Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Role of Money (1971)

From the February 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

We learn at an early age that money plays an important role in our lives. Even the toddler knows that coins must be handed over the counter before he can have an ice-cream. Later we find that money, or the lack of it, will dictate the standard of our living accommodation and degree of education; it will even affect our medical treatment.

It is useless to enter the supermarket with an empty purse, though on its shelves are displayed the very items we most urgently need; these have not been primarily produced as useful articles but as commodities to be sold at a profit. Access to them is obtained only by way of the special commodity in which the value of all others is expressed — money.

Money is familiar as a means of payment and exchange, but in capitalist society it is the medium by which the necessities of life are rationed to the great majority of people so that they must retain their position as wage workers. Conversely it is also the medium through which the owning class pockets surplus value.

How then do we get money?

The privileged minority who owns the means for production and distribution — the land, factories, communications, etc. — get money from rent, interest and profit. They do not need to work.

The vast majority of people, about 90 per cent, possess only their ability to work The members of this working class must sell that ability, their labour power, to obtain money in the form of wages. Their labour is the source of all wealth yet access to the products of that labour is rationed by the size of their pay packets.

Though many look with envy at the better social conditions of higher paid workers the rights of the truly wealthy, the owning class, are seldom questioned.

“And why should they be?” Argues the capitalist. “I supply the machinery and raw materials and provide jobs for workers. The profits are justly mine and they get their share in wages".

But what are wages? Labour power is itself a commodity, bought and sold in the manner of all other commodities, and wages are its price.

Also in common with other commodities the value of labour power is determined by the average socially necessary labour time needed in production. Wages will be generally sufficient to keep a worker, and his family, at a standard demanded by prevailing social conditions. Workers whose labour is expensive to replace and maintain will command higher wages than those paid to the unskilled labourer.

Just as the working class is dependent on wages so the capitalist cannot make a profit without the employment of workers. When the capitalist buys labour power he gets a bargain, for this commodity has the unique capacity to create a value greater than its own.

Workers sell their mental and physical energies to an employer in return for wages. Then, for specified amounts of time, they work in his factory, operating his machinery on his raw materials. Over a given period the amount realised on the sale of the finished commodities will be greater than the cost of wages even after taking into account the cost of the raw materials and machinery. It is only labour power that can actually expand value. Only part of the workers’ labour time is needed to create a value equivalent to their wages; over the remaining time their unpaid labour is creating surplus value to be appropriated by the employer.

From this surplus value, now in the form of money capital, the capitalist can buy new machinery and expand his labour force so that an increased amount of surplus value can be created. However, expansion in the production of any commodity will only continue while market conditions are favourable. When sales fail to realise sufficient profit there will be a cut back in production, even if the commodity is a food crop and people go hungry.

Modern capitalism is a complex system and every individual capitalist may not always make a profit; but it is through their ownership of the means for production as a class that they are able to appropriate the wealth produced by the working class.

Every worker as an individual does not produce surplus value, it is in fact a social process. Workers co-operate to perform all of the tasks necessary to the running of capitalism, and it is as a class that they produce all wealth.

The capitalist mode of production has played a vital role in man’s social evolution. From it has come the ability to mass produce but paradoxically the profit motive prevents the realisation of production in abundance.

Is capitalism, as many would have it, the best of all possible worlds? Fortunately the answer is an emphatic No! There is a basic contradiction between social production and private ownership of the means for production.

When the working class understands its position in society it can, by way of the ballot box, perform the task of abolishing private property and take control of the means for production on behalf of all mankind. In other words Socialism will be established as soon as the vast majority of people want it.

With the means for production owned in common by the whole community production will be for use, not sale at a profit, with human needs the only criteria as to what is useful. With production geared to human needs the wasteful elements of capitalism such as advertising, built-in obsolescence and machinery for war will disappear.

Men will work in harmony as free individuals to produce all of the goods and services required by society and will partake of them according to their needs.

When all that is on and around the earth is owned in common by all of its inhabitants; when commodity production has given way to the production of articles for their usefulness and buying and selling is no more, the only possible part that money can play will be as a museum relic.
Pat Deutz

Obituary: Stanley Killingbeck (1971)

Obituary from the February 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our comrade Stanley Killingbeck of Westminster Branch has died accidentally as a result of a dental operation. Stan Killingbeck was 48 and had been a member since 1954. He worked in various parts of the country as a telephonist and always argued the Socialist case and sold Socialist literature. His help in the struggle for Socialism will be missed.

Decimalisation (1971)

From the February 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Towards a European Money System
Whatever difficulties people may meet with in handling the metric currency changes on 15 February the changes themselves will have no effect at all on the main operations of the British monetary system or its standing in world currencies. New names will be given to some old coins, and three new ‘coppers’ will appear, the new 2p, 1p, and ½p but the total amount of ‘copper’ coins, about £200 million, will not be altered on D day, nor will the notes in circulation, about £3,660 Million. One change has however already been introduced which distorts somewhat the Bank of England’s weekly figures of note circulation. This was in November 1970 when £96 Million of ten shilling notes ceased to be legal tender, thus dropping out of the Bank of England’s note figures, having been replaced by the same quantity of the ten shilling (50p) ‘silver’ coins.

After D day, as before, the Pound will still have the same exchange rate with the dollar (about $2.40), and with the rest of the currencies inside and outside the European Economic Community.

This does not mean that the changes have no great significance; this will only become apparent some years ahead if Britain joins the European Six and if the Six themselves succeed in setting their, at present deadlocked, negotiations about moving towards a single European currency.

The D day changes are a first step aimed at an eventual situation in which there will be only one currency covering the whole of Europe, just as the dollar covers the whole of the USA and the rouble the whole of Russia.

The 1957 Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community (Belgium, France, Western Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Holland) did not itself provide for a single European currency but only for the co-ordination of financial policies. Since then efforts have been made towards unifying the currencies, culminating in a conference of the Six at the end of 1970 to consider a report drawn up by a committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg (The Werner Report). The conference ended in disagreement but the negotiations will go on.

The Werner Report aimed at achieving a unified currency in 1980, to be preceded by an immediate agreement to re-direct to narrow limits the freedom of the six governments to change the exchange rates of their currencies. The breakdown of the conference took place over seemingly unimportant differences of opinion about the speed of progress to unification (the French government wanted it to be regarded as “a desirable object to be achieved in the long run”); about whether agreement on currency should come before or after agreement on other economic questions; and whether a central institution should be set up to handle the currency; but behind this are deep conflicts of interest of the dominant capitalist groups in different countries.

One basic cause of disagreement concerns the nature of the EEC. It was stated as long ago as 1958 by Professor Hallstein, former West German Foreign Secretary and President of the Common Market Commission:
  We are not in business to provide tariff preferences or to establish a discriminatory club to form a larger market to make us richer, or a trading block to further our commercial interests. We are not in business at all, we are in politics.
What Hallstein meant was that the aim was the creation of a Europe governed by a European government, an aim to which the French government has all along been opposed. Its relevance to the question of a single European currency is that it is impossible to have a single currency without a central government to control it. As Samuel Brittan put it in the Financial Times (16 November 1970):
  Monetary union and a common currency imply a common Budget, political union and some form of European Government.
This is not just a disagreement about some abstract question of “National sovereignty”: underlying it is the conflict of interests between the trading position of high cost French industry. In the past ten years prices in France have been rising half as fast again as prices in Germany—enough to make many French products uncompetitive in European and world markets. The remedy was to devalue the franc by 11 per cent in 1969, equivalent to a reduction of price of that amount to foreign buyers of French goods. German exports were booming to such an extent that in the same year the German government was able to raise the exchange rate of the German mark by 9 per cent and still hold most of their markets.

The fear of French capitalists is that a centrally controlled unified European currency would be dominated by German interests with their much stronger industrial and financial resources. Even the interim scheme proposed by the Werner Report, with its restriction of changes of exchange rates to 1.2 per cent up or down, would rule out any further effective devaluation of the franc.

The position of British exporters as regards the abnormally rapid rise of costs and the need to resort to devaluation of the pound (the devaluation in 1967 was 14 per cent) is similar to that of the French. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged the Heath government to accept whatever currency arrangements the Six accept before the entry of Britain into the EEC. Hence the determination of the Heath government to curb the rise in prices, and cut costs of production through the campaign against “excessive” wage increases.

It remains to be seen what sort of compromise the Six will reach about immediate currency arrangements and about the date of an eventual unified currency system for Europe.
Edgar Hardcastle

Northern Ireland 1970 - What price civil rights (1971)

From the February 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Predictably, as 1970 ended, the communications media in N. Ireland, took us over the ground we had travelled in 1970. It was a sad year for the working class and as the T.V. cameras made us relive the events so recently passed we were reminded of the graveyard, the prison cell and, generally, the hate-scene that was Ulster 1970.

Certain names cropped up repeatedly — the political dramatis personae of the grim year just passed. These were the people who were asked by the newspapers, the T.V. networks and the radio commentators to comment on events of yesterday and predict those of tomorrow. These were the new “stars” of the political scene whose fame—or notoriety, dependant on the point-of-view of the appraiser—had emerged from or been consolidated by, the events of 1970. They looked out at us from our T.V.screens or laughed at us from our newspapers, men and women who looked hale and hearty in the flush of their success, giving, with their wisdom, the requisite degree of honour demanded by the occasion.

Paisley, Fitt, Devlin, Hume, Bradford, Cooper, the whole galaxy were there—the sort of super New Year political circus that might be a T.V. producer’s hang-over from the big get-togethers of the other side of show business, during the Christmas period.

As we watched these happy and successful men in gay banter over the events of 1970 and playing the role of witty prognosticators, we, for some reason, thought of Shelley's quatrain allowing the scene to let us take poetic licence with the final line:
And many more Destructions played,
In the ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like politicians telling lies!
The other actors who played the crowd scenes in the action of the previous year, the working class, were not in attendance. Hundreds of them were unavoidably detained in the prisons, a number of them had achieved the greater anonymity of the cemetery, and many more, blinded or maimed, had withdrawn from the scene. But, from the point-of-view of the stars, the production had been a huge success.

Thus, with the opportunity provided by the now traditional practice of public stocktaking at the end of the year, did we see the situation. Perhaps ours was a jaundiced view; perhaps there are important things we were leaving out. So . . . let’s put it to you!

Are we wrong in asserting that those people whose names became household words as a result of the Civil Rights struggle have now become (as we predicted they would) comfortably ensconced in the Establishment—on the less-competitive "Opposition” side, to be sure, and accommodating themselves with the same trappings of respectability as the gang they largely replaced, the old Catholic Nationalist Party? Now we can hear their voices “like a bad prayer, not overloud” lauding the virtues of law and order and, sickeningly overloud, roundly condemning the violence of which they, to put it at its most charitable, were co-instigators.

But maybe you think we are being tedious in looking only at the fact that some people have used the struggle for “civil rights” as a means of forging for themselves a political position that holds a fair degree of power and privilege. You might even assert that it was their just reward for their part in the struggle.

Well, let’s not be tedious; as Socialists we are only too well aware that capitalism will always provide the temptation to trade principles for material reward. Quite rightly we should consider the struggle for "civil rights” not in the light of the people it threw up to play the role of leaders and politicians but in terms of what it did for our fellows of the working class and what promise it gave us for tomorrow.

We know it set whole communities at each others throats; that more than a score of people died; that many more will carry the physical evidence of their participation in the struggle to their graves; that hundreds of people were burned out of their homes; that thousands of people were intimidated into leaving their homes or jobs, or both; that many thousands of pounds sterling went, in the form of fines, into the coffers of the Crown and that some five or six hundred people found themselves behind bars.

And the promise for tomorrow? Tomorrow, whenever that is, the walls of steel, barbed wire and corrugated iron will come down to reveal the scars of yesterday. The vacant lots where once stood the less-awful back-to-back slums; the pock-marks on the wall that starkly reminds us that so-and-so died here; the whitewashed, wrong-spelt hate chant . . . Thus, the promise of the tomorrow that follows the day when men of good intent, knowing not the cause of our agonies, began their nonviolent protests!

After this tomorrow, unless the working class can be won to aspirations beyond the tribal catch-cries that Unionism, in the service of capitalism, gave them — catch-cries that the leaders of the C.R. stupidly construed as the source of the N. Ireland problem — will come the long agonising days of social convalescance before there is achieved again even the degree of amicable distrust which existed in Che pre-civil rights days.

And yet the Civil Rights Movement has won a complete victory over the Government that opposed them in 1968! They have achieved a virtual unconditional surrender to their demands. On all sides the Official Machine is industriously churning out the paper reforms, the Commissions and Committees that are not reporting are still sitting, the lawyers and the politicians are working overtime and even a politician who promised to surrender his very life if one of the C.R. demands was granted is now a Minister in the Government with the job of advertising the liberality of the Government. Oh yes! the Civil Rights Movement was a success beyond measure in terms of achieving the reforms it pursued. But, as always, the reformists victory is a shallow one. None of the basic problems that afflicted the working class, Catholic and Protestant have been affected by the “reforms” and since it was the political expression of these problems that created the windmills against which the C.R. struggle was directed, these windmills, too, must remain. Even if cloaked in new forms they will remain, if anything, heightened by the tensions and bitterness of the C.R. struggle itself.

"One man—One vote” was one of the great clarions of the Civil Rights Movement. Many people outside the Province, and quite a few within, were led to the belief that some Catholics were being denied votes in local government elections simply because they were Catholics. The actual truth of the matter was that many thousands of members of the working class—and incidentally, more Protestants than Catholics—did not meet the property qualifications required by the local government franchise laws while members of the capitalist class—by virtue of their property and business directorships—were permitted multiple votes.

Now we have “One man—One vote”—well . . . no. Not exactly . . . yet! The Government are engaged in considering and planning a further local government reform measure consequent on the C.R. agitation, and agreed to by the C.R. movement, under which a number of more economically viable local councils will be brought into being in place of the previous abundance of smaller councils. In keeping with the recommendations of a commission led by a Professor Matthews, the central Government at Stormont will take over most of the more important functions previously undertaken by local authorities and the new super councils will have the status of local lavatory committees. So with our new reformed local government franchise system we will all now have an equal opportunity to vote for aspirants—if they can be found—to the freshly-reformed and impotent local councils. But even this “reform” must be waited for and, until the government have designed and have agreed the actual formula for stripping the local councils of their powers, we have the democratic equalitarianism of “One man—No vote”!

Another “reform” was the abolition of the “B” Specials—a Unionist Party “Dad’s Army” under the guise of a reserve police force. Opponents of the Specials used to deride the physical and intellectual qualities of the Specials and, indeed, they compared most unfavourably with the rank-and-file members of the regular police, among many of whom the Specials were a bit of a joke. In the mid-Fifties the “B’s” (whose title accommodated a choice of designation!) were out in force to meet the threat of I.R.A. border raids and came mostly into prominence through their numerous mishaps and accidents—which, while mainly confined to shootings of themselves, did, unfortunately, on a number of occasions, result in the loss of innocent lives.

In place of the Specials we now have the Ulster Defence Regiment which the British and Stormont governments assure us can do the job for which the Specials existed more efficiently than the latter force. Better armed, better officered and trained, and more mobile than the old “B’s”, the force contains most of the physically and intellectually salvagable remnants of the Specials and these are supplemented by the most confused and reactionary elements of the working class, Catholic and Protestant.

This is another of the “reforms” won for us by the Civil Rights movement!

A Commissioner of Complaints has been established to meet another C.R. demand. The report of his first year's enquiries and the number of complaints made would appear to indicate that either much of the criticism directed against local authorities was exaggerated or that, and this is more likely, when faced with the task of formally lodging a complaint, many people were obliged to think the matter of their complaint through to its conclusion and, accepting the inevitability of their problem as general to their working class condition and station in life, decided not to bother.

Of course the basic cause of the problems which occupy the Commissioner is not within his terms of reference. The problems must remain even if the Commissioner does manage to remove religion from the filing index of capitalism's misery.

And yet another “reform” . . . ! A Central Housing Authority, perhaps even filled with competent, maybe even, dedicated, people but still faced with the problem of providing “working-class” dwellings in a society where homes, like all other commodities in capitalism, must ensure a profitable return to the usurers and financial spivs, that equals or surpasses other fields of financial enticement.

And again! Pledges and legislation to ensure that religious discrimination will be removed from the public sector of the labour market. This “reform” might ensure that when two unemployed workers seek one job, one of them will be discriminated against on grounds other than religion.

And the most ludicrous of all the “Civil Rights” demands: abolition of second-class citizenship! O pious ghosts of yesterday! What did they mean? Did they mean that the working class would have the same freedom from poverty, the same standard of living, homes, education and holidays as are enjoyed by he owning class in our society? Of course they didn’t! It was typical of the empty and ill-considered ideas of the civil rights leadership and indicative of the abounding political ignorance of those who followed them that they should have paid lip-service to such absurdity. To suggest that all could have equal freedom, equal opportunity, equal citizenship in a society in which a small minority class own and control the means whereby the rest of us live, and to bring workers into the streets and into conflict on the basis of such a “demand” is not simple stupidity, it is political madness!

To Unionism in its entirety, the whole rotten set-up, its politicians, its “respectable” businessmen, its church leaders, its judges, magistrates, spies—every bit of its foul apparatus, forged with calculated cunning to protect the economic interests of the exploiting class in Northern Ireland—to this crew, severally and severely, must go the discredit and blame for the foulness that is bigotry in Ulster. They built the bomb!

To the “Civil Rights” leaders, including the Trotskyites and “Lefties” who were merely playing the “entryist” tactic, whose ignorance of the nature and purpose of Unionism’s bomb, whose failure to understand either that bigotry was simply a device for confusing and exploiting all workers and that Unionism was simply capitalism dressed in the costume of local requirement or that only Socialism and the complete abolition of capitalism could ensure “civil rights” for the working class, must go the discredit and blame for igniting the bomb.

Meanwhile the working class have died . . . the arsonist has done his work . . . the Catholic and Protestant magistrates impose their mandatory cruelties without concern for the fact that the same system that made them and which they exist to protect created the material of their labours. Outside, in the arena, the slaves clamour for each other’s blood. Thus, freshly reformed! capitalism in Ulster, 1970.
Richard Montague

Reid’s “health tourism” ride (2004)

From the February 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

After all manner of xenophobic attacks on migrants, including overseas airport screening of UK-bound ‘foreigners’, removing benefit money, cutting access to legal aid, and threats to kidnap children of “failed asylum seekers” who refuse to leave Britain “voluntarily”, comes the latest Nazi-style Labour assault – withholding NHS treatment from those marked with the 6-pointed yellow star stamped “Health tourist”.

The estimate of a £200m expense for so-called “health tourism” turned out to be unsupportable, and the real cost is probably far less. Most desperately poor and sick people capable of scraping together the cost of reaching Britain would spend this trying to get well close to home. And with a NHS budget of almost £70bn, the true cost of transnational healthcare pay-avoidance must be comparatively trivial. However, responding to electorate-influencing racist tabloids, three months of “public consultation” and a need to cut back on capitalist-funded state expenditure, from April 2004 the government wants hospital staff to provide health care according to a “legitimate” entitlement and ability to pay, rather than need.

Health secretary John Reid says: “If there are bona fide tourists dropping ill in the street, of course we will do what we have to do, but we are not mugs. There is a difference between being civilised and being taken for a ride.” Which means that Labour wants anyone who doesn’t appear to be “British” to be viewed not as a potential patient, but as a potential “cheat”. Someone may have a dislocated shoulder, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica or angina, but if these or any of numerous other painful or debilitating ailments are deemed to require what Reid calls “routine treatment”, and not be “matters of life and death”, and the health police aren’t happy with your immigration status or ability to pay, then Blair, the christian, wants NHS staff to refuse them help.

Anyone who doesn’t look or speak “right” will receive pre-treatment interrogation by health cops demanding to see proof of identity or a fat wad of banknotes. This vileness conjures up a scenario as in The Great Escape film, where a would-be patient having successfully passed himself off might be wished “Good luck!” in Czech by a member of the health Gestapo, and then seized from his hospital bed when he answers “Thank you!” in the same language.

An example the government gave where unpaid-for NHS treatment would be denied, was “heavily pregnant wives” of “foreign” nationals living in the UK visiting “just to give birth”. Is this portrayal any different to the white racists who stir up fear and hatred by accusing immigrants of “breeding like rabbits”?

People from other parts of the world aren’t stealing treatment from those in this part if they don’t pay for it. They are, in fact, taking part of British capitalism’s profits. The proportion of employees’ taxes going to the NHS has to be paid to them by employers in the first place. If politicians were able to prevent all “health tourism”, the savings in taxes would mean less pressure on capitalists to raise wages, salaries and benefits for workers, pensioners and unemployed.

This government policy, like many others, requires the subordinate majority to be Reid’s “mugs”, and swallow the deceit that working class “foreigners” are different from working class “nationals”. That Britain is “ours”, not “theirs”, when in reality it is neither.

Reid doesnt know workers have no country. Presumably John Reid’s”communist” days ended before he learned that “workers have no country”

NHS managers, compelled to ensure they don’t “waste” capitalist money, will be expected to put their jobs and salaries before the health needs of those Labour see as “undeserving”. Caring doctors and nurses who might not happily do likewise will be spared such dirty work by money-driven administrators identifying those not “bona fide”.

Excluding treatment from “foreigners” is a consequence of living in a world with competing groups of capitalists, each having precedence within their bordered regions, i.e., countries. The majority of people in most countries can only afford what they need to live by directly or indirectly selling themselves to those capitalists in charge, or subsist on state handouts (if they exist).

One country’s capitalists don’t want to unprofitably expend money on the human assets of another country’s capitalists. That means a loss by the former and savings for the latter. And so politicians worldwide, hand in glove with different groups owning the means of production and distribution, spread divisive lies, categorise humankind and make rules about who is entitled to what.

Politicians are rewarded for their management of capitalism, and the media, who succeed or fail according to their profitability, generally accept all this, with some sections repeatedly fomenting anger and loathing amongst the working class majority in order to keep cashing in with their nasty antisocial “news” , views and distractive screws.

The real “undeserving” are the exploitative capitalist minority who take profit from the unpaid labour of the majority, and devious politicians like Reid and Blair given votes for lying, incitement and treachery.
Max Hess

Harold Shipman (2004)

Harold Shipman
From the February 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

His murders are said by many to be inexplicable, while amateur psychologists have put them down to grief over his mother’s death. But what’s most likely to lie behind Harold Shipman’s assuming of medical power over “who lived and who died”? Well, what stands out from the Shipman story is the way he saw himself as superior to others, which resulted in him feeling at liberty to either treat or terminate.

He left grammar school as part of an elite within society and went on to university. He set up his own one-man surgery because he couldn’t abide working with others in a group practice. He targeted the working class poor and elderly (rather than higher-income so-called “middle class” patients) for being a miserable burden on his valuable time (relief from which he sought by stealing and self-injecting pethidine), as well as a drain on the NHS (which his professionally- and hard-earned taxes helped pay for). He looked relatives of those he murdered in the eye and gave bogus explanations without feeling any remorse. He is said to have enjoyed the role of “master of ceremonies” following a death and presented himself as “omniscient”. He constantly denied having ever done wrong, doubtless because in his own mind, he hadn’t. And finally, there was his behaviour in jail (“annoying, arrogant and difficult”), which resulted in him being locked up each evening an hour and a half earlier than other inmates, losing his prison cell TV, and having his pocket money reduced from £12.50 to £3. For a man who saw himself as better than most, this would have been intolerable.

So, what is it that makes people see themselves as better than others, and confers a hierarchical ranking in society? It’s capitalism, the word that appeared nowhere in the media following Shipman’s death, and won’t appear anywhere in “Dame” Janet Smith’s reports into his murders which numbered around 200 to 400.

Shipman can be seen as an extreme example of a working man – a “professional” – who came to develop an intense loathing of people because of capitalism and its money mechanism. Thousands of GPs have become bitter over heavy workloads, underfunded surgeries and pay, and wanting to apportion blame, have also felt resentment towards the poorest patients, as Shipman did. Such feelings are generated when doctors accept the capitalist way of living, even unenthusiastically. But most pressurised GPs usually find other ways than a lethal morphine injection to get rid of human ‘burdens’.

This anger and resentment is due to the steady decline of the NHS, which in turn is down to a desire by successive governments to cut state funding and introduce market forces and privatisation wherever possible.

That the thought processes of medical practitioners can be so perverted by capitalism that they go along with murdering ‘inferior’ people seen as burdens is by no means new. It happened to thousands under Adolf Hitler’s euthanasia programme. Over a four-year period up to 1943, mentally ill patients of all ages were selected and taken by the bus-load to “killing hospitals” to be disposed of by lethal injection or starvation “for their own good” by doctors and nurses.

Capitalism, having created the monster that was Shipman, also played a part in his own death. Modifying all prisons to remove or cover ligature points, like window bars, from which prisoners might hang themselves, has never happened because of the financial cost to capitalism.

Shipman’s suicide isn’t something that many will regret, though not having abolished the system that produced him, should be. As are the suicides of many others imprisoned – many merely poor and deprived, driven to shoplift some food or clothing they couldn’t afford, or unable to pay a bill.
Max Hess

50 Years Ago: I Go – I Come Back (2004)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many organisations and movements have clamoured for the allegiance of the workers during the twentieth century, all claiming some panacea, some new device which would, at long last, make capitalism palatable. The Jewish workers have been exposed to all the usual propaganda, but for them the basic issue of twentieth-century society – Capitalism or Socialism – has been even further confused by the Zionist Movement. This claimed that the problems of Jewry could only be solved by the establishment of one single homeland for Jews, a Jewish state. Like many other reformist movements, the Zionists have now had a chance to work out their theories in practice; Israel has been established. What evidence is there as to whether Jewish workers are any happier in capitalist Israel than they are in capitalist Britain or America? The figures of Jews going into Israel and Jews coming out of Israel afford some indication. Here is a quote from The Times (19.12.53)
  Since Israel became a State five years and a half ago, 38,263 of its citizens have emigrated. The outward flow caused little concern when immigration greatly exceeded it; but to-day more Israelis are leaving the country for good than are coming in to settle, and the number of departures is steadily increasing . . . Some 15,000 emigrants went to Europe, of whom 5,168 are said to be in France. About 850 went back to countries behind the Iron Curtain.
So conditions in Israel are not even attractive enough to keep eight hundred and fifty of its emigrants from returning to the countries of Stalinist dictatorship!

Zionism hasn’t established a workers’ paradise any more than Stalinism has. The sole fruit of the decades of struggle and strife which Zionism has know has been – the establishment of yet another capitalist state. Which is an achievement the workers of the world, Jewish and Gentile, white and black, could well have done without.

(From “The Passing Show” by “Joshua”, Socialist Standard, February 1954)

Editorial: Students as paying customers (2004)

Editorial from the February 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blair’s position is clear. He and his government want market forces to be allowed even freer rein to ravage universities and marginalise yet further what used to be seen as their original aspiration to be centres of learning and independent research. They want universities in England to function openly as businesses selling “education” to fee-paying customers known as students; in accordance with normal market forces, those with a higher quality product to sell will be able to charge a higher price. The government would act as a middleman paying the university-businesses up front and recovering a part of it, with interest, from the customer-students after they have graduated.

A far cry from the free education at all levels that used to be a key plank in Labour’s programme and a sign of how far Labour has gone in accepting, not just capitalism, but its whole logic and ethos. But this is nothing new. Labour in power has always ended up, like all governments, dancing to capitalism’s tune since that’s what government’s are there for: to run the affairs of the capitalist class of the country concerned.

Labour has dishonoured its pledges here, as on other matters, not because its leaders are dishonest or nasty or weak-kneed or sell-outs (though some of them may be), but because if you agree to govern capitalism you have to accept doing so on its terms, allowing profits to be made, prosecuting wars, standing up to strikers, since capitalism can only work as a profit-making system under which profits must come first.

Every Labour government has ended up doing this since the first one under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. The Blair government’s introduction of business principles into university funding is just par for the course. In fact, the whole history of the Labour Party has been that of a gradual slide into compromise with capitalism, ending up with the present Blair government which is indistinguishable from a Tory government.

Of course universities have never conformed to the image they used to project of themselves as places where study and research go on in tranquil isolation from business and money-making. Universities originated as centres of obscurantism in the Middle Ages where priests and seminarists discussed how many angels could dance on a pin-head. In fact until 1870 only those who declared that they accepted the 39 Articles of the Church of England were admitted to Oxford and Cambridge, which in the 19th century became centres for training members of the ruling class to run the Empire.

The Non-Conformist capitalists of the Midlands and the North responded by using some of their profits to set up their own universities – the redbricks – to train their children and some from humbler backgrounds to be the engineers and chemists needed to run and develop modern industry. A hundred years later it was decided to rename the polytechnic colleges – the polys – universities, thereby further strengthening the vocational training aspect of universities.

That in fact is what all universities have tended to become over the years: places turning out workers with a higher quality of labour-power to work in government and industry. True, they do carry out research but the content of this research is no longer decided purely on scientific grounds. This, too, has become increasingly commercial and business-oriented.

Not only has government funding become skewed towards such activities, but universities have to compete with each other and with universities abroad for contracts to do research for industry and business. Thus, it is now common-place to hear some university head stating that, faced with international competition, universities need more money from students so as to be able to train and retain high-quality graduates to carry out the research contracts they hope to win.

But this is what you would expect to happen in capitalist society where “commercial values”, “enterprise culture” and “business ethics” reflect the economic need to make profits above everything else since this is what drives the capitalist economy. In fact, it is utopian to imagine that universities could escape contamination by the marketplace. It is just ironic, but illustrative of the futility of reformism, that the latest move to subordinate universities to the market should have been thought up and implemented by the government of a party which once set out to try to gradually reduce capitalist influence on society.

It only remains to be seen whether it will be a Labour or a Tory government which will allow universities to change their email address from “” to “” and add PLC after their name.

Fields of gold – for some (2004)

From the February 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

At last year’s Labour Conference in September the Chancellor of Exchequer, Gordon Brown, impressed the faithful with his grasp of all things financial. He excited the delegates when he turned his attention to Europe’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and informed them that he was going to “tackle the waste of the CAP”. Labour Conferences love all this rhetoric that seems to be doing something when in fact it is all quite meaningless.

How meaningless was shown last month when the European Commission proposed to end big payouts to landowners by capping them at £187,500 per farmer. What was the Labour government’s response? They threw the proposed scheme out, thus ensuring that some of the richest men in Britain continued to receive gigantic cash subsidies.

Here are just a few of the examples. The Duke of Westminster (estimated wealth £4.9 billion) will receive a CAP cereal subsidy of £366,000 per annum, the Duke of Marlborough £568,620, Lord de Ramsey £382,000 and the Duke of Bedford £390,000.

According to the Oxfam report Spotlight on Subsidies, farmers owning 2 per cent of Britain’s arable land collected a fifth of the £1 billion paid in support for cereal crops last year while 15,000 smallholders accounting for 30 per cent of land received 5 per cent of the total subsidy.

An example of the effects that this Labour supported scheme can have on small farmers is illustrated in the Western Mail (22 January):
  “Pembrokeshire farmer Gordon Blackburn, aged 62, and his wife Christine, both have to go out to work to make ends meet on their 116 acre farm near Tegryn. They used to milk a herd of 70 cows but decided to switch to livestock farming in 2000 because of the falling price of milk made it unprofitable.”
A far cry from our noble Lords experience down on the farm. Another example of the madness of the market system that is capitalism is highlighted by the Oxfam report. A daily farmer in Wales might receive 15p-a-litre for the milk he produces but dried milk is bought up by the EC and dumped in other parts of the world for a cut-price 8p a litre. This in turn means that a poor farmer in Senegal or Jamaica with only a few cows, loses his livelihood and becomes destitute.

Perhaps at this year’s conference some Labour minister could get a round of applause by promising “to do something” about world hunger. We could understand a standing ovation from wealthy landowners, but a working class response to such remarks should be one of hollow laughter and downright derision.
Richard Donnelly

The Land and the Labourer (1939)

From the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The discontent of the small-capitalist agriculturalists, known as farmers, with the present Government, is finding expression upon the political field. One Independent Conservative candidate threatened to fight a National Liberal nominee in East Norfolk, and only withdrew at the last moment, and similar action is being threatened in other constituencies. At least one influential daily paper, the Daily Express, openly favours them.

In passing, it is interesting to notice how any special section of the property-owning class which desires an alteration in Government policy is prepared to exploit the war-scare. Do the railway companies wish to be rid of century-old restrictions? They profess deep concern for their ability to act efficiently in war-time. Are the farmers out to re-establish century-old restrictions upon foreign imports ? Their appeal is based upon the need for national independence as regards a food supply.

The Government’s policy is an attempt to maintain internal agricultural prices by restricting production by means of a marketing board. The farmers’ grouse is that this policy, so far from helping them, has merely subsidised the distributive concerns. The middleman, as usual, comes in for vituperation. He is, however, fairly safe in the knowledge that both economic conditions and the principles of his class ensure that given quantities of capital receive a proportionate rate of profit. The large scale upon which commerce in agricultural, as in other, products is carried on to-day requires a correspondingly large capital, which accounts to a large degree for the disparity between wholesale and retail prices, of which we hear so much.

Another factor which distresses many farmers is the fact that they were practically compelled by their one-time landlords to buy their farms when prices of land were high as a result of the war-boom. The purchases were made largely on a mortgage basis, with the result that the, farmer found himself out of the frying-pan into the fire. Interest payments took the place of rent. The landlord was replaced by the banker.

Where does the agricultural labourer come in? Each candidate in the East Norfolk election professed concern for him. At that moment, of course, he had a vote, which they wanted; but what do Protection or regulated marketing mean to him ?

He can hardly have any strong, motive for wishing to return to the condition of his ancestors of a hundred years ago, before the repeal of the corn-laws; while his attitude to his calling to-day may be gauged from the fact that no less than 180,000 of his ilk lost their employment during the sixteen years prior to 1937, a rate of decline which still goes on.

Wages boards have failed to prevent this, but there appears to be no lack of people anxious to supply him with yet more boards. For instance, the Labour Party. Their policy is outlined by Lord Addison in a penny pamphlet published eighteen months ago (“Labour's Policy for our Countryside").

As is only to be expected, it advocates “National ownership of land"; but lest some workers should imagine that this will rid them of the burden of landlords and capitalist farmers, let a quotation from page 8 serve: —
  “Fair payment would be made to the present owners. Land would be paid for by the issue of National Securities to the amount of the purchase price justly determined, and the State, which would be guarantor for these National Securities, would acquire the freehold and all other rights in exchange.
   “The Labour Party is opposed to confiscation, and the prejudice which its opponents seek to foster by false accusations on this subject should be disregarded. Many thoughtful men of all parties have long been convinced that National Ownership is the only way by which good cultivators can be freed from the crushing burdens of rent, mortgage interest and other charges. . . .
   “Under Labour Government a farmer who does his work well need have no fear of disturbance.”
What is a farmer’s work? Briefly, it is to fleece his labourers as they do his sheep for him. They plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is not to them that the noble Lord refers in his phrase “good cultivators.” The farmer takes the fruits of their labours and sells them for the best price he can get, but the Labour Party do not regard this process as confiscation. Out of his gross profits the farmer meets his “crushing burden” of rent and interest, but any attempt to restore the wealth taken from the workers is opposed by the Labour Party. In their eyes, as in the eyes of Liberals and Tories, such a restoration would be confiscation. Thus do they take the "Soc” out of Socialism.

Instead of Farmer Giles paying his rent to Lord Tomnoddy, he will hand it in to a Government department, which will spend it on an improved Air Force to scare the crows away. His Lordship will, no doubt, spend the interest on his National Security in Switzerland or Monte Carlo, what time labourer Hodge consoles himself with a National Wages Board (see page 12), which is to prescribe a National Minimum Wage.

Thus the essential features of capitalism in agriculture would remain. Such farmers as failed to pay the Minimum Wage, and were discovered, would be prosecuted, no doubt, from time to time, but there is no hint in the Labour Party programme of any danger of them losing their farms over it; and the steady increase in agricultural unemployment going on, Hodge is unlikely to be excessively fussy.

The farmers are promised easier credit, lower rents, guaranteed prices and control of imports; but, apart from the fact that the Labour Party, like their Liberal and Tory rivals, find it easier to make promises than to keep them, none of these proposals show any promise of helping the agricultural workers. It is not because the farmers are poor that the labourers suffer. Volumes have been written, from Professor Thorold Rogers downwards, to show that the height of the farmers prosperity through the centuries was founded upon the deepest degradation.of the workers. 

After the Napoleonic Wars, during which the farmers (along with the landlords, bankers, merchants and manufacturers, stockbrokers and army contractors) had made fortunes, the agricultural workers were semi-paupers, having their wages made up by parish relief.

In 1830, with Protection still in force, their misery was revealed “by the light of blazing corn- stacks,” to quote the expression of one writer of the time (S. Laing, in “National Distress”).

In 1863, in spite of an enormous improvement in agricultural methods and equipment, fed by State subsidies during the previous twenty years, the land-workers were worse fed than convicts, and had to do twice as much work (“Royal Commission’s Report on Penal Servitude”).

Thus experience shows that good conditions for the farmers hold no guarantee for the comfort and security of those who produce their wealth. Their lot, whether under Free Trade or Protection, has been little, if anything, better than starvation. As for the rest of the workers, they are offered food at “fair prices,” as a bait for supporting the Labour Party's scheme.

Here again, experience of a comparatively recent date shows the hollowness of the promise. After the War the general cost of living fell. Did the workers gain? No, wages fell with prices.

Whatever effect upon prices the schemes of the Labour Party may have, the workers cannot afford to place their hopes in them. Their task, so far as their wages are concerned, will still be to use their trade unions as weapons of defence; but a still greater task awaits them, i.e., to free themselves from wage-slavery by making the land and factories, etc., the common property of the whole people.
Eric Boden

Notes By The Way: Compulsory Confessions in Russian Jails. (1939)

The Notes By The Way column from the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Compulsory Confessions in Russian Jails.

A recent incident reported from Russia should be noticed by those who scouted the possibility that the prisoners in the political trials of the past few years might have been forced to confess to actions they had not committed. A brief report from Moscow, published by the News Chronicle (January 16th, 1939) reads: —
  Five officials of the Commissariat of Internal Affairs have been shot in the Moldavian Soviet Republic for fabrication of evidence, illegal arrests and extraction of confessions by illegal methods.
A report of the trial, from the Moscow correspondent of the Daily Telegraph (January 3rd), said that one of the specific charges against them was having invented “a counter-revolutionary Fascist youth organisation,” and then, by "criminal methods,” forcing ten local teachers to confess that they belonged to this imaginary organisation. The result was the long imprisonment of the teachers.

All five of the prisoners pleaded “guilty,” but all ”tried to throw the blame on their superiors.”

It looks as if the Russian police and prison system needs some pretty drastic investigation.

Daily Worker” Misleads its Readers about Russia.

Readers of the Communist Daily Worker might reasonably expect that reliable news about Russia should be a prominent feature of that: paper. Here are two recent examples of what the readers get instead of news.

On January 6th the Daily Worker reported that the Russian soldier’s oath of allegiance had been changed, and explained that the “essential difference between this oath and the pledge previously given is its individual character. In the past, Red army men have taken the oath collectively. From February 23rd every Soviet citizen accepted into the fighting services will pledge himself individually. . . .”

Now read the report published a day earlier by the News Chronicle, from Moscow: —
  Significant changes are contained in the new oath to be taken by the Soviet Army on February 23rd, which is published here to-day.
 The oath aims rather at developing patriotism towards the Soviet Union than towards the international working class.
  Men will pledge their loyalty as citizens of the Soviet Union and not as “sons of the working class.” In addition, the pledge will be made to the Soviet Government and not before “workers of the whole world,” as was the case with their former oath adopted after the revolution.
  Soldiers must swear individually not to spare their blood in national defence.—Reuter and B.U.P.
Did the Daily Worker really think that the “essential difference” was that the oath is now taken individually?—or did the real difference escape their notice because of their own conversion to Communist nationalism?

The second instance was the reporting of the Russian Government’s new regulations about factory discipline and social service benefits.

According to the Daily Worker (December 30th, 1938) the new regulations provide for: —
  Differentiated payment of social insurance benefits in accordance with the worker’s period of employment in a given enterprise. Other advantages are allowed workers and employees who work in a given enterprise for a long period.
The whole report was headed “Soviet Creates New Order of Labour Heroes,” this relating to orders and medals for Labour Valour and “Outstanding Services.”

All very interesting and harmless, but will the reader of the Daily Worker realise from the above that the regulations mean a drastic worsening of the social services? The “differentiated payment of social insurance benefits,” translated into plain English, means, according to Forward (January 21st), that in future the full benefits will not be paid unless a worker has been regularly at work in the same works for a period of six years or more. If he has worked for only two years at the same works his sickness benefit will be cut to half of his wage. For two to three years he gets sixty per cent, and for three to six years eighty per cent.

Maternity benefits are cut from four months to sixty-three days.

Workers who are late for work three times in a month become liable to punishment, in the first instance to be reduced to a less paid job for three months. Workers who leave work or are dismissed for breach of labour discipline are to be ejected from their homes “without being offered alternative accommodation.”

It may be said that the Russian social services are still generous in many respects by comparison with those in many other countries, but that is not the point. What the reader of the Daily Worker is entitled to be told is why a drastic worsening masquerades in carefully chosen phrases which make it appear to be rather an improvement.

Pray, Seats for the Privy Council.

Lord Chancellor Maugham, in a letter to The Times (December 16th, 1938) reveals a cruel state of affairs at meetings of the Privy Council. He writes: —
  Members of the Privy Council who attend His Majesty to pass Orders in Council, do not sit; they stand . . .
Something must be done about it.

The Blessings of Insurance.

The Trust of Insurance Shares, Ltd., in an advertisement in the News Chronicle (January 11th, 1939), show what a wonderful thing insurance is— for the shareholders.

Taking a representative selection of insurance companies' shares, the advertisement states that the average yield to investors has risen steadily from £4 18s. 8d. per cent, in 1913 to £6 0s. 9d. per cent, in 1918, and to £15 15s. l0d. per cent, in 1937.

The investor whose insurance shares were worth £100 in 1913 has seen their value rise almost continuously, so that, in 1937, they could have been sold for £479 10s. 0d.

Sir John Ellerman and the “Daily Herald.”

The Daily Express (January 11th) published the following: —
Daily Express” Staff Reporter.
  The Socialist Daily Herald may eventually have multi-millionaire Sir John Ellerman and his associates as its controllers.
   At present Odhams Press, Limited, have financial control of the Daily Herald (1929). Limited, by holding fifty-one per cent, of its shares; but control of policy is reserved to the Trade Union Congress.
   Sir William Cox, manager of Sir John’s £40,000,000 fortune, has become a director of Odhams Press, Limited.
   Sir William Cox has bought 480,000 4s. Ordinary- shares in the company for £96,000. Sir John Ellerman already has 10,000 Ordinary shares of his own in the company.
    Between them they, have now acquired a directorship and more than a tenth of the Ordinary shares.
    Sir John Ellerman has lately shown an inclination to take part in the newspaper industry.
   Through Sir William Cox he obtained in 1937 a controlling interest in Illustrated Newspapers, Limited, owners of the Bystander and Tatler.
     Sir William Cox is now joint vice-chairman of that company. Lord Southwood is chairman of both Illustrated Newspapers and Odhams Press.
Another very interesting disclosure from the same source is that the £18,000,000 fortune left by his father to Sir John Ellerman in 1933 has, in the intervening five years, increased to £40,000,000.

Sir John will be able to read from time to time in the Daily Herald that hoary old Liberal-Labour theory that the development of social reforms is whittling away the great fortunes and securing a more equal distribution of wealth. Then he will laugh and grow fatter, and say what a good thing it is for capitalism to have such fallacies kept alive.

Imperialisms: The Japanese Mote and the British Beam.

The Manchester Guardian, in an editorial satirising some Japanese imperialist propaganda, ends on a sarcastic note:—
  Nothing is said about Europe, so perhaps we shall be allowed to keep the Channel Islands for the time being, or at least until Japan is ready for them.
The writer of that, no doubt, genuinely believes that it is outrageous for one small capitalist country off the mainland of Asia to want to overrun Hong-Kong, Shanghai and all of China, thus destroying British possessions and poaching on an Anglo-French-American trade preserve. He should ask Indians and Chinese and Japanese what they think of another small capitalist country off the mainland of Europe which has imperialist interests in every continent and on every ocean on the globe.

Or ask a Spaniard what he thinks of Gibraltar being a British fortress.

Incidentally, it was recently pointed out in the same newspaper that Gibraltar was seized by Britain during a Spanish civil war about 200 years ago. Rather a hard nut for the pro-Franco imperialists who argue that a permanent German-Italian occupation of Spanish territory is not to be feared because the proud Spaniards always throw out foreigners. If the Spaniards succeed in throwing the present invaders out it may whet their appetite for Gib.

Postmaster-General's Joke about State Capitalism. 

Forward (December 24th, 1938) and The Star, from which it quotes, both fell into a trap laid for the Labour M.P.s by the Postmaster-General, Major Tryon. On December 14th, in the House of Commons, there was a debate on nationalisation of the land, on a motion put forward by the Labour Party. When the Labour M.P.s saw that the Government had put up the P.M.G. to reply, they should have suspected that there was some particular reason. Instead, they, and The Star and Forward, thought they had got the Government in a very awkward situation. " Major Tryon," said The Star, “ is the Minister responsible for our nationalised Post Office—the most important nationalised service in the world, and the most efficient, too." But the joke was really on the Labour M.P.s, for Major Tryon wound up his speech by quoting from a speech by the Leader of the Labour Party, who had admitted that "the difficulty is that the Post Office is not an example of Socialism, but of State capitalism."

The Late Lamented Kemal Attaturk.

The French Communist news summary, France Monde (November 12th, 1938), publishes from the Moscow paper, Izvestia, the latter's comment on the death of Kemal Attaturk, the Turkish dictator. Typical passage: "All sincere friends of the independence of Turkey have received with great sadness the news of the death of this eminent statesman. . . . The death ... is a great loss for the Turkish people."

Izvestia credits him with having carried through "a series of important political and cultural reforms which completely transfigured Turkey," and remarks that he was “President of the Republican Popular Party."

What Izvestia does not relate is that this brutal, ambitious and unscrupulous political schemer had to his credit the deliberate sabotage of the growing movement towards Parliamentary Government. The precious “Popular Party," of which he was President, is the Turkish equivalent of Hitler's Totalitarian Nazi Party—no other parties are allowed. The full story is available in "Grey Wolf" (Penguin, 6d.).

This flattery of Kemal shows the real attitude of the Bolshevists towards Parliamentary Government and democracy.

German and British Naval Authorities See Eye to Eye.

In an article on the Anglo-German Naval Pact, Mr. Winston Churchill, himself a former First Lord of the Admiralty, lets in a little light on the mentality of those who control the Navy: —
  When it was pointed out by me that the building by the Germans of a new navy one-third the tonnage of the then antiquated British Fleet would entail the complete rebuilding of the British Fleet, the Admiralty remained quite cool. They welcomed the German construction as a spur and pace-maker, which would procure the necessary funds from the British Government. Thus the Agreement passed smoothly through the House of Commons, and all protests and warnings were unavailing.—(Daily Telegraph, January 12th, 1939.)
These are the people who profess to want disarmament.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: Problems of Socialist
 Administration (1939)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent (D. G. D., Clapham) asks the following question: —
  When you have convinced the working class of the futility, as far as they are concerned, of the present system and have also got them to accept the principles of Socialism, you will be in a position to get power. Having got power you will convert the means of production and distribution into the common property of society, and they will be placed under the democratic control of the whole people. My question is this: what form of organisation will you set up to run this country. Will it be based on a Central Government, or on local government, or on a sectional basis? Your speakers, when questioned on this matter, stated that nobody could say what the organisation would be. In regard to details, I agree with this, but surely your party must have some conception of the bare outlines of the form society will take. It is ridiculous to put forward a plan to overthrow the capitalist system and then say to the workers that you’ve got no idea of what you’re going to do after that, but that it will all come out all right in the crash.
Our correspondent’s difficulty is one which troubles many who are sympathetically disposed towards Socialism but who feel that some definite plan is required. Much of the difficulty arises, we suggest, out of a mistaken view of the conditions which will exist when the workers take power into their hands. Our correspondent’s final words illustrate this. He thinks of Socialism coming to birth out of conditions of chaos, his actual phrase being “the crash.” This is a mistaken view. Chaos could arise, and does arise, when a minority seizes power and tries to introduce more or less fundamental changes against the wishes of the majority of the population, or when the majority are apathetic and lack understanding of what is being done. But the inauguration of Socialism implies (as our correspondent recognises) the support and understanding of the majority of the population. There can then be no “crash.” The workers will simply carry on with the operation of industry, transport, administration with the elimination of its capitalist features. Changes will be introduced in orderly fashion, as agreed by the workers themselves in co-operation with their fellows in other lands. The basis of industrial organisation and administration will start from the arrangements existing under capitalism at the time of the transformation, and this will present no difficulties because the Socialist movement will already be thoroughly international both in outlook and in practical organisation. As far as the machinery of organisation and administration is concerned, it will be local, regional, national and international, evolving out of existing forms. Railway organisation, for example, would naturally follow the land areas served by the railway systems, but would need to be co-ordinated with local road services, international air services and steamship routes. Postal services would (as now) require both local, national and international organisation. Administration would follow similar forms, doubtless with the utmost variety of modifications to meet local needs in the different continents.

To those who think of the problem against the present background of property interests and national rivalries this presents overwhelming difficulties. To the Socialist, who sees that with the abolition of the capitalist basis the urge towards co-operation is released from its present imprisonment, the problems of Socialism fall into their proper perspective.
Editorial Committee

Answers To Correspondents
J. L. Dingley (Woodford Green). Your two questions have repeatedly been dealt with in the Socialist Standard. See, for example, the issue for 1938.
Editorial Committee

Letter: Another Question about War for Czechoslovakia (1939)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent writes about the article, “Czechoslovakia—The Choice Before Us,” in the October Socialist Standard.



In the October Socialist Standard an article dealing with the Czechoslovakian crisis appeared. There are several statements which are not only contradictory to one another, but are obviously inconsistent with the principles of Socialism.

In this article it is stated, and rightly so, that “The job of Socialists at all times is to propagate Socialism.” Again, the writer urges us, "To hasten the day when the British workers, along with the workers of all countries, can drive from power Chamberlain and his foreign capitalist friends and enemies, both Democratic and Fascist, and establish Socialism.”

The author correctly states that the real problem is that of rallying the workers to Socialism, and that “Only Socialism ” is worth struggling for.

I am in complete sympathy and agreement with the above statements, but now we come to those which are not only obviously contradictions, but are gross digressions from the true path of Socialism.

On page 146 it is stated that, if we went to war with Germany “It might be possible to drive out some of the existing dictatorships.” Then the author asks the question, “Would that bring Socialism nearer?” and replies “No.” I disagree on this point. Czechoslovakia, before Hitler's invasion of it, was a country in which there existed comparative freedom of speech with regard to political matters. That is, Socialists in that country were permitted, without fear of harm or persecution, to propagate the ideals of Socialism. This, says the writer, is the bounden duty of Socialists at all times.

How, then, does the writer reconcile this attitude with the one in which he is perfectly content to sit back and do nothing to prevent the ruthless extermination of the Socialist cause in Czechoslovakia by the Nazi hordes. “Socialism is worth lighting for” (so the author says), but he does nothing to stop the Fascist invasion of Czechoslovakia, with its resultant suppression of existing Socialist ideals (which you will grant, must exist, even to a small extent, in that country), therefore the author betrays the cause of Socialism either due to his ignorance or otherwise.
Yours faithfully, 
M. C.

The first point to be replied to in our correspondent’s letter is the reference to driving out dictatorships by means of war. Our correspondent has misunderstood what was meant by the statement he refers to. The statement assumed that, as a result of war, some dictatorships (those on the defeated side) might be driven out for the time being, but that would not destroy dictatorship. There would still be the dictatorships on the victorious side, their prestige perhaps even enhanced by victory. It would also not have removed the real cause of dictatorship, which is workers who, in their political ignorance, are "political cannon-fodder for the first Fascist mob-orator.” Defeat in 1918 removed Kaiserism. It was followed by Hitlerism later on.

This brings us to our correspondent’s main point, the possibility, by means of war, of preserving Czechoslovakia, in which “there existed comparative freedom of speech with regard to political matters.”

Our correspondent asks us to be prepared to fight to preserve Czechoslovakia, but does not face up to the fact that at least a large minority, of the workers and peasants in that country were themselves so dissatisfied, because of the evils of capitalism, and so given over to nationalist sentiment, that they were opposed to that point of view and cared little about the advantages of ”comparative freedom of speech.” Instead of being united to maintain Czechoslovakia as it was, they were anxious to join Germany or Hungary, or set up a reactionary autonomous Slovakia or introduce a semi-totalitarian State in the Czech part of the country. Semi-Fascist movements and tendencies were making big headway in Czechoslovakia quite apart from the pro-German sentiments of the majority of Sudeten Germans, as can be seen from the reactionary legislation now being adopted, particularly in Slovakia, including the suppression of the Social-Democratic Party. President Benesh himself is reported to have said that he left the country, not only from fear of the Germans, but also from fear of the Czech semi-Fascists (Evening Standard, October 24th, 1938). Going to war to force German capitalism to keep out of Czechoslovakia, and to force many unwilling populations to remain in, is not work for Socialists. It is to play the part of tools of rival imperialisms. It should be noted that among the political parties claiming to be Socialist, which were represented at an International Conference in Switzerland in September last, which strongly denounced the policy of supporting war for Czechoslovakia, was a party from Czechoslovakia (see The Socialist Standard, October, 1938).

One thing to be remembered, too, is the tremendous consequences of a war to preserve Czechoslovakia, including the probable annihilation of many of the Social-Democrats there, the strengthening of the Government’s hand if victorious, and the removal of many of the democratic amenities we now enjoy—particularly liberty to work for the overthrow of capitalism.
Editorial Committee.