Monday, July 29, 2019

Equality and the Wages System. (1931)

From the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

The changes in the administration of some of the State industries of Russia, recently announced with the usual pomposity by Stalin, have given the capitalist press another chance to extol the alleged economic superiority of capitalist methods of production over what they mistake for Socialism.

Actually, these changes merely make more clear the essentially capitalist character of the Russian State industries, frequently pointed out in these columns.

Piece-work is to be extended, and many of the "worker-administrators” are to be sent back to the factories. The specialists and managers are to be given greater powers of control, and be more liberally treated. These changes, however, involve no new principle. Ever since the introduction of the New Economic Policy ten years ago things have been moving along this direction, albeit spasmodically and inconsistently. 

Nevertheless, we have the "Manchester Guardian” seizing upon the occasion in its weekly issue of July 10th to expound a little capitalist economics. Speaking of the workers in the factory, the editorial scribe asserts that, "He may work slowly or badly but he will draw his wages just the same unless there is some system of fines or piece rates." It would seem that this brilliant journalistic gem dwells in a world where the "sack” is unheard of.

Wages are paid only in order that employing concerns may squeeze out of the workers that profit which it is the object of their existence to obtain. This applies whether the workers are on piece rates or not. Piece rates have the advantage, however, in those industries where the system can conveniently be utilised, from the capitalist point of view, of reducing the need for supervision to keep up the pace of production; a fact which led Marx to declare, “that piece-wage is the form of wages most in harmony with the capitalist mode of production,” "Capital,” p. 567 (Sommenseheim).

Stalin and his supporters, however, claim to be "Marxists.” They declare that, "it is necessary to organise a system of a sliding scale of wages which would take into account the difference between skilled and unskilled labour . . . Marx and Lenin say that this difference will exist also in Socialist society even after the abolition of classes; that only in a Communist society will this difference vanish. Therefore, wages, even under a Socialist regime, must be regulated in accordance with the work accomplished and not the need felt.”

Then they proceed to condemn "those trade unionists and economists who are in favour of equal wages” as being opposed to Marxism and Leninism.

To take the last point first, Marx certainly exposed the absurdity of the demand for "equal wages,” a demand which figured prominently in the propaganda of a section of the Communist Party in this country (in the "Workers’ Dreadnought” particularly) in its early days.

On page 31 of "Value, Price and Profit,” Marx says, "Upon the basis of the wages system the value of labouring-power is settled like that of every other commodity; and as different kinds of labouring powers have different values, or require different quantities of labour for their production, they must fetch different prices in the labour market. To clamour for equal or even equitable retribution on the basis of the wages system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system.” (Italics Marx’s.)

It is obvious enough that Marx is referring here to wages under capitalism, but where did he speak of wages under Socialism? Stalin does not tell us. Wages, whether equal or unequal, are ‘part and parcel of capitalism, i.e., a system based upon the ownership by the master-class of the means of living, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone all wealth is produced. Or, as Marx himself put it in his criticism of the Gotha Programme, "The system of wage-labour is therefore a system of slavery and a slavery that becomes more and more arduous as the socially productive forces of labour develop, and independently of the question whether the labourer is better paid or worse.” (Section II, par. 5.)

The wage-labour system in Russian State industries, like the system' here and elsewhere, is a system of Slavery. The spread of piece-work will intensify the slavery; it will enable the "Communist” rulers to squeeze more surplus-produce out of Russian workers, just as it has helped the Conservative and Liberal capitalists of this country. Alleged “quotations” in support of it from Marx merely brand Stalin & Co. as hypocrites and their followers as ignorant dupes. The Russian Government must make a profit in order to pay interest upon its loans if for no other reason, and this fact alone is sufficient to explode the myth that Russian State industry is run on Socialist lines.

The Russian Government has to borrow money to run its industries, like any other capitalist concern, because it has to pay for machinery and raw material, because its employees have to pay for the food, clothes and houses they need; because, in a phrase, all the means by which these requirements are produced are private property. It has not established an oasis of Socialism in a capitalist desert. Had it tried to do so it would have been speedily annihilated.

Does this then prove that capitalism is the only possible economic system, as the “Manchester Guardian” would have us believe? Is the equality, which the Socialist Party fights for, incompatible with productive efficiency? In order to answer these questions it is necessary to be clear as to what we are to compare capitalism with, and also exactly what we mean by equality. If we compare capitalism with the forms of society which preceded it, we find that it has resulted in an enormous and unprecedented increase in the produce of labour; but it has also resulted in the concentration of the bulk of this produce in the hands of the few.

The gulf between the workers of to-day and their capitalist masters is greater than that which separated the peasant-serfs from the robber barons or the chattel-slaves from their patrician masters. Before the increased productive power of modern labour can become an advantage to the whole of society the instruments of production must become common property. They are socially operated; they have yet to become socially owned and controlled.

This of course involves the abolition, through political action, of the “rights” of the capitalists to own and control the land, factories, railways, etc. It implies the conscious assumption by the working- class, organised for the purpose, of complete control of the machinery of government so that they may obtain control of the entire industrial resources of society.

This abolition of classes is the equality at which Socialists aim (not a mathematical equality of income which is fantastic and unwanted); but an equality of access to the means of living and of obligation to contribute to their production. Such an equality would render the term “wages” a meaningless one, for no one would be in a position to buy the services of others in order to make a profit, just as no one would be in the position of having to sell their energies in order to obtain a bare subsistence.

Under such a system it would be to the interests of all to expand the material resources of society as rapidly as possible in order to increase the common stock of Necessities and amenities. For so long as these resources are fettered by capitalist ownership, whether in the form of private capitalism or nationalisation, the workers will be restricted to the consumption of such a quantity of goods as is sufficient to enable them to go on producing a profit. Hence we find everywhere that the capitalists, faced with a quantity of goods which cannot be sold, are compelled to take steps to restrict production.

Socialism will abolish the need for such restriction and while, even with the present resources of production, it would immediately increase the wealth available for the workers' enjoyment, it would also render possible a considerable expansion of those resources in order that the free development of every individual should be translated from a dream into a reality.
Eric Boden

The Great Fiasco: Contemptible "Labour" Government (1931)

Editorial from the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have just witnessed the inglorious exit of the second “Labour” Government after more than two uneasy years of office—two years of deserted principles, political bargaining, and cowardice. During that time the cherished theories of the Labour Party have been tried, and every one found wanting, and abandoned.

The Labour Party was to be a “high-wage” party. More than four million workers have had their wages reduced since Mr. MacDonald became Prime Minister in June, 1929. The Government confessed its inability to prevent the reductions, and indeed played an active part in some of them—notably those affecting its own employees,

It was confident that unemployment could be reduced by means of its schemes of development. Yet we have seen unemployment mount to a record figure, 2,700,000; the percentage of insured workers on the unemployed register equalling the highest previous figure (23%), attained under Mr. Lloyd George’s Government in 1921.

Foremost in the Labour Party’s programme was the belief that the workers could be protected against the worst evils of the capitalist system by means of social reforms, and further that their standard of living could be supplemented and fundamentally raised by these additions to wages. In practice social reforms which reduce the necessary expenditure requiring to be met out of wages, have the effect of permitting corresponding reductions in the workers’ wages without detracting from their efficiency as profit producers for their employers. The Report of Lord MacMillan, who was appointed by the Labour Government to inquire into the wages of wool textile workers, accepted this as a matter-of-course, and recommended lower wages on this very ground, that the social services had relieved the workers of expenditure on unemployment, on medical attention, and on maintenance during old age.

The Labour Party for the whole of its existence had preached Nationalisation. Then, when they came into office on this occasion, their spokesmen calmly abandoned that doctrine and put in its place the advocacy of public utility corporations of the kind introduced by Liberals and Conservatives in the Port of London Authority, and the Central Electricity Board. Mr. Herbert Morrison frankly accepted these as the model for his proposed London Passenger Transport Board. Neither Nationalisation nor public utility corporations would solve any working class problem, but the Labour Party, until it took office, professed to believe in the former as a panacea, and rejected the latter.

One of the principal arguments put forward for nationalisation was that state employees would be better paid than the workers in private industry, and thus the standard of living as a whole would be lifted by the nationalisation of one industry after another. Yet the seven Labour Party supporters on the Civil Service Commission, three of them Labour M.P.’s, signed the report rejecting this doctrine in its entirety. They declare that Government employees must not be paid more than is being paid for comparable work by private employers. They recommend lower pay for certain Government clerks for no other reason than that private employers are getting similar types of workers for a lower wage.

The sum total of all the Labour Party schemes of reform was to be a process of conversion by the example of practical works. The Labour Government would give the workers one after another of its sheaf of beneficent reforms, rousing more and more of them to a pitch of enthusiasm, until a majority would be led to vote for Labour Government.

The events have been far different.

The enthusiasm of even the staunchest Labour voters has been undermined by instance after instance of successful attacks on their wages and working conditions, carried through without a word of protest from the Labour Ministry. How, indeed, could they protest while they were reducing the low pay of their own Post Office and other workers, and while the co-operative societies were doing the same ?

The general defence of the Labour Cabinet was that they were the victims of an “economic blizzard.” But it was precisely because they professed to be able to protect the workers against such blizzards that they went into office. No words can disguise their failure. “Economic blizzards” are a normal and recurrent feature of capitalism. It is an illusion to suppose that capitalism can exist without these crises of over-production.

Their promise to give the workers “something now” in the shape of reforms was not only unfulfilled, but they ended up by proposing to make a direct attack upon the existing social reforms.

The “Daily Herald” in its issue for Monday, 24th August, admitted that a majority of about 12 members of the Cabinet, out of a total of 21, were in favour of reducing unemployment pay in order to meet the wishes of the Conservatives and Liberals and the banking interests. This was the cause of the final crisis. The “Herald,” in its Editorial, admits that the existing scale of unemployed pay is “barely sufficient to keep them in a state that will enable them to step back into industry when the time comes.”

We are told that heavy taxation and the size of the Budget have brought the country to a critical position, and that economy is the only way out. Yet we observe that taxation was heavier in 1920 and 1921, and the Budget nearly twice as large. Is it that the crisis has been exploited with the object of forcing reductions on unwilling workers?

Alongside its other principles the Labour Government also shed the last vestige of its boasted independence. It took office on Liberal votes, just as it did in 1924. It carried on constant discussions and negotiations with the Liberal leaders in order to keep their support. At the end the negotiations were extended to include the Conservatives also.

Now we observe that Mr. MacDonald is to be Premier in a new Cabinet containing Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Snowden, Sir Herbert Samuel, and other Liberal, Labour and Tory Ministers. It is expected that Mr. Snowden will be Chancellor of the Exchequer. The reason for the inclusion of Labour Party Ministers was foreseen and disclosed by the “Western Morning News” (4th August, 1931) :
  Labour interests, which are bitterly hostile to economy in any form, may be brought by a Labour Government to recognise the facts and the unpleasant consequences which will result from ignoring them. They will take from Mr. Mac-Donald and Mr. Snowden what they would not accept from a Conservative Premier and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and for that reason, if no other, it is desirable to keep Labour in power.
The Labour Government failed to do this, but the Labour Ministers in the National Government will serve the same purpose. So the Labour Party’s supporters are now confronted with the humiliating spectacle of their leaders being once more—as during the war—part of a great capitalist coalition to solve the problems of the capitalist industrialists and bankers.

The “Daily Express” and “Manchester Guardian” reported (24th August) that the Labour Government’s last miserable effort to cling to office was the submission of its economy proposals to the banks for their approval! The Labour Party stands now divided and discredited. Its Cabinet has fought no battle for Socialism. It has lived dishonestly and dies meanly and unlamented.

Where We Stand.
It is an opportune moment to restate the position of the Socialist Party. We contend that there is no solution for the workers’ problems except Socialism.

It is not possible for the Labour Party or any other party to administer capitalism in such a way that the workers’ problems can be solved within the framework of the existing system. The failure of the Labour Government is not an accident. It is not due to mistakes in tactics, or to the failure of the personal element.

When they entered office Mr. J. H. Thomas declared on their behalf that they were going to do what they could to reduce unemployment while ”accepting the present order of society” (see “Daily Herald,” 6th July, 1929). That was an attempt which was bound to fail, and what is true of unemployment is equally true of the poverty problem in general.

We dealt in our issue of June, 1929, with the certain failure of the Labour Government. Our words will bear repeating. Our confident prophecy is being fulfilled.
 We deal elsewhere in this issue with the failure of Labour Government in Queensland. We prophesied that failure and with absolute confidence we prophesy the similar failure of Labour Government here. No matter how able, how sincere, and how sympathetic the Labour men and women may be who undertake to administer capitalism, capitalism will bring their undertaking to disaster. As in Queensland, those who administer capitalism will find themselves sooner or later brought into conflict with the working class. Like their Australian colleagues, the Labour Party here will find themselves in a cleft stick. Having no mandate to replace capitalism by Socialism, they have pledged themselves to solve problems which cannot be solved except by doing the one thing for which they have no mandate.
The reference to the Queensland State Government, although made in 1929, is relevant now because the Australian Federal Government—a “Labour” Government with a parliamentary majority, is at this moment carrying through a policy of reducing wages and of cutting social reforms exactly like the economy scheme of our own “National” Government.

Knowing that Socialism is the only solution and that it can be brought about only when the electors become Socialists, we have consistently opposed the Labour Party and its affiliated party, the I.L.P., which practise the dishonest political manoeuvre of seeking election on a programme of reforms of capitalism. It is dishonest because those who do it know that the reforms will not solve the problem. Their dishonesty has on this occasion soon been exposed. The logic of events has called their bluff. They fought the last election on the promise of an improved standard of life for the workers. The end of their inglorious tenure of office finds them hand-in-hand with their erstwhile opponents chanting the slogan of “sacrifices for all.”

Again we urge the workers to abandon these illusions and make their choice against capitalism, including its Labour Party supporters, and for Socialism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the only party in this country that has never betrayed the workers’ interests by supporting reform programmes or capitalist parties.

An Appeal For Funds. (1931)

Party News from the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are in urgent need of financial assistance, and make this appeal to our members and sympathisers to respond quickly and as generously as they are able. It is also necessary to point out that subscriptions are needed regularly because our dependence on donations is not exceptional but permanent. Perhaps some explanation, is due to new readers who do not know the circumstances.

We are at present necessarily a propaganda organisation, working to make Socialist principles better known. But that costs money. Printer's bills, the hire of halls, our rent and lighting, all of these things have to be paid for. The money comes in part from members' subscriptions, the sale of literature, and from collections at meetings. We have, however, no wealthy supporters, and those subscriptions and donations are not enough to enable us to carry on our present volume of propaganda, let alone to increase it. We go, therefore, to our circle of sympathisers for assistance to maintain and extend our activities. We are a growing organisation, but there is so much more that we could do if we had the means. By advertising we have during the past year added considerably to the number of readers of the “ S.S.” If we had the money there is an almost unlimited field from which to gain more readers. Our clerical work, and our propaganda work, is carried on entirely by members in their leisure hours after working all day for their employers. If we had the money we could vastly increase the effectiveness of our propaganda by employing full-time organisers.

If you will give now and give regularly, you will be enabling us to carry on more and more effective propaganda.

Send donations to the Treasurer at 42, Great Dover Street, S.E.l. Acknowledgment will be made by receipt and in the “Socialist Standard."

Letter: A Criticism from a Ruskin College student. (1931)

Letter to the Editors from the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
In July we published under the heading, “Is this Working-Class Education?” an extract from a book by Mr. J. G. Sinclair (“Portrait of Oxford ”) in which he dealt with the trade union students at Ruskin College. A Ruskin student sends us the following letter :—
93, Fairacres Road,
To the Editor, July 2nd, 1931.

The Socialist Standard,”

Dear Comrade,

May I be allowed the space for a few comments on your article, “Is this Working-class Education ”

Of course it isn’t! Neither is it the truth about Ruskin students. I have been a student in Oxford for the last four years; previous to that I was a coal-hewer in Durham. For two years I was a student at Ruskin College, and I confess that I am glad I ever had the opportunity for study that Ruskin College makes possible to workers. I must confess that I never tried to dress like the "Undergrad”—I wish I’d had the sense. At the same time I never had so much affection for my colliery trousers as to wish to wear them anywhere where they were not needed; never mind where they would be ludicrous. All the miners of my acquaintance treasured a navy-blue suit—generally because the week-end was the only chance they had to wear it. In Oxford a blue suit would last about three weeks. There has not been anything better invented for sitting about in than grey flannel trousers; they do not "bag” at the knees, they do not shine, and they can be cleaned for a "bob.” And when you are hurrying from one lecture to another a cap is just a damned nuisance. Was our dress so perfect that a change was pure affectation? Was it so holy that a change was blasphemy? Do you have so little faith in those working lads who try to educate themselves as to accept the view of an arrant snob; that a miner, for instance, who went through the stoppage of 1926, could throw off his feelings with his cap? You may, as Marxists, criticise the curriculum, but at least give the lads credit for being as honest as yourselves.

The allegation that the Ruskin students cultivate the "Oxford twang” is just downright lying. That we tried to speak more correctly is true; but surely that is advisable? As for afternoon tea in North Oxford, I confess that I have often been invited—and gone; it is part of one’s education to meet people from other social groups. But I have met very few Ruskin students who would not admit their ignorance much more readily than they would claim knowledge. Mr. Sinclair has not tried to understand the working-class students’ position; I should say he is not capable of doing so.

May I now put another point of view. It strikes me as rather ridiculous that the working-class should not believe it necessary to educate its leaders. To send a man to Ruskin for two years is a waste of good funds; I say this after I have had the advantage of four years in this city of ‘‘dreaming towers and proletarian antipathies” The working-class movement prefers to rely on a bunch of middle-class sympathisers to act as leaders; they have had the opportunity to learn the art of "balancing the two sides of every question in good Balfourian style!” In Oxford "socialist” circles one will meet lots of people who believe the "dole” must be reduced to save the “insurance principle.” Most Ruskin students have had, or will have, a period on the "dole” and, if only for that reason, have other views. It must be pointed out that not all the fellows who come to Ruskin College are actively interested in politics or other branches of the working-class movement. Some are merely interested in education from a cultural standpoint. Even making allowances for those, Mr. Sinclair’s "portrait” is a disgusting distortion. More disgusting still is the manner in which so-called Working-class journals have literally “licked their lips.” If we are to accept the inference that working lads are not to be trusted, we are indeed in a bad way. Apparently we prefer the opinion of an insurance agent! .
Yours fraternally,
A. Dowdell.

Let us first dispose of the least important part of the controversy, i.e., that part relating to the clothes and ways of living of Ruskin students. Mr. Sinclair, himself a Ruskin College student, makes certain allegations about his fellow students and draws certain conclusions. These our correspondent hotly repudiates. We are not in a position to settle the question by a personal inquiry, and in the absence of further evidence we are quite content to accept Mr. Dowdell’s statement that the picture drawn by Mr. Sinclair may not be an entirely accurate one.

The other part of the question is by far the more important. It was indicated by the heading to our paragraph which gave offence to Mr. Dowdell, viz., “Is this Working-Class Education?” We have always said—and this quite apart from Mr. Sinclair’s gibes—that Ruskin College is not engaged in working-class education. The promoters of the College regarded it as a means of securing industrial peace between the owning and the non-owning class, but in practice its chief function appears to be that of training young workers to become labour leaders. Our correspondent admits this to be true, or rather he thinks that it ought to be true. He remarks that it is “rather ridiculous that the working-class should not believe it necessary to educate its leaders.” If Mr. Dowdell were familiar with the Socialist Party’s case he would know that we regard it as even more ridiculous, in fact, absolutely fatal to the working-class,  that they think it necessary to have and to follow leaders at all, whether "educated” according to the standards of Ruskin College or not. The training of individuals, whether of working-class or capitalist class origin, to become “leaders” of the workers is most emphatically not working-class education. The leaders thrive not on the knowledge of the workers but on their ignorance. Whether they are honest or dishonest these leaders cannot bring about Socialism for the working-class—that the workers have to do for themselves. Which means that they, and not merely their leaders, have to acquire knowledge. It is the purpose of working-class education to give the workers the knowledge. Such is not the purpose (or the result) of the activities of Ruskin College.

Our correspondent complains because the worker trained at Ruskin College gets cut out by the "bunch of middle-class sympathisers.” This is hard luck for the Ruskin College student to whom the Labour Movement is a career. We are not concerned with blaming him or his more successful rival for so regarding it. What we are concerned with is the need to get the workers to rid themselves of their dependence on, and faith in, leaders.

Our correspondent invites us to put more trust in one kind of leader than another. Judging by results there is nothing to choose between the uneducated tub-thumper, the worker trained at Ruskin or the Labour College, or the "intellectuals” who have fastened on the working-class movement.

(For what it is worth, a case has indeed been made out by Professor Michel in his "Political Parties” for the view that the leader drawn from the ranks of the propertied class is more to be trusted than the ambitious worker who climbs to that position of eminence.)

Coming to Mr. Dowdell's last paragraph, the “working lads” with a desire to "lead” the workers are no more to be trusted than, and are every whit as dangerous as, their rivals drawn from the other class. Until the workers rid themselves of their trust in leaders they will continue to be misled, defeated, and betrayed, whenever suitable occasion offers. On the other hand, when the workers begin to grasp the essentials of Socialist principles they will not continue to hug the delusion that Ruskin College is an institution concerned with working-class education.
Editorial Committee

The Socialist Forum. (1931)

Letters to the Editors from the September 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard

Should Socialists compromise?

To the Editor,                            

Dear Comrade,

I believe myself to be just as revolutionary and equally Socialistic as any member of the “Socialist Party,” according to the policy laid down month by month in the “Standard.”

I am a Socialist and a member of the “Labour Party,” also, I am expecting to help to improve the lot of the worker by winning a seat on the local Town Council.

I see only one way of helping the worker, as a member of a minority group on the Council, and that would be to compromise.

How would you suggest an uncompromising Socialist would act under similar circumstances?
Yours sincerely,
Matt Quinn,

The answer to Mr. Quinn’s questions is simple. Either Socialists form a majority of his electors or they do not. (We have no doubt whatever that they form a very small minority.) If they formed a majority then the only way to get elected would be to stand as a Socialist, on a Socialist programme, and as a member of the Socialist Party. If Socialists are a minority then the only way to get elected would be to stand on a non-Socialist programme in order to get non-Socialist votes. Mr. Quinn is in a horrible dilemma. As he says he agrees with us, he must know that nothing but Socialism will solve the workers’ problems. But as an observer of the electorate in Grimsby Mr. Quinn also knows that if he tells them so they, not being Socialists, will vote against him. To be a non-Socialist Town Councillor, or to be a Socialist non-Town Councillor? That is the question. If Mr. Quinn succeeds in being a Town Councillor backed up by non-Socialist votes, Mr. Quinn’s ability to help the Socialist cause will be nil; he will have to pursue non-Socialist policies because otherwise his party and his electorate will turn against him. The answer to his question, what would we do under similar circumstances, i.e., if we were non-Socialist Town Councillors, is that we would not be in those circumstances. In other words, Mr. Quinn is quite mistaken when he thinks that he agrees with us and we with him. Our object is to get Socialism. Mr. Quinn wants to become a Town Councillor more than he wants Socialism. We suggested that if he wanted us to consider his policy on its merits he should send us his election address. He replies that he has not yet got an election address but “In any case I should not have done so.” We are surprised that a “Socialist” should be so reluctant to let us and our readers see the sort of bait with which he is trying to catch the non-Socialist votes of Grimsby.

May we ask readers in Grimsby if they will kindly help us to prevent Mr. Quinn from hiding his queer light under a bushel, and send us a copy of his election address?
Editorial Committee

#    #    #    #

Have we made a mistake?
A correspondent explains why, in his opinion, we should alter our methods.
The Editor,
Socialist Standard.
Wealdstone, Harrow.

Dear Sir,

When one looks into history we find that all movements live in action. In English history we have revolutions, riots, and strikes. Now I cannot conceive capitalism lasting that length of time in which your party will have converted the majority of the working class into class-conscious Socialists.

To my mind, and many others, I feel that the mass of the people will be ultimately led to their goal, without them all being convinced of the object in view.

Assuming in your opinion that all the other (so-called) Socialist parties have been wrong in the past, then from your party’s inception, I may deem you the infallible guides to Socialism.

Now, to sum up your impregnable position, it amounts to this: “If we do nothing, then we cannot make any mistakes. I also understand your party are opposed to all other political parties. This statement admits that Socialism is only possible through your party. Now, I want to look at your party’s progress from its inception, which, I think, is roughly 20 years. I assume your membership is approximately 1,000 strong. If we compare these two factors, and then consider the conversion of the majority of 20,000,000 electorate, your methods will not suit the mentality of the unemployed. Your Socialism is a good hobby for those in the best possible employment, they have a crust; but for those who are actually feeling the pinch and want something NOW, you’ll have to begin making mistakes.
Yours fraternallv,
Augustus Manning.

Our correspondent’s letter contains several lines of argument interwoven with each other. The first argument is that history shows the need for “action,” whereas the Socialist Party believes only in theorising. What is wanted (especially by the unemployed) is something now. If the Socialist Party gives them “action” and doesn’t mind making mistakes, then we shall get Socialism.

The second argument is that capitalism will not last long enough for the people to become Socialists before the end.

The third argument is that the Socialist Party may be a good hobby for those in comfortable jobs but not for those who feel the pinch of capitalism.

The first thing we observe about these lines of argument is that they are mutually contradictory. In addition they are not supported or supportable by the facts of the situation. The second argument is that hoary old fallacy that capitalism will some day suffer a catastrophic collapse of its own accord. It is a vain assumption; but if it were true, what happens to the demand for action, for “revolutions, riots and strikes ”? Why riot or strike to overthrow a system which of its own accord will not last?

The first argument also contains a very far-fetched assumption about the use of riots, etc. History, it is true, provides many instances of revolutions, riots and strikes. Our correspondent then says in effect, therefore these methods without any Socialist knowledge will give us Socialism. But why? What makes him think that while the innumerable revolutions, riots, and strikes of the past have not given us Socialism, that they will do so in the future? He gives not a single reason in support of this extraordinary deduction.

Then we are told to go in for “action” like the “something now” parties. But the very fact that our correspondent tells us that it is necessary to do this is the best possible proof that it is a futile policy. Have we not had in office the largest and most successful of all the “something now” parties—the Labour Party. If that policy is the right policy what is our correspondent complaining about? If we are wrong and they are right, why does he come to us to extricate him from the mess into which the “something now” parties have landed him? What does he want us to do? (By curious coincidence the Labour Government have only recently pushed through their Bill which will take away unemployment pay from thousands of the unemployed.)

The assumption that the Socialist Party attaches no importance to action is grotesque. What we want is sound action, the action of Socialists who want Socialism. Of course we reject the unsound action of the “something now” parties. What else should we do? Would our correspondent have us participate in their actions, such as supporting the war, voting war credits, recruiting, carrying out armament programmes, voting for capitalist candidates, protecting the capitalist system, and—most important of all—preaching the false doctrine that the workers’ problems can be solved by the “something now” policy of reforming capitalism? If that is what he wants us to do will he give us reasons, showing how these actions are in the interest of the workers?

Our slow progress is merely a reflection of the success of the propaganda efforts of the capitalist parties, including the parties of capitalist reform. But not even their most skilful propaganda will serve permanently to cover up the woefully inadequate results of their “something now” actions. Even our correspondent who professes still to hold to that policy shows by his letter that he is dissatisfied with the results of it.

The third of our correspondent’s arguments is the weakest of all. Probably a third or more of our members are out-of-work now. Hardly any of them are so placed that they have not known unemployment or the threat of it. The three members of the Editorial Committee have all been out-of-work for lengthy periods. One was out for an unbroken stretch of twelve months. One is out-of-work now—and has been off and on for a year.

None of us, and none of the members of the Socialist Party, proposes to give up our action directed towards the attainment of Socialism, in order to perpetuate the endless, useless and dangerous mistakes of the ‘‘something now” parties. In due course the workers, disappointed with that policy, will join us and make Socialism a reality. We are optimistic enough to believe that we shall rope in our correspondent some day.
Editorial Committee

How do we change things now? (1987)

Editorial from the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 1987 general election will probably be remembered for the fact that the Labour Party pinned their hopes on a slick, three weeks campaign to wipe out workers' knowledge of what sort of party they really are. They seemed to hope that it needed only meticulously planned, leader-obsessed rallies for people to forget the chaos and conflict of their last time in power. Soft-focus shots of Kinnock slaving through the night at his papers were intended to obscure the history of the support he gave, as a back-bench Labour MP, to the Callaghan government during the winter of discontent. A glossy manifesto was supposed to paper over the broken promises, the internal feuding, the wretched abandonment of what Labour was once proud to call its principles.

It is difficult to believe that the Labour strategists really thought, in the face of all the evidence, that they might overturn that massive Tory majority from 1983. More likely, they reasoned that the best they could hope for was to win enough Conservative seats to secure Neil Kinnock as the Labour prime minister after the next election and to give them a springboard for victory at that election. Their failure to achieve even that may well mean they are in for more of the agonised inquests which followed the defeats of 1959 and 1979. As a capitalist political party, Labour exists to win power over the system, to run it in the interests of the capitalist class. Nothing secures a leader like electoral victory; nothing menaces them like defeat. This applies equally to the Alliance. All their optimism, their promises, their posture as the caring, rational, moderate new departure have come to nothing. They have suffered a mauling from which they may never recover.

The Thatcher government were condemned for deliberately closing down huge swathes of industrial activity, for creating unemployment thereby, for slashing back the Health Service and for tightening the screw of poverty on the most vulnerable people in society. In fact the Labour government which preceded Thatcher in 1979 themselves carried out such policies — not as voluntary, deliberate acts but in response to the recession which was in its early stages. Healey, the last Labour Chancellor, began the programme of restrictions and cut-backs which has been carried on by Howe and Lawson. For there are no fundamental differences between these parties. They all stand for the continuation of capitalism and for running the system in the only way possible — against the interests of the majority. Whatever differences they have are trivial matters of style or of emphasis.

If the election was no more than a choice between the names to go on the doorplate of Number Ten. if it meant no difference to our lives as workers, what point is there in the whole business? The Socialist Party was confined. through our size and resources, to nominating only one candidate — in Islington South and Finsbury. Less than 100 votes were cast for him as the representative of a new society, against over 40,000 for the representatives of capitalism in that constituency. The socialist was the only candidate to offer the chance to opt for a world working on different social relationships — a world free of the problems typical of capitalism, which dominated the programmes of the capitalist parties.

Elections which are worthwhile will be those which address those problems. The working class produce everything but own virtually nothing; they have the power to change society so that class division, war, poverty, famine, avoidable disease are things of the past. Until they realise that power there can be no hope of the more secure, abundant, happy society which human beings are capable of.

The election of 1987 was another one not to count. A revolutionary change in society needs the working class to understand why capitalism operates as it does and why it must be abolished. With that knowledge they will have no need or use for leaders to swamp them in false emotion and to tell them how to think, how to vote, how to keep themselves in chains. There is time now, before the next election, for this change to happen. The evidence of capitalism's decay, its redundancy, is persistent and overwhelming. The working class, who now run capitalism in every way, need only to see this evidence for what it is and then to opt for the social system which they can run in the interests of the entire human race. It could be that the next election is the one to count, when we begin to change the world.

What future for the unions? (1987)

Norman Willis
From the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Various commentators, from their different standpoints, fear (or hope) that the British trade unions are finished as an effective factor in workers' lives. They point to the loss of between two and three million union members since 1979, to the tightening of the law against the unions carried out by the Thatcher government and to the fading hope of the unions that a non-Tory government would restore the law to what it used to be. They also say that, because of the decline of manufacturing industry and the emergence of new industries not yet unionised, the old basis of the union movement has been or is being destroyed for ever.

One observer. Frances Cairncross, editor of the Economist, reviewing books on the unions in the Times Literary Supplement (24 April 1987) states the case for non-survival, holding that the low point was reached under the Callaghan Labour government in the winter of discontent just before the 1979 election.
  This winter of discontent was the lowest ebb in the history of the British trade union movement. . . . But since the Thatcher government was elected, the unions appear to have been routed: no beer and sandwiches at 10 Downing Street, no concessions to Red Robbo, or to Arthur Scargill, no states of emergency, or solemn-and-binding agreements. These books leave a question in the air: is this one more temporary shift in the balance of power between employers, government included, and organised labour? Or has something more radical happened to the British trade union movement, which means that neither it nor the political party it finances will ever recover?
Cairncross reminds readers, however, that this is by no means the first time the British unions have lost members. Membership fell from 8,348,000 in 1920 to 4.392.000 in 1933 but eventually recovered and reached about 13,000,000. The fall after 1920, which cost the unions nearly half their members, was in fact much more severe than the loss of members since 1979, which has been perhaps 25 percent of the total. Membership always falls in a long depression because of unemployment. This leads Cairncross to the cautious conclusion that the unions may recover, "although not in the appallingly anarchic form of the 1960s and 70s".

An article in the Financial Times (6 April 1987) takes a more gloomy view but is chiefly interesting for using, as a standard by which to assess trade union effectiveness, the fact that "Strikes plummeted to their current 50-year low". What the writer implies is that lots of strikes are evidence that the unions are doing well for their members and if there are few strikes the reverse is true.

In fact past experience shows almost the exact opposite. Generally speaking periods in which the number of strikes is high are periods in which wages are falling and periods of rising wages are marked by a fall in the number of strikes. The reason for this is obvious. The time when the unions have their best chance of getting wage increases and improvements in working conditions is when capitalism is going through a phase of expanding production, booming sales and high and rising profits. In such conditions the last thing the employers want is to have the flow of profits halted by strikes. To avoid them the employers have good reasons to make concessions. From the union point of view the most successful strike is the one that does not happen.

In a depression the position is reversed. How much pressure can the union bring to bear on the employer by threatening to close the factory, when the employer is closing it anyway because it is operating at a loss? The period 1921 to 1926 was one of falling real wages when wages were being reduced faster than the fall of prices. It was a period of numerous and prolonged strikes, most of which were unsuccessful.

At that time the government published figures showing how many of the strikes were outright victories for the unions, how many were outright victories for the employers and how many were compromise settlements. In the years 1921 to 1926 the percentage of strikes which were outright victories for the employers was three and a half times those the unions won. By contrast the following period. 1927 to 1933, saw real wages rising again but the number of strikes was only half what it had been in 1921-1926, when wages were falling.

The same has been evident in the last few years. Since 1980 production has been expanding again after the 1979 depression, profits have risen to peak levels, and although never a week passes without Thatcher or some other minister saying that wages ought not to rise more than the rise of prices that is what has been happening. The average real wages of those workers who are in work have been rising again. In this situation a fall in the number of strikes over wages has been what past experience leads us to expect.

Strikes, not about wages, but about loss of jobs are a different question. Miners lost jobs because of the development of cheaper fuels, oil. gas and nuclear energy. Printers' jobs were destroyed as the result of new and cheaper techniques. Here the workers are up against one of the inescapable facts of life in capitalist society, despite the belief of many workers that capitalism would be different under a Labour government. Capitalism is run for profit and whether it is the Tories or the Labour Party which takes on the job of government their aim is. and has to be, to enable British capitalism to survive against world competition. This means that the government has to do what it can to promote the adoption of new and cheaper techniques of production, no matter what this means in loss of jobs for the workers dependent on the obsolete methods.

The Wilson Labour government in its National Plan adopted in 1965, spelled out its aim of getting rid of 179,000 miners, and did so. It said that loss-making pits were being closed down as quickly as possible. The Plan also had something to say about the printing industry. It was hoped that output per person in the printing and publishing industry could be increased by "labour-saving investment", so that "the industry's projected need for 35.000 additional workers might be reduced or eliminated". So the story then was not about creating additional jobs, but of losing them. For the other section of the industry, newspapers and publishing, the Plan quoted the conclusion reached by the 1962 Royal Commission on the Press, "that certain National Newspapers were then overstaffed by one-third in their production and distribution departments". The long-drawn out and hopeless struggles of the miners and printers in the 1980s to save their jobs were a logical sequel to the 1965 Labour Plan.

Those who predict the permanent decline of the trade unions also have a lot to say about the anti-union legislation of the Thatcher government. They overlook the fact that, with one exception, the same and worse has happened before and the unions have known how to survive. The one exception is the Act which requires unions to have ballots for the election of officers and ballots for taking strike action. Along with the need for ballots before any strike settlement is agreed to, these are measures which the unions ought, in the interests of their members, to have adopted anyway.

Twice before in this century there have been trade union laws, or interpretations by the courts, which have led some observers to say that the unions were being destroyed for all time. In 1901 a court, contrary to what had been supposed to be the legal position, awarded damages of £23.000 to the Taff Vale Railway Company against the railway workers' union which had been on strike. In relation to the price level then and now, this was equivalent to £800,000 at the present time. With legal costs as well, it would be over £1 million. The court decision hampered the unions but did not interrupt the steady growth of trade union membership. (The law was restored to its pre-1901 position by a deal between the unions and the Liberal government in 1906.)

Much the same happened with the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Act of 1927 which, among other changes in the law, made all "sympathetic" strikes illegal. Membership of unions fell, but more owing to the depression than to the changes in the law; by 1936 membership was back to its pre-1927 level and the unions were succeeding in raising wages after the fall that had taken place before 1927.

The effect that trade union law and its changes have on the unions is not simple and straightforward. Sometimes the employers, who know that they have to live with the unions, themselves ignore or get round the law. The Heath government made the closed shop illegal but the big employers and the big unions tacitly agreed to carry on as before. Sometimes the government itself chooses to turn a blind eye to breaches of the law rather than stir up trouble it would prefer to avoid. During, and for some years after, World War II there were numerous strikes which were illegal but the government chose to ignore them. The 1875 Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act included the power to fine or imprison workers whose breach of contract was calculated to cause loss of life or damage to valuable property, or an interruption of the supply of gas or water. It was hardly ever used. When, in 1950, the Labour government prosecuted ten striking gas workers it was said to be the first time a particular clause in the 1875 Act had been used. They were sentenced to one month imprisonment, though on appeal this was altered to a fine of £50. To put the whole question of the law into perspective it has to be remembered that before 1824, when trade union organisations were wholly illegal, unions were nevertheless formed and were able to some extent to negotiate with employers.

Which brings us to the basic question — what are trade unions and why are they formed? Unions are an expression of "the class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess", between the workers and the capitalists. The class struggle is not something imagined or created by socialists but an inevitable outcome of the structure of capitalist society. It cannot be wished away by capitalist propaganda or by the good intentions of social reformers. It endures while capitalism endures and it will go on moving workers to organise to protect themselves against the pressures of the class which exploits them.
Edgar Hardcastle

Limits of Glasnost (1987)

From the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Russia is just as much a class society with a capitalist economy as America or any other country in the West, only its ruling class monopolises the means of production in a different way.

Instead of doing so through legal property titles vested in individuals and enforced by the state, the ruling class in countries like Russia does so through a direct exclusive control of the state. So in an economy where most industry is state-owned, this gives them at the same time an exclusive, monopoly control over the means of production too. They control the state through their organisation into a vanguard party, the upper echelons of which decide all appointments to posts of any importance in the various organs of the state — the government, the bureaucracy, the armed forces, and the managements of the state industries.

This means that recruitment to the Russian ruling class too is different to that in the West; it takes place not by inheriting legal property titles but by joining and rising up the Party hierarchy. Similarly, the proceeds of the exploitation of wage labour are shared out differently; not by a legal property income in the form of interest, dividends, profit and rent but through bloated 'salaries", monetary prizes and various important privileges in kind (exclusive access to high quality shops, hospitals, holidays and so on).

Who is better off? Who is in the more stable position? The Western ruling classes or the Russian-type ruling classes? From the point of view of the exploited majority in both types of capitalism this question is of little practical importance. In both cases they are excluded from the means of production and so are forced to sell their ability to work to an employer or an employing institution which pays them in wages and salaries less than the value of what they produce. The difference goes towards the accumulation of further capital to exploit wage labour and towards maintaining the ruling class — however they monopolise the means of production and however they are recruited and renewed — in the style to which they are accustomed.

This question does, however, have some relevance when it comes to understanding the political institutions of the two different forms of capitalism. In the West governments act, just as much as they do in Russia, China and other such countries, in the interest of the capitalist ruling class but they do so without the members of this class having to themselves occupy posts in the government. Because the law, and in some cases the constitution, protects their legal right to monopolise the means of production and to draw an unearned income from this, they can delegate the function of running the government to professional politicians. Since the vast majority of wage and salary workers still see no alternative to the capitalist prices-wages-profits system, the capitalist class in the West can also allow which particular clique of politicians should form the government to be decided by popular vote. In fact, this arrangement suits them very well because this game of "ins" and “outs" ensures that no one group of politicians controls the political machine long enough to allocate itself privileges at the expense of the legal property-holding capitalists.

In any event a modern capitalist economy requires a fairly educated wage and salary working class to operate it. Which demands that the capitalist ruling class employ methods other than coercion and the threat of starvation to win our cooperation. The illusion of participation arising from having a say as to which gang of politicians should form the government is precisely one such other method.

Even though this arrangement, known somewhat facetiously as "democracy", suits the private capitalist class of the West, it was nevertheless still something that had to be imposed on them by mass popular movements such as the Chartists and the Reform League in Britain. The ruling class was originally against giving the vote to the wage and salary earning majority because they were afraid that we might use it against them, though right from the start the more far-seeing among them realised that this, besides being a way of undermining the political influence of their landed rivals within the ruling class, was also a way of integrating the working class into capitalist political life.

Universal suffrage and the relative freedom of speech and organisation that goes with it has one drawback for the ruling class however: it means that they cannot always expect to get their way. at least not without a struggle. In other words — and this is the advantage of these arrangements for the wage and salary working class — it allows us some elbow-room in which to better prosecute the class struggle. It also allows socialists some room to spread socialist ideas in a less encumbered fashion than otherwise and it provides the means, when a majority of workers have become socialists, for them to impose their political will for socialism on the ruling class in an essentially peaceful way.

The Russian ruling class is in a rather different position in this respect. They do not suffer the drawback of having to allow their workers the chance of organising to better wage the class struggle against them, nor of having to allow socialists and other opponents to openly criticise them. All the same, as Khrushchev realised thirty years ago. no more than the ruling class in the West can they run their now relatively modern capitalist economy by employing brute force, as in Stalin's time. The working class in Russia too have become more skilled and educated and so require a different treatment to get them to cooperate in production. Gorbachev's reforms are designed to take account of this.

But how far will he go? How far can he go? In the late 1950s and early '60s in the Khrushchev era. observers of the Russian scene looked forward optimistically towards an eventual evolution in Russia of the same sort of trade union and political freedoms as exist in the West. But this was not what happened. Economic development and economic liberalisation were not followed by a move towards political democracy. On the contrary under Khrushchevs successor. Brezhnev — who deposed him in 1964 — there was a regression, not to the brute force tactics of the Stalin era but to a strengthening of the Party's control over political, economic and ideological life.

An analysis of the way in which the ruling class in Russia-type societies monopolises the means of production shows why this was only to be expected and why in fact it is quite unrealistic to expect a straight-line progression from the present one-party political dictatorship in such countries to Western-type political forms. For the ruling class in these countries monopolise the means of production through their monopoly control of political power; which means that to give this up would be to give up also their monopoly over the means of production. In other words, the ruling class in countries like Russia can permit, in the interests of economic efficiency, a certain degree of liberalisation but this can never go so far as to threaten what they themselves call "the leading role of the Party".

This liberalisation can go so far as to permit the official trade union movement to criticise certain governmental actions (as in Poland), to allow more than one Party or Party-endorsed candidate in political elections (as in Hungary) and to allow private enterprise and investment to flourish (as in China). Since none of these exist in Russia itself this allows Gorbachev the possibility of introducing a certain number of innovations into the Russian political system but however far in this direction he and the group he represents within the Russian ruling class decide to go, they will stop short of allowing any real challenge to the Party's political monopoly. The Party will remain in the saddle since it is the organisation by which the ruling class there actually rules.

Since the fall of Khrushchev this has been confirmed on a number of occasions. Although strategic considerations were also involved, the Russian ruling class sent its tanks into Czechoslovakia in 1968 when the Party there under Dubchek appeared to be moving away from the principle of the leading role of the vanguard Party. In Poland in 1981 the government was compelled to declare martial law in order to try to suppress the Solidarity trade union movement which had refused to accept the leading role of the Party, some of its members having clearly identified exactly who the ruling class in Poland were and precisely how they ruled and monopolised the means of production. And in China the political liberalisation process was brought to an abrupt halt earlier this year when, following student demonstrations, there seemed to be a possibility of the leading role of the Chinese Communist Party (so-called) being undermined.

This is all quite understandable when it is realised that it is through the Party that these ruling classes control the state and through the state the means of production. To expect them to give up the leading role of their Party is like expecting the ruling class in the West to give up the state's protection and enforcement of their legal property rights. Neither of them can be expected to do that except under the pressure of a political revolution.

In other words, the Russian political system could only change into something along the lines of the political system that exists in the West after a political upheaval in which the present ruling class would be deposed. This is not impossible to imagine but highly improbable since the only group (apart from the working class of course) that could do this would be a class of legally-owning private capitalists. Such a class does indeed exist in embryo form in Russia and in China and Hungary in a much more developed form but they hardly have either the economic or the political clout to overthrow the incumbent state capitalist class in any of these countries. Another possibility would be for the existing state capitalist class to convert itself into a class of legally-owning private capitalists. Some of the members of the Russian nomenklatura have accumulated considerable fortunes in their own right and as this process continues there could be pressure from these and their inheritors to move in this direction, but once again this would seem to be highly unlikely.

This means that the only class capable of challenging the ruling class in countries like Russia is the wage and salary working class. As the case of Poland shows, if they are resolute and determined enough they can win a certain room to manoeuvre within the existing political system: a limited freedom to negotiate over wages and working conditions equivalent to that won by workers in the West. This could be conceded, under pressure, by the ruling class in Russia without their political control of the state being undermined any more than its existence in the West undermines the legal private ownership of the means of production there. So there is room for progress here and in the future the working class in Russia might be able to win the same sort of elbow room within the system as workers have been able to in the West. In fact this can be regarded as being a fairly likely development.

The ruling class in Russia-type societies may offer a choice of two or more Party candidates in elections since this would not represent any threat to the leading role of the Party which is the basis of their rule and the class monopoly they exercise over the means of production. If this comes, and experiments in this direction have already been carried out in Hungary, then workers there would be offered the same false choice as in the West between candidates who stand for the same basic thing: the maintenance of the existing form of capitalism.

Real change will only come in Russia and such countries in the same way that it will come in the West: through the growth of socialist understanding and organisation. This will transform the political scene in both types of capitalist country. In the West the political representatives of capitalism will be increasingly challenged at the polls by mandated delegates from the growing socialist movement. In the East this will be a little more difficult but. under pressure from the socialist movement, the authorities would be forced to permit socialist candidates to stand against those defending the Leninist principle of "the leading role of the Party". If at first they refused, the situation would become impossible for them until they gave in — after all, if they could hardly manage the emergence of an independent trade union movement as in Poland, imagine the difficulties they would have in managing the emergence of a growing socialist movement.
Adam Buick

About socialism (1987)

From the July 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

1. What is the Socialist Party of Great Britain?

It is a political party, separate from all others, Left, Right or Centre. It stands for the sole aim of establishing a world social system based upon human need instead of private or state profit. The Object and Declaration of Principles printed in this introductory leaflet were adopted by the Socialist Party in 1904 and have been maintained without compromise since then. In other countries there are companion parties sharing the same object and principles, and they too remain independent from all other political parties.

2. What is Capitalism?

Capitalism is the social system which now exists in all countries of the world. Under this system, the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, etc.) are monopolised by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, but, as a class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

3. Can capitalism be reformed in our interests?

No: as long as capitalism exists, profits will come before needs. Some reforms are welcomed by some workers, but no reform can abolish the fundamental contradiction between profit and need which is built into the present system. No matter whether promises to make capitalism run in the interests of the workers are made sincerely or by opportunist politicians they are bound to fail, for such a promise is like offering to run the slaughter house in the interests of the cattle.

4. Is nationalisation an alternative to capitalism?

No: nationalised industries simply mean that workers are exploited by the state, acting on behalf of the capitalists of one country, rather than by an individual capitalist or company. The workers in nationalised British Leyland are no less the servants of profit than workers in privately-owned Ford. The mines no more belong to "the public" or the miners now than they did before 1947 when they were nationalised. Nationalisation is state capitalism.

5. Are there any “socialist countries”?

No: the so-called socialist countries are systems of state capitalism. In Russia and its empire, in China, Cuba, Albania, Yugoslavia and the other countries which call themselves socialist, social power is monopolised by privileged Party bureaucrats. The features of capitalism, as outlined above, are all present. An examination of international commerce shows that the bogus socialist states are part of the world capitalist market and cannot detach themselves from the requirements of profit.

6. What Is the meaning of socialism?

Socialism does not yet exist. When it is established it must be on a worldwide basis, as an alternative to the outdated system of world capitalism. In a socialist society there will be common ownership and democratic control of the earth by its inhabitants. No minority class will be in a position to dictate to the majority that production must be geared to profit. There will be no owners: everything will belong to everyone. Production will be solely for use, not for sale. The only questions society will need to ask about wealth production will be: what do people require, and can the needs be met? These questions will be answered on the basis of the resources available to meet such needs. Then, unlike now, modern technology and communications will be able to be used to their fullest extent. The basic socialist principle will be that people give according to their abilities and take according to their self- defined needs. Work will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation: the coercion of wage and salary work will be abolished. There will be no buying or selling and money will not be necessary, in a society of common ownership and free access. For the first time ever the people of the world will have common possession of the planet earth.

7. How will socialism solve the problems of society?

Capitalism, with its constant drive to serve profit before need, throws up an endless stream of problems. Most workers in Britain feel insecure about their future; almost one in four families with children living below the official government poverty line; many old people live in dangerously cold conditions each winter and thousands die; millions of our fellow men and women are dying of starvation — tens of thousands of them each day. A society based on production for use will end those problems because the priority of socialist society will be the fullest possible satisfaction of needs. At the moment food is destroyed and farmers are subsidised not to produce more: yet many millions are malnourished. At the moment hospital queues are growing longer and people are dying of curable illnesses; yet it is not "economically viable" to provide decent health treatment for all. In a socialist society nothing short of the best will be good enough for any human being.

8. What about human nature?

Human behaviour is not fixed, but determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. The capitalist jungle produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to adapt our behaviour and there is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate. Even under capitalism people often obtain pleasure from doing a good turn for others; few people enjoy participating in the "civilised" warfare of the daily rat-race. Think how much better it would be if society was based on co-operation.

9. Are socialists democrats?

Yes: the Socialist Party has no leaders. It is a democratic organisation controlled by its members. It understands that Socialism can only be established by a conscious majority of workers — that workers must liberate themselves and will not be liberated by leaders or parties. Socialism will not be brought about by a dedicated minority "smashing the state", as some left-wingers would have it. Nor do the activities of paid, professional politicians have anything to do with Socialism — the experience of seven Labour governments has shown this. Once a majority of the working class understand and want Socialism, they will take the necessary step to organise consciously for the democratic conquest of political power. There will be no Socialism without a socialist majority.

10. What is the next step?

Many workers know that there is something wrong and want to change society. Some join reform groups in the hope that capitalism can be patched up, but such efforts are futile because you cannot run a system of class exploitation in the interests of the exploited majority. People who fear a nuclear war may join CND, but as long as nation states exist, economic rivalry means that the world will never be safe from the threat of war. There are countless dedicated campaigns and good causes which many sincere people are caught up in, but there is only one solution to the problems of capitalism and that is to get rid of it, and establish Socialism. Before we can do that we need socialists; winning workers to that cause requires knowledge, principles and an enthusiasm for change. These qualities can be developed by anyone — and are essential for anyone who is serious about changing society. Capitalism in the 1980s is still a system of waste, deprivation and frightening insecurity. You owe it to yourself to find out about the one movement which stands for the alternative.

If you have read this set of principles and agree with some or all of them, contact the Socialist Party with your questions and ideas about what you can do to help speed the progress towards Socialism.