Monday, December 10, 2018

Oil — The Prize in the Middle East (1955)

From the December 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are two delusions that cloud the minds and paralyse the hands of those who mistakenly believe that Capitalism is evolving into Socialism. One is that the so-called Welfare State has changed the old order at home. The second is that World Capitalism has been humanised into giving up the naked struggle for raw materials, strategic bases and markets. This is supposed to have been brought about by the United Nations organisation. A glance at the Middle East should help to blow away this dangerous self-deception.

Fahoud is the name of the spot in the Arabian desert that is the centre of the drama being played out with repercussions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean lands, and Fahoud spells oil. Mr. Noel Barber, correspondent of the Daily Mail told the story in the issues of 31 October and 7 November.
  “A year ago no white man had ever been there. Today, under the lea of a great escarpment—with the nearest natural water-hole more than 100 miles away—there lies a small cluster of huts and tents, and by the side an airstrip. It is Fahoud, a name you can find on no map. In it live a sturdy band of lonely men, Britain’s advance force in the war for oil that daily gathers momentum in the Middle East. . . . Fahoud pinpoints the struggle for oil being fought by vast concerns in Wall Street and the City, by diplomats in Geneva, and in clashes between troops patrolling the tenuous desert boundaries. It is the battle between the Saudis and the British, between America and Britain for mastery in the world’s richest oilfield." — (Daily Mail, Till 155).
As Noel Barber says of his report: “ It is a story that might have been written 60 years ago, when ‘ outposts of Empire’ were fashionable.”

He points out that British and American interests clash. American oil companies are closely connected with the ownership and development of the concession oil fields in Saudi Arabia, while British companies, and the British Government, are associated with the Aden Protectorate, the Sultan of Muscat and the Sheikh Abu Zhabi, “lifelong friend of Britain.” Three years ago, Saudi Arabia sent in troops to occupy the Buraini Oasis, hitherto occupied by the Sultan of Muscat and Sheikh Abu Zhabi. After attempts to settle the dispute by arbitration had broken down. Sir Anthony Eden announced in the House of Commons on 26 October that “native troops, commanded by British officers, had reoccupied the Buraini Oasis after a skirmish with Saudi Arabian forces who marched in three years ago.” (Daily Mail, 31/10/55).

The vital importance of the oasis is that it commands Fahoud, centre of the new oil fields.
  “For if the Saudis had established themselves in Buraimi they would certainly have controlled a much larger share of the Oman Desert and the eastern end of the Empty Quarter. That would have meant the end of Fahoud for us.”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
Here are some of Noel Barber’s observations, written after his visit to Fahoud and neighbouring areas.
   “Every move in the tangled drama of the Middle East has its roots in oil. An American geologist is discovered with Saudi troops pottering about in the Aden Protectorate. The British move into the Buraimi Oasis. The Saudis sign up with Egypt. The Czechs supply the Arabs with arms— all are linked with the measureless wealth lying in the black lakes below this inhospitable terrain." — (Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
And he notes that the new, rich oil fields meant not just large quantities of oil, but more profit for the British companies.
   “Now the battle for oil takes a new turn—the struggle for oil showing a larger profit. This is the natural reaction since the oil royalties in Arabia were stepped up to 50 per cent. In this new war British interests hold the whip hand. Any oil found from, say, Buraimi down to Aden will yield a far richer profit than oil pumped out of the hinterland. That is the real reason for Britain’s tougher attitude, for sending 1,000 crack troops to Aden, for appointing Air Vice-Marshal Lawrence Sinclair to command the R.A.F. at Aden”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).
Of the occupation of Buraimi the Mail wrote
  "The incident was small in itself, but it can be taken as an earnest of Britain’s determination to protect her oil interests at all costs.”—(Daily Mail, 31/10/55).
Thus speaks unregenerate Capitalism; and the workers of all countries who may be called upon to pay the cost with their lives should draw the right conclusion while there is yet time.
Edgar Hardcastle

An Earlier Bombardment of Egypt (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Egypt was under Arab and Turkish control for twelve hundred years up to 1873, when it secured independence from Turkey, but was still under British and French financial control. The Suez Canal, built by de Lesseps, was opened in 1869. In 1875 the British Government bought the Khedive's (Viceroy of Egypt) shares in the canal in order to safeguard the route to India. It was the beginning of the partition of Africa amongst the European powers, chief of whom were Britain, France and Germany.

Of this partition, Major-General Fuller has this to say in his book War and Western Civilisation:
  “From 1870 onwards a veritable crusade was carried out by European nations in the name of Gold, every banker, statesman and merchant swearing on his cheque book for his personal profit to ‘civilize’ such portions of the world as could not defend themselves against the white man's rifles and cannon; for ‘progress’ to these people was synonymous with ‘conquest’ Having since 1815 freed themselves from autocratic government, their one intention was to force the absolutism they had rejected down the throats of all peoples who happened to be any colour except white. As regards aggression, the years 1870-98 are only equalled by the age of Genghis Khan. Between 1870 and 1900 Great Britain acquired 4,754,000 square miles of territory, adding to her population 88,000,000 people: between 1884 and 1900 France acquired 3,583,580 square miles and 36,553,000 people; and in these same years Germany, a bad last, gained 1,026,220 square miles and 16,687,100 people.” (Pages 133-134.)
In 1882, under the influence of this “crusading” spirit, an Anglo-French squadron of ships was lying off Alexandria with steam always up. In Egypt a nationalist movement of revolt against European influence was being worked up by Arabi Pasha (an Egyptian officer) after the fashion of Nasser. Admiral Seymour, the commander of the fleet, learnt that the forts opposite them were being covertly strengthened and extensively armed. In the meantime rioting broke out in Alexandria and Europeans were attacked.

The Graphic newspaper for July 24th, 1882, published a supplement covering the Egyptian crisis. Of the Suez Canal it made the following remarks:
  “The safety of the Suez Canal was another source of anxiety. Alarming reports were circulated of 5,000 disaffected soldiers being on the watch, of Bedouins haunting the banks, and of explosives being stored in lsmailia. Many of the officials left, and the Egyptian Ministry were asked by M. de Lesseps to secure the protection of the traffic. Ragheb returned a vague reply, hardly calculated to allay the anxiety, which was heightened by the rumour that Arabi intended to blow up the Canal on the first sign of British hostile intentions.”
How familiar it all seems! British and foreign consuls warned their nationals to leave the country, and the authorities, one by one, removed their official property and staffs aboard ship. On the morning after the removal was completed Admiral Seymour sent an ultimatum to the Egyptian Ministry giving them twenty-four hours to surrender the forts for disarmament, under penalty of bombardment. Now let us quote the Graphic’s account of what happened:
  "The day passed without sign of submission, much to the evident satisfaction of the British officers and crews, and by 4 a.m. on the 11th inst., the order was given to prepare for action. Whilst the vessels took up their positions the men watched eagerly for signs of life in the forts, as they feared that the Egyptians would bolt without fighting, and on seeing the soldiers grouped in the defences,' a smile of grim satisfaction pervaded all faces.’ Hopes of the encounter were, however, damped by the appearance of the Felicon, bearing some Turkish officers, who announced that they had been rowing about all night to find the Admiral. They brought a Ministerial letter offering to dismount the Egyptian guns, but Admiral Seymour replied that the time for negotiations had passed, and gave the order to commence.”
The forts were subjected to an intense bombardment and in a few hours reduced to shapeless masses. A panic was produced in Alexandria, and the Egyptian army retreated after looting the shops.

The bombardment of Alexandria was followed by the subjugation of Egypt and the Sudan and the vision of territorial control right down to the Cape.

‘Contemporary Capitalism’ (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

Contemporary Capitalism by John Strachey (Victor Gollancz Ltd).

Mr. Strachey has never lacked a cause or a pen to wield on its behalf. He has both a talent for remembering and reproducing what others have told him and later forgetting what it was really all about. In turn he has been a currency reformer, I.L.P.’er, a Left Book Club writer of fairy tales for political innocents about “the Socialist one-sixth of the world,” an alleged Marxist, a Keynes admirer, a Labourite, and Minister in two Labour Governments. Such has been the evolution from half-baked theorist to hard-boiled politician.

That such a varied diet of ill-digested theories has induced intellectual heartburn, explains the burping Marxism in his latest book, Contemporary Capitalism. Although Mr. Strachey has arrived at political respectability, he fashionably sowed his wild oats in Communist heresy, and he has skeletons in his cupboard. We find them grinning at us at times through his book, in the guise of Marxist revisionism. Like all revisionists, he comes not to revise Marxism, but to destroy it.

Mr. Strachey pays lip service to Socialism, but it has never meant for him anything else than the vague Labour notion of “the good society,” currently expressed in the utility utopia of “The Welfare State.” That Socialism is a working-class issue, embodying a different social and economic organisation with a different set of human values, is for Mr. Strachey the seventh veil of political mystery.

Actually his book on present day Capitalism is largely an echo of the past whose font was Edward Bernstein, one of the founding fathers of Reformism. His work, Evolutionary Socialism, is the watershed of Marxist Revisionism. Like Mr. Strachey, Bernstein “came to bury Marx, not to praise him.”

Briefly, Bernstein believed that the growth of the credit system and the rise of trusts and cartels would lead to the economic regulation and control of Capitalism. Not only would cut-throat rivalry and anarchy of production disappear, but alongside this the social democrats would seek to organise the working-class politically and transform the State in the direction of “true” democracy. Thus he maintained that democratic pressure and the exercise of ethical principles would gradually transform Capitalism into a humane and civilized society. The subsequent evolution of Capitalism shattered the facile and optimistic assumptions of Bernstein. Capitalism without tears was his version of Socialism. It is also Mr. Strachey’s.

Only on one issue do Mr. Strachey and Bernstein disagree. One of the main points of Bernstein’s revisionism was a denial of the validity of the “Law of the Concentration and Centralization of Capital.” Mr. Strachey not only accepts this “law,” but argues that it has effected what he terms “a social mutation.” The essence of this “mutation,” we are to understand, is that in an economy of large and few units a point is reached in the increased size and decreased number which allows the managers of the remaining units lo affect prices instead of being affected by them. (Page 26).

We are further told (Page 29) that “in any sphere of production where firms are large and few, they can by their power to affect prices, affect the level of their own profits.” Capitalism, argues Mr. Strachey, has lost its regulator, the impersonal force of the competitive market; it has been or is being replaced by the conscious decisions of groups of men who, by tacitly refraining from competitive pricing, may move prices within limits. We are not told what the ceiling of these limits is, but one gathers from Mr. Strachey that it can be pretty high.

Mr. Strachey’s conclusions seem to be then that throughout the large units of industry the margin between costs and selling price can by agreement among the various groups be so arranged as to realise a profit above the average or norm. It follows then that if the ability to affect prices so as to obtain an above the average profit, or what is known as maximum returns, characterises extant capitalist society, then maximum profit must constitute a profit norm.

But it is a Marxist axiom that the distribution of profits can of itself add nothing to the sum of values produced by the social labour force. Ruling out that the extra profit is a deduction from working-class wages, the extra profit of some concerns can only come out of the pockets of other concerns. There can be then no such thing as a prevailing law of maximum profit, for it is fairly evident that as the power to raise prices spread from point to point of the economy, what some capitalists gained on the “selling” swings they would lose on the “buying” roundabouts. The net result would tend towards an equalisation of profit, even though the price structure of the economy would be distorted.

It is true that firms do use monopolistic advantages to seek monopolistic gain. But if that be the measure of this “mutation,” then mercantilism was a greater mutation than present society. It is the nature of capitalists to seek maximum gain. Even in laissez-faire capitalism they sought maximum gain, through any device or resources which gave them superior competitive power. Because the accumulation of capital is the most compulsive feature of capitalist society at any time, capitalists will use all available means to produce and reproduce their capital. That monopolistic practises have become one of these means in their attempt to do so, is itself a normal and logical development in capitalist society.

There is a widespread belief among the uninformed, among whom Mr. Strachey must be counted, that the British Economy is in the iron grip of a relatively few powerful concerns. The belief does not tally with the facts. In the first place, big monopolies compete against each other. Also the power of these big monopolies acts as a restraint on any one of them seeking abnormal returns. And even if a monopoly does seek to obtain super-profit, it faces the danger of other giants entering the field. Even those concerns that are suppliers of particular products often meet with fierce competition from substitutes.

Again, powerful organisations of sellers bring into being powerful organisations of buyers, and strenuous price-haggling results. Not only do big buyers play one supplier off against another, but they are prepared to “roll their own” if the prices of supplies are too high.

It is true that big monopolies make big profits, but in relation to their huge capital turnover, their rate of profit may be no more, even less, than that of many smaller concerns.

Mr. Strachey, conscious perhaps of the weakness of his claims, drags his economic nets and brings in cartels to illustrate his social mutation. Indeed, they are the only attempt at evidence he offers. It is true that cartels flourished during the period between the wars, especially in certain important British industries. They were enabled to do so by the connivance of the Government of the time and by protection duties. These cartels did not exemplify Mr. Strachey’s “conscious regulating power of Capitalism,” but the desperate plight to which world conditions had reduced many sections of British industry.

Cartels, which Mr. Strachey makes his strong suit are the weakest form of monopolistic organization. Their chief function is to combat price-cutting in times of bad trade. Even so, there are always temptations for some firms to sell below the cartel price. Also price-cutting takes place in cartels by the granting of long-term credit facilities, quantity discounts, free delivery, etc.

Neither does it necessarily follow that restriction of output and price manipulation by cartels allow of extra profit because restriction of output can keep low-cost firms back and preserve high-cost ones. Thus the spread-over cost will be considerable and profit margins correspondingly reduced to approximately competitive levels. In times of good trade the rules of cartels will be much less stringent and in some cases ignored.

Mr. Strachey also includes in his mutation what is termed monopolistic competition. This is an alternative to price-cutting by the use of effective selling methods, although even then price-cutting takes place in the form of adding extras and variations to the product.

Monopolistic competition confers, however, no power on firms to affect their own profit levels. Huge staffs of salesmen, highly decorative labelling and packaging, the costly and constant advertising in press, radio and television, greatly enhance total costs and thus reduce profit margins. So far from monopolistic competition being some conscious form of regulating Capitalism, it only too clearly reveals what compulsions are attached to the realisation of surplus value and the vicious and antisocial channels they often take. To say that a variation of competition from the cut-throat to the monopolistic is a transformation of Capitalism is like saying; that if knuckle fighting is replaced by boxing gloves with horse shoes in them, fisticuffs will be mutated, although the participants will still be mutilated.

That Mr. Strachey should really think that changes in the realisation of profit constitute a transformation of Capitalism is enough to make the pages of Marx’s Capital curl up at their edges with laughter.

Capital is not, as Mr. Strachey seems to think, something which people are free to use as they choose. Capital is an historically conditioned form of wealth, expressed in the class ownership of society. And the motives and objectives of the owners of capital are prescribed for them by this form of control. That is why the basic law of Capitalism is the self-expansion of capital via the production and reproduction of surplus value. It is for that reason that the owners of capital today compete not only on a bigger scale, but with more ferocious intensity than did their 19th century counterparts. To preserve and reproduce capital to an ever greater degree has for its owners the same overriding compulsion it always had.

Mr. Strachey, like many Liberals, sees in State economic intervention stepping stones to Socialism. He is indifferent to the fact that the expansion of Capitalism necessitates State participation. He talks glibly of the State taking over key controls, but is careful not to suggest the old Labour nostrum of nationalisation as the universal remedy. Nor does he offer any evidence to show how State possession of key controls will alter or affect the primary objectives and aims of Capitalist society.

He is dazzled, or appears to be, by the attempts of social reformers to come to terms with the class conflicts engendered by Capitalism. He believes with Bernstein that State power can be shared between the classes with an ever greater degree of power going to the exploited class. It is this which gives him and others the illusion of great democratic victories. For Mr. Strachey the State is a means of class reconciliation and collusion where in reality its intervention—via social reforms—is an attempt to soften the tension of class conflict. That the dismal failure of Social Democracy to realise its own limited social ideals provides itself the key to the real nature of Capitalist society is a lesson not yet learned by Mr. Strachey.

For someone who once claimed to be a Marxist, even though a “Moscow one,” his efforts to see State activity and intervention as something socially new is laughable. In actual fact, State activity is socially old, and whatever class society one examines in the past, one will always discover the State functioning very actively and significantly to guarantee and further the interests of a particular set of property relations.

Mr. Strachey in his political adventures has certainly gone a long way but in the opposite direction to Socialism.

(Other aspects of Mr, Strachey’s book will be dealt with in a later article)
Ted Wilmott

Manifesto on the Suez Crisis (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The monster of war has raised its ugly head again, and once more the workers have been called upon to take up arms and risk their lives in their masters’ quarrels. Still erecting monuments to dead heroes of past wars the governments mock them by engaging in the preliminaries of what may be another shambles on behalf of capitalist self-interest.

The usual flimsy pretexts were broadcast to cover this most brutal and bloody of all the consequences of the present exploiting system. The victims of the past are forgotten in the fervour of conquest for gain.

The hypocritical blustering of the warmongers is matched by the feeble and contradictory protests of the alleged anti-war and peace committees, the reformists, and other deluded groups, all thrown into confusion when faced with this calamitous product of the workings of international Capital.

The invasion of Egypt
At the end of October the British and French Governments, on the hollow pretext of stopping the war resulting from the Israeli invasion of Egypt, launched a massive air attack on the latter country as a prelude to landing troops along the Suez Canal. The real objects of this aggression were transparently clear. It was designed to regain control of the Canal from the Egyptian Government, protect resources of oil and the holdings and profits of the oil companies in the Arab countries, as well as to safeguard the French Colonies in North Africa. It was a naked clash of capitalist interests; the Egyptian capitalists, backed by Russian arms, trying to establish their dominance in the Middle East, and the British and French imperialists trying to hold on to what they had filched in earlier wars.

The rival slogans of “national sovereignty,” “international rights,” “restoring peace,” etc., only thinly disguised the sordid motives of the different ruling class groups and, failing to get the backing of other governments in the United Nations, the British Tory and the French Labour Premier contemptuously defied the body to whose principles they pay lip-service.

Guilt of the Labourites
This act of aggression was repudiated as an outrage by the British Labour Party, their spokesmen uttering hysterical denunciations of “power politics “; making tearful pleas for the soldiers thrown into battle against their will; and pleading for the peaceful settlement of international conflicts. Their speeches reeked of hypocrisy! It was the Labour Government that imposed conscription for the Tories to make use of, and they who prepared the way by launching the £1,500 million a year rearmament programme, the biggest peacetime massing of weapons of destruction ever known in British history. The Labour Opposition who say that British soldiers should not be used in this war have supported every major war in the lifetime of their party, including the Korean War in which American Capitalism fought against Chinese and Russian State Capitalism for control of Korea, and where altogether over a million soldiers and civilians lost their lives.

Hypocritical Communists
The Communist Party vied with the Labour Party in condemning the invasion of Egypt while, at the same time, contorting themselves to condone and justify the bloody slaughter in Hungary where invading masses of Russian tanks shot down workers who were trying to improve their miserable conditions and get rid of the ruthless Russian domination. While Russia and the United States condemn Britain and France for invading Egypt, Britain and France condemn Russia for invading Hungary; could hypocrisy and cynicism go further?

Futility of the United Nations Organisation
The resolutions passed by the United Nations Organisation figure prominently in the battle of words about the invasion, and the Labour Party contrasts the Korean War, which they and the majority of the United Nations endorsed, with the present Anglo-French aggression, which is condemned. The contrast is completely misconceived as indeed is the whole propaganda which claims that the United Nations is an organ which can prevent war and therefore deserves working-class support.

War is caused by the commercial rivalries that are necessarily engendered by world Capitalism. Each country builds up armed forces to maintain its position in the capitalist world, and no group which believes it has a vital interest at stake will be deterred from using its armed forces by United Nations resolutions. In 1950, when South Korea was invaded, the American Government, believing its position in the Pacific to be jeopardised, at once moved its armed forces into action. The decision of U.N.O. to endorse military sanctions against the invaders was taken after the American Government had acted; had the vote gone the other way the U.S.A. would have fought the war just the same. Other examples are the Indian Government’s military occupation of Kashmir in spite of a U.N. decision that a plebiscite should be held to determine whether that territory should go to India or to Pakistan. Egypt likewise defied the U.N. vote about allowing Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.

The United Nations (like the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier) was set up because the politicians dared not face their war-weary peoples without being able to offer them something that would deceive them into thinking that their sacrifices had not been in vain. The United Nations is a capitalist institution useless to the working class.

The farcical nature of U.N.O. extends also to the British United Nations Association. The Association condemns the British Government’s action, but among the prominent men who are its Presidents and Vice-Presidents are Eden and other Tory leaders!

Capitalism the cause of war
Capitalism is an exploiting system under which the workers—the mass of the population—produce the goods that are sold to provide the profit out of which the owners of the means of production and distribution accumulate their riches. Profit, the surplus left over after the expenses of production and distribution have been met, is the mainspring of the system. In order to obtain this profit goods have to be sold at home and abroad. This necessitates markets, trade routes and sources of supply. It is over these that Capitalists quarrel and finally plunge into war. So it is today. The main source of the present crisis concerns oil—the lucrative “black gold” so urgently sought after, protected and fought over on the diplomatic field as well as on the battlefield.

International working-class unity
All this points to the necessity of international working-class action to abolish the cause of war. Unfortunately, the workers are still at loggerheads internationally and are a prey to all sorts of emotional upsurges that do not bring them any fundamental relief. They will only unite when they understand the cause of and remedy for war as well as for the other evils they suffer. Only when the workers do understand and unite against Capitalism in all the countries of the world for the purpose of achieving Socialism, the ownership in common of all that is in and on the earth, will war vanish from the human horizon.

True to the stand taken by our Party in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 we repeat from our 1914 War Manifesto words to guide working-class attitude to war and inspire action to achieve Socialism:

November 6th, 1956.

(The above manifesto was issued as a leaflet early in November)

Hungary and Suez – Hope Amidst Tragedy (1956)

From the December 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Governments of Israel, Britain, France and Russia, when they resorted to war in October 1956 in pursuit of their own separate objectives, have at the same time struck a decisive blow to achieve something they never sought and are hardly aware of.  The tanks and bombers in a few days of destruction have helped to shatter the most hampering illusion of our generation, an illusion that has held back multitudes from taking the first step towards a real understanding of the problems facing the human race.

This illusion was the belief, held with equal fervour by democrats and Communists, and on both sides of the Iron  Curtain, that there are “two worlds”, essentially different in aims and conduct.

On the one side the democrats and Labourites of the Western world believed that they and their rulers are guided by a superior moral code, are inherently against brutality, are committed to “law not war”, and to the United Nations, and are incapable of naked aggression to further their interests.

On the other side were the Communists and their followers, who believed with equal sincerity that Russia, by virtue of being a “Socialist” country, is free from and superior to the sordid imperialism and colonialism of the West, and utterly incapable of opposing the aspirations of ordinary workers.

Now the foundations of both beliefs have been smashed into fragments. Sincere men and women in both camps are horrified and heartbroken to discover in one revealing flash that the men they reviled behave in exactly the same criminal way; that the Edens and the Kruschevs are blood brothers after all, worshippers of the same capitalist god of violence and war. The sickening dismay of those who trusted Eden, “the friend of the United Nations”, is only equalled by that of Communists who see Russian tanks smashing down Hungarian workers. For both groups the one thing that could not happen has happened.

This sudden and dramatic exposure of the sham on both sides of the Iron Curtain provides a splendid opportunity for Socialists, who alone can give a valid explanation to the bewildered adherents of the rival ideologies. Only the Socialist can explain that it is not a failure of men, but the unavoidable results of the workings of the social system. The division of the world into separate capitalist states, each seeking to achieve its own commercial ends amid the international rivalries, compels each government again and again to make a choice between using military force to achieve some gain and enduring some weakening and loss by not using military force; the ideals and temperaments of the men who make up the governments is of minor, indeed negligible importance; they all have to use the same methods or get out.

The Socialist, too, and only the Socialist, can deal with the difficulty of  the  admirers of Russia. At the core of their admiration is the belief that Russia is “Socialist”, and only the Socialist can deny this fraud and explain the truth. State capitalism, the conduct of financial, commercial and trading operations by a government in place of a private company is not Socialism and has no relationship to Socialism. It is not the manner in which these operations are controlled, but the nature of the operations that constitutes them capitalist. The efforts of a government, Russian, British, Indian, or any other, to control sources of raw materials, protect frontiers and trade routes and capture markets for its exports—these activities are the cause of war no matter how or under what flag they are conducted. The worker in every country in the world should take to heart the elementary truth that wars are not made by wicked foreigners, but at home, in the land he lives in: through the everyday activities, seemingly peaceful and innocent, of those who employ him and make profit out of him, and who seek to sell the products of his labour in world markets against the similar activities of other employers under other governments. This is the factor common to all the countries: the factor that drives governments into war and workers to their death in fratricidal combat with their fellows. But this factor is the capitalist organisation of society, and only Socialists know the remedy, the introduction on a world-wide basis of a different social system: Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Odds and Ends: 5,000 Roubles to Win (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the December 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

5,000 Roubles to Win
Rumour has it that another Purge is on the way in Soviet Russia. No! It’s not likely to be Khruschev or Gromyko. Its going to be those wicked jockeys at the Moscow race course.

According to Sovetskoya Kultura not only are students and young workers losing their money—and, more important—taking time off from work and study, but it appears, some of the jockeys have been "fixing” the races and making fortunes by betting on certain winners. But this is not all! Some of toe Muscovite tipsters have been tipping losers, much to toe consternation of the punters. And besides that the officials at the Moscow race course, it seems, have been violating the law by selling “hard liquor.”

Such wicked “bourgeois” goings-on! And in a “Socialist” country!—so the Communists tell us. Like workers in Britain who think they can emancipate themselves by having a little “flutter" on the 2.30 or filling in a football coupon, the Russian workers also think that betting will get them out of their poverty position.

It looks as though Russia will soon be going to the dogs!

Where do they find the cash?
In this fairy-land of the Welfare State, the News Chronicle has discovered a class of people who can afford to pay between £5 and £10 at the hairdressers; who live in apartments where the rent is between £5,000 and £10,000 a year—plus ground rent and service costs of £600 to £7,000 a year; and who own a Rolls Royce or a Jaguar costing £5,600.

The News Chronicle then tells us that “of around 23 million working-people in Britain, nearly 20 million are wage-earning. And as most of us know, on a pay-as-you-earn tax system, wage-earners never see quite a whack of their pay packets.” (21/10/57.) '

After discovering the rich—the class that enjoys all these luxuries—the Chronicle asks :—
  "Now where do the rich people who keep these markets going get their money? And how?"
Now this is where the Socially can help the News Chronicle. We have been explaining how, and where, the rich—the capitalist class—get their money for a long time. The rich get their money through the exploitation of the working-class; from the unpaid labour of the workers. In a given period the workers produce more than they receive back in wages or salaries. They produce a surplus—what Marx called “surplus value” which is the basis of rent, interest and profit. And because the rich own the means of living—i.e„ the land, factories, etc., through share and stock holding, and the workers own little or nothing of these means of life, they remain the rich, become more and more prosperous during boom periods, and are able to afford all the luxuries that the News Chronicle speaks of; whilst most of us have to put up with the 10 guinea suits or a cheap 'perm.'

One wonders how long the workers will let this state of affairs remain as it is.

Marx and Christianity
The somewhat lengthy correspondence in the Socialist Standard on religion has prompted this writer to read again the early writings of Marx on Christianity. Although he had far from developed his ideas and attitudes towards the then developing capitalist society, and although today his writings read a little archaic, his views on the Christian religion are more than valid today. In 1847, writing in the Deutsche BrĂ¼sseler Zeitung, he says: “The social principles of Christianity justified slavery in the classic world and they glorified mediaeval serfdom, and if necessary they are quite willing to defend the oppression of the proletariat even if they should wear a somewhat crestfallen appearance the while. The social principles of Christianity preach the necessity of a ruling and an oppressed class, and all they have to offer to the latter is the pious wish that the former be charitable. The social principles of Christianity transfer the reparation of all infamies to the realms of heaven and thus they justify the perpetuation of these infamies on earth. The social principles of Christianity declare that all the villanies of the oppressors against the oppressed are either the just punishment for original or other sin, or tribulations which God in his inscrutable wisdom causes the elect to suffer. The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-abasement, resignation, submission and humility—” (quoted from Karl Marx by Franz Mehring, p. 131.)

The principles of Socialism teach courage, confidence, pride and the understanding of capitalism and the need for a new system of society—Socialism.

Marx and the Trade Unions
The following merits repetition:
 “ . . . the very development of modern industry must progressively turn the scale in favour of the capitalist against the working man, and that consequently the general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labour more or less to its minimum limit. Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their insistence against the encroachments of capital,, and abandon their attempts of making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation. .. . 
At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate workings of these every-day struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing the direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never-ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the Conservative motto, “A fair day's wages for a fair day’s work” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wages system! ” . . .  
Trade unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organised forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.” (Value. Price and Profit, pp. 92-94.)
Peter E. Newell

Party News Briefs (1958)

Party News from the December 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist Standard” Sales. Members will know that a committee was formed to investigate the ways and means of improving the “Standard.” The object being to produce an even better journal for propagating Socialism. The recommendations of the committee are being discussed by the E.C., but whatever the outcome, it must be realised that a better journal should help to sell more copies per month and, to complete the circle, get our case over to more and more people. However, we have a good journal now and it is up to Party members to see that it circulates to as many people as possible. This month is a good time to make the extra effort and if individual members would really try to further this end, a suggestion is to get sympathisers to fill in the subscription form (elsewhere in this issue, and send to Head Office) and start 1959 with new readers subscribing for at least twelve issues.

#    #    #    #

Basildon and Southend Branches. Unfortunately, the report on activities of these branches arrived too late for insertion in the November issue, but our Essex Comrades are pleased to report that now that these two branches are “pooling” their resources, results are much more fruitful than when the branches (Basildon was previously Wickford Branch) were working separately. They have appointed a joint organiser who is arranging a series of propaganda lectures and film shows during the winter. A joint literature drive has proved most encouraging. Standard sales have increased in both branches, Basildon has increased its order by seven dozen since last quarter. The Organiser welcomes enquiries from members and sympathisers living in the district, details of the branch addresses are given on the back page in the Branch Directory.

#    #    #    #

Indoor Lectures. Bloomsbury Branch is holding discussions on the first Thursday in each month at Conway Hall at 8.30 p.m., Islington. Paddington, and Lewisham Branches are holding regular discussions, details are given in this issue, and the Documentary films at Head Office are being shown every Sunday throughout the winter with the exception of December 28th.

#    #    #    #

Marx and Darwin. The year 1959 marks the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. The year 1859 also saw the publication of Marx’s Critique of Political Economy. It is proposed to publish articles on the contribution of Darwin and Marx to society and their present standing. Members who would like to contribute are asked to let the Editorial Committee know immediately what they would like to do on these lines.

#    #    #    #

Mitcham Group. This new group, formed during the summer by a few members living in the Mitcham area, has already served a useful function in bringing several members and readers of the S.S. in Surrey into contact with one another. So far four lectures have been given and attendances have ranged from 14 to 30 people. Secretaries of local organisations have been circularised of the meetings, but these invitations have yielded a nil result. However, short reports of the lectures have been sent to the local press and a correct summary was printed following Comrade Hardy’s address on: “The Cause of War.’ The correspondence column of the local has carried several letters outlining the Party’s attitude to different questions.

To date, Group members feel results have been reasonable. They appreciate the support already given by members of neighbouring branches, mainly Camberwell, Lewisham and Kingston, and hope this support will continue while the group builds up local interest. Now the Group is making an effort to draw in local workers by the door to door direct approach. In addition to the December meeting (advertised elsewhere in this issue), a series of Thursday meetings for the first quarter of next year are being arranged on subject of topical interest.

#    #    #    #

Swansea Group. A weekly series of lectures on Social and Economic history have been arranged by the Group. Up to date three lectures have been given. A small but interested group of building workers form the nucleus of the class and there are indications that more interested sympathisers will eventually come along. The sympathisers have purchased the Standard and other Party literature. The Group was recently in touch with the Socialist Party of Ireland. It is intended to visit them in the near future.

A recent challenge issued to the Llanelly and Swansea branches of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to debate, has in both cases been ignored!

#    #    #    #

Islington Branch continues to hold well attended meetings, with lively and interesting discussion following Branch business. In co-operation with Wood Green & Hornsey Branch it is proposed to run at least one large public meeting in the North London area (possibly a series of three meetings) beginning early in the New Year. The first meeting will probably deal with the question of nuclear warfare, and the organisers of both Branches are now busily engaged in making all arrangements, including writing letters to individuals and organisations who have been engaged in recent months in holding protest meetings and marches concerning the banning of the “H Bomb” It is hoped that these people will attend the meeting, and perhaps it may even be possible to get one of them to debate.

#    #    #    #

Camberwell Branch has not been reported in News Briefs for some time, but has maintained its usual high standard of activity. This includes two weekly outdoor meetings at which really encouraging sales of Socialist Standards and pamphlets have been made. Branch meetings also canvass throughout the year. 

Currently, during the winter months, indoor lectures are being arranged once a month. On Monday, December I5th, Comrade Lawrence will speak on "The African Conflict” starting at 8 p.m. sharp. A fuller account of Branch activity will be given in the near future.
Phyllis Howard

Editorial: Christmas (1959)

Editorial from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is the message of a Christmas card? A robin on a snow-topped gatepost. The stage coach welcomed at the inn by cheerful yokels. Log fires and sparkling skies. Scenes which conceal some cruel realities. There are millions of refugees in the world. True, there are few in this country—but we have our old age pensioners, many of whom this Christmas will again be cold and hungry. Those who are neither refugees nor pensioners will have it a little better. But soon the turkey and cheroots are forgotten and we are back to living from pay-day to pay-day. There is a better way. Socialism will not be like one long Christmas Day, but it does mean a world where the needs of everybody—young and old. man and woman, black and white—will be satisfied.

Pathfinders: The Only Way Is Ethics (Not) (2018)

Iceland's palm oil ad
The Pathfinders Column from the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is there anything you do, eat, wear or travel in that isn’t bad for the environment? Palm oil, used in a zillion products, is now being demonised as the new plastic, and one frozen food company has taken the ‘ethical’ decision to stop buying in palm oil products, while astutely trying to capitalise on this strategy with a Christmas ad featuring a cutesie kid and baby orang utan who sadly shows her his forest utopia being charred and bulldozed for the sake of her hair products. The ad went viral on YouTube after it was banned from the TV by regulators because it was produced by Greenpeace, deemed a ‘political’ organisation although by our definition they’re not as they don’t stand candidates for parliament. At the time of writing there is a heart-warming online campaign to overturn the ban (‘Iceland Christmas ad: Petition to show it on TV hits 670k’, BBC Online, 13 November). No doubt the firm’s marketing director can expect a stuffed bonus in their Christmas stocking for this crafty coup.

Christmas is always the perfect time for guilt-trips which invite you to pause and reflect, during your orgiastic overspending, on your ethical profile, that thing about which you feel least certain and most guilty. But what do we understand by the word ‘ethics’ and how useful is it? Dogs, elephants and other animals are known to have a moral sense, and we humans regard the absence of a moral compass as a clinical defect. We devise moral frameworks, often hi-jacked by religions as the work of some deity, to codify our values, our social concepts and our politics. This is probably a form of evolutionary heuristic, or short-hand guide, since we don’t have smart enough brains to calculate good survival strategies on demand. Instead we feel them as right or wrong, through some obscure associative process nobody really understands.

But there are inevitable problems with allowing your moral compass to do the driving. What if you have the wrong information? Have you corrected for your internal biases? If your morality doesn’t square with other people’s, who is to say who’s right?

A group of programmers currently grappling with the complexities of moral codes are those trying to design the AI systems in self-driving cars. What has them perplexed is the nightmare no-win crash scenario known as the ‘Trolley problem’, in which you can only avoid killing one lot of people by diverting your runaway tram (‘trolley’) down a different track and killing a different bunch of people. You can tweak this problem any way you like, by varying the characteristics of your two groups of ‘victims’, to see what difference this makes to people’s ethical choices.

Being good scientists of course, they approached this scientifically and conducted a numbers exercise to see if they could derive a baseline consensus. What would most people want a self-driving car to do in such a situation? Unfortunately it depends who you ask. The Moral Machine survey collected 40 million decisions from across 233 countries, and found that while on average humans were prioritised over animals and younger people over older (unless the humans were criminals, in which case they rated lower than cats), the regional differences were strikingly hard to integrate into a viable framework. For instance, the young-over-old ethic was much less apparent in Asiatic and Islamic countries, as was the high-status-over-low. South America and French colonies were less inclined to save humans over animals, unless they were specifically women or non-disabled people.

The problem for the programmers is that computer code relies on absolutes, and with morality there are no absolutes, only relatives. No wonder one ethicist describes the task of giving morals to motor vehicles as ‘finding the right comedic parabola, or the right colour of dance, or the right frequency for spaghetti’ (New Scientist, 27 October).

As soon as you start asking ethical questions you get contradictory answers, and there is no objective yardstick, upon which all can agree, by which to judge them. So is it possible to use such a subjective approach to arrive at a consensual programme of action for the planet?

No, it isn’t. That’s why when we’re making the case for socialism we prefer to stick to the facts. If the world is going to steer its way to a sustainable future instead of destruction it’s going to need a practical and accurate roadmap more than it needs gods or cutesie ads or an impassioned polemic.

Place Your Bets Please
If you prefer gas to electric cookers it’s probably because of the zero-response time when you adjust the heat settings. Cooking with electric involves too much thinking ahead, and an adjustment that’s fractionally too high can result in milk boiling over the stove. A similar problem exists in long-latency industries like oil, where adjustments today ‘feed through’ to supply or price levels years down the line. This gives rise to a volatile futures market, which speculates on supply and price in the future. Today’s US sanctions against Iran have caused large producers to pump at full capacity, but fears of future oversupply are depressing the futures market, in turn causing rampant selling and falling stock prices today, which of course will have knock-on effects on industry including food production (‘Oil rally faces tidal wave of supply’, Reuters, 4 November). So today’s activities are not determined by today’s objective and demonstrable necessities, but by some people’s guesses at what the price of these things will be in a few years’ time. If you think that sounds like reckless fast-buck gambling instead of responsible resource management, you’ve just hit on one essential difference between capitalism and socialism.
Paddy Shannon

Communists in Name Alone (1960)

Pamphlet Review from the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many people are taken in by the apparently Socialist phrasing used in Communist Party literature. The fact that Moscow publishes some of Marx's works tends to convince such people that the Russian system is based on Marxism and is building Socialism. Without going any further into the matter, they find it hard to believe that the so-called Communist Party is not genuinely Marxist or Communist in character.

Even people who are opposed to the Communist Party, or who are not interested in politics at all, accept the myth that a basically different system exists in Russia. The propaganda machines of both East and West agree that Russia. China, and their satellites, are Communist. They simply disagree as to its desirability, although it is doubtful whether the ruling class of either side are really so naive.

A careful reading of The British Road to Socialism, the most recent programme of the Communist Party, gives some indication of how utterly confused and muddle-headed that organisation is. They freely'use the term “Socialism,” but their “explanations” betray only too dearly the fact that they have not the vaguest notion of what it means. Having stuck a Socialist label on their State enterprise capitalist programme, they proceed in great detail to show us how different it is from private enterprise capitalism.

The more they elaborate the more familiar becomes the ring of reformism, compromise and collaboration. The capitalist terminology is not disguised, it is blandly called Socialist.

The most important question that arises from the pamphlet is—if this programme were put into effect would it at least be a greater advance towards Socialism than continued Tory and Labour administrations? The answer is an emphatic “NO.“ If the working-class were to support the Communist Party on a programme of State Capitalism, as outlined in the pamphlet and called Socialism, the only result would be disillusionment. In Russia and her Empire all the ugly features of capitalism are clearly to be seen. There is no evidence that state bosses are any better for the working-class than private bosses.

The state is essentially an instrument of class rule and will not exist in a classless society—Socialism. This is a fact which some of the old Bolsheviks knew, but having taken power when historical development was bringing capitalism into being, they turned their backs on it. They have also turned their backs on Marx’s analysis of capitalist society.

As the programme makes repeated references to a “Socialist Government" and a “Socialist Britain” and uses such terms as the “Socialist State” and the “Working-Class State,” it is clearly evident that the so-called Communist Party imagines that nations, states and governments will continue to exist under Socialism. A few quotations will show how capitalism has made them eat their words on the question of the state and how they have adulterated Marxism in order to try and make it support its opposite.

Engels writes in Anti-Duhring
The modern state, whatever its form, is an essentially capitalist machine; it is the state of the capitalists, the ideal collective body of all capitalists. The more productive forces it takes over as its property, the more citizens it exploits. The workers remain wage-earners, proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not abolished; it is rather pushed to an extreme.
Lenin knew this to be the Marxist view of the stale. In a pamphlet (Lenin and Stalin on the State), for example, he tells us “. . . the State is the product and the manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonism. The State arises when, where, and to the extent that class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the State proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.” (Page 26).

The truth that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has all along been the instrument for the building of modern industrial capitalism in Russia can be seen from the wage labour and capital basis of the Russian system. Vishinsky who, unlike many of the old Bolsheviks, died of natural causes, contemptuously stated that the so-called doctrine of the withering away of the State has been a favourite subject of petty-bourgeois chatter about Marxism. “What we want is a strong State with a redoubtable repressive apparatus." (The Patriotic War of the Soviet Government, published in Moscow, 1944).

It has been necessary to show the true nature of the State in order to make clear the all-important fact that the existence of the State is incompatible with common ownership of the means of production. Common ownership means class-less society, therefore, the absence of the class State or repressive apparatus. Furthermore, it is vital to establish this point because the “Socialist State,” a contradiction in terms, is the central theme and the basic proposition of the so-called Communist Party’s programme.

It follows that the rambling list of reforms which make up the programme to be carried out by a “Communist” government brands them as a purely state-capitalist party.

Although the British Road to Socialism consists of only thirty pages, there are so many fallacies and misconceptions that a hefty volume would be needed to thoroughly deal with each anti-Socialist proposition.

It is suggested, for example, that the Labour Party could join with the Communist Party to establish Socialism in Britain. This, despite the fact that the Labour Party has never stood for Socialism and when in power has run capitalism and been guilty of every anti-working-class act in the book. When in opposition, the Labour Party is obsessed with trying to find a policy that will get them elected to run capitalism again. To talk of a Socialist Britain with a "foreign policy” is to contradict the essential world-wide nature of Socialism, which in a world system there will be no "foreigners.”

To talk of foreign trade is to deny production for use and free access. Distribution according to needs is the basis of Socialism. To talk of trade at all is to talk of the struggle for markets, and rivalry for resources. To talk of trade is to talk of war. To talk of “independence for colonial peoples ” is to propose the setting up of more national states on the lines of home ruled capitalism with still more rivalry. Independence is the cry of the nationalist but it does not end the dependance of the working-class upon wages. Nationalism atomises the world into a number of mutually hostile fragments, where the workers in each fragment line up with their native capitalists. Internationalism expresses the oneness of working-class interest in the struggle to overthrow the wages system and establish the world community of Socialism.

For the Communist Party to talk of “the withdrawal of all armed forces from colonial and dependent territories or occupied spheres of influence and the handing over of sovereignty to governments freely chosen by their peoples," is hypocrisy in view of the imperialist record of the Soviet Union.

Socialism means the end of the employer to employee relationship, the end of landlord and tenant. Under Socialism there will be no pensions or benefits, which are the hall-marks of poverty under welfare capitalism.

To say that the Communist Party “will raise pensions and benefits for the old, the widows, the disabled and the chronic sick . . .”, is to say they will continue with a system of rich and poor. They promise to provide cheap houses at “a low rent.” Once again, it is only poor people who need low rents. Socialism means no rents because accommodation, like everything else, will be produced solely for use.

To anybody with half an eye the fact that the Communist Party talks of “reduction of mortgage interest charges,” “lower cost of repairs,” “finance,” “lower prices and higher wages,” shows how firmly they are in the grip of the economics of Capitalism.

In the final chapter, another futile effort is made to woo the Labour Party and the co-operative movement. Marx is linked with Lenin (with whom he has less in common than chalk has with cheese), and we find “church organisations” and “business people” listed amongst the “progressive forces" which will “open up the way for the advance to Socialism.”

It is indeed tragic that workers are so easily fooled by names, for even the most rudimentary understanding of Communism will expose the sham of those who are Communist in name alone.
Harry Baldwin

Wages (1960)

From the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
The wages of work is cash.
The wages of cash is want more cash.
The wages of want more cash is vicious competition.
The wages of vicious competition is—the world we live in. 
The work—cash—want circle is the viciousest circle 
that ever turned men into fiends. 
Earning a wage is a prison occupation 
and a wage-earner is a sort of gaol-bird.
Earning a salary is a prison overseer’s job. 
a gaoler instead of a gaol-bird. 
Living on your income is strolling grandly outside the prison 
in terror lest you have to go in. And since 
the work-prison covers almost every scrap of the living 
earth, you stroll up and down on a narrow beat, about the same as a prisoner taking his exercise. 
This is called universal freedom.
From “Pansies” (1929) by D. H. Lawrence
(Published by Marlin Seeker)