Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Oppressed Sex (1972)

Book Review from the April 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Woman’s Estate, by Juliet Mitchell. Penguin Books 25p.

Woman’s Estate is an absorbing and. by turns, irritating and perceptive analysis of the nature of women’s oppression, and the rise and contemporary position of Women’s Lib.

The kernel of Mitchell’s book is the comparison she makes between the two implicit wings of the Women's Lib Movement, which she labels “Radical Feminist” and "Abstract Socialist”. The polemic is well argued and substantially documented and concludes with an effective rejection of the intellectual position of the "radical feminist”:
  To say that sex dualism was the first oppression and that it underlies all oppression may be true, but it is a general, non-specific truth, it is simplistic materialism, no more . . . There have always been classes, as there have always been sexes, but how do these operate within any given specific society? Without such knowledge (historical materialism) we have not the means of overcoming them. Nothing but this knowledge and the revolutionary action based upon it, determines the fate of technology — towards freedom or towards 1984.
But Mitchell also partially rejects "classical socialist theory” because of its "inadequacies”. The conceived "inadequacies” are two-fold. “The position of women in the work of Marx and Engels remains dissociated from, or subsidiary to, a discussion of the family, which is in its turn subordinated as merely a pre-condition of private property.” Yet no substantive reasons are given as to why this view is inadequate. We are told that “the framework of discussion fails noticeably to project a convincing image of the future, beyond asserting that socialism will involve the liberation of women as one of its ‘constituent movements’.” In this connection Engels’ projection that the emancipation of women becomes possible only when women are enabled to take part in production on a large, social scale, is implicitly rejected. Later, however, it is argued that although 42 per cent of the United States labour force are women, the exclusion of these women from the work-force “at the most formative period of their lives from the point of view of the development of class-consciousness” accounts for the lack of political insight shown by women.

The resolution of this paradox requires that we take note of Mitchell’s second major perceived inadequacy associated with “classical socialist theory”, in that it ignores the findings of psychoanalysis: "To ignore Freud is like ignoring Marx.” Thus women’s lack of awareness is intimately associated with her function in the family, which in turn is "the source of the psychic creation of individuals.”

In order that we might be prepared to accept the relevance of Freud to an understanding of how women become women, Mitchell turns science on its head. The empirical validation of hypotheses is unnecessary—evidence is seemingly secondary to unsubstantiated intuition. Yet even accepting that Freud’s insights have apparent explanatory (if not scientific) power in that they suggest how a woman “comes into being”, their power is related specifically to the social situation of mankind. As Mitchell herself implies, the "bio-sexual interpretation of the anatomical-biological” is made in a social context. Freud’s ideas may account for contemporary notions as to the nature of "woman”, but these notions are related to social situations through time and space; they do not tell us what "woman” is but only what a particular woman thinks she is, or is thought to be. It is as though the argument went that to understand the behaviour of a footballer relative to a member of the opposing side, reference should be made to the nature of the opponent rather than to the game as a whole, and the context in which it is played.

To suggest that "classical socialist theory” fails to project a convincing image of the future is to require that it formulates solutions to a problem which it considers largely irrelevant. It is not the specific nature of the image which is important or the particular manifestation of oppression. What is central is the idea that the image and the oppression are characteristic of a class society: the former will be redefined, the latter eliminated, in a classless society.

Nevertheless this book deserves attention. There are some interesting comparisons with other protest movements —black power, students, hippies, etc.,— and the book is packed with specific examples of contemporary discrimination directed against women, and with rewarding clues as to its essential precondition. In documenting the pervasive power of oppression at every level the author has remedied an obvious informational deficiency.
M. D. G.

How to feed the hungry (1972)

From the April 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard
QUEENSLAND Egg Marketing Board has suggested the Queensland poultry farmers dump more than 79,000,000 eggs into the sea because there was no profitable market for their huge surplus.
(Sunday Post, 17 February, 1972)

50 Years Ago: The Attack on Engineers’ Wages (1972)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

Finding the workers in retreat on all fronts, the masters have now decided to try a ‘big offensive’ in certain selected industries, with the deliberate intention of continuing this ‘offensive’ in every industry till the standard of the workers as a whole has been forced far below the 1914 level.

For this purpose they have chosen to attack the engineers directly, and allied industry of shipbuilders indirectly.

How can the situation be tested? There is only one way. The organised workers must take united action and hold up industry. It is not a sectional question. The whole of the workers are involved, and if they remain divided, they will be attacked and beaten, in detail by the employers.

#    #    #    #

First, the stoppage must not be allowed to drag on indefinitely. If it does not effect its purpose in a short, sharp action, then it will have failed and the men must accept the inevitable for the present.

Second, it must be carried out peaceably. Any attempt at riot or destruction must be sternly repressed, as it would at once give the signal for the use of the armed forces against defenceless men. All nonsense about ‘taking possession of works, etc.,’ must be repudiated or ignored, as that way leads to disaster.

Third, the decisions to come out and go back must be in the hands of the rank and file. No power should be given to leaders—revolutionary or otherwise— to decide these points.
From an unsigned Editorial “The Engineers’ Lock-Out” Socialist Standard April 1922.

Review: March 1972 (1972)

The Review of the Month column from the April 1972 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Home

The blast waves of the Aldershot bombing continued to spread, with the police searching the homes of some members of International Socialism and causing an uproar of protest as they did so. Loudest among the protesters were the I.S. members themselves, striking poses of offended virtue that the fuzz could think them capable of involvement in such nefarious activities. The bombing itself was the occasion for a fresh flourishing of the unhealthy fantasy that in a dispute like Northern Ireland only the other side can be guilty of indiscriminate killing. In the last war a similar act of sabotage against a German Army headquarters, killing a few civilians in the process, would have been reckoned a triumph of the forces of light over those of darkness.

A similar fantasy raised its head again in the case of the naval officer who sold secrets to the Russians to get money to pay off family debts. This was a desperately tragic story, of a man caught up and crushed by the ruthless machinations of capitalism. Yet beneath the emotions roused by the case was another; the assumption that there was something particularly dirty in that officer selling the secrets of the force of which he was a member. Yet a Russian who does the same thing is not condemned as a traitor. The basic point in both cases is that capitalism is a vicious, dirty society which makes human beings act in vicious, dirty ways. And that is exactly what they do, on all sides, all the time.


In Northern Ireland, viciousness reaches new peaks almost with each passing day. It is not so long ago, that we were worrying that if things went on as they were someone would get killed soon; now, a death hardly rates a news story. It was not so long ago, again, that some elements on the left were calling for the introduction of British troops who, they said, would act “impartially” and so be an improvement on the B Specials. Those some people are now raging about the actions of the Paratroops and are becoming deeply absorbed with establishing, in many incidents, who fired the first shot, who offered the first provocation and so on. These are tragic irrelevancies. On both sides, it is members of the working class who are dying in Northern Ireland. And, as ever, they are losing their lives in a conflict in which their interests are not in the slightest degree involved. That is the one relevant fact about the war there and it does not need a tribunal or enquiry to do anything about it, but a conscious act by the people to end this society of conflict.

No signs of such consciousness, yet, in the preliminaries of the Presidential election in America. For the Republicans, Nixon seems to have it all sewn up and to be indisputably their candidate. The Democrats have not yet recovered from Chicago 1968 and are split wide open, with the wound of George Wallace especially festered. As the results of the first primary elections came in, Wallace was seen to be collecting substantial numbers of votes—and in Florida victory, no less—which gives him an ever more powerful base within the Democrats. The other candidates, in the customary way, had to put a brave face on their defeat and to describe their beating almost as a strange sort of victory. Wallace claims to represent the opinions of the average worker in America and in the sense that he calls to mind much that is ugly, frightened, bigoted and confused he may be right. Workers feel that way, and take refuge in extreme political ideas, because capitalism is a society of fear, without security; it is a divisive system. If it ever comes to a President George Wallace, with all that implies, the responsibility for it will extend a long way beyond the bigots of the Deep South.


Roy Jenkins made a speech, which brought at first ecstatic joy, then embarrassed confusion, to his supporters. The joy because any words from the lips of elegant Jenkins are now treated with a reverence previously reserved for such white hopes of the Labour Party as Ramsay MacDonald, Stafford Cripps, Harold Wilson. The confusion because the speech was at once interpreted as a bid for the Labour leadership which, in these days of difficulty and disarray at Transport House, is reckoned in some quarters to be becoming more and more open. In fact in the present situation any speech by Jenkins must be a move in the leadership game but any aspiring Labour leader would be foolish to write off a man as cunning and ruthless as Wilson. At any rate Jenkins showed in his speech that he has all the cheek needed for a political leader, since he came out with all the corny old stuff about looking for a new style of politics, new idealism, for compassion, justice, principle. It was all as if the Labour government of 1964/70 had never been, as if Jenkins had not been a prominent member of a government which consistently fought the working class, which passed racist laws, which set out with the avowed aim of reducing workers’ living standards. If he ever makes leader he will eventually be exposed as Wilson was exposed, and as every Labour charlatan has been exposed before him. The Labour leadership carries with it a distinguished pedigree of cynicism and Jenkins has shown us that he is worthy to take his place in that sordid line of descent.

A Battle Between Labour Leaders (1947)

From the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

Amongst the official workers' leaders there is developing a serious difference of opinion about a serious issue. The Margate Conference decided that the Government should take a hand in “the guiding process of fixing wages in different industries instead of leaving them, as in the past, to be fought out between the employers and the Unions,” so says Mr. Ian Mikardo, M.P., writing in support in Picture Post (21/6/47). In the same paper Mr. George Brown, M.P., trade union leader, puts forward the opposing point of view.

Despite the Prime Minister's proclamations, the present way in which society is organised is not undergoing any revolutionary change. It is still class-divided. Some millionaires are dying, others are being born. Profits are as lively as ever, those of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company having risen by a cool four million during the past year. Wages too are still here, buying for wage-earners the usual amount of food, clothing and shelter, mostly crude, mostly nasty. The Government is to fix all this; to fix profits; to fix wages; to fix everything good and proper. In the workers' world of insecurity and fear it is not surprising that the idea of somebody fixing something catches on.

Mr. Mikardo's economics are very simple. The problem, he maintains, is that the less essential trades are bleeding our basic industries of their man-power. The solution is a wages-policy which "remains the most effective way of getting the men where they are needed.” "Nobody,” he continues, ”envisages wage-cuts in the less essential industries; what a national wages policy means is that wages (barring a few anomalous cases) are kept steady, whilst wages in the under-manned industries are pushed up.” In countering, Mr. Brown states that he took the trouble to investigate the wages of the so-called less essential trades and discovered that nearly 200 out of 216 such wages were below £5 per week. These lucky people are going to enjoy the charm of the guiding hand which is to keep their pay-packets sweet and low. Not being in their ranks, Mr. Mikardo looks like missing all the fun.

One hazards the question as to what happens to the increased profits resulting from more efficient machinery and more production per man per hour? One thing is certain; it won’t go to the wage earners sheltering under the shadow of the Government’s guiding hand which keeps their low wages low. When the purchasing power of wages falls, when £4 will only buy what say £3 had bought previously, does the guiding, steadying hand toll on? The more Mr. Mikardo's idea is examined the more it reveals itself as the answer to the Capitalists’ prayer.

Mr. Brown makes the obvious query as to what is to decide which trade is essential and which is not, and comes to the conclusion that it is a question impossible to answer. We agree. What, for example, are miners? They’re very essential, comes the ready answer. Well as far as the working-class is concerned even thousands of miners are not very essential, because thousands of miners are to-day toiling and sweating to produce the coal to produce the steel to produce the luxury liners,’ Rolls-Royces, and other such novelties definitely not for the enjoyment of a working-class which does not include, to complete the cycle, compensated ex-mine-owners.

The fixed-wage idea is easy meat for Mr. Brown, but after the fireworks he follows with a pathetic justification for leaving workers to bargain through the Unions with employers for their wage, their slave-price. “How patriotic,” he says. "have been the negotiating machinery and the Trade Unions in avoiding a real inflationary spiral.” In other words the Trade Union leaders are doing O.K.. keeping wages steady, so why not leave well alone. Since it is Mr. Brown who points out the pittance earned by the workers in so-called luxury trades, it can only be assumed that he includes these low wages in his tragic boast. The Socialist approach to the economic problems confronting society is scientific. Unfortunately for Mr. Brown it disposes of his “inflationary spiral." An increase in wages does not, of itself, result in an increase in prices. Several factors influence the price of a commodity There is the supply of it and the demand for it. There is the productivity of labour continually increasing due to the introduction of quicker machinery. There is competition between manufacturers. In the case of food there is the climatic element, good weather producing a bumper harvest and bringing down the price, or bad weather and low crops sometimes increasing the price. As a matter of fact a study of the history of wages and prices shows that on many occasions wages have risen and prices, far from rising, have fallen considerably. After a recent flying trip to America, the editor of the News Chronicle (25/6/47) reported that prices were being trimmed whilst at the same time wages were rising.

Both the Picture Post contestants have no quarrel with the existence of such social animals as Capitalists and wage-slaves. They have no quarrel with the bitter struggle which is bound to go on so long as the two classes exist. They have no quarrel with profits. They are both concerned with what to do with these things. Opposing the party both represent, the S.P.G.B. is concerned about getting rid of the stupid things they would plan. The wages-system must end. The division of man into class compartments must end. There is to-day no relation between the people's needs and what the people are capable of producing; markets and profits stand like mountains, in the way. Markets and profits must end. In other words, Capitalism must end if humanity is to survive.

The Myth of May Day (1947)

From the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 1st of May, 1947, has seen a further extension of the Myth of May Day.

It has become fashionable in Labour circles to spread the fable that, in its early days, the "Labour Movement” was bold, fiery, and "r-r-r-revolutionary”—but now that it has grown up, assumed the responsibilities of Government and started to “lay the foundations” of the “Socialist State” (vide Daily Herald) it has put aside foolish things, as behoves "practical” and "realistic" people.

A typical expression of it is found in the article "What May Day means to me," by the News-Chronicle Industrial correspondent, Ian Mackay, an ex-member of the Scottish I.L.P.

The sort of stuff that Mr. Mackay writes was echoed in raging accents and styles on Labour platforms all over the country.
  "May-Day then to my eager young mind was the great annual festival of freedom when the quenchless spirit of the common man was continually refreshed and rededicated to the endless quest, 'the visionary gleam' of a new life of love and friendship, liberty and peace among all the peoples of the world.  . . .
   "Beyond the banners and the shouting of the slogan fanciers I could see far off, like Christian in the Bedford tinkers tale, a shining city where all men and women would be free and happy and clean in body and soul, where all the mean and petty wickedness of hunger and greed would be shameful memories, and mankind for the first time could advance harmoniously on to the gleaming uplands of the brave new world."
We gather from Mr. Mackay's vastly amusing gossip column on other days that he has since discovered somewhat more practical sources for the “continual refreshment" of his "quenchless spirit."

What we are interested in, is Mr. Mackay's accurate portrayal of the mental outlook of most of the supporters of the Labour Party—as expressed in the above collection of sonorous nothingness.

[We warn Ian that, if he’s not careful, providing he can do that sort of stuff solemnly at meetings, with the right Crosby catch in the throat at the end, he'll find himself in the next Cabinet.]

The fact is, that, as one of Mr. Mackay’s Scottish colleagues, John Scanlon (“Pillow of Cloud") has shown, it was precisely this sort of sentimental amiability, goodwill towards men, and vague hope of "a new world" which constituted the backbone of Labour Party pre-war speeches, the popularity of a Macdonald and Labour Party "Socialism."

Professor Hearnshaw in his “Survey of Socialism" shows that the first MacDonald Labour Government called forth a book compiled and edited by a Labour Councillor, Mr. Dan Griffiths, which was regularly pushed by the "Daily Herald" and had a wide sale at Labour meetings, entitled "What is Socialism?" The definitions were by the usual "prominent personalities" which infest Labour Parties for jobs. There are 263 definitions; all different.
   "Taking the definitions in the order in which they are printed, we gather from them that socialism is a science, a religion, an attitude, a principle, a body of doctrine, a theory, a system, an organisation, a form of society, a faith, a spirit, a philosophy, a movement, a name, an expression of belief, a tendency, an aspiration, a way of living, an endeavour, a demand, a process, an ideal, a conception, an awakening, an atmosphere, and a programme. This is sufficiently perplexing, but the perplexity is increased when some of the definitions are examined in detail." "Survey of Socialism," F. J. C. Hearnshaw, p.28.
According to Mr. J. W. Bowen, former Labour M.P., "Socialism is light in the darkness of a depressed world." Mr. W. Hampson, Labour M.P., "Socialism is sunlight opposed to darkness." "Socialism is the navigation of social currents by the liberated soul of man," R. W. Sorensen, Labour M.P. (Leyton). Mr. Wilfred Wellock, ex-Labour M.P., "Socialism is mankind functioning on the spiritual plane."

"No better definition of socialism can be given in general terms than that it aims at the organisation of the material economic forces of society, and their control by human forces," J. Ramsay MacDonald. As Professor Hearnshaw remarks "if 'no better definition' of socialism than this can be given, then indeed is human intelligence in a parlous condition."

"To me, Socialism is the practical expression of Christ’s teaching," says C. G. Ammon, now Lord Ammon. "Socialism is that form of society which will permit the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth," H. C. Charlton, Labour M.P. Mr. Dan Griffiths, himself, just to clear up the other 262 Labour Leaders’ contradictory definitions of Socialism, weighs in with "Socialism implies an ever-learning, ever-improving ergatocracy.”

One Fabian lawyer, Mr. Alban Gordon, wrote "I cannot define socialism for you in some short snappy phrase, and what is more, neither can any other socialist. Even if I could, other socialists would probably repudiate my definition as heartily as I should theirs.” (‘‘The Common Sense of Socialism," 1924).

It is this, and little more than this, that "Socialism" means to-day to many an amiable curate, and many a philanthropic member of Mr. Dan Griffiths team, who define socialism as "applied Christianity,” or the practical application of the principles taught in the "Sermon on the Mount" or "the realisation of the golden rule," or "something else of the same admirable and entirely inoffensive kind,” says Hearnshaw.

This was the "Christian Socialism” of Maurice, Charles Kingsley and Ludlow, which was lifted and made the stock-in-trade of the Labour Party by Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald. But if all the Labour Party ever stood for was this vague, rather mushy sentimentalism, how has it won elections? the reader may ask.

The answer is, of course, by the "practical programme," side-by-side with the Sermon-on-the-Mount stuff, which assured even the most timid voter that Labour Party "Socialism" was completely innocuous; the Labour Party, starting with its first programme, "Labour and the New Social Order” (written by Mr. Sidney Webb) sets forth its proposals of "practical steps.”

As Mr. Bernard Shaw has never tired of boasting, he and Mr. Webb give the Labour Party its practical programme. "In 1915," wrote Mr. Shaw in the Times (July 4, 1924), "Socialism saved the country when private enterprise had brought us within two inches of defeat,” and he went on to show that by socialism he meant no more than the state control of mines, railways, shipping, munition works, food supplies and so on. Lest there should be any mistake as to his meaning he added: "Imagine Westminster without socialism—no streets, no bridges, no public lighting, no police, no schools, no water supply, no courts, no post and telegraphs and telephones, no army, no navy, no returning officer, no election no 'Big Ben' and no parliament.” (The Observer, March 16th, 1924).

These writings are the direct ancestors of "Let us Face the Future," the 1945 Election Manifesto, with its proposals of Nationalisation.

Professor Hearnhaw does one very good service by decisively debunking the main fallacy of most Labour Party supporters in regard to so-called “private enterprise."
  "But the enlargement of the sphere of the state—the extension of the activities of the central and municipal authorities—does not, by itself, even tend to eliminate capitalism, extinguish private enterprise, or eradicate competition, three of the things which genuine socialism invariably does.
   "Take Mr. Shaw’s list of what he calls "socialistic " institutions. Do publicly made and controlled streets and bridges tend to hamper capitalism, hinder private enterprise, lessen competition? They are the very means by which all these things increase indefinitely. Is the government’s postal, telegraphic and telephone service an obstacle to capitalistic 'development, a barrier to private enterprise, a foe to competition? Only in so far as it is inefficient. In so far as it is efficient it is the most valuable possible aid to individualistic activity, and it was established precisely in order that it might be such." P.78.
 "It may be asked, Does not the extension of the sphere of public enterprise inevitably entail the diminution of the sphere of private enterprise; if, for example, you nationalise the railways, do you not take away from private enterprise one large region wherein it now rules supreme? The answer is that the extension of the sphere of public enterprise undoubtedly modifies the sphere of private enterprise; but that it does not necessarily reduce it. The question seems to assume that there is a certain fixed quantity of 'enterprise’ divided into two sections—viz., public and private—and that any increase in the one section involves a decrease in the other. That is not the case. Enterprise is capable of indefinite expansion. If the community, by means of its central and local authorities, takes over the tasks of making roads and bridges, of putting up street lamps and public clocks, of organising postal and telegraphic services, although it unquestionably obviates the possibility (or rather the necessity) of the tasks being undertaken by private persons, it nevertheless, in doing so, releases their energies for countless more fruitful enterprises, and provides them with means by which their individualistic and competitors' activities may be immeasurably more productive than they would otherwise be." P.80.
Professor Hearnshaw, the fanatical anti-Marxian, will be surprised to learn that he has stated a perfectly sound Marxian case against Capitalism. It is one which will not get votes for Tories either. As one Tory questioner stated, at a recent Socialist Party open-air meeting (after it had been explained how Labour Government Nationalisation and Public Ownership is really a strengthening of private enterprise): "So far I’ve voted Tory because I’m all for private enterprise. Now I shall vote Labour—because it's best for private enterprise."

The writer of the "Survey of Socialism" might have suspected something was amiss when he quoted the Socialist Standard for September, 1924.
  “Indignant Marxians rightly exclaim against the stupidity or hypocrisy with which, as they say, ‘literary parasites of the capitalist class [a very unkind allusion to the Fabians] are flooding the press with essays labelled “socialism," in which everything is called "socialism" from a profit-sharing bakery to the government printing office’; and they quite justly maintain that 'government ownership is not socialism,' and that 'the transfer of industries from private firms to state ownership is simply a policy dictated by capitalist needs and for capitalist advantage,' adding that 'the most open enemies of socialism have nationalised railways and other businesses without in any way benefitting the working class.’ " P.82.
Those lines were written by our old pioneer comrade, Adolph Kohn. Whether the last two years have confirmed them, or not, we leave the reader to judge.

The Labour Party was never Socialist and never revolutionary. Mr. Mackay’s rosy dream of "shining cities" in "brave new worlds" were merely the "ants in the pants" of many active young people.

The Labour Party, in its early days, peddled a lushy mess of sentimental idealism admixed with large doses of Liberal State Capitalism. This is the reason it has ousted the now defunct Liberal Party—and incidentally, why ex-"r-r-r-evolutionary’’(?) I.L.P. "Socialists" like Mr. Mackay can spread the Myth of the Labour Party’s early May Days in the Liberal’s daily newspaper.

Of Memories and Managing Directors (1947)

From the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a recent edition of the house magazine, the managing director of a multiple store stated, "The memory of those who gave their lives for their country will abide with us.” We are familiar with these earnest promises to keep faith with those workers who died in senseless wars waged against the workers of other lands. Stone manifestations of these utterances stand in every village and town up and down the country, surmounted by the symbol of a rather elastically interpreted religion.

The dead present little or no problem in our modern capitalist society. Their dependants are doled out with a pittance, their names are mentioned with less and less frequency; and so they die their second death. It is the survivors who constitute the problem to the capitalists, who are, one presumes, sufficiently grateful to take back their ex-warrior employees for the period the reinstatement right covers (it is true there are cunningly concealed loopholes available to these employers which they use whenever urgently necessary).

But more and more of our stalwart men are finding that, far from a situation arising where they can say, "Well, we’ve done our bit, the war’s won, now we can settle down to make progress in our chosen careers,” business concerns have no use for men who inadvertently wasted six or seven years at a time when they would have been increasing their knowledge and experience. Too old to be trained anew, out they go. On applying to other firms for employment, they get the same answer—too old; too old in their late 20’e or early 30’s! Becoming bitter, they blame the individual firms, the Labour Government, anyone, in fact but the only cause of their troubles—CAPITALISM.  It is capitalism which dictates that a worker should only be employed in a job and at a wage which leaves a surplus value for the employer.

Workers! Whilst you accept capitalism as the system of economic life you will always be too old or too young for the job. You will at intervals be rushed off to serve “your” country by destroying your comrades of other nations who are being urged with identical slogans to destroy you. You will always return to find that the fine promises were tongue-in-cheek ones which your bosses do not intend to implement.

The breathing-space between the rounds in the fight for world markets grows shorter. Stir yourselves now, or soon you too will be “abiding” in the memory of some managing director.

Two Worlds and What Divides Them (1947)

Editorial from the August 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is only too easy to contrast the warm and lofty phrases of the United Nations' Charter with the hostile acts and vituperative speeches of the present period, only two years after the end of the war. "We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save successive generations from the scourge of war . . .”, already face the division of Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific lands into rival Russian and American-British spheres of influence. Two years of meetings of the foreign ministers of the war-time Allies have resulted in Western Europe being enticed into the American camp by offers of aid while Russia, more crudely, orders its satellite States of Eastern Europe to stay away. The backslapping and handshakes are forgotten and now we have Mr. Bevin warning Russia in terms reminiscent of those directed against Nazi Germany. Speaking in London at an American Independence Day dinner on July 4th Mr. Bevin addressed these remarks to hie Russian ally:—
   "They seem to think that our obsession for peace is a thing which entitles them to go on to provocation . . . They must not be surprised . . .  that you can carry provocation too far. People will say one day 'We are tired of this.' There comes a moment when we say, 'We have had enough.' I say to my friends who take a different view from ours, 'Don't provoke that situation.' " (Daily Telegraph, 5/7/47).
And lest anyone should think that it will remain a war only of words the United Powers, which solemnly pledged themselves "to settle their international disputes by peaceful means," are at this moment maintaining 19,000,000 men under arms and spending on armaments £2,500 million a year more than in 1938. (News Chronicle, 13/5/47). Like the ill-fated League of Nations the U.N. already has its test case in the Balkans. A U.N. Commission having found that Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania have been helping Greek guerillas against the Greek Government, and the Russian group having declined to approve action to stop it, the British delegate on the Security Council, Sir Alexander Cadogan, declares:—
   "If we cannot apply proposals such as those submitted by the Commission we had better tear up the Charter and pack up.” (Manchester Guardian, 4/7/47).
Everyone sees the drift towards another cataclysmic war. Everyone—except a certain "lunatic fringe” in all countries—deplores it; but very few understand why it is taking place, the Government spokesmen among them. These gentlemen have their neat face-saving explanations. They each see the cause in the inexplicably stupid behaviour of their opposite numbers. "I love the Russian people,” says Bevin. "The ordinary man and woman of the world wants peace. They want to be left alone. They want the amenities that civilisation can give them. Why split the world on some ideology, on such things as material determinism or Christian religion?” These are Bevin's words but they could be Truman's or Stalin's; the favourite theme of Russian Government spokesmen is the way the peace-loving masses of Britain and U.S.A., friendly to Russia, are being duped into supporting the hostile acts of their respective governments. The theme is plausible but is the most arrant nonsense no matter which side puts it forward. The world is not going to war because of ideological differences, though if war comes between the groups as at present divided—and let it not be forgotten that this grouping is no more inevitable and permanent than any past grouping—the Bevins and Molotovs, Attlees, Stalins and Trumans will find it a convenient banner under which to try to rally mass support.

What then is the cause of international rivalry in the modern world? To find it the worker in each country needs to look not abroad but at home; not at the relationships between the governments but at the relationship between the social classes; not at Foreign Ministers' protestations of good will, but at the thrusting, aggressive export drives of the Ministers of Trade, the ceaseless effort to find foreign markets and sources of cheap raw materials.

Oil offers a convenient illustration of the problem. Britain and France have little or no home petrol supplies and Russia and America, exporters in the past, are increasingly in need of imported oil products. The new and growing source is the Middle East, so the Middle East becomes a scene of violent rivalry between all the Powers, veiled, of course, under a propaganda smoke-screen, with charge and counter-charge of interference, imperialism, ideological war, foreign violation of sovereignty, etc., etc.

Because British capitalism needs cheap oil it seems perfectly reasonable to Mr. Bevin that the British Government should not abandon its position in the oil-producing Middle East. The American Government feels the same about its aid in money and arms to Middle East countries not yet fallen into the Russian orbit. But Russia’s rulers equally protest the reasonableness of their demand to control North-Persian oil, and to have, in all the countries on Russia's western borders, governments amenable to Russian influence.

The next obvious question is why cannot the peace-loving peoples of the world amicably share world resources to their mutual benefit? Why are they all represented by governments which preach peace and goodwill but foster war-producing trade rivalries? Here let us return to another part of the United Nations' Charter (Article 55) in which the governments pledged themselves to promote "higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.” Who are the men who, as members of governments, are supposed to be carrying out this pledge? All of them are high salaried individuals, often with private fortunes, who look at the world through the eyes of the wealthy, privileged minority. All of them are committed to the task of making the capitalist system of society function. For whose benefit is the pledge supposed to have been made? For the benefit of the working masses, the exploited wage earners of the capitalist world. In spite of superficial appearances to the contrary class-divided capitalism is still the form of society in all of the countries of the world, and the ruling group, their protestations notwithstanding, are all of them forced to promote foreign policies dictated by the needs of capitalism in their respective countries. Capitalist competition for the world's resources and markets is just as much the determining factor in the world of to-day as it was in 1939 before World War II and in 1914 before World War I. All of the governments of the world are primarily concerned with making surplus value by the exploitation of the working class and with realising that surplus value by the profitable sale of the products in competition with the exporters of other countries. Let us put the matter to a simple test All the governments are committed to promoting “higher standards of living” for the workers, and many of them, including the British Labour Party and the Russian Bolsheviks, have in the past formally proclaimed their intention of abolishing the vast inequalities between the privileged minority and the exploited majority. Where then is there a government that is carrying out its pledge given in the Charter? All the governments are preaching austerity to the poor and resisting the demands of the workers for “higher standards of living." The Russian government lengthens the working day. The British government seeks to increase shift-working and night work and the use of systems of payments by results. The U.S.A. government introduces savage anti-trade union legislation. All the governments defend their actions by pleas of shortages, while at the same time defending a system which gives the privileged minority ease and luxury at the expense of the wealth producing class. In the “work harder" drives the rich are everywhere excluded from the hard and odious jobs deemed so essential.

The conclusion is simple. The United Nations' Charter is not faulty because of anything wrong about its appeal for peace between the governments but because of its implicit acceptance of the capitalist system that gives rise to class struggle at home and international struggle abroad. The United Nations’ Charter is a charter of capitalist governments, trimmed with pious and meaningless phrases pledging the representatives of an exploiting system to alleviate the worst hardships of those they exploit A working class charter would put different aims and put them in the proper order. Not a pledge to avoid war, with a tacit acceptance of capitalism, but' first and foremost a pledge to abolish capitalism and institute Socialism— from which all else would flow.