Friday, December 14, 2018

Mr. Morrison's Moonshine (1950)

From the December 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Lord Acton penned his famous dictum that, because of the corrupting influence of power, “great men are almost always bad men” his knowledge of history led him to distinguish between the restricted power that corrupts and the absolute power that corrupts absolutely. The reason is obvious. The more brutal the rise the more brutal the fall; and if capitalism's Parliamentary politicians choose to cling like limpets to the pleasures and profits of office their opposite numbers in the dictatorships have no choice at all. Dictators, like gangsters, can have little hope of retiring to die in their beds. For them and their entourage the saying: “Gentlemen we must hang together or we shall hang separately” is no mere Downing Street jest. Still it is only a question of degree, and if dictators have to liquidate their old but insufficiently adaptable comrades Labour Governments, grappling with the day-to-day problems of capitalism, are constantly having to kill or maim the no longer useful pledges and doctrines that raised them to power. In the present government the task has fallen to that one-time pacifist and later organiser of victories, military and electoral, Mr. Herbert Morrison. If back-benchers mutiny, if rank-and-file sheep stray into forbidden pastures, if indiscreet ministers scare away camp-following electors, if some bitter pill has to be sugared, Mr. Morrison is the man for the job. His manner is that of the Elder Statesman dispensing wisdom, his method that of dressing up new doctrines to look as if they flowed from the old, and his technique that of the disguised fallacy masquerading as self-evident truth.

On Friday, November 17th, at Finchley he spent an evening explaining away and covering up, with the twofold object of winning back deserting so-called “middle-class” voters and of allaying trade union discontent in the ranks of the Party. The speech was reported at length in the Manchester Guardian (18/11/50) from which following extracts are taken.

Regretting “the popular antithesis between the black-coated and the manual worker” he made the point that “skill at a craft makes heavier demands upon your mental equipment than many black-coated occupations, and surgeons and many scientists have to be more skilled with their hands than the average craftsman.” Apart from a doubt whether it is true that a craftsman’s skill with his hands is any less than that of a surgeon the point is a good one—and a commonplace on S.P.G.B. platforms, from which source perhaps Mr. Morrison picked it up in his political infancy some 40 years ago. But if so he learned only half the lesson, for his remarks to the clerks of Finchley opened with the nonsensical flattery of addressing them as those “broadly known as the middle classes.” They are not “middle class” being neither a class nor middle. They are a section of the working class and it has been one of the trends of the past 10 years for the pay-packets of clerks even to fall relatively to those of craftsmen. Almost the whole of Morrison's speech was a defence of the inequalities of present day society as administered by his Government, and inevitably it had to bring in the old guff about the dignity of labour—“an honest and dignified job with their hands.” Nowhere did it do more than scratch the surface of argument and most of the awkward points were avoided. In the old days when a member of one of England's “hereditary ruling families” told the horny-handed sons of toil that the dignity of labour is more to be prized than cash and coronets he might be forgiven on the ground that he didn't know what he was talking about never having done any labouring. But now we get the same stuff from a government half of whose members have done some, and have since spent their lives getting away from it as far and as fast as possible.

Mr. Morrison's general defence of inequality might have been taken from any defence of capitalism in the past century:—“The right approach was to value each man and woman by the contribution they made to the community . . .  As a good Socialist I believe in paying a fair price for honest hard work and for the special skills which a man or a woman has the aptitude and the energy to acquire.” He added that he did not advocate “a society in which everybody is on the same level.”

A host of objections to the argument call for answer. How does Mr. Morrison, holding the views he put forward at Finchley, justify his government's refusal to concede equal pay for men and women doing the same job? How does he explain away Mr. Attlee’s declaration in 1935 of his belief “in the abolition of social classes and in the creation of an equalitarian society”? How does he or anyone else measure and compare the respective contributions to the community of, say, the £5,000 a year ex-trade union official who as Minister of Labour opposes wage increases, a £5 a week ploughman, the highly paid “Party-line” editor of a Government newspaper, the lucky inheritors of millionaire fortunes, the hospital nurse, the high-fee'd lawyer who successfully defends company profits against Inland Revenue claims, and any working-class housewife? And how does he answer the still true statements made by himself in 1932:—“the landlord as landlord and the investor as investor do not produce wealth. Yet they take in rent, interest and profit a large proportion of the products of labour,” (“A New Appeal to the Young"; Herbert Morrison); and ". . . the brain workers and the manual workers of our country are poorer and less secure than the idle rich class who do no productive work” (“An Easy Outline of Modem Socialism,” Herbert Morrison).

And above all what did Mr. Morrison and others in the Labour Party mean in the past, when they gave lip service to “the abolition of the wages system”? And how does he, as a self-styled “good socialist,” justify his opposition to the abolition of capitalism and establishment of Socialism and defend the fact, as admitted last year by one of his ministerial colleagues, that 10 per cent. of the population own 90 per cent. of the wealth of the country? Does Mr. Morrison really believe that they “contributed” the wealth they own?

Like the astute debater that he is Mr. Morrison, in his Finchley speech, side-stepped the main issues by an appeal to the prejudice he may have expected to find in his audience. An older generation of Tory defenders of the profit-system used to beg you to shed a tear for the poor widow woman struggling along on the dividends from her small holding of shares. Similarly bent on fogging the issue, Mr. Morrison begged his audience to avoid the slippery slope of equalitarianism which would give us “the slacker or the persistent absentee . . . paid as much as the man who works hard ”; but nothing about the ex-shareholders in mines, railways. Bank of England, etc., who will go on drawing their government guaranteed interest indefinitely while indefinitely absenting themselves from the dignity of labour.

Mr. Morrison deplored the evils of advancement being given by favour (vulgarly known as “jobs for the boys”) and also hoped there would be an end “to the snobbery which sometimes retards the advancement of the able man with the wrong kind of accent or social background.” Nice soothing words, but when we look at them closely what do they mean? Where does the working class boy or girl acquire “the wrong kind of accent”? Where but in the “working class” school that a Government “which stands for a square deal for all classes” provides for the mass of the population? And what is the wrong kind of social background but the working class homes and working class incomes that Labour Government intends to perpetuate?

It is an old trick of the politician who is covering up a retreat from a past theoretical position to make it appear to be an advance or at least a firm stand. This is done by using the old phrases but each time with a qualification that destroys their meaning. At Finchley he repeated the old Labour Party principle of “sympathy and support” for the infirm who are unable to work. Then it was coupled with a demand for drastic increases of old-age pensions, but now Mr. Morrison, who had not the brazenness to mention the actual 26/- a week, slipped away with the evasive: “Food subsidies, too, had been a godsend to pensioners and other retired people on small incomes.” On what principle we may ask does the “sympathetic” Labour Government give them such miserably small incomes?

Mr. Morrison knows of the vague belief among his Party's membership that class divisions and class privilege should be abolished, but in place of the substance of Attlee’s former “abolition of social classes” he now gives them the shadow of his being against “any idea of rigid class relationships"; we must “break down the barriers which separate the classes"; we must not “attach labels to people according to their social position and supposed class”; and “we as a party are opposed to anti-social privilege, whether it is privilege for the rich or the not rich.”

Of course, as Mr. Morrison knows, the class division of the capitalism we live under is not a supposition but a fact; but Mr. Morrison's party is not going to abolish the class system and its class division and class privilege. What they offer instead to any who do not see through the subterfuge, is to make the class division "less rigid," stop attaching labels to the capitalist class, keep privilege but say that it is no longer anti-social. This will be satisfactory to the capitalists and their hangers-on, political and managerial, but what is there in it for the workers? Not for them any “anti-social privileges” (what a pity Mr. Morrison did not tell us what these are). For them there is to be unlimited “dignity of labour.” Let us however not overlook the other benefit they are to receive, in the new social name and status coined freshly by Mr. Morrison. Is poverty under Tory Governments hard to bear? Then how much more endurable it will be now that the poor have been re-christened the “not rich.” By a simple masterly stroke of the pen the age-old gulf has been bridged at last and the Rich and the Poor are almost one; now to be almost indiscernably differentiated only by that tiny three-letter word not. Glorious indeed are the bloodless victories of the Labour Party “revolution.”
Edgar Hardcastle

Party News Briefs (1951)

Party News from the December 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reference was made in the November issue regarding the work being done by Party members during the recent General Election. Wherever possible branches made a special effort to get the literature distributed and to hold additional propaganda meetings during the three weeks of the campaign. S.W. London Branch report that on receiving the information from Head Office that 10,000 Socialist Standards and 50,000 Election Manifestos were to be disposed of, a call was sent to the Branch members asking them to take as many additional Standards as possible, also to assist in a door-to-door sales campaign and to attend other, political parties' propaganda meetings to sell our literature.

These ideas were put into effect with the result that a number of meetings were attended where our members put the Socialist point of view, our Election Manifestos were distributed and Socialist Standards sold.

Local trade union branches were canvassed by circular in order that a speaker could put the Socialist Case. Four of these were successful.

The greatest measure of success, however, was obtained in what the Branch believed to be the most effective means of Party propaganda, selling the Socialist Standard from door to door and this was the method used to dispose of the bulk of 37 dozen copies sold during the month.

A lot of new ground, as well as old, was covered during the literature drive and it should be emphasised to Branch members the need for as much of their time, effort and enthusiasm in the future in order to keep up this good work.

#    #    #    #

A number of interesting lectures and discussions are bang held by branches, and details of all of the December meetings are advertised on other pages of this issue.

In particular a public meeting is being held at Kensington Town Hall on Monday, December 17th. The local Conservative and Labour Party have been invited to oppose us from our platform.

Please make a special note of the time, date and place of this meeting and come along with friends, sympathisers and opponents.

#    #    #    #

Ealing and Paddington Branches are holding socials and dances during December, full details on other pages.

The first of a weekly series of Saturday night socials was held at Head Office (52, Clapham High Street) on November 10th. Nearly 100 members were present, music was provided by four members of Fulham Branch. Apart from being a happy evening the social provided the General Fund with £7 6s. 0d. by means of collection, raffle and canteen. These socials are being held every Saturday evening—please make a note and come along and enjoy yourselves.

The Socialist Standard subscription form is specially included in this issue in order that members and sympathisers do not forget to ensure a regular copy of the Socialist Standard during 1952. If you have already sent in your subscription form, why not treat a friend to a year’s subscription as a gift? It is an excellent way to introduce new readers to the Standard. If you know of sympathisers or friends who occasionally read a copy, why not ask them to be regular readers and get them to send in a subscription form.

At the same time please have a look at the list of pamphlets available and make sure that you have all of them in your possession, if not, all the pamphlets advertised can be obtained from the Literature Committee at Head Office.
Phyllis Howard

Capitalist Poverty Problems (1951)

From the December 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our August issue we referred to the financial plight of Mr. Ronald Tree, M.P., who was trying to struggle along on £140 a week before obtaining a further £214,000 from his grandfather's trust fund. The Evening News of 8th August contained an article on a slightly different financial problem, namely, how a young married couple can set up home on £80. Since the solution is “worked out” rather neatly, it is possible that many members of the owning class are worrying needlessly over money problems that can be easily overcome by members of the owning class. In any case, we recommend Mr. Tree and others to study the joys of working class existence in order to appreciate how poverty really should be borne—or should it?
  “Well, can a couple set up home these days on only £80? . . .  It certainly cannot be done if you think in terms of elegant new suites and modern furniture, but it is amazing how comfortable and bright a home can be with second-hand pieces (polished up or painted), home-made curtains and covers, ingenuity and good taste.”
Quite so. Elegant new suites and modern furniture are only made in order to satisfy the bad taste of those who can afford them, and everybody knows that second-hand pieces (particularly very cheap and very used) are really the most desirable.
   “Let us pretend (they) have been lucky enough to find a small, unfurnished flat. It is not a palace. In fact there are only one fair-sized room and a little kitchen.”
Yes, it is important to realise that a two-room flat is not a palace, not even a 3-room palace. Once you have it well into your head that anything more is just vulgar ostentation you are well on the road to being ideally contented there. There is much further good advice on how the young couple can get bargains at junk-shops, and find substitutes for what is really needed, such as liquid lino in the kitchen instead of expensive inlaid linoleum. After the £80 has been frugally allocated the writer remarks that as time goes by they will go on saving for the things they hope to have. The whole adds up to a very fair commentary on working class standards.

Why should such an article be needed showing just how little money need be spent on workers’ homes to make them quality to be called homes? The answer is that it is part of the propaganda, carried on by all the private and state owned media of mass influence, designed to make poverty acceptable to the workers. The wages of the latter are the price of their mental and physical energies, bought by the capitalist as cheaply as possible and used to create a profit. The less it costs the workers to live the more funds there are to go into the capitalists’ "trust.” The fact that all wealth is created by workers, the shoddy for themselves and the luxurious for their masters, is coolly ignored by the apologists of the system.

Fellow workers, when will you realize that you need not go short of anything that you, collectively, are capable of producing? Between the present extremes of wage-slaves, who can afford little more than the bare necessities of a working life, and capitalists, whose wealth finds expression in idle and extravagant luxury, lies the possibility of all people having their reasonable needs satisfied.

This entails the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of a system of production solely for use, needing no money and therefore producing no money problems of any sort. It is within your power to bring such a society into being, if you will only think and act in your own class interest, instead of in that of a class of parasites. Your wages will not buy the things you need, and you ask for more in vain because your masters also want more at your expense. It will remain so while they have the whip hand of ownership of the means of living and until you decide to relieve them of it by establishing Socialism.
Stan Parker

The Passing Show: Vote for Tallulah (1952)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

Vote for Tallulah
Mr. Joseph Harsch, writing in an American paper during the election campaign, said that "the object in politics is the attraction of the maximum number of potential voters from the opponent's camp." This is saying what Socialists have often said about the big political parties' approach to politics. The Americans seem to be franker about the whole business. If one spoke of the rival shows put on by the opposing parties, one would in Britain be speaking metaphorically; but in America, the phrase becomes literally exact. The Democrats and the Republicans both put on shows on the stage and on television in order to appeal to the taste for entertainment of the public—no doubt because there isn't sufficient difference in the programmes of the two parties for them to be able to appeal to the voters' reason. Governor Stevenson was fortunate enough to get Messrs. Rodgers and Hammerstein to organise a show for him, including such eminent political figures as Miss Tallulah Bankhead and Miss Lauren Bacall.

Climbing on the Bandwaggon
Now that the American public, after having duly considered the inducements offered them, have decided that General Eisenhower is the man to run American Capitalism for the next four years, the other Western allies have been falling over themselves to ingratiate themselves with him. Mr. Churchill wired that he was looking forward to "a renewal of our comradeship and of our work together for the same causes of peace and freedom as in the past." Mr. Menzies, the Australian Prime Minister, sent a message that he was confident "that under your leadership the splendid friendship and co-operation which exists between our respective nations will be maintained and strengthened." No doubt it will—but it will be the co-operation of the sergeant and the recruit. The sergeant gives the order and the recruit co-operates by carrying it out. And it is too bad for the recruit if his interests happen to clash with those of the sergeant. Mr. Churchill put the position with rare and surprising frankness when he said at the Alamein Reunion last October 24th, referring to General Ridgway, that "as far as Britain is concerned, we stand under his orders and at his right hand."

One up for Mr. Gulbenkian
If you read in the “Politics” that Aristotle approved of private property because, among other things, it allowed the exercise of the virtue of generosity, you might heave a sigh of relief and think “At least nobody uses that excuse any longer." For it seems much like saying that it is a good thing for Jones to hit Smith over the head, because it allows him then to display his kindness of heart by picking his victim out of the gutter. One is glad to hear that Mr. Calouste Gulbenkian, the oil-king, has given a Velasquez to Lisbon Museum, but it seems hard that the thousands of oil-workers in Mr. Gulbenkian’s concerns should be exploited merely so that Mr. Gulbenkian can do himself a bit of good in the hereafter by such acts of generosity.

Very Suitable
But if you think that Aristotle was out of date, you would be wrong. For when on October 30th an M.P. asked the Minister of Health if he would "incorporate into the national medical scheme the cost of fully financing all cancer research in order to make this necessary work independent of public subscriptions," he got this reply from the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, Miss Homsby-Smith: "No. Cancer research is a very, suitable field for private generosity which the Minister would not wish to discourage."

But why leave it there, Miss Smith? Why not make armaments buying, now done by the State, a field for "private generosity”?—so that those who wanted armaments could buy them. In this reply is summed up succinctly the capitalist order of priority. Anything which directly safeguards profits, such as arms to fight off foreign capitalist states, or subsidies and allowances which keep workers passive, and ward off strikes which destroy profits, is attended to by the State with its compulsory powers. Anything the influence of which on profits is too remote is left to “private generosity." This reply gives the lie once for all to the contention that our free or cheap doctoring is a "Health Service." It isn't; it is a Fit-for-Work Service. It is designed to keep the workers fit enough to produce and reproduce. If it were really a health service, there could be no object more suitable for its attention than research into a disease like cancer. But since the bearing of such research on the central cause of profits is not obvious to the present Government, it is cast out into the wintry wastes of private generosity, where, if those individuals with money to spare deign to hand any over, research will be done; otherwise it will be severely restricted.

The feminine touch
This incident should also be considered by those who maintain that "men" as such do most of the harm in the world, and that if more women were in Parliament and the Government society would somehow become more humane. This reply in Parliament was given by a woman; and a more brutal statement could not have been made by any man in her position. In politics the division is not between man and woman, but between those who want a Capitalist and those who want a Socialist society.
Alwyn Edgar

Non-Final Reckoning (2018)

Book Review from the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Asia’s Reckoning: the Struggle for Global Dominance’. By Richard McGregor (Penguin, £9.99)

The United States and China are currently involved in a trade war, each placing tariffs on imports from the other as the US fights China’s economic rise. But a quarter of a century ago, something similar was taking place between the US and Japan, as the latter emerged as a new economic power. Japanese companies out-competed the US in high-end products such as electronics, but when the dispute turned to semiconductors (needed in US missiles) things changed: Japan agreed to give US companies a twenty percent share of the Japanese market, while the US put 100 percent tariffs on some Japanese semiconductor imports.

Disputes such as these are chronicled in considerable detail in Richard McGregor’s book, which examines the economic, political and military events and policies pursued before and during the period when China has come to surpass Japan as the main rival to the US.

One area given plenty of attention is the uninhabited island chain known as the Diaoyu in Chinese but the Senkaku in Japanese, which has an area of just seven square kilometres and was used by the US military for target practice after the Second World War. What attracts the attention of China, Japan and other countries is not the islands themselves but the resources in the seas around them, specifically fish stocks, oil and gas. So they are, or could become, extremely valuable, especially as Japan has to import almost all its energy needs and China imports a lot from Russia. As a specific example of China flexing its muscles, in 2009, their ambassador to Britain successfully warned BP off working with Vietnam on a project in waters also claimed by China. Considerable resources have been put into developing the Chinese navy, so that areas far from China can be ‘defended’.

In 2010 the Chinese economy became larger than Japan’s and so second only to the US. This was mainly due to the staggering growth in China, but also to the relative stagnation and decline in Japan. Despite the attention and resources devoted to the Middle East, Japan currently remains ‘America’s most important defense alliance’. In addition to the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods, however, Trump has complained about the vast numbers of Japanese cars and TVs imported into the US, and wondered why the US was committed to protecting Japan at all. But then, as Lord Palmerston said, countries have permanent interests, not permanent allies.
Paul Bennett

The problem is not the banks . . . it’s capitalism (2018)

From the December 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

In April 2017 the German central bank, the Bundesbank, published a paper on ‘The role of banks, non-banks and the central on the money creation process’ (LINK). Accepting the current prevailing definition of money as including bank loans, it was mainly about bank lending and what determined its level. Some have read into it more than may have been intended.

At one point, the article stated:
   ‘. . . a bank can grant loans without any prior inflows of customer deposits. In fact, book money is created as a result of an accounting entry when a bank grants a loan. It posts the associated credit entry for the customer as a sight deposit by the latter and therefore as a liability on the liability side of its own balance sheet. This refutes a popular misconception that banks act simply as intermediaries at the time of lending – ie that banks can only grant loans using funds placed with them previously as deposits by other customers.’ (‘book money’ and ‘sight deposits’ are translations of German terms corresponding to ‘bank credit’ and ‘current account’ in English.)
This passage was seized on by adepts of the thin-air school of banking to support their contention that banks mysteriously create out of nothing the money they lend. But this is not what the passage or the rest of the article says. Just because banks may not get all the money they lend directly from deposits does not mean that they therefore simply conjure it up out of thin air.

The passage was in fact very carefully worded. First, it brings out, with the use of the terms ‘book money’ and ‘accounting entry,’ that what is being described is an accounting practice followed by banks when a decision to grant a loan has been made. Double-entry bookkeeping requires that a loan, like a deposit, be entered both as an ‘asset’ and as a ‘liability’.

Second, its description of the ‘popular misconception’ is qualified by the words ‘at the time of lending’, leaving open the possibility that the loan may have to be funded at some point from deposits. These words were clearly deliberately inserted because this is precisely what the article does go on to explain.

Whatever the way in which the accounts are presented, the money has to exist since, as soon as the borrower spends the money that the bank has put into their bank account, it has to be found. So where does it come from? According to the article, it comes in the first instance from the bank’s ‘reserves’ at the central bank. The article uses the example of where the borrower uses the loan to buy a machine and where the seller puts the money paid for it into an account at a different bank. The first bank therefore owes the second bank money, which is settled by a transfer of some of its reserves at the central bank to the reserves held there by the other bank.

But what are these reserves? Where do they come from? Far from being conjured up out of thin air, they will have come either from the bank’s capital or from depositors. In either case, previously- existing money.

But that’s not the end of the story. In a section entitled ‘Constraints on the creation of money and credit by individual banks’, the article lists three: ‘interaction with non-banks’ (i.e., other businesses and households), banking regulations, ‘and, not least, by banks’ own inherent interest in profit maximisation’.

Banks are profit-seeking financial intermediaries that borrow money at one rate of interest (either ‘retail’ from individuals or ‘wholesale’ from the money market) and relend the money to borrowers at a higher rate. The spread between the two rates is the source of a bank’s income; after it has paid its operating costs, including staff wages, what remains is the bank’s profits.

Banks’ ‘inherent interest in profit maximisation’ affects how what the article describes as ‘the need for banks to find the loans they create’ is met. It means that they are going to seek to obtain the needed funding as cheaply as possible, i.e., at the lowest possible rate of interest:
‘Deposits play a major role in this regard, for while banks have the ability to create money – that is, to accumulate a stock of assets by originating liabilities themselves in the form of sight deposits – they need funding in the form of reserves.’
They need this because, when a bank makes a loan and the borrower spends it, the money will leave the bank and most if not all of it will normally be deposited by those the borrower bought things from in some other bank. Although the immediate way to replace this – fund the loan – will be to use reserves the bank already has or can procure ‘at any time via the interbank market or the central bank’, this is not the cheapest way:
‘Using short term interbank liabilities as a source of funding gives rise to liquidity and interest rate risk because of the danger that the bank might, at some point in the future, no longer be in a position to prolong the short-term interbank loan or that it can only do so at a higher cost. As for interest rate risk, the risk of interest rates increasing for central bank and interbank could drive up funding costs, thus eroding, or wiping out altogether, the income derived from lending.’
Which is precisely what happened to Northern Rock and HBOS during the financial crash of 2008.

To avoid this, banks seek longer-term loans, in particular from depositors (deposits into a bank are in effect, and in law, a loan to the bank). Here they face competition from other banks. Fixing what rate to pay those they want to borrow from is a delicate balancing act. If it’s too low it will put off depositors who will then go instead to one of the bank’s competitors; if it is too high this will cut into their income and so their profits.

Although we can have misgivings about describing a bank’s decision to authorise a loan, and the accompanying accounting practice, as ‘creating’ money rather than simply ‘making a loan’, the Bundesbank article shows that even the banking authorities themselves acknowledge that banks are financial intermediaries which borrow money at one rate of interest and re-lend it at a higher rate; that banks cannot really ‘create credit’ whatever the bookkeeping practice might suggest.

What banks deal in – and lend – is a financial representation of wealth, not wealth itself which can only be produced by humans working on materials that originally came from nature, fashioning and refashioning them into something useful.

There is nothing especially bad about banks compared with other profit-seeking capitalist enterprises. They are merely in a different line of business. Banks are not the cause of the problems that the majority class of wage and salary workers face. It is capitalism and its production for profit. So the solution is not to reform banks but to abolish capitalism.
Adam Buick

About the World Socialist Party (1969)

Editorial from the January 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The World Socialist Party is an independent political organisation that has neither allegiance to, nor sympathy with, any other political party or group in this country. The WSP is affiliated with political organisations in other countries who share the same Socialist object.

The object is:
The establishment of a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
We define the system of society proposed in our object as Socialism—a wageless, moneyless, classless society of production for use in which each member of society would contribute to the wealth of society in accordance with his mental or physical abilities and take from the wealth of society in accordance with his needs.

You may not agree that such a society is a feasible proposition. but, if you think about it for a moment, you will agree that if it were possible to establish such a system of socialist organisation the basic problems that we live with today under capitalism—problems like poverty, insecurity, slums, crime and war that arise naturally and inevitably out of the capitalist scheme of production for profit would cease to exist.

If, then, Socialism offers us an escape from the evils that afflict our society today the feasibility of the proposition merits sympathetic consideration. Perhaps instead of indulging in mental gymnastics to discern some possible stultifying factor it is worth the effort to consider the reasons why Man. who has transformed Nature’s jungle into a fertile, highly-organised, complex world and now looks beyond his planet to the moon, can make a system of social and economic sanity work.

Doubtless, already, the "human nature" argument has occurred to you: ". . . human nature, being what it is, Man could not live co-operatively in a society where he would not be forced to do this or that . . . the greedy people would take all . . . the lazy people would not work . . ." Most of us who are now Socialists used the same argument ourselves when first confronted with the case for Socialism, before realising that what we termed "human nature" was in fact human behaviour or human reaction to the social and economic environment, in our case the environment of capitalism.

We affirm that capitalism today has fulfilled its historic mission: it has opened the womb of social labour and developed the resources of society to a point where social distribution is possible now.

In order that a change, a change to Socialism, may be wrought it is necessary that a majority of the working class, armed with the knowledge of what Socialism involves and entails, should use the means at their disposal, the power of the vote—which they now dissipate in trying to make capitalism work—to consciously institute the change. Socialism, by its very nature, requires the conscious and knowledgeable participation of the majority from the outset. It cannot be brought about by minorities or "action groups" leading the way, no more than it can be introduced gradually by tinkering with reforms of capitalism.

Equal Rights for All? (1969)

From the January 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Demonstrations, counter-marches, official bans, theological hooliganism, brutality, Ministerial stupidity . , . such is the Northern Ireland scene as the crisis worsens and the old bigotries re-appear shaped in new viciousness.

While the situation offers little in the way of political dividends to official Unionism or Nationalism it creates a golden opportunity for many of the lesser political groupings to achieve their moment in the headlines or on the TV screens, adding their special flavour of support or opposition to the government’s policies.

It is too easy to achieve a following in the present crisis. In the heat of battle immediate and fickle political alliances may be achieved but, in the long run, such a struggle allows for few real conversions and when the violence recedes the real casualties will be the working class. Theirs will be the cracked heads, the prison sentences and, especially, will it be the working class who will remain splintered and fraught with bitterness that can only help to maintain the very system that creates the abuse of what has become popularly known as “civil rights”.

As to the actual issues involved, only the most bigoted could claim that there are no abuses of political democracy in Northern Ireland. These abuses—and we recognise that when applied to some of the laws and many of the practices in the Province the term “abuses” is an understatement!—have been adequately covered by opponents of the government and require no elaboration here.

In the main, the government is accused of following a path of religious discrimination in the matter of homes, jobs and local government franchise. The Civil Rights movement demands equality for all in these matters.

While it is true that in some areas religious discrimination is practised, it should also be added that it is simply as a device for the maintenance and covering-up of the real evil, class discrimination. To suggest otherwise is to imply that Protestant members of the working class are the beneficiaries of discrimination and that all sections of the Roman Catholic population are discriminated against. But Catholic members of the capitalist class are not needful of jobs, nor are their names to be found on local authority housing lists. They, with their Protestant class-brethren, enjoy the full benefits of their economically privileged position including the right of multiple property votes.

On the other hand, Protestant members of the working class endure the problems of their class like poverty, insecurity, slums and unemployment. The fact that some politicians promote their own political interests by pushing the interests of a Protestant instead of a Catholic for a “working class” dwelling may ease somewhat the immediate position of the Protestant worker, but it is only a drop in the bucket as far as solving the housing problem of Protestant workers is concerned. They face, with their Roman Catholic counterparts, the full fury of class discrimination in housing as in other matters.
Obviously when the Civil Rights organisation speaks of “equal rights for all’ they are assessing the relative needs of individual Protestant and Catholic members of the working class. Doubtless their quotable cases are accurate enough, but the pitiful needs of all must make any order of priority wholly odious. Again, does their claim for an end to discrimination mean that members of the working class should have the same rights and privileges as members of the capitalist class? Unfortunately, it does not, for the Civil Rights movement, like all other organisations that campaign against some evil feature of capitalism fails to understand the real nature of the problem. They will militate against capitalism's bombs, its slums, its rents, its wages, its religious or 'racial' prejudices; they will share common ground on some of the issues and dispute most of the others but they are ignorant of the fact that all these problems stem from a single cause, capitalism, and will only disappear with that system.

The latter-day history of Ireland’s politico-religious difficulties relate directly to the conflict of economic interest between the North’s well-entrenched capitalist class whose economic needs were best served by union with Britain and their fledgling class counterparts in the South whose economic interests could best be served by protection from British capitalism in a separate state. These are the people whose separate economic interests were served in the slogans “A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People” and “Long Live the Irish Republic”. Theirs were the interests served by their respective political hacks, sincere and otherwise, who made “principles” out of economic expediency and weapons out of bigotry and hatred.

The fledgling capitalists of the South who bleated through Sinn Fein's policy statements about “Irish manufacturers being squeezed out by their more powerful English competitors” have succeeded in building their industries behind the tariff walls and import quotas of a separate state. Like their Northern Ireland counterparts they now stand on the threshold of big-league Common Market capitalism. Seldom now—and then, embarrassedly—do they hear the ghosts of yesterday's unwitting martyrs to their cause, but the seeds of hatred arid bigotry on which their respective causes thrived remain within the working class in Northern Ireland, thwarting the growth of what passes for democracy in capitalist society.

Capitalism is discrimination both political and economic. Even when its full range of “civil rights” have been achieved by the working class its problems remain—each finding its victims mainly among the working class. Indeed those sincere and idealistic people who carry on the struggle for “civil rights” do a disservice to freedom when they canalise the discontent of the working class into the safe stream of political reformism and assert, if only by implication, that working class problems will be either solved or basically eased by this or that reform.

Is the life of the Loyal Orange Protestant, employed and estate-dwelling, poverty-riddled and tick-paying, degraded and insecure—member of the working class—the measure of the reformer’s ambition for those now “discriminated against”? Is this his conception of freedom and the cause for which he encourages workers to face armed police thugs?

Even the reforms that the Civil Rights people advocate can only be achieved when they are understood and accepted by the vast majority of those who presently oppose them. Our local capitalists and their political flunkeys, the Unionist Party, do not now require bigotry and hatred to serve their economic interests and most of them would probably approve the full Civil Rights programme tomorrow if they were not prisoners of their own past; but they cannot pass an Act of Love. They cannot sweep away in one legislative brush the hatred and bigotry they so carefully husbanded only yesterday. In the last analysis, only a sustained campaign to clear away the political and religious garbage that the working class got from its leaders of yesterday can achieve the puny reforms demanded.

But why should members of the working class involve themselves in a campaign against some of capitalism’s lesser evils, a campaign rendered more difficult by capitalism’s built-in bias for the creation of sectional interests?

Even without the votes of the disenfranchised, even against the multiple votes of property, we have enough power now in the votes of the working class to banish capitalism and all its problems and establish a free society of production for use. What the working class lacks is an understanding of the alternative to capitalism, Socialism. This, like the puny demands of Civil Rights, can only be achieved by a sustained campaign among our fellow members of the working class. But why struggle for the apple when the same effort can bring us the orchard?
Richard Montague