Thursday, December 26, 2019

Whose Brains? A Question For Mr. J. R. Clynes (1946)

From the December 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Having landed themselves in a false position by taking over the capitalist government, while professing sympathy with the working class, the Labour Party have no alternative but to adopt the capitalist policy and attitude towards the workers. Hence their repeated appeals for harder work combined with restraint in wage demands. Some of the Labour leaders are doing their best to inject into the workers’ minds a sense of humility by comparison of their tasks with those of big business. Mr. J. R. Clynes, for instance, on a recent occasion, caused immense satisfaction to leader writers in the Press when he gave utterance to the following:—
  "Workmen, for the most part, move in a narrow circle, and are not in a position to measure the service of others. They cannot know the part which brains play in the pursuit of trade and business.” (Daily Sketch, 19/3/46).
In modern industry the intricate sub-division of labour makes it well nigh impossible for any one section of workers to know much about the details of other sections. But there is one fact of which they can all be aware, that their combined efforts are responsible for all the wealth produced. Furthermore, the real brainwork involved in securing trade and business is done by members of the working class. Commercial travellers and advertisers push the goods on the market. Office clerks keep records of sales, costs and overhead charges, and prepare the balance sheet for the director, who reads it and congratulates the share holders.

Nearly all concerns to-day work on orders. When orders fall off it is not long before workers become redundant. So that when the trade and business chasers fall down on their job the workers bear the brunt. It works like that. No orders, no work; no work, no wages; no wages, no orders. For if wages cannot buy back the wealth produced, the dole certainly cannot. But what about the director? If he moves at all, he most certainly moves in a narrow circle. He sanctions an increase in the number employed when orders come in. He deplores the necessity to sack them when orders fall off. To the share holders he is either a financial genius or an attractive figurehead. At general meetings he informs the shareholders, with an assumption of dignity and a natural complacency, that they have the double satisfaction of earning a rich reward and serving a public need. The ordinary shareholders, knowing little or nothing about how it is done, take their reward and look round for like opportunities to serve the public on similar terms. We search in vain among this dividend-hungry crowd for any evidence of brains being actively engaged in useful work.
   "Managers, superintendents, designers, inventors, directors and the like are far removed from the workers’ sphere,” says Mr. Clynes.
As far as managers and superintendents are concerned, this statement is untrue. .They are normally drawn from the rank and file and still belong to the working class. They understand and supervise the technical processes, performing a useful function all the more efficiently because of their training in the actual work. But their main task is to keep down costs, and they have at their command foremen in every department to speed up workers and machines. The foreman's aim is to become a manager, and the average worker knows in his own mind that he is quite as capable as his foreman to induce or drive his fellow workers. In a concern where understudies are ready to take over from the highest to the lowest none are far removed except that some understudies are appointed and some are not.

Designers are men and women who have qualified in art schools and technical colleges for the job. They work, for the most part, in studios and workshops under the supervision of someone who has acquired his skill in the same way. In fabrics, pottery, motorcar and shipbuilding this practice is general. The designer knows only the one job. The actual work of production is as much a sealed book to him as the supervising. He works for wages, is dependent on wages for a living, and is consequently a member of the working class.

Inventors to-day are in much the same position. They work in groups under supervision, a method that has been largely accelerated during the war. They have been regularised as a section of the working class and are exploited in the same way as the rest. Inventors no longer work independently, except in an amateurish way on gadgets of a personal kind, or for minor purposes in the home, etc. In their present position and status their ability can be directed into the channels required by their masters. Their relation to the capitalist has changed but little. The capitalist has always sucked their brains. In the old days they suffered from the lack of funds to enable them to drive a bargain, or were deliberately cheated of their inventions.

All this applies with equal force to the scientist. All have been brought under the wing of big business Their value has been assessed according to what it costs to produce them, no doubt enhanced because they are in short supply. But competition for such jobs Increases in proportion as work in the lower grades becomes more arduous, insecure and unremunerative. Mr. Clynes continues:—
  “The complex aspects of industry and its national and international problems are beyond the man. The tendency to look at our national problem from just our own group standard is nearly a common mistake."
That tendency is most strikingly in evidence in the attitude of the Labour Government towards the workers. They promised an era of prosperity under Socialism if returned to power, only to find themselves confined within the narrow limits of the same old capitalist system, which they are bound to defend in the face of ever-growing resentment and hostility from the workers.
  "Community interest is often upset by the vigour of a class prejudice."
In this last statement Mr. Clynes has managed to include two quite contradictory ideas. There can be no community interest in a society made up of two opposing classes, which is the actual condition in every capitalist country. Where, as in society to-day, one class owns the means of life, the rest, the working class, are enslaved. A class that is enslaved must be hostile to the master class, though, as yet, they only show it by demanding an increased share of the wealth they produce.

Mr. Clynes’s assumption of community interest is based on the lie that the capitalist class provide work and wages, thus enabling them to live. They provide neither. Wages are paid out of wealth previously produced and taken from the workers, and if orders do not come in there is no work to be provided.

There can only be a real community of interests when the working class carry their antagonism to its logical conclusion and organise for the sole purpose of establishing community ownership of the means of life.
F. Foan

The Last Hope of Humanity (1946)

From the December 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

We must abolish war. The alternative is wholesale destruction of life by the new and, as yet, little developed method of atom-bomb warfare. Millions of people who visit cinemas will have seen a film that was unearthly and strangely fascinating as a picture but horrifying in its significance. The film recorded the exploding at Bikini of the fifth atom bomb. The audience watched in silence.

After the 1914-18 war, many people thought the world was entering an era of peace. With the ending of a second world war it would be difficult to find anyone who would forecast even 10 years of peace between the major powers. Indeed, as our newspapers tell us quite openly, the major powers of the world are spending large sums of money on developing schemes for defensive and offensive warfare. No one knows whom they are going to attack or who is going to attack them. It is a vast game of “just in case.” The sad fact remains that the peoples of the world view with apathy all the preparations for war, even the increasing “efficiency’’ of the latest instrument of death. As long as people feel there is no immediate danger to themselves or their loved ones they are prepared to let things “work themselves out.” Nevertheless, the inhuman act of using atom bombs on Japan had its effect on the minds of millions of people. It will be a difficult task for the government of any country to gain the support of its people in a future war. The unpleasant alternatives to war used as threats in the past, such as fascism, loss of freedom, invasion by a foreign power, lowered standard of living, and so on, lose much of their terror when compared with the wholesale obliteration of towns.

One ray of hope emerges from the terrifying events of the day. The will to survive is strong enough to make people question the necessity of war, and, in doing so, they will try to discover its cause. In seeking the cause of wars, we start on the road to understanding something about the system of society under which we live to-day, known as Capitalism. Under this system, the supply of the necessities of life and life itself have become subordinate to an essential characteristic of Capitalism—the sale of goods at a profit. Once we understand that the root-cause of all wars is the need of rivalling groups to control sources of raw materials and markets for the finished goods, it then becomes an easy matter to accept the Socialist case as the way out.

In the Socialist world there will be no boundaries to countries. The world will become a single unit. It will not be necessary for people to fight for food or living room or a “standard of living,” or any of the thousand and one reasons given from time to time to various nations in order to gain the support of the people in a war. In the Socialist world the people will produce food and clothing and build houses for all. The natural wealth of the world is more than enough to amply satisfy the needs of all humans, be they Jews, Arabs, Indians or English. There need be no shortages. The necessity for struggle as a means of deciding which section of the world's people shall have access to the products of the world has long since passed away. Money and wars will become fantastic memories together with atom bombs just as soon as the people of the world lift their miserable, bowed heads and listen to the teaching of Socialism, the last hope of humanity.
K. M.

This Month's Quotation: Lord Lytton (1935)

The Front Page quote from the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "Discover some invention in machinery . . . that will make the rich more rich and the poor more poor, and they will build you a statue."
(From "Zanoni," Chapter 4, Page 229).

Running Commentary: Don't Do As I Do (1978)

The Running Commentary Column from the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Don't Do As I Do

"Confetti money” is the trendy phrase which all the publicists are now using to explain how wrong-headed and greedy the workers are when they try to achieve the same real wages as they got a year ago. What's the point of getting more bits of paper — so the industrialists and their yes-men say — when it’s only going to buy less because of inflation? At the recent second annual conference of the Confederation of British Industries (Daily Telegraph, 8.11.78), the chairman of the Scottish region denounced "the crass stupidity of strikes for confetti money", and the chairman of Dunlop appealed to the work-force to "give up confetti money for something with a solid ring to it" (which is like appealing to someone who is drowning to give up water for land).

In other words, the workers must accept that the employers have the right — while charging more on the market for their goods whenever they believe the consumer will pay — to make a cut in their employees' real wages from year to year and from month to month. But you can always tell that a piece of reasoning is bogus when the reasoner applies it only to others, never to himself. On October 20 last, the one news carried a clip of a representative of the Ford management warning the Ford workers against putting in for higher wages, since it would only be “confetti money”. But Folds themselves have put the price of their vehicles up during the last year not only to keep pace with inflation, but considerably beyond it — hence the bitterness and determination in the Ford strike. And that morning the papers recorded that there had been 344 price increases in groceries that week alone, including biscuits, cakes, canned meat, cheese, lard and so on. The total of price increases for the year had reached 9655 (Daily Telegraph, 20.10.78).

That means that the management of companies had considered the “confetti money” argument 9655 times so far in 1978, and had rejected it on each occasion. But they still expect it to convince their employees.

State Capitalist Board Smashes Strikes

Whether an industry is owned by private capitalists, or by the executive committee of the capitalist class, the State, makes no difference to how the business is run, nor to the altitude taken by the bosses towards the workers. Wage-increases will be conceded if there is no alternative, and rejected wherever the chips are stacked on the employers' side of the table. The State-owned British Transport Docks Board is firmly rejecting any claims which would mean that their employees could attain the standards of living they thought they had agreed to work for a year ago. The chairman said: “We shall not be moved from whatever pay guidelines there are” (Daily Telegraph, 3.11.78). The managing director added: “We will also refuse to enter any productivity deals. We will not enter the charade of so-called deals." The board has already scored some notable successes over its employees.
  Already men at one of the board’s ports — Fleetwood — have settled for five per cent. Two major confrontations. one at King’s Lynn, and the six-and-a-half week strike at Southampton, have been met and defeated. In both instances the men returned to work, having lost up to £300 in lost earnings, on the board's terms . . . Another dispute, settled on the board’s terms, was at Plymouth where men were out for two weeks demanding higher pay for handling passenger ferries.
(A five per cent pay increase would still be well below the rate of inflation in the past year: in fact, allowing for the usual deductions, the effective increase is more like three and a half per cent in nominal pay, which means a sharp drop in real pay.) Years ago the Labour Party said that nationalised industries would benefit the workers because they would “lead the way" in improving real wages and conditions. Clearly they don’t: more and more Stale-employed workers are finding themselves at the back of the queue when they try to maintain their real wages. The State boards only lead from the rear: like the Duke of Plaza Toro, who led his regiment from behind — he found it less exciting.

But either way, nationalisation has nothing whatever to do with socialism.

Catholicism In The Blood

The Polish Cardinal Wojtyla. installed as Pope John Paul II. made a large claim in his inaugural speech:
  His native country, he said, had for 1000 years remained faithful to the See of Rome (Daily Telegraph, 23.10.78).
This claim, to put it kindly, is not all that true. In the 16th and 17th centuries many Poles became Lutherans or Calvinists (that is. Protestants), and many others belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Catholics themselves labelled Poland "the paradise of the heretics". In the 18th century, despite the fact that the Polish constitution guaranteed complete religious toleration, the Roman Catholic Church deliberately stamped out the Dissenters. or non-Catholics. They were forbidden to hold public office or sit in Parliament, their churches, schools and monasteries were either destroyed or seized by the Catholics for their own purposes, and they were subject to many disabilities and persecutions. When their ill-treatment provoked religious riots, as at Thorn in 1724. heavy repression followed. In "the Blood Bath of Thorn" as it came to be called, the rioters’ leaders were executed, along with the Protestant Mayor and town officials for not preventing the trouble.

In this way the Poles returned to Holy Mother Church, and the pope is now able to claim that they were never anything but loyal.

Survival Of A Tyrant

The rule of the Shah over Iran has not been notable for its genial tolerance towards any opposition, nor for a reluctance to display his abounding wealth alongside the extreme poverty of many of the Iranian people.

In recent years, in an effort to damp down the growing hostility to his reign, the Shah has been offering reforms with a desperation to match a man on a sledge being pursued by a pack of starving wolves.

One minister after another has been sacked: the Shah has even ordered an investigation into his own wealth and that of his family, But the demands that he should go have continued and in the demonstrations something over a thousand people have been killed by the Persian Army.

In some respects there is little to choose between the Shah and his opponents: some of the demonstrations were religiously inspired opposition to his offers of land reform and of raising the low status of Iranian women.

This gave British Foreign Secretary David Owen an excuse for Britain's support for the Shah, on the grounds that his opponents were "right wing, reactionary and fanatical". Such pious mouthings should deceive nobody; the true reasons for the British capitalist class’ support for the Shah and his despotic rule are less reputable.

Firstly, Iran is a strategically placed country: it has a border with Russia and stands athwart the route to the Middle Fast oilfields. Secondly, it is one of the area's great oil-producing countries, although as far as Britain is concerned this is of less importance with the opening of the North Sea.

Thirdly, Iran is one of British industry’s big customers; in 1977 British exports there were worth £654 million — the biggest market in that part of the world. Arms make up a large part of this total but valuable exports have also been in building, power stations and heavy generating machinery.

To expect, in face of this, that David Owen would denounce the Shah as an outmoded tyrant would be unreal. He is, after all, paid to represent the interests of British capitalism, even if this entails giving support to characters more unsavoury than even the normal run.

Friedman, Keynes and Marx (1978)

From the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The capitalist system operates according to definite economic laws which governments can neither change nor overcome; to the extent that they try to they generally make matters worse or create some new problem.

This view is quite at variance with the prevailing economic and political orthodoxy, which holds that government intervention in the workings of capitalism can ensure crisis-free growth and continuous full employment (Keynes) and that government action can eliminate poverty, bad housing, poor schools, inadequate health services, pollution and so on (reformism).

Fortunately not all teachers of economics are content to repeat parrot-fashion the theories of Keynes. Some have been prepared to examine the real world and so have not been able to avoid noticing the manifest failure of government intervention to do what the Keynesians and reformists said it would. This has led to a reaction, with a growing number of economists now arguing that the trouble stems from too much government intervention and calling for a return to what their mentor, the American Professor Milton Friedman, calls “competitive free enterprise capitalism”. Even Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph have been toying with this suggestion.

They are wrong, of course. Pure private enterprise capitalism would be no better than the mixture of private and state capitalism we know today. But these economists can claim to have a better understanding of how capitalism works than the Keynesians and reformists, since they at least recognise that it operates according to economic laws which governments can’t change. As one advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, Nathaniel Branden has put it:
  All government intervention in the economy is based on the belief that economic laws need not operate, that principles of cause and effect can be suspended, that everything in existence is "flexible” and “malleable”, except a bureaucrat’s whim, which is omnipotent; reality, logic, and economics must not be allowed to get in the way (in Ayn Rand Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 79).
We couldn’t express it better ourselves! After all, it was Marx who spoke of “the natural laws of capitalist production” as being “tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results” (1867 Preface to Capital).

Milton Friedman is the new star in the firmament of capitalist economics—he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976, effectively for having demolished the theories of Keynes—but there is nothing especially original about his work. All he had done is to observe how capitalism works and so has noticed that it doesn’t work in accordance with Keynes’ theories.

Take the question of inflation, for instance. Although Keynes at one time stated that over-issuing an inconvertible paper currency would inevitably lead to a rise in the general price level he later came to attach little importance to monetary policy, seeing its role as merely to ensure that enough money was available to finance the government spending which the tax and investment policies he advocated would involve. He thus provided an ideal theoretical justification for governments to finance their activities by recourse to the printing press. Which is what they have been doing in all countries since the war, with the inevitable result that prices generally have been constantly rising.

Friedman has merely done a bit of historical research to show the relationship between unwarranted increases in the money supply and rises in the general price level, enabling him to conclude that rising prices was bound to be the result of Keynesian policies and will continue to be as long as they are applied. In doing this “monetarists” (so called because they disagree with Keynes’ view that “money doesn’t matter”) like Friedman have rediscovered what Marx (and other economists of his time) had stated over a hundred years ago as being the inevitable result of over-issuing an inconvertible paper currency.

Keynes was also something of an “underconsumptionist” in that he thought that capitalism needed government spending to keep it going. His followers have favoured inflation, or more exactly government spending financed by inflating the currency, as a means of trying to reduce and avoid unemployment. But that inflation can reduce unemployment has proved an illusion, as the artificial inflationary boom gives way to the sort of "stagflation” or "slumpflation” we now have, where widespread unemployment and a high rate of price rises exist side by side.

Observing this phenomenon, Friedman has applied a bit of logic and come to the conclusion that the business cycle of boom-slump-boom-slump is independent of inflation, that inflation is not a way of ensuring a permanent boom but merely results in prices rising in all stages of the cycle, during the slump as well as during the boom. Thus the choice is not, as we are always being told by government ministers, Labour and Tory, between inflation and unemployment. The level of unemployment is governed by factors other than inflation, which is essentially a monetary phenomenon independent of the real economic forces which cause unemployment to exist and to rise and fall. This "discovery” of Friedman’s has long been known to socialists though no one thought of proposing us for a Nobel Prize! Even Friedman’s general conclusion on Keynesianism—that the monetary mismanagement it involves has probably aggravated rather than stabilised the capitalist business cycle — was anticipated by Marx, who recognised that monetary bungling could aggravate a crisis originally caused by other factors.

In his book Capitalism and Freedom (1962) where he expresses in simple language his philosophy of “competitive free enterprise capitalism”, Friedman shows how reformist policies aimed at trying to abolish poverty, equalize incomes, eliminate bad housing, have failed just as miserably as Keynesianism:
  Which if any of the great ‘reforms’ of past decades have achieved its objectives? Have the good intentions of the proponents of these reforms been realized? (. . .) An income tax initially enacted at low rates and later seized upon as a means to redistribute income in favour of the lower classes has become a facade, covering loopholes and special provisions that render rates that are highly graduated on paper largely ineffective (. . .)
  A housing program intended to improve the housing conditions of the poor, to reduce juvenile delinquency, and to contribute to the removal of urban slums, has worsened the housing conditions of the poor, contributed to juvenile delinquency, and spread urban blight (. . .)
   Social security measures were enacted to make receipt of assistance a matter of right, to eliminate the need for direct relief and assistance. Millions now receive social security benefits. Yet the relief rolls grow and the sums spent on direct assistance mount.
After mentioning some exceptions of where he thinks government intervention has led to some improvement (such as building roads, providing basic schooling, public health measures) Friedman concludes:
  If a balance be struck, there can be little doubt that the record is dismal. The greater part of the new ventures undertaken by government in the past few decades have failed to achieve their objectives.
Up to this point Friedman is saying much the same as we have done: that social reforms don’t work. But Friedman is not a socialist and does not draw the conclusion we do: that this proves that capitalism is a system which does not work and cannot be made to work in the interest of the wage and salary earning majority. He thinks that if there were less government intervention then capitalism would work to everybody’s benefit!

This conclusion is of course mistaken and arises from recognising as inexorable only one of capitalism’s economic laws: the law of profits, which decrees “no profits, no production”. People like Friedman can easily see that anything that interferes with profits, generally or in a particular industry, will inevitably lead to a drop in production, so making maters worse. But there is another economic law of capitalism which the advocates of private enterprise capitalism ignore: the law of wages, which decrees that the consumption of the class of wage and salary earners is determined by what is necessary to keep them in a fit state of work and to enable them to raise and maintain a family, and that everything they produce over and above this is appropriated as profits by those who own and control the means of production and distribution. Capitalism is thus based on the exploitation and restricted consumption of the working class and, whatever the degree of government intervention, can never work in their interests.

There is another fundamental difference between Friedman and socialists. Although recognising the failure of social reforms he is himself a sort of reformist in that he is proposing changes in capitalism as it exists today in order to achieve his ideal of a "competitive free enterprise capitalism”. The concern of socialists, on the other hand, in the field of economics is to understand capitalism, to “lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society” as Marx put it, and not at all to prescribe economic policies for governments to follow.

The rise of Friedmanite economics, for all its faults and shortcomings, does however represent a return towards the more realistic view of the way capitalism works. Before Keynes, this view was held by a number of capitalist economists, and the demonstration that planning and social reforms don’t and can’t work may be unpalatable for economic “experts” and reformist politicians.
Adam Buick

Diary of a Capitalist (1978)

The Diary of a Capitalist column from the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard


There has been a lot of ill-founded criticism of Princess Anne’s behaviour on her visit to Norway. She was shown on Norwegian television touring a hospital nursery. The television audience watched as a five-year-old boy "tried to shake hands or get a cuddle from her and was apparently spurned. ‘No cuddle, not even a smile’ was the headline on one newspaper's front page" (Daily Telegraph, 7.11.78). Thousands of people rang the papers expressing their distaste, and suggesting the Princess should go home. Most of them said they could not understand how Princess Anne, herself a mother, could show such coldness to a child.

All these proley protesters are missing the point. Motherhood isn’t the same thing in the capitalist class as it is in the working class (and the Royal Family are in the capitalist class: they have a very large income from investments, apart from their annual State payments). Upper-class mothers still have to bear their children themselves — the workers can't do it for them yet (though these experiments to plant a fertilized human egg from one set of parents into someone’s else’s womb may soon solve that little difficulty): after that, the hard work of bringing the children up is done by the servants. Most upper-class children form what emotional links they are capable of in the circumstances with their Nannies. Take me: I was brought up by my Nanny and a nursemaid. My parents came in most days about four o’clock to sec me having tea in the day nursery: apart from that I saw little of them. When I was a bit older, other servants looked after me and introduced me to blood sports on the estate. As Lord Lovat says in his March Past: a Memoir, just published, the person who first lock him fishing was not anyone in his family, but an "old retainer, the castle lamplighter" (Daily Telegraph, 2.11.78). Then at nine I was sent away to boarding school: prep school till thirteen, public school till eighteen. There I was given a thorough training in how to order other people about, which is the role in life of a member of the upper class. (At the same time the state schools very properly teach the workers’ children the mirror image of that: how to conduct themselves at the bottom of the pile, and how to obey those above them. As the Daily Telegraph leader said on October 27, the teachers' power to cane their pupils is a necessary "supplement to a whole system of ritual and convention designed to instil the notion of hierarchy and predispose the young to habitual obedience".)

The result of this upbringing is to implant in the future members of the upper class the necessary harsh, tough, unsentimental character which one must have to be a ruler in class-divided society. Kindness, pity, sympathy, humanity — all these would be a handicap to us in doing our job: we can leave all that to the workers.


Shopping today for furniture for my new house. Got a couple of nice armchairs for £305 each, and a sofa for £1070, all from Harrods (Observer, 15.10.78).


Lord Brooke is letting the side down. He is the present descendant of the Greville family, who have owned Warwick Castle since 1604. The Fulke Greville of that time, who was a rich man in Warwickshire. mainly through the fortunate marriage of his grandfather to an heiress, jumped the right way on the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. and backed the successful claimant to the throne, who became James I. Soon after James’ coronation he gave Warwick Castle and its lands to Greville. The Grevilles have had them ever since. The present head of the family, the Earl of Warwick, sold some farmland in Warwickshire for £500,000 in 1959, and moved away to live in Rome. Warwick Castle he handed over to his son, Lord Brooke. The castle makes a nice profit from the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pour in each year, including 500,000 adults at £1 a head. But since 1968 Lord Brooke has been selling off the treasures in the castle, including twenty-six pictures (Canalettos, Rubens, Van Dykes) for about £2 million, and the famous Warwick Vase, the 1800-year-old Roman marble masterpiece at present in a Wimbledon warehouse awaiting a buyer for about £250,000. Now Lord Brooke has sold Warwick Castle itself to Madame Tussauds. the waxwork people, for £1,500.000.

For years Lord Brooke, who prefers to live on various properties he owns abroad, has refused to explain his activities. Finally, in August, he said he had to sell his pictures and so on in order to repair the castle. Now he has sold his castle, unrepaired, and kept the picture money as well.

Lord Brooke should realise that we in the upper class have to put up a united front against all the others, who naturally can’t see why we have all the property. One good excuse is that we really only look after our wealth, as trustees for the nation: we are safeguarding the country’s heritage. The Greville family motto is "Scarcely do I call these things our own". Now he has blown the gaff, and everyone can see what a hollow excuse it was. I sympathize with all those members of the Greville family who arc very annoyed with Brooke for having given the game away so openly, such as his cousin, Priscilla Greville, who said, "the house of Greville is in the dust" (Observer, 8.10.78). She said she hoped that if Tussauds do put some wax models in the castle, as they intend, one of them will be of Lord Brooke being beheaded by the guillotine.


My friend Viscountess Chelsea has had her BMW stolen from a garage in Hungerford. The irritating thing was that she had £150,000 worth of jewellery in the boot. She has offered a £10,000 reward (Daily Mail, 1.11.78). Even worse was what happened to Sheikh Salman Jassim, of the Royal Family of Qatar in the Persian Gulf — I met him some time ago over an oil machinery contract. He was having treatment at a London hospital, and someone stole his bedside briefcase containing gold and diamond jewellery worth £250,000. The country’s coming to a fine pass if one can’t carry a few gem stones round with one.


A few years ago I was involved in a small business arrangement with William Stern, a big property dealer. He wasn’t able to control the huge empire he created well enough, and it collapsed leaving him a bankrupt, owing over £100 million. However, he had shown some foresight, and though he has had to draw in his horns a little, he still lives very adequately. He used to spend £70,000 a year, and now he still gets through £30.000 a year. "His six children still go to private schools. His family still live in an elegant house at West Heath Avenue, Golders Green. They still use the luxurious furniture. They can still admire paintings that cost £30,000" (Daily Telegraph, 21.10.78). All the finance comes, apparently, from a trust in New York for his children that he set up in good time before the crash.

A man who can contribute to society by buying and selling property like Mr. Stern deserves to have a luxurious standard of living, even after his slight business contretemps.


I sent off today for a statue of a horse, ‘'the Flying Horse of Kansu", which should fill a corner in the hall of the new house. It is a reproduction in hall-marked eighteen-carat gold of a Chinese bronze sculpture, found in a Han dynasty tomb. The reproduction weighs 250 grams, and costs £3000. The advert of the company selling these reproductions (this one in gold, and others in silver and brass) gave a lengthy, would-be learned commentary (Daily Telegraph, 21.10.78) covering the historical and cultural background. "The horse is shown in an attitude expressive of ecstasy and freedom supported by one hoof on the back of a flying swallow which turns its head in surprise." Well, it would, wouldn’t it? A pity they can’t spell Buddhist (they think it’s “Budist”), but most of the people who will be coming to my house and listening to me bragging about the cost of the statue aren't too hot on spelling anyway: they don't mind, so long as they have enough arithmetic to count their dividends.


When the newly-elected Pope John Paul I died, so soon after the deaths of the previous pope and of Metropolitan Nikodim (officially ranked second in the Russian Orthodox Church), Dr. Billy Graham thought it was significant. He "said in Stockholm yesterday: ’Perhaps in the deaths of Pope Paul VI., Metropolitan Nikodim and Pope John Paul I within such a short time in Rome God may have a message for the world.’ Graham said he did not know what the message was" (Daily Telegraph, 30.10.78).

This Graham man is losing his grip. What we capitalists require, to keep the workers’ minds off stern practicalities, is supernatural certainties, not these vague hints. For example, the Daily Mirror said Yuri Geller would mend watches and clocks by long-range, wholesale magic, if people put them near his photo in the Daily Mirror (in other words, you had to buy the paper to try it). The usual flood of simpletons wrote in convinced that this optimistic treatment had worked, and the Daily Mirror was able to announce in a banner headline taking up most of its front page, “You did it. Yuri!" The same with the miracle shoe which has turned up at a convent in Canada. The old priest who founded the convent died there eighteen months ago. and the nuns who laid him out were convinced they could see a face on the sole of his old shoe — the face of Christ, naturally. The Sunday People (24.9.78) published a picture of it, and if you look a long time at the picture with the eye of faith you might be able to see in the scratch marks something like a face. A professor of organic chemistry at Quebec’s Laval University had no doubts: “there is no possibility that the face was placed there by a human being, using artificial means. That leaves only one conclusion." The convent’s medical adviser (a man doubtless quite impartial as to the prosperity of the convent, to which thousands of pilgrims have been flocking since the discovery) said, “I have no doubt that something strange has happened. This could not have been done artificially."

That's the stuff we capitalists need! One of the best ways to divert the workers’ minds from the annual wage-cut called inflation. for example, is to persuade them there is a great supernatural being demonstrating his power, and reminding them that eternal bliss is in store for them.

Graham should be ashamed of himself.
Alwyn Edgar

Privilege in China (1978)

From the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "These privileges involved, for example, the use of a service automobile, more spacious and comfortable housing. and even, above a certain level, a villa and access to special shops (for clothes and certain consumer durables such as refrigerators, radios, TV sets, cameras, tape recorders, etc.). At the level of the central leadership. these privileges could extend to possession of several villas, free use of an airplane for personal trips, and so on.” 
French Maoist Charles Bettelheim on the privileges of the Chinese bureaucracy, in Monthly Review, July-August 1978, p. 109.

From America: Those good old “Good as Gold” dollars (1978)

Letter From America from the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

One question agitating Americans today, as much as any other, is: what has gone wrong with the US dollar in world markets? How does one explain the acute illness of this proud currency, the money that was almost thought to be as good as gold? Because it has made front page news in America in recent times and seems to be getting no better fast, even people who never have much of it, are worried and somewhat crestfallen. There was always that vicarious thrill in knowing that “our” money was so universally venerated. What’s it all about?

The answer, in a word, is “pollution”. There are far too many US dollars held by financial and multinational institutions around the world. “No need to redeem them for gold”, was the assurance when the blizzard of US currency hit Europe in the 60s. “They’re as good as gold”. (Not that there was that much gold in the US Treasury but there was always America’s strong trading ability to bank on). And the quantity of US dollars in foreign hands, today, is out of all proportion to what is needed to consummate the trade that American capitalism can generate.

And thereby hangs another tale because, in theory, devaluation of a nation’s currency is supposed to bring increased trade for that nation’s exporters and this is not happening here. The adverse trade balance remains maddeningly huge and sharp debate concerning its causes is stirred among the “doctors” of economics. But whatever else may be involved, the fact is that this once top manufacturing nation is feeling the competition from an assortment of relatively vibrant economies in Europe and the Orient with more modern plant, equipment, and marketing “know-how”. Those “good-as-gold” US dollars in foreign hands have become so many not-so-hot IOUs and heavy holders are trying to get out from under by changing them into Japanese yen and Swiss francs rather than trading them for US goods.

The truth is that the US dollar has not been “as good as gold” for a long time. In fact, the Nixon Administration, in 1971, officially untied the dollar from gold and declared it as inconvertible to bullion everywhere, as it had been domestically since the first term of Franklin Roosevelt some forty-five years ago. So, while in those years following the Nixon action the dollar remained relatively strong and generally acceptable in Western Europe and Japan, propped up by hope, Nemesis was waiting in the wings.

To begin with, money is a commodity. It must be a commodity because it is used as a means of effecting the circulation of and setting a value upon commodities generally. And so, the quantity of paper bills and metal pieces that serve to represent money — gold — must bear a recognisable resemblance to the quantity of real money they represent. Otherwise they would be worth, on the average, the equivalent of the socially necessary labour time required to produce and reproduce them — damned little, indeed! So when paper currency and metal coins are churned out in America’s mints with little regard for actual money stores, eventually the bitter truth must sink into the heads of those who hold huge amounts of the stuff. Especially when it becomes apparent that US industry cannot compete so effectively on world markets.

(Not that this in an unalloyed evil for US capitalism. The Government, for example, wins a large quantity of those devalued dollars when it sells off portions of its gold bullion — the weaker the dollar the costlier the gold in terms of dollars. And since bond holders and other domestic creditors are guaranteed repayment in US dollars with no provision made for devaluation — it becomes a windfall for the capitalist class, as a whole. All big borrowers, in fact, have seldom had it so good although bankers, understandably, are responding by raising their interest rates and are discouraging long-term loans. And currency speculators, as patriotic as the next, no doubt, are making hay out of the difficulties of the American currency).

But what, if anything, does all this signify to US workers? Most of those who travel abroad will find it difficult to survive unless they visit the soft currency nations, where American money is still respected, and even then will find it difficult to live in the manner they have been accustomed to back home. But the over-production of currency in US mints also translates into continuing inflation in this country and while the rate is lower than in the competing nations it is high enough to bring more than the usual clamour by organised labour for substantial pay increases.

And there is at least one significant change about this otherwise predictable happening. A considerable and rising number of those in the forefront of “labour unrest” are public, or government, employees. In fact, the summer and early fall of 1978 seem to have brought a veritable tidal wave of strike action and threatened strike action by policemen, fire fighters, school teachers, transportation workers, postal workers, garbage collectors, and others in “public employ” forbidden by law to strike. Police and fire fighters, bus drivers and school teachers have in many instances gone to gaol for spurning court orders to return to work. And a number of postal workers, along with many of the fire fighters and policemen, have been summarily fired and forever blackballed from employment in those endeavours. (In the case of the postal workers, there is now an imposed settlement by a Government mediator on the cards and the possibility of more wildcatting by disgruntled employees in protest over the loss of ratification rights by the union membership).

What makes this current trend more interesting is that “public employees” are paid entirely out of tax revenue. The basic arguments of managements of such enterprises are: (1) we can’t find the money without a tax increase and nobody wants that, or (2) we must not make a settlement that is inflationary. A majority of those directly involved are doubtless unwilling to accept such reasoning, but since the majority of the working class believes it pays taxes and will have to foot the added bill, general support for such strikes is uncommon.

In truth, taxes come from surplus value, which is the property of the capitalist class. Certainly it adds to inflation when increases are paid by printing added currency. But there is no law that forbids the capitalists from taking less profit and assigning more of surplus value to those who operate their essential services — no law, that is, but the jungle law of capitalism ordaining that capitalists must strive for greater rather than lesser profit or be destroyed by competition.

Socialists find it worthy of note that public employees, even school teachers and police, now seem to identify more with their fellow workers than once was the case. And yet we hesitate to see the millenium resulting from it. Our pleasure is tempered sharply by the knowledge, gained through long years of experience, that union militancy does not lead, in itself, to understanding the class nature of capitalism and the need to abolish it. Police, militant or not, return to their jobs of protecting the masters’ property and clubbing other militant workers who threaten or defy the law. “We’re only doing our job!” they argue. Teachers resume their task of preparing future wage slaves for a general acceptance of class society and see nothing objectionable about that. And workers, generally, are content with the gains they make in their wages and conditions of work.

If only inflation would vanish! they reason today, either forgetting or not knowing of those long periods of deflation, when prices fell (including the price of their labour power), when hamburger was a quarter-or-less a pound but quarters were hard to come by, when the American dollar was a good as gold (at least outside the United States) and American industrial superiority was universally recognised. Were American workers better off in those times? If you don’t remember or never knew look it up or ask those who do.
Harry Morrison 
(WSPUS Boston)

The Whole Loaf (1978)

From the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard
“It's no good dealing with the symptoms. It's the whole system that’s got to be torn up by the roots.”
"Band together to take it back from them. Let’s band together not to bargain but to own."
“We’re not fighting for the crumbs between ourselves. You've got to go for the whole loaf.”
If we enter their House of Parliament on the backs of the Unions, they’ll just buy us off. We’ve got to hold out for the works — not the crumbs. Even if we force capitalism to eliminate poverty completely, the cancer will still be in the air. We’ve got to tear it out by the roots and build a new world.”
There are still erudite professors lecturing in colleges to-day who don't understand now in 1978. what Tressell the housepainter saw so clearly in 1911.
From “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” by Steve Lowe, after the book by Robert Tressell, produced recently by the Joint Stock Theatre Group at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith.

Holocaust as soap opera (1978)

T.V. Review from the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The word ‘Holocaust’, on many lips since the BBC’s screening of a sick, sickly and sickening soap opera of that name, means literally a sacrifice in which the whole victim is burnt, but has come to mean the mass destruction of life.

In common use, it refers to many events in history and several in the last hundred years—such as the genocide of the Australians and Tasmanians, of the North and South American natives (the latter is still in progress); the First World War; the slaughter of Russians under Stalin; the bombing of Dresden, of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Vietnam but has become attached to the killing and cremation of millions of European Jews by the Nazis.

This appalling event was given the Peyton Place treatment by the NBC Production. A romantic drama straight out of Woman’s Own took place against a background of concentration camps, gas chambers and torture but the victims, after several years of this, were unmarked, well-dressed, clean shaven, with smart uniforms and hairstyles, not a bruise or a louse to be seen. Such sanitised violence is in a longstanding Hollywood tradition. The Cops and Robbers trash shoved down our faces night after night also portrays fighting without wounds (a man is knocked out with a bottle, gets up. shakes his head, unscathed; a big shoot-out ends with a joke at a celebration party).

Holocaust was guilty of sentimentalising savagery in this way. The idea that violence is ok if done by ‘our side’ was put across; for example, by the unsubtle Zionist propaganda at the end — the football playing hero was given charge of a group of boys to mould them into the right material to raise hell in Palestine.

The motive behind making the film was clear; the proceeds are not expected to go to the still suffering survivors, or to the refugees of Palestine and Lebanon. It was a cynical exploitation of human suffering for gain but its one effect has been to revive memories of the Second World War.

That war and other atrocious crimes against humanity should never be allowed to fade from memory as evidence of what happens under capitalism. There are those who say that these wars and massacres are distant history; that it is time to forgive and forget: that those organisations — the political parties, power blocs, capitalist gangs—who encouraged the slaughter and who are still in power, should not be blamed for what happened a long time ago.

They encourage short memories in the working class. They support a system in which an individual who steals an apple has it on his record for years, but the instigators of the killing, maiming and starvation of tens of millions have their slate wiped clean. Such is the “justice” of capitalism.

The Germans and Japanese, once fiends to be destroyed, are now portrayed as hardworking, honest folk the Briton should emulate in their eager production of surplus value. Tommy, the Salt of the Earth, has now become lazy scum again (until the next time). The corollary of this rehabilitation of the Germans—the guilt of the Allies— is played down however.

There was a Nazi slush fund for the Chamberlain faction of the Tory Party, while Churchill was being oiled by the Czechs. Sections of the capitalist mass media tried to suppress knowledge of Nazi atrocities until they became useful for propaganda. The ‘Victims of Yalta’ were forcibly sent to death and slave camps: Eastern Europe and the Balkans were carved into portions of “influence” by the victorious Allies; and the Poles and Czechs, whose ‘freedom’ was the pretext of the war, were allotted to the Russians.

One of the lies put out by Holocaust was that Nazism was opposed to capitalism. That was what the National Socialists said. The National Front use the same lies today. In fact, Fascism was just another way of running capitalism. It can be brought in if the working class can be hoodwinked into surrendering democratic principles.

The emaciated people, the prisoners, the torture, the war, the waste, the arrogance and wanton extravagance of the privileged class are still a reality, not a celluloid nightmare and will remain so until the workers awake from the trance in which they are bound. For what is it but a trance, induced by the capitalist mind-benders, which disposes them to have pins stuck in them, to part with their time and energy, to have their lifeblood drained, the flesh stripped from their bodies, to be burned alive, to be sacrificed on the altar of Capital, to succumb to successive holocausts, when they are numbered by the hundred million and are the producers of everything of use on the earth?

Myths of ‘race' exposed (1978)

From the December 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The National Union of Teachers (Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1 9BD) have just brought out an excellent short pamphlet Race, Education, Intelligence which debunks some of the popular myths about so-called race and about IQ tests. To illustrate its worth we can do no better than quote its conclusion, which brings out many of the points we ourselves have made in the two pamphlets we have published on the same subject. The Racial Problem (1948) and The Problem of Racism (1966): 
  1. "In biological terms the concept of race’ is meaningless for human populations.
  2. More than 94 per cent of all genetic differences between individuals that have been studied occur between individuals of the same ‘race’, not between ‘races’.
  3. Intelligence tests may help predict children’s school performance but they say nothing about any fixed ‘biological potential’ of the individual.
  4. It is not meaningful or possible to divide a child’s performance into ‘genetic’ or ‘environmental’ components.
  5. The determinants of ‘civilisation’ and the development of different human societies should be sought in social, economic and historical factors, not in biology.”