Tuesday, October 1, 2019

So They Say: Slow Learner No. 1 (1975)

The So They Say column from the December 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Slow Learner No. 1

It is said that a little learning is a dangerous thing. The self-inflated Conservative No. 2, Sir Keith Joseph, seems to have taken the maxim at face value and decided that he for one need learn nothing at all. In a paper delivered to the Foundation for Business Responsibilities on 11th November, he urged “the need for a greater public understanding of the wealth-creating process”. However, there existed, he felt, an unsympathetic attitude in Britain towards the whole concept of profit making and this attitude had to be changed if the entrepreneurs were “to be able to get on with their function”.

It seems fortunate that this particular good shepherd has decided it necessary to guide us from the “swarm of mini-myths” which have, he thinks, brought on such an unsympathetic attitude. Few, apart from Keith Joseph himself, appears to have escaped their influence—for in the course of his remarks he managed to accuse almost everyone of this failing, including trade unions, (other) politicians, successive governments, companies, the bulk of the workers within the education system, and the population at large. But in his view, one man more than any other was really to blame—Karl Marx. Joseph accused him of being “one of the greatest myth-makers in history”, pointing in particular to the greatest myth which Marx is supposed to have propounded as being:
  That private capitalism is exploitation, but state capitalism is freedom.
Guardian, 12th November 75
Although we can only speculate on the extent of Marx’s works which Joseph must have read to draw such a conclusion, we do know that when he debated with the SPGB in April of this year he was informed by our speaker:
  The SPGB never supported nationalization, which is state capitalism. Private or state makes no difference. We are Marxist. Marx’s conception of Socialism is a society where you do not have a wages system. There would be no prices or profits.
(Reported in Socialist Standard, June 75)
Considering the clarity of this position, and the mental muddle of Sir Keith Joseph, it would have been reasonable to expect him to learn something over the past months.

Perhaps Not

The New York Times published an interview with Sir Keith on 10th November in which he stated that Britain was sliding into a “Socialist Slumdom”. He wanted to know where the “Great” had gone from Great Britain.
  Are we to be destroyed by ideas, mischievous, wrongheaded, debilitating yet seductive, because they are fashionable and promise so much on the cheap?
Quite, Sir Keith. How long will it be before you stop informing workers that the British Government is made up of Socialists, and that your own particular brand of capitalism will run in the interests of workers any better than the Labour Party variety?

Stop Press

The royal commission on the Press is examining a proposal that a state-run printing corporation he set up, and has called for the opinions of various interested parties before deciding on the issue. On 10th November, the Communist Party of Great Britain put on what they considered to be an exceptionally respectable mask. Their head of publicity, Mr. George Matthews, expressed the view that the facilities of such a corporation should be available to a “wide range of democratic organisations, particularly in the labour movement”—but specifically opposed their use by the National Front.

The CPGB felt that facilities should not be available to those who produced material which incited racial hatred. Perhaps recalling that its parent body the CPSU stands accused of exactly this practice, he added the following qualification:
  We think that there would have to be criteria. There would have to be, first of all, justification by the body concerned that it was in the public interest.
Guardian, 11th November 75.
Which immediately raises the point—what is in the public interest? Both the ruling class in Russia and in this country have an answer—the continuation of capitalism. Having accepted this general premise, all that is left for the anti-working class parties such as the Communist Party or the National Front is for them to squabble over whose discrimination is more desireable. The CPGB seems to feel that workers are incapable of recognizing the dangerous futility of National Front propaganda—so much so that they are to be "protected” from their views. There is a reason, that of obscuring the issue. Workers who adopt a class attitude and recognize the real issues facing them as a class, soon see through the dangerous futility of other reactionary political parties including the CPGB.

Slow Learner No. 2

On the 5th November while others let off Catherine wheels, rockets and roman candles, Denis Healey attempted to ignite something which looked like a damp squib, but which he assured us was in fact the Government’s plan for the rejuvenation of British Industry. The proposals aim vaguely for an extension of state control in industry and are the outcome of consultations between the government, the trade unions and the Confederation of British Industry. They are aimed, equally vaguely, at preventing a plunge in British living standards “to the level of the Mediterranean countries”. The measure of success which the “rejuvenation” will have can only be assessed later, but one thing is clear, the position of the majority of men and women will be unaltered. They will remain members of the working class, dependent on a wage or salary in order to live. That is a simple fact which capitalism teaches the working class. Mr. Healey said regarding current economic problems and the projected solutions:
  We learn slow, but we learn good.
Guardian, 6th November 75
Workers should not be dispirited at his apparent inability to learn anything at all. We live under a social system in which working-class poverty is the norm; the history of capitalism has always shown this to be so. If Mr. Healey says he learns slowly, we can believe him, but the sooner that workers put their own interests first by working for Socialism and leave the tardy scholar to catch up later, the sooner the social revolution will take place.
Alan D'Arcy

Africa's Black Hitlers (1975)

From the December 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

On June 11 The Guardian printed a full-page article by one of their African “specialists” called John Hatch. The sub-heading is illuminating: “Tanzania is the model for a participatory democracy that is based on one political party but avoids dictatorship.”

So we can start with a forthright statement. The Guardian are lying hypocrites. Not only are they hypocrites in that they profess to be upholders of freedom and democracy which they clearly are not. They also are inverted racialists too because, despite all their constant preaching about the poor blacks in South Africa (and the blacks there are vilely treated, right enough), they know full well that they could not possibly defend the dictatorships in Tanzania and the other wretched countries described in the article if the victims were white Englishmen or Germans. What they are saying (whether the idiots know this or not) is that it is perfectly all right if a black dictator stamps his rule on an African country and fills his prisons with his political opponents. Real democracy is not for them. They are only ignorant blacks.

At the top of the page are pictures of smiling democratic dictators: “Nkrumah (his party failed him): Nyerere (no dictator); Kaunda (seeking social equality); Stevens (unity through agriculture).” Well, they have all got good reasons to smile except Nkrumah, (who is dead and was probably the worst of them all). They are sitting on the pile of suffering black humanity, and it must make them smile even more to know that the Hatches and the Guardians of the western press are so obliging in apologizing for their regimes and seeing that there are no Orwells around to demonstrate the Newspeak and Doublethink which can tell intelligent readers of the Guardian (all lively minds, they tell us) that dictatorship is democracy if it is black. And the dictators get their propaganda on the cheap. Just a spot of red-carpet treatment for all the “progressives” of the west will fill the leftist press with everything except the one thing that should infringe their much-vaunted principles: How many political prisoners are rotting in the gaols of black “independent” Africa? How long have they been there? Are they ever going to get out? In all the thousands of words in the Hatch page, not a word about these poor devils.

Hatch starts his article with a flourish by giving a quotation from a speech by Nyerere, the darling of them all. “I am now going to suggest that where there is one party, and that party is identified with the nation as a whole, the foundations of democracy are firmer than they can ever be where you have two or more parties . . .” Hatch gives his seal of approval to this: “This virile commendation of the one-party state was given by Nyerere in 1963.” This expert in virility realizes, of course, that the above is the same as spewed out by Hitler, Musso and Co, and goes on to admit that people might well ponder the resemblance between white fascist swine and the black fascist swine whom these lively minds must now worship. All he is doing is the political equivalent of “find the lady”: he is referring to Hitler & Co. to bemuse the lively minds into thinking that this objection to the African Hitlers had been dealt with. It just isn’t.

Why not allow the Africans a multi-party system, which is what we understand as one of the fundamentals of democracy in normal parlance as distinct from Guardianese? Hatch deals with that one too. He gives a number of reasons, all fraudulent to a degree, and too tedious to demolish in full detail here. Hatch opens on this one: “Tanzania offered unique advantages for the establishment of a healthy, democratic, one-party state”. No explanation how this can be healthy for those who wish to oppose the alleged non-dictatorship of Nyerere. Perhaps Hatch would like to spend a few weeks in one of his hero’s healthy gaols (what’s a few weeks among friends?). And what would happen to the health of any black worker who ventured to suggest that the wealth they produced should not be stolen by the Nyerere thugs on top of the heap? Another reason is that “Nyerere has always been a convinced democrat”. Now isn’t that just ducky? It must be so comforting for the political prisoners — and to the others outside who would like to say boo to a Hatch goose but daren’t because they know that a democratic gaol is waiting for them — to know that Nyerere calls himself a democrat. Marvellous what you can do with words. Another choice example comes immediately afterwards: “Moreover, Nyerere does not refer to the State, but only to the Nation.” So, the non-dictator uses the powers of oppression of the state — and what a state! — but it’s all right, O lively minds! He doesn’t call it a state. He calls it a nation. And that makes everyone feel better, doesn’t it? But the punch line is still to come: Nyerere tells us that his one-party “will be a mass party through which anyone who accepts TANU’s basic principles can participate in the process of government”. This is the sort of trash that presumably satisfies Hatch and The Guardian.

It is worth while mentioning that only a few days ago (i.e. long after the date of the Hatchpiece) the paper ran a leading article in which they actually stated that the regimes of Nyerere, Kaunda and, ye gods, Mobutu, were based on justice. Now the first two have been darlings of the left for years and it is as useless to expect the truth in relation to them as it was to get the truth about Stalin accepted by The Guardian and New Statesman in the ’thirties and ’forties. But the admission of Mobutu to the ranks is something new. I have no private information and the news I get is derived from The Guardian itself. So it would be in that very paper that I read a little story about Mobutu’s justice. A ceremony took place on the lawn of the Presidential palace in Zaire (it may then have still been called the Congo). Certain black politicians were brought before President Mobutu (who elected him President by the way? You must be joking) — trussed like chickens. As part of the act of justice, they were then beaten up before Mobutu’s very eyes. And after they had learned whatever lesson that part of the act was meant to convey, they were then strung up in public. Justice, Act III, I suppose. And our own dear old lady of Gray’s Inn Road, which would probably be voted the greatest newspaper in the world (if you want to get into university and they ask you what you read, tell the Prof. The Guardian and you’re halfway home), is happy with this justice. But, presumably, only for blacks; we couldn’t really have editors strung up at a Buckingham Palace garden party.

It is pertinent to mention an item of news reported in the same old Guardian date-lined Nairobi, June 12. This independent black state of Kenya is run by another darling of the left, who built up a great following of “progressives” like Lord Fenner Brockway (from a base in Manchester, of all places), Jomo Kenyatta. He too runs a one-party state, an empire of graft and corruption which makes Chicago seem like the New Jerusalem. But it seems from the report that within the governing circles there is the occasional silly fellow who objects to some of the things going on. One such MP, who had become rather a nuisance in his criticism, was simply murdered by Kenyatta’s police. Mau Mau, where are you now?

Where does all this point to? The usual way. If the workers of the world, black, white and any other colour, want a world worth living in, it is there for the taking. But they must form their own opinions about the system they live under; and the system they can have when they have thought about it and want it. Meanwhile, they must learn to see the grotesque fraud which is perpetrated at their expense by the ruling classes of all countries and their jackals in the press. Till they can see that, batten down all Hatches.
L. E. Weidberg

Surplus and Exports: An explanation (1975)

From the December 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is said that accidents will happen in the best-regulated homes; and it can occasionally happen that a writer and the Editorial Committee have both sat up too late and a mis-statement appears in the Socialist Standard.

In the October issue, in the article “The Crisis: Wilson’s Lame Explanation”, the following appeared (page 184, para. 3):
  It follows therefore that the working class as a whole are not paid enough to buy back the goods they have produced. The “export drives” typical of all industrialized countries are evidence of this need to sell abroad the surplus which workers in the country of origin cannot afford to purchase . . . But, like taking in each other’s washing, it is a futile endeavour when all countries are trying to do the same thing.
This, we are afraid, is thoroughly incorrect. It resembles a theory held at the beginning of this century, that capitalism would eventually collapse because all countries had unsaleable surpluses on their hands. (This is the economic argument of Jack London’s The Iron Heel, published in 1907.) The SPGB never subscribed to that theory, and we hasten now to put matters straight.

It is true that the workers cannot buy back all they produce, but this does not explain economic crises; if it did, there would be no such thing as a boom, and crisis would be continuous. The surplus is used largely by the capitalists themselves for reinvestment in industry, when conditions are favourable.
When (as now) the conditions are unfavourable, workers are laid off — not because the surplus is an embarrassment but because goods produced cannot be sold.

As the article said, British manufacturers have to compete in foreign markets. However, this reflects not the need to dispose of a surplus but the normal working of capitalism in which all production takes place for sale at a profit: indeed, under-cutting of prices is sometimes achieved by investment in new machinery. The reason why trade often has the anomalous appearance of “taking in each other’s washing” is that commodities are produced more cheaply in some countries than in others. In a period of trade depression this is observed and commented on — e.g. that foreign cars are widely sold in Britain — but it goes on all the time.

50 Years Ago: Why Socialists Oppose Leadership (1975)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a group of people who propagate the view that the working class are an ignorant lot, incapable of deciding what form of society is best for them, or, in the event of a new form of society coming into existence, running such a society in a proper businesslike manner. This group of people proclaim that it is necessary for a few intellectuals to apply their cultured brains to social problems, tell the workers what must be done, prepare the framework of a new society, and occupy all the important posts under any new arrangement of social affairs. To such people leadership is an essential idea, as democracy is supposed to be incapable of managing its own affairs.

#    #    #    #

The weakness of the intellectuals’ position is apparent once we look at the matter with a little attention. Let us take the case of a man we are entrusting with the carrying out of certain work. How can we judge of the capabilities of such a man unless we ourselves have a fair knowledge of the work he is to do and the results he is to achieve?

Knowledge is the only safeguard for the workers against trickery and false advocates, and it is also the only doorway through which society can pass to a society based upon common ownership. If the mass of those who seek a new arrangement of social affairs do not possess knowledge of what they want and how it is to be attained, then a new society can only be a new chaos, be the leaders of the people as cultured as they may.
(From an unsigned editorial in the Socialist Standard, December 1925.)

End of Report (1975)

A Short Story from the December 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

John Ordinaire aged 31, was a news reporter on the Averageton Daily Post, an important provincial newspaper. On July 10th he was in the office by 8 a.m as usual expecting to be sent off to cover a nearby agricultural show. But when he put his head round the assistant editor’s door, he was told that he would not be going. Instead there was a long report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary for the year 1974 (House of Commons Paper 406) waiting on his desk. The editor wanted his piece on it by 3 p.m. sharp.

John went to his desk and picked up the weighty report with a certain feeling of regret. He liked the agricultural show, and was interested in the new tractors, machines etc. that were always on display. Still, he prided himself on being a professional journalist, (he hoped he would make it to Fleet Street one day) and started to wade through the report of Sir John Hill.

The paper had a regular crime feature page, and in general spent quite a lot of space on big crime, and the successes of the police force. The editor was a firm believer in the values of law and order (some years ago he had spent 6 months writing leaders for The Times) and John knew he would have to slant his report to show the good work the police were doing. He began to look for the statistics to back up the editor’s view that a good police force, decent citizens and a strong education system were the best means to deal with crime.

Instead, he found the following. There had been a record rise in crime of 21 per cent. over the year. Senseless vandalism had also increased and the report suggested that the figures given (cases actually referred to the police) were only the tip of the iceberg. The proportion of crimes actually “cleared up” was reduced to a mere 44%. Then the report also spoke of the increase in drug addiction, the growing menace of politically motivated terrorism, and the thousands of vehicles registered as stolen (120,000 of them on the computer record).

He decided to go into the library, and see what The Times had to say about the report, hoping that they would find some ray of sunshine he could use. He was disappointed. On the 10th July The Times called the report “a gloomy document”. Later it said it is not possible to look forward to the year when the “apparently inexorable increase in the number of crimes is permanently restrained”. The Times considered the sharp rise in the number of juvenile crimes as the most serious aspect of the whole review, and suggested that this “is a gloomy augury of the level of crimes in the future”.

John went back to his desk, and tapped out his report. He referred to the promises to deal with the growing crime rate that the local police chief had made when appointed. He also mentioned that American presidents always included in their programmes the law and order ticket and that The Times had suggested the increasing crime rate in America threatened their whole social fabric. But he couldn’t find anything cheerful to say. He ended his report in this way: “It seems strange that after all the progress that has been made in the twentieth century, the startling leaps in productive possibilities, and the technological wizardry that was available, society could find itself beset by muggings, shoplifting, petty theft, burglary and car thieves. Surely man could arrange a better way of organizing society than having a substantial proportion reduced to finding increasingly ingenious ways to beat it, and another section (police, judges, prison wardens etc.) devising more ingenious ways to beat them.

The copy was on the editor’s desk at five to three. At 5 o’clock John was in the car on his way home. He switched on the news. The items concerned the hotting up of the middle east war, Kissinger promising to bring peace, a local strike, rising unemployment, the fighting in Angola, and the Test Match. He got home, kissed his wife, and went to see his 9-month old son, sleeping quietly. “Couldn’t we leave him a better world?” he thought.

The next morning he got to the office and idly glanced at his article. The editor had cut his last two sentences.
Ronnie Warrington

The tragedy of the planet (2019)

From the October 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

What we are looking at with respect to tackling climate change is reminiscent of what the biologist Garret Hardin wrote about in his famous essay in the 1960s on the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. Hardin’s basic thesis was seriously flawed. In practice, actually existing commons do not generally result in serious environmental degradation since they are often quite closely monitored and subject to stringent rules to prevent overuse and destructive exploitation.

 More to the point, Hardin’s diagnosis of the problem was misplaced. It was not the fact that there was a commons to which the herders could gain free access that was the root cause of the problem of overgrazing. Rather it was the fact that the cattle herds were privately owned by herders in competition with each other that locked them into the destructive logic whereby each herder benefited exclusively from the addition of one more head of cattle to his/her herd but where the environmental costs of each additional head of cattle were externalised and shared by all the commoners.

The same kind of logic applies in the case of how capitalism is dealing with climate change. The trillions of dollars needed to tackle climate may well be less than the costs of inaction but as long as each capitalist state is seeking to externalise the costs of tackling climate change – get others to bear more of the burden of these costs so as not to impair its own economic prospects in its competition with others – inaction will result. States will only be dragged kicking and screaming into action as things get generally worse and the action they take will probably be too little too late.

That is the tendency of capitalism – to get away with what is minimally required.
Robin Cox

50 Years Ago: The Failure of Civil Rights (2019)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Few people with an ear to the ground in Northern Ireland could have escaped the growing evidence of murder, well organised and equipped, lingering in the political shadows. Yet when the murder guns added their fury to the flying stones, bottles and petrol bombs during the mid-August days of terror, most people were struck with a condition of profound shock beyond the limits of anything they had previously experienced.

It was not simply the fact that eight people had died and hundreds of others had been injured. Rather was it the realisation that the agents of death, people consciously organised to extend the more-or-less usual stone-throwing into an orgy of killing, were so many. Even more were people stunned by the absolute assault on their illusion of physical security; huge buildings and rows of working class houses burned fiercely, often without the attendance of a single fireman and the cherished notion of the ubiquitous power of ‘law and order’, whether hated or admired, was dispelled — for its admirers by its impotency and for its haters, by identification with the mob.

In a violent society eight human lives are but a week-end road accident statistic and people in the familiar role of fleeing refugees are constant T.V. fare that merely plucks the conscience to offhanded sympathy. But the dead were not Jews or Arabs; the queues of terrified refugees, whose homes had provided illumination for the carnage, were not Vietnamese, Biafrans or any of those ‘foreigners’ usually engaged in the practice. They were Belfast people: people who spoke as we do . . . walked the same streets . . . knew the same problems.

The strife was confined to working class areas. The back-to-back houses of Derry’s Bogside—among the most miserable slums in Europe — Belfast’s Falls Road, Shankill Road and Ardoyne area. Those who died, those who were wounded, those who were burned or terrified out of their homes were members of the working class. It was members of the working class, too, that did the killing, wounding and burning. No upper class casualties were reported.

(Socialist Standard, October 1969)

Citizen Smith in focus (2019)

Book Review from the October 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Violent Extremist Tactics and the Ideology of the Sectarian Far Left. Daniel Allington, Siobhan McAndrew and David Hirsh. 2019.

Lovers of 1970s TV will remember Citizen Smith, he of the mythical Tooting Popular Front, exhorting his comrades to ‘smash the state’. Dave Spart still does the same in Private Eye, forever hitting out at the ‘running-dog lackeys of US imperialism’.

With the resurgence of terrorism inspired by fundamentalist religion and also the far right, three academics have now decided to take a look at those on the far left and their attitudes to terrorism and violence. Their research project was funded by a grant from the UK Commission for Countering Extremism, set up by Theresa May’s government in 2017 in the wake of the Manchester bombing.

Their primary data generation took place with help from polling company YouGov’s online panel of respondents – with those who self-identified as ‘very left-wing’ being of particular interest. They found that while people who self-identify as being very left-wing are more likely to be sympathetic to violent extremism in some shape or form than the general population, it was still only a view held by a minority (29 percent as opposed to 9 percent more generally). Most of the other results of the research are perhaps not generally surprising, including the estimate that an elderly woman in the very left-wing category is far less likely to show sympathy for any of the types of political violence listed than a young man in the same category (9 percent as opposed to 56 percent).

One of the more interesting questions they looked at was what respondents said when asked to identify the countries they think are the ‘greatest threat to world peace’. In the general population sample, Russia was top followed by North Korea and the United States. In the very left-wing sample, the US was top, followed by Russia and then Israel. The placement of Russia in the top three was clearly less expected by the researchers as it doesn’t slot as neatly into the traditional left-wing pantheon of ‘imperialist’ states, and presumably features largely because it is both authoritarian and aggressive about this in ways that would not find favour on the left (including attitudes to women, gay rights, etc).

In carrying out this research, the writers needed a good understanding of what might be termed the ideological components of the far left, in particular Leninism. Indeed, the first chapter is a deconstruction of Leninist theory that is very accurate in the main, including its identification of why Leninists of various stripes historically take ‘anti-imperialist’ positions that end up leading them towards either open or tacit support for terrorist organisations like the Provisional IRA, Hamas, etc.

There is one minor caveat to this though, in that given the current media coverage of anti-semitism and anti-zionism on the left, the writers seem keen to integrate this into their analysis – and perhaps a little too keen. There can be little doubt that the rise of the internet and the conspiracy theories promulgated there has led the far right and the far left to borrow ideas and ‘tropes’ from one another, often with some of their perhaps less sophisticated and more naive advocates not always realising their origin. Nevertheless, it is historically accurate to say that anti-semitism emanates from the political far right as it is a theory of racial supremacy, whereas anti-zionism emanates from the far left as part of its ‘anti-imperialist’ perspective, with Israel effectively being seen as the aircraft-carrier in the Middle East for the world’s dominant imperialist power (the US).

This paper does not make the distinction between the two clear enough and seems to imply that Leninists are often anti-semites without actually realising they are, simply because of the association they make between imperialism and ‘finance capital’, with the connotations the latter sometimes has with supposed Jewish cabals. But to be fair, we could add that what is often forgotten is that so many founders of Leninism were themselves of Jewish origin (Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc) that the Bolshevik revolution was denounced by countless numbers – including Churchill – as a Jewish plot of some sort. In the UK since, many of the leading figures in the Communist Party of Great Britain have been Jewish, as were the leaders of what became the SWP, Tony Cliff (Ygael Gluckstein) and Militant, Ted Grant (Isaac Blanc), among a great many others.

Irrespective of this issue, though, we would contend that their illogical belief as Leninists that an enemy of an enemy must be a friend as well as their inherent authoritarianism make them unfit enough to be genuine advocates of ‘power to the people’.
Dave Perrin

Law and Order: Reactionary Fantasies (2019)

From the October 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ brigade goes into overdrive
Boris Johnson strides into the room with his sidekick Priti Patel grinning effusively alongside him. It could be an audition for the next Bond movie, with Boris cast in the role of the mad scientist and Priti as his sinister and glamourous assistant. But in fact these characters are the UK’s new – and already beleaguered – Prime Minister and his pristine Home Secretary. And this is not a film set, but rather the inaugural meeting of the National Policing Board; a cunning little invention by the former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to usher the UK a step nearer to a national police force and thus provide one more brick in the wall in the inexorable construction of a more policed state.

Priti Patel wasted no time in setting out her stall; a message in very few words: ‘tough on crime! tough on crime! and tough on crime!’ Haven’t we heard this somewhere before? It has been the mantra of a long line of her predecessors; including Michael Howard, Jack Straw, Theresa May and Amber Rudd, to name but a few. It has also been deployed by an array of world leaders in the form of Trump, Bolsanaro, Duterte and others; all engaging in the same trite rhetoric in order to whip their public into a state of fear and frenzy, rather than adopting a more thoughtful approach to social order.

Who is Priti Patel?
Anyone who was hoping that the UK’s first Asian woman Home Secretary might bring a feminine, multi-cultural perspective to the role will be disappointed. It’s hardly surprising given that Priti Patel’s self-proclaimed idol was Margaret Thatcher. Priti is from similar stock as the Iron Lady; both sets of parents were shopkeepers and both women vehemently supported the death penalty, until recently when Priti has back-tracked from this position.

An enthusiastic proponent of law and order for everyone else, Priti Patel does not demonstrate the same zeal in regard to her own conduct. In 2017 she was forced to resign as International Development Secretary following the disclosure that she had secret meetings with a variety of Israeli politicians; contrary to the Ministerial Code and without informing her boss, the then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. No sooner had Priti got her feet under the table at the Home Office than it was revealed that she was working for Viasat, a US corporation with contracts to supply the UK Ministry of Defence. This was a breach of the Ministerial Code in that she had failed to seek guidance from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) before accepting the position; which, as a Strategic Adviser, apparently involves her in five hours per month at a rate of £1,000 per hour. ACOBA, seemingly without reference to the dictionary to remind them of the meaning of ‘integrity’ and ‘public service,’ gave retrospective approval to the contract with the proviso that Priti does not engage in behaviour that might assist Viasat and thus compromise her position as a government minister.

Not that such associations are anything new to her. Before entering politics Priti was a PR executive servicing corporate clients such as British American Tobacco. Subsequent to her entry into politics she lobbied for ‘light touch regulation’ for both the tobacco and the alcohol industries. The revolving door keeps spinning. Recently she was a significant player in the Brexit campaign, on one occasion advocating threatening the Republic of Ireland with food shortages to hasten its cooperation with the UK’s exit from the EU; afterwards stating that her remarks were ‘taken out of context.’

The ‘big idea’ for fighting crime
By way of a little elaboration on her ‘tough on crime’ slogan, Priti Patel explained that it involves: ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘making criminals feel terror on the streets.’ In order to achieve this she intends to: increase police numbers by 20,000 (reversing the 20,000 reduction in police officers carried out by the Tories in the past 10 years) ; build more prisons; lock people up for longer; carry out more surveillance on the public; relax controls on stop and search and secure the UK’s borders. In relation to drugs she, of course, wants to wage war against those who use them; castigating the police for turning a blind eye to 9 out of 10 culprits caught growing or using cannabis. Boris Johnson chipped in for good measure stating that there were two vitally important things that his government will do for the police: it will give them the legal protection and also the political protection to do their jobs. Effectively the same dog whistle that Trump, Bolsanaro, Duterte et al used, signalling to the police and security forces that they will have the government’s backing to do what is ‘necessary;’ whilst insulating them from legal accountability and protecting them from any parliamentary backlash.

No matter that fifteen racial equality organisations, in an open letter to the Home Secretary, reminded her that research has shown that stop and search doesn’t work and is counter-productive to racial and community relations (see: LINK). No matter that the UK already has the largest per capita prison population in Europe and that endless published research has demonstrated that locking more people up for longer doesn’t work. No matter that a recent Amnesty report said that: ‘the UK is leading a Europe-wide race to the bottom with Orwellian counter-terrorism measures that seriously threaten human rights and are amongst the most draconian in Europe’. (LINK). No, none of this evidence matters to Boris, Priti and co. They are not ones to allow the facts to get in the way of politics, especially when careers are at stake and a general election is around the corner.

As if these stupefying ideas were not enough to send sane people running to the asylum, much more madness is in the pipeline in the name of crushing crime. Priti will no doubt be hastening along the recent ‘initiative’ of the London Metropolitan Police in its use of data from the 2,500 Transport for London cameras in order to deliver real-time facial recognition on every motorist entering London. And she will welcome the £5 million of extra funding given to West Midlands Police to continue trials of the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS). The NDAS has so far isolated almost 1,400 ‘indicators’ of future criminality in a population sample of five million, analysing more than a thousand gigabytes’ worth of data using artificial intelligence from local and national police databases. Soon the police will have the capability to pull in data from the 6 million CCTV cameras around the UK, courtesy of private companies such as Facewatch. We are all potential criminals now in the eyes of an increasingly paranoid state and Priti Patel’s stance on law and order perfectly encapsulates this pathology.

Have any UK politicians ever tried to do things differently in relation to law and order than this facile claptrap? Once upon a time two Tory Home Secretaries, Douglas Hurd and Ken Clarke, attempted to introduce a more nuanced approach to tackling crime, but they were soon ousted for offending against their party’s hang ’em and flog ’ em mentality. The previous Labour leader Tony Blair invoked the slogan: ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ and followed through on the rhetoric by creating 4,300 new criminal offences; almost one for every day of the 13 years that New Labour was in power. What might we expect in the increasingly unlikely event of a Corbyn–led Labour government? Its latest manifesto announces that Labour will be: ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’. Not much new there then. It goes on to declare its support for the police in doing its job; proposes to increase police number by 10,000; (short change compared to the Tories’ 20,000) ; and promises to properly secure the UK’s borders (LINK). It would be unfair to measure the difference between Labour and Tory policies on crime as the width of a single cigarette paper. It might be as much as two.

What would ‘law and order’ look like in socialism?
To begin with there would be no need to ‘secure our borders’ as there wouldn’t be any. Socialism is a world system where there are no political or economic boundaries, where people are free to travel anywhere they wish. With no borders there would be no need for the concentration camps springing up around the UK and in much of Europe and the world; incarcerating thousands of migrants in degrading and inhumane conditions; detained indefinitely, their crime being that they are poor and destitute and effectively stateless. This abolition of borders would extinguish the crime perpetrated by national governments and the private prison corporations on these defenceless people. Without borders there can be no nation states. Without nation states there can be no war; thus the huge amount of crime – murder, torture, rape, environmental destruction etc. – associated with war will cease.

Socialism will be a society of equals where everyone’s basic needs for food, health care, housing and fulfilling work are satisfied; a society that will promote cooperation and harmony instead of competition. In the absence of the misery and deprivation created under capitalism it is inconceivable that crime would continue unabated.

But socialism will not merely reduce crime it will reduce the need for law itself. In socialism the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth will be held in common for the use and benefit of everyone and placed under democratic control. Under such conditions the system of law that provides a pillar of the superstructure of capitalism – the enforcement of private property rights, facilitating accumulation of wealth and exchange through the money system and regulating the labour relationship – will be redundant, as will the coercive state which administers it.

But capitalist law is not the totality of law and a society without any enforceable norms of behaviour would amount to a kind of tyranny of the individual and, as such, would not meet the definition of a civilised society. Socially-useful rules regulating human relationships and our relationship with the broader environment will persist in socialism. Enforceable rules and regulations which prohibit certain conduct towards environmental destruction and such things as violence, rape, drunk driving, child abuse and similar will continue in a socialist society, but its purpose will be to serve the interests of society as a whole, not the capitalist class. Such rules and regulations will be conceived and administered by members of the community as part of its democratic structures and adjudicated by ordinary people, perhaps through an expansion of the jury system, or similar. They will not be punitive, but rather restorative and rehabilitative to facilitate social inclusion.

The message to Priti Patel is clear. If she is serious about reducing crime she should become a socialist.
Tim Hart

Editorial: Neither Brexit nor EU but World Socialism (2019)

Editorial from the October 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

By now most people are fed up with hearing about Brexit and just want the issue to be settled one way or the other, many not particularly caring which way. They are right. The point at issue is the trading arrangements of the British capitalist class, and this is a matter of indifference as far as the class of wage and salary workers is concerned. Customs union, single market, free trade area, tariffs, World Trade Organisation terms, the terminology speaks for itself.

This is not how the partisans of Brexit or Remain see it. They are making all sorts of claims to get workers to take their side. The Brexiteers are promising ‘sunny uplands’ while the Remainers are promising that ‘if we stop Brexit, then we can build an economy that works for everyone’ (as a LibDem leaflet puts it).

But we have heard such promises before – at every general election – and we know from experience that they are not worth the paper they are printed on. Capitalism, as a system of class ownership and production for profit, cannot be made to ‘work for everyone’. And capitalism will continue to exist whether the UK is in or out of the EU. In other words, so will an economy that can only work for the few who own and control the means of life.

While government economic decisions cannot make things better for people, they can make them worse. A no-deal Brexit, for instance, even if it wouldn’t be the end of the world that Remainers predict, would temporarily cause great inconvenience for ordinary people. It would also cause problems for the capitalist class; which is why those in parliament representing (consciously or not) the interests of the dominant section of this class, which never wanted to leave, have gone to great lengths to try to prevent it. Even the Johnson government says it wants to avoid this and most of its members probably genuinely do. But it could still happen by accident, given the personal and political ambitions of MPs.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has now revealed that he realised from the start that his fellow Tory Boris Johnson was an unscrupulous opportunist prepared to put his personal ambition ahead of the national capitalist interest. On the other side, the Remainers could overplay their hand with their politicking and provoke a no-deal outcome.

It is not up to socialists to advise the capitalist class and its politicians how to manage their affairs, but if they would settle the differences between them without causing any collateral damage to the working class, this would clear away an irrelevant issue. The real issue of our time is not Brexit but: capitalism or socialism? Class ownership, production for profit and rationing via the wages system or common ownership, democratic control, production directly to satisfy people’s needs, and distribution on the principle of ‘from each their ability, to each their needs’?