Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ire of the Irate Itinerant (2008)

From the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard


Crime and the causes of crime (2008)

From the October issue of the Socialist Standard
Even the government accepts that crime will rise as economic conditions worsen, but is this the only reason for rising crime?
It’s a wonder any of us gets any sleep. It must be terrifying in the world today. Whenever Private Eye puts a spoof Daily Mail headline it its pages, such as “Criminal Yobbo Thugs give you Falling House Price CANCER!” no one laughs. It isn’t funny because it’s too similar to real Daily Mail headlines written for the terminally terrified. Where they are believed, it seems, the world is crawling with criminals with no more desire than to rip people’s hearts out and tear their corpse into indigestible shreds. After all, it is the fear of crime that politicians have sought for so many years to tackle, not the creature itself.

According to the statistics, crime in the UK has been rising steadilly since the mid-1950’s, although it certainly accelerated in the early 1980’s. It should be borne in mind, though, that the rate of reporting crimes has risen in that time, as has the number of crimes it is possible to commit, thanks to the governments (particularly the current one) creating endless new offences year in year out. Real crime, though, has certainly risen. The number of indictable offences per thousand population in 1900 was 2.4 and in 1997 the figure was 89.1. In 1965 6.8 per million people were murdered. By 1997 this had risen to 14.1 per million. Over the last century, the number of police in the UK has risen by over 120,000 to stand at around 150,000.

Yet crime continues to grow, despite all the police. The former Mayor of London, before he was kicked out, Ken Livingstone, made great play over how his increase in the number of the police in the capital, from 25,000 to 31,000 police officers, had reduced crime. He was right that the Tories, for all their talk on being tough on crime, had held back spending on policing levels. In fact, that’s no surprise: policing accounts for around 52 percent of the criminal justice budget, and the Tories are first and foremost cheapskates. Plus, how can you be tough on crime if there isn’t any? For them it is a virtuous political circle: let crime run free, then be tough on it, on the cheap, and then ask for plaudits for being tough on yobbos. That is by the by, though. Despite Ken’s protestations, it wasn’t his police force that cut crime. It was economic conditions.

The “tough on crime” brigade are easy to refute. Some commentators blame the 60’s permissive society and its aftermath of sexual liberation for rising crime. They point to the end of the death penalty and penal reform measures. Yet, the number of prisoners in British cells were growing from the mid-forties onwards, before crime rates themselves began to rise. Now they stand at around 94,000 – and all the prisons are full. They’ve even had to start releasing prisoners early – in the back half of 2007 18,583 prisoners were given early release to relieve overcrowding. A staggering number, that has been replaced. All early release means is more people going through the prison system and being disciplined by it. After all, a great number of released prisoners re-offend and are convicted within two years.

This is all part of the trend. In 1941 there were only around 10,000 prisoners. Even as late as 1991 there were only about 40,000. If prison “worked” surely crime would have been around halved by doubling the prison population? Or at least, more drastically cut than by the modest falls we’ve seen over recent years. Now, the government wants to build extra capacity, three so called Titan Prisons each with a capacity of 7,500, which means they only see the rate of incarceration going up and up.

They have reason to believe that. A leaked draft letter this month told us that Home Office officials were warning ministers that the economic slow down would almost certinly lead to a rise in crime. The letter predicted property crime would rise by 7 percent in 2008 and a further 2 percent in 2009, if the current economic conditions continued. Home Office minister Tony McNulty said the letter was a “statement of the blindingly obvious”, which considering, to their credit, Labour actually formally linked crime rates to economic conditions in their analysis when they first came to power, isn’t a surprising view.

The BBC’s Economics Editor Mark Easton takes issue with whether it is so blindingly obvious that economic downturns promote the increase in crime. As part of this he proposes a different source of crime, citing a report that shows that for every rise of 1 percent in inflation, property crime rises by 0.026 percent; but that is just another name for poverty – when inflation lowers people’s incomes those who can’t easily compensate (for instance through pay rises) will be hard hit.

He is right, though, to note that while the rise in crime generally does not map directly onto the graph of economic up and downs, it does bear a resemblance to the growth in relative poverty. According to the report Poverty, wealth and place in Britain, 1968-2005 from the Joseph Rowntree Foundtion so-called bread line poor, i.e. those who are excluded from normal participation in society due to their lack of wealth, grew to around 27 percent of households in 2005, up from 17 percent in 1980. More strikingly, the non-wealthy/non-poor fell by a dramatic 16 percent in the same period. The proportion of society in the very rich catageory also fell.

This ties in with a graph Easton produces:



The two scales are inverted, the left scale (consumer spending) ascends while the right scale (theft and burglary rates) descends. The match is pretty precise. Whilst it may not be enough to say that one causes another, it is enough to suggest that they are heavily linked. Poverty doesn’t make criminals, it just gives people more chances and incentives to be criminals. Put another way, the decline in social bonds caused by consumerism and rising inequality fuels a dog-eat- dog world which can turn nasty.

Of the 302,000 people sentenced for indictable offences in 2006, 160,100 of them were for property related crimes (theft, criminal damage, etc.). That is, over half of crimes. In 2006/7 some 75 percent of reported crimes were crimes relating to property. Poverty does not just push the creation of crime. It’s well known that the poor are much more likely to be the victims of crime, with the bottom 40 percent of society being way ahead of the top on every measure of crime victimhood. Lone parent and unemployed households are twice as likely to be burgled than the average household; and burglary rates are greater in densely populated and often poor London than in the rest of the south east.

Women in the sex industry are particularly prone to being victims of crime. A report by the Poppy Project, called The Big Brothel found staggering quantities of women working in the sex trade and being treated as little more than shoddy goods by their exploiters. They state that during ‘120 hours of telephone calls, we established the following: at least 1,933 women are currently at work in London’s brothels; ages range from 18 to 55 (with a number of premises offering “very, very young girls”); prices for full sex start at £15, and go up to £250’ The pimps offered two for one deals, discount vouchers, happy hours – the whole marketing gamut as they made between £86 million to £205 million per year with a brothel. This isn’t a normal business transaction though – the women are often beaten and raped. Turned into a commodity themselves, all social bonds utterly severed between them and their clients. In it’s own way, another form of property crime.

There is other evidence for alienation being the motor of crime. A recent report on the BBC revealed that 1 in 11 prisoners in a British gaol is a former member of the armed services, that is, approximately 8,500. The probation officers association NAPO recounts stories of strung out soldiers turning violent after returning from war. That is, those whose social bonds have been deliberately shorn in order to make them into fit killing machines, or whose bonds have been shattered by the experience of killing and conflict, are highly like to fall into crime, and find themselves on the prison scrap heap.

The Home Office report also deals with the rise of policital extremism, another form of expressing alienation. It warns of attacks on immigrants and the growth of racist parties, should Britain slide into recession. Of course, the terrorism obsessed government also considers how this rise in the far-right might lead to more terrorism in retaliation. This should serve as a warning to those who figure that simple economic catastrophism will lead mechanically to socialist revolution. The growth of socialism can only come from the working class consciously deciding that changing the economic system will save them from the woes of crime and violence extremism bred by the current one, and acting on that decision.
Pik Smeet

Production for profit (2008)

From the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

The motive for production under capitalism is making a profit. In order for goods to be manufactured or services to be provided, they must result in a reasonable amount of profit, otherwise they won’t be produced. Even ‘loss leaders’ serve the goal of profit, by enticing customers into a shop.

In contrast, socialism will be based on production for use. The whole issue of profit will be meaningless in a socialist society, with no money or buying and selling. Items will be made because they are useful, because they satisfy people’s needs for food, housing, transport, clothes, leisure interests, or whatever.

Now, some supporters of capitalism will argue that production for profit implies production for use. No company, for instance, will make a profit by producing goods that nobody will want to use. There is therefore, so the argument goes, a requirement for capitalist concerns to produce useful things. Many objects that were once found in people’s homes (mangles, for instance) are not produced nowadays, because technological progress has meant they are no longer wanted.

There is a tiny bit of truth in this, in that people won’t on the whole buy what they don’t want or need. But there is far more to be said on this matter, and looking at it more closely reveals what’s wrong with production for profit, and indeed with capitalism more generally.

For a start, the other side of the coin of production for profit is ‘no profit, no production’. This applies not just to outdated fashions and technology, but to any good or service, no matter how badly it is needed. Take housing, for instance. In the current credit crunch, the number of new houses being built has been drastically reduced, even though there is clearly a need for more houses, given the increasing population and the amount of people homeless or living in sub-standard accommodation. But building houses is now not so profitable as it was a year or so ago, hence the cut in housebuilders’ profits and decline in new housing starts. Hence too the many blocks of flats that are half-built but will not be finished because there is no prospect of selling them at a profit.

And of course it’s not just housing. Whenever you hear of post offices being shut or rural bus services being axed, it’s because they don’t pay, not because nobody wants or needs them. About four pubs a day close; not enough people are spending money in them, but it’s not that they fail to meet some need or are of no use.

We referred above to the homeless or people in bad housing. These are likely to be the very poorest, who are unable to afford a mortgage or the rent for a decent home. But under capitalism they are not part of the possible market for new houses, owing to their destitution. What they lack is not the need for a good place to live but effective demand: they can’t pay so are of no interest to housebuilders. What capitalism fulfils, then, is not human need, but need that can be paid for. There is no point from a business perspective in producing goods if people, whatever their needs, cannot pay for them.

Effective demand further affects the quality of what is produced. It’s no good producing only the best whatever if they are unaffordable. The size of workers’ wages means there is a demand for cheap goods, though it can hardly be said that there is a need for shoddy and dangerous commodities. The current economic downturn has led to more people shopping in cheaper supermarkets, but hardly out of choice. Again, production for profit is in no way identical — or even similar — to production for use.

The same logic underlies the paradox of millions starving in a world where enough food can be produced to feed everyone. The starving in Africa and Asia barely form a market and cannot be sold to at a profit. This simple point by itself should be enough to condemn the domination of the profit motive.

And is it really the case that people only buy what they want? This view ignores the impact of advertising, which can lead people to purchase stuff to keep up with the Joneses or make their children happy or enable their teenagers to respond to peer pressure. Capitalism has to advertise its wares, both to encourage customers to buy new products and to keep them buying existing ones. In so doing, it necessarily promotes new ‘needs’ that are really no such thing.

Moreover, the imperative for companies to make a profit implies that they seek to lower costs, including the cost of labour power, the mental and physical energies of their workers. That’s what wages are: the price of our ability to work. Profits are realised when commodities are sold, but they are arise in the course of production. Workers produce more in the value of what they output than in what they are paid. Profits, or surplus value, come from this difference.

By driving down wages, or making workers labour for longer hours on the same pay, employers can increase their profits. The drive for profit also leads them to reduce spending on health and safety, as this cuts into profits. Whenever you hear about unsafe working practices, it’s a good bet that it’s due not to individual carelessness but to the need for profit.

It’s worth noting that, when we say socialism will be based on production for use, this does not mean that everybody will live in the lap of luxury. It does mean that there will be no squalid housing or a choice between eating and heating or children who go to bed hungry. They key criterion in production will be not ‘is it profitable?’ but ‘is it needed?’. And the process of production will be safe as it can be, and the goods produced will also be safe rather than harmful. Due care will be taken of the impact on the environment too. Production for profit will have been confined to a barely-understandable and barbaric past.
Paul Bennett

Pieces Together: Profits before health (2008)

The Pieces Together column from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Profits before health
“The drug industry is overpricing vital new medicines to boost its profits, the chair of the health watchdog Nice warns today in an explosive intervention into the debate over NHS rationing. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins spoke out after critics last week accused the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) of `barbarism` for refusing to approve expensive new kidney drugs for NHS use, on the grounds that they were not cost-effective. In an outspoken interview with the Observer, he warned of `perverse incentives` to hike the prices of new drugs – including linking the pay of pharmaceutical company executives to their firm’s share price, which in turn relied on keeping profits healthy. Traditionally some companies charged what they thought they could get away with,” (Observer, 17 August)


Capitalism kills
“People are dying “on a grand scale” around the world because of social injustice brought about by a “toxic” combination of bad policies, politics and economics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday. Avoidable health problems caused by social factors – as opposed to biology and genetics – are causing large-scale health inequalities in the UK, the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health has found after a three-year study. Evidence showed that a boy born in the relatively deprived Calton area of Glasgow was likely to live on average 28 years fewer than one born a few miles away in Lenzie, a village by the Glasgow-Edinburgh railway. Life expectancy at birth for men in the fashionable north London suburb of Hampstead was found on average to be 11 years longer than for men born in the vicinity of nearby St Pancras station. Adult death rates were generally 2.5 times higher in the most deprived parts of the UK than in the wealthiest areas.” (Independent 29 August)


Capitalism is awful
“There is a lot more poverty in the world than previously thought. The World Bank reported in August that in 2005, there were 1.4 billion people living below the poverty line — that is, living on less than $1.25 a day. That is more than a quarter of the developing world’s population and 430 million more people living in extreme poverty than previously estimated. The World Bank warned that the number is unlikely to drop below one billion before 2015. The poverty estimate soared after a careful study of the prices people in developing countries pay for goods and services revealed that the World Bank had been grossly underestimating the cost of living in the poorest nations for decades. As a result, it was grossly overestimating the ability of people to buy things. And the new research doesn’t account for the soaring prices of energy and food in the past two years.” (New York Times, 2 September)


Modern Times 
“Over the past five years alone, the average earnings of chief executives of FTSE-100 companies have doubled to £3.2m. Their pay has been rising five times faster than their employees’. The top 1 per cent of the population now enjoy 23 per cent of national wealth, while the poorest half share a mere 6 per cent. For most of the 20th century, Britain became steadily more equal. For the past three decades the movement has been in the opposite direction and it is estimated that Britain’s wealthiest person, Lakshmi Mittal, is worth more than twice as much as anybody in the past 150 years.” (New Statesman, 11 September) 

Chavism (2008)

Book Review from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Build It Now: Socialism for the 21st century. By Michael Lebowitz. Monthly Review

One criticism often levelled at books written by advocates of socialism is that they are over-theoretical, emphasizing in minute detail elements of capitalism that first have to be understood in order to grasp the essentials of the alternative but that they don’t get to the nitty-gritty of the practical elements required in order to reach the goal. This leaves readers suspended, in agreement about all the negatives of capitalism, but wondering how on earth this behemoth can be overturned, how anti-capitalism can be turned into socialism.

Lebowitz approaches the topic from a different angle, explaining the ethos of socialism at every opportunity and points out, reflecting Marx’s words, that socialism is actually not the goal but simply the means to an end – the end being the full development of human potential. He refers frequently to the three elements crucial to this overall human development – economic, political and social transformation – arguing that this has to be a work in progress; that there cannot be only one route when taking into account the diverse economic, political and cultural situations around the world.

Some of the chapters were originally speeches he gave to workers’ organisations in Venezuela where, in 2004, he was an adviser in the Ministry for the Social Economy. There is a discussion of lessons learned from Yugoslavia’s experiences in self-management in the mid-1900s; some analysis of neoclassical and neoliberal economics (he is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver); his judgement of why social democracy failed to deliver on its early promises (he was provincial policy chair of Canada’s social democratic Party, the NDP, 1972-5); plus his views on socialism as a process.

As socialists we recognize that as socialism requires a majority mandate the first task is human development, the “education” of the masses to the logic of socialism. It is also the case that, as there is no blueprint for socialism as such, we can imagine that the detailed structures of socialism in the different parts of the world (which won’t have to be exactly the same) will become clearer the nearer we approach it. But Lebowitz envisages a transition when there will still be a government which would still have much work to do convincing hard and fast capitalist supporters, changing attitudes that will persist (patriarchy, racism, discrimination), and removing barriers (in health, education, living standards) which currently prevent the reaching of an equitable society.

His criticism of social democracy is that, when in government, it has been unwilling to mobilize people on behalf of such policies: “the central flaw in social democracy  proposals for endogenous development is that they break neither ideologically nor politically with dependence upon capital” because to do so would necessitate “incorporating the mass of population that has so far been excluded from their share of the achievements of modern civilisation” and at the same time would unleash a host of enemies in the form of the international monetary institutions, imperial power and their forces of subversion plus those who monopolize the wealth and the land. Social  Democracy’s greatest failing, he says, was its core belief that the only practicable policy was that tinkering with details, reforming piecemeal in the hope of putting a more humane face on capitalism, its failure to offer an alternative logic based on human beings to the logic of capital.

The logic of capital versus the need for human development is a thread that winds through each of the chapters which culminate with his observations on how the “Bolivarian revolution” (which he sees as the beginning of a possible transition to socialism) is developing, warts and all. His conclusion is that “there is nothing inevitable about whether the Bolivarian Revolution will succeed in building that new society or whether it will lapse into a new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics. Only struggle will determine this.”

“A new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics” would seem to be an apt description of Venezuela under Chavez, even if Lebowitz presents the best case that can be for the opposite view.
Janet Surman

Letters: Green capitalism? (2008)

Letters to the Editors from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Green capitalism?

Thanks very much for your email of July 15 (with the article “Capitalism versus Nature“, July Socialist Standard). Excellent article!

And I certainly agree with the broad thrust of your analysis, though I guess I would distinguish between capitalism as some monolithic entity incapable of any change, and the kind of capitalism which might (just!) be able to avoid coming into conflict with nature. Touch and go, I have to admit, but I guess that’s what I’m still working away at trying to test out.
Jonathon Porritt


Reply: 
Reforming capitalism to serve the common interest has been tried before and has never worked. Our view is that it never will.– Editors.


Olympic Retrospect

I started watching the Olympics and at first was just taken by how well the participants excelled in their particular activities. Then an unease about the whole show leaked through. The elitism, the flag waving and the full-on nationalism made me switch off. Better the athletes, etc had competed in the name of their multinational sponsors or pharmaceutical company than this hideous exhibition of national identity. Backed up by officials and commentators winding up the patriotic fervour, even that stupid chump Adrian Chiles and other media prostitutes, screaming for “their” country. Doubtless the same was happening in all the other countries’ media. I expect the 1936 Olympics was much like this.
Stuart Gibson,
Bournemouth


Not Standard terminology?

I have long been impressed by the range and quality of writing in the Socialist Standard, but in “The Irish No” (September) Declan Ganley is described as a ‘self-made millionaire’ and reference is made to ‘former Communist countries’. Unqualified use of such terms, repeated ad nauseam in the capitalist media, is surely something to be avoided in a socialist journal..
Robert Stafford,
Norway


Reply: 
You’re right of course. No millionaire is “self-made” as they get rich by exploiting workers. And the so-called “Communist” countries were not communist but state-capitalist. Apologies for the missing inverted commas.– Editors

50 Years Ago: Behind the Race Riots (2008)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recent disturbances in Nottingham and London have brought up the question of the attitude between people of different colour; as if there must always be a fundamental difference in outlook and conduct between people with differently coloured skins. Although on the surface the feeling associated with the recent disturbances is anti-white and anti-colour, and the rougher elements on both sides have taken the opportunity to turn this feeling into an occasion for rioting, the origin of the feeling has a deeper cause than just anti-colour. The origin of the conflicting attitudes is fundamentally economic. Out of economic relationships arise emotions that take many forms which do not appear to have any connection with the relationships and are transformed into a variety of beliefs; for example, the false belief in the mental and moral superiority of people with white skins. The conditions of capitalism produce a mental, or intellectual, atmosphere in which many conflicting attitudes flourish and older attitudes are modified. For instance, a pro-war and anti-war, a pro-religious and anti-religious, a pro-nationalist and anti-nationalist, and so on. When the West Indians and Nigerians first came here in force there was no particular antipathy to them; there was only some amusement and admiration of their liveliness and colourful clothing, as well as the customary patronising attitude that is generally displayed towards any “foreigner,” whatever his skin colour. Labour was scarce then and unemployment was practically non-existent. However, when unemployment began to grow and the housing question remained acute, sufferers, and prospective sufferers, looked around for something to blame their troubles on and newcomers, as always, appeared to them to be an obvious part cause of their sufferings. In these circumstances the general attitude towards coloured people began to change and they became scapegoats for a failure of capitalism to meet society’s needs. 
(From front page article by Gilmac, Socialist Standard, October 1958)


The Review Column: Target Hanoi (1967)

The Review Column from the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Target Hanoi
The start of this year was considerably dampened by the flood of crocodile tears provoked by the admitted bombing of civilians in Hanoi.

The tears flowed strongly as the eye witness accounts came in, especially those from Harrison Salisbury, assistant managing editor of the New York Times. Harrison’s reports also provoked a slight, but distinct, surprise that an American newspaper man should actually tell the truth about the results of his countrymen’s military exploits.

It is difficult to imagine anyone really believing the Pentagon’s assurances that only military targets were being bombed. This is a well worn fiction of modern war; even the RAF tried it in the last war. until the evidence to the contrary became overwhelming.

In any case, why the indignation about civilian deaths in wartime? The “advance” of capitalism's war-making machine has brought everyone into the front line.

War is now very much a social business, with many civilians playing a more important part in the war effort than many men in uniform. It is also important for a side to break the morale of the other’s civilians—usually by bombing or blockade.

The people of Hanoi, then—its children, its old people, its hospital patients—are all legitimate targets.

Does this sound callous? War is never an agreeable business and those who complain about its effects while they support the system which produces it, or those who demonstrate about the military activities of only one side, they are the callous ones.

As long as capitalism lasts there will be no end to war and we may expect it to become more and more fearsome.

The solution is not to wave banners about one incident or one aspect of war. It is to build a new society in which the cause of war no longer exists.


The Sinking Press
The once proud ships of the British newspaper industry are in dire trouble.

Many of them—the Daily Sketch (circulation 849,000), the Daily Mail (2,380,000)—are taking water fast and do not seem able to last much longer.

Almost certainly, the Sun (1,250,000) will be scuttled by the International Publishing Corporation when its obligation to keep it afloat runs out in 1968.

The Guardian (283,000) is fighting desperately but is badly holed—they are thinking about paying off a lot of the crew and one of their most distinguished officers— Gerard Fay—has actually jumped overboard to leave more room for everyone else.

Even the Times (273,000) is floundering, its only chance of salvation apparently being the sort of emergency repairs promised in the take over by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Thompson.

A lot of people—even the Prime Minister—profess to be unhappy about this situation.

But why are the papers sinking? Circulation is no longer of itself enough to pay a paper’s way. In the face of competition from other media like television, the newspapers have to fight harder for advertisers’ custom — and this, of course, goes in the main only to the papers with the really big readership.

What this means is that the advertisers say whether a paper makes a profit—sinks or floats—and that a paper must do everything it can to attract advertisements.

Now all the papers have always devoted a lot of their space to applauding the capitalist principle that profit is a glorious thing and that if something cannot be sold at a profit it has no business being made.

This principle is now being applied to the newspaper industry. And the press does not like it. But, as they have so often told other industries, there is nothing they can do about it.


Treatment at a Price
Last December a New York hospital was in trouble; $16,000 in arrears with the rent. Their bank foreclosed the mortgage and only the action of the doctors and nurses, who barricaded the entrances, prevented the patients being turned out onto the streets.

Last month in Houston, Texas, a father took his six month old baby to hospital for treatment. But he did not have enough cash on him to pay for it and the insurance policy he offered was not of a great enough value. The hospital turned him away and the baby died.

This is capitalism in the raw, where even medical attention is openly carried on on a ready cash basis.

In this country, as we all know, they organise things rather differently. A long time ago the British capitalist class appreciated the economy of spreading over the cost of a medical service, and of making the employers pay for some of it, so that all workers are kept pretty well in a constant state of fitness to work.

It seems inevitable that this will also come to America, although there is powerful opposition to it from the doctors, who think they can do better under the present hit and miss system.

If state medicine does come to America, no hospital will close over owing the rent and no parent will have to slap down ready cash before his children can be treated. The priorities of capitalism will still be working, but in a different way.

Everything will be nicely organised by the government —the drugs, the pills, the stimulants. Propped up by this, the American worker will stagger back to the factory. He may even think it is a good idea.

But in reality he will have exchanged one symptom of his poverty, ghastly though it is, for another.


Jailbreaks Galore
One thing which can be said in favour of the glut of escaping prisoners and that is that it gave the press a lot of entertaining stories at a time when news was distinctly short.

As the escape stories went on day after day. many people almost became convinced that Home Secretary Roy Jenkins was personally going around unlocking the prison gates. Time, and the fact that Jenkins is as determined as any other capitalist administrator that those who break capitalism’s laws shall suffer for it, may teach them differently.

What was forgotten was that in 1964 there were more escapes under “strict” Home Secretary Henry Brooke than in 1966 under “liberal” Roy Jenkins.

Indignation ran riot. Nobody seemed to have time to think that escapes are an unavoidable result of imprisonment. and that the prisoner and his helpers have the advantage of a lot of time and chance for observation and planning.

It was not the time to remind anyone that, as the celebrated Frank Mitchell has proved, imprisonment and violent punishment are not the answers to crime.

That was the tragedy—and the scandal, if you like.


Workers who are in their own little prison of wage slavery, of subservience to their employer, of mortgaged living, were loudly demanding harsher methods of restriction for other members of their class who had chosen to lake a chance on another sort of prison.

At no time did anyone ask about the cause of it all. and why human beings are satisfied with a social system which so defiles them and which, in one way or another, makes prisoner or gaoler of them all.