Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Great War – Opposing ‘A World Gone Mad’ (2018)

From the November 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party contends that there are only two classes in present-day society. Firstly, the working class majority who collectively produce the wealth of society but who, in order to live, have to sell their ability to work for a wage or a salary. Second, the capitalist class who are the small minority who accumulate profit through economic exploitation of the working class. This situation leads to an inevitable conflict of interests and the generation of social and economic problems that cannot be solved within the present social arrangements. Commodity production – production for sale with a view to profit — leads to conflict between producers over access to markets and sources of raw materials, and for the control of trade routes and spheres of influence. From time to time this clash of interests breaks out in armed conflict. To the Socialist Party, ‘capitalism and war are inseparable. There can be no capitalism without conflicts of economic interest’ (War and the Working Class, 1936).

Within a year of its founding the Socialist Party had published an article putting its view on war:
‘I do not think it will be questioned by any socialist that it is his duty to oppose the wars of the ruling class of one nation with the ruling class of another, and refuse to participate in them’ (Socialist Standard, August 1905).
Before the mass slaughter of the First World War the Socialist Party argued that, because wars were the outcome of economic conflicts between the capitalists of the various nations, it was illogical to attempt to abolish war while the economic conflicts remained. International congresses at Copenhagen and elsewhere to ensure ‘universal disarmament’ were doomed to failure. It was clear that:
‘… the “anti-war campaign”, as such, is, from the working class standpoint, absurd. Just as the class struggle cannot be abolished save by abolishing classes, so it is impossible for capitalist nations to get rid of the grim spectre of war, for Capitalism presupposes economic conflicts which must finally be fought out with the aid of the armed forces of the State ‘ (Socialist Standard, August 1910).
The view that capitalism causes war was not held exclusively by the Socialist Party. Other parties said much the same thing and, like the Socialist Party, called for the international solidarity of the working class. However, when the war broke out in 1914 their nationalism proved a stronger force than their socialism.

To its disgust, but not to its surprise, the Socialist Party saw workers and their leaders line up behind their respective governments. Labour leaders such as Hardie, Macdonald and Lansbury assured the government that ‘…the head office of the Party, its entire machinery, are to be placed at the disposal of the Government in their recruiting campaign.’

The Socialist Party angrily denounced the war as none of the workers’ business. It was a war of capitalist interests in which ‘. . . the workers’ interests are not bound up in the struggle for markets wherein their masters may dispose of the wealth they have stolen from them (the workers), but in the struggle to end the system under which they are robbed . . . The Socialist Party of Great Britain . . . declaring that no interests are at stake justifying the shedding of a single drop of working class blood, enters its emphatic protest against the brutal and bloody butchery of our brothers in this and other lands . . .

‘Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our good will and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.’

In common with most political parties the Socialist Party carried on a vigorous programme of indoor and outdoor propaganda meetings. From street corners and open spaces Party speakers on platforms propounded the socialist case against war. There survives in the Party archive a bound minute book recording outdoor meetings held in North London. One entry reads:
‘September 20th. Saturday. Speaker J. M. Wray. Chair Sullivan. Time 8.30 to 10.30. Audience about 200. Opposition by Grainger of Daily Herald League supported by several members of B.S.P. in the audience with design of raising prejudice against the SPGB and so of breaking up the meeting. Disorderly meeting.’
Audience size seems to have fluctuated between 100 and 250. The meetings in August 1914 increased in size and the entry ‘Many questions mainly about the war. Good meeting’ occurs a number of times. On Sunday August 30 Wray again addressed an audience this time of around 800:
‘Many questions mainly about the war . . . Hostility shown by the audience so soon as the speaker began to reply to the opposition and the police closed the meeting leaving Party members to get away with the platform amongst the hostile audience that had closed around it and damaged it one side of the steps torn away and lost thus rendering the platform useless for further propaganda meetings.’
It says a great deal for the character, optimism and bravery of these early members that they could face hostile audiences week after week. Undeterred the branch repaired the platform and were by the end of the week again holding meetings. At a meeting held on October 11 the speaker replied to questions about the war when ‘On the speaker replying to the opposition the audience started the National Anthem and the raising of cheers’ and the meeting had to be abandoned. By early November the initial flush of war fever had apparently calmed down. On November 8 (a Sunday) a crowd of about 500 were reported as an ‘Orderly meeting despite of [sic] hostile element’.

On a Sunday in mid September one Hyde Park meeting was the subject of a concerted attack. The organiser reported:
‘…There was a determined attack made to smash up the meeting. Just as Elliot was closing the meeting the police intervened and told him to close down. As he did not close down as quick as they wished they arrested him. Elliott was charged [deleted] however, charged with insulting the British armies and fined 30/-. The crowd numbered over a thousand and the organised opposition attempted at the conclusion of the meeting to smash [the] platform but only succeeded in doing a little damage to it.’
Some branches reacted to the threat of physical attack by banding together to continue open air meetings sometimes at new venues. In West Ham three branches got together to hold a meeting in Stratford Grove, an area not previously covered by the Party and its limited resources. It was possibly chosen to avoid marauding gangs of jingoists who were well aware of all the regular meeting places where anti-war sentiments might find expression.

Other branches had better luck. The secretary of East London branch reported that they had abandoned a meeting at Victoria Park after an obviously sympathetic park keeper had informed him ‘…that there were eight plain clothes men present for the purpose of arresting the Speaker and the Chairman as soon as the meeting started.’ It would appear that some propaganda meetings were having some effect and it is likely that the Party’s informant had listened to the speakers over a period of time, and was at least unwilling to see its views suppressed.

But speakers did not have to oppose the war from the platform to get into trouble. A man named Baggett reported that he had been arrested and ‘bound over in the surety of £50 to keep off the platform for six months . . . remarks complained of had reference to Lord Roberts circular [regarding the supply of prostitutes to the British Army in India].’

In 1914 speakers had not only the government and their fellow workers to contend with. Opposition to the war and objection to military service in defence of one’s employers’ interests could incur the wrath of employers – imprisonment was not the only hardship resulting from espousing unpopular views. An early member of the Party could recall a comrade being arrested in Leicester and being jailed for a week. Phoning his employer on his release, in the hope of fobbing him off with a plausible excuse, he discovered that ‘ . . . one of his fellow clerks had obligingly pinned up a report of his case in the manager’s office’.

In view of increasing hostility, and the fact that a number of branches had ceased to hold meetings on account of the difficult situation, the Executive Committee had to consider the suspension of outdoor propaganda activity. Every effort had been made to maintain outdoor propaganda meetings but the
‘ . . . brutality of crowds made drunk with patriotism. The prohibitions by the authorities, and the series of police prosecutions of our speakers, compelled the rank and file of the Socialist Party to put an end to the fruitless sacrifices of their spokesmen by stopping outdoor propaganda.’
What decided the matter was the issue by the Government of stringent Defence of the Realm Regulations outlawing the uttering of statements likely to cause disaffection. The decision appears to have been a difficult one as the minutes record that it was taken after a discussion lasting about two hours. The Party at a special meeting held to discuss the situation ratified the decision. There was clearly a small number within the Party opposed to this course of action and willing to ‘tough it out’ but a motion approving of the EC decision was carried by a fairly substantial majority of 75 – 9.

Explaining that ‘…our object was not to bid defiance to a world gone mad, but to place the fact that in this country the Socialist position was faithfully maintained by the Socialists’, the Party continued as best it could. Male members, under tremendous social and economic pressures, took what measures they could to avoid being called up.

How did the Party react when members were arrested, fined or thrown out of work? It must be remembered that in 1914 state welfare provisions were primitive and being put out of work for propagating its message needed more backing than mere expression of sympathy if they were to carry on. The vast majority of members were working men.

It is heartening to read how the Party treated what were in society’s view vile miscreants. A. L. Cox reported to the EC that he had been arrested in Nottingham and charged with ‘using seditious language and inciting people to riot’. He had been taken to the Guildhall followed by a hooting crowd of about 3,000, which must have been frightening. What is interesting in this instance is that Cox was bound over in the sum of £50 – an extraordinary sum for an ordinary working man with more than a hint of vindictiveness about it. Cox was lucky. The sum had been in part under-written by a member of the BSP who had witnessed the arrest and who had provided the bail. At the hearing he stated ‘. . . that he opposed the view of Cox and believed he could be a Socialist and still have a country to defend.’ The EC wrote to thank the man. They also paid the twelve shillings and sixpence [62.5p] court costs and guaranteed the £50 surety.

Some idea of the hand-to-mouth existence of at least some of the members is shown by the fact that Cox reported the following week that he had lost his job on account of his arrest and had been unable to gain another. After paying for the present week’s lodgings he said he would be practically penniless. He was advanced £1 by the EC and branches were invited to make voluntary subscriptions to a fund set up to assist the EC in this matter. This brought to light another member in economic difficulties. C. Elliott, a hot water fitter, produced a letter of dismissal from his employer who had given him the sack and stopped two day’s pay. Elliott had turned up to work on Monday and told his mate who was in charge of the job that he had to go to appear in court following an arrest for opposing war. His mate said he could not get on with the job on his own and would accompany him to court. He did so but got drunk on the way. The following day Elliott alone turned up for work and could only manage to work until lunch time when he notified the general foreman. His employer got wind of the matter when the absent mate ‘gave him away to defend his own conduct in absenting himself.’ He, too, was given £1.

Neither of the men took advantage of the Party as they reported soon after that they had found employment and no longer required assistance although it would have been quite easy to do so in the absence of any way their behaviour could have been monitored.

Conscription into the Armed Forces was a distinct possibility for Party members. When voluntary recruits began to fall in number in 1915 the government turned to the expedient of compulsion to make up the shortfall. Provision was made in the Military Services Acts for the possibility of gaining exemption on the grounds of conscience. This was a provision inserted into the Bill as a sop to the Liberals, some of whom still held to voluntarist and non-interventionist principles. Prime Minister Asquith was in a political crisis and to ensure Liberal support for the passage of the Bill the provision was made with the intention of it applying to persons holding religious views which forbade the taking of human life. The passage in the Bill was badly drafted and caused the authorities no end of trouble.

Socialist Party members – all atheists – could clearly not avail themselves of the terms of the Act. In a study of the workings of conscription one author has pointed out that ‘ . . . it was rare to find an objection that came within the definition of ‘political’ (John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919). At the end of the war the No-Conscription Fellowship published an analysis of 1,191 ‘socialist’ objectors it had particulars for and Rae is sure that this is as accurate as it is possible to be. However, it is possible that the NCF list failed to include the dozen or so objectors from the Socialist Party as the party distanced itself from that organisation refusing to have anything to do with ‘…yet another element of confusion… introduced to divert the attention of the workers from the true service of humanity.’ (Socialist Standard, May 1916), adding that while the socialist worthy of the name ‘. . . has the deepest conscientious objection in its most real sense to laying waste the earth and murdering men … given the occasion to do so usefully in the furtherance of the real interests of humanity he would count the sacrifice of his own life as justified.’

The Tribunals set up to adjudicate on applications for exemption from military service tended to reject political objections as not being conscientious objections within the meaning of the Act. No record exists, as far as we can tell, of a successful application from a Socialist Party member.
Gwynn Thomas

The Big Bang (1986)

From the December 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

So that was the Big Bang was it? What revolutionised the Stock Exchange and shook the City actually made no difference to most. Workers woke up one morning to a deregulated Stock Exchange, but would not have had much time to ponder the significance of such a revolution on their lifestyle before they had to get to their work or their place in the DHSS queue.

But of course, such matters must be important mustn't they? After all, it's on the news every evening, after the royal item and before the Granny-parachuting-for-charity, we get the summary of the share price fluctuations, and hear how the Pound struggled, rallied, finished weakly. As one who after a usual day's work (struggled, rallied, finished weakly) cannot see the significance of it all. I sent off for the Stock Exchange's glossy pamphlet An Introduction to the Stock Market. Thinking that "bull" was what economists talked about (rather than a type of market). I needed to see what all the fuss was about.

The cover had lots of photographs of the type of people who, presumably, own shares: all ages from smiling babies to smiling OAPs; all occupations from cooks to builders. welders to fishermen. They even managed to get half-a-dozen different ethnic groups represented on the pamphlet cover, which is about five more than are effectively allowed on the trading floor of the Stock Exchange, to go by recent reports.

Of course it's the same sort of rubbish that we get on TV with every advert for the TSB flotation, the idea that becoming a capitalist is as easy as wearing a bowler hat, everyone can do it. It's a popular notion — borne out by the oversubscription for TSB — that we can drag ourselves free from the varying degrees of poverty and pressures of working-class life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to escape that, but there is everything wrong in believing that a handful of shares in the TSB will free you of anything but a few hundred quid.

It is a popular notion because people want it to be true but it has no basis in fact. Research by London Weekend Television shows that the City is not full of self-made men (or women). Those who reach the top in the City still come, predominantly, from a privileged background. Indeed the class division between rich and poor, owners and non-owners did not end years ago with the nineteenth century, nor the nationalisation of the 1945 Labour government, nor the privatisation of the present government and certainly it will not end with the next stock market flotation (there should be one soon), nor with the next boom period (there should be one sometime), nor with a next Labour government.
The situation today has changed little:

  • the top one per cent own some twenty per cent of the total wealth in Britain, which is as much as the bottom seventy-five per cent;
  • the 20.000 millionaires in Britain own more wealth than half the population put together;
  • the top six per cent enjoy forty-four per cent of unearned income, while two-thirds have none.

(They didn't tell me that in the glossy brochure. I had to look elsewhere.)

The fact that some of those who work in the factories now have a couple of shares in British Gas tucked under their pillows, and a fifty pence reduction in their gas bill, will not upset the factory owners.

But isn't the Big Bang going to change all that? Isn't it going to sweep away the inherited privilege of a lucky few, in favour of real rewards for those with courage, enterprise and a will to work hard? You know the sort of person, a cliche that only exists in the head of a Tory Party speech writer he (not she) is pulling himself up by the bootstraps and pulling in his belt, he's got his nose to the grindstone, one foot on the ladder and is on his bike . . . Well, "yes" is the answer if you have eyes to read the brochure with; no is the answer if you also have a brain to think with. Far from opening up the City to the individual and the entrepreneur, the Big Bang means the deregulation of exchanges and emphasis on high technology, allowing very complex and very fast transactions of commodities all over the world. In the USA, this "programme trading" has produced much larger and more frequent swings in the markets. Judgements are decided by short-term market fluctuations. not on longer term evaluations like the state of the economy in general. Consequently, small investors cannot weather the large swings in the market without large financial backing. It's the big fish that remain.

But regardless of the fluctuations of share prices, the legal business of exploitation is not just a matter of gambling on the Stock Exchange — buying and selling at the right times and the right prices —where you are rewarded for your "courage". All you need to do is sit on your shares and spend the money as it comes in. You don't need talent or guts, just a lot of money. Indeed, a BBC Nationwide news programme a few years ago had an item about a dog (presumably they could not find a parachuting grandmother that day), who placed his paw on the Financial Times and chose the shares for his master. The dog was a millionaire. And his owner looked about as happy as a dog with two million pounds. You can do it too. Try it at home - all you need is a dog and somewhere in the region of £100,000. A trained monkey could do it. Even Gerald Grosvenor (the Duke of Westminster — two billion pounds and two O' levels to his name) can do it.

Most capitalists are the same, they get someone else to do the little bit of work of buying and selling shares. Most hardly even see the Stock Exchange, let alone the factories. land or offices they profit from.

Quite simply, the City cannot be opened up to everyone. As my brochure says (stuck away in the last paragraph on the bottom of page nine), your broker will "tell you honestly if your personal circumstances are such that you would be ill-advised to become an investor". Capitalists need workers but we don't need them. They couldn't tolerate a builder or a manager or a secretary retiring at the age of thirty to live off the proceeds of their work. They need to squeeze as much as possible out of you, from when you are strong enough to work until you are old enough to drop. The rest of your life is your own.

Unfortunately for this scheme of things, capitalism never runs smoothly for very long. The deregulation which has already started has produced some blatant examples of inflated salaries in the City. At a time when wage councils are being abolished and while one quarter of full-time workers in London are below the poverty line, the news that a few miles away in the City salaries can touch £lm cannot help the government's pleas to workers for wage restraint. At least the Queen has set the right example to Britain's greedy workers by accepting a pay rise below the rate of inflation, in the process boosting her earnings last year from £3,850.000 to over £4million.

Then we have the interesting sight of Thatcher criticising the excessive salaries. The champion of the market-place, outflanked by the uncontrollable nature of the system she supports. For capitalism, which periodically bares its "unacceptable face" that no cosmetic can hide, is the best ever advert for socialism.

We could have a society where personal consumption of wealth will not be restricted by your personal circumstances and where production of wealth will not be restricted by the requirement of a surplus called profit.

Socialism will take the information and communications technology that today enables vast amounts of useless information — like market fluctuations and share prices — to circulate the world in seconds, every second, and will liberate its potential for a society based on production for use, as we liberate ourselves in a movement for World Socialism which makes the Big Bang look a damp squib.
Brian Gardner

Toys Galore: A Story for Girls and Boys (1986)

A Short Story from the December 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Christmas Eve was only twenty-seven days away. A thousand feet down beneath the ice and rock of northern Greenland Father Christmas was feeling pleased and rather excited. In his workshops the output of toys and sweets was going almost exactly according to plan.

And what a plan! Five years ago he had decided that, old as he was, he must move with the times. And he and his elves had begun to modernise and expand his workshops. It was an immense task and it meant a profound change for all of them. But at last it was finished, and everything was working well. Now the production lines and stores and packing departments spread out underground for many hundreds of metres, and it was all fully automated and computerised. The elves, who had once been craftsmen in wood and metal and leather and pottery and cloth, now sat at control panels and monitored whole banks of machines and conveyor belts. Now they watched over the manufacture and warehousing of a bewildering range of plastic toys, construction kits, bicycles and tricycles, dolls prams, computer games, model space ships, racing cars, toy kitchens and nurses’ outfits, robots, chemistry sets, prehistoric monsters and a wide variety of sweets and chocolates and biscuits and cakes.

Father Christmas himself dressed in his workaday red smock, sat at his control desk, smoothing his white beard and watching the VDU screens as the reports from every section flashed up in front of him. In his mind he was already composing his press statement. This was what excited him. It was something he had never done before, but he had never had such news to tell as this. Now that the reorganisation was complete and everything was working well, he was going to tell the world that, this year, for the first time, he could give every child in the world what they wanted on Christmas morning.

Suddenly making up his mind, he got up and moved across to his word processor. Tentatively, he began to type out his message, going back to insert words here and there, moving paragraphs about, then wiping out fussy details, trying all the time to keep his news short and simple. He wanted everyone to understand the significance of the change that had taken place – how it would affect them all, but particularly the children.

For as long as he could remember – a great many years – he and his helpers had toiled without rest to make a few hundred thousand presents every year to take to a few hundred thousand children in just a few parts of the world. There was never enough: never enough time; never enough hands to do the work; never enough materials, tools or energy to drive the machinery. And so most children had to go short, and many more had to go without. Now, all that had changed. Father Christmas had at last caught up with the modern world and could now turn out an almost limitless supply of the sort of things that today’s children wanted.

When the press release was finished it ran to just over two hundred words. He read it through again carefully. Nothing boastful or misleading. Just a simple statement of the facts. He hoped that every newspaper and broadcasting station would eventually carry the story in one way or another. He transferred the finished text to the main computer, keyed in Reuter’s code number, waited for the “ready” signal and then touched the “transmit” key.

He made his way to the post room near the surface. The trickle of letters that had started over a month ago had now become a steady stream. By mid-December it would be a flood. Childish handwriting and bad spelling all had to be deciphered and the details entered into the computer where they would form instructions for the packing department. This work could not be automated. It was a job for experts of long experience. Often they had to guess what was wanted or provide substitutes. This year, children who did not write at all were being given standard parcels of sweets and toys. What Father Christmas could not do – and he was acutely conscious of this as he looked at a few of the letters – was to relieve the gruelling poverty of so many of the families to which these children belonged. As he walked along the corridor towards the stables he reflected that perhaps his new initiative might point the way to ending the deprivation of adults too.

The new sleigh was a massive affair. In spite of its traditional appearance, it was really a huge VTOL aircraft more like a spaceship, with vast load carrying capacity. It was their own design, and its test flights had probably given rise to some of the UFO stories that had spread around the world in the last two years. It incorporated one piece of advanced technology that far surpassed anything they had copied from the world outside a transporter which would beam down presents to children while the sleigh flew over at high speed, miles above.

The reindeer knew that their formation ahead of the sleigh was now symbolic rather than functional but still they were getting restless, faintly sensing the seasonal change in the air above, eager to begin their annual journey. Father Christmas walked slowly from stall to stall, murmuring softy to each one, calming and reassuring them.

When he returned to his control room, over an hour later, his computer screen carried the notice that an incoming message had been received and required an answer. When he called it up on the screen, it read, “Reuterlond to SaCIaus Greenld. Request clarification your 1343.55 hrs 281186. Please confirm extent of enhanced Xmas delivery”. It irritated him. He replied tersely that all children, everywhere would have presents delivered – where available, those they had requested. And then he settled down again to the job that he and the computer had been doing for weeks – the complicated planning of his delivery flights throughout the dark hours of Christmas Eve, right around the world.

He was not left in peace for long. A reporter on a New York newspaper sent a message requesting an interview. He replied immediately that he did not give interviews. In the following two hours more than thirty similar requests came from different parts of the world. He sent the same reply to all of them, adding to the later ones the emphasis that he never had given interviews and never would. But he was worried. This was not the sort of reaction he had expected. There were no congratulations or expressions of pleasure at his news.

He became more worried, even alarmed, when he began to receive offers to appear on television. Now he wished that he had told them nothing. Surely they understood that he never appeared in public did not want any publicity for himself, disliked even being seen. Replies to that effect seemed to do the trick. The screen stayed blank and he was able to get on with his work again.

It lasted three days. Then the real trouble started. The first indication of the way things were going came from a Hong Kong toy company. It complained of what it called “unfair competition”. This was followed by a long series of calls from toymakers’ federations, confectionery groups, chain stores, trades councils and even transport associations, using expressions like, “We hope there is some mistake. . .”, “. . . view with grave concern. . .”, “. . . lack of consultation . . .” First he became agitated and then, increasingly, angry. None of them seemed to have any concern at all for the children they were supposed to be serving.

By the end of the week, even governments’ boards of trade and foreign offices were asking him to “reconsider” or accusing him of “dumping” – a term he did not understand – and demanding that he attend all sorts of meetings to discuss his plans. Through the dry bureaucratic jargon and the impassive green lettering on the computer screen he could feel a growing panic, almost hysteria, in their messages. They’ve gone mad! he said aloud, but he was deeply upset.

All his work to bring pleasure and happiness to the children seemed to have aroused nothing but dismay and hostility. For a few hours he clung to the hope that, even if these trade associations and government departments did not appreciate the breakthrough he had achieved, then ordinary people would. But angry communications from trade unions representing shop and distributive workers, employees in toy and sweet factories, and even Father Christmases in department stores all but squashed that hope.

But the letters from the children did not stop. They wrote to him in ever-increasing numbers as the day drew nearer and the postal services kept delivering them, many more than in previous years, letters from parts of the world that had never heard of him before. They wanted his gifts, whatever their parents said. And he was determined to go on providing what the children wanted, as he had always tried to do. So when the Food and Drugs administration of the USA informed him that accusations had been made about the purity of his candy and the British Office of Trading Standards questioned the safety of his toys, he ignored them. He ignored the threats of sanctions from the secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and he smiled dismissively when the United Nations General Assembly informed him that “defensive measures” might be taken if he persisted. He was quite intent on going ahead in spite of all of them. He said, Christmas is for the children. They must know that.

The reindeer behaved well on Christmas Eve. In the steady arctic twilight they streamed north ahead of the sleigh, over the Pole and down the international dateline. At the height they were flying, the sun remained low but visible even when they reached the south Pacific. They traversed Tonga and the neighbouring islands, where the dateline bulges east, in a few swift sweeps and then began to cover New Zealand and the sprinkled islands of Melanesia. The parcels of gifts whistled out of the unloading bay and were steadily replaced by a stream from the cargo hold as they passed over villages and cities and ships at sea. As they swept north over Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, the earth below was dark but as they reached eastern Siberia the winter sun still lit the frozen land with a dull glow.

Before touching China at all, they returned to Greenland to reload and refuel. And so they worked their way gradually westward around the world.

They were flying south over India when they noticed the first bright flares coming up from the Maldives Islands. They looked a little like fireworks, but they came far too high and fast for fireworks and exploded behind them with shocks that they could feel faintly. “Bless my boots!” said Father Christmas. “They’re shooting at us! ‘Defensive measures’!”

It did not happen again until they were over the Ural mountains in Russia but this time the missiles detonated ahead of them and frightened the reindeer. “Peace on earth, good will toward men” he muttered fiercely through his beard. “They are probably singing that just about now.”

The final deliveries were very late. The sun was already rising over the western states of America and Canada. The sleigh, now minus its reindeer, glinted in the sunlight like a star and left vapour trails high in the atmosphere. The children were already waking but the fighter planes had been grounded. There had been no more attacks since Father Christmas had returned to base and sent out his ultimatum. It was very brief. He simply threatened to tell everyone, parents and children, how they could have plenty of everything they wanted, all the year round, all round the world. And that really frightened the governments. They called off their defensive measures and Father Christmas went on with his task in silence. That is why not many people know about it yet.
Ron Cook

Socialism and Calculation (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

In recent years, with the revival of the ideological Right as a reaction to the failure of the wishy-washy middle-of-the-road social reformism that had been in vogue since the war, we in the Socialist Party have been singled out for special attention by those partisans of unbridled capitalism who call themselves “libertarians” and “anarcho-capitalists”. This is probably because we are the only group calling itself socialist to put forward a coherent definition of what socialism is and prepared to go into the details of how we think a classless, stateless and in particular moneyless society might work.

The point these ideological defenders of capitalism love to attack us on is the idea of abolishing markets, prices, money and all other aspects of buying and selling. This they say would be impossible, as demonstrated by a certain Ludwig von Mises in an article on “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” published in German in 1920 (and first published in English in 1935 in Collectivist Economic Planning edited by Hayek). Von Mises, they claim, showed that a socialist society was impossible because it would be unable to calculate rationally which productive methods to adopt. This they call “the economic calculation argument”. According to von Mises, rational economic calculation is only possible on the basis of prices fixed by the free play of market forces. In other words, the only form of rational calculation that can be applied to the production of wealth is monetary calculation.

Although money, and so monetary calculation, will disappear in socialism this does not mean that there will no longer be any need to make choices, evaluations and calculations. Our argument is that these evaluations and calculations, including those concerning the non-monetary “cost” of objects in terms of the effort and materials used to produce them, will be done directly in kind, without any general unit of account or measurement, neither money nor labour-time.

This follows from the very nature of socialism as a society geared to producing wealth directly to satisfy human needs. Wealth will be produced and distributed in its natural form of useful things, of objects that can serve to satisfy some human need or other. Not being produced for sale on a market, items of wealth will not acquire an exchange-value in addition to their use-value. In socialism their value, in the normal non-economic sense of the word, will not be their selling price nor the time needed to produce them but their usefulness. It is for this that they will be appreciated, evaluated, wanted . . . and produced. So estimates of what is likely to be needed over a given period will be expressed as physical quantities of definite types and sorts of objects. Nobody, not even von Mises, has denied that this could be done without problems:
  calculation in natura, in an economy without exchange, can embrace consumption-goods only (Von Mises, p. 104).
Von Mises’ argument was that the next step—working out which productive methods to employ—would not be possible, or at least would not be able to be done “rationally” avoiding waste and inefficiency, without “economic calculation”—monetary calculation based on market prices. Our answer is that the choice of which productive methods to employ will, like working out what consumer goods are needed, be based on estimations and calculations in kind.

A monetary economy gives rise to the illusion that the “cost” of producing something is merely financial; indeed so associated is the word cost with financial and monetary calculation that we are obliged to put it in inverted commas when we want to talk about it in a non-monetary sense. But the real cost of the pen I’m using to write this article is not 10p, but the amount of wood, slate, labour, electricity, wear and tear of machines, used up in producing it. This will continue to be the case in socialism. Goods will not grow on trees, but will still require expenditure of effort and materials to produce them. The point is that in socialism this expenditure of effort and materials will be estimated and calculated exclusively in kind, directly in terms of wood, slate, machinery wear and tear, electricity, and so on (including working time, but as this will be a special case we’ll come back to it later). Since socialism will be concerned with conserving resources it will want to adopt those productive methods which, other things being equal, use less rather than more materials and energy and this will be one, but only one, of the factors to be taken into account in deciding which technical method of production to adopt.

Monetary calculation, whether to discover which productive method is the most profitable (as imposed by capitalism and praised by the followers of von Mises) or for any other purpose (as proposed by various partisans of state capitalism and other unrealistic would-be reformers of capitalism), is a very peculiar sort of calculation since it involves reducing all use-values to an abstract common denominator. Use-values can indeed be compared but only in concrete situations since the same object can have a different use-value at different times and under different circumstances. Monetary calculation, however, seeks to compare all objects in terms of an objective standard applicable in all circumstances; to do this it needs to identify a feature common to all objects. Such a common feature can indeed be found: that a certain “cost” in terms of materials, energy and labour expended has had to be incurred to produce them (ultimately the labour-time required to produce them from start to finish, and—this is the basis of the labour theory of value—the materials and energy expended, being produced by labour, can also be reduced to given amounts of necessary labour-time). It is this cost that is supposed to be measured by money. Money, then, is the universal unit of measurement, the “general equivalent”, that allows everything to be compared with everything else under an circumstances—but, and this is what the partisans of monetary calculation forget, only in terms of their labour-time cost or the total time needed on average to produce them from start to finish.

To make this the only consideration that counts (as is imposed by the economic laws of capitalism) is an absurd aberration. It is like making volume the most important thing about bottles containing different liquids and then concluding that a litre bottle of water has the same significance as a litre bottle of wine or of oil or of sulphuric acid or whatever. But we are doing exactly the same if we say, or if we believe, that different goods selling at the same price have the same “value”, or are “worth” the same, in terms of their real usefulness to people.

Market Values or Human Values?
So the argument between monetary calculation and calculation in kind is much broader than it first seems. It is not merely a technical argument about how to calculate and what units to use for this, but is an argument about the real meaning of words like “value” and “worth”. Socialists, as opponents of monetary calculation, say that it is not monetary or market values, in the end total average production time, that is the most important thing about a good but its usefulness in satisfying some human need; that the real values are use-values, human values. We are saying that these are the factors that should be taken into account when making choices and calculations about production. not simply production time.

This presupposes that calculations concerning production can be carried out without money or without some money-substitutes, some other general unit such as labour-time. Such non-monetary calculation of course already happens. on the technical level, under capitalism. Once the choice of productive method has been made (according to expected profitability as revealed by monetary calculation) then the real calculations in kind of what is needed to produce a specific good commence: so much raw materials, so much energy, so much labour, etc. In socialism it is not the case that the choice of productive method will become a technical choice that can be left to engineers, as is sometimes misunderstood by our critics, but that this choice too will be made in real terms, in terms of the real advantages and disadvantages of alternative methods and in terms of, on the one hand, the utility of some good or some project in a particular circumstance at a particular time and, on the other hand, of the real “costs” in the same circumstances and at the same time of the required materials, energy and productive effort.

To advocate monetary calculation, then, is to advocate that only one consideration—the total average production time needed to produce goods—should be taken into account when making decisions about which productive methods to employ. This is patently absurd but it is what is imposed by capitalism. Naturally, it leads to all sorts of aberrations from the point of view of human interests. In particular it rules out a rational, long-term attitude towards conserving resources and it imposes intolerable conditions on the actual producers (speed-up, pain, stress, boredom, long hours, nightwork, shiftwork, accidents).

Socialism, because it will calculate directly in kind, will be able to take these other, more important, factors than production time into account. This will naturally lead to different, in many cases quite different, productive methods being adopted than now under capitalism. If the health, comfort and enjoyment of those who actually manipulate the materials, or who supervise the machines which do this, to transform them into useful objects is to be paramount, certain methods are going to be ruled out altogether. The fast-moving production lines associated with the manufacture of cars would be stopped for ever (except perhaps in a museum of the horrors of capitalism); nightwork would be reduced to the strict minimum; particularly dangerous or unhealthy jobs would be automated (or completely abandoned).

Work can, in fact must, become enjoyable. But to the extent that work becomes enjoyable, measurement by minimum average working time would be completely meaningless, since people would not be seeking to minimise or rush such work.

However there will still be some kinds of work that socialist society will want to minimise. For instance, dangerous or repetitive work. Once again, this would be one of the real factors that will have to be taken into account when decisions are made as to what productive methods to adopt. Other factors would be conserving resources (so out would go “planned obsolescence” and in would come solid goods made to last), saving energy, avoiding pollution and generally maintaining a sustainable ecological balance with the rest of nature.

As a matter of fact, even under capitalism, enterprise managers do not just base their decisions on market prices, long-term or short-term. They are obliged by law (and also by trade union pressure) to take into account a whole series of other factors such as safety, anti-pollution and planning permission. The overriding consideration remains of course expected profits (the difference between anticipated sales receipts and monetary cost of production). This means that these factors are of minor importance and only reflect the minimum standards that are not incompatible with profit-making and, being imposed from outside against the logic of short-term profit-making are always being broken. But they do, however marginally, enter into productive decisions, thus showing that it is possible to take into account other considerations than minimum production time.

The Priorities in Socialism
In socialism the situation will be quite different: these factors will be automatically taken into account in the decision-making process and will not have to be imposed from outside as a sort of after-thought, since among the highest priorities of production will be the health and welfare of the producers. We can imagine the decisions as to choice of productive methods being made by a council elected by the workforce, or by a technical subcommittee of such a democratically-elected council. In making their choice they will first take into account, not minimising average total production time as the economic laws of capitalism enforce today, but the health, comfort and enjoyment of the workforce, the protection of the environment and the conservation of materials and energy. Since materials and energy, and work to the extent that it is not interesting and creative but only routine, are real “costs” the aim will be to minimise them. As there will be these clearly defined objectives and constraints, mathematical aids to decision-making such as operational research and linear programming, at present prostituted to the end of maximising profits, can be used to find the optimum productive methods.

Another point that must be understood is that socialism will not have to start from scratch. It will inherit from capitalism a going technical system of production which it will be able to adapt to production for use. Some methods will have to be stopped straight away or as soon as possible but others will only need modifying to a greater or lesser extent. Again, when socialism will have cleared up the mess inherited from capitalism, it will become a society in which methods of production too will only change slowly. This will make decision-making about production much simpler.

We add straight away to avoid any misunderstanding that, even in the period at the beginning of socialism when production will be clearing up the mess in terms of deprivation and poverty left by capitalism, monetary calculation won’t be necessary. The necessary expansion of production can be planned and executed in real terms.

So, the so-called “economic calculation argument” against socialism collapses in the face of detailed analysis. The alternative to monetary calculation in terms of exchange-value is calculation in kind in terms of use-values, of the real advantages and real costs of particular real alternatives in particular real circumstances.
Adam Buick

All Yuppies Now? (1987)

From the December 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are you young — upwardly mobile — professional? Are you the sort of person who buys downtown slums and fits them out with designer furniture and hand-painted blinds? Do you drive the sort of car which people who work in car factories can never afford to drive, listen to Suzanne Vega albums on compact discs, and check the share index in both the FT and The Independent to make sure that your highly ethical investments are looking as healthy as you do after you’ve been for your six-monthly BUPA check-up? If the answer is yes – sorry, yah – to those questions it is probable that you are a member of The Class of ‘87 – the yuppies.

Under capitalism there are two classes: the capitalists who rob and the workers who are robbed. But of course, as all trendy-minded readers will know, capitalism is not what it used to be. The working class – those cloth-capped fossils who dig coal and drive trains and have dirt under their fingernails and say things like “gawd blimey, mister” and “You can’t beat ‘er Majesty and ‘arold Wilson” – has apparently vanished. The corpse has been buried by a team of sociologists-cum-undertakers who write for Marxism Today who have conducted a thorough search of the wine bars of Covent Garden and can find no trace of any horny-handed sons of toil. Even the holy trinity of the new left – Eric Hobsbawm, Ralph Miliband and Jeremy Seabrook – have announced in the columns of that robust proletarian journal, the Guardian, that the proletariat (they who work in factories and vote Labour) are missing, feared dead – or, worse still, “up North”.

Both the left and the right wings of capitalism (not to mention the centre, which constitutes the Liberals and the SDP and David Owen who singularly represents the real centre) are sure that capitalism as described by Marx and the Socialist Party is old hat. Now we all live under Thatcherism. No longer are there masters and wage slaves; these are disgusting remnants of the past, entertained only in the deranged minds of people like the present writer who, in revolutionary obstinacy, insists that everyone he ever meets is either one of the bosses or one of the bossed. But if you accept the new line – as propagated by Thatcher and swallowed by her enemies in their own haste to sound indignant about it – we now live in the age of popular capitalism. And under popular capitalism you are all in one of three classes (unless, of course, you are the Queen or one of the other aristocratic parasites, in which case you are where you always were: rich, idle and useless). But the rest of us are either in class A – people who’ve made it, or class B – people who are making it (yuppies), or class C – people who can’t make it because they are too stupid or won’t make it because they like living in squalor.

Now the object of this so-called Thatcherism is to “make it”. Needless to say, “making it” bears no relation to making anything. If you go around producing goods and services you’ll never get on in the City. “Making it” means making money. You get other people to produce goods and services and you exploit them. If you are a yuppie you are not yet in the exploiting class. (In fact – don’t tell the yuppies, now – you never will be). But you act like you are heading in that direction. You do the dirty work for the capitalists. The so-called yuppie class are simply the errand boys and girls for the capitalists. They are paid extra for taking on themselves the problems of the exploiting class.

According to the Thatcher propaganda, we are all becoming capitalists now. This is a load of old twaddle. Firstly, only 19 percent of the British population owned any shares in the week before the BP share sell-off. So even if you define all shareholders as capitalists (which is a daft definition), that means that over 80 per cent of British people are outside this new capitalist class. But it is not the case that workers who buy a few shares are capitalists. The test of whether you are a capitalist is easy: give up selling yourself for a wage or salary and see how long you can live on your share dividends – if you’re on the last can of baked beans within a fortnight you have proved that whatever you are you are not a capitalist. The capitalist class are those people who can live without having to work: they invest in the labour of others.

Secondly, if Thatcher’s policies meant that we did all become capitalists there would be no wage slaves left to produce our profits for us. If we all became the Queen, who would we have to wave at, who would there be to bring us our dinner on a silver tray? It is a necessity of class society that superiority for some can only logically exist at the expense of inferiority for most. Thirdly, there has in fact been a record number of bankruptcies under the present Conservative government. The capitalist recession is not creating vast numbers of new capitalists, as the government liars state, but squeezing out large numbers of cockroach capitalists who land with a bump into the growing ranks of the wage and salary earning class. The notion that the workers are enjoying greater prosperity than ever and that poverty is an obsolete conception is not only a myth but an unforgivable insult. Go to the Docklands area of East London – the showpiece of resplendent yuppiedom – and you will find thousands of workers without jobs or much money who are being driven out of their area because the gamblers of the City have decided to redevelop it for their own purpose.

It is not only the Tories who preach the virtues of the new yuppie vision. Nor is it confined to the Alliance (alliance?) whose dream of the new Jerusalem is everyone sending their kids to progressive “independent” (exclusive, private, fee-paying) schools and driving Volvos with push-button windows. The silly old Labour Party has decided to fall in love with the yuppies too. Bryan Gould, the genius who masterminded the Labour Party’s spectacular defeat earlier this year (next time they’re hiring a computer linked up to an opinion poll teleprinter to organise it for them), has decided that Labour needs to speak to a wider constituency. What this means is that Labour needs to work harder at convincing Tories that their shares are safe in Labour’s hand. Gould wants Labour to go for the yuppie vote. After all, Ben Elton has made a packet posing as a socialist appealing to just such an audience. As ever, the Labour Party’s tactical astuteness bears a strong relationship to a wino negotiating his way to the bus shelter. Just when the Labourites decided that there’s nothing wrong with what Thatcher says about workers getting in on the Stock Exchange, what does the old Stock Exchange do? It crashes. The opportunism of the Labour Party is boundless, as they merrily proceed to urge workers to buy council houses and invest in private medical insurance and shares – as long as they’re ethical. (Marxism Today – the theoretical organ of the Lefty Yuppie Party – is now advertising a company which will advise pseudo-Marxists with a conscience which shares they should buy if they don’t want to exploit people.)

The yuppie left has become one of the more grotesque eyesores of 1980s politics. In the good old days lefties would waste our time discussing whether Russia was a deformed workers’ state or a degenerate workers’ state or a workers’ state with minor deformities; they would quote (and often misquote) bits from Marx and insist that we Socialist Party members had failed to study our Trotsky. No longer is such rhetoric prevalent (except in Chesterfield, of course, where the whole population is currently undergoing a Collected Works of Trotsky reading course). These days the yuppie left are into “feeling Green”. If you don’t know what it is to feel Green and put yourselves in the position of a baby seal you have no right to call yourself a socialist. Coffee-picking in Nicaragua is all the rage now (even Jimmy Carter’s at it) and singing South African liberation songs at book stalls displaying pamphlets about the need for armed struggle in the Third World written by Paul Foot who lives in Hampstead. If you are a male you must become what the yuppie left calls a new man, which means that you are extremely patronising to women (who are all your sisters) and must endure the rest of your life on a permanent guilt trip for the crime of being a potential rapist. It is little wonder that most wage slaves prefer the down-to-earth callousness of Norman Tebbit and his fellow gangsters to the phony, self-righteous, condescending, half-baked outlook of the trendy yuppies who constitute the left-wing of capitalist politics.

The Socialist Party is not out to win over the yuppies. We do not appeal to the “middle class” any more than we appeal to the Wizard of Oz or the residents of Albert Square, Walford. We do not seek to trim our message to suit the prejudices of fictitious classes of people. We direct what we have to say at the working class – all workers, be they paid in wages or salaries, whether they wear overalls or carry filofaxes. Socialists do not make the leftist error of imagining that the true workers are these who live in council flats and stand on the terraces at football matches. Nor do we believe that so-called yuppies, most of whom are simply entertaining the self-delusion of privilege, are anything but workers. We have no grudge against workers who are making an extra crust out of capitalism. But they would be fools to be bought off by crusts and crumbs. The yuppies of the right who imagine that they are part of Thatcher’s new elite will find out the hard way which class they are in and yuppies of the left who feel guilty for being “privileged” people like teachers and social workers should stop boring the rest of us with the needless guilt.
Steve Coleman

Rear View: Donald The Great Dictator? (2018)

Il Donnie
The Rear View Column from the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Donald The Great Dictator?
An article titled ‘Is Trump A Fascist?’ (, 1 November) lists twelve early warning signs of fascism and asks readers to make up their own minds. Rather than debate the validity or otherwise of the various signs, including some such as rampant sexism, control of mass media and protection of corporate power which are ubiquitous, defining fascism would be a good place to start.

Originally, fascist referred to the followers of Benito Mussolini, who was dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943. Racism and anti-Semitism, though it did exist, did not play a prominent role in Italian fascism, unlike the German Nazi variant. Fascism was — and is – an authoritarian, nationalistic and anti-socialist political ideology that preaches the need for a strong state ruled by a single political party led by a charismatic leader. Hitler and the Nazis came to power with the support of more than ten million workers. Further, that very month, March 1933, the first camp was opened – for the incarceration of officials of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties. And on May 10 1933 in Berlin banned books were burnt openly and watched by some 70,000 people.

Trump ticks those three ideological boxes and like Hitler was elected — his supporters include millions of workers, whilst millions of others are disenfranchised. In April his administration began enforcing a zero-tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their families. What next? More camps surrounded by ‘beautiful barbed wire’?

Further, given that apparently Trump does not read books, and there is already a list of banned books, one wonders if he will object to them being burned … Steve Hilton, the former chief strategist to the former Prime Minister Cameron, made this candid comment: ‘Regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power. It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome.’ Indeed, and in the more long-term perspective, all social events for over two hundred years have taken place within the framework of world capitalism, with its class divisions and profit motive. As such, this form of society must be held responsible for every war, every death from starvation and every dictator it has generated. Let us prove Hilton wrong by voting for ourselves for a change.

Blood, sweat & tears
‘What makes you rich, and how much do you earn if you’re middle class?’ (, 1 November). George Orwell once described his family of origin as ‘lower-upper middle class’. The term middle class is in everyday use but generally to refer to occupation rather than, as in the New Statesman article, income.

The socialist position is that classes are defined by their relationship to the means of production. We, the working class, having no other property to sell on a regular basis, live by selling our labour power for a wage or a salary. Marx put it more graphically: capital, ‘is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.’ And: ‘The capital given in exchange for labour-power is converted into necessaries, by the consumption of which the muscles, nerves, bones, and brains of existing labourers are reproduced, and new labourers are begotten’. The life-blood of this system is the pumping of surplus value out of wage labour. The whole working class is involved in creating, maintaining and reproducing labour power for the benefit of the capitalist class. The struggles over the distribution of the social product, the organisation of work, working conditions and the results of production never stop. The class struggle or war is more than a struggle over the level of exploitation, however. Ultimately it is a struggle over the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution.

The war in question has been correctly identified by none other than Warren Buffett: ‘there’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ Consider, the top 0.1 percent of American households hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent and every 38 seconds a U.S. citizen dies of poverty and poverty-related social conditions. The rich will stay rich and the poor poor until a majority of class conscious workers act and capitalism is replaced by a world without wages, money, poverty and war.

Dutch Left (2018)

Book Review from the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900–68)’ By Philippe Bourrinet. (Haymarket Books, 2018, 636 pages)

Bourrinet traces the origin of the subject of this detailed study – ‘council communism’ – to the breakaway in 1909 from the mainstream Dutch Social Democrat party (the Social Democratic Workers Party – SDAP) of a group critical of its open revisionism and parliamentary reformism, to set up the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as a more orthodox Marxist party. What they objected to was the SDAP’s exclusive reliance, to improve the lot of the working class within capitalism, on parliamentary action, including deals with bourgeois parties. The SDP envisaged the workers using strikes and other forms of mass action to further their interests as well as parliamentary activity that excluded deals with other parties.

Bourrinet concentrates on the views of two of their prominent members, the poet Herman Gorter and the astronomer Anton Pannekoek (though he was active in the German party at the time and up to the outbreak of the First World War). The SDP was not anti-parliamentary. As a Left Communist himself, Bourrinet sees Pannekoek’s advocacy of mass strike action to try to obtain a more democratic franchise in Prussia as ‘paradoxal’ but that’s with hindsight. At the time Pannekoek was not anti-elections. Nor was Gorter, who stood for Parliament in 1913 (and got 196 votes). In 1918, by which time the whole political situation had changed, the SDP got two MPs elected.

In November 1918 it changed its name to the Communist Party. Gorter and Pannekoek remained members but, having become by this time anti-parliamentarists, were not in the majority. They both eventually resigned to support the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD) formed in 1920 by people expelled from the German Communist Party for, among other things, taking up an anti-election and anti-trade-union position.

This earned Gorter a place in Lenin’s 1921 polemic Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Pannekoek had received a more favourable mention in Lenin’s 1917 State and Revolution for his view that the aim of the socialist revolution was to overthrow the state.

Pannekoek, however, did not share Lenin’s view that a new ‘workers’ state’ should be set up to replace the old state. Believing that the Russian revolution had really been the ‘soviet’ (i.e. council) revolution the Bolsheviks claimed it was, he advocated that, after the revolution, power should be in the hands of workers’ councils.

Bourrinet goes on to recount the rise of the KAPD, which at its height in 1921 had over 40,000 members, and its subsequent decline as it split into different groups over the roles of trade unions, workers councils and the party. Some were virtually anarcho-syndicalists. While the KAPD disappeared after 1933, the Dutch Communist Left survived as the Group of International Communists and after the Second World War as the Spartacusbond. But by then there weren’t any more of them than of us – fewer in fact.

Apart from their anti-parliamentarism, their post-war position was very close to ours, especially with regard to the need for the socialist revolution to involve majority democratic self-organisation. Their final position on Bolshevism can be seen from the titles of two of their books in English: Otto Rühle’s 1939 The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism and Paul Mattick’s 1978 Anti-Bolshevik Communism. Some of them came to see Russia not only as state capitalist but the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917 as a state capitalist revolution.
Adam Buick

Brexit, Schmexit (2018)

From the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

So, with only a few months till Brexit Day, the government (or most of it) has agreed with the EU on the terms of a withdrawal agreement. As previously negotiated, there is to be a transition period of 21 months between 30 March next year and 31 December 2020 during which the UK will remain in the EU’s customs union and single market but with no say in any decisions about them; which Boris Johnson has described as being a ‘vassal state’, even though he was Foreign Secretary when this  was agreed.

The intention is that during this period the two sides will agree a final settlement on the future trading arrangements. If they are unable to, then, again as previously agreed, there will be a ‘backstop’ to prevent a hard border, i.e. with customs checks, being re-erected between the two parts of Ireland.

The only new element is the terms of this backstop, with the EU insisting on safeguards to, in the event of no future trading agreement, prevent goods from the UK which don’t meet the rules of the single market sneaking into it by this backdoor. It is this last that the extreme Brexiteers object to as a means of sabotaging the agreement. As do the DUP on the grounds that this would mean a different, however slight, trading arrangement with the EU for Northern Ireland.

The negotiations are all about trading arrangements and, as such, don’t concern the majority class of wage and salary workers. So we can let the capitalists and their political representatives settle the matter and observe who wins between the dominant section who want as similar a trading link with the EU as now (and who never wanted to leave anyway) and those that George Osborne, now editor of the London Evening Standard, has called ‘those naive business leaders and hedge fund managers who thought that the dispossessed of our industrial towns were voting with them for Britain to become a Singapore in the North Sea’ (14 November). We can also watch with amusement the Tory party tear itself apart over the issue.

We would only be affected in the event of the capitalist class’s political representatives not being able to settle the matter, resulting in the UK crashing out of the EU without any agreement. This is unlikely but, if it happened, our lives would be temporarily, and from our point of view unnecessarily, disrupted. In Northern Ireland the Border with a capital B would be restored with all its negative effects on working class thinking, not to mention Irish Republican action, there.

One thing we don’t want, thank you, would be the matter to be referred back to us in a second, irrelevant referendum. Why should we be asked to settle an argument between our masters which doesn’t concern us?