Friday, April 17, 2020

Is This The Last War? (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are signs indicating that the war in Europe may soon end, at least our masters seem to think so. They are now busily engaged in removing from the shop window those glowing promises they used as bait for the war effort.

The Presidents of Chambers of Commerce no longer speak of full employment, but the necessity of developing “our" export trade. The wages, of course, are to be as high as possible, but costs must be kept low enough to enable the foreigner to buy our goods.

During critical periods a glowing picture of the future is portrayed, but when the exploiter perceives the war is in the bag he quickly gets down to rock bottom business.

It is strange but true that amid the chaos and confusion that accompanies the attempts of the capitalist class to adapt themselves to the changes they anticipate the truth of the real situation is more clearly revealed.

Mr. E. W. Collinson, President of the Halifax Trade Protection Society, in the “Yorkshire Post” of February 27th, says, "Full employment would cure nothing. To be of value, it must be full employment in producing goods which could be consumed. Stocks in themselves were a liability until they were sold, and paid for. It was the crux of the business they should be paid for the goods they had made otherwise they would be piling and locking up their capital. What was really wanted in this country was a rational incentive to work, and work hard, with standards of efficiency, and bonuses as an incentive as in Russia.”

He perceives what many of the ruling class are becoming cognisant of, and that is that certain features of the Soviet System can be introduced in most capitalist countries with advantage to those who are the recipients of surplus value. It may be that the rivets of the chains on the wage slave’s limbs will shortly be tightened with the hammer borrowed from the only "socialist” country in the world, you never can tell.

The Communists are along with others advocating nationalization as the cure of the miners ills. The former should be sure that this is the correct orientation. In “Truth” (February 23rd), we have the following: "Plans for the nationalization of Industry and the Banks put forward by the Finnish Social Democratic Party are opposed by the Russian Control Commission on the ground that they are contrary to Russian interests. The Commission is reported to have said they take the view that if the plans were carried out, Finland’s productive capacity would decrease, and the Finns would have difficulty in fulfilling reparation deliveries.”

There you are! Where are you?

Anthony Eden stated in the House the other day, "We do not say we can establish the conditions again where there will never be a war, but I believe if we can hold this unity we can establish peace for 25—or 50 years—who can say? But unless we can hold it there will not be peace for anything like that period of time. The moment this fighting ceases Germany will be out on the old theme of propaganda again. She will play off us against Russia and Russia against American and ourselves. She will play on all that self pity she knows so well.”

Eden did not mention the Lublin committee in this connection. What hand will they play? There are many Lublin elements scattered around. He said neither he nor Churchill liked the look of the Lublin committee. The question arises, who is responsible for the establishment of this body? The matter was not raised in the House of Commons, but it will raise itself in the not far distant future.

There can be no peace under Capitalism.

Harpers Magazine for December on the future strength of Germany has something to say on the problem.

Reparations alone will not be sufficient to decentralize European Industry.

Certain sacrifices on the part of the principal United Nations will also be required. If Russia for instance manifests an unduly expansionist attitude in the post hostility period the forces of Britain and the United States, most sensitive to the Soviet threat, will demand .a strong Germany. If Britain pushes for European markets at the expense of the initially weak industries of non-German states, Britain's own political security will be thereby undermined. On the other hand if the United States aggressively enters present British markets, Britain in order to live, may feel bound to take a political risk in a continental trade drive that may stifle the growth of industry in non-German countries.

You see fellow wage slaves where you get off at—where you were before the war.

Your children will be used in the next conflict to do something similar to what you have done in this. We do not wish to rub it in, we must be cruel only to be kind. There is nothing in this system for us as workers except what we are getting. The ruling class cannot do anything.. It is up to you. If you want economic security realise you can not have it under Capitalism, it is economically impossible. Those who tell you otherwise lie to you or do not understand. The Labour Party is a reactionary body, and so is every political party that supports the wages system. In order to abolish war it is necessary to abolish the cause of war and that is production for sale. If you have a sincere desire to promote the welfare of mankind you should realise that only by becoming active in an organization that stands for the complete overthrow of the existing system can you do effective work in this connection.

We need no national barriers, the interests of the workers can best be promoted by international fraternity. We need no money we aim at producing wealth for all We need no wages; so long as workers are paid for their labour power others, who are non-workers, will receive the results of their labour. The means of production commonly owned and wealth brought into being for the enjoyment and well-being of mankind. That is our goal and eventually we shall make it. You fellow worker may not see eye to eye with us at the present juncture. You may be under the illusion that peace and plenty can be obtained in some other way. There is no other way. Socialism or Capitalism that is the choice. We refuse to try to please you by making false statements or inducing you to believe that which is not true. We echo the sentiments of the man who wrote the “History of the Paris Commune." “He who tells the proletariat fairy tales or who leads them to believe their history has been different to what it has been is as criminal as the navigator who draws false charts for mariners."

The S.P.G.B. has a record of which its members are justly proud. In all the ups and downs of the proletarian struggle the Party has stood like a rock for Socialism; every other party has wobbled and gone after the rainbow of something now. When you are anxious to find out what is wrong in human society, look us up.
Charles Lestor

Letter: The Cause of Crime (1945)

Letters to the Editors from the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard
The letter below continues the correspondence in our December issue.
Sir,—If, as you say, crime “is to be explained by the capitalist environment in which we live," how is it crime flourished in pre-capitalist eras in Europe and also in ancient civilisations?

As for crime not flourishing in early communistic communities "when there was no private property and sex relations were free" that is a mere dogmatic assertion. If Morgan's “Ancient Society," or Engels’ “Origin of the Family" are accepted as authoritative, sex relations were never “free," but were rigidly controlled even under the system of “group marriages," the men of one genus being forbidden to marry outside other specified gens. Those who violated this “social rule of the time" were criminals, and judging by what we know of primitive tribes to-day, severely punished for violating this or any other tribal taboo. All anthropologists show that primitive tribes are more rigidly restricted than civilised, and their “criminals" are outlawed or more drastically punished.

To-day sex relations outside wedlock are not treated as crimes among the civilised, not are those responsible punished by the authorities. An unmarried couple living together are treated as married in respect to soldiers' allowances, and I believe also with regard to receipt of unemployment benefit. In any case, sexual relations outside marriage are almost the rule among millions of people in Britain, and few normal men have failed to indulge in some intercourse some time in their lives without being punished.

War, you say, is not regarded as criminal because the rulers of capitalist society justify it. Actually war is as enthusiastically supported by Communists inside and outside Russia, and by Socialists all over the world, as by capitalists; otherwise war would be impracticable. Incidentally, how many pacifists went to goal in this war or the last who were members of the S.P.G.B.? I never heard of one. Socialists are to-day the most enthusiastic supporters of war and even Marx supported the Franco-Prussian War. Poor men as well as rich kill in war and justify the killing, and I have not noticed any very robust protest against Britain's participation in the present war in the “Socialist Standard."

You say that poor men who kill cannot be saved from hanging by any abstract principles. Actually, a large proportion who kill are, for one reason or another, not hanged. But I should like the details of the “many avenues for escaping hanging" you say are available for rich men who murder, that are not available to the poor murderers in Britain, who, incidentally, have adequate legal defences provided free of charge.

You say that prostitution, over-and-under-eating, over-drinking, war, blind pursuit of wealth, and enslaving of native people “are all consequences of capitalism." Yet every one of these evils was as rife in days of ancient Rome, Babylon, etc., many centuries before capitalism was ever thought about.

If poverty is the chief cause of crime, how is it many rich persons are convicted, and why is it that America, the most prosperous nation, has the highest crime-rate and India, the poorest, has the lowest?

As for the suggested greater crimes of Protestants compared with Catholics upon native people and in mines and factories, while not defending Protestant crimes any more than I defend the colossal crimes and persecutions by Marxians in Russia, I might remind you that it was Catholics who introduced slavery in South America, and who, according to Buckle, destroyed two native civilisations in one generation. Also Catholics founded the Inquisition long before Capitalism was established.

Again, I remind you that Catholic Italy had the biggest homicide rate in pre-war Europe, and that Catholics in any environment are notorious for criminality. In a pamphlet recently written by Alderman Longbottom of the Liverpool Education Committee, you will find that 82 per cent. of the boy criminals of Liverpool in 1930 were from R.C. schools which had a minority of scholars. Council Schools with a far greater number providing only 6 per cent., the other 1.2 per cent. being from C. of E. Schools.

Alderman Longbottom meets the point about the alleged greater poverty of Catholics by comparing the children of Council Schools with a tiny crime rate with the Catholic children in the same area having an enormous crime-rate. Similar disparities were tabulated by Sir Percival Sharp (in “Education," May 10, 1941), regarding Leeds, Wolverhampton and Newcastle.

Thus economic conditions are only one, and by no means the most important cause of crime. Improved economic conditions since 1939 have been accompanied by a still greater crime-rate among children and, judging by the reports of investigators and the striking increase of venereal diseases, among adults by greater immorality which you wrongly say is due to poverty. Actually sexual licence is greater to-day in Britain and America than ever before in history, although prosperity there was never so widespread. Over 20 per cent. more beer was consumed in Britain in 1943 than in 1938, and thefts among dockers and on railways were six times as rife in 1943 when wages were twice as high as in 1938.
Yours, etc.,
G. Whitehead.


Reply.
Mr. Whitehead still side-steps the question at issue by putting forward irrelevant statements and repeating arguments that have previously been answered. Nearly all that lie brings forward in his present criticism was answered in the December “Socialist Standard" and be has not replied to those answers. It was our contention that what constituted crime and what produced it was the social conditions of the time and therefore crime to-day “is to be explained by the capitalist environment in which we live." Obviously we can’t repeat all that we have written in the previous reply and must refer the reader to it for the detailed answer to Mr. Whitehead. However we will make one quotation from this reply :
  “Prostitution, over-drinking,over and under-eating, the blind pursuit of wealth and the enslaving of native people, war, and the strain of modern life are all consequences of capitalism; and have a demoralising influence on people. All these things contribute to a weakening of the social instincts. They were all present in previous forms of society, but have reached their highest expression and greatest power for evil in the capitalist system.”
When we have thus pointed out that the causes of crime were also present in past forms of society, why does Mr. Whitehead ask again the question "how is it crime Nourished in pre-capitalist eras in Europe?” We have already said it did! and we have explained why.

Mr. Whitehead says that he is not defending Protestant crimes—but he is much concerned to urge that Catholics are greater criminals. And what is his evidence? He “reminds” us that Catholics introduced slavery in South America and founded the Inquisition. He has forgotten that later it was Protestants who introduced slavery in North America and did their best to exterminate the native Indian population. He has also overlooked the fact that at the time the most powerful military nations of the world were Catholic—Spain was in the plenitude of its power—and that Protestantism was professed by a small fraction of the world's population. It was mainly Protestants who introduced child slavery into the factory hells of England and America. No, it won't do! It is not because the dealers in human flesh and tears were Protestants or Catholics that they perpetrated the vile crimes that have blackened the pages of history, but because they were owners of private property and were adding to their wealth by exploiting their fellows. This apparently does not concern Mr. Whitehead, who seems to be simply anxious to whitewash one of the groups who vend “the opium of the people."

Bad economic conditions in Italy and in other places have produced high rates of crime—most of which are crimes against property. We notice that in quoting the crime rates in Liverpool—a veritable cesspool of working class misery— it is the poor scholars and not the rich that are the basis of his rates. May we add that Liverpool is notorious as one of the first landing grounds of poverty stricken (and Catholic) Irishmen, Mr. Whitehead should pay more attention to the basis of his crime rates otherwise his figures produce an illusion. But the final joke. He tells us that crime among children, and venereal disease among adults has increased since 1939—in spite of “improved economic conditions.” Does Mr. Whitehead really grasp the meaning of economic conditions? Children have been moved all over the country.; families have been bombed out and are living in shelters; there is an acute housing shortage and families are crowded into unhealthy dwellings; children have been running wild on the street; a capitalist-produced war has made thousands of young men and girls in and out of the forces irresponsible and has brought into existence the black market and many other lures to crime. Yet Mr. Whitehead is surprised and nonplussed at the spectacle of increasing crime and prostitution! Why is it only during wartime that the government go to such lengths as putting up posters to warn people against the dangers of venereal disease ?

It is reasonable to infer from Mr. Whitehead's letter that he is well acquainted with the contents of the “Socialist Standard" and therefore he knows how insistently we have urged that Russia is not a Socialist country and the Communist propaganda is a disservice to the cause of Socialism. In spite of his statements to the contrary he must also know that we have been opposed to the War from its outbreak until to-day. Our pamphlet “Questions of the Day” is sufficient answer on these points.

Mr. Whitehead asks for details of the avenues by which rich men can escape hanging when poor men can't. The answer should immediately occur to him. Wealth can purchase medical testimony of useful kinds to impress judge and jury; it can fetch witnesses from all over the world; it can provide a barrage of the most skilful barristers and solicitors with assistants to hunt up records and precedents; it can also buy witnesses. There is also the general fact Mr. Whitehead overlooks—the undiscovered crimes committed by the wealthy which they can commit because they are wealthy, and which do not figure in crime statistics.

Now a few words about sex. Mr. Whitehead's logic is peculiar. He asserts that intercourse outside of wedlock is committed by nearly everyone, therefore, it is not regarded as a crime. Very well. Theft is also committed by nearly everyone in one way or another is it on that account not a crime? Is he of opinion that only those who are found out commit a crime? If promiscuous intercourse is not regarded by present society as a crime, why is it kept so secret and why are "keepers :of disorderly houses” prosecuted? When a married man or woman has intercourse outside of wedlock and is found out they are liable to divorce procedure and punishment for committing adultery. If two unmarried people live together their union is unlawful, as they often find out to their cost, and their children are likely to be penalised by society in many ways. During war-time, and at other times when it suits our social rulers, the restraints on the production of children are relaxed so that factories and war machines may be kept well supplied.

In the earliest days of social development there was no private property and no restrictions on sexual intercourse. The restrictions came in slowly and for thousands of years were simply aimed at preventing intercourse between close blood relatives—brothers and sisters, fathers and daughter. mothers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren. Since Mr. Whitehead cites L. H. Morgan we will quote from him. The extracts are taken from the 1887 edition of “Ancient Society” :
  “The organisation into classes seems to have been directed to the single object of breaking up the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, which affords a probable explanation of the origin of the system.” (page 58).
   “If then community of husbands and wives is found to have been a law of the savage state, and, therefore, the essential condition of society in savagery, the inference would be conclusive that our own savage ancestors shared in this common experience of the human race.” (page 59).
   “Intermarriage between brothers and sisters had not entirely disappeared from the Sandwich Islands when the American Missions, about fifty years ago, were established among them. Of the ancient general prevalence of this system of consanguinity over Asia there can be no doubt, because it is the basis of the Imanian system still prevalent in Asia. It also underlies the Chinese.” (page 386).
   "The growth of the idea of property in the human mind commenced in feebleness and ended in becoming its master passion. Governments and laws are instituted with primary reference to its creation, protection and enjoyment. It introduced human slavery as an instrument in its production; and, after the experience of several thousand years, it caused the abolition of slavery upon the discovery that a freeman was a better property-making machine.” (page 505).
Thus the rigid control, in the sense in which Mr. Whitehead is arguing, at the dawn of human history is a figment of the imagination.

It is a waste of time for Mr. Whitehead to blindly repeat the same contentions without meeting the arguments we have put against them. We have given ample evidence to show that crime in general can only be explained by the social environment, and modern crime by the capitalist environment in which we live. He has been given plenty of scope, but has not attempted to meet this case and we therefore consider it useless to discuss the question further with him.
Editorial Committee

Herrenvolk in South Africa (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "But assuredly South Africa is a land of bitter divisions.
  This fact stares you in the face as soon os you set foot in the country. Benches in public places are labelled in English and Afrikaans “ Europeans Only.” The trains are divided into First and Second Class: European, first. Second, and Third Class: Non-European. These things are symbolic. They stand for the division into Black or White. They hint at the division into Boer or Briton. South Africa is apparently fairly liberal. But behind the facade lurks that brutality which Alexander Campbell has cleverly called the Sjambokracy.
  As far as the Boer-Briton division is concerned they are doing far too little. This is not only regrettable—it is calamitous.”

Rev. W. M. Macartney, M.A., in ‘‘Life and Work,” official organ of Church of Scotland. 
(Quoted in " Forward,” March 3, 1945.)

How Socialism "Works" (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

A difficulty with most people is that they do not understand “How Socialism would ‘work.' ” Especially mysterious to them is the idea of anything being able to “work" if it does not “pay.” Now, we cannot blame these people for their inability to comprehend these matters. We should not get sore when they accuse us of being unpractical theorists. For the plain simple fact of the matter is that the great majority of people are far too busy working —i.e., producing, first of all, a profit for their boss, and second, a wage for themselves—to worry about the scientific whys and wherefores of these things. What we call “politics" embracing as it does, or should do, the complicated subject of economics, is pretty well big enough to be a full-time job to study adequately.

Nevertheless, some at any rate of the salient facts of the matter are easy enough to understand when summarised, once we get out of our minds the mass of unnecessary complications, misrepresentations, and lies with which the ruling class seeks to discourage and confuse the enquirer.

The great central truth of Socialism tests on a straightforward, elementary fact that a moment’s reflection will show to everyone as valid and obvious. It is this: that there is in the world sufficient of everything for everyone’s requirements, and where it is not immediately available (as, for instance, cotton does not grow in England), it exists somewhere, or can be produced end transported. In other words, we have the raw materials, the crops, the factories, the transport, the labour, and the machinery (or the means of making new, extra machinery): all we need is a sane, simple method of setting all these to work, move, and be used by means of a co-operative interdependent plan.

There is no need to ask, “Will it ‘pay’?” Because, under Socialism, there won't be any need for a thing to “pay” anymore. If everything everyone requires is provided, that is all there is need to worry about. The worker—worker “by hand or brain”—need only contribute the amount of (physical or mental) effort required of him (or her) and all will be automatically entitled to whatever they require in the way of food, clothing, shelter, travel, etc., etc. We must look at the necessary activity of mankind as one process, not as we are encouraged to do under Capitalism, as a host of different actions, most of them for different ends.

The whole character of this process can be summed up in the time-honoured phrase, “production solely for use instead of profit.”

But, the confirmed objector will interpose, if nothing “pays,” if nothing yields a profit, how about the replacement of worn-out machinery, how about all the costs involved and the materials, etc., required in the processes of production? The answer is obvious enough : all needs, will be automatically met by the overwhelmingly plentiful production under a planned Socialist economy : but it is a fact that the deliberate under education and miseducation of the masses which is a deliberate and fundamental part of the capitalist art of government has succeeded in presenting this as a major, practically insoluble, problem for the “uninitiated.”

Skilful, and unprincipled, use of this “Will it pay?” bogey has driven many of the unwary into accepting the “nationalisation” idea, instead of Socialism. Nationalisation conforms to the “profit and loss” method which is familiar to and understood by all who have lived under capitalism. It conforms very neatly to all the capitalist rules, and produces pretty much the same results.
John Jennings

Racket Led Geo. Heath to His Death (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much has been written regarding the murder of Geo. Heath, the private-hire car driver, in the famous "cleft-chin’’ case. Ernest Bevin pointed out that in the case of the girl Marina Jones, the trouble “started with the dole."

Now we are told that Heath regularly made £120 a week. He used to "contact parties in the clubs in the West End, and take them out to various road houses in the Maidenhead area. . . . George had a very good business picking up people at Ascot, bringing them to town and taking them back.” (Evening Standard, January 25th.)

This means that Geo. Heath secured about £20 per trip to Ascot or Maidenhead.

This .tallies with the report in the People (February 12th) that 300 taxis were chartered on the 11th at £10 a cab for the return journey from London to Windsor for the races. Evidently some people have money to burn in spite of taxes!


William Morris on Revolution (2011)

From the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The word Revolution, which we Socialists are so often forced to use, has a terrible sound in most people’s ears, even when we have explained to them that it does not necessarily mean a change accompanied by riot and all kinds of violence, and cannot mean a change made mechanically and in the teeth of opinion by a group of men who have somehow managed to seize on the executive power for the moment. Even when we explain that we use the word revolution in its etymological sense, and mean by it a change in the basis of society, people are scared at the idea of such a vast change, and beg that you will speak of reform and not revolution. As, however, we Socialists do not at all mean by our word revolution what these worthy people mean by their word reform, I can’t help thinking that it would be a mistake to use it, whatever projects we might conceal beneath its harmless envelope. So we will stick to our word, which means a change of the basis of society…”
William Morris, How We Live and How We Might Live (1887).

Reflections on revolution (2011)

From the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
What are the lessons of recent events in North Africa?
Revolution is in the air, or at least the word is. The media talked of a “Tunisian Revolution” in January and of an “Egyptian Revolution” in February. In a weak, narrow sense of the word this could be said to be true. In both countries a long-established dictator was overthrown as a first step towards establishing political democracy, the only kind of democracy that capitalism can offer.

Already some changes have been made, even though many of the personnel of the old regime are still in place. There is less arbitrary police repression. There is freedom of speech and to organise into trade unions independent of employers and the government. If this is consolidated it will represent an advantage from a working-class and socialist viewpoint. Workers will have more elbow-room to fight the class struggle and it will be much easier for socialists to express their views.

But it is still only a political change, at most a political revolution, that leaves unchanged the capitalist basis of society. Any more representative government that emerges will be no more able to make capitalism work in the interests of all than can the elected governments of countries where political democracy has long existed.

Political revolution

In his 1970 book on Revolution in the “Key Concepts in Political Science” series Peter Calvert defined ‘revolution’ as “referring to events in which physical force (or the convincing threat of it) has actually been used successfully to overthrow a government or regime”. He concluded by advising political science to retain the word “as a political term covering all forms of violent change of government or regime originating internally”.

This fits in with the popular concept of revolution as a violent act. But it rules out calling a revolution the sort of non-violent overthrow of a government that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt. And not just the changes there but also those in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s where it was also determined but peaceful mass demonstrations that brought about a change of political system.

Calvert’s definition of political revolution would seem to need refining, to take into account such non-violent changes of political system. Not of course any non-violent change of government as the leader of the Fine Gael party in Ireland (now the Prime Minister) absurdly claimed when he described his party’s electoral victory in February as a “democratic revolution at the ballot box” in which “people didn’t take to the streets, they took to the ballot boxes”. The change of government in Ireland was not a revolution in any sense of the term, merely a change of capitalist government brought about through the normal constitutional procedures in a capitalist political democracy.

But even if the concept of political revolution is extended to include a change of government brought about by essentially peaceful but non-constitutional means this still limits the definition of revolution to a political change only.

Social revolution
Socialists too want a revolution but one involving much more than a change of political control. We want a social revolution, a revolution in the basis of society. In that sense our conception of revolution is nearer to that accepted by Martin Oppenheimer (as formulated by Chalmers Johnson) in his 1969 book Urban Guerrilla:
  “A sweeping, fundamental change in political organization, social structure, economic property control, and the predominant myth of social order, thus indicating a major break in the continuity of development.”
On this definition there was no revolution in Tunisia or Egypt, nor in Eastern Europe. But events there are still relevant to the concept of socialist revolution as we see the first step in this revolution as being a political revolution in the sense of a change in who controls the state. We also think that, in established political democracies, this could be done non-violently through the ballot box.

This has been challenged by others, who have argued that the entrenched ruling class would never allow this to happen and that the only way they can be dislodged is through civil war and violent insurrection. Faced with an impending socialist election victory, their argument goes, the capitalist ruling class would abolish political democracy and, even if they let things go so far as an actual socialist election victory, would not respect it and would carry on ruling regardless.

The overthrow of the democratically-elected Allende government in Chile by a military coup in 1973 always used to be cited as confirmation of this. Quite apart from the fact that Allende and his government were not socialist, they never had the electoral, let alone the active, support of a majority of the population – which in our view is an essential condition for the establishment and functioning of socialism.

This is a view our critics do not share. They are not thinking, as we are, in terms of a majoritarian revolution, one involving the active and democratic participation of a majority of the population. They envisage only a minority-led revolution, with an active minority leading a mass of merely discontented but not socialist-minded workers. It is quite true that, faced with such an attempted revolution, the ruling class is likely to resist violently, with a reasonable chance of success.

Even if such a revolution were to succeed it would not, and could not, lead to socialism. As Martin Oppenheimer pointed out, with regard to the majority class of industrial and white collar workers:
 “The revolution rules in their name, but they do not rule. In their absence from effective participation in the revolution, the same thing happens that happens in a peasant-based revolution: gradually the leaders of a minority-led revolution become a new bureaucracy, a new class of rulers… Modern society is ripe for the domination of bureaucracy, in the absence of a revolutionary working class. Perhaps the leader of a minority revolution is not himself irrevocably lost, but his revolution is.”
Unless a majority of industrial and white collar workers want socialism and organise themselves without leaders to get it then socialism is impossible. On the other hand, if they do want it, nothing can stop them getting it, not even a hypothetical abolition of political democracy by a recalcitrant capitalist government. It is this that the recent events in North Africa confirm. Capitalist political dictatorships there couldn’t even stop a determined majority that wanted limited, political democracy. How much less would a capitalist political dictatorship be able to stop the more determined and more organised majority that one wanting socialism would be?

Pro-capitalist coup?
No government can continue to govern in the face of active opposition from those they govern. Answering a question from a correspondent who asked what we would do if, faced with a socialist election victory, the pro-capitalist government suspended the constitution and attempted to rule by decree, the Socialist Standard of November 1933 reformulated the question as “Can a capitalist minority which happens to have control of the machinery of Government continue indefinitely to govern and make capitalism function, in the face of the organised opposition of a majority of Socialists?” and answered:
  “It is not possible for a minority to maintain its hold in those circumstances. Faced with the hostility of a majority of workers (including, of course, workers in the civil and armed forces, as well as workers in productive and distributive occupations), the capitalist minority would be unable, in the long run, to enforce its commands and the workers would be able to dislocate production and transport. In such circumstances the capitalists would themselves be divided. Not all of them would be disposed to provoke chaotic conditions in an heroic last-ditch struggle.”
The reply went on to make the point that “a look at the way in which governments do behave in face of a hostile majority under existing conditions will show how impossible it is for any minority to retain cohesion and to act decisively when it is conscious of being actively opposed by the majority”. And invited the correspondent “to name a single instance of a capitalist minority managing to maintain its hold on the machinery of government for any length of time in face of the organised and united opposition of a majority of the population”, adding “We know of no such instance.”

The recent events in North Africa, like those in Eastern Europe twenty or so years ago, confirm this. Faced with the active opposition of the population of their countries the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators quit. The governments there were divided and did at first try violent repression (hundreds were killed) but, faced with the continued courageous determination of the demonstrators, they were not prepared to provoke the chaos that violent repression would have entailed,  especially not mutinies in the armed forces as their members refused to shoot down unarmed demonstrators. Ceausescu in Rumania and Gaddafi in Libya were exceptions that proved the rule. They did stage a last-ditch stand and duly provoked the mutinies and defections and chaos.

We take comfort from these events as they show that, once there is a socialist majority, socialism will be inevitable. Even if a pro-capitalist minority somewhere were to try to prevent a change of political control via the ballot box, the socialist majority will still be able to impose its will by other means, such as street demonstrations and strikes. But we doubt that it will come to that. But if it did, it wouldn’t stop socialism being eventually established, one way or another.

Royal Welding (2011)

From the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Scientists have almost succeeded in crossing an endangered inbred species with a specimen from the related species homo-partius-animalis. The splicing of Prince William of Diana, KFC with the Right Ordinary Kate Middlebrow will take place under closed circuit conditions in front of 1900 specially invited observers, with appropriate ambient vibrations provided by a bank of sterilised musical ‘pop’ androids, before the couple retire into a private mansion to bonk out what is hoped will be the next generation of media darlings. “It’s pretty crucial they get this right”, said one mating specialist, “as results have been so disappointing for the last three generations. There’s a real danger the line may go extinct, or gaga, and Britain could end up being a garden-variety republic like France.”

Experts say that it is quite hard to train royal breeds as they have a tendency to run off at the mouth and look stupid in front of cameras, or else punch the people holding the cameras. They have to be kept on a severely rich diet and protected from work and other hereditary allergies while at the same time being represented as ‘normal’ people who ‘do things’. They are secluded from prying spotters yet must remain visible enough so that people can remember who they are. They are surrounded by obsequious flunkies and then told that they are ‘serving the nation’. They must be prevented from expressing opinions and embarrassing themselves in public, since like many celebrities they tend to believe that because everyone is looking at them they must be clever people with something to say. Finally they must at all times profess their loyalty and devotion to a political system which regards them as anachronistic nobodies who should by all historical logic and precedent have long since been shot in a cellar. Not surprisingly these restrictive and paradoxical conditions often lead to strange and delusional behaviour, especially in the elder males. Many of them tend to speak in a strangulated squeak from permanently contracted sphincters, a conditioned reflex learned from their public school upbringing. The females often go off the rails entirely and have to call in Lord Max of Hastings to conduct damage limitation.

For the sartorially curious, Kate Middleroad will be wearing a dress worth several African dictators. William’s younger brother and best man will turn up in a Nazi uniform for a bit of a lark and a nod to their forebears. Charles will be dressed as a cactus.

Wills, as the adoring public love to call him according to the Daily Mail, saw active service behind the lines of bodyguards and became a highly trained helicopter pilot, a fact that may come in useful if ever the republicans stage a coup and the Royal Benefit-Scroungers need to do a swift bunk to Sweden. He is descended from many notable English monarchs including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Ivor the Cutler and Vlad the Impaler. However, anti-royal spoilsports may retort that this pedigree is genetically spurious, since like all humans Willy probably shares more genes with the Neanderthals than he does with his great-great-great-grandfather.

Wills gets given a dukedom as a wedding present, which lasts a bit longer than a set of towels from BHS. Meanwhile we get a day off, which lasts a day. But hey, let’s not be churlish. It’s a bit of a show, a bit of pomp, a bit of nonsense our descendants will scratch their heads over. And it’s no worse than the X-Factor.

HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE! (Trans: if you don’t like it, f**k you!)
Paddy Shannon

Tiny Tips (2011)

The Tiny Tips column from the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – A 19-year-old Mexican woman was in the ninth day of a hunger strike in front of the British embassy, demanding an invitation to the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, she told AFP:
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An American couple who have sailed the world with a yacht full of Bibles were hijacked by Somali pirates, and the U.S. said Saturday it is assessing possible options:
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A record 5.26 million people worked unpaid overtime last year, clocking up an average of more than seven hours a week without pay, according to a new study. The TUC said workers were missing out on almost £5,500 a year, worth £29bn to the economy. One in five employees regularly put in extra unpaid hours last year, with public-sector workers most likely to work unpaid overtime, said the TUC:

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21-year-old Sacha Hall is facing trial for allegedly helping herself to food that had been thrown out and was awaiting disposal:
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“We must be prudent. We know what our political line is: We don’t support invasions, or massacres, or anything like that no matter who does it. A campaign of lies is being spun together regarding Libya,” said Chavez, in a televised speech. “I’m not going to condemn him (Gadaffi),” he said.“I’d be a coward to condemn someone who has been my friend”:
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Joseph Nye of Harvard’s Kennedy School wrote in The New Republic in 2007 that Muammar Qaddafi was interested in discussing “direct democracy.” Anthony Giddens of the London School of Economics wrote in the Guardian the same year that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the Norway of North Africa.” Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University wrote in the Washington Post, also in 2007, that Libya under Gaddafi could become “the first Arab state to transition peacefully and without overt Western intervention to a stable, non-autocratic government.” Great minds think alike? Actually, no: all were being paid by Libyan money, under a $3 million per year contract with a consulting group which promised to “enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Gaddaffi” in Britain and the US:

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Death threats from Muslim fundamentalists have forced a British Imam to retract his claim that Islam is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution.
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‘This week a report by government advisor Lord Hutton stating that public sector workers should work for ten years longer, for less pay, was released on the same day as the Forbes Rich list, which showed  that the number of billionaires in the world has risen from 1011 to 1210 in one year. If you plotted a graph of the wealth of the richest people in the world it would be shooting off the charts, with loads of fat cats looking on, toasting each other and chuffing on cigars:
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50 Years Ago: Jomo Kenyata (2011)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir Patrick Renson, the Governor of Kenya, recently refused to release Jomo Kenyatta and gave two reasons for his decision. They were:
  “The political campaign for Kenyatta’s release, ‘which has roused many emotions and which has not allowed divisions and personal fears a natural atmosphere in which to diminish.’
Kenyatta’s refusal to ‘make any statement or reveal his thinking about the great issues which Kenya is facing,’ in spite of the fact that six Ministers, including three Africans, had visited him in August’…”
Dictators have often put people in jail, or kept them in exile, because they have “made statements” or “revealed their thinking” about public issues; this must be the first time a political leader has been kept in exile because he refused to take up a political stand

The Socialist position is straightforward. We are opposed to any attack on democratic freedoms, whether it is jailing for political reasons, restrictions on the right to vote, or any other weapon in the colonialists’ armoury. But we are not blind to the real nature of the struggle in Kenya, it is the old struggle between land and capital. It is the old struggle between capitalists, whether they are those who hope to establish full-scale industrial capitalism in Kenya, or those who have already established it in Great Britain. We welcome any extension of democracy in Kenya which this struggle between two rival propertied classes has produced or will produce. But we know that democracy is never safe in a capitalist society. That has been seen in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Czechoslovakia and the rest. Only in a Socialist society will democracy be safe from overthrow.

(from ‘The Passing Show’, Socialist Standard, April 1961)

Irish Election result: no change (2011)


From the April 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
  This was an election about which set of politicians was to impose austerity. The Outs got the job.
There was a text doing the rounds in Ireland a few weeks ago which tried to capture the financial issue paralysing the country. ‘American tourist goes into a hotel in a small Irish town and, requesting to view the room, leaves €100 deposit with the manager. The hotel owner runs across the road to the butchers to pay off €100 account owed, the butcher immediately goes to the pub to clear €100 bar tab, the barman goes next door to the town prostitute to pay €100 he owes her from the night before, she goes to the hotel to pay the €100 she owed in room rentals. Just as she leaves, the American tourist comes back to the reception saying he doesn’t like the room and takes his €100 back. The tourist leaves town with everyone having cleared their debts’

The story illustrates nicely what socialists have always known; that the fiscal merry-go-round of capitalism is an illusion. However it is precisely that illusion that became the centre of the debate leading up the recent general election in Ireland as the electorate became fixated by the apparent choices put before them by the main parties as to who could better manage the necessary negotiations with the EU and the IMF on the countries €85bn debt and who was best able to fill the gapping €15bn deficit in the nation’s budget.

This was the first general election since the Celtic Tiger had taken its last roar, lost all its teeth, became mangy and thin and eventually lay down and died. An economy that had enjoyed an average of 8 percent growth during the boom was found to be built on sand. After 2002 growth had been driven disproportionately by a madly over-heated property and construction sector funded by banks who believed that valuations would go up forever.

Ireland was building 75000 residential units a year, for a population of fewer than 5 million when the UK was building fewer houses than that for a population 10 times the size. We had 5-star spa Hotels opening every other day and the main cities were a forest of construction cranes. Developers were the new aristocrats, living in ostentatious luxury supported not by the proceeds of their businesses but from more and more bank borrowings.  Fianna Fail (FF), the main party of government, were complicit with their ill-conceived property tax breaks, Europe’s lowest corporation tax and a virtual absence of financial regulation. When the global banking crisis hit, the Irish house of cards fell quicker and harder than most. For the coalition government of Fianna Fail and their minority Green Party partner, most of 2010 was spent lurching from crisis to crisis whilst sorting out a bail out the EU and the IMF.

The Soldiers’ Destiny
Brian Cowan, the Taoiseach saw his ruling Fianna Fail party routed. The Party which has been in power for longer than any other since the establishment of the state saw the writing on the wall. Cowan resigned as leader in the run-up to the election and in the days that followed, his Ministers and TDs (MPs) formed a long and disreputable queue to announce that they would not be seeking re-election. They did so in the sure and certain knowledge that they were facing humiliation in the polls and so took the chance to benefit from the soon-to-be-cut severance payments to outgoing TDs, although most claimed health reasons for their decision not to stand – proof if proof was needed that this had indeed been a sick government. Their lacklustre newly-elected leader Micheal Martin bore the expression of the condemned man. His natural political arrogance however enabled him to attempt to convince the electorate that, despite the fact that he had been a long standing minister in the outgoing government, really none of the mistakes were down to him, that he had a brave new plan and the experience to deliver it. Actions though belied his words. His Party didn’t even field enough candidates to form a majority administration – a first for an outgoing governing party.

All the opposition parties could smell blood. It was clear that the parties of government were going to get a hammering. The main opposition parties Fine Gael (FG), under the leadership of Enda Kenny and the Labour Party under Eammon Gilmore knew that this was their big opportunity for power and the smaller parties such as Sein Fein could see the chance of a land grab.

The election was extraordinary if the result merely predictable. Not extraordinary in the usual boring predictable way that a disreputable government gets routed by the opposition, in the way Blair’s New Labour did to the Tories or as was done in turn to Labour last year by the shiney posh boys of Conservative/Libdems. This was different in a number of respects.

Firstly, the outgoing Fianna Fail/Green government managed to get cross-party support for the passing of a Finance Bill in the last few days of government. The need for a quickly agreed Finance Bill was a condition of the EU/IMF bailout. That the main opposition parties were complicit in letting it get passed was a result of their desperation to grab power at any cost and knowing that any delay in the passing of the bill would only delay an election being called. In doing so they enabled a Bill which ranks amongst the most vicious attack on the poor in recent memory. The cavernous budget deficit was to be brought under control to meet conditions imposed by Europe. The principle was that the gap would be closed by budget cuts and tax increases to the proportion of 60:40. The 60 percent that is to come from budget cuts will see swinging cuts to social benefits, health services, education and every conceivable social and cultural subsidy. The tax elements overwhelming hit the poor including the cynically named universal social charge set at 7 percent.

So any perspective party of government, in their indecent haste to get into power, in effect committed themselves to the fiscal and budgetary policies of the outgoing government.

Another extraordinary feature of the run up to the election was the level of public anger and disillusionment at party politics and the lack of belief that any of the parties provided a plausible alternative. This became reflected in the unprecedented number of independents who stood. Indeed, there was a point in the early days of campaigning that it even appeared that there may have been a coalition of independents into a brave new political party. That was not to be but it was to prove the strongest ever showing for independents, winning almost 3 times as many seats than in the last general election.

New faces, same policy
The lack of faith by the electorate in a plausible opposition was evidenced by the respective leaders. The most positive thing that the collective media were able to say of FG leader Enda Kenny after each of the televised leadership debates was that he hadn’t messed up. Kenny, who is now Taoiseach, is a man untroubled by deep thought. He appeals, as does his party, to rural catholic Ireland, boasting recently that he ‘ate his dinner in the middle of the day’; a nod to his farming constituents. The Labour party Leader, Eammon Gilmore, in all his pompous self importance, was a man determined to lead his party into government at any cost; principle was a small price to pay. The Labour Party knew this was their big chance but they also calculated correctly that their only real hope of achieving that, was as a minority coalition partner to the right of centre FG party. Such a potential ethical dilemma troubled them little so, not only did they facilitate the passing of the pernicious Finance Bill but it was clear that they were having coalition negotiations with FG from the earliest days of the election.

A more principled Labour Party may have seen the obvious anger and desperation of a country which might have welcomed a more radical Labour alternative. It’s not like the peril of minority coalition wasn’t obvious to them. The minority Green partner in the outgoing coalition had in recent month become a national laughing stock and got their just deserts in the election in which they lost every single seat – obliterated! And Labour must also have looked across the water at the pathetic spectacle of the Liberal Democrats writing their political obituary for a term in office.

Labour’s lack of edge was truly stunning. Gilmore’s apparent outrage at the fiscal irresponsibility of the last government has been exposed as only skin deep. Labour’s election stance was different by imperceptible degrees. They made major principles out of the smallest detail such as the timeframe over which the deficit was to be managed, the proportionality of cuts versus tax increases or the extent of public sector reform. What they demonstrated was that their intent, just like FF and FG, was to run the system in the interest of the capitalist class. No proposal on a wealth tax or an immediate cessation of the tax breaks for the wealthy. Indeed it is remarkable that not one party, let alone Labour, proposed an increase in the disproportionately low Corporation Tax in Ireland. At 12.5 percent it is significantly below the rest of Europe (UK 21-28 percent) and is the principle driver of foreign direct investment into the country. Even a small increase in that tax would make a significant contribution to the deficit but all of the parties bought into the threats of the business community of a mass exodus of overseas investment. It is an empty threat and that all of the parties bought it exposes both their spineless self interest and basic economic ignorance. The idea that Google, Intel, HP et al would unwind €100’s million of investment and infrastructure to avoid a few percent of increase is an empty threat.

Neither has either the main opposition parties proposed any risk to the International Bond Holders who funded the Irish Banks in their drunken gorge fest. When the Irish government bailed out these criminally irresponsible banks, it made sure there was fair play in protecting not just the life savings of Mr and Mrs Murphy but also the bond investments of international capital. That commitment to these wealthy hedge funds and their like is to be protected in the next government paid for by the Irish people through savage cuts.

Themselves alone
The only sizable party which tried to articulate anything resembling an alternate voice was the reformed terrorists of Sinn Fein (SF). It was however a very feeble attempt at being radical as their illiteracy in even bourgeois economics was exposed. Their leader Gerry Adams, who gave up his UK parliamentary seat to stand in the republican heartland of Co Louth, showed just how much of a one issue politician he is, as he struggled with the basics of economics, social policy and even cultural life South of the border. His incredulous continued denial of having been a former member of the IRA did not trouble his hard-line supporters who voted him in. It has however fastened his reputation as a fraud.

Five “far left” TDs were elected under the umbrella of the United Left Alliance, an election pact between Irish sections of Militant and the SWP. It will be instructive to see whether or not they use their seats to act as a megaphone for socialism or simply to press for reforms (actually, we know the answer). The others are a complete rag bag ranging from right wing euro-sceptics to traditional rural conservatives who solely deliver ‘favours’ to their constituents in the expectation of being re-elected.

The result has been quite extraordinary as shown (see chart). The effect however will prove to be very much less extraordinary. FG and Labour spent 10 days in talks agreeing a coalition and programme for government. The media have welcomed this programme uncritically ignoring the fact that it reflects for the most part the conditions as imposed by the IMF and the terms of the Finance Bill, passed by the outgoing government.

What is a cast iron certainty is the Irish working class face many years of the most severe punishment for the unbridled free market sins of capitalism. What is also certain is that the new government will pay the price of taking on the job as whipping boy for the system.
Brian Montague