Friday, July 31, 2020

Voice From The Back: “Modern” Britain (2010)

The Voice From The Back column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Modern” Britain

There is a notion about that because in Britain we have a new political situation of parliamentary sharing that something has changed about the class division of society. It is just not true. “At St. James’s club in London, a new toast is overheard: ‘To the Nineteen.’ This refers, as you no doubt spotted at once, to the 19 Old Etonians who have become prime ministers. Jolly good.” (Sunday Times, 16 May) “Almost four-fifths of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times. As the government prepares to wield the axe on public spending, research reveals that 18 of the 23 full-time cabinet members have seven-figure fortunes, collectively worth about £50 million.” (Sunday Times, 23 May) So modern Britain looks a lot like old Britain. The people who produce wealth – the working class are exploited by the owning class. Wake up fellow workers we need a new society.

The Chasm Of Class

At a time in the USA when many members of the working class find themselves unemployed and their homes re-possessed it is worthwhile looking at how the American capitalist class are dealing with the economic downturn. Time-share mogul David Siegel and his former beauty queen wife Jacqueline have had to sell their Florida mansion for a mere $50 million. The 30 bedroom house and estate, named and modelled on the palace of Versailles in France, includes a boat house, a ballroom, an Olympic-size pool, a theatre and a baseball field. “The 23-bathroom house may appeal to a buyer so wealthy they do not even move in, said local estate agent Kelly Price. ‘Versailles will probably be a house that will appeal to the uber-wealthy who don’t even think about the issue of money,’ she added. ‘It might be a second or third home. For all we know, it could be a seventh or eighth home.'” (Metro,27 May) Useful productive members of the working class are homeless while the useless parasite class have multiple mansions – that is capitalism for you.

Nice Suicides

“Steve Jobs has said the Chinese iPhone factory where 10 workers have killed themselves this year is actually ‘pretty nice’. Speaking at the All Things Digital conference in California, the Apple CEO also brushed aside questions about his relationship with Google … Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn makes Dell, Nokia and Apple products at its factory in Shenzhen, China. As reported by The First Post, the latest suicide came last week, when a 23-year-old worker jumped to his death from a building roof. Jobs denied Foxconn ran a sweatshop and told the conference that Apple was working with the company to get to the bottom of why so many people were killing themselves. ‘You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice,’ said Jobs.” (First Post, 2 June) What millionaire Mr Jobs does not mention is that the workforce stand for a 12 hour work day under constant camera surveillance for the princely sum of £90 per month and live in factory-owned dormitories. The factory is considering improving conditions by introducing “soothing” music, dancing instructors and a suicide hotline! The mindless repetitious factory 12 hour slog may seem “pretty nice” to Mr Jobs as he counts the millions of dollars extracted from the exploitation of these Chinese workers, but at least one worker last week decided to end his “pretty nice” servitude.

Class Divide In China

The awful gap between the rich and the poor in modern China was illustrated by two recent news items. A series of industrial disputes leading to strikes has broken out in China. “They began at Honda’s car plant in the south near Hong Kong. Since then, disputes, demonstrations and picketing have broken out at electronic firms, vehicle parts makers and other factories as far away as Shanghai. Even the 8,000 workers who make the balls used in the Fifa world cup in South Africa are reported to have gone on strike after discovering that one football is sold for the equivalent of a fortnight’s salary.” (Sunday Times, 13 June) According to the chief executive of Rolls Royce Motor Cars “China is now our second largest market, with about 20 per cent of sales, and is doing very, very well.” …. “The Phantom model starts at £235,000 and the Ghost, the new baby Rolls launched this year, at £165,000. The Phantom is about presence, about making a statement. That is why it is so popular in China.” (Times, 7 June) This immense conspicuous consumption is only possible out of the sweated labour of the Chinese working class toiling for a fortnight for the pittance of the price of a football.

Tired, stressed, robbed and alienated (2010)

From the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The binge working culture is taking its toll.”
On Sunday, 16 May, the Observer published two interesting and informative articles: ‘Sunday Blues and ruin weekends for many Britons’, by Tracy McVeigh, and ‘The binge working culture is taking its toll’, by Denis Campbell.

McVeigh observes: “The recession is raising stress levels so high that a quarter of workers are finding their weekends ruined by the Sunday blues ­­­– a dread of going back to the office next day – according to a report.” The report by ‘Mind’, said that 26 percent of workers felt dread and apprehension the day before they were due back to work after a weekend off.

Other findings include high rates of illness, and extensive low morale. High rates of unpaid overtime were mentioned. Many people “are living with constant fear of redundancy, and often taking on extra duties because of a recession – reduced workforce, and downsizing could mean years of uncertainty for workers”, notes the report. Indeed, the numbers of people reported to have left their jobs due to stress rose from 6 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2009. Working conditions have deteriorated; and people “are struggling to cope with extra demands of working harder, longer hours, and are under more pressure as their employers battle for survival”.

 Isolation with longer hours

Denis Campbell, citing research published by the European Heart Journal, notes that depressingly familiar picture of Britons – British workers – slaving over their terminals “way beyond their supposed finishing time, sometimes involves a fatal price”. Those working three or more hours of overtime a day, are more likely to develop heart trouble, and potentially die of a heart attack than those who work a normal seven-hour day. And, reports the Heart Journal: “With increasing stress comes growing isolation from normal non-work activities – friends, family, hobbies.” Marriages come under pressure; tensions rise and personal relationships suffer. “The recession has made all this worse.” Unemployed workers, of whom there are now 2.5m (officially, but actually far more) face different pressures, says Campbell.

Paul Sellars, of the TUC, says that the European Working Time Directive specifies that workers should not work more than 48 hours a week. Anyone working 60 hours is almost certain to suffer harmful effects and ill-health. Research by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, in 2007, stated that 70m working days were lost to mental stress every year.

 Production for profit – not for use

Why do workers accept such long hours, and such conditions of employment?

We live in a capitalist society. Capitalism is not a dirty word, or term of abuse, although it has been used by leftists and others as such. It is worldwide, and now embraces every country. Nothing is just national.

Briefly, capitalism is a social system wherein the means and factors of wealth production – land, factories, officers, the means of transportation – take the form of capital, and are privately owned by a minority of individuals, or the state, to the exclusion of the majority of the population. And capital is nothing more nor less than wealth used to create more wealth through the exploitation (in truth a form of legalised robbery) of a large number of wage and salary earners, employees, of whom most own little or nothing except their ability to work for an employer. In such a society, almost everything is produced primarily for exchange, for a profit, not just for use.

In the main, things are not manufactured and services rendered solely because people need or desire them. If, like millions of people throughout the world, you do not have enough money to buy, say, food or fuel you will almost certainly go without.


The increasing concentration of ownership and control by a minority class has tended to restrict individual initiative and responsibility. It has weakened the “self”, and stifled creativity. People have become atomised, mere cogs in a wheel, after rushing hither and thither for no apparent reason other than toiling on behalf of an employer, real or abstract. They have become alienated.

Originally, alienation meant insanity. Nowadays, it means estrangement or loss. Isolated. Alienation in production has led to individual powerlessness, and to a general feeling of isolation and frustration. Workers today have become alienated and estranged from their livelihood, from the very things that they have produced, and from their fellow workers; indeed, even from themselves.

Modern capitalism has completely changed our attitude to work. As previously noted, the last thing many of us want to do is get up in the morning (and particularly after a weekend of “freedom”) and go to “work”. It has destroyed craftsmanship and a joy in work. Often, it has become merely compulsive. Of course, what we really mean is not work at all, but employment. It is not surprising, therefore, that many workers become stressed and/or ill. So-called middle-class managers (who are themselves generally also members of the working class) often suffer the most from mental and physical strain, although they often underestimate the effects they have on other workers (Observer, 16 May).

Bureaucratic or Democratic Control?

Generally, our jobs are repetitive, uninteresting and, from our viewpoint, purposeless. We have little or no control over what we do, or what we produce. In fact, the division of labour is now so extreme that none of us ever makes a complete article. Indeed, many workers ever actually see the finished produce.

An important aspect of modern society is bureaucratisation. Capitalism has become increasingly bureaucratic. This applies to industry, the state and many other non-state institutions. Capitalism is largely organised by bureaucrats. And the bureaucrat’s relationship to people is one of almost complete alienation. It is largely impersonal. It affects not just industry and employment, but such voluntary organisations as trade unions and reformist political parties (and even revolutionary ones).

Capitalism is not really democratic. At best in a country such as Britain, a certain amount of limited democracy has been achieved over the last 150 years or so. But that is all. Capitalism rules. Money rules.

Unfortunately, however, most people are not aware of the prevailing alienation, domination and lack of real democratic control within capitalism. Most people accept, with reservations, the world as it is. Some reject, and even demonstrate against, certain aspects of present society. Workers struggle against the effects of exploitation and the wages system. But little else. They do not reject capitalism as such


The last sentence of our principles declares our determination to end, as speedily as possible, the present system, which deprives the working class of the “fruits of their labour”, and “that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality and slavery to freedom”. This is not wishful thinking.

Freedom from capitalism, with its apprehension, stress, illness, reported in the Observer cited above, cannot be attained by a few in a vast sea of alienation, and unfreedom. The emancipation of one necessitates the emancipation of all, of society as a whole, and by a majority. It must be the conscious aim of the mass of society; although each person, however, will have to achieve her or his own mental revolution first. Only then will private ownership of the means of life be converted into common ownership and democratic control, and government over people be replaced by an administration of things. It will not be easy. But necessary.
Peter E. Newell

Material World: Israel’s State Piracy: Warding Off The Threat Of Peace (2010)

The Material World Column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

The immediate purpose of Israel’s state piracy and mass kidnapping in the Eastern Mediterranean is clear. The aim is to maintain the siege (“closure”) of the Gaza Strip that was imposed in 2007 to induce the Gazans to overthrow the Hamas administration they had just elected. Of course, the political effect of the blockade, which caused enormous suffering (see Material World, July 2008), was just the opposite.

But there is an even more important aim – to reassert Israeli control over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters. This control was not relinquished when PM Ariel Sharon withdrew ground forces and settlers in 2005. Keeping Gaza and the West Bank isolated from direct contact with the outside world is crucial to Israel’s claim to continued sovereignty over the occupied territories and preventing the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state (or two such states).

Some sections of the Israeli ruling class are prepared to accept a peace settlement based on the “two-state solution”. Peace would give Israeli business unrestricted access to Arab export markets and cheap labour. The present government, however, is a creature of interests tied to the occupation – above all, the military-industrial complex and the settlers’ lobby. The parties of the governing parliamentary coalition are either (like PM Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud) loathe to contemplate a genuinely sovereign Palestinian state or (like Jewish Home) committed to Greater Israel and thus opposed to a Palestinian state in principle.

For these people, peace is a threat to be warded off at all costs. A danger that peace might be imposed emerged when the United States, on which Israel is now totally dependent, elected a president who believes that American strategic interests at the regional and global level demand urgent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why so violent?
This may help explain a somewhat puzzling aspect of Israel’s response to the Free Gaza flotilla. Why was it so violent?

The Israeli navy could have maintained the blockade and its control of Gazan waters simply by blocking the path of the aid ships until they gave up and went away. This method had worked well in the past. By massacring a dozen or so activists and hurting and humiliating many more – including influential individuals such as parliamentarians, former diplomats, and film makers – Israel has created a PR disaster for itself. It has strained relations with countries around the world and alienated its main regional ally, Turkey.

Part of the explanation may be that key members of the Israeli cabinet are ex-generals accustomed to tackling political problems by military means (defence minister Ehud Barak) or simply thugs (foreign minister and former bouncer Avigdor Lieberman). They seem to have thought that a brutal reaction would deter future attempts to break the siege.

There is another plausible motive. An atmosphere of heightened confrontation, making progress toward a negotiated settlement impossible, may have been exactly what the Israeli government sought to achieve. And if Israel’s state terrorism provokes a new upsurge in Palestinian terrorism, that will serve even better to thwart Obama and ward off the threat of peace.

Offshore gas 
There is another aspect to the issue of control over Gazan waters – one that commentators usually overlook. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed a 25-year agreement with British Gas and the Athens-based but Lebanese-owned Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) to explore for oil and gas off the Gazan coast. Two wells were drilled in 2000 and, sure enough, a major gas field was found, not very far from the spot where the Free Gaza flotilla was attacked. (Some offshore oil was also found.) Rights to the proceeds were assigned: 60 percent to British Gas, 30 percent to CCC, and only 10 percent to the PA. Nevertheless, the discovery enhanced prospects for an economically viable Palestinian state.

When Sharon became prime minister in 2001, he challenged Palestinian sovereignty over the gas field and declared that Israel would never buy gas from the PA. The consortium made plans to pump the gas to Egypt instead. But all plans were scuppered in 2006 when Hamas replaced the PA in Gaza. Israel then tried to take over the negotiations, but British Gas decided to put the whole risky project on hold. Presumably both Israel and the PA still hope that eventually the gas will be theirs.

What next? 
Israeli state piracy did not have the desired intimidating effect. More attempts to run the blockade followed. Iran and Turkey have offered naval escorts for future flotillas. Conceivably this will broaden the war, though it is more likely that the US will force Israel to abandon the siege. This is likely to trigger the collapse of the current Israeli government and greatly increase the chances of a peace settlement under its successor.

A settlement will not eliminate capitalist rivalry over resources and zones of control. The seeds of future war will remain. Yet as socialists we will welcome even a fragile peace that temporarily halts the horrors of occupation and terror.

That is partly because we sympathize with the suffering of our fellow workers, whatever their ethnic origin. It is always they who suffer the brunt of their masters’ wars.

It is also because war provides an ideal opportunity and excuse to suppress democratic rights on both sides. Peace will create better conditions for democracy. No longer obsessed with ethnic conflict, “Jews” and “Palestinians” will be able to refocus on the social, economic and ecological problems spawned by the “normal” peacetime functioning of capitalism. A space for socialist ideas will open up in this corner of our world.

German President tells the truth (2010)

From the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

On a visit in May to German troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, the German President, Horst Köhler, defended this military action by telling a reporter:
 “A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that . . . military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests – for example when it comes to trade routes, for example when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes” (Link).
The resulting outcry led to his resignation. But he had only told the truth.

 The reason why the various states into which the world is artificially divided equip their armed forces with the most up-to-date weapons they can afford is because, under capitalism, “might is right”.

 “Might” does not have to be actually used – in fact it normally isn’t – but a state’s “might ” is a factor in the jockeying between states for economic position. This is why a Labour Party shadow foreign secretary once defended the British H-bomb by saying that he didn’t want to go into the conference chamber naked. Neither do Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il.

The “mightier” a state the more chance it has of getting its point of view taken into account in diplomatic negotiations which, in the end, are over access to sources of raw materials, markets, investment outlets, trade routes and strategic areas to protect these. A fact perfectly expressed by Köhler.

 He was trying to justify German military intervention in Afghanistan, which is not popular in Germany, by explaining the economic rationale behind it. Normally this is reserved for internal foreign ministry memorandums or studies by specialist think tanks, while the general public are fed all sorts of more or less specious reasons less likely to put them off. Blurting out the real reason for German military action – and Western intervention generally – in Afghanistan was an error of judgment for a politician and why he had to resign.

 Britain is also a country of Germany’s size “with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade” and has troops fighting in Afghanistan to try to establish stability in the area and prevent it from being used as a base for groups which threaten the West’s supplies of oil from the Middle East. A pipeline through the area is also a possible “trade route” to the sea for oil from central Asia.

 The troops are not there to protect workers in Britain from terrorist attacks in London and other cities. In fact their presence there probably increases this risk. But putting the protection of capitalist economic interests before people’s safety is typical of capitalism‘s priorities..

Indispensable guide (2010)

Book Review from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Companion to Marx’s Capital. David Harvey, Verso, 2010, £10.99

Most people who try to read Marx’s Capital give up before the end of the third chapter. This is a shame because, as David Harvey points out in this companion volume, Capital is a rich, multi-dimensional and “astonishingly good” book, despite the undeniable difficulties. Indeed, it would hardly be going too far to suggest – as the author of a previous introductory guide to Capital, Anthony Brewer, did – that reading Capital is “indispensable” to anyone who wants to understand the modern world.

 Harvey’s Companion is the book form of his excellent series of lectures teaching Capital Volume 1, which you can watch online for free or for a donation at His aim in both the lectures and the book is to get you to read Capital all the way through, and in Marx’s own terms. He succeeds brilliantly, getting the balance about right between a close focus on Marx’s text, and his own commentary to help explain it, and situate it in the modern world.

 If you follow the lectures online by watching one per week, then reading the prescribed chapters during the week, you can have volume 1 of Capital, the absolutely supreme book in the socialist canon, under your belt in just 13 weeks. This schedule is challenging but doable. If you don’t have internet access, Harvey’s book will do just as well, though obviously you’ll have more reading to do. Highly recommended.
Stuart Watkins

Non-productive labour (2010)

Book Review from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Global capitalism in crisis. Karl Marx and the Decay of the Profit System.  By Murray E. G. Smith, Fenwood Publishing, Canada. 

 Marx left an ambiguous legacy on “unproductive” labour in that two different theories about it can be found in his writings. The first – which was essentially that of classical political economy going back to Adam Smith – was that labour exchanged against capital was productive while labour exchanged against revenue was not. The logic behind this was that labour employed by capital not only reproduced its own value but also a surplus value over and above this, and so increased the amount of wealth in existence; labour employed out of income such as rents or profits, as for instance on domestic servants, did not result in this but, on the contrary, used up existing wealth.

 But what about labour employed by capital invested in trading and in banking? This also added nothing to the amount of wealth, let alone value, already in existence but still yielded a profit for the capitalist employer of such labour. Marx’s explanation was that productive capitalists in effect handed over a part of the surplus value produced by their workers to these non-productive capitalists who were carrying out an essential function for the capitalist economy (if they didn‘t do this they would have to lay out some of their own capital to cover these activities). The workers in these non-productive employments produced no surplus value themselves but helped acquire surplus value for their employers. So, (second theory) it was possible even for some labour exchanged against capital to be non-productive.

 Murray Smith discusses another category of labour – that employed by the state – which fell into the category of “non-productive” (unless the state itself was involved in production). In Marx’s day – or rather in the days of Smith, Ricardo, Malthus and the others whose ideas Marx discusses – the assumption was that this was akin to the labour of domestic servants and so a drag on capital accumulation.

 In those days this may well have been true since most government employees then were either concerned with collecting taxes or were place-hunters milking the state. Today, however, this is no longer the case. Most national and local government employees are engaged in activities, such as the education and health care of workers, which are just as essential to capitalism as trading and banking. Can they really still be assimilated to domestic servants, i.e. to more or less frivolous spending by the idle rich?

 Murray Smith argues that they should not be. He suggests that expenditure on them should be classified together with the labour of trading and banking workers under the general heading of “socially necessary unproductive labour” (SNUL). He goes further and argues that they and the equipment they use should be assimilated rather to Marx’s concept of “constant capital”, i.e. as capital which merely transfers its value to the new product. From this perspective the taxation which pays for it is not a deduction from surplus value but a part of the capital outlay of the capitalist class as a whole (“social capital”).

 Smith wants to do this mainly because, by transferring such spending from s to c, it reduces the average of profit (s/(c+ v), considerably in fact, so supporting his theory that a fall in the rate of profit caused by c increasing faster than v (expenditure on productive labour) is the main cause of recurring capitalist crises. Quite apart for any decline in the rate of profit for this reason being a long run tendency that  would be too slow to affect cyclical crises,  state spending in reality impacts on the crucial rate of profit after tax (rather than before tax), hence the interest of capitalist firms is keeping state spending down if they can.

 Smith is a dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyist, a supporter of an organisation called the “International Bolshevik Tendency”, a name calculated to make the hair of genuine socialists stand on end. So you need to ignore all the arguments about China being a “deformed Workers State”, about the Bolshevik coup having been a socialist revolution, about the need for a vanguard party, a transitional programme of reforms, etc. etc to get at his basic argument about SNUL.
Adam Buick

Green capitalism (2010)

Book Review from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Green capitalism and the cultural poverty of constructing nature as service provider.’ By Sian Sullivan, in Radical Anthropology, issue 3, 2009/10.

 It would be an exaggeration to say that the writers in Radical Anthropology put the case for socialism. But, at least, some of them criticise aspects of capitalism and present evidence for that criticism.

 A good example is the article by Sullivan, who discusses green capitalism, also known as market environmentalism and green neo-liberalism. The basic idea is that ‘if we just price the environment correctly—creating new markets for new “environmental products” based on monetised measures of environmental health and degradation—then everyone and the environment will win’.

 All that amounts to the economic rationalisation of nature. Stock exchanges, dealing in new environmental ‘products’ have been set up; for example the Climate exchanges in London and Chicago. Carbon credits are the currency representing the emission of carbon. ‘Once these credits enter the international financial system their future value can be speculated on (as with any other currency or commodity, including derivatives) and significant profits can ensue.’

 Capitalist culture has ridden roughshod over biological and cultural diversity and has impoverished both people and the environment. Pricing something is not the same as valuing it. As Sullivan observes, ‘We are critically impoverished as human beings if the best we can come up with is money as the mediator of our relationships with the non-human world.”
Stan Parker

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Letters: Self-employed workers (2010)

Letters to the Editors from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Self-employed workers

Dear Editors

I am writing in response to Tony Trafford’s letter (Socialist Standard, May) regarding self-employed status. I agree fully with the Editors’ response and analysis of the matter but wanted to add a couple of points.

As a self-employed skilled labourer in the engineering and construction industries, I do not fit in Marx’s capital-owning definition of the shop keeper and I think there is a clear definition to be made between self-employed small capitalists of the kind described by Marx and those of more modern times, like myself and indeed the subject of Tony Trafford’s letter, who merely supply their labour.

As such a person, I am in a similar if not worse position than an ‘ordinary’ employed person. I am not entitled to sick or holiday pay, my employment is not guaranteed down to a daily basis and all my costs for work (fuel, tools, telephone, etc) are my responsibility. As for exploitation, I neither employ and therefore exploit, any others and am contracted to be employed by others and therefore my labour is exploited by capital in the traditional sense. In reality my so-called ‘self-employed’ status merely refers to how I pay my taxes rather than any social or deeper economic definition.
D. Humphries, 

Pete Seeger

Dear Editors

Concerning Roy Beat’s letter (June Socialist Standard), I (mis)spent the 1960s immersed in the Folk Movement and recall nothing positive vis-à-vis the dissemination of Socialist knowledge. Politically the scene was one Leftist/Nationalist mess. Significantly Roy Beat fails to produce any contrary evidence.

The banjo’s early multi-racial history is common knowledge. However in the wake of the Minstrel Shows its image to many Negroes was tarnished and seeing one in the hands of yet another “condescending white, liberal Yankee” arriving to “emancipate” them was further aggravation.

The significance of the inverted commas around “good causes” appears to have evaded him. Socialists recognise the serious limitations of the Civil (and Woman’s, Gay etc) Rights Movements and how at best they can only aspire to parity with their white, male, heterosexual Working Class counterparts within Capitalism. The solution, of course, is Socialism. Who would need “rights” where common ownership and free access prevailed? Likewise, the anti-Vietnam War Movement dealt only with the specifics of that event; not the underlying causes of war at large. On what possible basis therefore could criticising all of this be deemed “sectarian”?

I have much time for Pete Seeger both personally and musically: politically, I have little.
Andrew Armitage, 

Ballots or bullets?

Dear Editors

Your candidate (for Vauxhall) in the election was to my mind only propping up the outdated evil system with money.

It would have been far better to have spent the cash on leaflets informing the people whatever party they vote X for it will not be in their interests.

The state will never give over power to the workers – the mass of the people have to take power. If one wants something in this life, you have to fight to get it.
R. Bloomfield, 
London SE5

It is true that we did have to forfeit our deposit of £500 and that that went to the capitalist state but, as a party contesting the election, our election address was distributed free by the post office to 56,000 households in Vauxhall. Besides arguing the case for socialism, the leaflet did make the point you mention about the other parties.

We agree that if you want anything under capitalism you have to struggle for it, if that’s what you mean by “fight”. If by “fight” you mean take up arms we don’t agree. It’s just not true – for instance, workers can and do get higher wages and better working conditions without taking up arms. We do think that socialism can be established peacefully but getting there will have to involve a determined political and ideological struggle –  Editors.

Tiny Tips (2010)

The Tiny Tips column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

 Only 14 of the world’s 1,000 billionaires are self-made women, and only seven of them had no help from relatives, a new list has found…

Food prices are set to rise as much as 40% over the coming decade amid growing demand from emerging markets and for biofuel production, according to a United Nations report today which warns of rising hunger and food insecurity:

Slovak voters have dumped their government, prompting one nationalist firebrand to warn that the country would now be run by “homosexuals and Hungarians,” the Slovak news agency TASR reported:

An Emirati woman who had complained to police that she was gang raped by six men is being tried for having consensual sex with one of them, The National newspaper reported on Tuesday. The prosecution told Abu Dhabi’s criminal court that the 18-year old woman had in effect consented to having sex with one of the six men, an Emirati friend of hers, because she agreed to go for a drive with him on May 2, the English-language daily said. The paper, citing the prosecution, said the 19-year old man had sex with her in his car and then invited five of his friends — four Emiratis and one Iraqi — to join them:
[Dead Link.]

$350G Lexus LFA supercar: A car so ‘hot’ you need to get ‘approved’ by the company to buy it:
[Dead Link.]

This baby, called the Rising Sun “is currently co-owned by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, and David Geffen. The yacht is the 5th largest in the world with a length of almost 138 meters (453 ft). It reportedly cost over US $200 million to build,”, the boat’s very own fan site, reports. The boat comes complete with onyx countertops, a gym, spa, sauna, wine cellar, private cinema and basketball court:
[Dead Link.]

Tebogo, aged 25, is a security guard in Johannesburg, earning just 11.38 [£1.02] rand an hour. Improperly classified as “self-employed”, he gets no paid holiday, sick leave or other benefits. By dint of working a 12-hour day, 25 days a month, he manages to earn 3,400 rand a month. Out of this he has to pay 250 rand rent to a friend who allows him to live in a one-room shack in his yard, next to seven others. Their 15 occupants share a single pitlatrine and outside water tap. Tebogo pays his employer 390 rand a month for transport and 98 rand for the uniform he is obliged to wear. Another 350 rand a month goes on maintenance for his six-year-old daughter. He also gives about 800 rand a month to his parents, who have no other source of income. In a good month that leaves Tebogo with about 1,500 rand for himself and his studies:

“What do I enjoy? I enjoy the gun.” AWIL SALAH OSMAN, a 12-year-old soldier in Somalia’s army:

A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said:
[Dead Link.]

Obituary: Harry Hill 1939 - 2010 (2010)

Obituary from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Glasgow branch with regret record the death of our comrade Harry Hill. No matter what anyone may say Harry was “a character”. Even inside a Glasgow branch of the sixties that was full of characters Harry was unique. He had left school at 15 years of age, but long before he had met the Socialist Party he had already seen through the nonsense of religion. In fact the first time we went to Harry’s home, just round the corner from my own hovel, we were astonished at his collection of ‘The Thinker’s Library’. Harry was a unique person. One of his great loves was taking “the piss” out of religion although he once said, “even better is taking the piss out of atheists. They think a world without religion but based on property would work.”

Harry was only officially a member from 1964 until 1974 but long after that he would attend our indoor and outdoor meetings and was a whole hearted supporter of the SPGB. He was particularly adept at arguing the basic party position with new contacts. A measure of Harry’s support for the ideas of world socialism can be gathered from the fact that although he was suffering from a long-term fatal illness he attended our joint Edinburgh/Glasgow day school in May a couple of weeks before his death. To his beloved wife Lydia and all his comrades and friends Glasgow branch extend our sympathy. We have lost a good man.
Glasgow branch

50 Years Ago: Eichmann: Who is responsible? (2010)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is impossible to condemn too strongly the terrible brutality of the killing of millions of people, Jews and others, of which Adolf Eichmann is accused. The majority of people have reacted to the press reports with a demand for his punishment. Learning of Eichmann’s deeds, they take the short-sighted view that to deal with him as an individual is enough. But Eichmann is the end product of a vast process; he arose from the inhuman conditions of capitalist society. The very people who condemn him are content to leave those conditions untouched.

 The working class, not only in Nazi Germany but in post-war Germany—and throughout the world—blindly support capitalism. None of them can escape responsibility for the consequences. For the power wielded by the rulers of world capitalism is a reflection of the political ignorance of the working class everywhere. It is absurd to blame one man, when he is only the instrument of a policy supported by millions. (…)

 War is caused by the struggles between national capitalist Powers over markets and economic resources. This can only be cured by the abolition of capitalism. As long as workers support this system, so will they be vulnerable to the racial theorist who, on nationalist grounds, gets support for his programme of mass murder. The dictators of yesterday, and the dictators and leaders of today, with their frightening military machines, only reflect the preparedness of their workers to ignore the bloodshed of two world wars and still to die for capitalism.

 It is futile to punish an individual whilst ignoring the vicious conditions which made him possible. Eichmann was involved in some terrible things—but the exterminations which he so methodically organised are only a part of the greatest atrocity of all—the capitalist system of society. As the movement for a classless world—for Socialism—takes root and spreads, so will the possibility of inhuman murderers like Adolf Eichmann decline and die.

(from the editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1960)

Running Commentary: Sports Aid (1986)

The Running Commentary Column from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sports Aid

From "Sports Aid" to "Neil Aid", and the continuing story of the Labour Party’s attempts to win support on any basis apart from their policies. They have however, moved on from pop stars in an attempt to appear more sensible, as illustrated by their Partly Political Broadcast for the Regional Council elections in May. Elsewhere in Britain viewers were treated to Glenda Jackson among others, but in Scotland it was a much more serious affair with the appearance of the Labour Party’s new signing, that expert on housing and local government, John Colquhoun. Now for those of you who do not know already, John Colquhoun plays for Hearts FC and knows a thing or two about selling dummies, so naturally he is now trying to sell us the shadow cabinet in return for our vote.

Don't mention Albert Kidd . . .
And what did John Colquhoun. the only left-winger that Neil Kinnock doesn’t consider an electoral liability, actually say — “I’ll be voting Labour. I hope you do too", or some such pearl of wisdom. He could even have said he would be over the moon if you would vote Labour, but this viewer couldn’t say for sure — it's difficult taking notes when you are lying in hysterics on the carpet in front of the TV.

More important, though, is what is being suggested here by the Labour Party — forget about your problems of poverty, unemployment or housing, and don't bother trying to relate them to the promises of the Labour Party. Instead just vote according to how some guy who earns his living by kicking a lump of leather around a field, says. Well, they do say that footballers have their brains in their feet.

So what can we expect next? Ian Botham on the government's anti-drugs campaign? Frank Bruno on law and order. . .?

Victorian values

Sweat-shops have never really disappeared from Britain or other parts of the world. Now, however, they look set to be brought back from the fringes of legality into the fold of respectability. Just as Victorian values are once again in vogue, so it seems are Victorian working conditions. The government has just produced a White Paper aimed at the ’de-regulation'’ of small business. The aim is to make it easier for owners of businesses to make profit from the labour of their workers without having to be bothered with the inconvenience of the health and safety of employees or workers' legal rights to employment protection.

If the proposals become law then the following will be some of the effects:

  • Workers will be deterred from going to an industrial tribunal after being dismissed "unfairly". by a requirement that they should pay a £25 fee before charging the employer with ’unfair" dismissal.
  • Workers will have to have worked for two years with a company, rather than six months as at present, before the employer is obliged to give detailed reasons for dismissal.
  • Firms with fewer than ten employees will no longer be obliged to allow a woman to return to work within 29 weeks of giving birth to a child.
  • Restrictions will be introduced on the functions union officials are to be allowed to perform or to attend during working hours to only those trade union duties formally recognised by the employer.
  • Part-time workers will have to work 50 per cent more hours a week before they are entitled to the main employment protection rights. Those working between 12 and 20 hours a week will only qualify for employment rights after five years working for the same employer.
These legal rights were not granted by the capitalist class without a struggle. That they can so easily be removed now, at a time of economic recession when trade unions are weak, shows the fragile nature of workers’ ’’rights" in capitalism.

Your life in their hands

Recently, as a result of a government report on efficiency in the Health Service, general managers have been appointed to run the NHS. The idea behind the move is that productivity can be improved by using measures not dissimilar to those that might be used in running, say, United Biscuits. The problem is that while cost-benefit analysis might work in assessing efficiency in a biscuit factory, it has somewhat bizarre, or even tragic, consequences when you try to apply it to human health. For example, given the limited resources available for health care under capitalism, how do you decide in strict cost-benefit terms how to allocate those resources? How is productivity to be measured? By the turn-over of patients each year? By the number of operations performed? Should you go for "quantity” — keeping as many people alive for as long as possible no matter what their state of health — or "quality" — maintaining people in good health in the short-term? Do you opt for expensive operations like heart transplants on young people who have still got a number of years left as potentially exploitable workers? If so, what about the huge numbers of elderly workers whose quality of life could be drastically improved by relatively simple and cheap operations like hip-replacement surgery even though they are no longer of use to the labour force?

These are the kinds of decisions that health workers and administrators are faced with, given the lack of priority accorded to people's health and well-being under capitalism. The appointment of general managers will do nothing to change this. Clearly the attempt to run the NHS along the lines of an efficient capitalist enterprise is proving too much for even successful entrepreneurs like Victor Paige, who recently resigned as "Chairman of the Board" of the NHS. But "middle management" is also showing signs of strain. Freddie Lucas has also resigned as general manager of Central Birmingham Health Authority. (A former army brigadier, one would have thought that he was better qualified to make decisions about killing people rather than keeping them alive but then again we don't know what his terms of reference were). He complained that members of the Health Authority didn't "have the good sense to stand back and let management manage" (Guardian, 7 June 1986). Health authorities contain too many vested interests to inspire much confidence and given the choice between the BMA and the army to decide health service priorities, we would obviously do best to opt for a social system based on human interests.

Divide and rule (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The ruling South African National Party's attempts at reforming apartheid have arrived too late, and are too little, to permit an orderly transfer of political power to the limited democracy of majority rule. Anger, fear, hostility and resistance have now made that process almost impossible — sentiments that are a direct result of the entrenched attitudes of the Afrikaner ruling class, and their strategy of divide and rule. For apartheid — based as it is on division not unity — has exacerbated other divisions within South African society, divisions potentially even more explosive than those between racial groups.

As administrative structures have broken down in the townships a power vacuum has been created which black groups are now competing to fill. Firstly there is intra-black political conflict between three main groups jockeying for position. The largest of these consists of the exiled African National Congress (ANC) together with its internal partner the United Democratic Front (UDF) — a loose umbrella organisation of about 600 heterogeneous local and national groups and the main federation of black trade unions — Cosatu. The UDF was set up in 1983 to oppose the new tricameral constitution, but now increasingly acts as the domestic wing of the ANC. The ANC's strategy uses three tactics: armed struggle which, although it receives high priority has had very little impact; organisation within South Africa itself which has proved highly successful; and activities abroad to extend foreign recognition of the ANC.

This alliance is challenged by the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) together with its partner the National Forum — an organisation of black consciousness groups. Azapo and its allies differ from the ANC/UDF on the question of the role of whites in the struggle against apartheid, but share similar goals and tactics, although it is relatively weak on the ground.

The third black political group is Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha movement based in the Kwazulu homeland. Buthelezi is reviled by the ANC, UDF and black consciousness groups and regarded as a collaborator with apartheid. He commands the support of six million Zulus and is encouraged by white businessmen because he opposes disinvestment. But his power base is essentially regional and tribal, located mainly in the rural homelands rather than in the townships. A group of trades unions supporting Inkatha has recently been formed to rival Cosatu which is likely to lead to a still wider gulf between the Zulus and other blacks.

However these political, tactical and personal divisions between black groups have, in recent weeks, been over-shadowed by divisions between blacks within the townships. In an attempt to foster the illusion of a degree of black self-government, local councils were created on which blacks had representation and responsibility for certain aspects of local administration — an attempt, some argued, to shift the burden of running apartheid to blacks themselves. As a result a faction of blacks grew up — councillors, local officials, small businesspeople, police — who felt that they were getting something out of the apartheid system status, and relative material well-being. Not surprisingly they were regarded with suspicion and hostility by township residents because of their close identification with "the system". In the present state of turmoil most of these councils (33 out of 38) no longer function and by June last year 240 black councillors, officials and mayors had resigned. Some have been the victims of violent attacks as punishment for their collaboration. Others have tried to fight back in a futile and misguided attempt to defend what they think they have. As a result in many townships two loosely structured, but opposed, groups have developed popularly known as the "vigilantes" and the "comrades". Violent clashes between them have contributed to the death toll of 1,500 over the past 19 months (although the majority have died at the hands of the South African security forces).

The “vigilantes" tend to be older, more conservative — the black "establishment" who have organised to defend what little they have and who are fearful of more militant activists. Initially vigilante groups emerged in the homelands in response to popular resistance against authoritarian and corrupt local administrations. More recently they have developed in urban areas in response to similar opposition to township councils. Increasingly there is evidence that their activities are condoned and even assisted by the security forces. At the Crossroads squatter camp recently, 32 people died and over 20,000 were left homeless as a result of vigilante activities assisted by the security forces who, it is alleged, provided both weapons and protection so that the forced removal of the squatters could be achieved.

Opposing the vigilantes are the "comrades" — an even more loosely structured group of mostly young, more militant township residents who have closer links with the ANC and UDF. Their activities are often organised in open defiance of the black establishment and, as township councils have collapsed, they have stepped in to provide an alternative power structure through the setting up of street and area committees responsible for organising everything from rent collection to rubbish disposal. They also deal with what they see as the crimes of alleged informers and collaborators, meting out summary punishments as severe as those handed out by the vigilantes. The blazing "necklace" has become a hallmark of the comrades' treatment of alleged informers.

The tactic of divide and rule was consciously adopted by the white ruling class in the hope that a stable, conservative, black "middle class" would emerge in the townships to administer apartheid on their behalf and to deal with more militant elements. The present activities of the township vigilantes are still, in some senses, advantageous to the ruling class, since they justify the maintenance of the security forces in the townships and violent factionalism among blacks is also used as a justification for the continuation of apartheid itself. South Africa, it is argued, is too fragmented for a unitary, democratic system to be workable. Ultimately. however, the security forces and the government can't win — they have applied the divide-and-rule strategy for what it is worth and now it is beginning to work against them. They created the divisions within the townships; now that they are becoming violent and the townships become increasingly ungovernable they use more repressive tactics to control the situation; more repression only serves to add to grievances.

But if political tactics are failing Botha's government, so too is the ideology of apartheid turning on its own. For Botha's feeble attempts at cosmetic change, which have done nothing to satisfy the blacks, are viewed with alarm and a sense of betrayal by some Afrikaners. The ideology of white supremacy was used to divide South Africa's working class. That ideology ensured that white workers were relatively affluent, had a protected position in the labour market and constituted an "aristocracy of labour". Many accepted this ideology believing that their privileged position meant that they had no interests in common with black workers. But the apartheid ideology, now recognised by significant sections of the capitalist class as an anachronism, a fetter on the expansion of wealth production, created a group of white workers who not only felt no common class interest with black workers, but who hardly even regarded them as human. Botha's attempts at reform have, therefore, bolstered the fortunes of a number of even more extreme right-wing groups, while his own National Party is itself breaking up into factions.

There are two main parties on the far right: the Conservative Party, founded after the last general election in 1981, which has 17 seats in the South African legislature, and the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) which has one. But this lack of seats disguises the level of support in certain areas of the country for extra parliamentary, neo-Nazi groups such as the Afrikaner Volkswag (the people s guard) headed by Carel Broshoff. former leader of the Broederbond — a secret society dedicated to Afrikaner supremacy, and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) the Afrikaner Resistance Movement — led by Eugene Terre' Blanche. It was this group which was responsible for the breaking up of a National Party meeting in Pietersburg recently. The AWB has a swastika-like emblem and openly supports racist violence Terre' Blanche encourages his members to join the security forces and he wants an armed vigilante group to protect whites. Ultimately he seeks the re-establishment of the old Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State as a white "homeland".

Many business people, professionals and political liberals want apartheid to go. They want to replace the old racist ideology which is now causing so many problems but without basically changing the distribution of political power, hence the present attempts to introduce power-sharing without having to forfeit overall political control. Some liberals have given up and left South Africa, others, especially the young, have attended meetings supporting black political rights. Some young whites have refused to serve in South Africa's conscript army and risk six years' imprisonment. Some whites have even joined the ANC's military wing.

Clearly it is no longer possible to see the situation in South Africa simply in terms of a conflict between black and white. Class conflict, always present but to some extent disguised by the racial division, is becoming more obvious as workers and trade unionists exploit the weak position of South Africa's ruling class to press home demands for changes in working conditions and levels of pay. Within the capitalist class itself conflict is apparent between industrialists who need the more flexible labour force that an end to apartheid can provide, and the old. mainly Afrikaner, land owning class who fear the cost of such a change for the semi-feudal system by which they run their farms. These divisions are real, representing a true opposition of interests. Those created by the ideology of apartheid are not. They are illusory, representing artificial distinctions based on the ambiguous concept of racial difference, or mistaken beliefs about where your true interest lies.

Apartheid must collapse. The tactic of divide and rule has divided not only blacks but also whites and the white ruling class may well find that the absence of a single black political movement with whom it can do business is a greater threat to its existence than they had imagined. To head off black discontent the government has tried to win over blacks through a process of gradual reform to remove "petty apartheid". It has not only failed but in so doing it has now outraged its own supporters who believed the racist ideology of white supremacy. At the same time those reforms are seen by blacks as cracks in the facade of white rule, adding impetus to the pressure for change.

The white ruling class is also under pressure from capitalists who are threatening to withdraw investments from South Africa. Firstly because of the combined effects of the fall in value of assets and dividends caused by the collapse of the rand; secondly negative publicity because of their South African involvement from anti-apartheid organisations. which it is feared will affect their sales. The capitalist class as a whole is not concerned about the morality of apartheid, how humane or democratic the system is, but rather whether it is stable and can provide the environment necessary for the production of profit.

The extent to which Botha is losing his political grip is evident in the raid launched by South Africa on alleged ANC bases in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. No doubt the raid was intended to reassure the whites at home that the regime was not going soft on blacks, despite the reforms. And no doubt too Botha thought that since America had used a similar justification (rooting out terrorists) for the attack on Libya and got away with it there would not be international outrage if he conducted a similar exercise. But America is clearly recognising which way the wind is currently blowing in South Africa (some US politicians have already started calling ANC "terrorists" "freedom-fighters") and expressed hypocritical moral outrage at South Africa's attack, as did Britain. Botha clearly has few political friends either at home or abroad. He is in a classic "no win" situation as a result of the contradictions of an archaic political and social system in a modern capitalist state. A move in any direction is likely to bring the whole citadel of apartheid down around his ears. The more interesting question that we should now consider is what is likely to replace it?
Janie Percy-Smith

Circuses and "bread" (1986)

'See you, suckers . . .'
From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Just as the cheers from steamy-hot Mexico fade away, and you've just about succeeded in shaking the dronings of the World Cup commentators out of your dreams at night, it is time for another little bit of "entertainment". Once again, there will be a fair measure of patriotism in the air, in fact quite a strong whiff of British nationalism. A chance for the Royals to speed up their breeding patterns. But they would have to work pretty hard at it if they were hoping to become as numerous as the non-Royals. The Royal Wedding is a chance for millions of workers who are deprived of real lives to sit back and gaze at the dazzling spectacle of something even less real. Like the actors in Dallas, the characters in the Royal Wedding spectacular soap are basically ordinary, boring, fairly soppy, very wealthy people. "Andy" and "Fergie" happen to be members of a rather special club. A club for social parasites, who are quite prepared to use the most violent and murderous forces of the state to defend their inherited wealth, power and privilege.

Since the happy young couple have been the subject of such a cruelly penetrating limelight, let us instead focus on some of their fellow members of that club, otherwise known as the British section of the world's capitalist class, who between them own and control the world's productive resources. In its June issue, the Illustrated London News featured an article on Britain's Richest Men which serves as an excellent guide and profile. By way of introduction, we are reminded of Paul Getty's famous (alleged) statement that if you can count your money, you are not rich. The richest individual in Britain is, in fact, almost certainly the Queen, with personal wealth of between £2 billion and £3 billion. The article referred to contrasts some of the older established capitalist families with the newer dynasties based on high-street retail companies. In this context. Terence Conran of Habitat is quoted as "designing" this pearl of artistic wisdom: "Retailing is about making people want things". Then there are the Sainsburys. Tim. with shares worth over £200 million, is a Tory MP and government whip. His cousin David, with shares worth £719,680,000 and a dividend income of over £30,000 per day. supports the SDP.

Land is still an important starting point in considering the class division of capitalism. Research by D. Massey and A. Catelano. published in 1977. estimated that 1,500 families own nearly one third of the country. This would include people like the Duke of Westminster, with over £2 billion, much of it in land, or the Duke of Buccleuch. who owns more than 300,000 acres of Scotland.

Other capitalists featured, with their respective fortunes, include the following: Edmund Vestey with £1,500 million. James Goldsmith with £500 million, Lord Cayzer £500 million, Gerald Ronson £300 million, Robert Maxwell £235 million, Paul McCartney £250 million, "Tiny” Rowland £135 million, and so on. Against some of these, the £25 million made by Andrew Lloyd Webber from shows like Cats and Evita seems a paltry little sum. And yet even that amount will generate an automatic weekly interest income of about £50,000!

Socialists do not have any bitter personal hatred for these few bloated individuals, who cannot even control their own system. We have a far more ambitious and stimulating aim to work for: the world's resources for the people of the world. But it is worth bearing in mind these staggering financial sums as you watch the crowds of workers who have been conned into rushing towards the gates of Buckingham Palace on the day of the parasitic nuptials. Just one of the capitalists listed above would own far more than the collective property of the entire crowd of people outside those gates and right down The Mall. The Royal Family, with all its militaristic pomp and ceremony, is just a florid figurehead for the British section of the international capitalist class. And the economic needs of the capitalist class stand at loggerheads with the needs of the working class, which the rest of us belong to, and at loggerheads with the interests of humanity itself. It is their wars we fight, their pollution we breathe, their nationalism, divide-and-rule.

Today, the trumpets might be blaring to announce a Royal Wedding. Tomorrow, the same trumpets might be calling the same workers to extend their blind loyalty to the “nation" on to the battlefield. That is where such loyalty starts and finishes. And the next battlefield may not be like the Falkland Islands, just a few hundred innocent young men neatly butchered and drowned thousands of miles away. The next battlefield may be the last. And yet these conflicts do all have the same common cause, at root. The world-wide capitalist system itself is a daily battle, in which the economic conflict between rival national groups of owners can easily pass from economic to military warfare. And today, capitalism is becoming increasingly one universal battlefield as the distinction between "civilian" and "military" targets continues to be blurred.

To remove the cause of this conflict in the world is to get rid of the capitalist system of class division between owners and non-owners. Then we can get on with living our lives freely and comfortably, without being driven mad with the love life of Andy and Fergie. So let us turn our backs on these insulting circuses for the workers. Let the "Royals" stand and wave at each other; we have a world to win.
Clifford Slapper

50 Years Ago: Should we join the 
Labour Party? (1986)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr Reeves in his innocence (or is it guile?) asks if it has ever occurred to us that the capitalists might provoke a bloody revolution after a socialist working class has gained control of the political machinery. We can but answer with a similar question. Has it ever occurred to Mr Reeves that, if a minority tried to provoke a bloody revolution against the politically organised majority which has control of the political machinery, including the armed forces, that rebel minority might get very badly hurt?

The rest of Mr Reeve's letter lumps together a number of contradictory ideas, which need sorting out. He presents us with the alternatives either of being in the Labour Party or of trying to lead the workers "into the shambles." We are opposed to both. The task of spreading knowledge of socialism, and of organising for the conquest of power has nothing in common with the stupid policy of leading non-socialist masses into civil war. (On this point may we refer our correspondent to our Declaration of Principles?) On the other hand, our alternative to suicidal armed revolt is not the Labour Party policy of minor reforms of capitalism, but the quite different policy of organising for the conquest of power to achieve socialism In passing it may be pointed out that it is Labour Party gradualism which includes dragooning the workers into the shambles of capitalist war.

[From an answer to a correspondent, Socialist Standard, July 1936]

Animal rights? (1986)

From the July 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Every day over ten thousand animals die in laboratories in Britain. They are burned, blinded, scalded, poisoned, cut up, and many of the other unpleasant things you can think of. Eighty per cent of the experiments take place without anaesthetic. This is what is known as "vivisection".

Recent times have seen the rise of vociferous campaigns against this and against other forms of animal cruelty. Today, we not only have the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports, but also an active National Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming, Greenpeace, the Animal Liberation Front, and others. Nothing — not even the nuclear threat — is more calculated to fill the postbags of newspapers than the appearance of a letter or article on the subject of animals. When my own local paper recently published a letter about the use of animals, readers wrote in in large numbers. The writer of the original letter had said that his wife had died of cancer and had more experiments been allowed to take place on animals, a cure may have been found and she might still be alive. He went on to say that campaigners against animal experiments were killers because their efforts to limit such experiments were condemning many sick people to death. One of the replies, from Brian Gunn, General Secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, showed that the writer had little to fear. Gunn pointed out that new parliamentary legislation against vivisection was leaving the situation very much as it had been since the first Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876. It would not stop the experiments at present taking place. The main difference in the new (1986) law is the fact that it grades experiments from one to five according to the intensity of pain they cause. And in one sense, say the animal campaigners, the new law is worse than the old one as it no longer insists that animals be killed after they have been experimented on but allows them to be used for a second experiment if they are still in fit condition.

Brian Gunn also mentioned that animals are not just used for medical purposes but figure on a large scale in tests on cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco and in warfare and behavioural and psychological tests. And if we look a little more closely, we can add to the animal-tested list innocuous seeming products like oven cleaner, candles, shampoo, polish, anti-freeze and detergents, as well as the cosmetics which the campaigners frequently condemn and which they are trying to combat by their own list of "cruelty-free cosmetics".

But the campaigners' concerns stretch further than just vivisection. I recently received through the post a letter from the Save the Seals campaign of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which graphically described the clubbing to death of baby seals. It appealed for a donation and asked me to pledge myself to boycotting Canadian fish products. In the letter was a small folded brochure showing Canadian fishermen killing baby seals. A notice on the outside said I would find the scenes "extremely disturbing". and I did. Not long before, I had received a similar request from Greenpeace to help its work of trying to save the whales from extinction. And when the Socialist Party debated with the local Animal Rights group last year in Swansea, it was this kind of literature our opponents gave out as well as material on vivisection.

Different pro-animal groups have different methods. The more conservative try putting pressure on governments, firms and educational institutions by letters to the press and MPs and organising petitions. Others picket fur shops, circuses and research establishments. The most "radical". like the Animal Liberation Front, favour "direct action" such as "liberating" animals from laboratories, damaging equipment and sabotaging hunts. One thing that unites them all, however, is the idea that, since animals cannot organise their own protest, they must be protected by those who can. "We are the voice for the voiceless", as they put it, and it's hard not to be sympathetic to that voice and indeed to the millions of tortured creatures it speaks for.

But can the voice be an effective one? The animal campaigners point in particular to the other methods of experimentation that can and already are being used. First there is the use of cell and tissue cultures which avoid the direct use of animals and can utilise human samples taken from such sources as placenta and parts of the uterus removed during hysterectomy. The human cultures are said to be more reliable for research into illness since animal bodies often react differently to drugs than human ones and examples of animal-tested disaster drugs like Thalidomide and Eraldin are easy to find. Cultures have already been used for work on cancer, diabetes and arthritis and the production of vaccines, hormones and enzymes. Then there are a number of computer assisted techniques, in particular the mathematical modelling and quantum pharmacology methods, which have already been used. Finally, among other methods still in their early stages but being developed are chemical analysis by mass spectrometry, genetic engineering, and scanning by sophisticated photographic techniques.

Why then, given the existence and use of other methods, are animals still dying in their millions? The answer is quite simply that animals are cheap. Since the aim of research in today's world is not primarily to alleviate suffering but to yield products that can be sold on the market at a profit (or at least to smooth the overall running of the profit process), then clearly the single most essential factor is cheapness. No firm producing drugs, cosmetics, oven cleaner, or detergents will pay for research without the prospect of a product they can sell at a profit. And since it must also be assessed whether the amount of resources being put into a research project is worth the profit it will finally produce, research sponsors will inevitably want the work to be carried out as cheaply as possible. And if cheapness means using animals rather than other methods that may be available. then animals will be used, regardless of their suffering.

The Animal Rights movement's literature often recognises that profit is the driving force of animal exploitation. But. curiously, they never seem to look beyond the profit system for a possible solution to the problem. They would like "compassion" to enter into the production process (the organisation. Compassion in World Farming, encapsulates this in its title), but if the driving force of production is profit, is compassion for animals likely to come anything but a poor second? Especially when we consider that compassion for humans comes a very poor second to profit. Every year millions of human beings are killed, maimed, ill-treated or driven from their homes in the wars and power struggles associated with the pursuit of profit in many parts of the globe. Every year millions of human beings are allowed to die of starvation because they can't afford to buy food at a price that would allow its production or distribution to be profitable. Every year millions of human beings, even in so-called civilised countries like Britain, are set at odds with one another by profit society's competitive ethic and hostile social environment. Many are victims of material want and mental distress leading to such problems as violence, theft, drug addiction, suicide and death by hypothermia. Can we expect compassion for animals on any significant scale in a society whose social organisation so militates against compassion for human beings?

The necessary change is to a society where production is for use not profit, where people co-operate voluntarily to produce what they need and enjoy free and equal access to what they have produced. What we are talking about is a society without wages and salaries, without buying and selling, without money and banks and stock exchanges. It may seem a tall order, but it's certainly less of a tall order than emancipating animals in the framework of the present society, and in fact socialism is entirely within our grasp once the majority of us decide we want it and are prepared to take democratic political action to bring it about.

How will the position of animals be different in such a society? It is hard to imagine that, just as the peace and security of socialism will change people's attitudes towards their fellow human beings, their attitudes towards animals will not change too. In a truly human society, compassion for other living creatures can hardly fail to be something that will concern us. On a practical level alone, many of today's experiments will simply be unnecessary. For instance, weapons won't be needed, so animals won't be used in their development or testing. Many of the drugs used today will probably not be produced, since so many illnesses are produced by the conditions we live in rather than by intrinsic human factors. Socialism will not be a society of tranquillisers, antidepressants or pain killers. Nor will it be a society in which today's killers — cancer and heart disease — are widespread. According to Philip Churchward, "it is widely accepted that cancer is a largely preventable disease. Seventy to ninety per cent of cancers are caused by environmental factors, with smoking and diets high in animal fat as the two main offenders".

But wouldn't animal experiments be needed for the remaining 10-30 per cent of cancer victims? And what about the production of candles, weedkiller, polish and (if we still use them) cosmetics and tobacco? Well, first of all in a society where there are no cost factors to be placed above human need, all methods of research that exist will be used in preference to making animals suffer. Then, even where there seems to be no alternative to the use of animals for a particular purpose, we will think carefully before condemning other sentient beings to suffering or death. When people take their democratic decisions on such matters (and all decisions in socialism will be democratic), they will have to weigh the benefit to themselves and to the community as a whole of using animals against the debasement of humanity this involves. They will have to ask themselves whether the benefit to humanity is so vital as to be worth causing defenceless creatures to suffer. This writer's guess is that it will rarely, if ever, be.

In their letters to the press, the anti-vivisectionists have the habit of signing off with a "Yours for Human and Animal Rights", and in so doing they highlight the similarity of their position to the countless other organisations campaigning not for animal reforms but for human ones — Shelter, Help the Aged, Oxfam, Amnesty International, War on Want, Child Poverty Action and so on. And both sets of "rights” campaigners have the same dilemma. They are campaigning for rights within the framework of a system where any such notion must always be subordinated to the needs of profit. In other words, they are fighting to get rid of problems without aiming to get rid of the system that produces the problems. Their fight must always therefore be a losing one. Calming the symptoms is the best they can hope for, because as long as the root cause of the pain is still there, then the pain will keep coming back, and indeed will break out in other places too.

The answer, as perceived by the anti-vivisectionists themselves, is political. But not political in the sense of demanding, as they put it, "open government", or of appealing to governments to act in the interests of animals and against the interests of profit. Political in the sense of our taking the situation into our own hands and peacefully and democratically voting to get rid of governments, to get rid of the profit system, and with it to get rid of the bottomless pit of problems, for both humans and animals, that it inevitably produces.
Howard Moss