Friday, January 11, 2019

News in Review: Too Simple (1964)

The News in Review column from the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

AT HOME: Too simple

Peter Simple, the Daily Telegraph engaging columnist, is one of the few unrepentent reactionaries still in business. The bluest of Tories now profess to be progressives, but not Simple. He hates science, looks with suspicion upon anything labelled as progress.

His mythical community of Stretchford is a typical new town where masses of workers have been dumped and where their standards of culture and ignorance have taken control. His satirising of the popular press, through the medium of Jack Moron, is positively savage.

It is almost inevitable that, because he flinches at ugliness, because he probes constantly for left wing humbug, because he hates mob ignorance, Peter Simple should sometimes hit a nail on the head. This is what he wrote on December 18th last:
  Teenagery is an industry. It brings immense profits to those engaged in it. It is as much a typical feature of our civilisation as the indiscriminate use of agricultural poisons, the destruction of the seemliness and beauty of our surroundings, the plague of motor-cars. None of these things would be a problem if there were no money to be made out of them. It is useless to appeal to the better nature of those who profit from the teenage industry.
Simple has no answer to the problem but then he is not the sort of man from whom we expect answers. Indictment is his field: “There is no money,” he says, “in decency.”

It is too much to expect the Daily Telegraph to benefit from their columnist's flash of insight and realise that the ugliness and the futility of the world is caused precisely by the fact that all production is carried on because someone hopes to make a profit from it. But that is the truth of the matter.

As long as capitalism lives there will be the soulless wastes of Stretchford and there will be the sort of people who gobble up the spew of Jack Moron. And, presumably, there will be Peter Simple to look on it with a weary, irascible eye, hating it all but nevertheless supporting it.

ABROAD: Kenya, too

Everyone should now be accustomed to the nauseating acts which are played out whenever another country gets its independence. The celebrations among the people of the country, who appear to be happy in the delusion that they have gained something from the substitution of one set of rulers by another. The extreme nationalism of the new government — often imposed with a heavy hand. The back slapping and banqueting, between men who were only recently denounced as insatiable terrorists and the representatives of the government which so denounced them. All very familiar and all very sickening.

So it was when Kenya became independent, last December. An estimated £400,000 was spent on the celebrations, including a Miss Uhuru beauty contest which Mr. Jomo Kenyatta left in a huff because the band did not play the Kenya National Anthem when he arrived. Persuaded to return, the new Prime Minister warned that non-Africans must respect the African personality (wasn’t there a man, before the war, who used to say the same sort of thing about the Aryan personality, at big rallies in Nuremburg and other German cities?) and said that if the band had not been Africans they would have been deported.

The Duke of Edinburgh attended a garden party where four former Mau Mau generals also turned up, but the Duke did not leave because his job was to stay and be chummy. Mr. Kenyatta had his photograph taken dancing with the rather bewildered looking daughter of Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys, who had presumably been briefed by daddy to do the honours to the ex Mau Mau leader. Mr. Kenyatta received a telegram from Sir Alex Douglas-Home which looked forward to welcoming him at the next Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in London.

Now with all this mateyness flying about nobody would think that not so long ago Kenyatta and the other Mau Mau leaders were reviled by the British government as primitive savages, heads of a secret society with disgusting initiation rites, terrorists who delighted in orgies of violence. This is the sort of propaganda which was put out in the past about other nationalist movements —about EOKA in Cyprus and the IRA in Ireland, for example.

In each case it eventually suited the British ruling class to come to terms with the nationalists. The propaganda changed and the nationalist leaders were welcomed to the circle of international rulers; their past, no matter how bloody, was forgotten and they soon became respected men. Kenyatta is only the latest of yesterday’s enemies to receive this treatment.

The state of Kenya is beset with all the usual problems of a newly independent African country and the future of its people is not bright. Whatever hardships they may suffer, we may be sure that there will always be plenty of official hypocrisy for them to consume.

BUSINESS: Buses for Cuba

It was not surprising that Washington expressed its regrets at the contract under which the Leyland Motor Corporation will supply four hundred buses to Cuba. Castro is perhaps America’s biggest and blackest bogy man at the present.

But equally it is not surprising that Leyland are eager to do business with Castro. They are no exception to the rule that production under capitalism is carried on for profit and they are ready to send their goods anywhere, if they think that the return is good enough.

Leyland are not, of course, the only vehicle manufacturers with this idea—the Cuban deal was settled in the face of competition from German, French, Japanese, Spanish and Czech salesmen. The struggle for export sales, in this case, is obviously at least as fierce as for the home market.

Governments, as a rule, encourage their industries to export and often offer all manner of financial incentives to them to do so. there are exceptions to this, though—when the overall interests of a country's ruling class make it inadvisable for them to trade with another country, a government will often restrict or forbid exports to that country.

So it is at the moment with the U.S.A., which has a long list of countries on its black list, including Cuba.

But some industries chafe under these restrictions. In this country, for example, there is more than one pressure group which advocates the development of trade with the Eastern bloc, even at the risk of upsetting the Americans. These groups arc not interested in the politics of the thing: they are concerned only with the fact that the Iron Curtain countries and China might well be a very profitable market for them to exploit.

There are at present no British restrictions upon non-strategic trade with Cuba and, for Leylands, selling buses there has for a long time been an attractive proposition. Over eight hundred have been sold since the war and Leylands are hoping for another order for a thousand. The firm also say that the Cubans pay their bills promptly and reliably, which just about seems to clinch it as far as the bus makers’ interests go.

And if these interests clash with the wishes of the State Department, that only goes to show what a confused system we live under. Capitalism's alliances are supposed to make the world a safer and more settled place. But even within those alliances there are all manner of divided interests, of stresses and strains and—often—open rifts.

A Guide for ambitious candidates (1964)

From the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the next General Election draws nearer, there must be many Members of Parliament, and many who aspire to become M.P.s, anxiously casting about for material for their election addresses and for the public meetings at which they will have to present themselves to the voters. These addresses and meetings are full of pitfalls for the unwary, the unsophisticated — and the honest. This guide is offered to assist such candidates through their campaigns.

Progress: All candidates must stand for progress. It is a good plan to say, at all appropriate moments, that we cannot put back the clock, or that we must be always forward looking or some such other meaningless phrase. If you are challenged to state what you mean by progress, mention automation, television, synthetic fibres, and so on. You may also be able to get away with earth satellites and nuclear energy, provided nobody in your audience is bright enough to connect these with inter continental ballistic missiles and hydrogen bombs. But if there are such people present you will probably have a difficult evening anyway, because they are bound to have some awkward ideas on progress and might even question whether what you call progress means better lives for the mass of the world's people. If they do, get the chairman to say that you must cut your reply short because you have another meeting to attend.

Housing: You are bound to be asked about housing. If your questioner is someone who is homeless, or about to be evicted, or is living with several children in a couple of rooms in a basement, you can exploit his plight in your reply. Lean forward, adopt a very earnest expression and assure him that you, and only you, can guarantee him a decent home. Labour and Liberal candidates can use the question to flay the government; Tories can turn the point by quoting suitably doctored statistics on the rate of house building, slum clearance, and so on.

All candidates should in any case have a supply of such figures readily available—they always sound very impressive. In particular, make play of your party's intention to do something about housing in the future. It is not advisable to dwell upon the past—somebody might point out that slums are developing faster than houses are being built and that no government has ever been able to solve the problem, although all of them have promised to do so.

Prosperity: This can be treated in the same way as housing. Compare pre- and post-war levels of wages, hours of work, and so on. Make sure that the figures you give for the average wage do not take into account any of the lower paid industries and that it includes payment for overtime, bonuses and such like. On the other hand, your figure for the length of the working week should be a basic one; it should not include overtime because this would show that the working week is longer now than before the war.

Promise to stop prices rising. Conservatives can excuse the rises which have happened since they came to power by blaming wasteful administration by the Attlee government. Labourites can attack confidently on this issue, provided nobody remembers their own record. Liberals also have a pretty free hand here, because of the length of time since they held power and the remoteness of the chance that they will ever get back.

Ignore any questioner who wants to know about the ownership of the means of production and the proportionate division of incomes; these issues are too fundamental, imply airily that prosperity for everyone is just around the corner, provided we all pull our belts in, work harder and keep our wages in check. If anyone is unkind enough to point out that your party has always made this promise, avoid the point by chiding him for being obsessed with the past and not looking forward to the glorious, progressive future.

Health and Education: You have a lot of scope here. Refer to the National Health Scheme as a great and merciful step forward in human welfare. (Tories will have to go easy here and forget that they originally opposed the Scheme.) Become indignant about the bad old days, when poor people could not afford to pay the doctor, the dentist and the optician. On no account go into the reasons for the Health Service, lest you reveal the fact that it is just another method of keeping the workers as fit as possible for better exploitation.

State that the best medical treatment is now available to everyone, but do not go too deeply into this, as there may be in the audience, say, a mother who contrasts the attention she got when she had her last child with that which the ladies of the Royal Family get when they produce. Somebody may also mention that Aneurin Bevan, although he fathered the Health Scheme, did not die in a ward full of other people, just like any unprivileged member of the working class. You can evade this one by attacking the questioner for besmirching the name of a dead man.

On education, mention the fact that more people than ever go to university and imply that this is because they are better off. Do not get involved in arguments about which income bracket tends to get to which university and whether a working class student goes there for the same reasons as does a rich man's son. Do not be afraid to mention public schools; in fact, you may be able to stir up some applause by pointing out that Churchill and Attlee were the products of those schools and asking what we would do without them. (On no account mention Profumo, who went to Harrow; he will not help you make your point.)

Young and Old: This is an opportunity for you to appear at your most humane. State, with the air of a fearless discoverer, that young children are the adults of the future and hint at the great burden of public service which you now bear and which you will one day pass on to them. Follow this by saying that is why you are happy that children today are taller, heavier, stronger, etc., etc., etc. You may be sure that only a very determined heckler will want to know why industry is so interested in healthy children.

At the same time you must make it clear that old people do not escape your concern. Speak at some length on the labours they have performed and upon the nobility of a long life of hard work. You may even cultivate the ability to produce a tear, or at any rate a catch in the throat, at such moments. But make sure that these can be interpreted as only the results of manly sympathy and not of weakness.

Make it plain that you are all too well aware of the sufferings of countless old age pensioners and do not refer to the fact that this is the lot only of retired workers. Promise that a vote for you is a vote for higher pensions. All candidates, provided that they are careful in their selection of historical evidence, can attack their opponents on this score. But all of them should avoid mentioning the inconvenient fact that, in spite of the decades of promises, the conditions of old people are still a social disgrace.

Peace and Disarmament: Every candidate must stand for peace. Even if you actually advocate a war—for example, over Suez in 1956 or the Polish Corridor in. 1939—you must make it sound as if you are only in favour of wars to preserve peace. (Most audiences will fall for this one.) Say, of course, that you stand for just and honourable peace and do not be drawn into the trap of defining these terms. If you find yourself in a discussion of the fact that previous peace treaties have only drawn out the frontiers over which the next war has been fought, blame this onto the lack of acumen of bygone statesmen, or upon the perfidy of foreigners. Let your listeners believe that you are above such mistakes.

Speak with pride of pacts like the recent Test Ban Treaty — imply that you, or your party, had a hand in it, whether this is true or not. Do not discuss the real reasons for the Treaty, nor the fact that it has been signed only by those nations who have bombs, but do not at present want to test them and by those who have no bombs and are not likely to have them. If a member of your audience points out that France and China, who are the countries most likely to want to test bombs in the near future, have not signed the Treaty, reply by suggesting that this is exactly the sort of behaviour to be expected from dirty foreigners like de Gaulle and Mao tse-Tung. You will find that, for most audiences, this is an acceptable line.

Foreign Affairs: Although you must be careful to say that you deplore racial discrimination, it is usually pretty safe to play up to your audience's patriotism by implying that all foreigners are vaguely odd and that the only really trustworthy person is a Britisher. Make sure that in at least one spot in your address—more, if the applause warrants it—you refer to This Grand Old Country Of Ours. Speak of the conquests of other nations with asperity—few people will remind you of the unpleasantly bloody history of the British Empire.

Refer to our Exports as often as you can and give out the usual propaganda about how important they are—but do not say to whom they are important. Give details about the successful export efforts of some foreign industries—Japanese shipyards, Continental dambuilders, and so forth—and suggest that this is a scandalous situation. Somebody in your audience may remind you that this country is one of the world's great exporters and that in any case the success or failure of a country's exports have little or no real effect upon the conditions of the majority of its people: in which case you are having a very unfortunate evening indeed.

Yourself: You must present an image of a sober, responsible family man who, although he has great talents, is still one of the ordinary people. Make it clear that your opponents are not supplying what you think is the right type of leadership and that things would be much better if the leaders were changed. You should not have much difficulty here; most of your listeners will have accepted that they need political leaders. Get the chairman to introduce you as The Next Member For This Constituency, but do not wait too long for the applause after this, lest the audience remain embarrassingly silent.

Do not shrink from shaking the dirtiest of hands, kissing the wettest of babies, lingering on the most heavily cabbage-scented doorsteps. Above all, do anything, go anywhere, promise anything, if it will win you votes.

And Finally . . . Don’t Worry! The promises you make may be wild, but perhaps you won’t be elected anyway. And if you do get in you can always think up excuses for breaking promises (blame the Russians, the French, the Chinese, or your political opponents) and in any case the trick worked, didn’t it?

But above all, remember that ever since capitalism came onto the scene political parties have lied and swindled their way into and out of power. The people who have been tricked have always forgotten the lies and the broken promises and have continued to vote for capitalism. So if you don’t get in, some other fraud will.

Goodwill to all . . . ? Well, just now and again (2005)

From the January 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Well did we Standard readers?  Show goodwill to all or at least to some of our fellows during the Christmas and the New Year break and, was it a good feeling?  Was it good to give as well as to receive – was it better to give or better to receive?  Now that we are all back nose to the grindstone, the conflict going on in our heads between the drudgery of factory, the office or the shop, or wherever it is that we find ourselves tied to again, and with the frolics of the holiday extant in our memories.  That song still in our heads which occasionally finds its way to our lips, constantly interrupted and usually ceased, by the numbing thoughts, the bland conversation and presence of that cold relation between the product and its maker.  Just some of the elements of the workplace which seem to demand for themselves all the space in our heads.  We are quickly reminded what a misery and a waste of our lives is this daily drudge.  ‘Oh!  I wish it could be Christmas everyday…’  

Socialist readers say that the only aspects of any value worth considering about this holiday break are that we proles get some time off the drudgery of everyday work and get time with our families and friends.  Also, we can pig-out on all the good food, if we are so inclined, enjoy the special TV programmes and have at least one chance in the year to give some kindness, affection and love to our fellows and hopefully, to receive like in return.  Readers north of the border enjoy a little extra indulge on Hogmanay. . .

Otherwise, that whole charade has very negative feelings for us.  All the money and debt required, the huckstering, the pretence, and the religious connotation and, that feeling that all the kindness, affection and love is primarily expressed in a material form — that sort of love that I can only describe as counterfeit — material love (gifts) to satisfy some fetish with the must-have commodity.  We know too that unless we give a gift, a card or a calendar to another we are unlikely to receive like from them in return — a sort of coercive love.

Our children are deceived and urged to request gifts from a fictional figure called all the way up from the 4th century Bishop of Mrya re-branded by Coca Cola and renamed Santa Claus and, unless they behave themselves, he will not deliver — more coercion.

Finally, the ideology or culture demands of us that we all undertake the same ritual every year.  Go out and spend as much money as we’ve got and more that we haven’t got, on gifts, cards and calendars as well as buy the same fattening foodstuff, stuffing the turkeys with sausage and the capitalists with profit.  And on Hogmanay we are to praise the last year as well as the New Year as though they were something special.  Perhaps last year was, if we’ve survived. Unless we follow this line we will not enjoy ourselves and we might be seen as outcasts or spoilsports. In no time at all it seems we are back again in the world we know (but don’t love) where other rituals dominate the scene and here its not “goodwill and love” we hear, but, “go on, stick one on him and then wrestle him to the ground”.

At this time of the year are these feelings of goodwill — kindness, affection and love between fellows — , an ideological or cultural thing or are they symptomatic of deep longing for another world where humans could be free to behave with kindness, affection and love as a matter of course all the year round? We are also to wish each other well for the coming New Year, and hope our luck will bring us a better life despite the cruel truth that our material conditions are likely to remain the same.  In the cold miserable light of a capitalist day, nothing much has changed by the notching up of another year since the supposed birth of the fantasy Jesus Christ.  Sure, one or two of us might in a New Year win the lottery — and then we can begin to live a little easier, if you can square you conscience with a world of haves and have-nots.

In socialist society, not only will we have free access to the products and services of human production and to life itself, too we’ll get free access to all the human support, kindness, affection and love from all our fellows all year round, instead of for just a mean two weeks.  In free society this behaviour will become the norm in our human world.  Why would you want to pay, when you can have free access?  In addition, we will be free of the drudgery and stressful life that is our everyday experience now, that which we are glad to see the back of for a skimpy two weeks of partying at the end of the year.
William Dunn

Cooking the Books: Acceptable capitalism? (2005)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Addressing a press dinner in London in November, the head of BMW in Britain, Jim O’Donnell, attacked the behaviour of the four businessman who BMW sold Rover to in 2000 for £10. Apparently, they paid themselves an average of £3 million each in 2002 as well as setting up a generous pension scheme for themselves, despite MG Rover still making heavy losses. This, said O’Donnell, was “the unacceptable face of capitalism” (Times, 12 November).

Edward Heath, when Prime Minister, had famously said the same thing about Tiny Rowland and Lonrho in 1973. But this criticism implies that there is an acceptable face of capitalism. If so, what is it? Is it acceptable that capitalist firms (such as BMW, for instance) make a profit out of the difference between the value of what their workers produce and what they are paid as wages and salaries? Is it acceptable that capitalist firms should direct their investment to producing what is the most profitable, while essential human needs are left unmet? Is it acceptable that governments should support and encourage all this?

Apparently so. Supporters of capitalism only get worked up when some capitalist lines his pockets at the expense of other capitalists. But the four businessmen can easily reply that they did nothing illegal, and that in fact they were following the economic law of capitalism by taking money out of an unprofitable line of production and investing it, or making it available for investment, in some line that is profitable.

As far as Socialists are concerned, capitalism has no acceptable face. Everything about it is unacceptable. Its accumulation for accumulation’s sake. Its exploitation of wage-labour. Its putting of profits before satisfying people’s needs.

The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1964)

From the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard
Those who have read Lenin’s Left Wing Communism. An Infantile Disorder, will recall that in an appendix he attacks the anti-parliamentary Italian “Lefts.” This group, despite its extremist position, remained a part of the Italian section of the Third International until it was excluded by Stalin for supporting the Russian Left Opposition. This year the French followers of this group have brought out a very interesting pamphlet on Russia entitled L’Economie Russe d’Octobre à Nos Jours, which is summarised below. Note that in what follows we are summarising the pamphlet and not necessarily expressing our own opinions.
Lenin’s plans
Before the Bolsheviks seized power in October, 1917 Lenin developed the theory that, as the Provisional Government was not prepared to carry the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion, the proletariat must take power. Once in power the proletariat would have to put into practice a number of immediate economic measures. These measures would not be socialist, but state capitalist. Lenin was impressed by war-time Germany where a form of state capitalism had been operated in the interests of the German capitalist class. What the proletariat in Russia must do, said Lenin, was to operate a similar state capitalist system but in their own interests.

War Communism
Once in power the Bolsheviks introduced these emergency measures ― confiscations, requisitions, various controls, rationing, nationalisation of the banks and the establishment of a state monopoly for foreign trade. None of these measures was in any way socialist or, indeed, regarded as such ― at least not in Russia. At this time the government was a coalition of Bolsheviks and Left Social-Revolutionaries (the peasant party). In agriculture the Bolsheviks were forced to grant the SR demand for the division of the landed estates among the peasants instead of their own demand for the nationalisation without compensation of landed property. In fact, as Lenin pointed out, there was nothing that could be done against this as the peasants had already expressed their views by seizing the land.

When the Soviet Government introduced its New Economic Policy in 1921 a number of Communists, inside and outside Russia, denounced this as a betrayal of socialism. As a matter of fact, however, there was nothing peculiarly socialist about this period of so-called “war communism”. The measures adopted were those which any bourgeois government would have adopted in the similar circumstances of civil war, foreign intervention and the threat of famine. One of the measures of this period which particularly attracted Communists outside Russia was the forced requisition of agricultural produce from the peasants when needed as this implied the abolition of the market. But there was nothing socialist about this. The Soviet Government used the system which had been developed in feudal Russia for distributing corn in time of famine. Thus the requisitions of this period, far from being a form of Socialism, were simply the reappearance of a mediaeval phenomenon caused by special circumstances.

The New Economic Policy
By 1921 it was obvious that the expected world revolution had failed to materialise (due to the betrayals of the Social Democrats). This meant that the Bolsheviks had no choice: they had to let Capitalism develop in Russia. The Soviet Government realised this and adopted the policy of “state capitalism” developed by Lenin in 1917. This was defined as the development of Capitalism under the control and direction of the proletarian state.

Figures showed that in 1919 industrial production was only one-seventh of the pre-war figure. The virtual ending of the civil war allowed Capitalism to be developed again with the full approval of the Soviet Government. A number of the emergency measures taken in the period of “war communism” were rescinded to facilitate this development: some factories were handed back to their owners and a tax in kind was substituted for the forced requisitions. The Government saw as their main enemy the petty-peasant economy and decided to rely on Capitalism to do the work of destroying this for them. Lenin realised that there were dangers involved in this, but unlike those who accused him of betrayal he was a realist. He knew he had no choice. In his report to the XIth Congress of the Communist Party in March, 1922 Lenin quoted a passage from an émigré bourgeois newspaper which read :
  What sort of state is the Soviet government building? The communists say that it is a communist state and assure us that the new policy is a matter of tactics: the Bolsheviks are making use of the private capitalists in a difficult situation, but later they will get the upper hand. The Bolsheviks can say what they like; as a matter of fact it is not tactics but evolution, internal regeneration; they will arrive at the ordinary bourgeois state, and we must support them. History proceeds in devious ways. (Our emphasis.)
Lenin commented that this was quite possible and went on,
  History knows all sorts of metamorphoses. Relying on firmness of convictions, loyalty and other splendid moral qualities, is anything but a serious attitude in politics. A few people may be endowed with splendid moral qualities, but historical issues are decided by vast masses, which, if the few do not suit them, may at times treat them none too politely. (quoted p. 57)
Lenin thus realised that nothing the Bolsheviks could do could prevent the development of Capitalism in Russia or, even, the degeneration of proletarian rule into the “ordinary bourgeois state”. This is precisely what did happen in Russia. The “vast masses” behind Stalin working for the ordinary bourgeois state triumphed over the “splendid moral qualities” of the Left and Right Oppositions struggling to preserve proletarian rule.

In 1928 occurred the famous “turn to the Left” and Stalin began his policy of “de-kulakisation “. The kulaks, or rich peasants, were to be eliminated and peasant farms “collectivised”. This policy was opposed by both the Left and the Right Opposition because they saw this as a step backward. They regarded it as the worse possible compromise with the peasant economy. For it smashed private capitalism in the countryside. But this private capitalism was a progressive force which NEP had wished to encourage precisely because it would lead to the weakening of the peasantry.

Stalin’s “collectivisation” had the opposite effect. It has led to the stabilisation of peasant economy. For the collective farm is a static form which shows no tendency to evolve toward the expropriation of the peasantry. Khrushchev by denationalising the machine and tractor stations has strengthened the peasantry even further. The collective farm is nothing new in Russian history. In the middle ages there existed similar peasant corporations, the cartels, where the more important means of production were held in common while the peasants retained their individual house and surrounding land, some livestock and tools. This is precisely the position of the collective farm today — and the importance of the private plot for Soviet agriculture should not be underestimated. In 1960 33 per cent. of cattle were raised on family plots, 48 per cent. of cows, 31 per cent. of pigs and 22 per cent. of sheep (p. 80).

Soviet agriculture has been in a state of chronic crisis since Stalin’s forced collectivisation. The table below shows that, except as far as pigs are concerned, the figures for the various types of livestock per inhabitant the situation was worse in 1960 than in 1916.

A similar situation exists with regard to grain production: “the production per inhabitant was 576kg in 1913; it had been 610 kg in 1960 (1950?), but only 588.6 in 1959” (p. 119).

Three sectors in Soviet agriculture can be distinguished today : State capitalist (the State farms), private capitalist (the collective farms in their co-operative aspect) and sub-capitalist (the family plot).

LIVESTOCK (millions)       
                       1916    1960

Cattle              58.8     75.8

Cows              28.8     34.8

Pigs                 23        58.6

Sheep/Goats    96.3     132.9

                       1916    1960    % change

Cattle              100      82        -18.00%

Cows              100      77        -23.00%

Pigs                 100      163      63.00%

Sheep/Goats    100      98        -2.00%

Industrial Development
The Russians and their apologists are very fond of pointing with pride at the figures showing industrial development in Russia and saying that only a socialist economy could do this. But consider the figures :

Years      Average annual increase per head

1922-28             23%

1929-32             19.2%

1933-37             17.1%

1938-40             13.2%

1941-46             -4.3%

1947-51             22.6%

1951-55             13.1%

1956-60             10.4%

It is quite clear from these figures that not only is the law of the decreasing annual rate of increase verified for Russian capitalism as for others. But they also show that war and invasion provided a stimulant to expansion as in other capitalist countries. Nor is the increase due, as the modern Trotskyists claim, to State planning. The figures show that the highest annual rate was achieved in the years 1922-8 when there were no plans. The same figure would have been realised if the 1918-22 civil war had been lost and a huge trust of Western enterprises had developed the country instead of the Stalinist State. The figures were achieved as “the result of the revolutionary elimination of mediaeval obstacles to economic development, and (were) not at all the product of red or white brains” (p. 91).

All we know about the Russian economy has shown us that the development of production there has followed the directing lines of capitalism in passing through its two stages: revolutionary installation of bourgeois economic and social structures first; consolidation of these structures afterwards. Between 1928 and 1952, Russian pre-capitalism has become a fully-developed capitalism and this process has transformed Russia into a modern and “civilised” country.

Apologists for Russia call this “the construction of Socialism.” Furthermore, the fantastic development of production they call “communism” and they insert between these two stages the transition from “Socialism” to “Communism,” which in fact is only the stabilisation of the capitalist forms of production and life” (p. 130).

The present Russian vision of ever-rising wages and ever-falling prices seems to show that they want to deal with “commodities, value, money, and all the features of capitalist production forever.” But this has nothing to do with the “communism described time and time again, from the first erudite texts of the young Marx to the theoretical analyses perfect in their conciseness, of the fundamental book of our doctrine, Capital ― this communism will finally realise the end of capital, of wages, of commodities, of money, of the market and of the firm” (p. 131, their emphasis).

We would agree with this conclusion. There are, however, a number of views expressed in this pamphlet which we would not endorse. We would not agree that Russia had a “proletarian state” until the Left Opposition was defeated. Even under Lenin it was quite evident that the Soviet Government because it was developing capitalism was coming into conflict with the Russian working class. Nor would we agree that the rule of the Bolshevik organisation was equivalent to the rule of the working class. In October, 1917, not the working class but the Bolshevik organisation seized power. Certainly at the same time interesting makeshift organs of administration, the Soviets, appeared, but the Bolsheviks soon saw that their power was replaced by the rule of the Bolshevik Party. The Russian revolution was, in our view, essentially a bourgeois resolution. Of course, peculiarly Russian conditions determined the particular form of this bourgeois revolution ― a revolutionary intelligentsia leading the working class and peasantry against Tsarism and the bourgeoisie ― but its content was unmistakenly bourgeois. This is why Bolshevism should be seen not as a working class trend but as a bourgeois-revolutionary theory using Marxist terminology and concepts.

The pamphlet can be obtained from “Programme Communiste,” Boîte Postale No. 375, Marseille-Colbert, France, for 4 New Francs.
Adam Buick

Why prices go up (1964)

From the February 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is not the purpose of this article to go into the basic questions of the relationship of value and price. It is sufficient to remind the reader that there are underlying factors which determine why different articles have different prices; why, for example, an ounce of gold sells for more than an ounce of silver, or a pound of bread, or a ton of coal.

This article will only explain why prices and the general price level change from time to time, apart from the underlying value factors.

There are a number of popular beliefs about prices, all of them wrong. One is that prices go up because trade unions ask for higher wages. Another is that prices are determined by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers having a free hand and being able to charge what they like. Another is that high prices are caused by taxation. Lastly there is the belief that prices always go up.

The last can quickly be disposed of. After the first World War, prices reached their peak in 1920 and then came down with a run. Within a few months they dropped by a third, and the decline went on more slowly for several years. And during the nineteenth century there were several periods of falling prices.

Pinning the responsibility for high prices on the trade unions is just as easily disproved by the facts. Trade unions are always “asking for” higher wages, so if this belief were correct prices too would always go up; which they don't. In 1921 when trade unions were forced to accept wage cuts of about 33 per cent., the members were still passing resolutions asking for wage increases.

“Asking" isn’t the same as “getting." When trade is bad and prices are falling, employers fight trade union demands and stand up to strikes and resort to lock-outs. If they didn't, their profit would disappear and they would go out of business. Under Labour Government, from 1947 to 1951, wage rates were not even keeping up with the rise in prices, partly of course because many workers were influenced by government appeals to them not to strike for higher wages. The rise of prices then obviously could not be explained by what the unions were doing.

If, in all the years since the war, it has been easier for trade unions to get higher money wages than it was before the war, this is due partly to low unemployment but also because, for other reasons which will be explained later, employers have been able to count on a more or less continuous rise in the prices of what they were selling.

The people who think that price rises are caused by the trade unions say that they know this to be true because they can see it happening: a rise of wages, then a rise of prices. What they overlook is that when two events happen more or less at the same time it does not have to be true that one thing causes the other. They can both be the result of some other change, and this is often the correct explanation of price rises and wage rises. When a period of slack trade, falling production and heavy unemployment is followed by a recovery of sales, expanding production, and falling unemployment, manufacturers and retailers are in the position of being able to put up their prices, and at the same time the unions are better able to press for higher wages. It just happens that sometimes one comes first and sometimes the other. This has been given striking proof in the recent increase of engineering wages and the way the employers have reacted to it.

The manufacturers have, it is true, used the increase of wages as their justification for putting up their prices, but as has been pointed out by those in a position to know, many of the price increases have been larger than the additional wage costs which are supposed to have caused them.

The President of the Purchasing Officers’ Association, in a recent letter to the Daily Telegraph, complains that while the wage increase on an annual basis represents a rise of 3.9 per cent., members of his Association “have reported demands for increases in the prices of many goods varying from 2½ per cent. to 8 per cent. Our inquiries show that the average wage claim is in the order of 7 per cent.” What in fact has happened is that the market for their products has improved and the manufacturers are able to take advantage of increased demand by putting up prices; the wage increase is just a handy excuse.

But not all of them are in this favourable situation. The Birmingham Small Arms Company which makes motor cycles, scooters, machine tools, etc., is not putting up its prices. This isn’t because it has not the same excuse as the others, but because its particular market won't bear it. The engineering wage increase will add over £300,000 a year to B.S.A.’s wages bill and according to the Chairman other costs are rising too. So why not put up their prices? The Chairman, Mr. Eric Turner, thought of this but found it could not be done. He told his shareholders at their Annual Meeting on December 5th last that for B.S.A. “almost all the additional costs would have to be borne out of profits, as it was not possible to increase the majority of their selling prices.” (Daily Telegraph, December 6th, 1963.)

This, of course, is the answer to those who think that manufacturers can fix what prices they like. A year earlier the Chairman of B.S.A. had reported that the firm’s profit had dropped to nearly half what it had been because of shortage of orders.

Then we have the belief that high prices are caused by taxation. The firms which use wage increases as an excuse for putting up prices will just as glibly use the excuse of high taxes. The cinema proprietors are a case in point. The Daily Mirror on January 3rd announced that Ranks are putting up prices of admission by 3d. or 6d. Granada are doing the same. But the interesting thing about it is that although rising costs are given as the reason, something which must affect all of them, Ranks are putting up prices only at 190 out of their 390 cinemas and A.B.C. “have no plan for a rise in prices.” The reason for this selective treatment was indicated in the Financial Times on January 4th. It is that while in the industry as a whole the trend is still in the direction of falling attendance at cinemas, "Many cinemas have been doing better business in recent weeks, stimulated by a run of popular films.”

In short, where the proprietors can hope to be able to get more revenue by higher charges they are putting up the prices and where they can’t they leave them alone in spite of their rising costs. In some areas the closing down of some cinemas enables the others to charge more.

Before I960, when the cinema tax was abolished, the cinema proprietors used the existence of the tax as an excuse for their prices. This is worth looking into. In 1956, the year in which Government revenue from the cinema tax was at its peak, it reached £34 million, but with the rapid decline of audiences (largely caused by the competition of television) hundreds of cinemas were closed. The Government then progressively reduced the tax before eventually ending it. And according to the Ministry of Labour, this is what happened to cinema prices. In 1957 tax reduced; cinema prices go up. In 1958 tax reduced again; cinema prices unchanged. In 1959 cinema tax again reduced; cinema prices go up. In 1960 cinema tax abolished; cinema prices unchanged but go up in 1961 and 1963 and now again in 1964. Just before its abolition in 1960 the tax was bringing in revenue to the Government of £8 million a year.

When it was ended in the 1960 Budget the Daily Herald (April 5th, 1960) had two news items. One was “prices will stay the same.” The other was a statement by Rank’s managing director: "I’m absolutely delighted,” as well he might be. £8 million might be hardly worth the cost and trouble of collection to the Government but was a godsend to the companies. In the years after the war the cinemas had a near monopoly of popular entertainment and where there is monopoly control of supply together with a big demand, prices can be pushed up to produce abnormally high profits. In such a situation the Government can step in with a tax to skim off all or much of the excess profit. It was not the cinema tax that caused prices to be high in the boom years, but the near monopoly. When the cinemas lost their appeal and much of their audiences, they were no longer getting abnormally high profits capable of providing a worthwhile special item of Government revenue.

Many of the aspects of prices so far dealt with applied in the nineteenth century and apply today, but there is one factor operating now which was absent then. In the nineteenth century the currency was by law fixed at a constant relationship with gold, a gold sovereign contained approximately a quarter of an ounce of gold. Bank of England notes were freely convertible into gold and notes could be obtained for gold. The general price level was in consequence affected by changes in the value of gold. A rise in the value of gold (assuming that the values of other commodities remained unchanged) would show itself in a corresponding fall in the general price level, and a fall in the value of gold (due to the discovery of more easily worked deposits, or improved methods of extraction) would show itself in a rise of the general price level, as happened round about the beginning of the century.

But in the past thirty years the note issue has not been convertible into gold and the gold equivalent of the currency notes has been progressively reduced.

The stages in this process have been the devaluing of the pound from being the equivalent of $4.86 to $2.80; the reduction of the gold content of the dollar itself to about one half in 1934; and the steady and enormous increase of the number of pound notes in issue that has gone on since 1938. In effect the pound now represents about one-twelfth of an ounce of gold in place of approximately one-quarter of an ounce at which it was fixed in the last century. The effect has been a more or less continuous rise in the general price level so that retail prices are now over three times what they were in 1938.

This is the major cause of rising prices: not the trade unions, or the unfettered will of manufacturers, or the amount of taxation, but the currency policy of successive governments.
Edgar Hardcastle

Nick, Nick — Sue, Sue (1994)

TV Review from the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

With crime so dominant in local, national and international news, it is hardly surprising that it features so prominently on television. This said, the array of crime-related programmes on British TV must soon be expected to reach saturation point. Both BBC and ITV currently cram their schedules with serials and features about the doings of the police in particular.

Possibly the most entertaining is BBC1’s Crimewatch UK which aims at helping the police do their work for them. It is presented, appropriately enough, by a couple called Nick and Sue. Realising that there is not too much antagonism in society at present towards those lucky enough to be able to defraud banks and multinationals out of their millions, Crimewatch instead focuses on violent crime carried out by desperate members of the working class against other workers hired to protect the property of the bosses. These invariably include Post Office workers, building society staff and others in a similar position. This plays on the good-natured side of most workers — they may not care much if the Halifax loses a few thousand of its profits, but they are likely to respond if somebody just like themselves is looking down the wrong end of a sawn-off shotgun for their £200 a week.

Sometimes Crimewatch spends time on other kinds of violent crime that are not ostensibly property related, particularly sexual crime. Here it does a job that even more people are likely to identify with, but to what effect? While armed robbers are thrown in Strangeways or Brixton to become even more embroiled in violent culture, sex offenders are locked together with others of their ilk so that they can turn their deviancy into a fine art in time for their release. The question that must really be asked is what sort of a society is it that treats its deranged and irrational members in such a way as to guarantee their problems become worse and not better? And, taking this into account, what real use does a programme like Crimewatch have? To say that it is a sticking plaster on capitalism’s burgeoning crime problem must be an insult to the usefulness of sticking plasters.

The flashing blue light
Most crime-related TV shows are of the serial variety, ranging from depictions of the organised chaos of US police work, like Cagney and Lacey, to home-grown creations like The Bill. For a time, The Bill was easily the best in this category, with some strong characterisations, but recently it has lost its cutting edge. The stories are the same — drugs, minor fraud, petty thieving and domestic squabbles, but without the sinister undertones provided by characters like Frank Burnside and Sergeant Roach whose approach was straight out of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad's manual on The Care and Attention of Suspects and Witnesses. It would seem that The Bill, after many complaints from the police themselves, has gone for the official view of what constitutes “realism" in the Force. No more unnecessary violence, no more intimidation and no more back-handers.

It is a pity that this alleged "realism" isn’t reflected in the portrayal of the working class at large. Most workers in The Bill, like in one or two other programmes that could be mentioned, are depicted as the scum of the earth. One of the clear messages of The Bill is that if it wasn't for the intervention of public-spirited coppers like Reg Hollis then working-class life would sink into a state of barbarism. There may be a good deal of back-biting and office politics portrayed in the programme amongst the police themselves, but viewers are left in no doubt who the good guys are. The odd storyline still bucks the trend, but the overall message is still that left to their own devices the working class would stab one another to death and burn down their own houses until there was nothing and nobody left. A copper’s eye-view of the world can be a dangerous one indeed, and The Bill reinforces this more than most.

It is likely that much crime and police work is just too humdrum to be of interest to viewers. As such, there is bound to be some sort of trade-off between realism and entertainment value in any police series, but when realism goes out of the window, once again at the expense of the ordinary worker in the street, then it is time to take heed.

On a happier note, ITV recently revealed that one of its other top crime shows is to be axed. Michael Winner's True Crimes has now become so grotesque that even the ITV bosses can no longer stomach it. No more will we have to watch the oleaginous Winner breathing his odium across the airwaves, glorying in the brutality of bloody murders. He will now have more time to spend on his pompous Sunday Times column, which seems a small price to pay. The portrayal of crime on TV will undoubtedly be better off without him. but it can be little more than a welcome start.
Dave Perrin