Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Finance and Industry: Are They The Only Cranks? (1967)

The Finance and Industry Column from the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are They The Only Cranks?

So the Social Credit Party has won a seat in the New Zealand parliament. These currency cranks have fielded a full complement of candidates at every election since they set up their Social Credit Political League in 1953. Their theories are based on the mistaken ideas of Major Douglas that at present there is a chronic shortage of purchasing power. Odd, you might think, that people can think that in a period of inflation there is a shortage of purchasing power. In any event, when the New Zealand government set up a Royal Commission on Monetary, Banking and Credit Systems, the Social Crediters decided to have a try at proving this. The Appendix to the Commission’s Report which appeared in 1956, and which deals with the Social Credit witnesses, makes interesting and amusing reading. Giving “evidence” for Social Credit were Mr. Jordan of the Social Credit Association and Miss King and Mr. Young of the Social Credit Political League.

Social Crediters claim that the present monetary system is inherently defective as there is a chronic gap between the amount of purchasing power and the prices of goods and services. The chief cause of this gap is the banking system which has, they say, a monopoly of the destruction and creation of money. In place of the present system they propose that the power to issue credit should be vested in the “community.” Hence the name: Social Credit. They propose to cover the gap by the issue of “debt-free money” which will allow taxes to be cut, prices to be reduced and social security benefits to be increased (Good vote-catchers these!). Further non-commercial public works could be financed in the same way – without any increase in the public debt. The ultimate aim of Social Credit is a system where all income takes the form of a national dividend, financed by debt-free money.

Douglas encouraged the myth of a chronic shortage of purchasing power with his spurious A+B Theorem. He merely took over the myth that banks create wealth from the Mystical School of Banking Theorists, as explained in last month’s Socialist Standard.

The Social Credit witnesses put up a sorry show. They refused to defend the A + B theorem; they could not even precisely define “purchasing power”; they had no idea of how banks operate; they implied that money doesn’t circulate; and their statistics were exposed as frauds.

Basically, Social Credit is a conservative movement wanting to preserve private enterprise capitalism while trying to remove some of its defects by tinkering with the money system. The Commission had little difficulty in showing where such tinkering would lead:
  If made in the present circumstances, the large issue of debt-free money contemplated by the Association and recommended by other Social Credit witnesses would produce most serious and chronic inflation and gravely disrupt New Zealand’s economy.
The Commission gleefully pointed out that the Social Credit schemes for abolishing interest would in the end be incompatible with the continuance of private enterprise capitalism. This was enough to temper the witnesses’ opposition to interest.

The Commission did manage to extract some revealing confessions. Poor Mr. Jordan seems to have been convinced that there was too much purchasing power! Says the Report:
  The Association’s original submissions were clearly based on the assumption that the supply of purchasing power in New Zealand has been and remains inadequate. But we can only conclude from Mr. Jordan’s final address that the Association had by then come to the conclusion that New Zealand was suffering in present circumstances from excess spending and an excess supply of money. Indeed, Mr. Jordan appealed to the Commission for a recommendation ‘that the war against inflation be carried on’.
Enough said. Social Creditors are of course easy meat. But they are not alone in promising to cut taxes and prices and to increase state hand-outs. There are others who claim to be able to solve the housing problem, abolish destitution and stop war to boot. If Social Credit are cranks, what are these others?

Jobs for the Bosses

Our masters seem to be split on whether or not to support their Labour government. On October 27 the Times reported a speech by Sir Frank Kearton, chairman of Courtaulds, under the headline SOCIALIST VIEW OF BUSINESS RESTATED. While SHAWCROSS CALL to RESIST SOCIALISM was the Daily Telegraph headline on December 2, reporting what Lord Shawcross, a director of Shell Petroleum, said in the House of Lords.

Kearton, who is also chairman-designate of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation (the body set up by the government to encourage mergers), told his American Chamber of Commerce audience:
  As a young man and as an undergraduate I was an active worker for the Conservative cause. It is only now that I have become an old man that I have had to rather reluctantly recognise that the current Socialist Administration seems to have a better appreciation of business matters than did its Conservative predecessors.
He gave as his reason the fact that Labour was trying to build up the “dialogue” between government and business, as already happens in America.

Shawcross, on the other hand, confessed :
  Twenty years ago I was a Socialist myself. Five years of active experience in Government convinced me that whatever might be the position from an idealistic point of view. Socialism did not work in practice . . .
  I think the time is coming, if it has not already come, when leaders of private enterprise in this House and outside it. will have to consider whether, in the light of recent events, they should not more actively assert the advantages of the system in which they believe, rather than co-operate in measures which are intended to undermine it.
Of course, Kearton and Shawcross are not arguing about Socialism. We can be sure that as leaders of private enterprise they don’t look at anything from an idealistic point of view. What they are arguing about is the degree of state control over industry.

Kearton may have been a Tory but Shawcross never was a Socialist. He was Attorney General under Attlee, his two claims to fame being to shout “we are the masters now” in 1945 and having a go at prosecuting some strikers in 1951. Now he doesn’t want to co-operate with Labour. But the present Labour government is trying to do what the last one did: to man the organs of state control over business with people from business. Besides Kearton, those who are cooperating are impressive: former Tory Minister and former chairman of Stavely Industries Aubrey Jones (the man paid £15,000 a year to see we don’t get too much ourselves), arms salesman Ray Brown of Racal Electronics and his predecessor Sir Donald Stokes of Leyland. Ray Geddes of Dunlop and Lord Plowden of Tube Investments who have chaired Royal Commissions.
Adam Buick

The Passing Show: And a Happy New Year (1967)

The Passing Show Column from the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

And a Happy New Year

If the Labour Government gets its way, the wage freeze will continue almost unabated until July. And even after that, there is going to be a lot of top level interference in pay negotiations, whatever the T.U.C. may feel. This much emerges from the Government’s White Paper issued at the end of last November.

When the Government’s plans were announced on November 22nd, there followed one of those little discussions in the Commons in which one or two interesting things were said. For instance that pearl of wisdom from the lips of Mr. Ian Macleod: ‘The normal or primary cause of poverty is the size of families.” What enlightenment! And this is one of our ‘betters’—a man we are supposed to respect for his wisdom in guiding our affairs. More about poverty next month, but for the time being, we’ll just content ourselves with reminding Mr. Macleod of the large families which exist, some of them very rich indeed. The cause of poverty has nothing to do with family size, although of course an already poor condition can be affected by it to some extent.

But if Mr. Macleod waxed eloquent in his ignorance, he certainly could not find a much better match than Economic Affairs Minister Michael Stewart, who was at great pains to explain how legitimate and desirable profits were. “Of course,” he said. “It’s up to the Government to take fiscal measures to deal with excessive growth of profits” . . .  and just what that meant is anybody’s guess. From our point of view, there is no such thing as “excessive” profit; we are opposed to the profit-making system anyway. But for the Labour Party, perhaps an apt new year’s slogan would be. Profits for the few and a wage freeze for you.

Incidentally, if you watched TV a couple of nights later, you may have seen the rotundly well fed Mr. Callaghan telling us all to get ‘lean and fit’ for the battles ahead. This is merely a variation on an old and tedious theme which went under different headings in the past, such as ‘pull your belts in.’ And strangely, it is often uttered loudest by those with the biggest waistline. There is no shortage of large girths and accompanying impertinence, in the present Labour Government.

Exit Another Promise 

It was Mr. Krushchev, I think, who said: “Promises are like piecrusts, made to be broken.” Well, as a particularly cynical Soviet politician, he should have known; but when he said it, there were umpteen other politicians hastening to make public condemnation of his words. Yet they certainly had a ring of truth in them as far as capitalist politics is concerned. We can all recall, for example, how the Tories said they would stop the rise in the cost of living—and failed; and we have seen how Mr. Wilson’s government are doing all sorts of things they said they would never do, like favouring unemployment. The latest of their broken promises is in housing. According to the Housing Ministry’s report of November 14th 1966, there is little prospect of their programme going above 382,000 dwellings this year, despite their 1964 election pledge of 400,000 a year minimum. If you are a Labourite, you will perhaps be surprised and disappointed. If you are a Socialist, practically nothing will surprise you.

Maybe some politicians make promises they know they haven’t a chance of keeping. Maybe others are more sincere. It makes little difference to the end result, because capitalism operates regardless of the sincerity or otherwise of its statesmen. Its caprices can make a mockery of the most modest promises, and housing has been a perpetual casualty in this respect for many years. Yet you can take an even bet that every capitalist party will make a promise to solve it, at the next election.

The Cost of Living — and Dying

We live in an acquisitive society; everyone is concerned directly of otherwise, not only in producing wealth, but in grabbing hold of as much as possible of it. Nevertheless, it’s a process which favours the few to a considerable extent, for most of us can only dream of being rich. Amassing riches means, among other things, that sales must be kept as high as possible and costs as low as possible. Hence a constant obsession with production costs in capitalist society is all-pervading, and pokes its ugly snout into fields where, we have been traditionally led to believe, the only concern is human welfare.

Such as medicine. And it is depressing to see the cold-blooded way that some of the leading doctors and experts accept without question that costs are really more important than human beings — although they would fiercely deny this if you expressed it so baldly.

According to the Guardian (28.11.66), between 6,000 and 7,000 lives a year could be saved in the 15—44 age group, if there were concentrated research, medical facilities, and health education. Good for its own sake, you might think, but the fact that it would mean a “nett contribution to the economy of about £30 millions was the salient point to Mr. George Teeling-Smith of the Office of Health Economics. Each survivor, according to Mr. Smith’s calculations would be worth about £5,000 . . .
  . . . and if the cost of curing him was less than this it was ridiculous not to find it.
You see what I mean? What if the cost were greater? The object is to get a profit, or at least avoid too great a loss, and if that can’t be done, then the priority shifts elsewhere.

This sort of consideration has affected the allocation of haemodialysis machines for the treatment of kidney disease sufferers. At present there are not enough of these machines to go round, so doctors have the unenviable job of deciding priorities. Those who are lucky enough to get a machine will at least have their lives prolonged, but in the present state of medical knowledge, the remainder will almost certainly die.

If a Socialist world had to deal with such a problem, we would first of all strain every nerve and fibre to overcome the machine shortage, and if despite this doctors still had grim decisions to make, at least the question of cost would have no part in them. But today, in a set of eight criteria listed by Professor de Wardener of Charing Cross Hospital, the following are noteworthy for their callousness:
What are the financial consequences?
Who ought to pay?
Ought the large sums involved be directed to this purpose?
                                                               (Guardian 28.11.66).
It seems there are more ways of dying for capitalism than on a battlefield.
Eddie Critchfield

Notices (1967)

From the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received a letter from E. Ashley, without any address. It is not our policy to publish such letters, but if she will let us know her address—which will of course not be revealed—we shall be pleased to publish her letter with our comments.

#    #    #    #

Last month we published what seemed to be an article, with the title, ‘Its up to You’. We did not make it clear that this was in fact a letter from a person who at the time was not a member of the Socialist Party of Gt. Britain.

#    #    #    #

All those interested in Socialist cause contact George Dolphy, 26 Hannah Street, Hannah Town. Kingston, Jamaica.

Letters: The spirit of Clause Four (1967)

Letters to the Editors from the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The spirit of Clause Four


In your August edition of the Socialist Standard, H in his book review of Incomes Policy. Legislation and Shop Stewards refers to Clause Four as the clause “which commits them (the Labour Party) to mass nationalisation or state capitalism”. On reading Clause Four I find no mention of nationalisation or state capitalism but only “common ownership” and “popular administration”. I do not deny for one moment that Clause Four has come to mean state capitalism, but that was. and is, not the spirit behind it.
Leamington Spa

What is the "spirit” behind Clause Four? It talks about common ownership, in the same way as Labour Ministers assert that the wage freeze is a step towards Socialism, but it also mentions the means of exchange. There is a contradiction here, for how can wealth which is commonly owned need a means of exchanging it?

Clause Four is typical of the confusion and the hypocrisy of the Labour Party. To the mass of Labour supporters, common ownership means nationalisation. If this is a change in “spirit” then that is what was to be expected from an organisation which sought support from non-Socialists and which cadged for votes on a programme of capitalist reforms.

In any case, why have a constitution which is open to interpretation and whose “spirit” can be changed? An organisation which stands for Socialism can say so, clearly and consistently. Have a look at our sixty-three year old Object and Declaration of Principles.
Editorial Committee

Negative Criticism


I have read the Socialist Standard for over a year now, in which time 99 per cent of your space has been devoted to the negative criticism of capitalism in all its aspects.

However, you never seem to ask yourselves “Where do we go from here?” Granted that capitalism is rotten and that Socialism would be far better; you seem unable to advance any positive ideas for the establishment of Socialism. You do not put forward any plans for the running of world Socialism if and when it is here.

You only appear capable of waiting on the sidelines for the “inevitable collapse of capitalism”; perhaps you do not know that the only thing which comes to he who waits is whiskers.

Look at your party’s object — “The establishment of a system of society . . .” Very well, then, do something constructive to help this.

Possibly you have been so long criticising, looking for the bad (and finding it) that you are unable to think in a positive way.

Surely instead of continually thinking and writing of the faults of capitalism today you would be better occupied thinking and writing of ways and means to implement Socialism tomorrow?
Eltham, S.E.9

The collapse of capitalism is not inevitable; if we thought it were, we would not be working so hard to bring capitalism to an end; it would happen whatever we did.

Socialists are not content to wait for Socialism; we are impatient for it and we know it to be urgent now. But Socialism cannot be established by a minority; it must be the political act of a majority of workers who are consciously Socialist.

We live today under capitalism because the majority of the working class are content to do so. The job of a Socialist is to encourage the spread of discontent with capitalism and to show that there is an alternative to it. How are we to do this?

First we must diagnose society’s illnesses. We must point out that capitalism causes problems like hunger and poverty and war. We must expose organisations like the Labour Party, and the fraud in Russia; we must analyse the influence which “great men” are supposed to have in society and so on. What this amounts to is a criticism of capitalism. And because the workers’ support for capitalism is so widespread, and so deep-rooted, we have to spend a great deal of time in criticising.

The first positive idea about the establishment of Socialism —an idea held only by the Socialist Party — is that it can only be brought about by a Socialist working class. We do not know when this will happen; we do not know, for example, what methods of production and communication will be at man’s disposal when it does happen. Because of this, we cannot lay down plans of what Socialism will be like. We can only set out its basis —the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution. We are as impatient at this as anyone. The remedy is with the working class. We are working as hard as we know to bring Socialism about. D.M. has been reading the Socialist Standard for a year now; if he agrees with our case his place is inside the Socialist Party, helping us.
Editorial Committee

GLC Elections (1967)

Party News from the January 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Gt Britain is planning to contest 14 seats in the coming GLC elections; the full numbers of candidates will be put forward in the following areas: Camden (3), Ealing (4), Haringey (3) and Lambeth (4).

Further details will be published next month. Meanwhile funds are needed and donations are welcome. Please send your donations to E. Lake, Treasurer, Socialist Party of Gt. Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4.

The bulk of the work will be done by the branches in the areas concerned. These are Paddington and Bloomsbury (Camden); Greenford and West London (Ealing); Haringey (Haringey); and South West London (Lambeth). Those interested in further details can contact the secretaries of these brandies.

Living The Dream (2016)

The Proper Gander column from the December 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

It might sound obvious, but the way we react to global events depends on what information we have about them. In his latest epic polemic, Adam Curtis takes this simple point and turns it into something deeper and more unsettling. He argues that the way we have come to see the world is through a process of ‘Hypernormalisation’, also the name of his film, available through the BBC iPlayer.

The title comes from Alexei Yurchak’s book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More, which analysed the mood in the Soviet Union during its last decades. Yurchak coined the term ‘hypernormalised’ to describe the strange way that Soviet society was perceived by its populace at the time. Official pronouncements about matters like rates of commodity production were recognised as unreliable by most people every time they went to an empty shop or joined a food queue. But without alternative explanations, everybody had to act as if the official story was real, distorting their sense of reality. An analogy familiar from many workplaces is how targets and outcomes are measured, which everyone involved realises are manipulated and fake, but which we all pretend are objective and accurate. We’ve bought into a ‘dreamworld’, shaped from the top by politicians and financiers, as a way of covering up how they don’t have control over events, from suicide bombings to Brexit, from corruption to migration. The aim is to maintain as much stability as possible in an unstable world.

The political and social climate in which this shift in perception has taken place developed from the mid-70s. Then, according to Curtis, the way authority was exercised changed from old-fashioned political negotiation to new-style power through money and threats. Two examples he gives are from 1975, when in America, banks stopped lending to businesses, and took authority away from politicians, and in Syria, where President Assad’s attempts to unite Arab nations were scotched by the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. He used an approach he called ‘Constructive Ambiguity’ to fracture alliances between Arab states by misleading them about the details of treaties between other nations. This succeeded in disuniting the Middle East and infuriating Assad. These events helped shape the world we live in now, of tensions between Islamic states and a West still facing a financial crisis. Being unable to control the situation has meant that governments focus on manipulating our understanding of them, through other tactics like ‘Perception Management’. One example of this was the American government and armed forces engineering the UFO phenomenon. Curtis argues that they spread disinformation that the strange lights and shapes people were seeing in the skies could be alien spacecraft, to cover-up their real explanation as experimental military planes.

The strategy of Perception Management is more than just telling lies, though. Its ‘highest achievement’ was when George W Bush and Tony Blair turned to Colonel Gaddafi of Libya for help with the situation in Iraq. The Public Relations industry, espionage and most academics all contributed to Gaddafi’s reinvention as an ally, having been demonised by the West for years. Gaddafi pretended to dismantle weapons of mass destruction he didn’t have, and took the blame for the Lockerbie bombing in exchange for sanctions against Libya being lifted, introducing the odd notion of accepting responsibility for something you don’t admit doing. Gaddafi’s role and persona has been remodelled by Western states, regardless of the truth about him, whatever that is.

The government and media personified conflict in the Middle East with ‘evil people’ like Saddam Hussein, Assad of Syria and, sometimes, Colonel Gaddafi. This distracted us from how the conflict was really shaped, as described in Curtis’ previous broadcast (see Socialist Standard, March 2015). In Bitter Lake, he argued that American and European military and economic involvement in the Middle East fuelled jihadism and suicide bombings, which in turn fuelled more Western involvement, creating a feedback loop.

In Russia, perception has been manipulated through the work of ‘Political Technologists’, such as Vladislav Surkov, now working as a personal adviser to President Putin. Surkov sponsored fascist groups, and anti-fascist groups, and parties opposed to Putin. Then he let it be known that he was doing this, so that no-one could tell how real these organisations were.

When so much about the outside world is confusing and contradictory, we’ve turned to cyberspace to find some reassurance. But the algorithms behind social media mean that we get pulled to online content which isn’t likely to challenge our views. According to Curtis, in an age of individualism, we find security in having ourselves reflected back at us.

Radical politics has also changed to fit with our uncertain times, and now tries to influence people’s thinking through personal expression, not through collective action. So, singers, artists, comedians and writers (including Curtis himself) voice radical ideas which may empower them and produce great, perceptive works, but they can’t change the world because that relies on working together. Curtis says that radicalism now doesn’t involve people giving themselves to a collective project as much as those in the 1960s civil rights movement did.

He discusses the two recent movements which did involve people acting collectively: the Arab Spring and Occupy. He argues that the Occupy movement set out to make real the original aim of the internet, as a leaderless space, free from politics and hierarchies. The sharing and spreading of ideas which the internet enables means that it could be used to organise a revolution without leaders, and it contributed to both how the Occupy movement and Arab Spring operated. However, after using social media to organise themselves, radicals in the Arab Spring ground to a halt without having a vision of what they wanted society to be. Hard-line Islamists did have a plan for the future, though, and this gave them the drive to gain power. In the West, the Occupy movement lacked a programme to really change society, and instead became confused and dominated by meetings. Its members had no vision of a future world, so instead the movement was less about ideas than how to manage situations.

In interviews, Curtis has emphasised that not seeing a better, future society is central to the problem of our ‘hypernormal’ perception of capitalism. We’ve lost the ‘thrill’ of wanting to jump into an unknown future, and find reassurance in accepting the version of reality presented by (and suited to) the capitalist class and its apologists.

Rulers manipulating the ‘truth’ is nothing new. The difference now is the sophistication with which this is done, whether through Perception Management, Constructive Ambiguity, Political Technologists or algorithms. Curtis’ argument isn’t just that these approaches are used to keep control of us, but also to cover up the lack of control each section of the ruling class has over global events. His aim is to help us see through the ‘hypernormalised’ version of reality we are fed, to raise awareness of our awareness.
Mike Foster

Poster Boys (2016)

Book Review from the December 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mad Men & Bad Men: When British Politics Met Advertising’, by Sam Delaney. Faber & Faber £9.99.

Political advertising is not allowed on radio and TV in the UK, but is permitted on posters, in the press and on-line. Party political broadcasts do not count as advertising, though advertising gurus work on them. Political ads are not subject to the advertising code, so do not need to be honest and truthful. Here Sam Delaney examines the contribution of advertising to politics, based mainly on interviews with admen and a few politicians. A couple of adwomen get brief mentions.

Saatchi & Saatchi are well known for their work on Conservative Party posters and election broadcasts. It worked both ways, though, as the political impact helped make the agency very successful. Delaney opens, however, by recalling an interview that Maurice Saatchi gave when Thatcher died, in which he claimed that the agency had not really done very much, and that presentation was not all that important in politics. Maybe this just illustrates the common adage that the adman should never take credit for the client’s success, since it is all down to the quality of the product (whether shampoo or a political party). Of course sometimes admen do claim that they played a central role. Possibly the truth is that advertising and presentation are crucial in close elections, such as that of 1992, but not otherwise.

The Conservatives have nearly always had far more money to spend on advertising than Labour, and Tory ads have often been rather more brutal than those of Labour. Perhaps the best-known political slogan was ‘Labour isn’t working’ from 1978. Complaints about this led to even more publicity for the Tories and the poster containing it. The ‘Labour’s tax bombshell’ poster from 1992 had a comparable impact, despite being not entirely accurate. Big ad agencies have been reluctant to be associated with Labour, on the grounds that their corporate clients might not approve, so their links have sometimes had to be kept secret.

One of the book’s themes is the way the balance of power between admen and politicians has changed over time. Originally admen were very much in the back seat, and Callaghan only consulted them after making decisions. But gradually they became more central, softening Thatcher’s image, for instance, and influencing which topics were given most importance in campaigns. The emphasis on criticising opponents rather than presenting a party’s own achievements and promises remains, but admen and their agencies now seem to have less of a role.

After reviewing the 2015 General Election campaign, Delaney writes, ‘It is hard to see why or to what end political parties will ever employ ad agencies again.’ This does not mean the end of political advertising, but a big change in how it is carried out. In April 2015 the Conservatives were spending £100,000 a month just on Facebook advertising. The use of social media has now become central, together with ads targeted at specific groups of voters (such as voters in marginal seats, or women who might be thinking of voting UKIP rather than Conservative). A lot of money has been spent in building up a database of actual and potential Tory voters, partly based on the causes people supported in petitions on change.org. Just as all advertising has become slicker and more ‘professional’, the same applies to its political cousin.

There is no mention of admen in Anthony King’s Who Governs Britain?. It can hardly be argued that the admen are among those who govern, but they clearly sway people’s opinions and that shows the influence wielded by money.
Paul Bennett

Rear View: Clueless Charities (2017)

The Rear View Column from the January 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

Clueless Charities

Shelter, a charity campaigning to end homelessness, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Towards the end of 2016 they reminded us that during the season of goodwill 120,000 children in Britain would be homeless. Related news coverage has been grim and predictable. ‘A homeless man froze to death on the streets of Birmingham just a day before UK charity Shelter warned more than 250,000 people in England will be homeless this Christmas as high rents, benefit cuts, and a worsening housing crisis create the perfect storm. The body of the unknown man was found in the West Midlands city at 11.30pm GMT on Wednesday, the coldest night of the year. It is understood the body, found in John Bright Street, is that of a 30-year-old man with no fixed address. Figures compiled by Shelter reveal that 255,000 people across the country are forced to live in hostels and other types of temporary accommodation, or to sleep rough on the streets. London has the highest rate of homelessness. As many as one in 25 residents of the central London borough of Westminster are without a home” (rt.com, 1 December). But what has 50 years on the reformist treadmill achieved? We are informed that presently one in three UK households are on the ‘brink’ of homelessness. This ‘problem’ existed long before Shelter and many other charities came into being and will persist for another 50+ years unless we bring an end to capitalism. Oscar Wilde expressed this well: ‘their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease. They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible’ (The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891).

Free Speech

‘Cardiff University in Wales has said it will no longer ban events by controversial speakers, declaring censorship is not the answer. The decision was made by the Cardiff University Students’ Union at their annual conference last week, where they passed a motion called Challenge, Don’t Censor‘ (patriotnewsagency.com, 3 December). This is good news. Socialists value free and open debate with all opponents, and naturally oppose censorship and safe spaces. George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, stated recently ‘I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted’ (nytimes.com, 30 November). Such a rare and provocative approach to education has been reported to the Professor Watchlist, a modern-day form of McCarthyism promoted by the conservative youth group Turning Point USA. The Economic League in the UK had similar objectives for the duration of its existence, 1919-1993.

Pious Platitudes

Who said ‘. . . what we are speaking about is the common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential…’ (time.com, 3 December)? Marx? Morris? Wilde? No, one Jorge Mario Bergoglio – in his current role as Pope. The 1 percent have no need to tremble in their designer boots as the Dalai Lama went through such a phase, even calling himself a Marxist, without socialism being any nearer. Besides, did not Sarah Palin insist recently that one or other gods had intervened in the US election in order to give us Donald Trump? The prayers of the capitalists are answered: it’s business as usual.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

‘. . . pyrimethamine, the drug the Sydney Grammar School kids were able to make for $2 per dose, and which Turing sells for up to $750, can be bought in India for as little as $0.10’ (qz.com, 2 December). That’s capitalism folks!