Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Letter: Socialist Industrial Unionism (1959)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editors,

Your principles declare that government, etc. . . . may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation.

Marx said that the State is the executive committee of the governing class. The Socialist Labour Party wants to abolish the State as such, and without being completely vague about what Socialism is. it has a concrete programme of Socialist Industrial Unionism which it can expound better than I—which is a blueprint for a Socialist Society.

The S.L.P. goes a stage further than S.P.G.B. in clarifying their position—so it strikes me.

On page 87 of the June Socialist Standard you criticise Lenin and Stalin as they were worlds apart from Marx and Engels on the role and function of the working class.

However, Lenin's statement that "If we wait for the people to understand Socialism we shall wait a thousand years." He was an optimist. Socialism—bogus or real—doesn't appeal to "never-had-it-so-gooders." "big heads" self-satisfied "middle-class" workers, ostentatious car-owners, TV addicts, etc.
Yours truly,
J. L. D.
Dunstable, Beds.

Our correspondent implies that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has only a vague conception of Socialism. In fact, our object—a social system based upon the common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution— is a concise definition of Socialism, and one which has stood for the 55 years of our existence. The establishment of Socialism is prevented because the majority of the world's population do not want it: at every election they vote overwhelmingly to continue running society in the interests of the capitalist class. This is done through the State machine—the armed and police forces, judiciary system and so on. which are all controlled by Parliament. Any attempt to bypass this Slate machine is doomed to failure: that is why ". . . a programme of Socialist Industrial Unionism . . ." is futile. Socialism can only be brought into being when the working class understand it and want it and express themselves by sending their delegates to the seats of control over the State machine to carry through the formal process of liquidating capitalism. This will not involve the use of soldiers and policemen to impose Socialism upon an unwilling population—indeed, when Socialism is established, the State and all its oppressive instruments will cease to exist. This is the meaning of the phrase “. . . converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation . . ." in Clause 6 of our Declaration of Principles.

It is true that most workers are satisfied with their lot under capitalism. But they were satisfied before they owned a lot of cars and television sets. The 1914-18 war and the depressions which followed did nothing to shake their support of capitalism. The second world war only made them experiment with the Labour Party version of capitalism before swinging back to the Tories. Working class confusion about Socialism has been deepened by the organisations which think, with Lenin, that “ If we wait for the people to understand Socialism we shall wait a thousand years" and have, therefore, asked for support for a programme of capitalist reform which they have called Socialism.

There is no alternative to waiting for the people to understand but the day of enlightenment can be brought nearer if organisations like the Socialist Labour Party stop spreading confusion.
Editorial Committee

Lloyd George on the trade boom (1959)

Quote from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "The commercial world everywhere is in better heart. There is more enterprise and everything makes the prospect much brighter. I am told, on authority I cannot doubt, that we shall probably see a greater volume of trade this year and next than has ever been witnessed in the history of this country . .  . All indications are that this year's trade will be good, that next year's trade will be better, that the people will be prosperous and that therefore the revenue will show an expansion." 
Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech —1910.

Churchill on poverty (1959)

Quote from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "I have often asked myself whether our splendid civilisation really conferred blessings on all classes. Is it really true to say that the poorest man in Scotland is not any happier than the present Hottentot or the poorest Eskimo? I am inclined to think that he is not any happier, but perhaps more unsociable. He is homeless in the heart of great cities; he is hungry in the midst of plenty such as was never seen on earth before and he suffers the privations of the savage with the nerves of civilised man. . . .  To compare the life and lot of the African aboriginal—secure in his abyss of contented degradation, rich in that he lacks everything and wants nothing—with the long nightmare of worry and privation, of dirt and gloom and squalor, lit only by gleams of torturing knowledge and tantalizing hope, which constitutes the lives of so many poor people in England and Scotland, is to feel the grand tremble underfoot.”

Winston Churchill in a speech at Edinburgh

50 Years Ago: Liberals and Socialism (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dr. Macnamara, in a strong speech, declared that Radicalism was irrevocably opposed to the principles on which Socialism was based.  — Daily Chronicle (21.10.1909)

#    #    #    #

"The people are beginning to discover that Socialism and social reform are two entirely different things. In this respect I adopt entirely the definition of the two things given by Mr. Balfour in Birmingham in 1907: -
  Socialism has one meaning and one meaning only. Socialism means, and can mean, nothing less, that the community is to take all the means of production into its own hands, and that private enterprise and private property is to come to an end. That is Socialism and nothing else is Socialism.
  Social Reform is when the State, based on private enterprise and based on private property—recognises that the result can only be obtained by respecting private property and encouraging private enterprise, asks men to contribute towards great national, social and public objects. That is social reform.
I contend that our proposals [the Liberal Government's Budget, 1909] fall under the latter description and not under the former.”—Mr. Alexander Ure, the Lord Advocate, quoted in Daily Chronicle (1.10.1909).
(From the December 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard.)

Christmas —the great delusion (1965)

From the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Christmas, we shall be told again and again during the next few weeks, is for the children. There is, of course, another side to it, represented by the flood of gaudy rubbish which fills the shops, the big campaigns to sell it, and by the tinsel of nonsense with which the whole thing is embellished. This is not so romantic a vision as that of innocent, starry-eyed kiddies hanging their stockings by the chimney—and it suggests that, whatever enjoyment children may get out of it, Christmas is for a few other people as well.

As the City columns, the advertising agencies, and the trade statistics make clear, Christmas is that thing so beloved of a section of the capitalist class—a spending spree. Millions of people save up, perhaps for the entire year, for this one great splash-out. This is the time when savings vanish, bonuses are blued, hire purchase debts cheerfully taken on. These debts have partly replaced the old loan clubs, which used to have their big pay-out at Christmas. In fact, hire-purchase does no more than the clubs—it simply moves the payment date from one part of the year to another, but this is enough to make it one more piece of evidence for those who are trying to prove that we are all so much better off nowadays.

Christmas is responsible for an amazing expansion of the retail market, lasting for about a month at a time when trade would probably otherwise be slack. For example, the sales of one suburban branch of a famous retail chain bound up to around thirty thousand pounds on Saturdays during December; the manager can almost forecast what his sales figure will be for each weekend. These sales are in the established, non-seasonal goods such as clothes, which simply become more hectic during the Christmas rush. There are plenty of other examples, as people determinedly smoke more cigarettes, eat more food, and of course drink more alcohol during the space of a couple of days than they do in a normal week.

Apart from the established trades, there are the seasonal sales, with an appeal confined exclusively to the Christmas period. Christmas crackers, for instance, are being turned out all the year round; even the men who compose those dreadful jokes and mottoes are hard at it months in advance. The result of all this is that about one hundred million crackers are sold at Christmas, some of them abroad.

We must not forget Christmas cards. The first of these was sent in 1843; the idea did not catch on for about twenty years and since then the market has steadily expanded until now something over six hundred million cards, worth about 15 million, are sent each Christmas. This is good business for the firms which make the cards (one of whose executives said a little while ago “We are in the sentiment business”) and for the Post Office, who rake in something like £8 million in postage on the cards, not to mention the extra revenue on Christmas parcels, greetings telegrams, 'phone calls and the rest.

It is anyone’s guess, how much of the spending at Christmas goes in a genuine effort to have, or to give someone else, a good time. A lot of the drinks, presents and smokes are sent as bribes (there is no other words for it) from the directors of one firm to those of another which, they hope, will buy their products. A host of calendars, diaries, packs of cards, are produced as advertising material. Some Christmas cards are sent out by firms as reminders that they are still in business—and magnificent pieces of work some of them are.

Apart from the business world, there is no doubt that a lot of money is spent at Christmas in an effort to impress other people. We have all seen—perhaps some of us have actually received—those Christmas cards which have so obviously been selected with the motive of convincing us that the senders are more wealthy and important than they actually are. We have all read the advertisements which say that no card is really gracious unless it has the senders’ name and address printed on the inside. It is an unpleasant fact that the acquisitive nature of capitalism gives strength to this sort of appeal; for those who fall for it, sending Christmas cards is a highly competitive business, in which a defeat has to smoulder for a whole year before the chance for revenge comes round again.

The fact is that Christmas is in some ways a time for people to show their less attractive side—and for the massed forces of commercialism to cash in on the situation, ruthlessly and to the full, with the only justification they need—in the end they have more profit than if they had not played up to peoples’ snobbery, their insecurity and their distorted conception of the world in which they struggle to live.

In other ways, too, commerce turns the screw at Christmas. A walk around any department store reveals an astounding variety of junk which is being sold at equally astounding prices. There are toys which are dangerous, or which will not last from Christmas to Boxing Day in the hands of any child. There are cakes of soap and bath cubes, stuck in a fancy box and covered in cellophane, selling for much more than their usual price. There is a bewildering mass of tinsel, plastic and coloured paper—and all the time there is the drive to sell, sell, sell for a Merry Christmas.

Yes, this is an enormous, briefly inflated, market; each year the note circulation leaps up to accommodate it. (Last year it increased from £2,583 million in the first week in November to £2,766 million in Christmas week.) The firms which hope to cash in on the boom lay their plans a long time ahead. From the summer months onwards, they are discussing and deciding on their advertising campaigns, their special wrappings and what they like to call their “presentation”. There is always the temptation for them to try to get in first, which they have to resist for fear of opening their campaign too early. But none of them can afford to leave it too late—they have such an awful lot to sell. So it is not uncommon for us to be able to buy Christmas decorations, wrappings, cards and so on in October; and before Guy Fawkes night there are not a few big stores with their Father Christmas, usually an unemployed stage extra, to induce people to buy by working on their children.

Many people complain that the Christmas sales campaign starts too early. But as the market is stimulated to grow, and as it grows, so will the effort to exploit it. This might mean an even longer sales drive in the future—wasn’t there a story about a business man who said that Christmas was good business as long as they kept religion out of it?

He must have been an ungrateful fellow; religion, after all, does him many a good turn. In any case, as we point out elsewhere in this issue, Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity; the Christians simply pinched it to suit their own purposes. What more natural, then, than that the capitalist social system, which is so faithfully supported by Christianity, should itself adopt Christianity’s most important festival for its own ends?

It was the Industrial Revolution which was responsible for reducing the old twelve days’ holiday at Christmas to a single day. The rise of capitalism meant that masses of people sold their working ability to the master class by time—and time spent on holidays was time not spent producing the masters profits in the factory or the mill or the mine. Capitalism, with the help of its religious lackeys, built up a massive condemnation of what it called idleness. And among other things it destroyed the ancient Twelve Days of Christmas.

More recently, capitalism has reduced the opposition to Christmas to a handful. Nobody now holds the opinion expressed in a Puritan pamphlet of 1656, that Christmas was ". . . the old Heathen’s Feasting Day . . . the Papists’ Massing Day, the Superstitious Man’s Idol Day . . . Satan’s That Adversary’s Working Day” but until fairly recently there was a solid, articulate opposition to it. This is now all but silent, as the festival has been blown up into a vast, commercialised orgy of selling and consumption, one of the many working class Festivals of Delusion.

The great Delusion of Christmas is that dormant within us there is the Christmas Spirit—a gentle compound of benevolence, co-operation and goodwill which is roused at this time of year by the appeal of religion. When we are possessed of the Spirit we are wise and generous and loving; if only (says the Delusion) we could keep it up all the year round the problems of the world would be solved. If we would only cast out the Scrooges among us (and we all have our own idea of who Scrooge may be) and live by the Christmas Spirit there will be no more poverty, or war, or oppression.

This is no joke; the Delusion is powerful. It brought both sides out of their trenches to fraternise in No Man’s Land in 1914 (officially, that was the last time they did it). It inspires countless maudlin speeches at office parties and family gatherings. It runs through the entire Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day. It is powerful—and it is dangerous.

For the Delusion fosters the idea that the troubles of capitalism are caused by anything but the essential nature of the system. It promotes the nonsense that the world today is a fearsome, disturbed place because people are bad and that if only people were better the world would be a better place. It encourages people to think in terms of good and bad spirit, when they should be asking themselves why they behave as they do, and why the world is as it is. And as a final irony, the Christmas Delusion even encourages some people to think that there is something inconsistent in the determined way that capitalism exploits Christmas for all it is worth.

To start at the right end of this problem, we should first of all realise that there is nothing essentially wrong (or right, for that matter) with most people. It is the conditions of living and working under capitalism which largely make them what they are. Capitalism is constantly working out ways of exploiting us more efficiently, which means more intensely. It is always pushing us that bit harder, crowding us in that much more, making us into that much more of a cut-throat in the competitive scramble for the better job, the bigger house, the easier money.

In these conditions, people live at an intense pressure. Events which in themselves are trivial—a telephone which rings, a child who behaves like a child—are an intolerable strain. It is only when we relax, when we put aside the worry of making ends meet, when we try to live like human beings, that we begin to get a better perspective on it all. Perhaps this is what a lot of people do at Christmas. Some of them, for a couple of days at any rate, actually succeed, and they put it all down to the Christmas Spirit.

The big laugh about this—if anyone can stand another joke at this time of year—is that if the working class really grasped the implications of this they would take a hard, sober look at capitalism and see it for the wretched way of living that it is. That old chap Scrooge had a word which aptly describes the delusions of capitalism, its cynicism and its hypocrisy. Humbug.

Christianity or Socialism (1965)

From the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month Christians celebrate the birth of their Christ. It is therefore appropriate once again to examine the Christian religion and its relations to socialism and the working class.

Christianity is a comparatively recent religion but it is thick with the debris of man’s earlier superstitions. The pagan influence on the Christmas festival is especially well marked, for December 25th was a holy day long before Jesus Christ was even thought of. Primitive man worshipped the sun because the course of his life was dominated by the yearly round of that planet in the heavens. This practice was widespread but especially in northern countries mid-December was thought to be a critical time, as the days became shorter and shorter and the sun itself weaker. Great bonfires were lit to give the sun god strength and, when it became apparent that the shortest day had passed, there was great rejoicing. Thus the Roman winter-solstice festival, held on December 25th in connection with the worship of the sun-god Mithra, was known as the birthday of the unconquered sun-god.

December 25th was not generally introduced into the Western Church as Christmas day until the fourth century and it was even later before it was accepted in the Eastern Church. Several Christian sects had previously fancied the 24th or 25th of April as a suitable “holy” period—thus arbitrarily connecting Christ’s birth with the vernal equinox rather than the winter-solstice—while still other factions chose alternative solar festivals. However, St. Chrysostum (5th century) gives a very practical reason why December 25th was to be preferred. “On this day the birthday of Christ was lately fixed at Rome, in order that while the heathens were occupied in their profane ceremonies the Christians might perform their holy rites undisturbed.”

Man's consciousness is a reflection of his material environment. While he was struggling to find his feet in the universe it was understandable that he should interpret phenomena which he could not comprehend in supernatural terms but, in the twentieth century, such irrational relics from the past can be of no value to the working class.

Christians have argued against the materialist conception of history by claiming that the driving force behind the universe is a god’s will and that, while everything else may be subject to change, God and his religion remain constant. Yet the briefest examination of Christ and his theories shows him clearly as a product of his times. For example, he plainly shared the then common belief that disease was due to infestation with demons and he told his followers, “In my name ye shall cast our devils”. Again, religion has always been the willing tool of the ruling class. The church today holds chattel slavery to be immoral. But when Constantine the Great accepted the Christian religion the pope of the time received him with acclamation and no one suggested to him the need to surrender his slaves, of which he held thousands. Similarly the Christians’ god today dutifully reflects the interests of capital. Thus for hundreds of years the popes excommunicated those who put their money out at usury and denied them Christian burial because of this “grievous sin”. Yet, strangely, since Pope Benedict XIV’s condemnation in 1745, God has not moved his spokesmen to breathe one word against this practice.

We are told that the Bible is God’s word. This being the case, his laconic message could not be clearer—“Thou shalt not kill”. The record of the Christian churches in this century alone illustrates that they have never hesitated to take sides in Capitalism’s bloody quarrels. In the first world war the workers were urged to slaughter one another with God on their lips: “God of our Fathers . . . Be thou the rampart of our costs, the frontline of the battlefield”. And in the second world war Christians intoned in harmony with capitalist interests in both Germany and Britain. “You have every reason to say prayers for the Führer. May God preserve him, because we need an eternal Germany.” (Reported in the Daily Mail, May 9th. 1944.)

On the other hand in the Church of England Newspaper, February 23rd, 1940, we find a thoroughly English god rallying under the Union Jack: “It is to the living God therefore we must look for deliverance in the present hour. He it is Who delivered our fathers from the ‘Invincible’ Spanish Armada; He appeared on our behalf in 1914-18; and He will help us now if we call upon Him with a true heart.”

Capitalism is a dirty business, based as it is upon the misery of the majority of mankind. But it is well served by its priesthood, always ready with the facile lie and the glib distortion to endorse the actions of the bourgeoisie and persuade the workers that their present lot is part of some unalterable, God-given system.

Clearly then the Christian religion is a most versatile creed. Is it possible that it could be adapted again to serve the interests of a socialist society? The answer is no, for at all times Christianity and Socialism are contradictory. Socialism involves a rejection of leadership and the determination that the workers themselves must achieve socialism. Conversely? Christianity is rooted in a blind faith in leaders, both worldly and supernatural. The priests urge their flocks to remain servile and reap the blessings of poverty. They say that it is not up to the workers to consider the system which robs them, throws them into unemployment, subjects them to war and disease; that it God’s province. The Bishop of Barcelona orders: “Have confidence in your Bishops, who have received from God the mission of commanding; learn to obey . . . do not change a word of the directives that the Holy Church gives you through the Bishops. Be obedient!”

Again, within capitalist society there is a continual class struggle which can only be abolished by the establishment of a classless society—socialism. But Christians believe that there is a harmony of interests under capitalism. Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclincal on Labour asserted: “If one man hires out to another his strength or his industry, he does this in order to receive in return the means of livelihood, with the intention of acquiring a real right, got merely to his wage, but also to the free disposal of it . . . Socialists . . . strike at the liberty of every wage-earner, for they deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages.” The good pope has a point—in that socialism will certainly deprive everyone of the “liberty” of wage-slavery. However, with typical Christian charity (towards the bourgeoisie) he chooses to overlook the fact that under capitalism the workers are forced to sell their labour power to the owners of the means of living. This is not, as the pope suggests, a case of fair exchange but is based upon the appropriation of the surplus value created by the workers by the master class.

Yet there are those who still maintain that Socialism and Christianity can somehow by synthesised, given the right leader as a catalyst. The Labour Party has always taken this line and the so-called Christian Socialist Movement lingers on. desperately trying to create some sort of comprehensible amalgam out of conflicting idealist and materialist theories. Their analysis of capitalism is based upon the contention that it is an “evil” system, rooted in sin. But in their literature we find: “Capitalism has served mankind by accumulating capital, so making large scale production possible and increasing wealth generally . .  .” Thus these Christian gentlemen admit that what they call “sin” and “ evil ” have been of service to man. This inconsistency is the inevitable result of trying to accommodate Christianity and Socialism—the utopian and the scientific.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of good cheer, when the harsh reality of this world is briefly forgotten. But it is impossible to disregard capitalism even at this time of the year. We address our Christmas message to the working class, about to enjoy yet another wretched holiday under capitalism—the system they chose to perpetuate when they voted for the Labour and Tory parties last October. That man of the people, the sanctimonious Harold Wilson, has gone on record as talking of “our quest for the Kingdom of God on earth”. After one year of Labour government the conclusion in inevitable; God and Mr. Wilson are forced to administer capitalism in the interests of the ruling class as ever. But then Mr. Wilson is not a socialist—and neither is God.
John Crump

John Bull's sacred cow (1965)

From the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is pathetically easy to poke fun at Royalty. Look at any copy of Private Eye for the yobly kind of satire, or “This England” in the New Statesman for authenticated stories about incidents such as the removal of lavatory signs “to avoid embarrassment” during a royal visit. The trouble with such side-swipes, however, is that they leave the basic nature of the institution unexamined and untouched. (Indeed, for the satire industry to survive it is imperative that this butt of its jokes remains unchanged.)

A more difficult, but also more useful, job is to define the exact position of the Queen and the Royal Family in relation to the rest of society. For until we have an understanding of the total situation, we have neither the ability, nor do we grasp the need, to change the social structure.

The first and most obvious point is that the Royal Family are members of the capitalist class. That is, they own so much wealth, in the form of vast estates, that it is economically unnecessary for them to work. This means, for example, that they can enjoy themselves at Ascot and similar places as often as they please, without having to pinch an afternoon off from the office or to wait for their week of night-shift to come round (Not that most of us could afford to go to Ascot even under these conditions). It also means that, like the rest of the capitalist class, the Royal Family can have the very best of everything without having to worry about the price.

However, the position of the Queen and her family within this ruling class is, of course, quite unique—and in a paradoxical way which her title would not lead us to believe. Whereas some capitalists, when they tire of Cannes and caviar, may wish to turn their unoccupied minds to politics it is expected of Royalty that they should be above this sordid fray. The Duke of Edinburgh will be tolerated when he tells the workers in industry to “pull their finger out” but if he starts giving more specific advice on British Foreign policy he hits the national headlines.

As regards the Queen, too, we may agree with the official statement:
  “In law, she is the head of the executive, an integral part of the legislature . . .  In practice, as a result of a long evolutionary process during which the absolute power of the monarchy has been progressively reduced, the Queen acts only on the advice of her ministers, which she cannot constitutionally ignore. She reigns but she does not rule. The United Kingdom is governed by Her Majesty’s Government in the name of the Queen." (Britain. An Official Handbook, H.M.S.O. 1965.) 
Stripped of its verbiage this means that despite all the traditional bull, the Queen is merely a rubber stamp.

In this respect the Royal Family provide a glaring example of the redundancy and strictly parasitic nature of the capitalist class in general. Not only do they perform no useful social function but they do not even have to defend their own class interests. Most capitalists choose not to go into politics, and a large part of managing capitalism is willingly undertaken by political careerists from the working class.

Now it has been argued that the Monarchy does perform a useful function on the grounds that a Monarch can create more good-will the world over than a mere president. Philip and Elizabeth, it is said, are worth their weight in gold as unofficial British ambassadors. But what do their lengthy foreign tours, with all their enormous expense, really achieve? Good-will soon gets flattened under the steam-roller of political reality, as numerous conflicts within the Commonwealth have shown. The fact that both India and Pakistan owe some sort of allegiance to the same monarch does not prevent them from tearing each other’s guts out. And even the great love which the Europeans are reputed to have for Her Britannic Majesty could not get Britain into the Common Market.

But even if it is conceded that these ambassadorial missions have a certain measure of success, that the foreigners warm to us and as a result are more inclined to Buy British—what relevance does this have for those of us whose lives are taken up in earning enough to go on living? It simply means that the wealth which we produce but our employers own may be more easily disposed of on the world’s markets —without this necessarily benefiting us in any way. Thus if the Royal Family can be said to have any function at all, it is that of being public relations officers for the British capitalist class. The latter, after all, are the only people who have anything to sell abroad.

As for the “reward” (one could hardly call it wages) which members of the Royal Family get for going on long holidays and reading an occasion speech, it certainly proves them to be worth their weight in sterling. The Civil List, the amount of money given every year to the Royal Family, is made up as follows:
It would perhaps be more fitting if members of the Royal Family stood up for the rest of the population when the National Anthem is played, to show that they appreciate such benevolence. They are given more every year than most of us earn in a lifetime, and in effect they are guaranteed an annual pools win without even filling in a coupon.

As if this were not enough Sir Charles Petrie, in a bigoted anology for the institution of the monarchv (The Modern British Monarchy), laments that certain ladies of the high aristocracy are not included in the list of annual pensions and are forced to “sell their trinkets at Sotheby’s.” He is quite blind to the fact that most non-aristocratic ladies haven’t got a single trinket they would be able to sell at Sothebv’s, nor will they ever save enough to be able to buy one. In essence his statement contains the same absurdity as one made recently by another Royalist: “The Royal Family are really quite poor, you know. They have so many palaces to maintain.”

A second bogus point which Sir Charles borrows from The Times and uses in his book is that since the Exchequer receives more in taxes from the Royal Family than it pays out for the Civil List, “the nation makes a profit out of the Royal Family.” Here again the argument conveniently ignores one side of the facts. For example, we should hardly feel it was the whole truth to say that the nation makes a profit out of someone like Charles Clore on the grounds that he pays taxes and receives no annual pension. We would conclude, naturally, that he must be receiving from somewhere even larger amounts of money than he pays in taxes. And since he is not a member of the employed class his income must be from shares, interest, property and the like.

Moreover, it is quite wrong to say that taxes are a profit of the “nation" in the sense of the majority of people in the country. The taxes go to the government, which uses them in a variety of ways to support and maintain the capitalist machine.

We can only assume that this is the case with the Royal Family, whose income derives from their vast estates and property. This brings us back to our first point: the Royal Family, with all the special and unique features we have considered, are members of the socially superflous capitalist class. ,

Changing altitude
What, now, of current attitudes to this archaic institution in an archaic form of society? The satire we noted earlier is perhaps symptomatic of a more critical and sceptical view with regard to royalism. Most of us have been caught up in the stampedes out of the cinema at closing time and some circuits have given up playing the National Anthem at all.

Such attitudes are preferable to an unquestioning reverence, but they do not go nearly far enough. They do not point the way to any effective form of action; they amount at most to grudging resentment, and at their most innocuous merely to condescending amusement. This is inevitably the case as long as one institution of capitalism is considered in isolation from the rest of society.

For this reason there is no reason to support republicans, who want to abolish the monarchy in favour of an elected head of state such as a president. Presidents command as much extravagant luxury as kings, and top politicians pig themselves to the same excessive extent as Henry VIII (See the photos of the Lord Mayor’s Banquet any year). In short, as long as there is a ruling and a subject class, the top ranks of society will always enjoy the same order of privileges.

Men have come a long way since they believed that Royal Privilege was divinely given, but they have not yet realised that this and every other kind of privilege rests in the last analysis on the private ownership of the means of life.

When they do realise this and take the necessary steps to establish common ownership of and free access to wealth (and that won’t be until you do), then there will consequently cease to be classes, ranks land/hierarchies in society. There will be no Your Majesties, Your Graces or Your Honours, and any respect which individuals command will be based entirely on their merits as useful Contributors to the worldwide co-operative community.

Finally, to those people who anxiously ask “What would happen to the Queen in socialism?” We can only say this: as we have shown, she would cease to be a queen and a member of the capitalist class. The only person who can give you more information than that is Elizabeth Mountbatten.
Keith Graham

The Passing Show: You and Your Job (1965)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

You and Your Job
Have you what is commonly known as a “good job”—one that has “gd. sal. to right person and excel. conds.” as the small ads put it? Even if you can answer yes to this, even if you are one of the more highly paid workers today, it's still a pretty certain bet that you have a struggle to get by at whatever standard of living you are accustomed to and are expected to maintain. And because you are a worker, you will always have to count the pennies at some stage or other before you can have things which you may particularly need. “Consumers choice” is a pretty empty term under these circumstances—the restriction of choice begins in your pocket, not in the shop window.

But accepting that we all live a pretty narrow sort of life with drabness and insecurity in varying degrees according to size of pay packet, what do you really think of your job? By that I mean just what do you think of the work that you have to do, the duties and responsibilities that it entails? If we are again to judge by the small ads columns, there is no such thing as a dull, monotonous, boring job; “interesting work” is always their claim, but they are usually careful to add “gd. hours”, which is a hint of what they really think of the mental attraction of the job. They know that no one will want to stick at it a second longer than necessary and that come knocking-off time, the factory or office will be deserted within minutes. And although many workers do work overtime, it’s not generally out of love for their work, but because of the extra cash.

Before the war, when jobs were scarce, you just had to put up with the monotony and make the best of it, but in a time of labour shortage like the present, this is one (but only one) of the factors which make for frequent job changes, particularly among younger workers. One young man still in his twenties was recently reported as having had some hundreds of jobs since leaving school. Despite the reformer’s prattle about “opportunities for youth”, the essential conditions of capitalism—the division of labour and the worker’s divorce from ownership of the means of production—will throw up this problem more and more as time goes by.

These thoughts are prompted by a small cutting from The Guardian of October 14th. Mr. J. E. Newton, general secretary of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, has drawn attention to this very problem. He thinks that workers are getting less and less satisfaction from their jobs and wants Mr. Brown to set up a ministry of industrial psychology “to find out what workers think of their jobs” and “try to redirect personal interest to the workplace or provide the means for obtaining other satisfactions outside work.” Without wishing to be rude to Mr. Newton, I think we could well be spared yet another government ministry, especially of psychology (what a horrible thought). And why does he want an investigation to find out what he seems pretty certain of already, anyway?

But his other proposal is interesting. I think it suggests that he does not have much hope of workers ever being able to get fulfilment from their jobs. Indeed, he admits by implication that the search for it outside of working hours is here to stay, and of course he’s quite correct. I should say that it will last as long as capitalism; in fact, catering for pastimes and sports has become an industry in itself. Many of us have hobbies of one sort or another and we often work harder at them than we do at our jobs. Others vent their frustrations on old ladies, telephone kiosks and railway carriage upholstery—a particularly ugly trend which is really just the other side of the same coin.

In a Socialist World . . . ?
Yes, you have a right to ask that question. In a Socialist world we would work, but work would take on a new meaning. It would not be synonymous with employment, which is merely the means of getting a living wage, but since it would aim at the full satisfaction of people’s needs, it would be also a way of expressing and developing ourselves to the fullest extent. True we would work to live because that is essential in any society, but we would also live to work. I should think that monotony and frustration would be well-nigh impossible under such conditions, not least of all because the heavy specialisation demanded by capitalism would disappear. And we won’t need any psychologists to try and teach us how to kid ourselves we’re happy when we’re anything but.

An Old Story
My father is an old age pensioner and belongs to the local old age pensioners association. The other day he handed me a copy of Pensioner’s Voice, the official publication of the National Federation of O.A.P. Associations. “We speak for the older generation,” says the caption at top right on the front page, and it’s a good job that somebody speaks for them, but let’s see how effectively Pensioner's Voice manages to do this..

Right off, it denies any political affiliations and claims it has always advised its members to “support any candidate who will support us.” Now that should pose quite a question. After all, you have only the election address and speeches of your candidates to go by and the one who does not promise support for the pensioners must be a rarity indeed. You could of course try eliminating from your support list those who had a poor record on the pensions question, but then that would mean eliminating the lot if you were really honest with yourself.

Actually, I was struck by the naivité of this journal. The National Federation was formed twenty-five years ago and represents millions who have a lifetime’s experience of working class existence behind them. Yet it still puts the view that Parliament is an impartial body—taken as a whole—and that “all the political parties should be willing and anxious to see that justice is done.” Now let us assume you are a pensioner and acted on the Federation’s advice during the last election. Perhaps you voted Labour, in which case on Page 3, you will find the Rev. T. E. Nuttall complaining vide the government’s national plan, that:—
  . . . We cannot find anything in the white paper about the electoral promise on an entirely new policy to provide an adequate income for each pensioner . . .
Pensioner’s Voice has an interesting editorial comment comparing the lot of a £4 a week pensioner with that of a shareholder in I.C.I. It mentions that their £50 millions capital issue in early September was heavily over-subscribed. Not only was this a well written commentary on the glaring inequality that is capitalism, but by this very comparison the writer spotlighted the indignity which is built into working class existence. Yet is there any real questioning of such a world, or even the faintest spark of anger? Not at all. Just a pathetic appeal to put “all hands to the pumps to make his (the pensioner’s) life a bit easier.”

In looking at the pensioner’s movement in Britain over the last few years I have noted this attitude, which runs like a thread through its literature. Always it is an appeal, rather than a demand, for better income and social services. Granted that old workers do not have the same vigour to push their interests as youngsters have, but the really big factor behind their failure is their lack of bargaining power because they are now out of the production line. This is the biggest slap in the face that capitalism gives them.

So to them, the need for Socialism should be of particular interest, and it is especially sad that many of them will die without ever having considered it.

  “. . . We are under the constant survey of foreign friends . . . Any back sliding on our part, which lays us open to accusations that we are . . . putting social needs before financial responsibility, would very quickly cause the leaves on the plant of confidence to shrivel.” (Lord Cromer, 21/10/65)

   “It is a remarkable thing how in the last quarter of a century the doctrine of Socialism as a way of life . . .  is everywhere, even in Russia, thoroughly discredited.” (Lord Shawcross, ex-Minister in the 1945 Labour Government. 4/11/65)

   “One MP suggested the skinning alive of hanged men and the use of their skulls as beer pots.” (The Guardian, 11/11/65, reporting the debate in the Malawi Parliament on the Penal Code Amendment Bill)
Eddie Critchfield

The Universe (1965)

Book Review from the December 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Fabric of the Heavens by Toulmin and Goodchild, Pelican Books 6s.

This is the first of four books in a connected series entitled The Ancestry' of Science. It is a book of interest to socialists for the authors view of history is akin to the Materialist Conception of History, and they have applied it to the development of astronomy and dynamics, ".  .  . a man can do in his own time only a job which is there to be done; but there may be many different ways in which he can do it.” Although they raise this point with reference to Isaac Newton, their whole work is evidence of this development within history from the Babylonians through to modern times.

They contrast this view of history with the deterministic "the acts of historical drama will follow one another of the same general sequence regardless of what actor takes any particular part” and the concept of the great men who “leap far ahead of their times, forcing thought along genuinely new and creative paths.”

The Babylonians commenced the study of astronomy not merely for religious forecasting—the celestial bodies were regarded as gods, but because within their empire there were many different calendar systems based upon the sun or the moon and “commercial and official business alike called for a more predictable and uniform calendar.” They collected observations over many centuries in order to improve their celestial forecasting, which they did with great accuracy, but apparently without any attempt to explain the sequence of the events they observed.

The Greeks were later to speculate on the causes of what the Babylonians had observed. Greece before 300 B.C. was unlike Babylonia in that it was not an area of order and stability, and it was “a meeting point for different cultures.” This situation led to a minority, often unpopular, making critical speculation concerning nature, politics, religion, etc., a speculation which was to lead to theories, many of which contained ideas to be developed later in Western Europe.

The unification of Greece commenced the decline in the spread of science. The paths of mathematics and astronomy began to diverge, the study of physics declined—“By A.D. 200, astrology had recovered all the ground that it had ever lost, and had effectively displaced rational astrophysics.” The reasons were political, social, economic and religious. This decline had such an effect that the last questions of Ptolemy were the first to be asked by Copernicus some thirteen centuries later, that is after fifteen centuries of Christendom. The authors show that members of the church often critically analysed concepts of the heavens, despite the fact that dogma had to be accepted.

The authors give considerable evidence that the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and many others were milestones in the developing understanding of the universe, but assert that their ideas were expected developments from previous knowledge, and arose out of the problems confronting students of astronomy and physics in their times.

Inability to find an adequate explanation of the universe long led men to think “that divine revelation alone could give certainty.” But in the eighteenth century men thought that Newton had revealed “true laws for good. His theories seemed certain, correct, final. Later logical doubts and perplexities began to arise.”

When men solve problems it will often appear that their solutions are final. A problem has been removed, but neither nature nor society remain constant; new problems arise, the study of which extends man's knowledge.

According to the authors “the progress of science always involves a delicate balance between critical observation and speculative theorising — between careful piecemeal investigation of particular problems and imaginative general interpretation of the results obtained."

In capitalist society, in the fields of the natural sciences, it is possible to observe critically, to make speculative imaginative interpretations, but in the social sciences capitalist society, assuming itself to be correct and final, restricts scientific enquiry. Progress in social enquiry is prevented because the class nature of society and its consequences are ignored.

Freedom of enquiry in the natural sciences will continue under capitalist society, and astrophysics will not be an exception, for developments can usually be put to commercial advantage. Enquiry into the social and economic field will be encouraged only if it accepts capitalist society and aids commercial development, for example, market analysis or industrial psychology. Only Socialists can study problems of capitalist society uninhibited with ideas of its permanence. We alone are able to rebut the theories of capitalist social sciences—often from their own evidence. They stand condemned when comparison is made with the advances in the natural sciences in the past two hundred years, from canal to space travel, and yet in the social field the problems of poverty, insecurity, housing, etc., remain.

These problems arise out of the nature of capitalism and cannot be removed until society is changed. When that is done, and Socialism is established, the social sciences will be as free and unrestricted as are the natural sciences in their respective fields of study.
Ken Knight

Editorial: A World To Win (1983)

Editorial from the December 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

In their bleaker moments, socialists might be excused for decrying social progress as measurable in ideas which move with the speed of glaciers when what is needed is a universal earthquake. Unless there is a sudden, dramatic—and at present unforeseen — change, it will take a long time for the social landscape to be gouged out anew. For socialists do not think in terms of a few minor changes — the withering away of an intellectual copse or a small landslip which might superficially recast some relationships. We aim at a basically different social geology in which life will be thought out anew, on assumptions which the human race has not before needed.

What are the obstacles to such a change? There can be no dispute about its urgency; after a couple of hundred or so years capitalism presents us with a horrifying prospect. Throughout the world, people begin and end their lives under the shadow of repressions which vary between grinding poverty and unmanageable destitution. Denial of full access to the world's wealth is a constant, readily accepted factor, built into the life ambitions of the socially useful people — the world working class. Of course those who are merely impoverished count themselves the lucky ones; they know too well that at the other end of the spectrum capitalism starves tens of millions to death every year. Dying through starvation is slow, painful and degrading; that so many people should so remorselessly be subjected to it is a comment on the priorities of this social system. Then there is the fact that capitalism's first concern, for most of the states of the world, is the production of weapons of war and the organisation of armed forces which now have more than the capacity to paralyse modern society. If (some think when) a nuclear war is fought, what is then left of the world promises to be hardly worth living in. There is no chance that the services which keep working class existence at its present unluxurious level will survive. It has been well said, that life will be so miserable and bewildering that the living will envy the dead — another commentary on what capitalism has done to human beings.

That is an impressive list, particularly for a social system which has been justified on the grounds that it provides a world of rationally-based security and abundance and is. all in all. the best possible society humans can devise. What usefulness capitalism has had in human development has now expired; on the verge of 1984 it is abundantly clear that the system’s social relationships hamper the progress which is now necessary to the human race, perhaps if we are even to survive.

But however strong the case for its abolition, capitalism will not surrender of its own accord. It defends itself in the field of ideas and that is where it must be defeated and where the Socialist Parties of the world operate. Capitalism will be ended, and socialism established, only through the democratic act of a politically aware working class who have come to an understanding of why this must be and what will emerge from it. That means, in other words, through a massive change in ideas.

At present, working class concepts about the social system they support are expressed intermittently at elections but there is also a continuing acceptance of the agencies, the arrangements and the priorities which capitalism needs. Thus workers in the majority support the notion that the production of profit and the accumulation of capital are desirable in themselves. Even when this notion is to some extent modified — for example most workers probably think that, say, hospitals should operate on slightly different priorities than making money — its underlying assumption that to survive things must at least “pay their way” is generally approved of.

On this basis workers accept an enormous range of degrading and restricting provisions in their lives. There is first the fact that very little of the wealth we produce is turned out as the best we are capable of. Food is devitalised, flavoured out of its nature, preserved in chemical brews, portioned and packaged and stacked colourfully onto the supermarket shelves — and millions of people agree that this must be so and that it is good.

The towns we live in feature row upon row of jerry-building, of cramped dwellings which have been jig-sawed into a space whose limits have been set by the cost of the land where they stand. They are filled with characterless, mass-produced furniture and fittings, all chipboard and veneer and do-it-yourself assembled. At the kerbside rests the family car, a wasteful polluter which could have been built to outlive its owner but which in a few years will be fit only for the scrap-heap. And all of this also is accepted as good and necessary because to do things in any other way would not pay — it would jeopardise the profits which accrue to the capitalist class.

From our earliest days, what is miscalled our education is a process of measuring us up to fit ourselves into a moral straitjacket of compliance with our place as wage-slaves — as unquestioning, profit-producing members of the subservient class in society. We are taught to hold our social betters in awe, to look on royalty and aristocracy as superpeople, to grovel in gratitude and admiration of rich and powerful capitalists without whose wisdom, we are taught, the world would be little better than a wilderness. We are instructed that capitalism's family represents the true and immutable human morality, even if it entails a huge distortion of human drives. Happiness within capitalism, then, is an assured place in the exploitation process until death us do part, a mortgaged home where the curtains are neat and the hedges trim, an average family — and it all is to end in an uncomplaining, unmessy death in a poverty untroubled by ambitions about a more humane and satisfying existence.

The acceptance of capitalism's profit-orientated morality leads workers into the most extraordinary acts of self-damage. They willingly place themselves into the police and the armed forces, undergoing training in the most advanced methods of coercion or of destroying homes and killing their fellow workers. They come to this through something called discipline — which capitalism prizes highly — but which is really a form of controlled insanity.

And that is how capitalism will historically be regarded, when the world’s workers have come to consciousness and have overthrown the society which keeps them in subservience and which deprives them of the fruits of their labours. The establishment of socialism will see a new morality in the world, based on the assurance that wealth is to be produced for free human access and full human benefit. Socialism will be a society in which human interests take first place; only in an unavoidable extremity will anything be considered, let alone carried out. which would go against those interests.

We can have that society now. As 1983 comes to a close, with all that has happened in this dismal year alone, one thing is abundantly clear. The working class have only their chains to lose and a world to win.