Monday, March 11, 2019

Scotland, the Bereaved (1959)

From the No. 6 — 1959 issue of the Western Socialist

“Baith faither and wee Willie oot o' a job . . . It’s worse than a death in the hoose.”

This piece of ungrammatic but nevertheless heartrending conversation happened to catch my ear one night while travelling in one of Glasgow’s tram cars, that ancient mode of transport which most of the city’s workers are obliged to use despite the “cheap” family automobiles now on sale. Although at first glance the wee Glasgow housewife’s remark may have seemed a peculiarly dramatised one it is undoubtedly true that a household that finds its two bread-winners unemployed is a pretty cheerless place.

The television and probably the furniture has been procured on the “never never” system and, with nothing but a few pounds coming in from the unemployment benefit and national assistance, the house in all probability will not only be a sad one but pretty soon — an empty one. The agonising round of cap-in-hand job-hunting commences and soon men who had a passionate pride in their skill
as shipwrights, carpenters and electricians find themselves thankful for the chance of a couple of days’ work as labourers in casual employment on a building site, as part-time workers in bar rooms and cinemas.

And with the edge of poverty and insecurity sharpening day by day, the home that was a haven of sociability becomes a place where frayed nerves lead daily to bickering and squabbling. Soon the nagging thought, that perhaps it is due to some failing on his part as a worker that he can’t find a job, drives the breadwinner, bit by bit, to lose confidence in himself and gradually his self respect is destroyed. So desperate is the plight of the unemployed worker that not only is his physical condition denuded of virility by denial of the barest necessities of life, but his moral fibre is destroyed by conditions which degrade him to the extent of losing his self respect. He becomes in fact a mere shadow of a man, a shell whose substance has been torn from him by the monster that is present-day society.

It is at this point, that the most objectionable of social disease, unemployment, throws up to the surface its cancerous, parasitic growth — the Labour leader — that detestable embodiment of all that is unscrupulous, insincere and unprincipled. The emotion-filled speeches fill the air as workers are coaxed, implored and railroaded into giving their support to this or that great man. Later when the worker has been wooed and won and the political honeymoon is over, the disenchantment occurs. The great men turn out to have feet of clay, "right up to the elbows.” It is then that phrases such as "sold up the river” and "stabbed in the back” become the every day parlance of embittered working men.

The history of working class politics in the west coast of Scotland serves as an object lesson as to how much faith workers should place in the promises of silvery tongued "rebels.” The old days of the "Red” Clyde are past but if the working class can learn from the disastrous mistakes of their fathers then some of the blood which has been spilled by the old misguided fire-eaters of yesteryear will not have been spilled in vain. If the problems of unemployment, insecurity and poverty are to be solved it is obvious that a knowledge of how these problems arise is necessary. Instead of calling on the "assistance” of the political witchdoctors to solve these problems, we must seek the cure on our own behalf. We must wave aside the "nationalisation balms” and the "state control incantations” as these "remedies,” these political prescriptions have proved not only inadequate but injurious when applied to the body politic.

Whether you, as a worker, are engaged in a shipyard, a mine or a factory you cannot ignore the threat of unemployment. This threat hangs like a cloud over the heads of all workers whether they produce tankers, coal or papier mache dolls. If there is no longer any profit to be realised from your particular product, the owner of that industry will dispense with your mental and physical energies. You will in fact be unemployed although, in Britain, there is a tendency in the press to call it "redundant” rather than unemployed. However a garbage heap by any other name would still stink.

All commodities today are produced for profit — no profit. . . . no production. . . . no work. It is an undeniable fact, difficult as it may be to realise, that goods are not produced for use; coal is not mined in order that your house may be warm, clothing is not tailored to be worn nor are houses built to be lived in.

Recently miners in Scotland have become unemployed because, as officials of the National Coal Board assure us, there is too much coal; but go into any house in Scotland and ask if there is too much coal and you will receive dark looks from the inhabitants who will in all likelihood be huddled around a pathetic fire which could well do with some of this surplus coal that is piling up. It is because we live in a society where production is carried on for profit that we have to endure such insane situations as thousands of people homeless, or ill housed, and an army of building tradesmen out of work.

The Glasgow housewife, with whose comment I started this article, will probably never read this but hundreds who have the same fear of the insecurity of modern society will and it is to them that I say, let us, the working class, the only people of any consequence, get to the cause of this insecurity and by our understanding change society from Capitalism to Socialism where the good things of life will not be produced for profit but for use. For then, and only then, fellow workers, will such a plight as can be described as " . . . worse than a death in the hoose” be a part of man’s prehistoric past.
Dick Donnelly 
Glasgow Kelvingrove Branch

Lenin . . . Reviewed (1976)

Book Review from the Fall 1976 issue of the Western Socialist

Lenin as Philosopher by Anton Pannekoek, Merlin Press, 11 Fitzroy Square, London, W.l.

The Russian State proclaims as its official ideology “dialectical materialism.” Their views, however, have nothing in common with those of the man who first used the term, Joseph Dietzgen. The basic text of Russian State philosophy is Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, a diatribe written in 1908. Thirty years later Anton Pannekoek, a Dutch Marxist and astronomer of world renown, wrote a criticism of Lenin’s work under the title Lenin as Philosopher, his own 1948 English translation of which has now been re-published by Merlin Press.

There are, argues Pannekoek, two types of materialism: middle-class materialism and historical materialism. Middle-class materialism was the view embraced by the rising bourgeoisie when they were fighting the landed aristocracy for control of political power. Religion was an important ideological support for their opponents and the bourgeoisie used the findings of the natural science of the time to undermine religious superstitions. Nineteenth Century natural science had a mechanical materialist view of the world: reality was seen as being composed of tiny particles of physical matter, whose movement was governed by natural laws to discover which was the task of science; consciousness was seen as a purely biological phenomenon, for which a physical-chemical explanation would ultimately be found.

Historical materialism, on the other hand, says Pannekoek, is based on the study of society and social change. Consciousness clearly has a biological aspect, but in origin and content it is a social product. For Marx and Engels, ideas arose from society. Dietzgen dealt with a different aspect: how the experiences of our senses were translated into ideas. Dietzgen's materialism was dialectical: the material world was the ever-changing world of observed phenomena, whether tangible or not, considered as a single whole. Human beings, alone amongst animals, are capable of abstract thought, i.e, of delaying and planning their response to the stimuli of their external environment.

Abstract thought is done with mental concepts, which the mind constructs out of the real world of phenomena as experienced by the senses by distinguishing and naming parts of it. Everything that is the subject of abstract thought is a mental construction, including what we regard as physical objects. This is because reality is ever-changing and exists only as a whole. A table, as the group of phenomena given that name, does not exist separately on its own; it exists only as a part of the whole world of phenomena.

This dialectical view is well explained by Pannekoek.

Of course for our everyday life we need to assume that the things we use have a separate existence, but dialectical materialism teaches that what will do for everyday life will not do as an adequate scientific understanding.

Not only are tables and chairs abstractions from the world of reality, but so are atoms and physical matter. The world of phenomena is not really composed of tiny particles of physical matters; this is just one possible way of describing various physical phenomena experienced by the senses. This does not invalidate materialism at all since “matter” for dialectical materialism is something different:
  "If . . . matter is taken as the name for the philosophical concept denoting objective reality, it embraces far more than physical matter. Then we come to the view repeatedly expressed in former chapters, where the material world was spoken of as the name for the entire observed reality. This is the meaning of the word materia, matter in Historical Materialism, the designation of all that is really existing in the world, ‘including mind and fancies’ as Dietzgen said” (p. 83).
Mach and Avenarius, who Lenin attacked in his book, also held that physical matter was an abstraction, but they regarded this as a refutation of materialism. Their views were shared by a number of German Social Democrat Revisionists and even by some of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. In order to preserve the ideological unity of his party, Lenin set out to refute these ideas, but — and this is the burden of Pannekoek’s criticism of him — from the point of view of bourgeois rather than dialectical materialism. In Materialism and Empirio-Criticism Lenin defends the view that the world is composed of particles of physical matter and claims that any departure from this position opens the door to religious ideas. In fact, as Pannekoek points out, just like the rising bourgeoisie in its early days Lenin insisted on a militant atheism, even suggesting that the main battle in the field of ideas is between materialism and religion (rather than between capitalist ideas and socialist ideas).

Pannekoek explains that it was no coincidence that Lenin should have been a proponent of bourgeois materialism. For the anti-Tsarist revolutionaries of Russia were faced with the same task as Western bourgeois revolutionaries a century earlier: to overthrow a reactionary landed ruling class, propped up by Church and religion, so as to pave the way for industrialisation. In Russia the bourgeoisie was very weak so that the task of carrying out Russia’s bourgeois revolution fell to another group, the intelligentsia. Organized in a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries and armed with the ideology of militant atheism, a section of the Intelligentsia did seize power in Russia in 1917, eventually evolving into a new ruling class on the basis of state capitalism:
  “The Russian economic system is state capitalism, there called state socialism or even communism, with production directed by a state bureaucracy under the leadership of the Communist Party. The State officials, forming the new ruling class, have the disposal over the product, hence over the surplus value, whereas the workers receive wages only, thus forming an exploited class” (p. 102).
Pannekoek goes further: “The 
alleged Marxism of Lenin and the bolshevlst party,” he writes, “is nothing but a legend.” Leninism, he says further, is “a theory of middle-class revolution, Installing a new ruling class.”

Pannekoek, incidentally, knew of the world socialist movement and was, despite important disagreements, sympathetically disposed towards us. The Western Socialist recounts, in their obituary of him in 1960, how in 1938 when he was in Boston to receive an honorary degree in connection with the tercentenary of Harvard University, Pannekoek found some time to address a party meeting and talk to Socialists. He also contributed two articles to The Western Socialist after the war (“Public Ownership and Common Ownership” in November 1947 and “Strikes” in January 1948). From these it can be seen where his views differed from ours.

Although both Pannekoek and Socialists insist on the need for the working class to organize democratically, without leaders, in order to establish Socialism, Pannekoek was a lifelong anti- parliamentarlst and said the workers should do this through “workers councils.” We, on the other hand, have always urged that the workers should organize democratically into a socialist political party using the vote to gain political power (see Socialist Standard, May 1942 for a criticism of Pannekoek’s views on this).

Pannekoek’s Lenin as Philosopher has a place on the bookshelf of every Socialist, not just for its criticism of Leninism but also for its clear account of dialectical materialism.
Adam Buick

Lenin vs. Marx (1976)

From the Spring 1976 issue of the Western Socialist
 This is one of a series of articles that appeared in the Lance, published by the Student Media, University of Windsor in Windsor, Ont., Canada.
It seems that for the past while I have been criticized for not backing up some of my claims with references to the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin. This week, however, I plan to show how Lenin directly distorted Marxian scientific socialism.

Marx and Engels made it quite clear that “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room within it have developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.” (Preface to Critque of Political Economy).

Compare this to the Leninist theory that socialism can be built in backward countries such as the Russia of 1917. Engels himself wrote in 1893 that France (already an industrialized country) had not “reached the point which would have made the transition to socialism possible.” (Preface to Italian edition of the Communist Manifesto). So how could backward Russia which was just developing capitalism proceed to socialism?

Lenin, later, had to admit that “The development of the productive forces of Russia has not attained the level that makes socialism possible.  . . . They keep harping on this incontrovertible proposition” . . . (Our Revolution). Thus he was to look to countries such as India and China to assure the victory of socialism. Quite a contradiction. If Russia was too backward for socialism, then how were India and China, which were even more backward, to remedy the situation?

In order for Lenin’s followers to claim that socialism could be built in one country, and a backward country at that, then they would have to reject the total concept of historical materialism, one of the cornerstones of Marxian thought.

To Marx, the socialist revolution could only be “the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.” — (Communist Manifesto). And what did Lenin say? He stated that the workers can only be led by a group of skilled professional revolutionaries. Why? Because “the working class exclusively by its own efforts is able to develop only trade-union consciousness . . . ” — (What is to be Done?) Marx knew that only a politically conscious majority of workers can build socialism — “So that the masses may understand what is to be done, long and persistent work is required.” — (Class Struggles in France). Whereas Lenin followed a different view — “If socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see socialism for at least five hundred years.” — (reported by John Reed).

On question of the role of the State to Marx: the “destruction of the State machine” (Eighteenth Brumaire) meant the “destruction of the bureaucratic and military machine" (letter to Kugelmann). The State is “an evil inherited by the proletariat” and “whose worse sides the proletariat . . .  will have at the earliest possible moment to lop off . . .” (Civil War in France).

This is a far cry from Lenin’s distortion when he wrote that “Marx’s idea is that the working class must breakup, smash, the ‘ready-made state machinery’ and not confine itself to laying hold of it.” — (State and Revolution). Now which shall it be — lop off the military and bureaucracy or smash the state altogether?

And what of the much talked about “dictatorship of the proletariat”?

This was elaborated on by Engels who did not see the dictatorship as a form of government, but rather as the social structure of state power. Obviously Lenin did not share this view.

In fact, Engels saw the democratic republic as “the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat” (Critique of the draft of the Erfurt program) . Whereas to Lenin the “Democratic Republic comes nearest the dictatorship of the proletariat” — (State and Revolution).

Marx and Engels saw the dictatorship as being based on universal suffrage, democratic from top to bottom. Quite different from Lenin’s view “that Soviet Socialist Democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person" — (Economic Construction).

Lenin, to enforce his theories, claimed that Marx made a distinction between socialism and communism when in fact neither Marx nor Engels ever made such a distinction. Marx and Engels made it clear that the state was only necessary in a class society of inequality. What happened to Russia? The state is not withering away. In fact, it is stronger than ever.

This article is not long enough to go into all the areas of Leninist distortion. We must realise that the distortions made by Lenin inevitably resulted in Stalinist terror. Terror and violence are not recognized by socialists.
Len Wallace

A Starvation Society (1976)

From the Spring 1976 issue of the Western Socialist
 This is one of a series of articles that appeared in the Lance, published by the Student Media, University of Windsor in Windsor, Ont., Canada.
World hunger — over-population — poverty. That's what we hear now. Each year there are sixty million deaths in the world, thirty to forty million have to be attributed to malnutrition. In other words, 80,000 to 110,000 die from malnutrition every day. It's no accident. The problem could be solved.

It's hard to believe, but people are actually starving in Canada and the United States. Food prices go up. The politicians tell us there is a food shortage. Don't believe them.

Some Statistics
Take Canada for example. In 1972 the federal government used $2.25 million to pay farmers to slaughter more than a million laying hens — the objective? — to make eggs scarce and force prices up. In 1969 the government, using the Lower Inventory for Tomorrow program (LIFT), paid farmers not to grow wheat and discouraged them from switching to other crops. As a result, the Dept, of Agriculture claimed that the program cut wheat acreage in 1970-71 by 45 per cent. Seven million acres of land, land which could have produced food, were deliberately left fallow.

This isn't uncommon. The 1969 Task Force on Agriculture recommended a ten year cut back in wheat production. Just recently the Canadian Marketing Agency confirmed that 28 million eggs were destroyed due to improper storage.

And this isn't only happening in Canada, but in the United States and Europe. In 1972, the government of England planned the slaughter of up to 2 million laying hens in order to solve the surplus of eggs on the market. A “surplus” of eggs? My, my, how interesting. Cattle were slaughtered because of an acute shortage of fodder. Why the shortage? — well, the government did all it could to encourage beef production, but they made the stupid blunder of forgetting to encourage a corresponding production of hay. Such are the fine workings of the system.

United Nations sources state that 400 million people are not getting enough food to meet minimum nutritional needs and 75 million are faced with the prospect of death by starvation. Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, stated that in the next few months of this year millions will die from starvation.

The U.S.. with a population of 210 million — the richest country in the world — has at least 40 million living in poverty. How many are starving?

But what do the rich care? One typical example is Eleanor Ritchey, a Quaker State Oil Corp. heiress who left her entire fortune of $4.5 million to her pets — 150 stray and show dogs. My God! Others who can’t afford nutritional meals are forced to feed dog food to their children.

It is contended that two-thirds of the world is starving. If this were true then the world’s population would decrease. Actually, however, starvation really means malnutrition from protein deficiency. And it can be solved.

Food For Profit Only 
Present world production of food could be doubled by applying techniques of extracting protein and sugar from the three-quarters of the plant which is presently thrown away. Scientists estimate that if the sea’s resources were tapped then one acre of its surface could produce twice as much protein-rich food as an acre of pasture.

Then why isn’t it done? — because it isn’t profitable, the cost is too great. That is the root of the problem. The capitalist wants a profit and he will not produce that which costs him money. The only value he sees worth creating is in goods he can sell for his sacred profit — damn anything else — let the world starve — it’s good for business.

Capitalist progress is perverted. If a few people die they can easily be replaced. Such progress. Take the war in Vietnam. Let’s face it. It was good business to kill 56,000 Americans and three and one-quarter-million Vietnamese. American capitalists received millions for the production of napalm. Tons of it was dropped upon thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of innocents. You see, it had this effect of melting human flesh and misshaping it into inhuman form. Did you ever see the faces of those mutilated children. Did you ever see the smiles on the faces of the capitalists who produced these bombs because “business was never better”?

You can measure how far capitalists who produced these bombs because “business was never better”?

By 1972, approximately 90,000 tons of U.S. chemical warfare agents were used in Vietnam. Crop cultivation sufficient to feed 2 million people for a year was destroyed.

You can measure how far capitalist society has progressed by counting the increasing number of monsters and idiots born because of radioactive fall out, nerve gas, mercury poisoning and nuclear wastes.

Capitalism is Insane
Capitalism is an iron rat. The system is insane. It cannot work efficiently. Damn it — it can't work at all!

Colonialism and imperialism, bred by capitalism, rapes the Third World of resources leaving it underdeveloped. In return these countries are given the benefits of our society — like a brand new Howard Johnson’s or a Burger King to brighten up the place.

We are told that the earth has insufficient land area to service its growing population. The facts are that the present land area of the world could adequately support 12 to 16 billion people. The whole population of the United Kingdom could be rehoused in one county, Devon, with a density of 10 houses per acre and there would still be enough land to spare.

As for depletion of vital minerals from our soil. This is based on the simple model of soil and population, totally disregarding the third factor — human ability to use science and technology to attain certain ends.

Too Many People?
Population control? Our present neo-Malthusians see this as an answer. They take our present social system as being unalterable. To them the only thing that can be changed to solve the problems of world starvation is human sexual behaviour. The argument of these “intellectuals” is that “we can bring the problem under control once we stop the people of the poor nations from breeding like rabbits.” Such logic. They try to give a biological solution to a social problem. The facts are that wherever industry and education have reached high levels, population growth declines.

But get a load of some of the “solutions” to the problem. Richard Bowers, a founder of the Zero Population Growth movement, suggests mass suicide to cut the surplus population. Others suggest that the weak be allowed to die. To these social-Darwinists it is the strong who will survive. Hell — why not mass extermination then. Sure, why not? If the fascists could exterminate six million Jews in the death camps then why not do it again — only this time we won’t discriminate.

Yes, millions will go on starving and will die in the streets and this will keep on as long as this moronic system goes on. As long as the capitalist can worship his god — Mammon — then they won’t listen to the cries of the starving. His god is profit — now the “common whore of mankind”.

Expressions of pity by our smiling politicians and “leaders” for the hungry is bullshit. The corpses will keep piling up and will lay at our very doorstep. It just makes me sick to think we allow it to happen.
Len Wallace

News in Review: Bizerta (1961)

The News in Review column from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Patriotic Frenchmen like to regard themselves as a civilised race, who know all about the finer points of living like making love and drinking the right wine with their food.

They have also showed, in the long Algerian conflict, that they know all about making war and using the right weapons in battle. And if there was any doubt about this, it must have been removed by the short, gory struggle over Bizerta.

Basically, the dispute was simple enough. The French ruling class wanted to keep the base, to help them look after the commercial interests which they are hanging onto in North Africa, not forgetting the oil in the Sahara.

The Tunisian ruling class wanted the French to leave because they did not want to get involved in any trouble which might follow the breakdown of the negotiations between the French government and the Algerian rebel leaders.

Perhaps the Tunisians did not play their hand as well as they might. Perhaps the French were overhasty. These are the common excuses for the sort of dreadful slaughter which happened when the paras went in. They always ignore the real reason for capitalism's horrors. It must be revolting to smash human beings, some of them children, into destruction. But that is what the French soldiers, with their mortars and their guns, did at Bizerta—and all in the interests of their masters.

Which goes to show just how much civilised instincts are worth to the barbaric capitalist social system.

Little Budget
Many big-time financial editors applauded Mr. Selwyn Lloyd's second attempt at producing a Budget for 1961/2. Here, they said, was the strong medicine which was needed to sort out our troubles once and for all.

This was the sort of comment which greeted Mr. Butler's autumn Budget in 1957, when Bank Rate last went up to seven per cent It is what is always being said about the so-called remedies for the economic and financial crises of capitalism.

The trouble this time, said Fleet Street, is that we are all living too well. Agricultural workers, who are getting by on an average wage of £10 11s. a week and local government employees who are somehow making do on an average of £10 16s a week, must have been very surprised to hear that nowadays their life is one long spree of opulence.

Whatever measures successive Chancellors may impose, the economy keeps on staggering from boom to recession, from expansion to retrenchment. One budget (often at election time) knocks a couple of pennies off beer, a couple of shillings off income tax. Another puts them back on, or onto something else.

The workers end up where they started, with a personal budget which is very finely balanced, often on a tightrope supplied by the hire purchase companies. Yet they keep their faith with capitalism—if they blame anything, it is the planners, or their plans. But capitalism—unplannable, chaotic, unbudgetable —is always doing its best to teach them better.

Common Market
The British capitalist class are gingerly easing themselves into the European Common Market. As they do so, they are full of doubts and hopes.

On one hand, firms in, for example, the car and electric domestic appliance industries, lick their lips at the prospect of easier access to Europe's nearly 300 million customers. Many of these firms have spent a lot of time in summing up their chances in Europe, and are convinced that they will be able to cut a fine dash against their foreign rivals in the Common Market.

On the other hand, industries like agriculture quake with fear at the thought of a flood of cheap Continental produce washing them out of their traditional markets and sweeping away the protection of government guaranteed prices.

Similarly, the Commonwealth countries which sell a lot of agricultural produce to this country are anxious about losing the advantages of Imperial Preference.

These doubts are reflected in the splits in British political parties. Not only the Tories have their doubts; on the Opposition benches, Lord Morrison speaks in favour of the Common Market while Mr. Shinwell and Earl Attlee oppose it. Officially, the Labour Party have no policy in the matter—they abstain from votes in the House.

Some industries may thrive, and others may suffer, because Britain joins the EEC. This often happens when capitalist industry is reaching for its markets. But nothing is certain. The Common Market could be a costly flop for Britain —it could turn out, on the whole, to be unprofitable. This is the core of the dispute over Britain's application to join.

For nobody has yet discovered a certain method of guaranteeing industries' prosperity under capitalism. That, in the end, is why the Government have dithered for so long and then gone almost unwillingly to Rome.

Finance and Industry: Supply and Demand (1961)

The Finance and Industry column from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Supply and Demand
According to the economists who explain and justify economic laws, supply and demand have to be accepted as a necessary mechanism of the free market. If supply increases without an increase of demand prices fall. If demand increases without an increase of supply, prices rise. And this, they say, is all to the good because falling prices of a commodity cause production in that industry to be curtailed and capital and labour move into new industries where they are needed. This argument was used by the Government recently to justify the rocketing prices of land for building: it would, they said, cause owners of land to come into the market and would also induce more economical use of the limited land available.

But when it comes to wages they find it necessary, in their own interests as employers and property owners, to take a different line. They no longer preach the beneficial effect of a “true market price” when it is wages, the price of labour-power, they are considering.

Politically, for vote-catching purposes, the parties which seek to win elections have to pay lip-service to “full employment” and high wages. But full employment and high wages mean reduced profits, and capitalism, whether under a Tory or a Labour government, can only function when commodities can be sold at a profit. So we have the government at the present time trying to threaten or persuade the workers not to take advantage of the labour-shortage by pressing for wage increases.

One form this takes is that the expanding firms, which need to recruit more workers, offer extra inducements to entice workers away from rival firms. The British Employers’ Confederation recently made an analysis of the total wages of industrial and commercial wage-earners. It was summarised in the Times and Financial Times on July 29. It showed that out of a total annual wage bill of £8,600 millions, only £6,500 million represents the agreed trade union wage for a normal week’s work (now generally 42 hours for most workers). A further £1,500 million represents excess payments above agreed rates, paid by employers to attract scarce labour, and another £600 million represents payment for overtime.

Naturally the employers would prefer to get the labour they need without having to compete with each other for it, and the Government shares their view.

But it was just the same under the Labour government. On August 6, 1947 (Hansard, fol. 1514) the Prime Minister, now Lord Attlee, made the following appeal:
  I appeal to workers in all industries and employments not to press at this time for increases of wages or changes in conditions which would have a similar effect, especially when these increases are put forward on the basis of maintaining differentials between various categories of workers on the basis of former practice.
  Equally. I would appeal to employers not to seek to tempt workers away from essential work by offering higher inducements to work in less essential industries thus creating a vicious spiral.
Thus does capitalism impose its own necessities on those who administer it. In opposition the Labour Party is in favour of high wages; in office high wages become a “vicious spiral.”

A Telephone
When the Postmaster-General recently announced some higher telephone and postal charges figures were given out by the Post Office to the Press about the numbers of houses with and without a telephone. According to the Daily Mail (25/7/61) there are over 13,000,000 homes without a telephone. To install one telephone to each home would involve a capital expenditure of £1,500 million and a post office official is quoted as saying that the idea of a phone in every home is “dreadful nonsense.” The number of people with a residential telephone is less than 3½ million, of whom one million have a shared telephone.

The Price of Land 
The high prices of land in Britain resulting from the pressure of demand on limited available areas have their counterpart in Germany and Japan. A letter in the Times (26/7/61) contains the following about Germany:
 At Hofheim the price of farm land has gone up from DM.3 to DM.30 per square metre (equal to, say, £1.075 to £10,750 per acre). At Bad Soden the ratio is the same, from DM.5 to DM.50 (£1,790 to £17,900) and even to DM.70 (£25,070). Even near towns like Giessen, where there is not yet much industry, the price is around DM15 (£5.370).
  Near Cologne, beyond the green belt, the price in 1950 was DM8 (£2,865) and is now some five times more, while in Kiel it is as high as DM.90 (£32,230) for residential sites.
It is the same in Japan, as reported from Tokio in the Guardian (19/5/61):
  A modest middle-class part-Western house in Tokio is rented at from £60 to £90 a month to which must be added about £30 to £40 monthly for utilities and service. Land prices in downtown Tokio are higher than in London’s West End or New York’s Madison Avenue. In good class residential areas of the city, the pressure of population has increased land values by 4,000 per cent in 10 years—and land continues to increase in value in most parts of Japan on average by 20 per cent annually.

Enforcing the Law
There are many well-intentioned reformers who work on the assumption that when you pass a law declaring something to be illegal the thing ceases. They forget that economic pressures go on operating and if strong enough will find ways of evading the law. In times of depression minimum wage laws cease to have any particular effect because workers would rather give up their legal rights to the declared minimum wage than lose their jobs.

The Times (17/7/61) in a survey of the present position of housing, argues that the Tory legislation of 1957 has failed to achieve the declared objects of the legislators. In particular the Times writer estimates that there were at least half a million controlled houses in 1959 that were being let at rents higher than the levels permitted by the Acts. The tenants would rather pay those rents than face the worse alternatives.

Goodbye Siesta
It has been observed in many countries that among the “advantages” of industrialisation the workers have been forced to forego many of the numerous religious holidays that belonged to earlier and less strenuous times. Now in Spain the government is making war on the siesta and on keeping late hours. A new law requires shops, cinemas and theatres to close earlier, and it is expected that the midday siesta will be shortened.

The Guardian correspondent in Madrid (.9/7/61) explains this move:
  The motive for these reforms is mainly economic. It is hoped thereby to induce more Spaniards in the cities to turn in earlier so that they will be in better shape the following morning to put in a good day’s work, which would be in the national interest. The new hours also are intended to bring Spain closer, as it were, to the rest of Europe.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Spectre Haunting Kruschev (1961)

From the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ar the end of July the London Press carried reports from Russia about grandiose schemes the government there has announced for a higher standard of living, shorter working hours, free bread, free housing, free transport, free gas and electricity, etc., all by 1980 or thereabouts. According to the Daily Worker (31/7/61) this “giant plan for Peace and Plenty” staggered the world! It may not have had that effect on governments and political commentators, but it certainly set them wondering what is the purpose of the manoeuvre and the pressure behind it. Many commentators followed the same line as did Edward Crankshaw in the Observer (30/7/61). He sees Kruschev’s new manifesto as a move in the struggle between Russia and China :
  With the publication of its long-awaited new Party programme, the Soviet Communist Party has made its supreme bid to recover the undisputed leadership of the world Communist movement in face of the Chinese challenge.
  It seeks not only to demonstrate that the Soviet Union is in the lead and intends to stay there, but also to create a hew ideological dynamic, thus confounding fellow Communists all over the world who have lately come to the conclusion that they must look to China for aggressive and bold leadership.
One of the issues said to divide the two governments is that the government of China is disposed to achieve its aims by war: Crankshaw continues:
  Having asserted its power and the vigour of its intentions, the Soviet Party makes the great reservation which divides it from the Chinese. There must be no war. A war would not prevent the triumph of Communism; but the cost would be so great in misery that it cannot even be considered. Thus, Communists everywhere must continue with the efforts within the framework of “peaceful co-existence.” This includes even trying to come to terms for the time being with the United States.
  Here is the great issue between Peking, which seeks short cuts, and Moscow, which fears them, having so much to lose.
Here, of course, the interpretation of the hidden meaning of the Manifesto itself has to be interpreted for the Russian and Chinese governments are not really entering into rivalry about ways of achieving Communism—a matter in which they have only a pretended interest. But just as the Western capitalist interest in such things as oil and markets and air routes and strategic frontiers is presented to the workers in terms of democracy, religion and the “Western way of life,” so the real aims of the Russia-China group of expanding capitalist Powers are proclaimed in terms of a supposed desire to help the workers; oppose colonialism and promote world Communism.

The Manifesto can then be seen to be both a counter-blast to Western propaganda and an endeavour to strengthen Russia against its threateningly powerful Eastern ally.

We must also remember that when governments draw up programmes and make promises of blessings to come they have their anxious eyes on their own working class. And Kruschev has one of Russia-s own “ colonies " much on his mind, Eastern Germany. There the workers, instead of looking East to the Russian paradise flock westwards in their thousands. This kind of political “pie in the sky" is not new in Russia: it is as common there as elsewhere in the capitalist world, Only a year ago Kruschev was announcing the abolition of income tax, due to be completed by 1965, and in 1952 the Daily Worker (4/10/52) had splash headlines like those with which it greeted the latest version. At that time it was “Double Pay and Five-Hour Day” and “Stalin maps the road to Communism.” Cyril Ray, who was writing from Moscow to the Sunday Times early in 1951 reported that the date then being suggested for the great transformation to Communism to begin was "1960 or thereabouts” (Sunday Times, 11/2/51). It would seem therefore that one aim of the new document is to cover up the non- fulfilment of old promises: and more non-fulfilment is provided for in the Russian statement that international complications resulting in increased military expenditure may again hold up realization of the plans. Workers in Britain ought to be well-versed in the methods used by a privileged class to safeguard its privilege by promises of better times for the workers. Lloyd George's “9d. for 4d." which heralded National Health Insurance; his first world war promise of “a land fit for heroes to live in”; the Beveridge, plan for the Welfare State, launched during the second world war to keep the soldiers hoping;. Butler's promise of doubling the standard of living in 25 years; Lord Hailsham's forecast (Daily Express, 29/4/61) that “ the average man will be earning £2,000 a year in a classless Britain by 1984.”

The latest venture in this field is the kite flown by the Times (13/7/61) about the need for “a new society” to be built in this country: the old new society, “the Welfare State,” has already lost its appeal. It should not be necessary to say that there is always a snag about these promises. An economic blizzard blows up, or a war; or re-armament has to have priority; or the multiplication of money wages only means were pounds to buy the same goods at higher prices.

There is no mystery about this once it is realised what is the intention of the promises: that they are designed to take the edge off the workers' present discontent by holding out the hope of. future betterment.

The great deception
In the area of theoretical discussion the new Kruschev programme is offered as a stage in the transition to Communism. Russia is supposed to have first got rid of capitalism, then built up Socialism, and is now wavering towards Communism. This is a piece of myth-making comparable with the way in which the Labour Party in Britain praised Socialism but delivered nationalisation and the so-called Welfare State.

They both evolved the practice of giving the name Socialism to State Capitalism. At the beginning, Lenin, who led the Russian Communists before Stalin, was preaching the need for Russia to have “State capitalism” before they could hope for Socialism; and “Socialism” was being defined by Communists (as by the S.P.G.B.) as “ the highest stage of society.” Later on, the State Capitalism that Russia had (and has) was falsely labelled “Socialism,” an afterthought with an obvious political propaganda purpose.

There is an acid test that can be applied to this and to the other promises; and can indeed be applied to the British Labour Party. However fast or slow they might suppose progress to Socialism would be the Russian Communists and the British Labour Party, both proclaimed as an immediate objective, introducing greater equality of income. For Attlee before he became Prime Minister of a Labour Government the conduct of affairs by that government was to be on the principle that “Socialists believe in the abolition of classes and in in equalitarian society” (“The Will and the Way to Socialism," C. R. Attlee, 1935, p. 40). Lenin was equally specific. Russian government officials, industrial managers and technicians and all others were to have the same wage as industrial workers: this was to be the immediate programme. Within a year of promising equality Lenin announced that, because of the shortage of specialists for industry, the government had to pay them high salaries, so the “equal wage" principle was suspended. But it was, in Lenin's words, not to be a change of principle but a regretted temporary suspension. He did not at [the] time time try to cover it up but candidly admitted that it was a “retrograde step," forced upon them. Later on the temporary suspension became a permanent and approved Russian government policy and inequality has gone on increasing: a course of events which found its parallel in Britain under Labour government. If now Kruschev promises that some time in the future inequality is to be reduced it must be weighed against the forty year old pledge made and broken by Lenin.

What we face then is not the image of the future Russia presented by Kruschev but the present reality. A great, expanding capitalist Power facing its world rivals. Not a ''Socialist" economy moving towards Moneyless Communism, but the government which has just re-introduced the death penalty for currency offences. Not the "peace and plenty" of page one of the Daily Worker but the capitalist Power boasting on page three of the destructive might of its modern navy. (Daily Worker, 31/7/61). Not the supposedly disinterested scientific flight into space by Yuri Gagarin but Kruschev’s "From the point of view of the defence of our country this gives us very great, colossal superiority." (Daily Mail report of speech in Moscow, 15/4/61).

Forecasts of free housing, free transport, etc., may look attractive, but in the real world of the ceaseless struggle over wages in their relation to prices they have a very different look. Already in Russia rents are kept at a very low level, so that most workers spend on rent between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent. of the family income. But along with very low rents it is government policy to have very high prices for clothes and so-called "luxury" goods. And when the Daily Worker (31/7/61) reports that by 1980 Russian workers wifi have “free education at all educational establishments; free medical reviews . . .  including the supply of medicines" it is only a development that capitalism can carry without difficulty and, indeed with advantage to the employers. "Free" is an ambiguous concept and free travel for railwaymen in this country has meant a correspondingly low wage, as did low-priced cottages and food for agricultural workers.

One forgotten prelude to the Kruschev promises for 1980 is the suspension in 1957 of repayment of interest and capital on the Russian Government bonds. The period of "freezing" is for 25 years, which carries us up to the early 1980's. David Floyd (Daily Telegraph, 11/4/57) stated that the total accumulated amount of these government loans was £23.500 million, and the annual interest payment to the bondholders £640 million. Like everything else that the Russian government does the Russian workers were alleged to have welcomed the suspension, though it was their own savings that were involved through the year-long practice of calling on them to make a "voluntary’’ investment of one or two weeks' pay whenever a new loan was raised.

Spectre haunting Europe
The Communist Manifesto, published well over a century ago, opened with the resounding words:
  A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
It was a spectre right enough; both in being a danger for the ruling class and in being exaggerated and distorted in their eyes almost out of recognition. They warded off the threat and capitalism has grown from a European to a world-wide system. Can it now be said that the spectre of communism haunts the rulers of all the world? In the sense that the workers of the world arc rapidly approaching common action to get rid of world capitalism, the answer is no; for, to the great harm of the Socialist movement, millions of workers have been persuaded to support Russian State capitalism in the mistaken belief that it is Socialism or Communism and in their interest; and parallel with this it suits the other governments to represent their economic conflicts with Russia as a struggle against Communism—despite the candid admission of Eisenhower and the late John Foster Dulles that Russia is a “State capitalist" economy.

But it can be said that the rulers of capitalism everywhere are increasingly worried about their inability to keep the workers humble and contented with the lot capitalism provides for them. How else can we explain the spate of promises by all governments everywhere to make life better for the workers?

But we still have to wait on the future to see Russia, America. Europe and the other Powers (and the Pope!) forced into mutual protective alliance by the growth of a Socialist working class in all countries bent on ending capitalism.
Edgar Hardcastle