Thursday, January 23, 2020

Be disobedient – think for yourself (2006)

From the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let’s rebel! Let’s free ourselves from the corrupt, rapacious society we live in!

We workers produce, organise, and manage production for a minority of capitalists who own what we produce; then, from the sale of the products we make, the capitalists accumulate more capital from profits. Some of the profits are reinvested to have us work to develop the production facilities for the owners, the remainder of the profits are used by the owners to expand their wealth and extend their power by controlling their governments and “persuading” politicians, both nationally and internationally.

Let us change this way of running affairs! We workers produce and distribute all goods; let us own everything and abolish private property, so everyone can democratically decide how to care for each other.

This division of world society into those who own and control capital (the capitalist class), and those who have to work to increase the capitalists’ wealth (the working class) must be abo1ished and replaced by a co-operative society of common ownership by freely associating individuals – that is everyone. A real inclusive society of carers with no selfish, private owning capitalists, as now , accumulating wealth and running society through their politicians and governments.

Under common ownership real democracy will work; everyone can participate fully in administration and be heard – not like now, when the 30 seconds it takes you to put a cross on the ballot paper is ignored for years by politicians too busy pocketing brown envelopes.

Within a society of common ownership, if there are individuals elected they will be controlled by the electors and subjected to immediate recall. This means the elected will be servants of the electors, and recalled to be removed immediately by those who elected them, if they do not follow the instructions of those who gave them the chance to be public servants.

The evidence that everyone has equal power and an equal vote in every decision taken will be obvious within this future society by the removal of the threat of hunger, exercised under capitalist society against all who are unwilling to accept the conditions of work and compliance. Within this future society of freely associating, equal individuals, every man, woman and child will take what goods they want from a communal store. This free access, this freedom is what will maintain real democracy, and it will be possible because money will be unnecessary and non-existent.

Money is a means of exchange in capitalist society. A form of rationing by the owners of the non-owners – no money, no goods. In a society of common ownership and free access – we use the word socialism to describe it – everybody will own everything, so why would we want to pay ourselves? Our common sense will tell us not to waste what could be shared with others.

As socialists we want to participate in a global-community progression to free humankind’s real human potential. We are all equals, if different. We don’t accept leaders, which is why we invite you to ignore leaders too. Begin to free yourself, be disobedient, think for yourself, ask questions, and inquire after the case we suggest.

– leaflet issued by socialists in Ireland.

Letters: Karen Horney again (2006)

Letters to the Editors from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

Karen Horney again

Dear Editors,

A letter last month quotes Karen Horney. Her book on neurosis is really worth a read since she was much in the same social psychology vein as Erich Fromm, i.e. finding more to neurosis in the way our society is than merely positing biological and individual causes. She argued that the neurotic individual doesn’t have a large ego (real sense of self, not the negative connotation of ego) and substitutes an unreal sense of self in place.

As an illustration, every one of us gets told to get passes in this or that in order to get a well paid job. That can lead to someone knocking their head against a wall, doing things they aren’t in to, and having an unrealisable goal to achieve and thus having a measure for their failure to get down over.

It has always been a socialist argument that we will do what we like doing in socialism and thus this will lead to harmonious development of people. Horney the psychiatrist put a theoretical or psychological insight/argument that backs this up somewhat.
Graham Taylor, 
Brabrand, Denmark

Dear Editors,

Regarding Karen Horney, I found her first and last books the best and her other stuff mediocre. Her first book, New Ways in Psychoanalysis, is excellent if you want a crash course on Freud and she seems to be a bit more radical probably under the influence of “her close friend” Fromm. She seemed to have sold out a bit in her last book.

I don’t want to give the impression that Neurosis and Human Growth is not worth a read. I think it is a must and is one of the most influential books I have read. I think you have to read it at least twice to get the full impact.
Dave Balmer (by email)

Greasy Pole: Nightmare for Tory Leaders (2006)

The Greasy Pole column from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

By their decisive vote the Tory membership have elected, in David Cameron, a leader who seems to be unsure about his own identity. Is the man they have chosen the same David Cameron who, perhaps trying to impress us with his fearlessly rounded personality, recalled his ballet lessons as a child? Or is he the David Cameron who quickly denied having those lessons “after checking with his mother” (although not, apparently, with his spin doctors)? Is he David Cameron speaking, at the start of his campaign, to the Centre for Social Justice (and there’s a grand name for an organisation that hardly anyone has heard of): “The biggest challenge our country faces is not economic decline, but social decline”? Or is he David Cameron three months later, when he told the assembled hacks outside Parliament: “I want us to confront the big challenge that this country faces: making sure we have a strong economy so we can generate the jobs we need . . .”? Is he David Cameron looking forward so much to being party leader: “I am very excited by it. I want to be a voice for change, for optimism and hope”? Or is he David Cameron shortly afterwards, who was asked on the Richard and Judy show if the Tory leadership would not be some kind of poisoned chalice and responded starkly “It’s a nightmare job”?

There are not a few precedents to encourage Cameron in that pessimistic – or rather realistic – assessment. At the Tory conference in 1963 it dawned on Alec Douglas-Home, then known to readers of Burke’s Peerage as the 14th Earl of Home, that he – the government’s affable gentleman amateur – was in serious danger of being uprooted from the mellow courtesies of the House of Lords and dumped, as party leader and prime minister, into the bear garden of the Commons. This was not an attractive proposition. “Oh they must find someone else” he wailed to a lobby correspondent “Even if they can’t agree on Rab (Butler) or Quintin (Hailsham) there must be someone else. But please, please, not me”. But “they” did not “find someone else” because of all the contenders for the leadership he was considered to be the one least likely to be a disaster.

And on that unpromising assumption he was pitched into battle against Harold Wilson, whose craftily cultivated Yorkshire vowels enunciated the claim that the Labour Party stood for a thrusting, technological Britain while the Tories, by the very fact of Douglas Home becoming their leader, had proclaimed their resolve to cling to a discredited past. It did Home no good that he saw himself to be a “moderniser”, charged with uniting his party after the schisms of the Macmillan years. His Party Chairman, along with many of his supporters, came to dread his efforts to compete with Wilson’s grasp of the irrelevances of capitalist economics. On some of his prime ministerial journeys abroad his wife repeatedly had to remind him of their destination for fear that he would step off the plane and use the welcoming microphones to let everyone know how delighted he was to have arrived in some other city.

Home never mastered the techniques of putting across on television the deceptions and evasions so necessary to a politician. He came across as someone whose historically privileged background prevented him having any idea of how the majority of people lived – not that the politicians who do show some such understanding are any more effective. So it was some surprise, that it was by only a small margin that Home lost his one and only election in 1964. He then largely left the job of opposing the Wilson government to his lieutenants and in July 1965, as the tide of criticism rose around him, he resigned. In 1989 a TV interviewer asked him “You never really wanted to be Prime Minister did you?” and Home replied “Terrible intrusion into one’s private life”. As he left Downing Street his party resolved that never again would their leader “emerge” as he had; in future it would be through an election. Not that it has done them much good, or made the job less of a nightmare.

The first person to gain advantage of the Tories taking their first nervous steps into any kind of internal democracy was Edward Heath. He was by then already a controversial figure in the party, partly because of his support for British membership of the European Community and partly because he had pushed through the abolition of Resale Price Maintenance, which had affected a great many small shopkeepers. In a sense unknown to Home he was a “moderniser” whose modest background was in contrast to the earl in his castle among the grouse moors. But Heath resisted any attempt by Tory propagandists to “sell” him in that way, on the grounds that to do so would be to descend to the same depths of cynicism as Wilson.

During his five years as Leader of the Opposition Heath signalled that the Tories had broken with the polices of “Butskellism” – the consensus between Labour and Tory Chancellors about economic policy. In its place the party developed plans to reform – which really meant to curb – the effectiveness of trade unions to resist any attacks on wages or working conditions. At the same time there was to be an end to government helping out “lame ducks” – propping up firms or even industries which were in difficulties. In the short term the argument ran, this may cause problems, for example to workers who lose their jobs; but in the long run the logic of profitability would ensure greater and enduring prosperity for all.

This was also called modernising but this latest plan to solve all the problems of British capitalism did not long survive the Tory victory at the 1970 election, as it was undermined by a series of what came to be called U turns. Finally, Heath’s government was seen as a bunch of rigid blunderers who willingly reduced the country to a three day week rather than question the dogma contributing to the crisis.

By the time he lost the election in February 1974 Heath had few friends in his party and he was infamous for his unprovoked rudeness. He seemed genuinely to fail to understand why anyone could possibly resist the force of his arguments; as Douglas Hurd, who was then his Political Secretary, put it “He believed that people deserved the evidence and by god they were going to get it”. Worse was to come for him as an exasperated party deprived him of the leadership and elected Thatcher in his place, leaving Heath to moulder on the back benches, jeered by his own party when he criticised the Thatcher government and immersed in what looked very much like the comfort of a long-term sulk.

And now it is Cameron’s turn; the question is, in spite of his assurances, has anything really changed? On his way to the leadership Cameron presented himself as an architect of compassionate conservatism – as distinct, presumably, from cruel and pitiless conservatism. Well he would say that, wouldn’t he – just as all the other recent leaders – Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard – have said it, before their party went on to fight an election on policies which were anything but compassionate. Of course cadging for votes does strange things to a politician; how else can we explain Cameron’s recent yearning to give up his £1.2 million house in Notting Hill and move to Neasden. Or his inability to remember, not just whether he took Class A drugs, but whether he joined the Tory Party, when he was at Oxford. (With a memory like that, how on earth did he get a degree?)

When he said the job of Tory leader is a nightmare perhaps he had in mind, not just the experiences of the three men most recently in that job but the fact that he is the fifth Tory leader during the last eight years and that of the ten leaders starting with Churchill the majority have either been ousted or have resigned. A persistent feature of nightmares is the sensation of being out of control – something which all the politicians who profess to be able to shape capitalism to their will, perhaps to make it a compassionate social system – must know about. They may try to conceal the chaos behind a mask of confidence, until reality ensures that they wake up screaming.

50 Years Ago: Mr. Bevan and the Bombs (2006)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Sketch (3/12/55) reported a BBC Television interview with Mr. Aneurin Bevan the previous evening in which he was asked what he would do about the H and A bombs if he  became Prime Minister. According to the report he replied that he would abolish the H bomb but keep the A bomb. As he was a member of the Labour Government that made the A bomb any other reply about that weapon would have needed some explanation, but the reason he gave for regarding the H and A bombs as different propositions was singularly unconvincing.
“Pressed to express the difference, he said the differences of quantity became differences of quality. ‘It’s like comparing drowning in a bath with drowning in an ocean,’ he said.” – (Daily Sketch, 3/12/55.) 
We  would have supposed that both ways of drowning led to the victims being equally dead. Mr. Bevan went on to say that he did not think that  the H bomb “either postpones war  or brings it nearer”. In this he differs from his associate, Mr. Richard Crossman, Labour MP for East Coventry (who, it is rumoured, has now moved away from the Bevanite group). Writing in the Daily Mirror (25/11/55) Mr. Crossman claimed that with both sides having the bomb the Powers dare not go to war.
“We are at peace today because no Great Power can make war without automatically blowing itself to  pieces.” 
Mr. Crossman is, therefore, in favour of keeping the H bomb as well as the A bomb. In the  meantime the Manchester Guardian reports (7/11/55) that the American Government has given urgent instructions to the American military authorities “to widen research into germ and gas warfare, and warfare by the use of radio-active particles.” It would appear from this that the American Government does not accept Mr. Crossman’s view that large-scale war between the big Powers must either be with the use of the H bomb or not at all. They evidently envisage other possibilities.

(from “Notes by the Way” by H., Socialist Standard, January 1956)