount of evidence and the need for cross-examination, but by some miraculous chance, no matter what the nature of the last case to be heard each day, justice always seemed to be arrived at within a few minutes of 4.30pm, when the court closed. Adjournments are extremely rare.

At the end of the day, the ‘judges' and some of the more fortunate of the judged exit from the court at the same time. To look at, they are of the same size, shape and species, but when servile chauffeurs open large car doors for some of the departing characters, it is not altogether impossible to guess which of them has been of service to capitalism that day.

Your disobedient servants (1981)

From the August 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the beginning of March, Britain’s civil servants have been engaged in a campaign of selective strikes in order to win an increase in the government’s seven per cent wage offer. A group of “white-collar” workers, not normally regarded as militant, find themselves embroiled in the longest national industrial dispute since the General Strike of 1926.

There may have been a time when civil servants, like others who work behind a desk rather than a lathe, considered themselves “middle class” and so above such nasty proletarian vices as trade unions, work-to-rules and strikes. Redundancy, unemployment and wage-cuts might affect the working class, but would never penetrate the cosy inflation-proofed-pension world of the Whitehall bureaucrat. This was never true, of course: in 1931, for instance, a reduction in civil servants’ wages figured prominently in the government’s spending cuts.

Nor is it any truer nowadays. Government ministers have in the same hypocritical breath spoken of civil servants’ supposed job security and of the need for civil service redundancies.

The current dispute is a fight against a wage reduction (any pay “increase” less than the rate of inflation represents a cut in real wages). Like university lecturers, civil servants are finding that they are in no way immune from the ups and downs of capitalism. Like all workers, they are forced to sell their energies (mental or physical) to an employer in return for a wage; if the time comes when the employer has no more use for their labour, they will be dismissed. Working with a pen rather than a spanner makes no difference to a worker’s class position.

But there are ways in which working for the government does make a difference to the course of any dispute. For one thing, state employees, in 1981 as in 1931, must bear the brunt of any government policy on wage “restraint". Working for the state is no guarantee of favouritism in pay offers. Importantly, too, the resources of the government are so vast as to put them in a far stronger position in any dispute than all but the largest private capitalist concerns. A larger employer has greater resources to fall back on, and is more able to alleviate the losses caused by a strike.

This is not to say, however, that the civil servants’ dispute is having no impact. The unions have, rightly, decided to hit the government where it hurts, in its wallet, by stopping the flow of tax revenue to the Exchequer. It is claimed that over five billion pounds has so far been blocked from getting to the government’s coffers. Selective strike action by air traffic controllers has meant that British Airways has lost forty million pounds. It is financial pressure of this kind that is most likely to force the government to give in.

Unfortunately, financial pressure on the workers may cause them to give in too. The Council of Civil Service Unions consists of nine separate unions, whose tactics so far have been to hold selective strikes, among different branches of the civil service and at different times. Anyone on strike in these circumstances is receiving strike pay from their union. The unions however have inadequate strike funds, and are having to appeal for voluntary strike levies from their members. Even with these, they are paying out more in strike pay than they are getting in. Some union officials believe the government is deliberately suspending some civil servants, thus increasing still further the financial strain on the unions. The alternative would be an all-out strike—without strike pay at all.

The government has appealed to civil servants to call off their action pending the report of the recently announced “independent” inquiry into civil service pay. Like arbitration—another much-favoured solution intended to settle disputes—such inquiries cannot be independent. The members of the inquiry (this one is to be chaired by a retired appeal judge) cannot but take account of government policies and indeed of the entire economic context when they draw up their recommendations. Only the naive would contemplate a “fair and unbiased” outcome in the context of a society where a minority class monopolises the means of production and forces the overwhelming majority to work for a wage in order to live.

The workers involved in any specific industrial dispute must decide for themselves how to conduct it. However, we strongly urge that all action be decided on democratically, by the workers and not by their leaders. In particular, decisions whether or not to strike and whether or not to accept an offer ought to be taken by ballot (we should say that the civil service unions generally are balloting their members on what course of action to follow next). And it should be realised that, during a depression, the odds must be on a victory for the government in any war of attrition. Recognition of this fact is not acceptance of working-class impotence but acknowledgement of one of the basic facts of capitalist life.
Paul Bennett

Observations: Turning the screw (1982)

The Observations Column from the August 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turning the screw

Among the more eager practitioners of the Falklands-style militancy in industrial relations are the management of British Rail. The determination with which they stood their ground in the battle with the NUR and then with ASLEF was an inspiration to all employers who are seeking, in slumping capitalism, to degrade workers’ wages and conditions.

Even more notable has been the policy of the associated sea ferry service Sealink. Faced with declining traffic and mounting competition, they have simply imposed wage cuts and threatened to close their services down if the unions resist.

This worked for Sealink in the case of the ships running from Newhaven, where the seamen accepted the cuts. But in other ports there has been resistance. Sealink assert that their aim is to reduce wages by some £28 a week in Harwich (which is bad enough, when prices are still climbing week by week) but, according to the Guardian of 9 July, the cuts are more like £40, or even £80. a week. A Sealink spokesman has spelled out the situation: ". . . this is the only way we can make the service pay. If the NUS do not accept it, there will be no service”.

It is doubtful that there will be cries of anguish in the media about the suffering caused to passengers by the closing of the service by the management — the kind of protests they make when a service is disrupted by a strike. Cuts made in the interests of defending profitability are regarded as common sense while those stemming from workers’ defence of their standards are put down to bloody- mindedness.

There is an equally enduring lesson for workers to learn in this episode. This militancy is being displayed by the management of a nationalised industry; and all in the interests of economic operation — of working in such a way as to make profit, or at least not to make a loss.

This is exactly the kind of situation which the advocates of nationalisation assumed would be eliminated by a state take-over. Real experience has exposed the fallacy of those hopes. State owned industries have to be run in basically the same way as their private predecessors. The profit priorities of capitalism continue; the interests of the wealth-producing workers are low in the order of concern; the privileges of the non-producing owning minority are paramount.

For the ruling class, nationalisation can be a good deal. For the workers it is a fraud.

Pats and kicks

After all their hard work preparing the ships for the Falklands Task Force, the dockyard workers at Chatham and Portsmouth thought they deserved a pat on the back from the government. They were very upset when in fact they got a kick in the teeth.

Before the war in the Falklands. the government had decided to reduce Portsmouth drastically and close Chatham. As the first ships left Portsmouth for the South Atlantic, they were waved away by 180 workers who had already had their redundancy notices. In all, about 13,000 were to be sacked. But during the war, the yards were working night and day to prepare and convert other ships for the fighting. Some people did literally work night and day; perhaps it was overtiredness which led them to think that the government would be so impressed with the speed and quality of their work that they would be rewarded for a job well done by changing the planned cut-backs.

Now the Falklands war is supposed to have proved that this is a government of inflexible resolve, that Margaret Thatcher is always right, always eye to eye with reality. The post-Falklands “Defence” Estimates revealed that there was to be no change of plan, although John Nott subsequently promised some slight adjustments in the case of the yards at Portsmouth. Chatham will close, as planned. So the dockyard workers were very angry, sick, rejected — and jealous of the workers at the Devonport yards where, they grumbled, they don’t make the killing machines half as efficiently.

Any workers who think they arc employed as a favour, or as a reward, are gravely misunderstanding the facts of capitalist life. Labour power is a commodity — something to be sold — wherever and however it is expended. If it is not economical to buy it, workers will be laid off; factories, mines, dockyards will close.

The armaments industry has an economy with some distinctive, even peculiar, features but these do not allow it to evade the basic laws of capitalism. The very fact that they expected a pat on the back means that the dockyard workers deserved the kick in the teeth.

Charity is cold — official

In case anyone ever had doubts on the matter, it has now been officially announced that charities are completely helpless to ease the problems of capitalist society.

Amnesty International recently took the Charity Commissioners to the High Court after they had refused to register AI as a charity. Amnesty International, of course, busy themselves with battles against what they call injustice; they sponsor prisoners of conscience, they struggle for “prisoners' rights’, whatever they may be. But Justice Slade was not impressed. “The elimination of injustice", he droned, “has not ever been held to be a purpose which qualifies for the privileges accorded to charities by English law.”

Following their victory, the Commissioners issued some “guidelines", presumably hoping to deter any well-meaning bunch who think they are doing something about some of the world’s ailments and that this deserves to make them a charity. But the Commissioners are quite clear on the point. They will not register any organisation which:
  tries to influence any causes of poverty which are lying in the social, economic and political structures of a state;
brings pressure to bear on governments to change their policies on issues like land reform, trade union rights;
tries to abolish social, political or economic injustices.
What this means is that charities have to exist in a society in which there is is poverty and "injustice" of all kinds and which imposes repression on organisations like trade unions.

Now the fact is that there is only one way in which to rid the world of problems like these and that is to organise for a democratic revolution to abolish the social system which causes them. That aim is far beyond the scope of any charity. The tragedy is that its achievement is hampered by many obstacles, one of them being the delusion that capitalism can be transformed by charitable acts. Well, now we know. Let alone abolishing the problems, charities can not even claim to protest about them. There has always been a hollow note to the rattle of the collecting box; it is the note of futility.