Friday, November 16, 2018

The First World War and its Aftermath (2018)

From the November 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

At 11 am on 11 November 1918 Germany signed an armistice which ended four years of unremitting carnage. From 28 July 1914 to 11 November, over 9 million soldiers and 6 million civilians perished. The First World War is sometimes seen as an historical accident triggered by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand. Yet from the nineteenth century onwards growing rivalries between the major capitalist powers created tensions that were bound to erupt into war.

Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 led to the unification of Germany in 1871. The new German state then entered into an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Russia, known as the League of the Three Emperors, to contain French power. Russian victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 and increasing Russian influence in the Balkans brought this alliance to an end. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy then formed the Triple Alliance. To counteract this France entered into an alliance with Russia. Britain later joined France and Russia to form the Triple Entente.

Germany, since unification, had become a major economic and industrial power. Its rulers sought to compete with other major powers in world markets and seek colonies that would be sources of raw materials. To achieve this, they sought to expand their military capacity and, therefore, they proceeded to build up their navy. This inevitably led to rivalry with Britain in the control of global sea routes. Germany, Russia, France and Italy increased the size of their standing armies.

Instability arose in the Balkans as competing powers vied with each other to grab the spoils from the declining Ottoman Empire. Austria-Hungary earned the enmity of Russia and Serbia when it formally annexed the former Ottoman province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Germany also had a strategic interest in the region. The route of the proposed Berlin-Constantinople railway would travel through Vienna and Belgrade, and therefore Germany would require some control or influence over Serbia. This would bring conflict with Russia.

Austria-Hungary’s rulers used the occasion of the Archduke’s assassination to bring Serbia, which they suspected of promoting pan Slavic nationalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to heel. They delivered an ultimatum that they calculated would be rejected. Serbia accepted most of the conditions, but had reservations on others. Thereupon, they declared war on Serbia with the backing of their German ally. The Russian leaders retaliated by mobilising their forces, arguing that it was their duty to protect their fellow Slavs. But their real fear was that an Austrian victory would result in further Austrian and German encroachment of the Balkans, which would threaten to undermine their trade through the Bosphorus Straits.

The German rulers in turn demanded that Russia demobilise its forces, whereupon Russia refused and they declared war on her. A couple of days later Germany declared war on Russia’s ally, France. In order to avoid the highly fortified border with France, the German leaders decided to move their forces through Belgium. When the Belgian government refused free passage, the German military launched an invasion. Ostensibly the United Kingdom was committed by the Treaty of London 1839 to defend Belgium, and this was the reason given for declaring war on Germany. However, the British rulers main concern was the safeguarding of their trade routes to their empire, and followed a policy of ‘splendid isolation’, whereby Britain would intervene only in European affairs when there was a shift in the balance of power between the competing nations to their disadvantage. The German invasion of Belgium was deemed to be such a moment. The British government also drew on workers from the Dominions and Empire – India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand — to fight for them.

Bribery was used to entice other countries into the War. Rumania was promised Hungarian territory if they joined the ‘allied powers’ — Britain and France. Bulgaria preferred the offer from Germany, that it could have Macedonia, and so joined them. Italy was promised the Austrian regions of South Tyrol and Trieste and Northern Dalmatia by the allied powers. Italy turned her back on her former allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and joined the latter. Japan also joined the allied powers in the hope of acquiring Germany’s Chinese possessions.

In 1917, in a bid to end the war quickly, German forces intensified their blockade of Britain’s ports, which had been a source of friction with the United States for some time, and resumed attacks on shipping. Many American ships were sunk with a great loss of life. This, along with a telegram from the German Foreign Minister requesting support from the Mexicans in exchange for assistance in retaking US territory lost in the Mexican-American War, prompted the US government to declare war on Germany on 6 April 1917. Also, US capitalists made money out of providing financial loans to Britain and France and therefore saw it as in their economic interests to support the allied powers.

Workers did the fighting
When the capitalists of different nations fall out and go to war, they don’t normally do the fighting themselves, but get their respective working classes to do it for them. This requires an appeal to patriotism and jingoism, whereby politicians toured the country whipping up enthusiasm for the war. One successful orator was Horatio Bottomley, the so-called People’s Tribune but in fact a discredited bankrupt before the war. For all his efforts in bringing in recruits, he managed to rake in £78,000 which he spent on racehorses, women and champagne. For those young male workers who were of military age and not seduced by the clarion call to arms, young women were employed to stick white feathers on them.

The capitalists and their politicians did not garner support on their own. They had the backing of the so-called ‘workers representatives’, the Labour and Social Democratic parties, which abandoned their proclaimed commitment to the international working class and rallied behind the war efforts of their respective ruling classes. The German Social Democratic representatives in the Reichstag gave a spurious ‘Marxist’ justification for voting for war credits. A victorious Germany, they argued, would overthrow the backward Tsarist regime and capitalism would develop rapidly in Russia. Expansion in industrial production and the growth of the Russian working class would speedily create the conditions for the establishment of socialism. Trade unions showed their support by co-operating with the employers to ensure maximum production and the curtailing of any strike action. The suffragettes suspended their campaign and joined the war effort. However, there was opposition to the war from Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Sylvia Pankhurst and of course, the Socialist Party.

The capitalist class couldn’t rely on jingoist appeals alone, they needed high ideals as well. The British capitalist class claimed to be fighting for ‘the liberty of small nations’. Although this noble ideal seemingly applied to Belgium, curiously it did not apply to Britain’s colonies, certainly not in the case of Ireland, where the Easter rising in 1916 was ruthlessly suppressed. Another great ideal was ‘to make the world safe for democracy’. Oddly, censorship and restriction of war reporting was required for this one. Many would consider the Russian Tsar to be a strange bedfellow.

It would seem that it is not enough for the capitalist class that their workers were facing the bullets and bombs on the battle fronts, for they appeared to be dissatisfied with the workers’ performance on the home front. In the UK, many blamed the munitions workers for the shortages of shells needed for the war effort, that they were too busy boozing in the pubs. Restriction in pub hours were introduced which survived until the 1990s.

From 1916, with increasing hardship and seemingly no end in sight to the war, many workers became disillusioned and there were grumblings about this being a businessman’s war. Strikes, protests and riots erupted. The situation in Russia was particularly dire, where peasants were taken off the land to fight on the front line, resulting in acute food shortages in the cities. This was exacerbated by poor communication infrastructure and corruption. Food riots ensued and mass desertions from the army took place. Workers councils emerged in the cities and organised strikes. In March 1917, the Tsar was forced to abdicate and a provisional government headed by Kerensky took his place. However, they attempted to keep Russia in the war, which only increased the discontent and their power was challenged by the Petrograd Workers Council. The German leaders saw an opportunity to take Russia out of the war. They allowed Lenin to travel through Germany in a sealed train to Russia. Once there, Lenin was able to gain support for the Bolsheviks in the Workers Councils. In November 1917, the Kerensky government was overthrown by an uprising led by the Bolsheviks. Not long afterwards, they negotiated a peace treaty with Germany at Brest Litovsk.

Now that Russia was out of the war, the German military could reinforce their forces on the Western front. Although this gave Germany an added advantage, they were still unable to deliver the knockout blow to their opponents. However, the working class discontent that brought down the Tsarist regime was also being visited on Germany. On 29 October 1918, a mutiny by sailors sparked a general workers and soldiers uprising which finally forced the German government to seek an armistice which was signed on 11 November 1918. The Kaiser abdicated on 28th November 1918.

Aside from mass human slaughter, what was the legacy of the war? It could be seen as the ultimate triumph of capitalism, as the vestiges of the feudalistic empires were swept away. The Austrian-Hungary Empire collapsed and metamorphosed into separate capitalist nation states. The Ottoman Empire disintegrated and the French and British ruling classes carved up its territories among themselves. Germany became a modern capitalist state under the rule of the Social Democratic Party. Russia evolved into an authoritarian state capitalist country. The Third International was launched during the Russian civil war in 1919 to support the Bolshevik regime and superseded the Second International which was dissolved in 1916. It became a mouthpiece of the Bolshevik regime and promoted the idea that communism equates with state capitalism and that it can only be brought about by violent revolution led by a vanguard party. This served to confuse workers as to what socialism really is and has played a part in holding back the genuine socialist movement.

With working class men being sent to the front, more women had to be brought into the munitions factories and offices to keep production going. They remained a part of the workforce after the war ended.

The phrase ‘The war to end all wars’ must be one of the sardonic statements of all times. Far from ending wars, the First World War sowed the seeds for further conflicts. The punitive measures of the Versailles Peace Treaty helped foster a sense of grievance, a feeling that Germany had been stabbed in the back. German nationalists, including the Nazis, exploited this for their own ends. Furthermore, the heavy reparations led to economic instability, such as the hyperinflation of 1923, which provided the fertile soil for aggressive nationalists like the Nazis to flourish. The increasing hostility between the Western Powers and the Bolshevik regime presaged the Cold War, which came to dominate the twentieth century. The League of Nations was set up to prevent further wars, but was powerless to do so, as it could not deal with the underlying cause — competition between capitalist powers for world markets and sources for raw materials. Wars are inevitable within capitalism.
Oliver Bond

Capitalism in Eastern Europe (1969)

Book Review from the October 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Economic Devolution in Eastern Europe’, by Ljubo Sirc. (‘Problems of Capitalism in Eastern Europe’ series. Longmans – for the Institute of Economic Affairs, 35/-)

Dr. Sirc, now a lecturer in International economics at Glasgow University, was born in Yugoslavia and fought with Tito’s army during the war but, like a number of other supporters of the Yugoslav regime, he came into conflict with the government and he was imprisoned for seven and a half years in 1947 for 'conspiracy against the State'.

His book deals with the way the original centralised control and planning of production, distribution and prices in Eastern European countries, including Russia and Eastern Germany, has had to be modified in the direction of decentralising decision making and allowing the market forces of profits and competitive prices to operate, more on the lines of Western Capitalism. He also tries to foresee further changes that will be forced on the governments concerned.

Dr. Sirc approaches his subject as if it is a study of the problems and failures of Socialism, but once this absurdity is discounted the reader will find in the book many facts and figures illustrating the inescapable capitalist pressures at home and in the world market which have compelled the governments to change their economic and political policies and will continue to do so.

His central theme is that “the old Stalinist Soviet model was very inefficient”, producing as it did, “goods which nobody wants to buy . . . productive capacities which cannot be used, keep personal consumption very low and causes foreign trade difficulties”.

He stresses the point that inefficient centralised control resulted in industries carrying a labour force in excess of their real needs so that when the efficiency is raised by various reforms large scale unemployment appears; hence the movement of thousands of Yugoslavs into Germany, Austria and Sweden and the efforts of the Hungarian government to find work for unemployed Hungarians in Eastern Germany and Russia. Czechoslovakia faces the same problem.

An interesting parallel with this is the British Labour Government’s Selective Employment Tax and other measures designed to squeeze workers out of the distributive trades and induce them to go into production industries ― if they can find jobs there.

Inevitably, in view of Dr. Sirc’s assumption that he is dealing not with State capitalism but with Socialism, the alleged inadequacies of Marxism are brought under attack. Marx’s blueprint for the society of the future, and specifically its “Marxist-Leninist” offshoot, was he says, imprecise and inapplicable to the circumstances of the Eastern European countries under Communist Party dictatorship. He likewise finds that Marx’s historical materialism “has proved false”. To support his case he quotes the head of the Slovene government who argued that some private enterprise is essential in Yugoslavia and that “it is not worth while nationalising all productive processes”. He appears to be quite unaware that, as Marx well knew, nationalisation or state Capitalism is not Socialism.

Although the old, rigidly centralised, organisation is under growing attack among members of the governments and economists the claim that the new methods are also “Marxist” will no doubt continue, at least for many years. An interesting example comes from Yugoslavia, the country which has gone farthest in introducing decentralisation. Sir Fitzroy MacLean, Conservative M.P. recently interviewed Marshal Tito (Sunday Times July 6, 1969). MacLean summarised the present situation in Yugoslavia, following the reforms of 1965:-
  Under which individual, commercial and industrial enterprises dispose of their own funds, fix their own wages and prices and are almost entirely free from State interference or control, while vigorously competing among themselves.
MacLean also points out that the Yugoslav government allows in foreign capital and encourages “a measure of private enterprise.”

He asked Tito “Is all this good Marxism?” and got the answer : ―
  We ourselves believe that what we are doing is in strict accordance with the principles of Marxism-Leninism, especially in regard to the withering away of the State.
It remains to be seen, with regard to the economic changes themselves, how far Russia and the other Eastern Countries will be forced to follow the Yugoslav example.

One important factor in this is the need the Russian satellite countries have for foreign capital to speed up development. The West German government is reported to be discussing with the Polish government (at the latter’s invitation) plans to make German capital and technical aid available to build up Polish industry. Behind this, according to Herr Arndt, the German Minister concerned, is “that the Soviet Government is now admitting that it does not have the capacity to supply the necessary technical assistance to the Eastern countries on its own.” (Financial Times, 25 June 1967).
Edgar Hardcastle

The Foreigners in Our Midst (1945)

From the December 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

A young G.I., who seemed to think that he owned the earth, was behaving rudely to a tough-looking bus conductress. Instead of ticking him off as a rude young man the angry girl commenced a lengthy and colourful attack on all Americans. The "Yanks," so it seemed to her, were responsible for most of the evils of this unhappy world. This unpleasant incident is typical of thousands that are occurring all over England and Europe to-day, and it is not only the Americans who are indiscriminately attacked.

Under the most unfavourable circumstances the workers of many countries have mingled. German, Russian, British and American conscripts have in their turn performed the unenviable duties of armies of occupation. Individually the conquerors and conquered cannot hate one another, and "fraternisation," an old word with a new meaning, has been inevitable. But only the most romantic optimist can imagine that a real basis for international understanding can be established on the love-affairs of lonely and sex-starved British soldiers with the hungry women of Berlin. Armies of occupation cannot be ambassadors of goodwill.

But one might imagine that the mingling of allies might have more fruitful results. Let us look at the position in this country and judge for ourselves. For a decade or more England has become the permanent or temporary home of many opponents of Nazi Germany. First came the Jewish refugees, Germans, Austrians and Czechs who fled to avoid death, the Ghetto or the concentration camp, then the remnants of defeated armies, the Poles, the French, the Belgians, Dutch and Norwegians, and, lastly the American "champions of democracy." Most of these men and women came to this country not on a heroic mission but because they had no choice. Individual friendships between some of them and the "natives" have grown up, but on the whole many British workers (who are not alone in this respect) still retain their illogical and almost unconquerable aversion to foreigners.

In the uncertain days of peace national prejudice increases. With the end of Lease-Lend, grumbles against the Americans became louder; a Scottish town council urges the Government to send the Poles home; 3,000 residents of Hampstead want the aliens living among them expelled; the shadow of unemployment draws near and thoughtless workers voice the fear that foreign Jewish workers will steal their jobs, forgetting that in 1931, when there were more than 2½ million unemployed, the refugees had not arrived. The foreigners in our midst are blamed for the housing shortage, and the Evening Standard (by the way why doesn’t Beaverbrook return to Canada), always quick to turn working-class discontent into reactionary channels, gives prominence to a series of articles dealing with the number of houses and flats still occupied by refugee Governments in London. These houses are mostly in Mayfair, Belgravia and Kensington, and one wonders if the homeless workers of Stepney and Wandsworth could afford the rents which will be charged for them when they are evacuated. The Evening Standard does not complain of the waste of space in British Government offices, of unnecessary buildings such as Banks, income tax offices and Labour Exchanges, and it does not point out, for example, that one member of the British ruling-class with quite a small family does not need a vast town mansion as well as country residences at Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor.

No, acquaintanceship at close quarters and under capitalist conditions with foreigners, however charming and well-behaved they may be, does not seem to further international friendship. But must the workers of the world always have feelings of suspicion, hatred and contempt towards each other? We Socialists do not think so. We are normal human beings, but we do not blame the strangers in our midst for all the minor and major evils of capitalism, and we address these words to our fellow workers for their consideration.

Workers must learn to think with their heads and not be guided by their feelings. They must understand, and they will do when they become Socialists, that there is a bond that unites them with their fellow workers, whether they are “enemies'' or “allies". This bond is not the superficial one of the same language, the same colour of skin, the same shape of nose, the same habits or allegiance to the same capitalist state, but the fundamental one of class interest. The workers of the world have one great task: to overthrow the system of their respective capitalistic masters and establish a world Socialist commonwealth, where the word “foreigner” will have no meaning.
John Moore

Socialism and the Labour Party (1945)

From the December 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Morgan Phillips, Secretary of the Labour Party, in the pamphlet, “What is this Labour Party?" states that: “The Labour movement is not a narrow restricted thing. It goes outside trade and class. Anyone can be in it. The test is simply political allegiance. If you believe in Socialism, then support the Labour Party." Take the basic national object of the Party as set out in the Constitution:—
  “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."
“That's Socialism," says Mr. Phillips.

“That’s nonsense!" says the Socialist Party, especially when Mr. Phillips adds "and the method by which its objectives can be fully attained is Public Enterprise,” which turns out to be the old Labour Party gag “Nationalisation,” vide “Let us face the future,” the Labour election fairy tale.

Let us briefly analyse the “Object" of the Labour Party. First, “To secure for the workers, by hand or by brain, the full fruits of their industry.”
We have never yet discovered anyone who can use his hands without using his brain, neither has biological science. It is possible to use the brain without using the hands, but most work is done by both in consonance.

It is utterly impossible to “secure the full fruits of their industry ” to “the workers.” “The workers” can only mean the working class under capitalism—“the workers” will be transformed into members of the Socialist community by Socialism—under capitalism “the workers” will always secure wages—which can ONLY be a small fraction of the wealth they produce. Even under Socialism the producer will NOT receive the full product of his toil, as Marx indicated to the German Labour Party seventy years ago—all organised society necessitates certain social charges on the social wealth, education, hospitals, maintenance of the aged, administration, etc. (Gotha programme). What the “most equitable distribution” of the “full fruits” of the “worker's industry” is supposed to mean, nobody knows!

If it is meant to mean that, under Socialism, everybody will receive an exactly equal share of the social wealth— that non-smokers, for example, will get a “share” of cigarettes daily, or vegetarians be compelled to take two pork chops in the week, it is not Socialism, but “crude equalitarianism,” denounced by Marx and others in the last century. Socialism does not mean the abolition of personal divergences of individual taste—it means free distribution according to the single test of NEED. Indeed, individual taste will secure real recognition for the first time in history.

If it means "equitable distribution” under capitalism— i.e., what the Labour Party flogged when it was OUT of office—a re-distribution of existing wealth in the workers' favour (capital levy, etc., etc.), this is NOT Socialism—but moonshine.

But the cream of the joke is the Labour Party s frantic attempt to acquire a "Socialistic" flavour by its formulation of its object as the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution, AND EXCHANGE."

We defy Mr. Phillips, the Secretary, or that pompous little gasbag, Professor Laski, the Chairman, or Mr. Greenwood, the Treasurer, or any member or official of the Labour Party to tell us what this means!

It is utterly and completely meaningless!

Let us patiently explain all over again. Exchange is a social relation of private owners. Socialism abolishes exchange by free distribution. Socialists under Socialism will ALL commonly OWN. Whom Mr. Phillips will find to exchange the full fruits of his industry with, under Socialism, we can't think!

Common ownership of the "means of exchange" means precisely "common ownership of private ownership.” In other words the subject cancels out the predicate—it is a perfect contradiction meaning nothing—which is what the Labour Party really stands for (except jobs for leaders).

The final phrase of the Labour Party's object, "the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service," is pure rhetoric.

It might be asked, if what has been said is true, how is it that a large party like the Labour Party, with many quite clever members, can formulate its objects so stupidly? The answer is, firstly, that it is by no means so silly as it might seem.

To understand how the Labour Party Constitution and Object has been formulated one must investigate the history and character of that organisation.

Briefly the present Object of the Labour Party has evolved grown-up, with the times, and is an attempt to combine attracting enthusiastic class-conscious workers, who have got to do the local spade work of the Party, by convincing them that it stands for Socialism, and catching the votes of ordinary electors, who just want something NOW ("full fruits," etc.).

The "common ownership" phrases were introduced at Margate and Edinburgh after the last war. The discussion around them was the same as always take place, for instance, on Compensation at Bournemouth. The "responsible leaders" tell the conference that it is not "practical politics"—that it "will prejudice the Party’s future," etc.; in other words— that it may lose votes. The same debate took place on full versus partial nationalisation. Every Socialist party propagandist knows the look of blank incredulous amazement which comes over the countenances of well-meaning Labour Party members, who sincerely believe the statements of Morgan Phillips and the Executive that the Labour Party is a Socialist Party—when the object of the Party is analysed.

It is only equalled by the expression of dumbfounded astonishment on the Socialist’s face when the Labour man says finally, "Well, what does it matter, anyway!"

People who wouldn't dream of calling in a "doctor who had not a scientific training, or let a "dentist" put a drill in their mouths who did not know the name of one tooth from another, trust their social welfare to politicians whose real aims they never closely examine. The Labour Party does not stand for Socialism. Its declared object is a meaningless phrase.

The best comment on it was made by Lord Snowden :—
   "It (the Labour Party) gained its former political strength neither from its Socialist idealism nor its election programme. It was an electoral refuge for a vague discontent.
   The old political parties had failed. Here was a new party which made the social condition of the people its claim to popular support.
   Millions of men and women who know nothing about Socialism, and who have never read the Labour programme, vote for Labour candidates because they believe that this is a party which is going to do something—they don’t know what—to improve their condition.
    I have been in this programme-making business for forty years. I have always realised its futility. Every programme in which I have had a hand I have seen discarded and another put in its place, later to share the fate of its predecessor."—(Snowden, Sunday Express, October 16th, 1932.)

Squatters and the Housing Problem (1969)

From the April 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The plight of the homeless has once again made headline news in the daily press with the occupation of a block of luxury flats in London. It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the oldest problems of capitalism, that of providing cheap accommodation for the working class, is still as acute as it ever was, after 120 years of various reforms and measures introduced by a succession of Tory, Liberal, and Labour governments.

The number of people involved in the 'squat-ins' now going on is extremely small compared with the number of homeless people who occupied empty camps under the control of the War Ministry just after the Second World War. One estimate put the number of squatters then involved at about 45,000. Of course conditions after the war were exceptional, as is to be expected when the warring national capitalist classes of the world have blasted one another's cities by aerial bombardment. Nevertheless no member of the British capitalist class whose home had been bombed ever had to move into an unoccupied army camp. This was something suffered only by the working class.

On October 11, 1946, statistics given by Aneurin Bevan revealed that 1,038 camps in England and Wales were occupied by 39,535 people. On Sept. 5 G. Buchanan, the then Under-Secretary of State, gave figures showing that in Scotland squatters numbered about 1,300 families comprising 4,000 people. Squatting on a considerable scale also took place in Northern Ireland.

Not all of the properties occupied by the squatters were army camps. Like their present-day counterparts, who took over the block of luxury flats in Snaresbrook, London, they showed impeccable taste by installing themselves in such residences as a 17-room vicarage in Shropshire, a 17th-century 40-room house owned by Vesta Tilley, a house in Finsbury owned by the Marquis of Northampton, and Litley Court, Hereford. A number of high-class properties in London were also taken over. Then, as now, the only reason for the properties being allowed to remain empty was that there were no buyers able or willing to pay the price demanded. Housing, like everything under capitalism, is produced for sale to realise profit or to be rented for the highest amount obtainable.

In 1946 Kensington and Marylebone had thousands of empty flats and houses, while their combined housing lists totalled 7,367. A similar situation prevails today in the same boroughs, especially in the Notting Hill area, with blocks of luxury flats virtually nestling side-by-side with crumbling tenements, large numbers of which are awaiting demolition, whose residents have been compelled by high rates and rents to seek accommodation elsewhere.

The policy of the majority of councils just after the war with regard to squatters is in sharp contrast with that of councils today, which is to evict them as quickly as possible from any property they occupy. In 1946 squatters were actually encouraged in their actions by councils, Scunthorpe acting first by taking over three army camps, after making prior arrangements with the Ministry of Health. Some councils failed to get Ministerial consent to take over camps, while some councils, like Reading, resisted the squatters from the start, cutting off electricity and threatening to remove their names from the housing list.

Twenty-three years after what must surely have been the biggest 'squat-in' of all time, the homeless are still with us and are still resorting to the same desperate measures to get a roof over their heads. In the Greater London area alone there are 170,000 families on the housing list and about 9,000 people in local authority hostels. The story is the same for the rest of the country, the acuteness of the problem varying from place to place, so much so that the claim of Kenneth Robinson, Minister of Planning and Land, that there would be a surplus of one million houses by 1973 sounds pretty hollow when it is realised that of a total of 17½  million dwellings in England three million (17 per cent) are irredeemable slums . . .

Even a bigger allocation of houses will not remove all today's slums by 1990, let alone 1975. Yet a target of 500,000 houses per year, if sustained throughout the early 1970s, will demand three times the present rate of slum clearance (Economist, October 14, 1967). Changes in the classification of housing could enlarge this estimate of the number of slums, making an even bigger problem of rehousing.

The Socialist Party supports the efforts of workers to improve their housing conditions under capitalism — even by squatting. But socialists also point out that there is no solution to the housing problem inside capitalism, and even if the agitation of those who support the squatters succeeds for the families they are now trying to help, future generations will still face the same misery and hardship of homelessness. Only in a society in which production is carried on solely to satisfy human wants, without anyone having to worry about where next week's rent or next month's mortgage repayment is coming from, will the housing problem find a solution.
Lawrence Brown

Ownership Means Control (1969)

From the April 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The question of the ownership of the means of production has been, and continues to be, the most vital factor in any discussion of major social problems. Since capitalism rests upon a foundation of class ownership of the means of production, then the obvious solution to those problems (such as war, poverty and insecurity) inherent in the capitalist system is the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership of the means of production, namely Socialism.

At various time, however, individuals and groups claiming to be socialist have put forward the view that not "ownership" but "control" is the vital issue. This is sheer confusion since they are trying to separate that which is really inseparable. Common ownership and democratic control go hand in hand; one is quite impossible without the other.

The reason for this attempt to pose the question of "control" against that of ownership would appear to lie in commonly held illusions as to the nature of the Russian revoution, and subsequent events in that and other countries that modelled themselves on the Russian example. If you think that the 1917 revolution was socialist, and by implication that the working class gained control of the state and transformed the means of production from class to common property, then it is not too difficult to understand why, on any examination of the subsequent dictatorship and repression, that resort should be made to the excuse of "bureaucratisation" and "administrative failures", and attention diverted to ideas of workers' control in the factory.

In fact, of course, far from being a Socialist revolution, it was the capitalist revolution or at least a phase of it, resultinging from the inability of the traditional bourgeoisie to carry through its historic task. The two essential pre-requisites of a socialist revolution were missing, namely an advanced level of technology and industrial development; and a majority of workers organised for the specific purpose of establishing Socialism. Despite industrial development in some of the larger towns Russia was largely a backward feudal economy. Some 80 per cent or more of the population were peasants, and of the small working class only a minority could have understood and desired the establishment of Socialism. The involvement of individuals or groups who may have understood and genuinely desired Socialism could not, and did not, change the role of the revolution, which was to completely break the political and economic influence of the Tsarist nobility, and develop capitalist industry in competition with the established capitalist powers as rapidly as possible.

Even had the Russian working class wanted Socialism, nobody should have expected the European working class to come to their rescue. Whilst the membership of and support for the European Social-Democratic parties was certainly on a mass scale, it had been gained not on a revolutionary, but on a reform, programme. What developed in Russia— which also was imposed upon Eastern Europe, and is developing to-day in China, Cuba, N. Vietnam and elsewhere —is, in fact, state capitalism.

When this is realised the question of "control" becomes much clearer, though it takes on a somewhat different meaning from that generally attached to it by the so-called left-wing. The capitalist class maintains its position of privilege through its control of the state (and not the other way around as some would have us believe). In Russia by far the larger part of the means of production are owned by the State, which is controlled by a political elite, carrying out the same functions as the traditional capitalist class of America and Europe, The important distinction is, that while in Britain and America the capitalist class own individually through the holding of stock, shares and bonds, in Russia the capitalist class owns collectively.

The task facing workers all over the world is the same: organisation along class lines for the overthrow of international capitalism and the establishment of a world Socialist society. The task of Socialists is clear. Since Socialism is a democratic society based upon voluntary work and co-operation, then its establishment and survival depends upon the conscious, organised action of the majority of the working class. On the economic front Socialists must do all in their power to encourage the development of democratic organisation and processes for the defence of workers wages and conditions. But more than this is needed: the organisation of a revolutionary Socialist party seeking understanding on the single issue of capitalism or Socialism, and reflecting the
 society it seeks to establish, by being completely under the control of the whole of its membership.
Mike Ballard