Friday, September 6, 2019

Coping with the car (1964)

From the January 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of these days, we have been told by Mr. Marples, we’re going to wake up wondering what's hit us. In rather more elegant language, and at much greater length, the Buchanan report has warned us of the same thing. What is going to hit us, both literally and metaphorically, is the motor car.

Only recently the inhabitants of Kingston on Thames were given a foretaste of what Mr. Marples meant when one Saturday afternoon the whole of the town came to a complete standstill. For a couple of hours no vehicle could get into the town and nothing could get out. The panicky thought even occurred to some of those marooned, apparently, that they never were going to get out.

Is this really what is in store for us? Is the motor vehicle really going to end by overwhelming our cities, wiping out community life, completely dominating our existence? Or will capitalism, which has generated the monster, be finally forced to come to terms with it? And is it really capable of doing this? Are we to be impressed by Buchanan, or is he going to go the way of all the other Utopians up against the harsh realities of private interests and individual ownership? Let us consider a few facts first.

At the beginning of 1963, there were about eight million four-wheeled motor vehicles on this country’s roads; by the end of if, they will have been joined by another million. Estimates are for 13 million in 1970, and for 20 million by 1980, an average of one for every three people or one for every 20 yards of road (actually less since the population is concentrated into certain areas and not evenly spread). All this is prophecy, of course, and one hefty slump in a year or two's time could knock all these figures for six. But the essential problem has already posed itself and will only get worse unless it is dealt with one way or another.

This headlong development is not peculiar to this country. France already has nine million vehicles and will have increased on this number by a further half million by the end of the year; , with a much larger area the problem is not so far quite so acute, but Paris has even worse traffic jams than London, and the other big towns will soon be as bad. Germany will probably have 8½ million vehicles soon and Italy 4 million; many of the smaller European countries have traffic densities at least the equal of, and sometimes greater than, their bigger neighbours.

Far in excess of all of them, of course, is the United States, with the fantastic total of 80 million vehicles. The effects of this are, however, localised and in many areas one measures the number of square miles to the car and not the other way round. But the problem is no easier in the built-up areas where most of the population is concentrated, in fact, it is often much worse. Los Angeles, and similar towns, stand as terrible warnings of what the unrestrained advance of the motor car can do to man and his way of life.

At the same time, the car manufacturers of the world are busily expanding output, installing new plant, going in for more and more automation, opening up new factories. Spurred on by state financial aid and other encouragement, Ford go to Liverpool, Rootes to Linwood, Citroen to Rennes, Renault to Caen and Le Havre, Volkswagen to Emden; so linked has the motor industry become to the general health of modern capitalism that governments hardly dare interfere to control its booms and fall over themselves to stimulate it out of its slumps.

Whole industries have become its subsidiaries. Sheet steel and rubber are its hangers-on, petroleum pays it homage. It feeds upon vast quantities of glass, paint, plastics, chrome, and electrical equipment; it requires huge investment in heavy plant and machine tools. When the internal combustion engine misfires, the whole of capitalism begins to cough; when it is turning over well, the economy feels buoyant.

So far the motor vehicle has carried all before it. But the problem now threatening capitalism and its governments is how to reconcile this ever-increasing production with the need to keep the products on the move. Even its die-hard supporters can see the absurdity of turning loose hundreds of thousands of additional cars on to roads where the traffic already can hardly turn. Yet capitalism is on the horns of a real dilemma—how to impose restrictions on the car (which to be effective will need to be drastic) without disastrous repercussions on the industry itself.

Capitalism's Sacred Cow
In spite of all the evils and inconveniences it has brought in the way of noise, noxious fumes, dirt, nervous frustration, congestion, economic waste, death and injury from accidents, the car has so far had things pretty much its own way. It has become capitalism’s sacred cow, which nobody has been allowed to hinder or harm. Over the years it has steadily been allowed to reduce the public transport services to a joke and a travesty, and nobody has dared raise a hand to stop it.

The United States has always believed itself to be a step ahead of the motor vehicle (in contrast to this country which has always been a step behind it), but the net result, in the towns, at any rate, has not been very different. Driving magnificent motorways into the towns seemed a wonderful idea at the time, but all they did was to attract even more traffic and congest the centres still further. In the interests of the car, the Americans have assassinated their towns as decent, pleasant places to live in. Los Angeles has spread itself into a vast, inhuman sprawl over thousands of square miles; only now, after spending thousands of millions of dollars on super highways is it belatedly trying to put right its mistake with a new public transport system.

In this country and most of Western Europe the crunch has still to come, but it is not very far away. After the meters come the devices for charging for using road space—all very ingenious but a wonderful example of the fundamental idiocy of capitalism. The Buchanan report puts forward all sorts of inspiring ideas but one of the first very mundane things Mr. Marples is going to use it for is to provide independent weighty backing to his plans for restriction.

We referred to the idiocy of capitalism and it is true. Hundreds of thousands of cars, each taking up about 70 square feet of road space to carry seldom more than one passenger, crawl into our cities between certain fixed times in the morning, and crawl out again at another fixed period in the evening. It is only matched in idiocy by the way in which the urban public transport systems are geared to millions of commuters doing the same thing by bus, train, and tube. Many of these same commuters have themselves left a car in the garage taking up useful space at home or littering the streets, a car which they probably never take out on a journey worthy of the name more than once a week, plus the fine week-ends in the summer when they sally forth en masse to join the traffic jams, and the annual holiday when they often meet the same thing. The situation certainly has its ironies, as well. It is hardly more than ten to fifteen years ago that no Socialist meeting could go its allotted span without some questioner asking “And what are you going to do if everybody wants a motor-car under Socialism?," the implication being that there would never be enough to go round and matters would end in a mad free-for-all. How far away those days seem now! Today we are hardly asked the question—nobody questions that production will be a problem.

Capitalism itself has in fact already solved the problem of the production of the motor-car. Its real problem today is how to cope with what it has produced; how to reconcile social production with individual ownership. Its politicians, its experts, its planners, all accept without question that whatever else may happen the cars must still come rolling off the assembly lines in their millions. The Buchanan report puts forward the most grandiose schemes, all to deal with 13 million cars by 1970 and even 20 million by 1980; a BBC discussion on the report mentioned a figure of £9,000 million for town rebuilding alone and everybody seemed to think that that was quite normal to allow half a nation of car-drivers to go from one side of a town to the other or to stop half way through to do the shopping. And as for the really revolutionary suggestion—the one that would operate under Socialism—that perhaps we already had enough cars and that all that was necessary was for them to be utilised sensibly as a supplementary to a comfortable, convenient and generally well-run public transport service, this side of the equation was obviously not thought of, let alone considered.

The fact is that the cars will continue to roll from the assembly lines but that capitalism’s governments will do only so much to accommodate them as the necessities of private property will allow. Most of the Buchanan proposals, for example, will probably be quietly shelved; the government has already turned a cold eye on the suggestion that land for road schemes should be compulsorily acquired at a “reasonable price,” and hardly anybody believes that much of the drastic re-planning mentioned in the report will ever be realised.

What we shall probably get, as is usually the case, is a hotchpotch of a compromise that will ease the system where it is being pinched hardest with the rest left to look after itself as best it can. There will be restrictions in one form or another to keep the city centres reasonably free for commercial traffic and give essential services, such as getting the workers to work, more scope to operate. No doubt, also as usual, the wealthy will find ways round the permits and licences, and the charges will be chalked up with all their other odd financial items on the side against business expenses. Priority will also certainly be given to such things as motorways to carry capitalism's merchandise more quickly and thus more cheaply. But anything to do primarily with making our cities convenient and safe places to move about in, beautiful places to look at, and enjoyable places generally in which to live, will be well down the list of priorities. In other words, little is going to be done to rid us of the noise, the noxious fumes, the congestion, the waste of resources, the deaths and injuries, we mentioned earlier; indeed, they will probably become worse.

In short, we see little prospect of capitalism coping with the car, save perhaps in the sense that it will have to intervene to some extent to save itself from being strangled economically. And, to judge by the way it has been setting about the job so far, it looks as though it will not do even this too successfully either.

Where are you going? We may well ask. But wherever it is, or wherever you think it is, you're not going to find the car much of an asset.
Stan Hampson

One way to solve the traffic problem (1964)

From the April 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is always pleasant to see non-Socialists putting forward views in support of our case even though sometimes they go further than we ourselves are prepared to go.

In our special issue last January we discussed the motor car and how capitalism was incapable of coping with it. What it was unable to reconcile, we stated, was social production with individual ownership; the cars come rolling off the lines in millions to be used to a negligible extent by millions of individual owners. Perhaps, we suggested, society already had more than enough cars, and all that was necessary, as would be the case under Socialism, was for them to be used sensibly as a supplementary to a comfortable, convenient, and generally well run public transport system.

Now Dr. E. J. Mishan. Reader in Economics at the London School of Economics, has put forward proposals even more far-reaching. In the March issue of the F.B.I. Review, hardly a Socialist paper, he says:
  Indeed, the one radical alternative we should take a long look at before contemplating compromise solutions is that of a gradual but total abolition of all privately-owned motor cars.
Such a solution, he goes on to say, would point a much simpler and less expensive way to a sane and sensible pattern of living:
  For a small fraction of the money we are currently spending on the maintenance of private cars and on all the Government services necessary to keep the traffic moving—to say nothing of the enormous investments required to implement the Buchanan proposals—we could simultaneously achieve three socially desirable objectives:
  1. Provide a comfortable and highly efficient (and in the interests of amenity) preferably electrically powered public transport service, bus and train, in all major population areas;
  2. Through Government control of public transport to restrain and perhaps reverse the spread of population that has followed in the wake of post-war speculative building which has done so much to ruin the beauty of the countryside; and
  3. To restore quiet and dignity to our cities and to enable people to wander unobstructed and enjoy once more the charm of historic towns and villages.
  Motorised freight should be minimised, substituting as far as possible the use of railways in built-up areas.
  London's underground, for instance, could be adapted to carry freight loads during the small hours, with shop deliveries taking place when people were off the streets.
But Dr. Mishan, like Professor Buchanan, reveals himself as yet another idealist. All that he suggests, however sensible and desirable it may be, hasn’t the slightest chance of coming about while capitalism lasts. He talks of his proposal “being worthy of consideration in a nation that prides itself on its political maturity”; unfortunately for him, the greater part of the nation are not politically mature. If they were, they would no longer tolerate a system of society based on the profit motive and on the belief that everything must be subservient to it.

The great majority support such a system. They think it right and normal for the wealth of the world to be produced primarily for sale at a profit, to be owned individually and used individually. The idea of giving up their private motor cars is as far from their minds as is the idea of Socialism itself; Dr. Mishan is yet another, therefore, who sees clearly where reason and common sense lie yet fails to see that the particular problem he is concerned with is only part of a wider issue — the issue of Socialism versus capitalism.

Dr. Mishan is at least able to see some things free from the gloss of the shallow and the spurious which capitalism attaches to everything in the modern world. His aspirations are worthy ones —he seeks to “recapture the lost sense of community and citizenship, a more leisurely and dignified way of life" — but such aspirations are doomed to failure from the start in a framework of thought which accepts capitalism as eternal.

He talks of a radical alternative, but it is in fact nothing of the sort. The radical alternative is to get rid of capitalism and replace it by Socialism.
Stan Hampson

The Passing Show: Keep young and profitable (1964)

The Passing Show Column from the April 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Keep young and profitable
It is not very pleasant to reflect that many of us, when we reach our sixties, face the prospect of life on an old age pension. Generally speaking, our productive powers will have declined to the point of unprofitability, and like so many worn out machines, we will be of only scrap value to the owners of the means of production. That is what it really means, despite the gallons of crocodile tears which capitalist politicians have spilled at election times over the plight of the aged.

Not that the politicians are necessarily callous by nature, but they are administering a system, and this system works by exploiting human beings. So it will look after its young a bit more because they are much more exploitable than the old. And if that means misery and hardship for old workers, well it is only part of the overall picture of misery and hardship anyway. And with a shrug of your mental shoulders you tell yourself that you are not going to lose much sleep over it. That's if you are a capitalist politician.

At the same time, you will never quite forget the question of the pensioners, but from another point of view. What a vast source of labour power would be here, if only they could be given a new lease of life—sort of reconditioned—for a few more years at least. Just think how the financial burden of pensions could be reduced, to say nothing of the prospects of increased profits.

So perhaps your pulse will have quickened with interest when you read the recent Evening Standard “KEEPING YOUNG SECRET UNVEILED.” Apparently there's this% London Doctor Tiberius Reiter, who has managed to find a synthetic copy of the key male hormone testosterone, which, when given to men in specially controlled dosage, gives them back some of their youthful vigour. The whole body is revitalised, it is claimed, by this chemical, and the doctor was sufficiently enthusiastic about it to tell findings to a joint meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Endocrinological Society.

No mention was made of the possible side-effects of this treatment. Maybe these will come to light later on, and perhaps then some of the enthusiasm for it will wane a little. Nevertheless, it is a sign of the times and if the capitalist class can see any prospect in it for widespread use, the chances are that they will give it their blessing. After all, the problem of a steadily ageing population has bothered them quite a lot in recent years.

Don't get us wrong, by the way. Good luck to you if you can get a spell of new vigour to your latter years. But don’t think that if this chemical is made widely available, it will be because your rulers feel sorry for you. Nothing is an unmixed blessing under capitalism.

Noise Problem
That may seem a sweeping statement to make, but a moment or two's reflection will show its truth. And why? Because the profit motive is the driving force behind production within capitalist society, and takes precedence over human interests. So problems linger on, not because they are physically incapable of solution, but because it would at present be too costly for the ruling class to tackle them. A glaring example is the growing health menace of noise. Its increase has been alarmingly rapid, and its effects on our nerves devastating, but those living near such places as busy main roads and airports are perhaps the worst afflicted.

It must have been a pretty frantic delegation of residents from the London Airport area which lobbied M.P.’s at the beginning of March, but for all the help they got their fare money would have been better spent buying earplugs. The noise from the airport is a round-the-clock evil now, with jets roaring low overhead at frequent intervals. Time was when night flights were a rarity, but such is the pace of competition between the airlines, that it has now become normal.

The MP’s were “sympathetic” of course but told the delegation that night flights must go on “for obvious economic reasons” and it would be “impractical” to demand blanket sound proofing in the area. ". . . I should think that everything human ingenuity can devise has been tried,” said the Conservative member for Brentford and Chiswick (Dudley Smith) inanely. Poor Mr. Broadbent, leader of the delegation, was not very happy at the results of the meeting; he could see that they were getting nowhere fast. “An absolute abomination” he called the noise level at night. Agreed, Mr. Broadbent. But so is the crazy system which has produced it, and frustrates your every effort to remove it.

No more slums
In about ten years time, we shall have got rid of most of the slums in Britain — according to Housing Minister Sir Keith Joseph. What’s that you say? You don't believe a word of it? Well, to tell you the truth, neither do we. Capitalist politicians have been making such statements for donkey's years. Duncan Sandys, for example, said in 1955 that the back of the problem would be broken in ten years, and similar thoughts were expressed in a government white paper in 1961. Then there was Labourite Ernest Bevin who astounded even his own supporters during the 1945 election by saying that the whole housing problem could be solved in two weeks under a Labour government.

Back in the days before the war, apparently, it was just as fashionable to be optimistic about slum clearance particularly if, like Health Minister Sir Hilton Young, you did not have to live in one. These were his words in 1934:—
  Twelve months hence the slums should be falling, according to present prospects, five times as fast, till the work reached its maximum speed two years hence. Five years was not an unduly long time to cure an evil which had been growing for a hundred. (Times 8/3/34).
Less than eighteen months later his successor, Sir Kingsley Wood, was hastening to assure us that:-
  So far as slum clearance is concerned, record progress was being made (Times 1/7/35).
which cheerfulness should be paired twenty-one years later with that of Mr. Duncan Sandys, thus: —
  I think things are going pretty well. The slum clearance drive is steadily gaining momentum. (Hansard 13/12/56).
We could add to these quotes many times over, but the point has been made and, we hope, taken. We are painfully aware that slums are still very much with us, despite all the speeches over the years, although it would be futile to blame the individual politicians concerned. This is just another of the monsters which capitalism has created, and which politicians are largely powerless even to contain, let alone destroy.
Eddie Critchfield

Let’s look at work (1964)

From the April 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we speak of work in the social or economic sense, we mean the expending of physical and mental energies upon means of production—either directly, in the creation of wealth, or indirectly in the distribution and administration which arise from production.

Because under capitalism the means of production belong to a minority, the capitalist class, work is earned out under the antagonistic relationship of employer to employee. Therefore, when the Socialist refers to members of the working-class as wage-slaves, he is sticking strictly to what is socially and economically accurate. Workers are compelled to seek out a member of the owning class, or someone who acts on his behalf, like a foreman, manager or state official, in order to offer for sale his physical and mental powers to work. These powers are part of his person and cannot be sold apart from him. The price, be it relatively high or low, which the worker obtains, is commonly referred to as wages. There are, unfortunately, many workers who find the acceptance of their class position distasteful and prefer to call their wages a salary. Such attitudes are skilfully pandered to by the capitalist class and by the politicians who shape their vote-catching accordingly. But they do not affect the facts of the situation one iota.

In order to wrest from nature the wherewithal to live, men have always had to work. Regardless of the claims made for electronics and automation, they will always have to do so. Nor is a situation wherein men did not have to work the least bit desirable. The great crime of capitalism is that it reduces the class that works to simply chasing pay-packets, so that money becomes the object of all social productive activities, and the work itself regarded as an evil necessity.

The idea of doing something useful and taking pleasure in doing it well, is something which survives only faintly, and against tremendous pressure. Capitalism, with its profit motive, so distorts and debases everything that people, for example, whose job it is to tell lies on television commercials are held in higher regard than road-sweepers.

We are taught that it is important to be successful. But here again, capitalism measures success in money terms. If one is an architect, one is successful. If one is a bricklayer, despite the mutual dependency of the two, success is somehow not thought to be a relevant term. To be a good carpenter has nothing to the social esteem that being a pop-singer has. Carpentry can be immensely interesting creative work, but here another aspect of capitalism comes in—the lack of fulfilment. It is the repetition and frustration in most people's lives under capitalism that gives pop-singers and such their exaggerated importance. They represent outlets—avenues of escape from a world which would otherwise drive more people mad than it already does. Even the carpenter has to use cheap materials and speed up his work because capitalism says, “time is money." What pleasure can he get from making hundreds of front doors out of battens and hardboard and filling the hollow with chippings?

It is a remarkable thing that workers in many industries, such as clothing, food and building, spend their lives producing the sham and the shoddy for themselves, and the expensive and luxurious for the wealthy. But despite the absurdity, few seem to notice it.

The answer is to be found in what passes for the “ideology’’ of capitalism. The worker is taught from the earliest age to keep his place and to regard himself as one of the lower orders whose good fortune it is to be allowed to work for an employer. The pulpit, the press, the schools and the state combine to persuade the worker that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” The employer is presented as a noble fellow, a veritable pillar of society whom we would all be lost without. He has got where he is through drive and enterprising zeal and if we work hard enough, and long enough, we too can rise to be captains of industry.

The capitalist class themselves find it necessary to devise a variety of means to make wage-slavery more acceptable. Having removed the pleasure from work and spread the notion that the only possible incentive is money, they have made work a drudge. Instead of workers willingly and happily doing something which they find interesting and can see to be useful, they largely resent the daily grind. It is common opinion that nobody really wants to work. Yet what is really objectionable is the oppressive conditions under which work is carried on. The time-clock, the army of foremen, music while you work, and the constant attempts to speed up, all testify to the antagonism between capitalist and worker. Although the existence of the class struggle is strenuously denied by the apologists of the system, we still find workers organised in trade unions, and employers in various associations, to wrangle interminably about the degree and conditions of exploitation.

The antagonistic relations of production will be abolished with the establishment of Socialism. The merchandising of human energies will end when the separation of the producers from the means of production is finished. The poverty and insecurity of the working-class is inseparable from the wages-system. Workers can be hired and fired according to the state of trade. When a slump comes along, the mass of unsaleable wealth coexists with the increased privation of the producers. Socialism means making the productive resources the common property of society. When people are socially equal there will be a real incentive to work. The only end in view will be the satisfaction of human needs. Money will no longer dominate our thoughts and actions. With the removal of capitalism from the world, all the dirty work of armaments, armies, navies and air-forces and the useless monotony of banking, insurance, and commercial advertising will disappear.
Harry Baldwin

Before and After (2019)

Book Review from the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Protest: Stories of Resistance, edited by Ra Page  Comma Press £12.99.

Here is an interesting idea: twenty short stories, each dealing with an example of resistance and accompanied by an afterword. The stories range from the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to the demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003, though most deal with the twentieth century. The afterwords are by a variety of authors, from historians to activists, and deal with various different issues. Most of the examples discussed are fairly well known, but some will be familiar to fewer people, such as the Radical War or Scottish Insurrection in 1820 and the National Blind March of 1920.

In his introduction, the editor notes that the stories are not about leaders or heroes but the ‘ordinary’ participants, about whom history usually has little to say. The only real exception is one scene dealing with a visit by Malcolm X to Smethwick in 1965, shortly before his assassination (this is based on a real event). A small amount is known about Andrew White, the central character in Laura Hird’s fine story of the Radical War: he was transported to Australia but later returned to Britain and probably became an active Chartist.

Three participants in that rising were executed, and state brutality is one aspect of the book. Michelle Green makes very vivid the trauma of suffragette prisoners being force-fed: the doctor ‘finds the gap … left by my treacherous missing tooth , and the steel jaws open with each turn of the screw, forcing bare the softness of my throat’. There were spies and agents provocateurs at Pentrich in 1817, and police violence at the Poll Tax demo in 1990.

A natural question to ask is how successful the various protests were. The Blind Persons Act of 1920, following from the March, did lead to improvements in the lives of blind people, and the repeal in 2003 of the notorious anti-gay Section 28 happened after a great deal of LGBT protest (though, as Em Temple-Malt says in her afterword, it probably also came after social attitudes had changed). At the end of Martyn Bedford’s story on the Miners’ Strike, one character says that the miners won, as you only lose if you don’t fight. But it is hard to see how the strike and the suffering and bitterness it caused resulted in success in any way.

Many of the stories emphasise the importance of co-operation and solidarity, but sadly also reveal how many struggles within capitalism do not deliver what was hoped for.
Paul Bennett

Reflections on the Tolpuddle Festival (2019)

Party News from the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

The festival, deep in the Dorset countryside, was held this year on the weekend of 20/21 July to remember the six farm labourers who in 1834 were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers (engaging in trade union activity), and sentenced to seven years penal transportation to Australia. We were represented at the event by our South West Regional Branch and whilst, unfortunately, our numbers were small we managed to make a fair impression at this well-attended event. However, examining most of the stalls on display made one realise that in general the task of our movement is a difficult one as the theme of reformism still dominated.

The Tolpuddle Festival has a trade union background so it is not surprising that most of the stalls are related to various campaigns and it is not unique compared to other similar events in that its basic message is reforming capitalism rather than replacing it. However, for those who have been involved in putting forward the case for socialism over a long period it is disappointing to see the same slogans and demands that we have been witnessing for so many years.

The stall opposite ours was the so-called Socialist Party, formally known as the Militant Tendency and now Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW). It was quite remarkable to gaze over at the amount of reforms they were advocating. Their various posters read; Tories Out – Fight the Cuts – Save the NHS. Alongside this they were attempting to get people to sign a petition calling for an early general election. This they obviously saw as a way of defeating the evil Boris Johnson. Whether or not their dreams of a humiliating defeat for Johnson and a glorious victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party would be the result of such an election is open to doubt, to say the least.

One of the participants at the SPEW stall had a UNITE trade union t-shirt pleading with Honda to remain in the UK. In addition to all of this they were selling or giving out Trump Out badges. How people displaying Trump Out badges in this part of the world is going to remove the President of the United States from office is rather beyond our comprehension. However, we could suggest many other candidates from various parts of the world for similar treatment, perhaps Putin or how about Bolsonaro the current President of Brazil who is overseeing the destruction of the Amazon where in the past year an area the size of 500,000 football fields have been destroyed, nearly half a billion trees have been torn down and entire indigenous communities are threatened with eviction from their lands?

The point, of course, is that the removal of individual leaders from office is not going to change the direction that world capitalism is leading us in. The only logical way to remove leaders is to stop following them. As a Trotskyist party SPEW believes that if they can con people into supporting such reforms they will become willing workers for their state capitalism revolution. Thankfully this strategy has failed to work so far and is unlikely to be successful now or in the future.

SPEW were not, by any means, the only reformist tendency on display. Jeremy Corbyn T-shirts were available, supporters of the Palestine cause had posters and shirts with the message Stop Arming Israel. But why, people might ask, stop at Israel? What about the bombing and other military action being inflicted on the populations of, for example, Yemen and Syria and of course you could name so many other areas of the world where a call could be made to impose a ban on the sales of military equipment. However well-meaning, the problem cannot be dealt with in such a piecemeal way. The only way to do away with the war-torn world that capitalism has created is to do away with its cause which is the system itself.

You could almost feel sympathy for Corbyn with the weight of expectation the Left in this country have been placing on him. To criticise the belief that a Corbyn Labour government, if elected, can really create a society which is ‘for the many, not the few’ is almost to commit heresy. There were some who visited our stall who posed questions on why we stood a candidate against Corbyn, or why we would not be urging people to vote Labour at the next election. The answer, in short, was that we are socialists and Corbyn and the Labour Party are not, as whoever their leader is their intention is to administer capitalism. A brief examination of political history, not just in this country, but around the world shows the reality that running a society based on minority ownership of the means of living alongside production for profit for the purpose of capital accumulation is at complete odds with the concept of a society ‘for the many not the few’. The latter can only be achieved by creating a majority world-wide movement whose sole purpose is to abolish capitalism as a world-wide system and establish a society which can operate for all its members in harmony with the planet we inhabit.

Of course it is very tempting to engage in reformist activity in the belief that solving particular problems is far easier than removing the system itself. However, just a glance at your TV screen during one of the many commercial breaks highlights the sheer volume of problems we would need to solve to create a world fit to live in. In most cases these issues are highlighted by various charities and involve damage inflicted on people, animals and the planet. But charities or attempts at reform have failed to make a dent. Today there are more charities in existence than ever before but the problems they aim to cure persist. The time has come, in reality it came some time ago, when we need to concentrate attention on the cause of the problems we face. Hopefully future years at events similar to the Tolpuddle Festival will begin to show signs that a large minority, at least, are coming round to a rejection of the reformist road and turning to a more radical perspective.
Ray Carr

Easy Rider: Remembering Peter Fonda (2019)

From the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard
Transcript of a scene from the film in which Peter Fonda who died last month played Wyatt.
Billy: Oh, wow… what… What’s that, man. What the hell was that?

Wyatt: Huh?

Billy: No, man, like, hey man, wow! I was watching this object, man, like the satellite we saw the other night right and it was going across the sky, man, and then it just suddenly, yeah, it just changed direction and went whizzing right off, man. It flashed . . .

Wyatt: You’re stoned out of your mind, man.

Billy: Oh yeah, I’m stoned, man. But like, I saw a satellite, man, and it was going across the sky and it flashed three times at me and zigzagged and whizzed off, man, and I saw it.

George: That was a UFO beaming back at you. Me and Eric Heisman was down Mexico two weeks ago. We seen forty of them flying in formation. They’ve got bases all over the world now. They’ve been coming here ever since 1946 when the scientists started bouncing radar beams off of the moon. And they have been living and working among us in vast quantities ever since. The government knows all about them.

Billy: What are you talking, man?

George: Well, you just seen one of them, didn’t you?

Billy: Hey man, I saw something, man, but I didn’t see it working here, you know what I mean.

George: Well, they are people just like us, from within our own solar system. Except that their society is more highly evolved. I mean, they don’t have no wars, they got no monetary system, they don’t have any leaders, because I mean each man is a leader. I mean each man . . . Because of their technology they are able to feed, clothe, house and transport themselves equally and with no effort.

Wyatt: Wow!

A Trouble-Saver for
 Communists (1936)

From the June 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the moment we are receiving a steady stream of letters from Communists and their sympathisers explaining why the case for joining the Labour Party is absolutely unanswerable. In 1929 the same people-were proving that it was absolutely necessary to oppose the Labour Party. In 1923 they proved why it was absolutely necessary to support the Labour Party. To save trouble when the Communist Party stands on its head (or its feet) at the next somersault, we print below brief extracts from their statements of policy of 1923 and 1929. 

From the Communist Party General Election Address, 1923: —
  Therefore our immediate object in the present struggle must be the establishment of a Labour Government. . . . Vote Labour and Communist. No Divided Ranks!
From the Communist Labour Monthly, January, 1929: —
  Until a comparatively recent period many revolutionary workers still believed in the possibility of a constitutional conquest of the Labour Party and its eventual transformation, as the workers became disillusioned in the reformist leadership, into a revolutionary party by a change of leadership . . . To-day, however, the facts are clear to all. The Labour Party is . . .  a machine of reformism, devised by reformism, for the control of the mass organisations, and which is prepared abundantly to protect itself against any danger of transformation. The decisive fight of the revolutionary workers is and can only be outside that machine and against it . . . The conception of a Socialistic transformation of the Labour Party needs to be denounced, not only as a Utopian dream, but as a reactionary deception and misleading of the workers, and passive support of MacDonald. With this goes equally the conception of the advance of the workers through a Labour Government, or a Left Labour Government, or Left pressure from within the Labour Party upon a Labour Government. The path of advance lies through the independent leadership of the revolutionary workers.
1936. (Same as (1923.)
193—?. (Same as 1929.)
P. S.