Friday, March 22, 2019

Running Commentary: If Thatcher goes (1986)

The Running Commentary column from the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

If Thatcher goes
It may take some time to accustom ourselves to the idea that Michael Heseltine wants to take care of us all — to protect the weak, the sick and the poor — but that is what we may have to face, if Margaret Thatcher should cease to be Tory leader. If it comes to that, not so long ago it would have been difficult to accustom ourselves to the idea of Thatcher losing her grip but now, as the Westland affair swells from a cloud no bigger than an ex-Defence Secretary's hand to a darkness stretching to the far horizon, the unthinkable becomes readily believable.

The opposition to Thatcher within her party is. we are told, to do with her style of government— her ruthless and overbearing pursuit of her ends and her preference for a cabinet full of unquestioning toadies rather than suffer a single stimulating critic. This has left her back benches crowded with what is called ministerial talent who were not however talented enough to prevent themselves being quietly snuffed out or to remember that Thatcher's adopted style was what once, in those heady days after the 1979 and 1983 elections, endeared her to the party.

How gleefully, for example, they all once grasped at the Russian award of that title of the Iron Lady; how approvingly they regarded her forays into EEC negotiations, showing those nasty foreigners that they could not pull the financial wool over her steely eyes; how gratefully they applauded her implacability over the Falklands war: how rapturously they laughed when she scornfully denied to a Tory conference that she wanted to be another Edward Heath: "This lady's not for turning".

If the Tories are deserting her now. this can be for only one reason. Exposed as no different from the rest, as a cynical and deceitful politician whose principles are those of day-to-day opportunism. Thatcher suddenly looks like a disaster. There is panic in the Tory ranks; how else can we explain Heseltine's audacious claim to be a compassionate politician?

And if Thatcher goes, what then? Will she be replaced by a Tory government pledged to introduce the politics of One Nation? Will the Tory wets come squelching back into the cabinet? Will British capitalism become managed by a bunch of landed gentlemen from the shires — Pym, Gilmour, Prior — rather than upstart advertising executives and small business people? Will all of this be bolstered by the sulking Ted Heath and by Willie Whitelaw, desperately plugging the holes in the dykes of party unity?

Such a government would be presented to us as offering new hope for a more humane and secure future. There would be whispers about reducing unemployment, reviving the National Health Service, smoothing the rougher edges of the deepest poverty. It might be a propitious time to overlook the fact that these leaders are already associated with wretched failure, in the governments of Heath, Douglas-Home and Macmillan. There is no reason to believe that they will be any more successful in the future.

One Nation is in any case not an exclusively Conservative idea. Every Labour government comes to power with the same sort of promise, to unite the interests of everyone into a great drive for competitive British exports, full employment, a controlled economy, efficient state services and so on. They may call their policies by different names the National Plan, the Social Contract but essentially they are the same as One Nation and they suffer from the same basic fallacy.

Capitalism is not a society of unity. It is based on class ownership of the means of life and therefore on class conflict. It cannot be controlled or moulded by politicians or economic experts into something which it is not. It cannot operate in the interests of the majority of its people. It must continue as a system of anarchy, poverty, disease and war.

All of that is taught to us by experience and by an analysis of capitalism. Unless the working class act to abolish capitalism, the prospect is dismal — a succession of ineffective governments distinguishable only by their style of empty promises and of the excuses they give for their impotence. We have had time enough to accustom ourselves to that idea — and time to act on what we have learned from it.

Policeman’s brawl
The role of the police is primarily one of institutional coercion on behalf of ruling-class power. Anything else — helping old ladies across the road, for example — is entirely incidental. This being the case, it is plain to see that activities such as we have witnessed on. say, the miners' picket lines, or at Grunwick, are not in any way exceptional but rather conform to the normal expectations of the class that recruits and pays the police. In exchange for these relatively lucrative services the police in turn can normally expect to be shielded from prosecution or conviction should their activities kill or maim. The cases of Jimmy Kelly and Blair Peach are only two of the many instances where this has proved true.

So what about the latest example of protection from the consequences of brutal thuggery for which, in the knee-jerk terms of the Director of Public Prosecutions, there exists insufficient evidence on which to prefer charges? We refer, of course, to the vanload of policemen looking for a punch-up in Holloway who gratuitously attacked five boys, two of whom — the black ones, significantly enough — ended up in hospital.

On this topic, somewhat surprisingly, the Guardian has managed to serve up something a little less bland than its usual jesuitic fare. Its second leader of 5 February. "Police beyond the law", contains much that is unquestionably accurate, including the clear recognition that the government is protecting the police. Of course it is. But what sticks in the Guardian's craw is any nasty revolutionary notion that such partisanship is class-based. The inescapable truth is that capitalism's police, "right" or "wrong", have a bounden duty to close ranks in tribal complicity on behalf of their and our masters.

Kick start
In the month that saw politicians stabbing each other in the back and rival groups of capitalists fighting it out for a share in Westland helicopters, life for the working class went on pretty much as usual.

The number of people registered as unemployed rose to 3.4 million. Shortly before the figures were announced, the Job Start scheme was launched by the government. This is the latest attempt at cosmetic surgery to conceal capitalism's failure to provide people with employment and hence the means to live. It is to be run in nine key areas (not necessarily those with the highest unemployment) and involves unemployed workers being offered £20 a week to "top up" their wages if they take a job which pays less than £80 a week. In other words, the government is subsidising bosses who pay low wages. The rationale is that the long term unemployed lose confidence and need encouragement to go back to work. Of course what they are really worried about is that unemployed workers who realise that they will only be a few pounds a week better off by taking a job that pays very little may decide not to bother. But having bribed workers to take on low paid work with the extra £20. the government will withdraw the grant after six months.

Capitalism depends on workers selling their labour power for the lowest wage or salary that employers can get away with paying. Workers are educated, trained and conditioned into believing that wage slavery is freely entered into and necessary to human dignity: to work for a living, no matter how badly paid the job, is better than "living off the state". But if workers see through this myth and decide that it is not worth going to work for a few pounds more than they can get in benefits, then the state has a variety of ways of coercing people into going to work for low wages. YOPS and YTS schemes have been used to try to instil the work ethic into young unemployed people and now Job Start is to be used for the same purpose with older unemployed workers.

Print unions fight for survival (1986)

From the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Not for the first time The Times newspaper is at the centre of a bitter industrial dispute. In November 1978 Lord Thomson, then owner of the paper, decided that he was no longer willing to run it at a loss. He demanded from the unions agreement to accept new printing technology, the elimination of “unofficial" strikes and a big reduction of staff. Failing to get agreement he locked out the workers and The Times was off the streets for nearly a year. When work was resumed it was on terms far short of what Thomson wanted and two years later he pulled out and sold to Rupert Murdoch. In January 1986 Murdoch took the printing of his papers, The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World out of Fleet Street to his new plants at Wapping and Glasgow.

At Wapping printing is being carried on by 500 workers belonging to the electrical workers' union and the print unions, in place of the former 5,000 members of the print unions, all of whom were sacked when they came out on strike. Murdoch admitted that the changes had not been fully effective. There was a fall in the number of copies printed and considerable difficulty arose over distribution, in spite of the fact that in London it was taken over by a new fleet of vans. Murdoch said he was confident that all the difficulties would be overcome in a few weeks. Print union officials said it was only the beginning of a struggle which could go on for months.

Much had happened since 1978 to change the position of the unions and the management, including the building of the Wapping plant at a cost of £100 million of which £7 million was spent on American computer equipment. The law governing strikes and picketing had been tightened by the Thatcher government, and the print unions had already been defeated in their resistance to the use of the new technology by Eddy Shah, who is publishing a new paper in March without employing members of those unions. Conflict with the law in that battle had already cost the National Graphical Association heavily. The Financial Times (27 December 1985) estimated that the cost, including further court claims still pending, may reach £2.000,000.

A similar struggle over new technology was going on at the same time between the print unions and other newspaper proprietors including Robert Maxwell, owner of the Mirror group of papers. That dispute was settled by agreement with the unions, which led Maxwell to say rude things in the Mirror (27 January) about his rival. Whereas, said Maxwell, he had followed ‘The British Way" of negotiating with the unions. Rupert Murdoch, importing brutal tactics from Australia and America, "prefers to destroy them". Lest it be thought that "The British Way" differs essentially in its purpose from the Murdoch way. it should be noted that the Mirror has also got rid of 2.000 printers, "most by early retirement or voluntary redundancy".

At the time of writing it is not possible to know with certainty what will be the outcome of the dispute but the prospects for the unions look extremely bleak. They were counting on the help of the TUC and other unions, but already most of the journalists, though against the instructions of their own union, have accepted Murdoch's terms. The printers are hoping that the Transport and General Workers' Union will succeed in blacking the distribution of Murdoch s papers and that the TUC will condemn and possibly expel the Electrical Workers' Union, which however shows no sign at present of obeying TUC instructions. Many transport workers too, are ignoring the instructions of their union not to carry Murdoch's papers.

Basically what the struggle is all about is the ceaseless development of new techniques as a feature of capitalism in the search for cheaper methods of production. The capitalists who adopt the new and cheaper methods capture the market. Those who fail to do so go out of business, as has happened with several newspapers and threatens others. There have been many such developments in the history of printing: from the hand compositor setting individual letters, to the keyboard monotype and linotype and latterly to the new system which enables journalists to print the final product without the involvement of compositors. The writing on the wall for the London newspapers is the claim by Eddy Shah that he will be able to sell his newspapers at less than half the price of existing papers. The whole newspaper industry has to adopt the new technology or face bankruptcy, because the advertisers' money will flow to the cheaper journals.

Workers in every occupation have always been affected by this aspect of capitalism. The railways almost destroyed the canal companies and horse transport, only to be hit themselves by motor and air transport. Sailing ships were replaced by coal fired steamships and then by oil burning ships. The inland telegraph service has gone. There has been an enormous reduction in the numbers of coal miners and farm workers. Along with having to meet competition from oil, gas and nuclear power the coal industry has seen a change which replaces men in the pits by workers in other industries. Before the newly opened Selby pit produced a single ton of coal, £1,000 million had been spent on new coal cutting machines and other appliances. In agriculture the old. nearly self-sufficient farms have been replaced by those dependent on a vast input of fertilisers, weed-killers and pesticides from the chemical industry. Jobs on farms have been replaced by jobs in the chemical industry.

The trade unions, in seeking to protect their members' jobs, have had to make a hard choice. They can hope to delay the introduction of the new techniques and can often do so, as have the Fleet Street printers, but at the end of the road they either have to negotiate a reduction of jobs, as on Maxwell's Mirror, or risk losing all the jobs as on Murdoch's Times group of papers.

The stock argument of capitalist economists has always been that workers should not resist the new techniques but welcome them on the ground that if the price of the product is reduced its market will expand and there will be more, not fewer, jobs. In a limited way this is sometimes true. Following the publication of the Daily Mail in 1896. and other cheaper papers with wider circulations the numbers of workers employed in the printing and paper trades continued to increase. And it is reported from America (Sunday Times 19 January) that a similar development has taken place there, following the use of new technology.
  The new technology revolution in American newspapers has brought increased circulations. a wider range of publications, and an increase in newspaper jobs — in spite of reduced manning in the composing rooms.
The increase of other jobs is of course no cause for gratification to the compositors whose jobs have gone. In general, technical developments hit hardest at older workers, unable to adapt to the new requirements.

And the argument of the capitalist economists ignores the fact that not only is capitalism always creating some unemployment but periodically it rises to peak levels, as at present and the parties of capitalism can do absolutely nothing to prevent it.
Edgar Hardcastle

50 Years Ago: Socialism everywhere (1986)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Years ago, socialist propagandists used to point out to the reformists that their work of popularising old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, etc., would only end up with the openly capitalist parties dishing them by adopting the proposals for themselves and getting the credit. To clinch the matter, socialists added that a time would come when capitalists would steal the word "socialism" itself and use it to gain a further lease of life for capitalism. Events have faithfully followed this anticipation. If what they say were really true, the workers' difficulty today would be to find some spot where socialism isn't. First, there are Russia's 170 millions supposed to be living under socialism. Now Germany. with its “National Socialist Party" in the saddle, has just been officially declared to be socialist. The Berlin correspondent of the Economist (February 1st) writes as follows: ". . . it is affirmed that Socialism is under way (indeed, this week it is officially stated to have already replaced capitalism)." Then the three Scandinavian countries, with their Labour Parties in power, are described as "socialist" in the English Labour Press, along with New Zealand and Western Australia. At home we have the old-fashioned section of the Labour Party still insisting that the Post Office is socialism, while the new gang (Mr Morrison) calls the Transport Board "socialisation." and tells us that we have a socialist London County Council. Where the Government is not controlled by a Party calling itself socialist, it often has one or more leaders who were Labour Party stalwarts, e.g., MacDonald and Thomas, Mr Lyons the Australian Premier, and Mussolini and several of his colleagues.

Only knowledge of socialist principles will make the workers proof against being misled by capitalist and Labour Party misrepresentation.
(Editorial from the March 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard.)

Terms time for teachers (1986)

From the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

In February, I obtained an interview with John Bills, the West Midlands representative on the National Executive of the National Union of Teachers. By coincidence, it was exactly a year since the teachers' unions in England and Wales began their industrial action in support of their pay claim.

Like most TV viewers and readers of cheap newspapers. I have found it very difficult to be sure of the facts in the dispute. I know that a large number of parents are angry at having to fetch children away from school at odd hours. I know that there is increasing concern about the examination prospects of older pupils. I know that the police have been receiving complaints about the behaviour of youngsters on the streets when they would normally have been in school. But about the teachers' side of the case I have heard very little .

This is not very surprising. The present government's union-bashing policy has received careful but consistent support from the media. And most people, workers themselves in other jobs not under immediate threat, have watched — some have even applauded or collaborated as one section after another has been isolated, attacked and defeated. GCHQ workers, the miners, newspaper printers are just some of those whose downfall has been carefully engineered and publicised.

Now it appears that teachers' unity is breaking down in the face of relentless government pressure and bad publicity. The representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters and the Union of Women Teachers are balloting their members with a recommendation to accept the terms offered by the local education authorities, their direct employers. Sir Keith Joseph, the Secretary of State for Education and Science has refused to support any agreement based on these terms with extra government money. The National Union of Teachers, the largest union, has refused to accept the terms.

The recession
John Bills is the Head Teacher of a junior school in Oldbury, near Birmingham. The school was cheaply built at the back of houses about twenty-five years ago. Now it is deteriorating badly. It needs a lot of money spending on it. but it won't get it. Pupil numbers have fallen over the years with the declining birthrate. Like other industries, education is going through a recession. Thousands of teachers have left the service, and real salaries have continued to fall with inflation in spite of annual pay negotiations. A joint working party set up by the unions and the employers in 1984 concluded that, in the ten years since the pay structure was last revised, teachers' real income had fallen by 34 per cent. The salary structure is very complicated. There are over 300 different pay levels for teachers in schools (quite apart from colleges, polytechnics and universities). It is designed to produce competitiveness and hierarchical divisions among people who will pass these values on to the rising generations. NUT policy has always resisted this trend, and its present campaign for a flat-rate increase of £23 a week has aimed at improving the conditions of the lowest paid teachers in particular.

A new teacher who has satisfactorily completed three years' full-time training is paid £5,442 (£104.65 a week). If he or she takes a degree, the general practice these days, this is raised to £5,883 by giving them two years seniority. With thirteen years seniority their salaries will have risen to £8,556 (£164.53 a week). Anything above this must be reached by gaining promotion.

Why not strike?
Teachers earning this sort of money are unable to afford a strike. Their trade unions have no strike funds like those of the older industrial unions with long histories of battles with their employers. It is only in recent years that teachers have been forced to recognise that they, too, belong to that huge class of people in society that has to sell its mental and physical energies to employers on the labour market in order to get a living.

In this respect they are weak when it comes to a struggle to resist reductions in their real wages. So they have wisely avoided an expensive all-out strike. But they have strengths too. A large proportion of the work that most of them do in practice is not acknowledged in their contracts. Officially they are not paid for running sports or clubs or school trips outside school hours They are not paid for running errands in their cars or taking children abroad on holidays or attending meetings on new examination structures or meeting parents or supervising pupils during their lunch break or taking other teachers' classes when they are absent. All this is expected of them traditionally as what has come to be called "good will". And it is this which they have withdrawn to a large extent over the past year, together with very brief, selective strikes, often of only a few hours. The disruptive effect has been considerable, but inevitably it has injured children and their parents rather than the employers or the teachers' ultimate paymaster, the state. It is. however, precisely this strength in teachers' hands which the government, in the person of Keith Joseph, is determined to take away from them.

Big deal
Joseph has insisted that everything included under the heading of "good will" should become compulsory before teachers are given any more money. And the money that he has been talking about in rather shifty global terms would amount to a pay increase of just over 2 per cent a year for the next four years, with no preference given to lower paid teachers. He has mentioned the figure of £1.25 billion, but central government would provide less than half of this. Local authorities would have to find the rest out of their existing budgets. In addition, Joseph has already begun to earmark some of it in advance. He has had second thoughts about compelling teachers to do dinner duty. He has instructed education authorities to set aside £50 million in the first year to pay part-time staff to do the job. Subsequent years will probably take more.

Little deal
It is not surprising that the teachers' unions were united in finding the government's proposals unattractive. In comparison, the terms offered by the local education authorities have begun to seem almost acceptable after nearly two years without any increase — at least that is how it looks to some teachers. And perhaps this has been part of the government's strategy. The employers have offered a 6.9 per cent increase. For those higher up in the salary and management hierarchy (heavily represented in the NAS/UWT) this could mean a substantial improvement. For the lowest paid teachers it would give only an extra £7 a week.

But the offer is not without strings. And the strings are very similar to those of Keith Joseph: to qualify for the 6.9 per cent, teachers must first call off all industrial action and "return to full normal duties". Then they must accept a ruling as to what constitute full normal duties, and these would become contractually obligatory. The ruling will be made by a three-man team set up by ACAS (the government's conciliation and arbitration service). In other words, unconditional surrender for a one-off pay increase.

So the government is now nearly half-way home. The teachers' unions have been split, and for the same reasons as other trade unions have been broken in the recent past: some sections thought they stood to gain, even though others lost. This can seem like hard-headed (if selfish) realism in hard times. It is not. In the teachers' case, the employers' offer was put on the table only because they were taking united action; and because that action was disruptive without weakening the teachers. If, as seems likely, NAS/UWT members vote to accept the employers' terms without the NUT members, then they will have sold both strengths: unity and freedom of action. The next time there is a confrontation with the employers, they will be without any bargaining power at all. That is short-sighted, not hard-headed. I learnt a lot when I went back to school that morning.
Ron Cook

Star Wars (1986)

From the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the end of January, the American space shuttle Challenger blasted its way, not into space, but into oblivion, with a spectacular televised explosion. The seven crew members were all killed, including a schoolteacher who had been intended to be the first civilian in space — part of the propaganda battle to give the massively expensive space programme some public respectability. But such projects are not primarily about propaganda and certainly not about the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Half of the shuttle's flights are for specifically military purposes, and it plays an important role in preparations for the latest of Reagan's fantasies, the Star Wars programme.

Star Wars is officially known by the euphemistic title of Strategic Defence initiative. The declared intention is to place a "dome'' or “umbrella" around the United States, making it immune to attack from ballistic missiles launched from Russia. Existing anti-ballistic missile systems work on the principle of destroying or disabling the incoming warheads as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere over their target. Star Wars envisages this as simply the third line of defence in a far more sophisticated network. The first element of this would be to attack the missile boosters just after they are launched and before they release individual warheads, which would in turn be the subject of the second set of interceptors. If each layer of defence destroys 90 per cent of its targets, only 0.1 per cent of the warheads launched will reach their destination.

It is the first part of this network — against the booster phase — that represents the biggest innovation and is most dependent on new technology. Various kinds of beam weapons have been proposed to accomplish this aspect, including such exotica as X-ray lasers. All would be incredibly risky and expensive — one proposal, for instance, would require for its functioning the use of at least one-fifth of the entire American electricity output. Add to this the fact that whatever system is chosen would be of enormous complexity, could never be operationally tested and would have to work perfectly at the first time of asking. It is no wonder that many leading American scientists have flatly stated that the whole Star Wars project is technically just not feasible.

The arguments about Star Wars display the logic of the madhouse, but this after all is the logic of capitalism. The American government's justification for Star Wars is that it is. in Reagan's words, "about peace, not war". With the US supposedly immune from nuclear attack, there would be no further place for the deterrence doctrine of "mutual assured destruction" (MAD), which nuclear ideologues claim has so far kept the nuclear peace. Instead there would, it is claimed, be a real incentive on all sides for drastic reduction of nuclear weapons and their eventual complete abandonment.

Sceptical critics have pointed out a number of flaws in this cosy picture. One is that if the Russian rulers saw as imminent the installation of an impregnable nuclear shield over the United States, they might be minded to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike first; Star Wars would then have triggered, not prevented, nuclear war. Another shortcoming in the Reaganesque logic is due to a change of emphasis which has taken place in the Star Wars plans. In place of the original vision of watertight security, realisation of the problems with this has caused its replacement by the idea of almost total security — a leaky umbrella, as it were. But this radically changes the options available, for the revised version is only useful for defending military targets (though this has naturally not been stressed in US government propaganda). The reason for this is that if only a single warhead out of one hundred launched at a city gets through to its target, that city is destroyed. But even the leakiest umbrella may be able to delay the destruction of missile silos long enough for a retaliatory nuclear strike to be launched. In addition, a leaky umbrella might suffice to beat off an attack from any Russian response to an American first strike — which would make such a first strike a more "attractive" proposition to American hawks. It should be noted, too, that Star Wars offers no defence against low-flying cruise missiles or submarine-launched missiles.

It should not be thought, however, that Star Wars represents the first step in the militarisation of space, for this is something that was achieved long ago. Over three thousand satellites have been placed in orbit since Sputnik I in 1957. and three-quarters of these have had military purposes. Of the huge sums of money spent every year on space research by Russia and America, about half is on military work — not taking account of the fact that much work done for civilian reasons may have military applications. The simple idea of dropping bombs from satellites is out of the question (the bomb would simply continue in orbit) but ballistic missiles, spy satellites and anti-satellite weapons are all very real.

Even under capitalism, though, not all uses of space are military. Satellites already provide masses of other kinds of information about the earth: the position of mineral deposits; the routes of oil slicks and icebergs; developments in the weather; the effects of soil erosion; the likely location of earthquakes; and so on. Some of the information which can be gathered in this way is incredibly detailed. For instance, healthy and diseased wheat reflect infra-red radiation to very different degrees, thus making it entirely feasible for satellites to provide data leading to discovery of the amount of diseased wheat growing in a particular area.

Satellites are also useful for communications purposes, such as international telephone calls. In addition, they can monitor for distress signals. One such system is said to have saved over two hundred lives (in maritime emergencies and forced aircraft landings) in a two-year period. Such undertakings demonstrate that the global co-operation envisaged in a socialist society is not at all outlandish. All the information obtained from space could then be used for the benefit of humanity, not to defend the wealth and power of a few.

There are, of course, international treaties concerning space. In 1967. the United Nations negotiated the signing of the Outer Space Treaty which, for example, bans military bases on the moon. But it does not outlaw all military uses of space, nor does it define the crucial and vague term, "space”. A particular bone of contention is what is known as the geostationary ring. This is the area of space 36.000 kilometres above the equator: satellites located here remain fixed in relation to an observer on the earth, so that they never set or rise, thus offering obvious advantages from a communications point of view. At present "slots" in this geostationary ring are allocated by a branch of the International Telecommunications Union. But in 1976 a group of representatives of countries on the equator met and issued a declaration to the effect that any country on the equator automatically owned that portion of the geostationary ring that was directly above it. Thus are capitalist property rights extended into the vacuum of space.

Which brings us back to Star Wars. The first reactions of Western European rulers were consternation and disarray. The French government opposed the whole idea, the British government was divided (Thatcher for, Howe against). Then came the news that $26 billion was earmarked for Star Wars research over the next five years, and that some of this might be coming Europe's way. Already. Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has received a grant of $150,000 to work on optical computers. The French government is now encouraging French companies to compete for a share in these research funds. But there is no doubt that the bulk of the money will go to the large American arms manufacturers such as Rockwell, Boeing and Lockheed.

What a waste it all is. All the resources and know-how which, throughout the world, are devoted to "perfecting" the means of killing could so easily be devoted to ending hunger and poverty. But to do that means campaigning not for a change of government or for nuclear disarmament, but for the only line of defence against war — the establishment of socialism.
Paul Bennett

Socialist Correspondence Club (1986)

Party News from the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1983 a Socialist Correspondence Club was formed with the aim of breaking down the sense of isolation felt by many socialists across the world. Since then the number of participants has grown substantially and now includes readers of the Socialist Standard in Britain, Ireland, America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Poland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and France.

The Club's membership list is now being updated. Would readers who wish to join please contact the co ordinator. Louise Cox, at Flat 3. The Mount. Lower Street. Haslemere. Surrey GU27 2PD. England, stating their name and address, and most importantly, any specific interests they have. The deadline for all letters is the end of April. Those already on the list are asked to advise of any change of circumstances.

Shortly afterwards a complete list of members will be sent to all participants for each to decide with whom to start a correspondence. It is also planned to include with the list the first newsletter of SCC. This will include advice on initiating socialist activity in different parts of the world and details of literature and tapes which could help to this end. Short items of news and information should be sent to the co-ordinator as soon as possible.

A highly adaptable animal (1986)

From the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Compared with a lion, a gorilla, or even a horse, the human animal is weak, slow and defenceless. And yet homo sapiens has become the dominant species of the planet. Our species developed none of the specialised attributes that have fitted other creatures so perfectly for their environments. Physiologically, we have hardly evolved at all since we became a distinct species. Whereas other species have evolved to fit their environments and the available food supplies, human beings have remained unspecialised, but very adaptable. Instead of their bodies altering to suit their environments they have altered their environments to suit themselves.

Human beings spread across the surface of the planet, occupying tropical rain forests, deserts, temperate regions and even Arctic ice. They lived upon virtually every type of food possible, from seal fat to tropical fruits and desert insects. And from this variety of life-patterns arose wide differences in knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, feelings and behaviour. Almost every conceivable kind of belief and behaviour has been adopted by some human beings at some time somewhere. Although we are one species, from the jungle of New Guinea to the streets of New York, the inhabitants of different places may think and act in quite dissimilar ways.

And yet a baby, carried across the world from New Guinea to New York and brought up there, could become a complete New Yorker, with the accent, the food preferences, the personal habits, the love of baseball and the Stars and Stripes, and the average tendency towards obesity, heart disease, divorce and crime. The basic animal is the same, but all behaviour patterns are shaped by the society in which the child is brought up.

Making a living
But if societies mould individuals, different types of society are themselves shaped by a number of external factors, as well as by the activities of individuals and classes within them. The basic needs of the human animal are, like those of any other mammal, food, drink, warmth and sex; but these needs have not been easily met. For most of human existence the lives of the great majority have been dominated by scarcity. The methods of making a living from the land and sea have therefore been the major influences upon the sorts of lives people have led, the types of society that have been formed, and the attitudes and behaviour of the members of those societies.

The development of gathering roots and fruit, organised hunting and fishing, the growth of herding with its nomadic pattern of life, the emergence of agriculture, encouraging settlements, and the growth of towns and cities — all this has repeatedly modified relationships within societies. It has modified the material conditions of life and led to the accumulation of riches for some and poverty for others.

The discovery and utilisation of metals, and the development of more and more complex tools and machines have often gone hand in hand with progress in methods of making a living, increasing the amount of wealth produced per head of the population many times over; but the benefits of these improvements have not been shared by all members of society. After the rise of settled townships on an agricultural base in Mesopotamia, trade between localities developed; for the first time the product of hands and brains took on an alien life as commodities to be bartered, and then bought with that abstract commodity — money. Property, realised at the boundaries between tribes, began to impinge within. Laws of inheritance were formulated and the first property society developed when people came to be bought and sold as slaves.

Chattel slavery gave way to feudalism, and feudalism to capitalism; and still all the land and factories and mines and transport are owned by a small minority of the population, who make the laws to protect their wealth, and employ the majority to work for them.

Employers and employees
The fundamental division between workers and employers in the structure of modem society affects all the relationships within it. It affects feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and has a fundamental effect upon the personality of every individual. The child brought up in a family owning a few million shares, a few thousand acres, and four or five houses to live in has a completely different outlook on life from that of the child brought up in the average factory or office worker's semi-detached house on a housing estate. The children born into a family with adequate capital realise as they grow up that they are part of an élite with the freedom to chose how they occupy their lives. They may also realise that, although they will not necessarily do the hiring and firing themselves when they grow up. and may never even see the mines, factories and offices where their wealth is made, their inheritance of capital will make them employers of other human beings. The vast majority of children, on the other hand, become aware that their future depends upon being able to find someone to employ them. If they want to succeed in this, not only their education but their dress, their manners, their attitude to authority, even their political opinion must conform to the standards laid down by employers.

The employment they must seek is a fundamental part of a society in which the market, the price mechanism, the profit motive have come to dominate almost every aspect of life. There is a tendency for all relationships to be reduced to that of buyer and seller. And the interests of buyer and seller are opposed to one another. Good business consists of getting the better of someone. Competition means winning by fair means if possible, by foul means if necessary. The fictional heroes are gangsters, ruthless tycoons, spies "licensed to kill”, or policemen using the same kind of unconventional methods.

Contradictory values
This, therefore, is the atmosphere in which most children grow up. We are born essentially the same living beings as our ancestors of thousands of years ago; but we learn to think and feel and act from what goes on around us. From school, the newspapers and television, we take in the knowledge of the world's hunger and disease. At other times we learn that “butter mountains" are being piled up. milk poured down quarries, wheat burned, or crops ploughed back into the ground. We may not bring these facts together in our mind to raise questions about the system by which society is run indeed we are actually discouraged by the schools and the media from doing so. Instead we are persuaded to believe that the present organisation of society is eternal — even divinely ordained — and that it is ordinary people like ourselves with our selfishness. laziness and greed, who are to blame. And so. unresolved, these contradictions remain at the back of our mind, causing confusion, frustration, and a vague sense of guilty helplessness.

At school and at home we are repeatedly told that kindliness, cooperation and constructiveness are the guidelines of good social behaviour, but the films about war. robbery and violent crime that form one of television's staple diets teach very different lessons: there are always "baddies" against whom violence is not only justified but necessary and even enjoyable — Nazis, terrorists. Apaches, criminals, mad scientists. Martians, agitators. Russian spies, and so on.

We are taught that hard work and thrift are the recipe for success in our future "career"; and then occasionally we see members of the ruling class in the news, who never do a day's work in their lives and spend money like water, playing at fox-hunting on their ten thousand acre estates, or racing ocean-going yachts, or shooting grouse on their Scottish moors, while our hard-working, thrifty parents get worn out before our eyes with years of work and worry. Our potential for behaving with affection, generosity, trust and creativity is made to seem naive and ridiculous up against the power of wealth in a society of ruthless competition.

There are many different reactions to the disillusionment (sometimes called 'maturity") that this causes, and none of them is good for the individual. The commonest, because it avoids conflict with authority and the forces of law and order, is an almost complete refusal to be concerned with the problems of society. Workers who take this line silently or openly admit that they cannot make sense of what goes on; and they absorb themselves energetically in their darts team or football supporters' club, hobby or garden, trying to remain unaffected by the drudgery of their daily job. or the threats of unemployment or nuclear war.

The original ad from the March 1986 issue.
Others look for scapegoats to blame: black people (if they are white), white people (if they are black), men (if they are women). Jews, foreigners, atheists, trade unionists, and so on. The fashions change from time to time.

Still others become completely cynical turning to crime or something close to it. in an attempt to beat the system and to get hold of the only thing which seems to have any value money. The use of tranquillisers is widespread and the number of people who receive psychiatric treatment at some time in their lives has risen rapidly. We behave like this because we are forced to live under conflicting pressures which, as individuals, we do not have the power to resolve.

All of us. whether we remain relatively sane or not. are inevitably contaminated by the social values that provide the real motive power of capitalist society. The behaviour of capital in its urgent, relentless drive to make profit, which can be reinvested as capital to make yet more profit, regardless of human need or suffering, is the essence of avarice or greed. The very structure of modern society, in which the minority own and control all the means of producing and distributing wealth — and employ all the powers of the state to preserve their monopoly this class-divided structure has insecurity and self-interest at the foundations of society. None of us can fail to be affected by it.

Yet, adaptable as we are, we cannot completely fit the pattern that modem capitalism demands, because it is inconsistent and, at times, directly contradictory. Articles and advertisements regularly appear in magazines and newspapers explaining how we can become rich by setting up in business and applying "hard-headed" (ruthless) business principles. But when workers, especially those organised in trade unions, apply such principles in wage negotiations there is a chorus of condemnation from the press. We hear, only too often, that "there is no sentiment in business"; but as workers we are exhorted equally often to be "loyal" to the company we work for. Modern wars are fought over power and wealth — as becomes only too clear when the truth comes out afterwards — but they are always presented to the working class as fights for freedom of one sort or another, in order to persuade us to risk our lives in killing workers from other countries.

This inconsistency is inevitable. Capitalist society is not a collection of individuals with common interests and a common set of guiding principles, it is a society deeply divided, at odds with itself. Class conflict was built into the foundations and shows up every day in its workings. To criticise workers as being selfish, greedy, unco-operative, deceitful, violent, when these are the main characteristics of the nations and the businesses with which we are compelled to be involved all our lives is to add insult to two hundred years of injury. Certainly these are anti-social forms of behaviour; but then this is an inhuman social system. As long as we, its working-class majority, allow it to continue, we can expect nothing better.

(An extract from our most recent pamphlet From Capitalism to Socialism: How We Live And How We Could Live.)

Profits from diseases (1986)

From the March 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

All over the world ill-health and premature death are caused by capitalism's ruthless drive for profits. It is tragic that this should be the case, given technological advances and medical knowledge of the causes of major diseases in both the "underdeveloped" and industrialised countries.

Cancers are a common cause of death in the West but are mainly preventable, being related to smoking, occupational hazards, environmental pollution or diet. Every year more than 50.000 people in Britain die prematurely as a result of cigarette smoking, or from diseases to which cigarette smoking substantially contributes. Although the habit is known to be directly linked with lung cancer, heart disease and chronic bronchitis there has never been any attempt to regulate the highly profitable tobacco industry. The treasury receives about £4,000 million a year from tobacco tax and in return makes a token gesture of warning the public of the dangers of smoking. By contrast the tobacco industry spends £80 million a year on advertising to persuade the public that smoking is either manly or the hallmark of sophistication and success.

In underdeveloped countries the problem is worse: in the absence of information of the health dangers of tobacco consumption and unrestricted advertising, cigarettes, often with a high tar content, are marketed in a quite unscrupulous way. The expansion of tobacco growing has also taken land from socially more necessary but less profitable food production.

In Britain there are about 2,000 deaths a year as a direct result of working in the asbestos industry or living near an asbestos factory. The industry employs over 20.000 people and is worth £200 million. But in spite of knowledge of the dangers of asbestos for the last eighty years, regulations to control the levels of asbestos dust have only been introduced gradually and inadequately since 1932 and. in a number of cases, not properly enforced. The Asbestos Information Committee, faced with public pressure and fears over the dangers of asbestos in the 1970s. spent about £500,000 advertising the cheapness, usefulness and "safeness" of the material. But public anxiety over blue asbestos led to the closure of some British factories and the transfer of mining to countries where the absence of regulations allows greater profits to be made, at the cost of workers' lives.

A number of other industrial processes are hazardous. Exposure to benzene can cause leukaemia; angiosarcoma (a rare liver cancer), cancers of the lung, digestive tract and brain can be caused by working with vinyl chloride; working with acrylic fibres increases the risk of developing lung and colon cancer; pesticides, particularly 2,4,5.—T, are dangerous carcinogens and. in some cases, cause severe birth defects in later generations.

The response of the chemical industry has been unvarying: to deny the health risk; to withhold information (the report on the causes of the Seveso explosion was not made available to the Health and Safety Executive in Britain or the trade unions); to put pressure on governments by claiming that the cost of pre-market testing and implementing safer working methods would be too expensive and lead to factory closures. And, as was the case with mining blue asbestos, multinational firms often move their factories to countries where controls are more lax if profitability is threatened. The tragedies of Bhopal and Seveso illustrate the devious ways in which multinational industries evade safety regulations in countries like Britain and the United States by exploiting workers who are inadequately protected by safety laws.
  . . . by offering compensation, the state recognises the risk to workers. However, it also accepts the continuation of the risk at its existing level and as a result it is the British worker who bears the burden of proof. Such flagrant discrepancies are not due to lack of information. but reflect the influence of industry on the regulatory process and a lack of commitment by government bodies to the removal of unnecessary cancer hazards from the workplace (L. Doyal and S. Epstein (Eds). Cancer in Britain, Pluto Press)
A number of food additives have been shown to cause cancer in animals yet they continue to be used to make food more attractive. mould resistant, or sugar-free in the case of saccharin. The production of food is grotesquely and artificially manipulated under capitalism to provide maximum profits. The European Economic Community maintains a policy of restricted food production. having recently cut back milk production by nine per cent, while 82 million acres of land were taken out of food production in the United States in 1982.

All of this happens despite millions of deaths from starvation or diseases associated with malnutrition because it is the ability to pay, and not social needs, that determines who will eat under capitalism. But, in the more “affluent" countries profits are increased by extending the number of processes which food undergoes. Easily digested junk-foods with a low-fibre, high-fat and high-sugar content are sold at inflated prices. Obesity, heart disease, bad teeth, constipation and cancer of the bowel are all problems which have, in some degree, been blamed on the refined foods consumed in industrialised countries. The health conscious person can buy — usually at a higher price — products such as bran, which have been originally removed in the refining process. To charge more for not adulterating food must be one of the most brazen forms of profiteering imaginable.

There are nearly 7,500 drug preparations available, a figure which has more than doubled in the last 20 years in spite of the fact that the majority of health problems could be treated with less than 200 drugs. The proliferation of drugs has not been due to their effectiveness; indeed, the reverse is the case, with nearly one in thirty hospital patients in Britain being admitted as a result of the side-effects of drugs.

Drugs such as Thalidomide and Debendox have caused severe birth defects; oral and injectable contraceptives have caused cancers of the liver, breast and uterus; female sex hormones have led to birth defects and cancers; anti-arthritic drugs frequently lead to ulcers, and "Opren" resulted in 61 deaths in a two-year period. Products of dubious benefit, or even those which are positively dangerous, are marketed with callous disregard for the well-being of the consumer. Drugs which are only available on prescription or restricted in Britain are sold over the counter in underdeveloped countries, allowing extra profits to be made at the cost of people's health.

The environment has been damaged in the quest to produce goods as cheaply as possible to undercut competitors. Inner city pollution leads to higher rates of chest diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema; the smogs of the 1950s forced some legislation to control smoke emission from factories, but with competition to produce goods more cheaply in a time of recession there have been calls to relax environmental controls. Dangerous chemicals and radioactive waste are dumped with scant regard for public well-being, while in the vicinity of nuclear power stations deaths from leukaemia exceed the national average.

Ill health and premature death are inexorably tied to the profit system; drugs could be safer; dangerous food additives need not be used; the pressure on young people to smoke and the stresses of employment which reinforce the habit could be removed; food could be produced for all of the world's population; working with chemicals could be safer; pollution of the environment is not inevitable; the elderly need not die from the cold. But it will require the abolition of capitalism and of production for profit: only a society which produces for human needs can stop workers' lives being squandered.
Carl Pinel

An Engineer in Blunderland (1934)

Book Review from the July 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Great God Waste, by Mr. John Hodgson (published by the author at Eggington, Beds., 1933, 127 pages, price 2s. 9d.), is a thoroughly bad book, the effect of which is likely to be the spreading of a vast amount of confusion. It is packed with snippets of information, most of them containing more or less of the truth, but used in a most unscientific way to back up a case which will not stand serious examination. The apparent reliability of the details is likely to deceive the uninstructed reader into accepting the false conclusions without examining them any more critically than the author has done.

He describes himself as a “Scientific Engineer" (his capitals), and claims to have evidence of truly stupendous unused or wasted productive powers which can only be released by adopting a currency scheme which he outlines. He sees more or less eye-to-eye with Major Douglas and the American Technocrats —who are also, be it noted, engineers who have lost their way through superficial dabbling with economic problems.

The essence of his scheme is the same as Major Douglas’s, i.e., that “ purchasing power be distributed as a gift . . . to consumers" (page 49). It is based, of course, on the familiar fallacy that there is an absolute deficiency of purchasing power (i.e., less “ purchasing power " than there are goods). The idea is that this free distribution will raise the total of purchasing power to a level at which it equals the total of goods, thus enabling production to be increased to any desired level up to the maximum capacity of industry.

Mr. Hodgson is not opposed to capitalism, but only to what he vaguely describes as “Money Power.” For him, as for Major Douglas, the non-banking capitalist only wishes to serve the community “and to produce work that will be worthy of his reputation irrespective of the question as to whether he makes a money profit or not ” (page 32). Unfortunately, however, the wicked banker steps in and will not allow the industrial capitalist to “indulge this instinct.” Of course this is a purely mythical capitalist. The real industrial capitalist is not, as Mr. Hodgson imagines he is, a “craftsman,” except where an odd one is, quite incidentally. He is an investor or is in business primarily to make a profit, and he is willing to lay out his money in any direction, banking, brewing, armaments or anything else, provided that there is the prospect of profit. That is the capitalist system, and Mr. Hodgson's dream world (or nightmare world) is only faintly connected with the reality.

One flaw in his scheme can be seen from his statement, on page 45, that what we need in order to rid ourselves of our present ills is to go back to “the days of the banks of private issue” when “credit power” was “widely diffused throughout the community.” As we are told on page 29 that the banks of private issue were suppressed by the Bank Charter Act of 1844, this means taking us back to the piping days before 1844. Does Mr. Hodgson then believe that the poverty problem, insecurity, unemployment, foreign investments, commercial wars, etc., have all come into existence only since 1844? Engel's ”Condition of the Working Class in 1844 ” should enlighten him.

The main weakness of the whole argument contained in the book is that the figures used to show a stupendous increase in the productivity of industry are worthless; and as the whole case depends on them, it falls with them. A typical instance of this “Scientific Engineer's” slovenly methods is given on page 101. He says: —
  “The modern industrial efficiencies are exemplified by . . . brick-making plants which enable one man to produce many thousands of bricks a day.” (Italics his.)
This statement may appear to convey a precise meaning to Mr. Hodgson’s superficial view, but actually it tells us nothing at all about productivity because it does not tell us anything about the number of men needed to produce and maintain the plant. To give an obvious example, a changeover from ten men making 1,000 bricks a day by some laborious hand method, to a system by which one man operates a complicated plant also turning out 1,000 bricks a day, would only represent an increase in productivity if the plant itself, during its lifetime, required for its construction, operation, maintenance, etc., less than the labour of nine men on an average. The employers will be willing to introduce such a plant if they can save the labour of, say, one man out of the ten. The fact that machinery ordinarily does not increase productivity to the large extent supposed is shown by the slowness with which older methods of production are driven out. Often the margin of difference is so small that a slight fall in wages will be sufficient to check the introduction of “labour-saving” machinery. Mr. Hodgson is so busy piling up hundreds of instances of industrial development which he imagines support his case, that he has no time to examine any one of them properly. The real position is that an increase in productivity does take place, but only to a moderate extent in comparison with these fantastic guesses. Increased productivity in any industry cannot be measured by what happens in the last process only, but must take into account the whole of the processes from raw material to finished product, and must include the labour used up in the construction, operation, etc., of machinery.

The fallacy can be illustrated from another angle. From time to time figures are published showing how a boot-maker working a machine can turn out ten or more times as many boots as was possible by hand, or with a less elaborate machine, a few years earlier. These figures are assumed to prove that the productivity of the boot-making industry as a whole has been multiplied by ten, and that the amount of labour required in the making of a pair of boots has been reduced to one-tenth. One man who has swallowed this notion at a gulp is Mr. Johnston, Editor of Forward. He is a supporter of the Co-operative Movement. If the Co-operative Movement and other boot manufacturers can now produce boots with one-tenth or less of the labour required, say, ten years ago, why are they still selling boots at prices which are not much less than formerly? Why are not boots being sold at 2s. a pair.

The same holds good for all the other articles they make and sell and for which a vast increase in productivity has been claimed. (If there had been a vast increase in the productivity of gold-mining this would extricate them from their dilemma, but no such increase is even claimed.)

Mr. Hodgson supplies a still better illustration of his own fallacy. He says that he is engaged in engineering processes the effect of which is to displace labour, and he calculates that he alone has put 20,000 people into unemployment (page 13). He also tells us (page 8) that he is “only one worker, and quite a small worker at that, out of many workers in a world-wide field of endeavour which has for its objective the reduction of industrial waste.”

Now, if Mr. Hodgson, who is “quite a small worker” in this field, can put 20,000 men out of work, some of his engineering colleagues who are really good at their job can no doubt, in his opinion, claim their 50,000 or 100,000 victims. Suppose we take an average of 30,000. Then it only needs ten of them to produce 300,000 unemployed; and fifty of them will explain the whole of the 1½ million unemployed added to the unemployment register during the crisis years 1928 to 1932. So far so good. Mr. Hodgson and forty-nine colleagues are sufficient to explain the whole lot. But what were they up to in the years 1922 to 1928, when unemployment decreased by a million? Were they asleep? And what have they been doing during the past twelve months, during which the number of insured workers in employment is estimated to have increased by over 600,000? Mr. Hodgson has not even begun to understand capitalism and its crises.

His book does nothing to support his view that “specialists” and "experts" are better fitted than other people to handle the poverty problem. On the contrary, it is to be hoped, for the sake of human safety, that engineers do not treat engineering problems in the sloppy, hit-or-miss fashion that so many of them employ when they write books telling us what they think about economics.
Edgar Hardcastle

Blogger's Note:
The author replies to the review in the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Dangers of Leadership (1934)

From the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

Leadership has always been an accepted fact in social movements and particularly in movements concerning workers. William Lovett has much that is bitter and to the point to say about it in his autobiography which covers that part of the last century when independent movements of workers were beginning. Of late years leadership has gained perhaps even more prominence owing to the Bolshevist movement and the various dictatorships. In fact, it would appear as if leaders have at last really come into their own.

For centuries it has been taken for granted that some few people in all walks of life are specially marked out to lead their fellows. The source or foundation for this view is the one constant factor that has been present in society across ages, and in spite of different forms of social organisation. This constant factor has been the existence of private property in the means of living. The development of private property gave some people a privileged position in relation to their fellows. It gave them the opportunity to exercise power, and it also provided them with the leisure and the means to acquire knowledge that in turn gave them a higher standing in the eyes of their less fortunate fellows. It was owing to this that the famous people of olden times could spend their lives orating, poetising and philosophising, while those who provided them with subsistence spent laborious days.

It may therefore be noticed to begin with that leadership is an attribute of property. Some adherents of the leadership idea have sought to prove that it is an attribute of humanity, or even a biological attribute; as a proof of this it has been urged that the leader is a regular feature of herding animals; the bull that is lord of the buffalo herd being brought forward as an illustration very much to the point.

One simple fact, however, disposes of this view without the need to go further, and it is that leadership, meaning one who directs, controls and is followed, is unknown to primitive people. Lewis Morgan has shown this in his book, “Ancient Society" by his description of the method of government practised among the Indian tribes with whom he lived. Elliot Smith, in his “Human History," makes the following remarks on the point, which are worth quoting:
  “Amongst really primitive peoples in which there is no social organisation except the family groups, there is no hereditary leader. In fact, the circumstances of life were so simple and uncomplicated that there was little scope for leadership. When decisions have to be made, one of the old men takes the lead, or several of them form a council of elders. As the social system develops there are councils of elders for the village, and a combination of such for the clan, and representatives of the clans form a tribal council, which governs the whole community ” (page 298).
Elliot Smith’s testimony about primitive peoples is particularly useful, as he bases his book on the view that “great men” are responsible for shaping the destiny of the world.

Leadership, then, is associated with the development of private property, and it is so because the institution of private property provided conditions in which the domination of man by man became possible. Leadership is a form of domination.

The constant wrangling by leaders of opposing factions who put forward contradictory explanations and solutions for the various social problems exposes one of the weaknesses of leadership and also disposes of the idea that leaders obtain and deserve their domination on the ground that they are experts in their particular fields. A glaring example of this is the free trade leader versus the protectionist leader, each putting forward an opposite policy and each claiming his remedy as the only one that will meet evils that are identical. As one of them, if not both, must be wrong, the only way to know is to find but for yourself—which means that you do not need their guidance.

At present there is an excellent illustration in the world at large which makes plain the weaknesses of leadership. World leaders with great reputations as economic experts are at loggerheads over the methods to deal with the commonest evils that capitalism breeds. Even the crises that occur at more or less regular intervals are still an unsolved riddle to them. Statisticians have gathered multitudes of figures, volumes have been written on the subject, and yet these experts are still at sea.

It is urged, for reasons that need not be gone into at the moment, that leadership is essential to the working-class movement. A short time ago an unemployed march on London was organised. Just before the marchers reached London, two of the important figures in the business, Pollitt and Hannington, were arrested. In the true spirit of leadership they complained that the Government did this foul deed in order to defeat the object of the marchers, which apparently could only be reached through their good offices. If this is so, then how easy it would be for governments to defeat any working-class movement—all that need be done is to clap the leaders in jail and the followers would wander hopelessly like lost sheep.

Where a movement depends for success upon leadership it is only necessary to cut off the head to defeat the movement. The physical-force Chartists learned this to their cost nearly a hundred years ago, when the government of the day called the bluff of Feargus O’Connor during the attempted mass presentation of the Great Charter. O’Connor hurried away from the scene of his discomfiture, and left his followers in bewilderment to a tame and despondent dispersal.

This weakness of leadership has been demonstrated on numerous occasions from that day to this—and most disastrously in the various Communist, Syndicalist and similar movements.

It is true that economic ills give leaders their opportunity, but it is not true that remedies can be devised and applied by means of leaders. In fact, the numerous examples, such as those of Burns, Briand and MacDonald, strongly support the view that the remedy for the workers' ills will have to be applied in spite of leaders.

Another thing to notice about leaders in the working-class movement is that these leaders lead from behind. That is to say, they can only follow the course the mass agrees to follow. The first thing a leader must do, therefore, is to convince the mass that the course he proposes following is the best one for the mass. Out of this dependence on the mass arises rivalry and antagonism amongst leaders, each striving for support; the building up of cliques and the existence of mutual backscratching.

It is this also that has helped on so considerably the intrigues and internecine warfare that plays a prominent part in labour politics, certain features of which provide post-war writers of memoirs with ample and spicy material.

The fact that leaders must lean on masses has developed a complex technique in the art of getting and holding office. But the crowd is fickle, and no leader can be sure of security unless, like Shackleton, who became Government Labour Adviser, or Middleton, who became an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, he obtains a permanent government job free from the influence of people or party.

Leaders do not necessarily start out with the idea of making a career or tricking their followers. What generally happens is that they gradually drift into a position where their interests are not identical with those of their followers. Leaders who have sprung from poor circumstances dread the possibility of falling back into the ranks of those looking for employment, and consequently they do all they can to keep in existence trade union and political jobs, and to hold on to the jobs they have obtained. Any attack upon the job either by erstwhile followers or budding rivals is bitterly resented. At times, where circumstances dictate it, the interests of followers are sacrificed to the interests of keeping the job. The callous way in which many who have risen to position on the backs of followers and have then abandoned those followers for a political job is a sufficient illustration of this job hungriness.

This job business is also a consideration when the question of strike action comes up for decision. In general, leaders who have “got there" favour arbitration rather than strikes, because strikes tend to deplete union funds and limit the capacity of unions to provide jobs for officials. Perhaps it has also influenced the scared and bitter attitude towards such movements as Fascism. Leaders who have professed anti-war sentiments for years are now prepared to go to war in the event of Fascism being the enemy—a point the capitalists will bear in mind for future use, and maybe England's future antagonists will be vilified as Fascists instead of Huns!

The tendency of leadership is also towards conservatism—to keeping things going as they are. Hence they resent criticism. They are often in a better position to obtain a grasp of the situation than the rank and file, and this tends to give them an inflated idea of their own capacity. Routine work develops caution and irritability at anything that is not customary. Further, they do not want any change in conditions that appear to guarantee them security, and hence they look with suspicion upon anything new.

The position of working-class leaders also puts them in touch with a social sphere that was formerly unknown to them, and one that is in close touch with many of the desirable things of life. They are made much of in this new sphere and get the reputation of being practical and respectable, and they strive, at first without deliberate intention, to live up to this reputation.

Leaders, of course, are of various kinds, and since the labour movement has grown large, offering well-paid jobs to its higher officials, it has attracted young men from the universities who are quite plainly only concerned with a career.

The qualities that make leaders are also of various kinds. In some cases it is merely oratorical powers, in others a capacity for intrigue, and in others again, a capacity for routine work. Hard cheek is also a helpful quality.

Frequently a leader commences his career as a firebrand and then gradually drifts into the “respectable” camp. Aristide Briand, the late French Prime Minister, was at one time a fiery advocate of the General Strike, and John Burns, sometime Liberal Cabinet Minister, was also a prominent strike leader in his early days. If one were to credit Briand and Burns with sincerity one could hardly credit them with capacity and foresight as leaders of a working-class movement when their attitude underwent such a revolutionary change. They could not have it both ways.

It is also well to reflect that some of those in the present National Government, pursuing a Conservative policy, once claimed to be leading the workers against the capitalist coalition—in fact, they have simply led their supporters into the capitalist camp.

The position of leaders, with the adulation it brings, is itself a barrier to their success as levers for working-class emancipation. Apart from the reasons already put forward, there is the constant: friction between leaders of which the Press gives ample evidence at times. They are jealous of each others' popularity, they get huffy at not receiving what they consider a sufficient measure of praise, and anyhow, the prizes to be won bring forward many contestants. Cliques develop which put a barrier around the available jobs, and a great part of the life of each is taken up with this side, instead of pushing the workers' interests.

How prospective leaders view the matter was given startling prominence over twenty years ago. Ruskin College was established to train students for work in the Labour movement. In March, 1909, the students went on strike. They struck because their professors gave sociology and logic a more important place in the curriculum than oratorical exercises! (Westminster Gazette, March 30th, 1909.)

While some leaders succeed in retaining a hold on their followers for many years, others are less fortunate. The battle-cry of the old leader is often outdone by that of a newcomer, and the popular idol of one day disappears and is replaced by another to follow the same path. In the Communist movement, for example, leader follows leader with bewildering frequency, and each appears to bring with him a new slogan that involves a new policy. While action by the mass of workers depends upon leaders and leaders depend upon masses there is bound to be this instability.

Mussolini, Hitler and Mosley are glaring examples of the craze for the spectacular that is generally a great part of the make-up of leaders. Extravagant denunciation and extravagant promises impossible of fulfilment are also part of their general stock-in-trade.

A glance at the various political movements inspired by working-class distress in this country shows what a large part the personal feelings of leaders have played. The Labour Party, the old Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, have all been rent and full of turmoil due in great part to these feuds between leaders. Long ago, H. M. Hyndman, who was not dependent upon politics for his living, resigned from the Social Democratic Federation in a huff because he would not tolerate criticism of his dictatorial ways. His worshippers ate much humble pie in order to persuade him back into the fold again.

What is probably the chief evil of leadership is the way it dulls the critical faculties of those who rely upon it. When people habitually rely upon others to solve their difficulties they are loth to go to the trouble themselves of thinking out problems. They expect the leaders to do the thinking, and when awkward situations develop they have lost the capacity to appreciate the fact. As they have relied on the leaders to bring success they blame them for failure. Repeated failure develops apathy, and the feeling that success is impossible.

As the actions of leaders are limited by the outlook of the majority of the workers, it would be necessary for the majority to understand the position clearly in order that the leaders might act effectively. But when the majority do understand what is required they will no longer need leaders to tell them what to do.

Suicidal Glory (1934)

From the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Monthly, one of the organs of the Communist Party, has secured (June issue) Georgi Dimitrov as one of its contributors. He writes a “Letter to the Austrian Workers," with the intention of drawing from the recent commotions in Vienna and elsewhere “historical lessons . . .  for the workers of all capitalist countries."

The March issue of the Socialist Standard (“Austrian Workers' Tragic Heroism") dealt with the same topic with a similar intention; incidentally its audience of “workers" would include those of the State—Russia—that is issuing 7 per cent. Bonds, employing the most up-to-date methods of extracting the last ounce of work in its industrial enterprises, vigorously suppressing freedom of speech, and "dictating" by a comparatively small clique to a huge mass of unconvinced peasants and others who form the main bulk of the U.S.S.R.

Dimitrov, in the style peculiar to the Communist Party—a derivation from the bourgeois heroics of the French Revolution period—says: "The U.S.S.R. stands firm like a rock . . . the power of the working-class has been established. . . ." Instead of which, as the March Socialist Standard reminds us: “In spite of the Russian Governments pose that it is the defender of the working class everywhere, it appears to have maintained an attitude of correct diplomatic neutrality."

Let us be clear upon one point: The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its allied organisations in the Dominions and the U.S.A. yield to none in admiration of courageous resistance on the part of the working class at all times and in all places. “We were moved to admiration by the heroic resistance of the Austrian workers . . . their conduct is a proof that the working class can produce men as tenacious and possessed of as much endurance and integrity as anything the ruling class can show.*' (March Socialist Standard.)

But, the key-word to the Socialist Party’s position on this question is contained in the heading of the article referred to: “Austrian Workers' Tragic Heroism."

And here emerges our unbridgable difference with Dimitrov—whose personal qualities the S.P. would be the last to belittle; his courageous avowal of political intent under appalling circumstances compare very favourably with the pettifogging lines of defence adopted by members of the English Communist Party when before the representatives of British law and order, under distinctly less harassing conditions.

Dimitrov holds, with the S.P.G.B., that the struggle was tragic, but why? Because “it was not the armed struggle of the Austrian working class that was a mistake. The mistake was that the struggle was not organised and LED in a revolutionary Bolshevist way.”

"Trust your leaders.” . . . History stands aghast, while the crucified working class, gazing into the intense inane, utters its despairing cry, “My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” And from Communist and Labour Party circles a voice replies, “What we want is honest leadership.”

Turn here to our Declaration of Principles: “ EMANCIPATION MUST BE THE WORK OF THE WORKING CLASS ITSELF.”

Dimitrov charges the Social Democrats with incompetence and treachery. The Socialist Party of Great Britain through thirty years has adduced proof after proof of the utter inability of any party not broad-based upon Socialist UNDERSTANDING to compass emancipation.

The Social Democrats of Austria, the Communist Party of this country, ALL parties outside the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its allied parties, are out for REFORM. The question of ”treachery” is irrelevant. The March article in the Socialist Standard summarised the situation: —"The Social Democrats had to tell their followers that housing schemes and various other little gains were vital inroads into capitalism, and must be defended at all costs. Consequently, when the Government finally made a frontal attack on the Vienna Council, the Social Democrats had either to fight or else admit that these things were not worth fighting for.”

A real, practical and immediate danger lurks under the froth and scum of the anarchist section of reform (mainly represented by the C.P. and I.L.P.). Whether temporarily posturing as a "United Front,” or vulgarly abusing each other, they are directly responsible for urging ill-fed and unarmed workers to pit themselves against the batons of the police and the machine guns of the military. We are living on the edge of desperate happenings. Vienna can be re-enacted here. (Good old George, dear old Christian George Lansbury, has planned under "Labour” Government to "protect public services.” See Clarion, May 5th, this year, so that the Labour Party can hardly be charged with “treachery” if the revered “leader” wields the stick heavily.) What hope can the English section of the Communist Party hold out that “the gigantic stronghold of the working class of the world” (Dimitrov) will aid the proletariat in insurrection ?

Fellow workers, is it "worth while for a workers’ movement to go down in suicidal glory for the sake of the nominal control of part of the machinery of local government ?”

With an alleged “Socialist” L.C.C. on the Embankment, and an organisation (relying in the long run upon secret methods) fishing in troubled waters, the question may not be so remote or academic as it sounds at first.
Augustus Snellgrove

The German Slaughterhouse (1934)

Editorial from the August 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Hitler was fighting for power in Germany one of the most important of the planks in his platform was the routing out of what he called Marxism, which was joined by him to the Jewish question. He professed to be out for the abolition of class warfare and the clearing away of class- consciousness, and all that it implied.

After Hitler and his party had obtained control of political power they proceeded to make good their promises. The German Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, and all those groups professing adherence to Marx's views, were smashed up. As the Jews were also supposed to be tainted with Communism, along with other alleged vices, a determined campaign was organised for their suppression, and appears to have met with considerable success.

All the writings of Marx and those writings of others that were officially considered to be tainted with Marxism, were banned, and in some instances destroyed by public bonfires carried out in the spirit of the earlier Aryans, who sought to silence the wisdom of the Greek philosophers in a similar way, but then in the name of the Jewish Christ.

In the fulness of time we were assured that Hitler and his supporters had conquered, that the deadly views of Marxism had been destroyed, that peace and contentment had come to the German nation, who were now at last united in a desire to bring to birth a new and powerful people built upon new foundations, and worshipping at the shrine of some pagan or oriental deity. General Goering bellowed this good news at many public meetings— and threatened with dire penalties any who denied it.

Into these idyllic conditions, like a bolt from the blue, came the news of the ruthless shooting by the Government of those who were formerly at the head of the Nazi movement. It is interesting to notice that those who were killed were not turncoats from the Communist or Social Democratic Parties, but were full-blooded supporters of the National Socialist Party, without any suspicion of a Marxian taint, as is shown by Hitler's defence of the shootings.

The single-minded ruthlessness of the summary executions is evidenced by the shooting of the wife of Von Schleicher.

The way in which the holocaust was organised shows the premeditated character of the slayings, which are evidently calculated to strike fear into the opponents of Hitler. Hitler himself triumphantly takes the responsibility saying, according to the report of his speech in the Reichstag:—
   “I gave the order to shoot, as only ruthless and bloody intervention could have stopped the revolt.
  “I myself was the Supreme Court of the German people for this 24 hours." (News-Chronicle, July 14th.)
How many were killed is not known, but Hitler, in. the speech just mentioned, states that number was 77. An example of the type of people attracted to the Hitler movement is also given by his statement that three S.S. men (his own trusted bodyguard) were shot for “shamefully mishandling prisoners”—an ominous remark.

After the so-called incipient revolt had been quelled there occurred an event which is worth pondering over by those who believe in the unshackled power of dictators. Hitler called the Reichstag together in order to explain to them the nature and the reason for his action. It is true that the Reichstag is a “packed” body, but even so, it is of considerable significance that Hitler who, in his own words is “Germany," should yet have considered it necessary to explain and defend his action before a body elected, however corruptly, by the German people or, to put it another way, a body which claims to represent the will of the people.

If Marxism brought class warfare into German life what can be said of a movement that turns in upon itself and slaughters its own votaries? It shows how such movements demand terrorist measures like these in order to ensure the continuance of leaders who have climbed up with support of terrorism.

As usual, the self-styled promoters of “peace upon earth and goodwill towards men” hastened to make their voices heard. The Evangelical Bishop of Hessen-Nassau, Dr. Dietrich, sent the following telegram (a letter might not have beep quick enough!) to Hitler: —
  "Thanks for strong liberating action. Congratulations. Renewed vows unswerving loyalty. Praying God’s help for beloved Fuhrer." (News-Chronicle, July 9th.) '
What lies behind the curtain in Germany it is not easy to gather. But it appears to be fairly evident that the work of destroying opposition to normal capitalist procedure having been accomplished, powerful industrialists want to curb the activities of the extremists in the National Socialist movement.

It is certainly significant that two “leaders" of German economic life appointed by the Nazis in pursuance of their scheme for introducing the leader principle in business, have recently been removed. Dr. Kessler, the Nazi engineer, who has been acting as Dictator of Industry, and Dr. A. Pietsch, the leader of the Chemical industry, are the people in question. It is alleged that the resignation of Dr. Kessler was the result of pressure exerted by the Trust Ring, including Herr Krupp von Bohlen, Dr. Fritz Thyssen and Herr Vogler, all of Essen, who want to see an end put to State intervention in their business.