Saturday, January 19, 2019

Answers to Correspondents (1938)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Several replies are held over owing to pressure on space.
Ed. Comm.

P.P.M. (W.1).
Our reply to your questions on value has again been crowded out.

We note that our replies to earlier questions on other subjects have had the result of evoking laughter from “literally a score (or more) educated Socialists." We notice, however, that you did not follow up by pointing out to us the supposed fallacies in our replies.

Incidentally, while you may be a good judge of what constitutes education, are you perhaps hardly competent to recognise what constitutes a Socialist? We have in mind an earlier letter (“S.S.,” February, 1937), in which you informed us that “Real Socialism never can or will be achieved in this country . . ."

If your “educated Socialists” did not laugh at that it can only be that they are not Socialists.
Ed. Comm.

Letter: Land Values and Socialism (1938)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard
The correspondent whose letter was published in the March issue has written again, as follows: — 
To the Editor.

I dispute the statement of the Editor of The Socialist Standard that I favour half-strangled capitalism. I maintain that economic rent has absorbed the major part of production called wealth. I want to see a new form of capitalism, in which economic rent is socialised and the barriers to production by way of private land ownership and penal taxation is removed.

To-day, the worker is driven to wage slavery through the private ownership of the natural resources from which all mankind must get the means of life, and that is land. This private ownership has set up a competition between those who seek access to this natural resource, and so places them at the mercy of the owners thereof. If it is impossible for private interests to hold land out of cultivation owing to a heavy tax on its value, then land becomes more abundant and access to it easier. With easier access to land the power to enslave the worker would grow less, and I hope to zero. The boot would be on the other leg, for, instead of the worker competing to get work, capitalists would compete to get workers, with always the knowledge that easy access to land leaves the worker an alternative to owners’ terms. Capital itself would become much more abundant, setting up a great demand for its production, and to the advantage of those who did not wish to rent and use land. An early American settler would not stand a lot of nonsense from his employer, because soil and abundant land was available to him as an alternative. No one man was very rich, but there, too, need be no beggars or grovellers! Marx in his third volume of “Capital” deals at length with the enslavement of the worker by land enclosure.

By access to land, I do not necessarily mean land in the raw. A china clay soil brought into working gives access to the soil, and that access goes on throughout all processes up to the delivery of the cup and saucer to the hands of the consumer. A china clay soil held out of working by private interest, robs in purchasing power every process worker that might be engaged in producing articles of utility.

I will agree with the S.P.G.B. that nationalisation with or without compensation is not Socialism. Any Conservative can support the Labour Party policy and carry it further. I am advocating a “freed” capitalism with economic rent socialised. Tell me, too, do the S.P.G.B. propose abolition of money?
Chas. E. Berry. 
P.S. The Black Hole of Calcutta was an example of air scarcity. We live in a system of land scarcity, freed from which we all shall be free.

Our correspondent states that he seeks “a new form of capitalism," in which the advantage would be with the worker ("capitalists would compete to get workers”). In our earlier reply we stated that in effect our correspondent is proposing “a half-strangled capitalism." He rejects this description, but his explanation will not stand examination.

Under capitalism the propertied class exploits the working class. Receivers of rent, interest and profit are living on the unpaid labour of the workers. They are able to do this because they own and control the means of production and distribution, including the land. At the back of their ownership stands their control of the political machinery, including the armed forces. Our correspondent seeks a new form of this system, a form in which the “capitalists would compete to get workers.” But if that situation could be brought about the whole of the surplus value extorted by the propertied class would vanish. In other words, there would be no rent, interest or profit at all. The choice is, therefore, as we pointed out before, between capitalism and Socialism, between a continuance of exploitation and its abolition.

The attempt to modify drastically the relationship of the different sections of the propertied class (landlords and others), while continuing to prevent the working-class majority from ending exploitation, can rightly be described as an attempt to perpetuate a half-strangled capitalism.

Regarding money, it has repeatedly been pointed out in these columns that with the abolition of capitalism the function of money will disappear.
Ed. Comm.

Parliamentary Fund (1938)

Party News from the April 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

URGENT! For the past few months the Parliamentary Fund has shown an ominous tendency to fall. The reason may be that contributors have slackened off because the published figures of the Fund give the appearance of stability and suggest we have obtained nearly what we need. It is necessary to correct this view. The nett figure in our possession at the moment is considerably less than the published figures, and certainly low enough to embarrass us in going ahead, even with immediate plans.

Here is the position. Of the sum raised, £200 has been allocated for election agent’s expenses. The deposit is £150, so only the grossly inadequate sum of £50 is left for the agent’s running expenses. The agent’s allocation, naturally, has taken a large bite out of the sum collected. In addition, there has been the cost of increased propaganda, bill posting, handbills, and the circulation of an elaborately prepared leaflet, which has been distributed to the whole of the electorate in East Ham, N. There has been the purchase of 100,000 envelopes for preparation for the actual election. It can easily be appreciated, therefore, that the small nett sum of about £40, which we have at the moment, is dangerously inadequate for immediate working needs. Moreover, the agent’s allocation should — and must — be increased before the election.

The above may appear to be just a book-keeping record, but what must be remembered is that it expresses an account of (for us) intense activity. Remember, too, this activity must be increased tenfold during the next few months.

Records show that contributions to the fund are almost equally divided between Party members and sympathisers. We, therefore, appeal to all, particularly branches, to make it a routine business to send in contributions at least equal to those of 1937, and, where possible, to increase those figures by very wide margins.

We do not now appeal—nor do we argue—we expect it.

* * * *

Answers to three wise guys: —
Number One: The Socialist Party has not entered Parliamentary activity to test a cheap way of raising funds. We intend carrying out our obligations.

Number Two: We know that the £150 deposit is subject to forfeiture under certain conditions— our fund contributors know it, too. We do not know what the results of our new activity will be, but we have already collected sufficient material to hold a dozen or more inquests about it, which we shall—after the election. For the moment, the Parliamentary activity has widened our opportunities for all forms of our propaganda.

Number Three: Our new venture is not an indication that the Socialist Party is on the road of opportunism. The soundness of our membership precludes any such tendency. The example you give of a similar organisation, which applied for affiliation to the Labour Party, is evidence that that Party was essentially unsound, and that not because it had entered the Parliamentary fight. It is certainly no grounds for the impudent assumption or fear that we are travelling a similar road.

And let us be friendly and express the hope that we shall be in a position to thank you for a contribution in the May issue.
Parliamentary Committee.

Donations to Parliamentary Fund
The following donations to the Parliamentary Fund have been received: Previously acknowledged. £327 16s. 2d. (Donations to March 22nd, 1938); S.W., London. £2; W.E.B., 10s.; W.E.. 3s. 3d.; A.H., £1; D.L., 2s.; Chiswick Bch.. £1; Glasgow Bch., 10s.; W.L., 7d.; F.M., 7s.; W.R.. 9s.: M.G.. 5s.; W.T.H., 3s. 6d.; R.G.. 3s.; E G.. 2s. 6d.; Quartet, 5s.; Sympathiser. 1s.; North Wembley, 10s.; A.J.,2s.; Enderson, 2s.; Hackney, 5s. 6d.; Paddington, 5s.; P.R.H., 5s.; Dagenham, 8s.; A.Mc.P., Glasgow, £1; J.D., 2s. 6d.; G.F., 1s ; Neasden, 1s.; W.S., Leeds, 10s.; F.J.H., 10s.: W.A., Detroit, £1; F.W., Buxton, 2s. 6d.; M.P. Workers, £2 3s. 9d.; Eccles Bch., 5s.; A Friend, 6d.; R.L.O , 1s. 6d.; T.M., 7s.; Collins. Bexley, 2s.; Wade, 6d, ; E.C., 1s.; E.E.G., 1s.; E.L.D., 6s. 6d.; Tottenham and Wood Green, 15s.; Curtis, Putney. £1; W.J.B., 2s.; W.G.S., 5s.; H.D.. Cardiff. 17s 6d.: Guarantees, £3 9s. ; J.B., £1 5s.; G.. 10s.; Bloomsbur , £l; Total £352 15s. 0d.

Between the Lines: Letter from the BBC (1993)

The Between the Lines column from the February 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letter from the BBC

Last May, following the total exclusion of the Socialist Party's ideas and actions from the BBC's extensive election coverage, we published in this column an Open Letter to the Director General of the BBC. We pointed out that it was a principle of democracy to allow time for the expression of minority ideas; that it is inexcusable to refuse radio or TV coverage to a small party such as ourselves on the ground that we are small, not in small part as a result of media silence as to our existence. We made what we regard as the strong case that we are confident that if we advocated bombings and street violence — and, better still, acted upon such advocacy — we would doubtlessly obtain plenty of media exposure. The BBC is penalizing our party for being democratic, rational and peaceful. The BBC failed to assist in creating a democratic electoral atmosphere, but contributed to the undemocratic carve-up of TV and radio time by and in the interest of the existing ruling parties.

On 15 December 1992 a letter of reply was received, not from the Director General, but from one Douglas Evans who is described as Chief Assistant, Political and Parliamentary Affairs. He writes as follows:
  "I think I would find it helpful to know more about the campaign which you conducted at the time of the General Election. For example, how many seats did you contest and how did you make sure that your views and policies were communicated to media organisations? Were these prominently reported by other news media?
  I am sorry that you are dissatisfied with the rules governing the allocation of Party Election Broadcasts, but I should point out that these rules are devised by the Committee on Political Broadcasting and are not the sole responsibility of the BBC."
We thank Mr Evans for his letter on behalf of the BBC and have published it because we intend to keep this correspondence open to the scrutiny of all our readers who will be free to judge whether the BBC is acting democratically or otherwise. We shall respond with some comments and some questions to Douglas Evans.

Firstly, we find it strange that the BBC, the largest news-gathering body in Britain, envied across the world for its professionalism, needs to ask the Socialist Party how many seats we contested in the last British election (a fact which was published in most quality newspapers). We contested one (Holborn and St Pancras), the main reason being that we are a small party and are restricted by the government-imposed deposit of £500 per candidate. It could be argued that a party contesting only one seat deserves to be ignored. If so, the BBC should let us know that this is their policy and tell us how many seats we should contest before they will stop ignoring us. We would remind the BBC that the Natural Law Party, with extremely rich backers and a few bizarre policies, paid to put up enough candidates to buy a Party election Broadcast. The Natural Law Party, formed in 1992 as an electoral stunt and now dissolved obtained that much BBC coverage, whereas the Socialist Party, formed in 1904 with eighty-eight years of principled and well-argued policies was worth no time.

Secondly, we can inform Mr Evans that the Socialist Party called a Press Conference, which was held in central London, within days of the election being announced. All media organizations, national and local, were invited to attend. We made it clear that if they could not attend they could contact our candidate, election agent or other speakers. They were sent copies of our official manifesto. No TV or radio station reported on these, "prominently" or otherwise. There was coverage in the local press. But our campaign was of national importance. We were the only political party standing in the 1992 election committed to the common ownership and democratic control of all social resources. We alone stood for the abolition of the money system; of the economy based upon buying and selling. We were the only leaderless party in the election, making it clear at all times that our candidate was not seeking followers and would refuse to lead anyone wishing to follow him or our party. We were the only party urging electors not to vote for us unless they agreed with what we stood for. Such policies might be rejected as absurd by controlling editors at the BBC. They are free to conclude that, but our concern is to allow the millions of people voting in the election, many of whom expressed the view that they were presented with little choice, with our revolutionary alternative. Let them judge what we say on its merits.

Thirdly, we note with disgust that the Committee on Political Broadcasting — a body appointed by and comprising those who have won previous elections — are free to determine the rules regarding media time for elections in which they intend to ensure that they will win again. In short, politicians who have deceived their way into power in the past set the rules for who may have public exposure in the future. We would be pleased to know when this Committee was elected, by whom, with whose authority and to whom it is accountable. We assume that this is not secret information.

Finally, some question. Would the BBC confirm or deny that any party, however newly-formed or lacking in policy, may have BBC exposure if it can afford to pay the £25,000 deposits entitling it to enough candidates to give it preference over the Socialist Party which has less funds? Is it the ease that an invitation to a press conference in which our party proposed to advocate acts of terrorism would have stirred more BBC interest than the total indifference which our democratic position resulted in? Is there a BBC policy to guarantee the right to be heard of minority political parties or does the BBC regard this aspect of democracy as unimportant? As the Socialist Party is refused a slot on the BBC "access" programmes on the ground that we are a political party, and we are refused electoral exposure on the ground that we are not a big enough political party, can we assume that the BBC expects us to either wind up as a political party so as to obtain half-an-hour of access TV or abandon our principles in order to be accepted as a winnable force by the BBC?
Steve Coleman

SPGB Summer School: Mental Freedom and Social Power (1993)

Party News from the February 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Summer School 
10 & 11 July 1993
Fircroft College. Selly Oak. Birmingham 
Mental Freedom and Social Power

The theme of the summer school is the liberating and empowering of people through a better understanding of the society they live in and how it shapes their lives and thinking.

Discussions will go on to explore the possibilities for directing interests and activities so as to achieve mental assurance, the ability to exert power in today's society, and the opportunity to contribute to the achievement of a better world society.

We hope to have speakers, as well as participants, from outside as well as inside the Socialist Party.

Actually, we hope to start the rather full weekend of talks and discussion workshops with an evening meal on Friday. 9 July at about 6pm.

Please book early.

Details from Ron Cook. 11 Dagger Lane, West Bromwich, B71 4BT Phone 021 553 XXXX

See also this report of the Summer School from the September 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard.