Saturday, May 18, 2019

50 Years Ago: The Common Market (2013)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

Well, it didn’t come off.

Mr. Heath and his men came back defeated from Brussels and presented the British public with another bogy man who was yesterday’s friend. President De Gaulle is now the evil man of British capitalism.

The Beaverbrook press took a somewhat different view, implying hopefully that the British government had seen the light from the Express building and had themselves broken off the negotiations.

“And Now—Forward,” screamed the Express headlines. Forward, we may ask, to what? Whatever the Express, or the Government, or anyone else, has to offer can only be another of capitalism’s gambles.

When the British government decided, several years ago, against joining the European Common Market, they were gambling. When they decided that that gamble had failed they put their money on another—on the application to join Europe. They made it quite clear that that was a gamble, that they were not sure whether membership of the EEC would benefit them or not.

So it is with all capitalism’s attempts to defeat its own problems.

President de Gaulle is gambling, now that Europe can unite as an independent capitalist power dominated by a Franco-German axis. But there have been plenty of other such gambles and plenty of other such pacts and many of them have failed even by capitalism’s standards. There is no reason to assume that France and Germany, whatever their pact says, will not end up fighting one another again.

Capitalism, in fact, is one big gamble. Since its fortunes hang on the tail of its unpredictable market, it can never be sure of what to do to secure its own interests.

The great tragedy is that the gambles are always paid off in working class lives and security.

(From ‘The News in Review’, Socialist Standard, March 1963)

Editorial: The Power to Say No (2013)

Editorial from the March 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard

There has been more ministerial sneering recently from Iain Duncan Smith after his department’s Workfare regime of unpaid work placements for benefit claimants, ‘slave labour’ to some, was declared illegal by a High Court ruling.  The ruling was made on narrowly technical grounds and not, as some had hoped, under the anti-slavery laws.  This came as a disappointment to campaigners, but as a judgement by the capitalist state on a capitalist system of government, it should surprise no one.  But what of slavery within capitalism itself?

Capitalism’s system of exploitation is dependent on the existence of a large pool of free labour which can be taken up or discarded by employers at will as individual businesses and the economy expand and contract.   This meant that before capitalism could flourish in Britain, the old medieval system that tied serfs to a particular place and a particular overlord, had to be broken up.  In the southern states of America, chattel slavery was another system that tied labourers to a master.  It was inevitable then that the dynamic new capitalist economy in the north and the older slave economy in the south would sooner or later come into conflict.  That conflict was eventually resolved on the bloody battlefields of the American civil war, and led to the triumph of Northern capitalism. The resulting freedom that workers acquired in both countries to sell their labour to whoever would buy it would seem, on the face of it, to be the very antithesis of slavery. 

But slavery, in its broadest economic sense, takes many forms.  Best known, perhaps, are the chattel slavery of Greece and Rome and the serfdom of medieval Europe.   But child soldiers, those forced into marriages, bartered wives, coerced prostitutes and indentured servants are all slaves.  Slavery flourished in the twentieth century in the Soviet Gulags and in German and Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. In southern Asia, today, many are forced by economic circumstances to sell themselves to creditors.  Debt bondage is prevalent in this region, particularly in rural India where a family can find itself enslaved for generations in payment of an unpayable debt.   The forced labour regimes and the sale of  ‘orphaned’ children to employers by British workhouses in the nineteenth century were both direct form of slavery. 

In theory, slavery was abolished worldwide by article four of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.  Yet one form of slavery remains today which is not only legal, but universal in the capitalist world: wage slavery.   Those free wage workers on which capitalism depends are free only to the extent that they have a choice, a limited choice, over which employer buys their labour.  And like the ancient Athenian or modern Indian slave who has sold himself into bondage under contract because it was the only way he could survive within a private property economy, the wage worker is forced to sell his labour by contract to an employer.  And while the wage worker’s employer only owns his labour and not his body and mind, that body and mind must nevertheless go wherever his labour goes, which is where his employer directs it.

Islington By-Election: Vote for yourself for a change? (2013)

Party News from the March 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
  • Why, when the resources exist to provide a decent standard of living for everyone, are we going through “austerity”?
  • It’s because the present system is not geared to meeting our needs but to making profits for businesses and the rich people who own and control them. At the moment this capitalist system is in an economic crisis where profits have fallen The only way out for the system is to restore profits at our expense.
  • That’s why what our wages can buy has shrunk. It’s why benefits are being slashed. And it’s why Islington council has been cutting local services.
  • It’s not just Islington. It’s councils everywhere, whichever party is in control. Councils get most of their money from the government, but market forces have obliged the government to reduce this. National and local politicians are just running the system in the only way it can be – as a profit system where priority has to be given to profit-making over meeting our needs.
  •  It’s the system that’s to blame, not those elected to run it. That’s why changing the politicians in charge makes no difference. As the saying goes, “changing governments changes nothing”. It will be like this as long as the profit system lasts. So there is no point in voting for parties that accept this system.
  • The alternative is to change to a new system based on satisfying our needs, where the places where wealth is produced will no longer be owned by profit-seeking businesses but will be owned and democratically controlled by us all. That’s what the Socialist Party stands for. We are contesting this  by-election to raise this issue, and to give those of you who agree a chance to be counted.
  • You can do this by voting for the Socialist candidate, BILL MARTIN. And then get in touch to help bring an end to the system that can never be made to work in your interest.

Write to: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UN.
Tel: 0207 622 3811 Email:

Islington By-Election, Junction Ward, 21 March 2013

Part 1: The Road to Smethwick Pier (1969)

From the May 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few days after resigning from her job as community relations officer for Oxford, Ann Dummett wrote in the Sunday Times:
  A few years ago the struggle was against hypocrisy and apathy. Now it is with open and unashamed racialism.
Anyone who observes the political scene in Britain knows that this bitter indictment is only too true, and that racialism has been growing, in the open and with official encouragement, for longer than a few years.

To take just two examples of this. Not so long ago— during the 50s, in fact—there were no official figures distinguishing 'coloured' immigrants into this country from the ‘white’ ones. Unless they came from outside the Commonwealth, immigrants were entitled to free entry and did not have to register, as aliens had to. Thus the numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, and West Indians could only be estimated. Now all that has changed. Taking away the legal rights of entry has made it possible to treat 'coloured’ immigrants as a separate group so now there are all sorts of figures on them; for example Norman Pannell, the ex- Tory MP, in his contribution to the book Immigration: What is the Answer, was able to draw on statistics about the levels of crime, disease, and overcrowding among the coloured immigrants.

Secondly, racialism has become a political issue extending far beyond the fringe organisations like Union Movement and National Front. Now, both Labour and Conservative Parties are in broad agreement on racialist policy and are engaged in an auction for the racialist vote among the working class. Before the 1964 election, neither party mentioned racialism in its manifesto, except to condemn it in other countries. But this is what they have had to say since then:
 A Conservative Government will continue to control immigration from overseas . . . (Conservatives, 1964.)
 Labour accepts that the number of immigrants entering the United Kingdom must be limited. (Labour 1964.)
  . . . fair treatment for immigrants combined with stricter control of entry (Conservatives 1966.)
  In the held of immigration we shall continue realistic controls . . . (Labour 1966.) 
This march towards racialism has been helped by periodical eruptions of emotion and prejudice calculatedly incited by speeches from politicians who have made their name in the field; men like Cyril Osborne, Duncan Sandys, Enoch Powell. But the more significant development is the open, official approval of racialism. It was not always so. During the war, the British propaganda machine was compelled to expose the Nazis’ racial theories, which meant that there were official films, leaflets, and the like which scientifically disposed of the racist’s myths. And of course the popular press lost no chance of reminding their readers of the victories of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin and of Joe Louis battering the German Max Schmeling to defeat in the first round.

This sort of propaganda probably nurtured the British workers’ complacent assumption that, even in the act of discriminating against, and patronising, foreigners, they were really being tolerant. (And what assumed superiority there is in that very word tolerant.) Perhaps the Liverpool taxi driver quoted by Michael Banton in his essay in Colour in Britain is as near typical as anyone could be:
  I'm not against them in any way . . . I’ve met some very nice coloured people, but with respect to intermarriage, I think I’d draw the line there. Whites can marry whites and coloured can marry coloured as far as I’m concerned . . .
It was precisely this sort of ’tolerance’ which, when the Commonwealth immigrants began to come in in increasing numbers during the late 50s and early 60s, turned sour. In December 1958 there were an estimated 210,000 coloured immigrants from the Commonwealth in Britain; by the end of 1963 this figure was up to about 750,000. Many of these concentrated at first in the areas like Moss Side in Manchester and Brixton in London where many coloured people were already living. But soon they began to settle in other places like Southall and Smethwick. Here, the chronic problems and shortcomings typical of capitalism—bad housing, inadequate hospitals, precarious social services —were bound to be aggravated by any large-scale immigration, no matter where the newcomers came from. Tolerance’ was seen to be under irresistible pressure.

It seemed that some sort of colour-bar legislation was inevitable. The campaign for this is usually associated with the Tory MP for Louth, Cyril Osborne, who did keep up a running barrage on the subject and who, after the success of his campaign, was knighted. But the first demand in parliament for restrictions came from a Labour MP— John Hynd, who had been a Minister in the Attlee government—in 1954.

The 1958 riots in Notting Hill and Nottingham seemed to react in the immigrants' favour but this was only a temporary diversion of the main stream. In 1959 the Brixton Tories published a leaflet which advocated discouragement “by every possible means” of West Indian immigration and attempted to link coloured people with crime and overcrowding. In June 1961 a Gallup poll estimated that six per cent of people were in favour of a complete ban on further entry and another 67 per cent of restricting entry.

In this situation a capitalist party, if it is to keep a grip on its votes, must act—or perhaps react is a better word. In November 1961 the Conservative government introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill which, because of fierce opposition from the Labour Party in the House, did not come into force until June 1962. Although Tories like Osborne and Pannell welcomed the Bill there were others who were uneasy; Iain Macleod, for example, said that any such measure would be "extremely distasteful".

Compared to some of the measures since taken by the Labour government, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1962) was a mild and liberal affair. It imposed a system of work vouchers but left the numbers to be issued at the discretion of the government. Wives and children—and fianceés and fiancés—were freely admitted. The Act did not apply to the holders of British passports, nor to the Irish Republic—in other words it covered only coloured immigrants.

The Labour Party, led by Hugh Gaitskell, sailed into action against the Bill. They were not, be it noted, unanimous. Marcus Lipton, the Labour MP for Brixton (where he was said to be popular among the West Indians, but where the Tories had issued that leaflet) introduced an amendment to stiffen the Bill, requiring intending immigrants to produce evidence of satisfactory accommodation to come to. And Labour could muster only a very poor vote on the third reading.

It seems that Gaitskell thought he was on to a good thing. The Labour Party was still recovering from the shock of their defeat in the 1959 election and the Labour leader was anxiously trying to find some fresh voter appeal. It was useless for the Labour Party to talk about unemployment and nationalisation to workers who couldn’t hear them because of .the noise of motor-car engines and washing-machine motors and pop music on the telly. These were the issues which Gaitskell hoped to make into vote winners, when he spoke to Labour’s inquest conference in November 1959:
  A broad human movement on behalf of the bottom dog . . . A belief in social justice . . . The brotherhood of man . . .
The Labour leader thought that racialism would fit very nicely into this scheme and that a fight against the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill would bring a rich harvest of votes. He had always been noted for being out of touch with the latest in working-class delusions.

Gaitskell got a good press for his scornful attack on the Bill. "A plain anti-colour measure" he called it; “Some Fascists would claim this as the first victory they had won." And he ended up with an appeal to the government to drop this ". . . miserable, shameful, shabby Bill." The Labour benches were in ecstacies; when Cyril Osborne spoke they jeered him: "You are Mosley’s deputy—colour bar—keep Britain white" and when Patrick Gordon Walker (of whom more later) moved the Bill's rejection, describing it as ". . . barefaced, open race discrimination" they gave him loud and prolonged cheers. One Labour backbencher —George Pargiter, MP for Southall (of whom, again, more later) attacked what he called ". . . one of the most illiberal acts of modem times."

Despite this quixotic opposition, students of the inconsistencies of capitalist political parties were not surprised to find, when the Act came up for renewal a year later, that the Labour Party had changed its mind. Although they found an excuse, in the old tradition of parliamentary shadow boxing, to vote against the continuance of the Act, they had decided to accept the principle of restriction —indeed, if the government had agreed to consult the Commonwealth on the matter, Labour would have voted for the Act’s continuance.

Pargiter, for one, was clearly becoming uneasy about his chances of holding on to his seat. In the debate on renewing the Act he said that "immigrants should be told they cannot go to places which are already overcrowded—which really means that something like South Africa's Pass Laws should be applied to coloured workers—and when he came to it he abstained from voting against the Act. Pargiter later explained that he ". . . felt a vote against the Act was liable to be misrepresented by my opponents in Southall. . . " a blatant piece of vote-catching which did not deter him from also saying that he had abstained on moral grounds, that he had “. . . exercised my right on grounds of conscience not to take part in the vote." (Middlesex County Times, November 30, 1963).

This was typical of the confusion and cynicism on the slippery, sickening road to the 1964 election—the first in Britain in which race placed an important part. In places like Southall Labour, under pressure from the Tories on immigration, did badly and in some of the seats they lost —Eton and Slough, Perry Barr—this could have been decisive. In another it was not only decisive but it dominated and distorted the election and had the triumphant Tory workers baying like wolves as the returning officer declared that their man, Peter Griffiths, was the new Member of Parliament for Smethwick.

(To be concluded)

Economists in confusion (1969)

From the May 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

Devaluation of the pound showed how much confusion there is in the minds of government ministers and their economic advisers; subsequent events have added to it. It was carried out in November 1967 by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Roy Jenkins, only four months after his predecessor James Callaghan had denounced such a measure on the ground, among others, that it would lower real wages by raising prices. Naturally Jenkins had to claim that it was a very good thing and that it would give a golden opportunity to cure the balance of payments. He was confident that, as he put it, "of one thing we can be sure: 1968 will be different” (Article in Financial Times, December 30, 1967).

Apart from the fact that devaluation, as anyone could have foreseen, produced a big increase of profits for exporting companies, 1968 has been just like 1967—crises, government attempts to keep wages down, and a balance of payments deficit very little less than in the previous year. On the first anniversary of devaluation the financial columns were full of articles by economists and financial experts trying to explain why their forecasts had gone wrong. Some of them, influenced by American economists, have begun to question the validity of their own theories about money. This has been helped on by the disquiet of the International Monetary Fund and other bankers who lent the British government large sums of money to support the pound. They want to be sure that their loans will be duly repaid, and not in a currency depreciated by still further devaluation. The IMF insisted that 'the money supply' should be kept under control and from time to time they come over to ask Jenkins what about it. They are well aware that the prevailing theories held by the government and its advisers reject the idea that there is any need to control money supply and that, on the contrary, it should be expanded.

It is true that every Chancellor in the past quarter of a century has proclaimed his intention of stopping inflation, but this was merely a sop to electors, not to be taken seriously. George Brown recently admitted that inflation was government policy, but that it was to be kept to 'a minimum' (Sunday Times March 31, 1968).

The consequence has been a full-scale controversy about money itself. In the autumn of 1968 scores of articles appeared attacking or defending accepted theories; confused however by the fact that the writers could not agree among themselves what it was they were discussing. A typical statement appeared in The Times (September 28, 1968) from a correspondent who pointed out that while the International Monetary Fund defines money as currency (notes and coin) plus the money on current account in the cheque issuing banks, the British government’s Central Statistical Office defines it as also including money in deposit accounts of banks, and also money on deposit in other financial organisations—a difference running into something like £400m.

Still another school treats money in the much more limited sense of notes and coin only, which the last official committee on the question, the Radcliffe Committee, in its Report in 1959 airily dismissed as only “the small change of the monetary system".

The controversy was brought a stage further by an article in the Evening Standard (March 11, 1968) by Prof. Victor Morgan who demands a return to the Quantity Theory of Money. Unfortunately he too omits to say which definition of money he is using. His meaning is thrown more in doubt because he writes of the Quantity Theory having won general acceptance in the late 18th century and having continued to be accepted until the 1930s; the fact is that there have been several quite different theories under the same name, differing from each other in how they defined money. One of the earliest held that the price level is raised or lowered according to whether there is a large or small amount of precious metal in the country. (This was dealt with by Marx in Capital, Vol. I. p.139, in the Kerr edition).

Other quantity theories have been based on notes and coin; on those plus bank deposits on current account; or plus all deposits. It is possible that Prof. Morgan means one of the two last-named.

By contrast it is clear that when Lord Cromer, former Governor of the Bank of England, attacks the government for unduly increasing the money supply he means the note issue.

Prof. Morgan gives a description of the Quantity Theory which would fit several variations of it, saying for example that there is a strong connection between the growth of the money supply and the price level, and he cautiously adds that “no-one has yet demonstrated conclusively the precise ways in which monetary influences are transmitted” (meaning transmitted into changes of the price level).

He made no reference to Marx’s study of the subject. Marx did however supply the missing link. He showed that gold functions as the money commodity, the universal equivalent for all other commodities because, like them, it is an embodiment of value, the socially necessary labour required to produce it. When a certain total quantity of gold in the form of coins functioned as money in this way, to meet market needs corresponding to a given volume of production and buying and selling transactions, it represented a total quantity of value. Marx showed that if gold coin is replaced by inconvertible paper money and if the issue of paper money is increased (the note issue in Britain is about six times what it was in 1938 though production has less than doubled) the result is a corresponding rise of the price level, in addition to any other factors pushing prices up.

The crux of the matter is that if the notes in circulation are doubled they still represent only the same total amount of value, so that each note represents only half the value represented by each note before the doubling took place. It takes two notes to buy what formerly one note would buy: prices are doubled.

Unlike other theories, Marx’s explanation does in fact explain the big increase of the general price level and this is the answer to the economists (including Keynes) who dismiss Marx as of no account. The re-appearance of quantity theories of money marks the growing disillusionment about Keynes and his theories.

The body of opinion behind the views of Prof. Morgan is growing in this country and it is possible we may see a shift of official opinion in that direction, particularly if the Tories come into power. Prof. Morgan outlines what he considers to be the advantages of so doing:
  If the Quantity Theory is right, then so long as the money supply is unchecked the combined efforts of Mrs Castle, Mr Jones, and Mr Woodcock will be powerless to control inflation; only an effective control of the money supply could achieve this end, and if this control were made effective both incomes policy and the present interference by the Bank of England would be unnecessary.
Someone thinking on similar lines is Sir George Bolton, chairman of the Bank of London and South America, but he takes a gloomier view. He told his shareholders that "if the capitalist system is to survive, confidence in paper money must be restored”.

If such a shift of government monetary policy takes place it should not be forgotten that we have had it all before; both the long periods in which there was no excess currency issue and other periods (as at present) when it is the rule. Capitalism works just as evilly for the workers whichever way it goes. It is a capitalist problem, not a working-class one.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letters: What is productivity? (1969)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is productivity?


What is the socialist definition of this hoodoo that Barbara Castle is using, namely, The Productivity Act? My opinion is that there is no such thing unless applied where material things are produced and distributed. It can never apply to bus drivers and conductors, train drivers and firemen, postmen and sorters, messengers, paper-keepers, those in government offices, police- men, or the army, navy, and air force. But it would apply to miners, bricklayers, coalcarters, and those who work in places where wealth is produced.
M. R. Thorpe 
Brixton, London SW9

All Barbara Castle means by 'productivity’ is efficiency at work. So, as far as she is concerned, this can be imposed on all workers whether or not they are engaged in the actual production of wealth. Sales clerks can be made to fill in more forms, reply to more letters, answer more phone calls in the same period of time. If they do, then their ‘productivity’ will have gone up.

‘Productivity’, in this sense, is just a fancy word for ‘speed-up’. It’s the old trick of “if you work harder, we'll pay you more”. The Labour government are interested in promoting this because they are committed to running capitalism in the only way it can be—in the interests of the capitalist class. If workers can be got to work harder, then the capitalists have a chance of regaining some of the overseas markets they have lost in recent years (the prime cause of their economic difficulties).

Wealth is produced by the application of human energy to materials found in nature. All work involves both ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ activity (in fact of course the two can’t be separated) so that it is wrong to regard just what is called ‘manual’ work as productive. The work of design and planning is just as productive as the work of carrying out the plans. So the mining engineer and the architect, whose work is generally regarded as white-collar, are just as much productive workers as the miner and the bricklayer. So are many technical, administrative, and clerical workers. Others are not of course, especially those concerned with buying and selling and with discipline, including the police and armed forces.

Mr. Thorpe is wrong in implying that transport workers are not productive. The labour spent in bringing an article of wealth to market does add value to the product. It is just as much a part of the production process as the manufacturing stage.

Capitalist exploitation is a class matter. The whole of the working class is exploited by the whole of the capitalist class because production already has a social, co-operative character. It is wrong to say that the workers at Fords are exploited just by Ford’s shareholders, just as it is wrong to say that they alone produce the cars. The labour of the millions of workers involved in the production of a car (including the growing and mining and transporting of the original raw materials from start to finish is what produces a car, not just the labour of those in at the finish. Ford’s shareholders merely get a return in accordance with the economic law of average profit—a profit based on the amount of capital they have invested and not (necessarily) equal to the surplus value extracted in their factories. What in effect happens is that all the surplus value extracted under capitalism in a given period is, as it were, pooled and then divided out in accordance with the amount of capital each capitalist has invested. The capitalist system is thus a kind of joint-stock company for the capitalist class.

Those workers engaged in non-productive work are not just a burden on their employers. Far from it. They may not produce extra wealth for him but they do save him money. For their work—say, in balancing his books or selling his goods—is essential to his business. From the employer’s point of view money spent on it is a necessary expense of production. Non-productive workers are exploited in this way: if for example ten hours’ work is needed to calculate workers’ wages, the clerk doing this job will put in this work but will be paid the equivalent of less than ten hours’ labour. He thus saves his employer money and that is why he is employed.

The employer doesn’t see it this way. He knows from experience that his profit tends to be based on how much he has invested, not on how many workers of what kind he employs. As far as he is concerned the wages he pays to all his workers are a necessary expense which he’d like to cut down. He would like them all to work harder. Which brings us back to Barbara Castle and productivity. She too wants us all to work harder.
Editorial Committee

What, NO P.M.!


I consider myself a socialist, even if my concept of Socialism differs from yours, and I would like you to answer some questions for me.

1. What alternatives does the Socialist Party offer for a stable economic system from the present one to a system under socialist rule?

2. If the Socialist Party grew strong enough and was generally elected as government (tomorrow);
   a. Who would be prime minister? (Tell me about him).
   b. What ministries would there be, and who would be in charge of them?
   c. What standards of living could the working class be assured of?
   d. Could there be any millionaires?
S. G. Pollard 
Sheffield 9

Mr Pollard’s "Socialism” certainly differs from ours if under it there will still be a prime minister, a working class and millionaires! However, lets proceed point by point.

1. In place of the present economic system based on the class ownership of the means of life and their consequent use to provide profits for the owners, we are suggesting that the means of life he vested in the community as a whole and be under its democratic management so that wealth can be produced solely to satisfy human wants. Freed from the barrier of profit, we shall be able to produce in abundance all the things we need. Gone will be the absurd paradoxes of poverty amidst plenty, of food being burned while children starve, of building workers being unemployed while people live in hovels. Naturally. Socialism can only exist on a world scale.

2. If the Socialist Party grew strong enough and a majority of voters backed us then we would not form a government, with a prime minister and cabinet, to administer a system where workers and millionaires would still exist. We do not seek political power in order to run capitalism, but to abolish it. So that, if there were a Socialist majority, steps would immediately be taken to end private property in the means of production and to put in its place common ownership and democratic control.

a. For this we don't need a prime minister, a post generally filled by the leader' of the party that wins the election. The Socialist Party is made up of conscious socialists organised on a democratic basis and so has no leader or leaders.

b. We have seen that a socialist majority would use its power to change the basis of society from class to common ownership. This of course will amount to a social revolution. But this doesn’t mean we’ll be starling from scratch. Socialists have always maintained that capitalism paves the way for Socialism by, for instance, developing the large-scale co-operative production that makes class ownership an anachronism. This large-scale co-operative productive system, including its administrative apparatus, will be the basis of socialist society. The basic function of the state is to be the public power of coercion and for this purpose it is organised as the police, the armed forces, and the prison service. A public power of coercion is necessary only in class society with its built-in class conflict. In Socialism the state will no longer he needed and will be dismantled. However, today the government has itself assumed other, purely technical and administrative, tasks and this aspect of its work is in fact part of the productive system. We have in mind the old Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, or the Ministry of Power. No doubt the administrative apparatus that is these and other ministries can be adapted for use as part of the socialist administration of industry. We can’t go into details (that’s something for the socialist majority, including maybe Mr. Pollard, to work out at the time) but we can say that the adaptions will be far-reaching— everything to do with finance will go, and the internal structure will have to be reorganised on a democratic basis. What we say about these technical ministries applies equally to the large administrative establishments not part of the government machine such as those at the service of firms like GEC and ICI. Obviously, there'll be a certain continuity in institutions between capitalism and Socialism and at the start we'll have to make do with what we’ve inherited. There’ll be more urgent problems than a streamlined administration to be tackled; for instance, growing more food and ending the housing scandal.

c. The 'working class’ won’t be assured of any standard of living because there won’t be any working class. With the end of capitalism will go all classes. Those who used to be workers (or capitalists) will still be around but they will now be free and equal members, of society faced with the problem of organising themselves to provide the food, clothing, shelter, and other things they need to live. The profit barrier gone, how much they consume will depend on how much they are prepared to produce and that’ll be something for society to decide democratically, But the basic rule will be “from each according to his ability, to each according to hi„ needs’’. Every member of socialist society will have free access to the fruits of their co-operative labour.

d. No, there won’t be any millionaires because there won’t be any money. This will have become superfluous with the introduction of production solely and directly for use. Common ownership and democratic control will mean that everybody will be socially equal.
Editorial Committee

Party News: Conference Discusses Russian Rulers (1969)

Party News from the May 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

A resolution that "the ruling class in slate capitalist Russia stands in the same relationship to the means of production as does the ruling class in any other capitalist country (viz. it has a monopoly of those means of production and extracts surplus value from the working class) and is therefore a capitalist class" was carried by 30 votes to 3 with 10 abstentions at the Party Conference over Easter. All were of course agreed that state capitalism exists in Russia but the resolution’s opponents argued that it was premature to make so definite a statement at this stage.

Opening for Manchester branch Comrade J. Crump said that the issue was whether the Russian ruling class was a capitalist class. Some members argued that only direct employers or investors in shares and government bonds were capitalists. But this was not so. The capitalist class were those who monopolised the means of production and accumulated capital. Even though the Russian rulers might lead Spartan lives and were not employers they were still a capitalist class because they carried out these functions.

Comrade Hardy urged caution on the resolution because it seemed to say that the top political and managerial people in Russia were the capitalist class and because it overlooked the extent of private enterprise there. Margaret Miller estimated that in 1963 about a quarter of ‘economic activity' was done through private or non-official channels. The Russian government had also been very successful in building up private savings which now amounted to about £15,000m on which they paid tax-free interest. The ambition of the top salaried people in Russia was probably the same as in Britain: to become wealthy capitalists in their own right. Russia, said Comrade Hardy, was going through great changes and be tentatively suggested that it might move towards the mixed state/private capitalism of Britain.

Points from some of the other speeches:

Comrade Zucconi: In Russia there was a class enjoying the fruits of the workers' labour through political control rather than direct ownership. But this made no difference. They were still the Russian capitalist class.

Comrade K. Knight: The top salaried managers were a significant part of the capitalist class in Russia with a vested interest in accumulating capital not only for themselves but also for the state.

Comrade J. D’Arcy: A capitalist class had not yet emerged in Russia. All we could say was that they existed in embryonic form and that at some later time the bureaucracy might break up into wealthy individuals and strip the state industries.

Comrade Buick: There were private capitalists in Russia but they were not the ruling class. We might need a new name to describe the real rulers. They owned the means of production collectively and got their surplus value as bloated salaries, prizes, bonuses and other 'perks’ rather than as dividends or interest.

Comrade Cook: The bureaucrats now used their control to get surplus value illegally but in time they might want to legalise this. It was a fluid situation in which the dividing line between real control and legal ownership was unclear.

Comrade P. Lawrence: There was no reason why Russian capitalism should evolve along British lines. The state had always dominated Russian society so it was to be expected that it would play the major role it did in the development of capitalism there.