Friday, October 18, 2019

The Growth of State Power (1943)

From the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

The State is the public power of coercion. It makes and administers the laws, and it does so in the interests of the class that is economically supreme at the different epochs. In antiquity it was the state of the slave proprietors, in the middle ages the feudal proprietors, and in modern times the capitalist proprietors.

The State had its beginning with the birth of private property, which started with the limitation of property within the early communistic tribes. Members of the tribe were appointed as officials to guard the rights of this budding property. As the operations of private owners extended outside tribal limits, the functions of these officials were extended.

With the disintegration of tribal society the incipient State was personified in the military chief and his followers. These war leaders overran other territories, and, like the Spartans and the Normans, established themselves as ruling, tribute collecting bodies.

The growth of trading and the splitting of society into more clearly defined classes strengthened the influence and power of the growing state, and the struggle for control of it. It was the only body that stood apart from the various social groups, and therefore the most obvious body to take over the work of promulgating laws. It also had the power to enforce the laws.

This early form of the state was rude and barbarous, and frequently resorted to open force. It was an object of struggle between social classes because the class that was paramount in society had the power to enforce its will and, if necessary, sweep away its opponents. It was a state form that fitted the early civilisations in which people lived in walled towns that were surrounded by agricultural territory.

In the city states of Babylon and Egypt the military rulers became both priest and law-giver, and the laws were administered at the gates of the temple. The temple itself was the receptacle for the tablets upon which the laws were engraved. From that time onwards religion remained a pillar of the state.

The growth of the small Roman state into the overlordship of myriads of similar states throughout Europe and a part of Africa and Asia threw up a host of administrative problems that resulted in a vast growth of officials and a huge bureaucracy that covered with a network the whole unwieldy Roman Empire. It was also a spur to the study of the use and abuses of private property, which resulted in the production of a mass of laws and methods of legal procedure, a good deal of which has lasted to the present day.

The empires that were based on the organisation into city states were not closely knit societies with local autonomy and direct connection with the centres, such as sprang up in modern times. They were in the main municipalities preyed upon by the central power. The Roman State was principally a huge tax-gathering machine.

Very little further progress was made in state building from Roman times until the modern state began to emerge in the 14th and 15th centuries with the opening of world markets and the rise of the capitalist class.

The growth of the modern state has followed similar lines everywhere, and thus a brief description of its development in England will give a clear enough general picture.

England was settled by different bands of warriors before and after the Roman conquest. The population was small and the country covered with woodland. The withdrawal of the Romans left it open for conquest by Angles, Jutes, Saxons and Danes, each of whom at first occupied definite tracts of country and kept their own identity. As consolidation developed tribal kingdoms became local administrative centres of larger kingdoms, until eventually, in the ninth century, the whole country was brought under the control of one king. By that time also the manorial system, with its lords and serfs, feudal dues and local courts, had become firmly established.

By 1066, the Norman conquest, local government divisions of shire, hundred, borough and township had grown out of the swallowing up of earlier tribal territories in larger ones. The local settlement of disputes under the manorial system left little room for royal intervention at first, though it was from the latter that the state was to grow.

In those days the king was elected by leaders sitting in council, and obtained and held his position as a rule by his military prowess, although kingship generally kept within the same family group.

The Norman Conquest planted upon the country an upper tier of war lords, who exacted feudal tribute, and for this purpose took a census of the number, wealth and standing of the inhabitants. The different districts were organised into a system of land tenure under which the whole country was owned in theory by the king, but each district, or a number of districts, was held in fief by nobles (his personal followers), who owed him military and other service. They in turn had vassals, who owed them similar dues. In fact, the king was a glorified manorial lord, but his position at the head of the feudal system gave him the opportunity and the means to gradually intrude in local affairs. This intrusion began with the establishment of what was called the king's peace. The lawlessness of some of the feudal lords and bands of feudal retainers became too much for the local courts to deal with, and furnished an excuse for the royal power to step in.

During the Middle Ages the King's Council ruled England. At first it consisted of the more powerful nobles, thanes, bishops and abbots, but was later reduced in size by various causes, including the crusades. Eventually the growing power of the king led to a struggle between the king and the nobles for control of the state. It was this body of feudal lords, neither elective nor representative, that began to be known as Parliament about 1250.

The influence of the crown in the general affairs of the country really began with .the appointment of Justices of the Peace, at first to assist the local sheriffs in police duties, but later to perform a great variety of functions necessary, for efficient administration. For instance, the increase in commerce increased the importance of the monetary system and the need for reliable standards of weight and measurement. Counterfeiting coins and clipping gold and silver coins was common. These were among the evils that the Justices of the Peace were organised to check. Also the putting down of piracy and securing the safety of highways came within their province. And so their number and activities increased until they covered the kingdom and attended to the smallest of local matters.

These justices were appointed by the King's Council and were only answerable to it, and they reported everything and spied upon everybody. Their growth was assisted by the disorders following the Black Death, the plague that ravaged England during the fourteenth century, and the wars with France during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.. These factors contributed so much to the state power of the crown that by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Tudor sovereigns, Henry VII., Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, had the country under the control of a despotism that covered the acts and aspirations of every single one of the inhabitants.

In the course of time control of public affairs had become so complicated that the King's Council, which by 1626 became the Privy Council, had to delegate its work to commissions, such as the Star Chamber, Court of High Commission, and Councils of the North, of Ireland, and of Wales. Secretaries were established covering the treasury, foreign affairs, and the navy and arms. In the seventeenth century these secretaries and heads of departments formed a Cabinet Council, which later entirely took the place of the Privy Council for executive purposes. It was they who decided what money should be asked from Parliament and how Parliament should be prevailed upon to grant it.

It is necessary to go back a little to consider the development of Parliament itself.

The object of the crown in building up and controlling the state was to acquire wealth. At first the use of brute force was sufficient, but it could not thrive indefinitely upon plunder, because wealth has to be produced before it can be plundered, and a measure of security was essential to the production of wealth. Hence the crown's interest in the peace of the country.

The growth of trading, with the gradual disintegration of the manorial system, strengthened the central government, which undertook regulation of economic matters by proclamation and statute, but it also dried up some of the sources of royal revenue and forced the crown to devise other means of replenishing the treasury. In 1264 four representative knights (minor landowners) from each shire were summoned to a great council in London for the purpose of voting money to the royal exchequer. This was the germ of the House of Commons, just as the council of nobles and bishops was the germ of the House of Lords.

In 1266 two representatives of certain towns (borough members) were added to this council. And in 1322 Edward II. settled by Act that the Commons must taker part in all future legislation. In 1341 the meetings of the council were restricted to Westminster, and the Commons sat apart from the Lords. By the middle of the fifteenth century the Commons had acquired the sole right of granting money, and used it to extract concessions from the crown.

The growth of the trading companies and the exploitation of the newly discovered foreign lands poured wealth into the hands of the commercial group, and they answered the financial demands of the crown with demands for influence in legislation. These demands culminated in the Revolution of 1640, which gave the Commons an opportunity to gain experience in legislating on their own behalf. That is to say, on behalf of owners of property, because there was a property qualification for membership of Parliament which persisted until the Reform Acts from 1832 to 1886 cut into it, and it was finally abolished in the present century.

After the compromise between the crown and the landowners and financial magnates in 1688, there began to appear responsible accounts of public income and expenditure, and the practice of governing by departments readied a position by the middle of the eighteenth century that was similar in its main details to present-day practice.

The increasing complexity of social affairs, coupled with the struggle of the workers to make their voice heard, resulted finally in the admission of the whole of the population to the vote, and hence, in theory, to a voice in the control of social affairs. In fact, however, the mass of the population have not yet reached the point of desiring to control their own affairs, due partly to the work of bamboozling accomplished by the capitalism and their supporters, and partly to a failure so far to grasp the fact that society is organised at present in the interests of the owners of private property.

The acquisition of the vote by the workers has, however, given them the key to the control of the state when they wish to use it to serve their own interests by establishing a new form of society in which the means of production will be commonly owned, thus abolishing private property and the need for a state.

No Unemployment After The War? (1943)

From the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let the Prophets Beware
Speaking at a conference of the Institute of Industrial Administration on March 7th, 1943, Mr. A. S. Comyns Carr, K.C., made the following statement about postwar unemployment:—
  He believed that the problem of post-war unemployment did not exist. On the contrary, the problem of employment after the war was going to be how to find enough people to do the work. (Times, March 8th, 1943.)
To those who do not understand how capitalism works this statement seems to be well-founded. So many articles will be needed by the mass of the population that surely the workers will all be busily at work producing them. What could be more certain than that? Unfortunately for the reasoning, capitalists are not concerned with the production of articles because articles are needed, but with producing for sale at a profit. During war-time, when there is an unlimited demand for war materials, unemployment practically disappears, but when war is over production for profit returns to normal. This is not a matter about which we have no experience, for after the last war politicians used exactly the same reasoning as Mr. Comyns Carr, but the events proved them wrong. Let Mr. Comyns Carr note the following rash and wrong prophecy made in 1919 by Mr. J. R. Clynes, the labour leader :-—
  "If there ever was a risk of over-production, causing unemployment, there is none now. For at least a dozen years there must be conditions of shortage which, with the best energy and effort, cannot be removed. We are in arrears. We need have no fear of the supply exceeding the demand." (Reynolds' Newspaper, November 30th, 1919.)
Mr. Clynes' prophecy was not true for a dozen months, let alone a dozen years. There were 600,000 unemployed at the time he wrote. By the middle of 1921, unemployment had risen to over 2,000,000, and 10 years later it was a million and a half and the country was oh the verge of the crisis of 1931.
Edgar Hardcastle

Outdoor Propaganda: May (1943)

Party News from the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letter: Socialists and Reforms (1943)

From the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent (L. Watson) writes asking whether an S.P.G.B. minority of M.P.s in Parliament "would vote for reformist measures giving the working class greater security and better conditions, even though temporary, within capitalism." He instances the Beveridge Report or a measure to increase old-age pensions.

In order to understand the position of the S.P.G.B. on this question, it must clearly be borne in mind that it is a fundamental principle of the Party that any of its members standing for election would stand solely on the demand for Socialism. Not on any account would votes be solicited on a reform programme. Our case is not that particular measures are in themselves necessarily harmful or useless, but that "reformism” (the policy of seeking members and votes on a programme of reforms or immediate demands) is useless and harmful in the task of achieving Socialism. Particular measures (e.g., extension of the franchise, introduction or improvement of the education system) have been decidedly useful to the Socialist task. If we envisage a minority of M.P.s in Parliament elected simply as Socialists, they would take instructions from the Party on the question of voting for a particular measure which clearly was of advantage to the workers or the Socialist movement. If the issue were a clear one of that kind, no confusion would be caused, and there would be no possibility of voters being misled into thinking that at elections Socialist candidates were soliciting votes on a promise to support or initiate reforms.

At the present time there are no Socialist Party M.P.s in Parliament, and the Party has, therefore, had no occasion to consider particular questions in that connection. It will be seen, too, that the Beveridge Report, even as it stands, is not a straightforward and simple measure clearly of advantage to the working class (what form any legislative measure may take is also not yet known). It is very largely concerned with simplifying the administration of insurance from the point of view of the capitalist taxpayer and the capitalist administrative machine. It is further largely concerned with redistributing the wages of the workers among the workers, and its ultimate effects are, to say the least of it, highly problematical.
Editorial Committee

Why Lord Nuffield looks after the workers (1943)

From the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

The worker is the lifeblood of capitalism. Without workers, no profits can be made. Efficient and healthy workers are better profit-making instruments than inefficient and unhealthy ones. Modern capitalists are fully conscious of this, hence the various "Welfare" schemes which are the vogue to-day. As is to be expected, the Nuffield organisation is not behindhand in this development, and. the Electrical Times (March 4th, 1943) gives particulars of “one of the largest workers' welfare schemes in the country." Two complete blocks of buildings with a floor space of 7,000 square feet were recently opened. "In one of these," it is stated, "is housed everything of a general nature appertaining to the well-being of the employees—National Savings, provident club, athletic club, and similar activities." In the other block of buildings is a wonderfully efficient health centre. This contains an electro-cardiograph, which even many hospitals do not possess, an X-ray installation, sun-ray lamps, and up-to-date dental and optical departments.

Some readers may object that we are prejudiced when we take the view that the object of welfare schemes is to enhance profit. The facts, however, do not allow us to take any other view. The system of society in which we find ourselves to-day has certain features which must be plain to all who are not wilfully blind. These features are the fact that the means of production—the land, the mines, the factories and the transport services—are the private property of a relatively small number of people, the capitalists, while the great bulk of the population, having no independent means, are compelled to work for the capitalists in order that they may live. There is no way out, short of begging or stealing, both of which have certain disadvantages, so most people prefer to work, if they can find someone to employ them. The worker works so many hours per week, and in exchange he receives a wage or salary. This wage is, on the average, sufficient to enable him to keep on working, in an efficient manner, and to enable him to produce and rear offspring. There is, of, course, a natural desire to beget children, but this works very well in the interest of the capitalist, because workers grow old and become less nimble and lose their strength, so there is always a fresh supply of young workers coming along. It will be noticed that we have used the phrase "in the interest of the capitalist." Our doing so implies a belief in a clash of interest. But let us not be misunderstood. We do not advocate a clash of interest; we merely notice it as a fact, and here is the proof. The commodities which the worker produces, but which belong to the capitalist, are sold in a market, and for them the capitalist receives a price. Between the price which the capitalist receives for the sale of his commodities and the amount which he expends on wages, raw material and plant (depreciation), there is a margin, and that margin is his profit. It will be seen that this margin can be increased by adjustment at either end. It is perfectly natural for the capitalist to want to do this, and it is equally natural for the worker to object to the part which affects him. Hence, despite any desire to the contrary on either side, there is this clash of interest—what Socialists call the “class struggle." But there is another method of increasing profits. If, as a result of more intensive application, workers can produce more commodities in the same amount of time, it will be at once apparent that the margin is increased— the goods sold produce more money, while the workers' wages remain unchanged. It is clear, therefore, that it is in the interest of the capitalist that the workers' energies should be expended in the most sustained and intensive manner possible. This explains the interest of the capitalist in the welfare of his worker. It explains why he wants to make sure, by means of a medical inspection, that he gets a healthy worker to start off with—one who has a sound heart, for example— and that, when once engaged, he does not lose time through illness. Hence the marvellous paraphernalia for pulling out his teeth, putting optics on his eyes, and sun-tanning his skin.

It is one of the curious features of modern capitalism that neither the popular nor the technical press, in presenting its latest developments, are able to do so without giving the facts a kind of mental twist. Thus whether it be the production of planes, music in the factories, social insurance, the bombing of cities, or works welfare schemes, they are always described as if they were in the interest of the workers. This report in the Electrical Times is no exception, for it says that one reason for the Nuffield scheme was "of course, the wish to do everything possible for the worker for his own sake." The other reason was "the knowledge that swift diagnosis is the most powerful weapon, not only against serious illness and contagion, but the minor ailments which cause absenteeism of a few days."

This Nuffield affair also contains a food research department, with a bio-chemist, food dietician and chef. "The problem" it is stated, "of finding the meals which are at once palatable, satisfying, and at the same time conforming to dietetic principles, will be the task of this department. while at the end of every day the directors can know precisely the number of calories served to each worker and the nutritional values, in hard and fast figures, provided for their employees."

This solicitude for the welfare of the worker reminds us very much of the care which those capitalists who are interested in the turf lavish upon their racehorses. There are, of course, slight differences. A racehorse does not have to worry about making ends meet, about getting clothes for the children, about coupons or rations, or whether he will get a job when the war is over. In fact, he just doesn't do any worrying at all. There is another difference between the relationship of the worker and the racehorse to their common master. If a racehorse is no longer wanted, he can be sold, and perhaps eventually finish up in the knacker's yard, and, in these days, as horse meat. But if a worker is no longer wanted, he is discharged, and sent about his business.

At all events, times of depression do occur, and all industries are compelled to "release" their workers, as they so euphemistically term it. When this happens, as it will, there is no doubt that Morris Motors will part with regret with the workers upon whom they have lavished such care and attention. What a pity that they could not be put into refrigerators until wanted again, as one of our contemporaries has suggested.

Accumulation of wealth in Russia (1943)

From the April 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

An interesting light on the way wealth is accumulating in the hands of certain individuals and organisations in Soviet Russia is provided by news items in recent issues of Soviet War News, published by the Press Department of the Soviet Embassy in London. The items relate to gifts made by the persons concerned to various war-time funds, as, for example, funds for building tanks and warplanes.

Thus the issue of Soviet War News for December 19th, 1942, reports that a collective farmer donated "all his personal savings, amounting to 100,000 roubles." At the official rate of exchange (25 roubles equals £1) this is £4,000. but a better idea of its significance is given by comparing it with the average minimum wage of workers, which is put at about 8,000 roubles a year; or by comparing it with the top ranges of pay of specialists, put at about 24,000 roubles a year.

Other gifts reported in Soviet War News are:—
  The Patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, 100,000 roubles; Elokohvsky Cathedral in Moscow, 300,000 roubles; Father Superior of the Kolchida Cathedral, 100,000 roubles; Priest of the Church of the Assumption, "all my savings, totalling 273,000 roubles in cash." (The above are reported in the issue for January 6th, 1943.)
Then we read of the Council of the Church of Kazan in Kuznetsk donating 250,000 roubles, while the Archdeacon made a further personal gift of 150,000 "from his savings" (January 30th, 1943). Another Church dignitary, the deputy Catholicos of the Armenian Church, donated on behalf of his Church "a precious panagia set with diamonds us well as other objects of platinum and diamonds worth over 800,000 roubles" (January 25th, 1943).
Edgar Hardcastle

Sting in the Tail: Safety Last (1989)

The Sting in the Tail column from the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Safety Last

James Tyne, Director General of the British Safety Council since 1968 has no illusions about how the Health and Safety at Work Act operates in practice.

Writing in The Independent (7.10.89) under the heading "Safety sacrificed at the altar of profit", he states:
 Regrettably, too many inadequately trained, ignorant and uncaring managers in too many workplaces believe they can beat the cost of unsafe practices and systems and take a chance on the consequences. With a visit from a Government safety inspector likely only once in five years, the safety/cost conflict is all too easily sacrificing safety to the god of profit . . . Is safety being sacrificed for profit? Of course it is — at work, on the road, in the air, at recreation, in the home.
All those reformers who imagine that all that is needed to solve social problems is to pass legislation, should heed Mr. Tyne's expert analysis. As long as profit is the purpose of production safety will always come last.

Unholy Alliance

The coming elections in Nicaragua show just how topsy-turvy reformist politics can be.

An article in The Sunday Correspondent (12 November) tells us that the main opponent of the ruling Sandinistas will be Violet Chamorro, widow of one of Nicaragua's most famous martyrs who was murdered by supporters of the then dictator, Somoza.

She is supported by the US government as well as by God and her deceased husband, both of whom she claims to have consulted.

Meanwhile, the two main Sandinista newspapers are edited by a brother and a son, while a daughter denounces her mother for throwing in her lot with her father's killers.

Confused? The article continues:
  Nor does this exhaust the contradictions. Chamorro's United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) coalition enjoys the support of the Communist and Socialist parties, who accuse the Sandinistas of an addiction to one-party forms of rule. In any other Latin American country, such a line-up would send the United States Embassy dashing to endorse the other side.
The staggering hypocrisy of the Communists accusing anyone of an addiction to one-party rule should suprise no one. After all these so-called "Communist" and "Socialist" parties are in reality parties that support capitalism; and hypocrisy is their stock-in-trade.

In this ruthless struggle for power we can be sure of one thing — no matter who wins — the working class will lose.

A Poisonous System

The use of various chemicals in food for colouring and preservation has long been known as likely to be injurious to the consumer. Now we learn (The Observer 29 October) that the workers in the food industry are in an even more dangerous position.
The findings have been collected in a series of papers edited by Dr. Charles Clutterbuck, lecturer in trade union education at Blackburn College, who argues that food workers face "double jeopardy" of health risk at their place of work and as consumers.
  . . . About 200,000 tonnes of additives are consumed each year in the UK - 10 lbs. for each adult — and "the ill-health effects range from asthma and allergy, skin complaints and diarrheoa to perhaps cancer", the Clutterbuck papers say.
  . . . Yet more than nine tenths of the 3,700 chemical compounds employed in the food industry are used solely for cosmetic purposes — for instance, to make peas greener or meat redder.
 . . . Scientists were debating whether the small quantity of aspartame eaten by consumers were hazardous. Yet these GMB members were working every day in clouds of aspartame so thick that they could not see across the room.
So there we have it — in order to compete in the market the food manufacturers use dangerous chemicals to make the products look more attractive.

The poor unfortunates who have to work producing this poison are themselves poisoned in the clouds of chemicals.

Does this not provide food for thought? It's time we cleared away the poisonous cloud that is capitalism!

Poles Apart

Mrs. Piasecka Johnson, a Polish-born American multi-millionairess, has bought a controlling interest in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk for sixty million dollars.

She plans to double the yard's production and increase the workforce "but at a profit". The unions have been asked to sign a no-strike agreement.

Mrs. Johnson has also started Poland's first foreign-owned private bank. She aims to attract western European capital to invest in Poland and is urging EC countries to allow income and capital gains from foreign investment to be tax free.

Sounds great for investors, but what's in it for those shipyard workers? Well, they get the privilege of producing the profits for the investors and will even get paid for doing it! Private enterprise is SO different from state capitalism.

Beyond Our Ken

"Useless waffle" was how Ken Livingstone, Labour MP, described his party's new economic policies.

He stated in The Guardian (7 September) that:
 Unless a Labour Government is prepared to redirect overseas investment into our Industry and make far-reaching cuts in defence spending, It will be forced to raise taxes and alienate potential Labour voters.
Livingstone is yet another dreamer who thinks he knows how to run British capitalism in the interests of the workers. True enough, raising taxes will lose Labour votes, but his "far-reaching cuts in defence spending" will hardly thrill all those voters who are employed in the defence industry.

But that's the fate of "socialists" like Livingstone. No matter what way they re-arrange capitalism they will alienate a lot of voters.

Incidentally, if he is still a Labour candidate at the next election and he doesn't get the policy changes he wants, will he be telling his electors that the policy is "useless waffle"?

We'll be watching.

An Open Letter
The Scorpion's Nest 
1st. December 1989

Dear Arunbhai Patel,

Once you were hailed by the media as a model of Thatcherite enterprise.

A penniless refugee from Uganda in 1968, you eventually borrowed £20 million to buy Finlay's newsagent chain and were confident of building a global retailing empire.

Alas, Finlay's has collapsed due to sky-high interest on your borrowing and you will even have to sell your house to pay your debts. Now you tell us "But I'm still a capitalist through and through”.

Sorry, Mr Patel, but your state of mind doesn't make you a capitalist. For that you need a considerable amount of ownership, and getting it (and holding it) is not so easy, as you and many other would-be capitalists have discovered.

To New Readers (1989)

From the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

We believe that you share our concern for the well-being of people in our society, and perhaps, for the welfare of Earth itself and all its dependants. We write as members of a long-established independent democratic movement which seeks by persuasion and world-wide peaceful political organisation to transform our present society into one fit for humankind.

The problems of our world cannot be solved within the existing structures of production and government. Our world is divided into national areas dominated by class minorities in each country, which, either by private or corporate ownership or by state bureaucratic parties monopolize the means of production.

These ruling classes and their political representatives, by reason of a combination of historical circumstances, governmental, military and ideological control or influence, are able to keep the majority of the world's population in subjection. In the decisive areas of the world this domination takes the form of people being denied access to the means of living except on the basis of working for a wage or salary. In the major countries of the world, the people who, in the widest sense, produce what we need to live, are wage-slaves. 

Dominated by Capitalism 
Our access to food, clothing, shelter and other needs is rationed by money. Even professional persons and those running small businesses are dominated by the system under which we live: capitalism. It is a world-system based upon the class monopoly of the means of production where things are produced and services rendered as commodities for sale at a profit. Labour-power also is a commodity: its price is what we receive as a wage or salary.

Each enterprise or grouping of capitalism, in competition with others in the market, must strive to increase the profit surplus which it makes after the investment of capital. If it fails to achieve sufficient profit to re-invest in new machinery and techniques it will lose out to more powerful groupings or nations.

Russia, China, Yugoslavia. Cuba and all other mis-called “socialist" regimes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are part of this competitive process over markets, trade-routes, raw materials, strategic points and exploitable populations. These regimes are more accurately described as being “state-capitalist": today, under internal and external pressures, some seek more efficient means of exploiting their wage-slaves. The Socialist Party right from the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia in 1917 has been aware that what transpired was not the establishment of, nor a development of, a socialistic society. We have always made clear our opposition to Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and all similar undemocratic vanguard movements.

Appalling Destruction
The class interests, values and drive for profit of the world-system have been the underlying reasons for the unprecedented destruction of life and resources throughout this century. This appalling process, made worse by new forms of pollution, including the spread of artificial radio-activity and the cutting-down of the rain forests, to say nothing of the possible effects of secret weapons, the existence of which it is reasonable to assume. This uncontrolled madness will continue unless we take the necessary democratic action to transform our way of life throughout the planet.

We believe that socialism can only be brought about by an overwhelming majority of the population, a majority which understands why capitalism must be replaced by socialism. If we are to bring into being production solely for use. where needs are self-determined, we must have a clear idea of how such a society could be established, organised and sustained. We must also ensure that the values and methods of the World Socialist Movement are fully consistent with its aims.

Socialism is a new world society where the means of production are commonly owned and where governments and systems of exchange, whether barter or money, have been replaced by democratic administration at local, regional and world levels: a society where there could be decentralized co-ordination of production with free access according to need. Information about how socialism could be organised is available in our pamphlet Socialism As A Practical Alternative.

Organise for a Better Life
Why have previous attempts to build a better world failed? In our view the terrible events of the twentieth century are in part a consequence of the fact that most of those who sought to ameliorate the lot of the majority had no clear alternative distinct from some form of the system of nations. of wage labour and capital, of money, prices, profits, of buying and selling. They had no clear understanding of the dynamics of capitalism. They had illusions about the politics of gradualism or insurrection or about revolutionary vanguards and state-capitalism. They clung to their illusions in the face of the facts of Labour administrations of capitalism or of the brutal dictatorships in the “East" over the workers. As a result of their unsound theories these "practical" men and women diverted the enthusiasm, unselfish devotion and energies of millions into political blind alleys. The advances that have been made are largely those made by workers themselves in producing in greater quantities and in organising to obtain more of the products. However, while capitalism is allowed to exist gains made are not necessarily permanent.

When confronted by the programme of socialism, “left-wing" reformists (apart from seldom being in favour of it) always pose the question: “What do we do in the meantime?" — never waking up to the fact that the appalling present is the "meantime" which their political activities, in opposition to the vigorous pursuit of socialism helped to bring into being. In any event, the attitude of genuine socialists is not one of passivity, awaiting a socialist millennium. it is one of active informed organisation for a better way of life.

Building a Strong Socialist Movement
The more reformists abandon their illusions and inadequate activities, seek to understand the nature of genuine socialism and play their part in building a strong World Socialist Movement, the more effective we can be against capitalism now, prior to an early transformation of society. Such a movement, with the clear objective of taking the means of production out of the hands of a minority and making them the common property of society, would become much more influential than the present parties of the “Left".

Today many aware of past political errors, propose different approaches to the problems of humankind. They put forward schemes which though rightly concerned with holistic, ecologically benign, locally democratic, “human scale" production are still seen as being within the framework of money, wages, prices and profit. These proposals are attractive to a new political generation, which, failing to identify correctly the process responsible for our major problems, are likely to become a new wave of reformists.

The above comments, of course, are large generalisations, needing further elucidation and discussion. We hope that we have been able to interest you in our ideas and look forward to hearing from you or seeing you at one of our meetings.

Thatcher's new clothes (1989)

From the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Until very recently phrases like “Thatcherite revolution" and ‘‘economic miracle" were never far from the lips of most political commentators. They insisted that society had changed fundamentally and irreversibly, and that the economy in Britain had undergone a glorious transformation since the dark days of the 1970s.

The events of 1989 have clouded this analysis somewhat and opinion polls are now suggesting that faith in the Tory Party to administer capitalism is on the wane. But in the long run-up to the next General Election the Conservatives will no doubt trot out the old line that things have all been very different under them and that we've "never had it so good". For this reason alone it's worth comparing their claims and promises with reality.

A few years ago Mrs. Thatcher went on record as saying this:
  I came to office with one deliberate intent — to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society, from a "give it to me" to a "do it yourself nation"; a “get up and go" instead of a "sit back and wait for it" Britain.
In making this statement she was developing the ideas of Nineteenth Century self-help and laissez-faire, where the hardworking and thrifty succeed and the lazy and spendthrift are supposed to exist on the merest basic subsistence. A society based on these principles is intended to ensure that individuals work hard instead of expecting other people or the state to give them handouts of some kind. This view extols the virtues of what is now known as “entrepreneurship" while denigrating supposedly lazy workers, those who receive state benefits and others who don't find favour in the columns of the Daily Express.

So using Thatcher's statement of intent as a basis, the question which must be asked is whether, after years of her Conservative Governments, Britain is now a place in which the hard working have the wealth and where the lazy exist at subsistence level. Now if this were the case, there really would have been an economic miracle of sorts. For it is the hard working people, who perform all the useful functions in society, who are being paid at subsistence level (as they have been throughout the history of capitalism) and those who have most of the wealth who can afford to be lazy. Far from this situation being changed in any way, Mrs. Thatcher and her Governments have tried to ensure it continues as it is. Thatcher's pronouncement was intended to justify ideologically the present state of affairs, not encourage a change. In this sense. Thatcherism is fundamentally a defence of the status quo dressed up as social change.

The vast bulk of social wealth in Britain and the rest of the world is produced, distributed and administered by the wage and salary slaves who comprise the working class. But it is one of the great ideological achievements of Thatcherism that the reality of this situation continues to be inverted in a large number of peoples’s minds. Instead of the owning capitalist class being seen as a bunch of socially useless scroungers they are revered as the “real achievers" in society, possessing a mystical quality known as entrepreneurial skill.

Contrary to the Tory ideal, Britain has not been transformed from a "give it to me" society then — although this is not because so-called lazy workers still exist. It is because we, the working class, hand over the products of our labour to the capitalists who then sell them on the market with a view to making profit. We are living in a “give it to me" society but it is the working class that does the giving and the capitalist class that does the taking!

When Thatcher talks of "getting up and going for it” she is of course referring to budding members of the owning class, who do not need to get up at seven o'clock in the morning and go to work! The capitalists are really the “sit back and wait for it" class, as having invested their capital all they need do is sit back and wait for the profits to roll in. All governments, whether of the left or the right, have perpetuated the myth of capitalists as the achievers of society, and none has done so with more vigour than the three Thatcher administrations. The reality is that the capitalist class are not the achievers and creators of society but. to use Marx's term, the “functionaries of capital”. Achieving and creating is the lot of the workers.

Just in case the working class doesn't fall for the Government's nonsense about who creates the wealth in society, the Conservatives have one more trump card to play. This is the idea that there has been some sort of miracle in the performance of the British economy which has benefitted virtually everyone, irrespective of class. As you might expect, the entrepreneurs have been in the forefront of this "miracle" in their creation of the new “business culture". but they have apparently been ably assisted in the pursuit of their historic task by the far-sighted policies of successive Thatcher governments. Or so they like to tell us.

Indeed, Government Ministers have argued that unlike the bad old days of the 1960s and 70s, inflation has been falling since Thatcher came to office, that unemployment is falling after the deepest depression since the 1930s, that output and productivity have risen faster than in any other Western European country, and — momentary aberrations excepted — strikes are a thing of the past. We're also told that we've all been made richer and freer by the benefits of privatisation and so-called “popular capitalism". Even if these claims were shown to be true, it would be necessary to ascertain what benefit, any, there has been for the working class. However, most of them are patently false.

Inflation, the main policy concern of the Thatcher governments, is a strikingly obvious example of the hollowness of their claims. The Conservative Party election manifesto of 1979 stated that:
  Under Labour prices have risen faster than at any peacetime period in the three centuries in which records have been kept. The pound today is worth less than half of its 1974 value. On present form it would be halved in value yet again within eight years. Inflation on this scale has come near to destroying our political and social stability. To master inflation, proper monetary discipline is essential with publicly stated targets for the rate of growth of the money supply.
The Tory boast that they have been able to deal with inflation is entirely bogus as the value of the pound has been halved yet again since 1979. In fact within a year of the Conservatives gaining office the Retail Price Index was showing average price rises of 21.9 per cent and it has averaged over 7 per cent in the years since. This has been a higher increase in the general price level than occurred under any other post-war government, with the exception of the last Labour one.

All three Thatcher administrations have continued the post-war policy of issuing an excess of inconvertible paper currency. The Retail Price Index has actually seen a dual effect for much of the period since 1979. for while the Treasury has been instructing the Bank of England to issue even more notes and depreciate the value of the currency further, there has been a general downward trend in world commodity prices caused by the depression of the late 1970s and early 1980s. If the Government hadn't been issuing an excess of notes and coins it is likely that, instead of price increases at the 3 or 4 per cent mark they reached a few years ago. prices would actually have been falling — just as they did in capitalism's depressions before the Second World War.

The Conservatives under Thatcher have never stated, despite their anti-inflationary rhetoric, that they are after a situation where the value of the currency is appreciating instead of depreciating — leading to falling prices. This is partly because sections of the capitalist class (particularly borrowers) favour inflation, for although interest rates rise when other prices do they tend to do so to a lesser extent. The biggest borrowers are the industrial and agricultural sections of the capitalist class, who have significant clout both as pressure groups on the government of the day and supporters and financiers of the Conservative Party.

Especially important is the fact that falling prices put the capitalist class as a whole in a difficult position when it comes to wage bargaining. Putting the onus on trade unions to restore real wage levels in a time of inflation is much easier than pleading with them to take pay cuts when prices are falling.

Now that price rises have reached the 8 per cent mark again (the level they were at when Thatcher attained office) the Chancellor argues not that this is a blight on society which threatens social stability, but that it is a product of success. Using pre-1979 accounting methods, the total number of unemployed in Britain is still around the two and a half million mark, yet we are told the economy is 'overheating' and that this has had an adverse effect on the RPI. This is only true, of course, to the extent that commodity prices are rising again now that the economy is slowly coming out of the slump — and this has had nothing to do with government policy here or anywhere else.

In the depth of the last recession the Government argued (correctly for once) that high unemployment and slow rates of growth had little to do with them as capitalism was in the slump phase of its trade cycle. All they could do was let it take its course. But now that the unemployment total is gradually on its way down (aided and abetted by over twenty changes in the way the figures have been calculated) the Government claims that this has been a product of their economic policies. Indeed. Conservative politicians such as Lord Young and Norman Tebbit have often argued that the greatest success of the Thatcher governments has been the increases in output and productivity that have occurred in recent years. It is true that Britain, according to the Government's figures, has seen output rise at a higher rate during the last 3 or 4 years than other European countries, and this has led Tory spokesmen to hail their promotion of ‘entrepreneurial spirit' and their attacks on the trade unions as a great success. The actual situation, as you might imagine, is rather more modest; averaging increases of output in Britain over the last 10 years, the rise is really no greater than other ten-year periods from recent economic history (for example 1969-79).

What is more important from the working class point of view is that, even in phases of the capitalist trade cycle when output and productivity have been rising, all sectors of society do not automatically benefit. The working class is responsible for increased production of goods but has to struggle to obtain any benefit from this changing situation — and the owning class, needless to say, try to stop this from happening. For instance, most of the industrial and employment legislation of the Thatcher Government was designed to reduce the effectiveness of trade unions and therefore restrict workers' abilities to offset both the depreciation of real wages due to inflation, and attempts to obtain benefits from increased productivity. Thankfully, this industrial legislation hasn't been nearly as effective as the Tories hoped, and most members of the working class who have managed to hang on to their jobs have seen their real wages increase.

Indeed, ever aware of the potential power of an organised working class, the Conservatives have attempted to use aspects of their economic policy to diffuse the class struggle. The most notable of these has been the privatisation of state-owned sectors of the economy along with the promotion of “popular capitalism". The 1987 Conservative General Election Manifesto stated:
  Britain is now in the forefront of a world wide revolution in extending ownership. One in five British adults now own shares compared to one in ten Frenchmen and one in twenty Japanese. Owning a direct stake in industry not only enhances personal independence, it also gives a heightened sense of involvement and pride in British business. More realistic attitudes to profit and investment take root and the foundations of British economic achievement are further strengthened.
The hope is that workers swallow the crazy idea that anyone with a few hundred shares in British Telecom or the TSB is a member of the privileged owning class and therefore has profits as their main priority. Although it is often claimed that people have fallen for this propaganda of “popular capitalism", every time workers fight for improved pay and conditions they are still, of necessity, proving that their real interests are those of wage labour rather than capital. People with a few hundred shares are no more members of the capitalist class than those people who have interest bearing accounts with banks or building societies. They cannot live off the tiny amount of capital that accrues to them and are still forced to sell their abilities to an employer in order to live.

At the moment, "popular capitalism" and the "economic miracle" are both in trouble. In a recent letter to ex-Chancellor Lawson, the Chairman of the International Stock Exchange, Andrew Hugh Smith, stated:
  Even though the level of share ownership has grown enormously, the percentage of shares held by private investors continues to fall and is now around 20 per cent . . . this trend damages the Government policy on share ownership. (Guardian, 23 October).
What is more, in the light of the share price crashes of October 1987 and 1989, the notion of “popular capitalism” as one long gravy-train has been dented further. And with millions on or below the Government's official poverty line, with unemployment still really at slump levels and with house repossessions on the horizon for thousands struggling with their mortgage repayments, the working class has been confronted with an "economic miracle" that is a complete mirage.
Dave Perrin

Diary of a Capitalist: Sunday (1989)

The Diary of a Capitalist column from the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard


We keep getting these sob-stories from organisations concerned with homelessness about how many people are forced to live in late-twentieth-century Britain without a roof over their heads. Shelter, for example, estimates that there are 150,000 young people (apart from the middle-aged and old) homeless in the country (Guardian, 26.10.89). Apparently the number living in squats (illicit accommodation, with eviction a daily possibility and virtually inevitable in the long run) had “almost trebled" since two years ago. One 20-year-old said "no employer would take anyone with no fixed address. To get a fixed address you need money, and to get money you'd need a job. So there's no way out." Except, of course, prostitution. To escape grinding poverty, not a few — both males and females — finally succumb. They don't have to go looking for chances, either. "One in three young people questioned by the researchers had been approached for prostitution."

In this most degrading of sales, as in all others, there are no sellers without buyers. Prostitution depends on the economic system of buying and selling. Without some people rich enough to buy sexual excitement. and others poor enough to have to sell it. prostitution would disappear tomorrow. (Why, I wonder, isn't Mrs Whitehouse a Socialist?) These buyers aren't going to shed tears at the steady recruitment to the prostitution industry which capitalism ensures.

It's an ill wind which blows nobody any good.


One of the Rothschild family in the last century is supposed to have become interested in landscape gardening after buying a country house. He went so far as to give a lecture on the subject, beginning with the immortal words: "No garden, however small, should have less than three acres of woodland.”

After such expert advice, no one now has any excuse for having too few trees in the garden.


I've always made sure of having enough trees at my country place, particularly fruit trees. I love apples, eaters or cookers. If you get hold of some Bramleys, for example, you have the main ingredient of an apple pie, or tasty fritters, or a succulent apple charlotte. So when I was glancing through the paper (Observer, 29.10.89). I was sad to see it’s been a bad year for apples. 1976, it said, was poor enough, "but this year it seems even worse". A Kent farmer said: "It has been a disaster for Bramleys".

I was just reconciling myself to the idea that there would be fewer apples to go round this year, when my eye fell on the photograph accompanying the text. It showed an enormous pile of apples dumped in a field, and the caption bemoaned "a too fruitful harvest". So that's the problem! Reading the whole story again. I found the disaster was simply that there are "too many" apples. Farmers are being paid £75 per tonne by the European Community "to plough the apples back into the ground": apples are "rotting in vast piles round the Kent countryside": near Maidstone “at least £25.000 worth" of Bramleys were being "crushed into an expensive fertiliser by tractor wheels". Research shows that the average person in Britain eats precisely five Bramleys per year — one every ten weeks. At the same time people eat well-advertised junk food, often almost valueless if not positively harmful — or even go hungry. The many thousands of homeless people living rough in Britain aren't exactly over-fed. And that ignores the multitudes round the world who starve to death each year.


How do they see it, these apple farmers trembling lest their efforts to produce quantities of food should be crowned with success? Do they come back to the farmhouse in the evening saying "all the trees are healthy — no sign of disease. I'm afraid"? Or “masses of blossom has set, not a single gale or pest to give us a decent chance"? Or "the branches are bending to the ground with perfect fruit this year — were ruined”?

We capitalists know, of course, however much we try to conceal it from everyone else, that farmers are not aiming to produce apples, but profit. The number of apples is immaterial: if the profits are high, it's a good year; if the profits are low, it's bad.

And so the journalists who depend on us for jobs have to write whole articles about what a "disaster" it is to have a good crop of Bramleys.


Why do people keep saying mass unemployment is a bad thing? From the capitalists' point of view, it's a good thing to keep some workers unemployed "pour encourager les autres"; just as the wartime authorities shoot unenthusiastic soldiers to encourage the others (as Voltaire pointed out). Here's a piece from the Daily Mail (26.10.89)
  Profits in industry soared over the past year to their highest level for a decade, according to a survey. Productivity has leapt 43 per cent compared with six years ago and output per worker is still rising, says a review of the top 1000 companies in Business magazine. Each employee now turns out £57,400 worth of goods or services each year — £1000 more than last year. Average profitability — the amount of industry's total sales which is profit — climbed to a record 9.9 per cent compared to 9.1 per cent last year.
Mind you, the papers shouldn't make too much of a song and dance about it. Not all the readers of the Daily Mail can be stupid: some of them must begin to wonder why. if “each employee" produces £57000 worth of goods, he or she gets paid so mch less than that.


The release of the Guildford Four (convicted of the Guildford pub bombing on no evidence whatever except for "confessions” which conflicted with and contradicted each other, which contained impossibilities. and which, it is now accepted, the police had beaten and blackmailed out of them) has been hailed as a triumph of justice. Quite right, of course. In fact, if you've ever been convicted of a crime you didn't commit, in circumstances where there is no single piece of objective evidence at all connecting you with the crime, then all you need (if the Guildford Four case is anything to go by) is your innocence proclaimed by —

  • Many writers and public figures who support capitalism, but cannot stomach its worst injustices;
  • Two former eminent judges (in the Guildford case, Lord Devlin and Lord Scarman);
  • The two leading churchmen in the country (Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Runcie);
  • Two former Home Secretaries (Roy Jenkins and Merlyn Rees);
  • A campaigning TV programme at peak viewing time (produced by Yorkshire TV);
  • Two full-length books (one by Robert Kee, one by Grant McKee and Ros Franey);
  • Radio and TV programmes, newspapers and periodicals in Ireland;
  • Numbers of articles in England (for example in the New Statesman):
  • The people who actually did what you were accused of (in this case, the IRA men whose confessions gave such detail as to prove they were genuine);
  • And, finally, the Crown Prosecution Service (who refused to justify the convictions in the Court of Appeal).
If you’ve got all that going for you. then after only fifteen years in jail, being beaten up occasionally by other prisoners who loyally support the Establishment — you're free!

It makes me proud of our capitalist propaganda services to think they can still argue that this is a triumph for British justice.


Members of Christian CND want to hold their own Remembrance Service on Armistice Day. They want "to draw attention to the appalling loss of life and human suffering" in war (Eastern Evening News, 31.10.89). ‘‘We want methods and ways to be found to prevent wars happening again."

Obviously these simple people, who are still looking for ‘‘methods and ways" of preventing war, haven’t heard of Socialism. So all is well. These peace-time pacifists will be no more effective than they were on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when you had to jump out of the way to avoid being trampled to death by the rush of Christians, pacifists, Peace Pledge Unionists and so on into the recruiting offices.
Alwyn Edgar