Friday, April 24, 2020

Letters: Loot and Surplus Value (1978)

Letters to the Editors from the April 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Loot and Surplus Value

In the January issue Harmo does not justify his statement that, because the loot is part of the surplus value extracted from the workers, thievery and shoplifting do not force up prices. I think the shoplifter exploits those whose work has produced the goods. The consumer majority will have to pay more to maintain the profitable revenue depleted by the theft. The interdependence of capital and labour means the capitalist’s thieving problem cannot be wholly isolated from our concern.

RAW says class division and the profit system are the causes of greed. Of course, the system perpetuates greed, but I think the reverse is more likely to be the primary truth—greed, i.e. excessive self-interest, caused the class-divided profit system.

Every aspect of behaviour is inherent in human potentiality, environment and individual characteristics being the deciding factors. It is a curious paradox that increasing abundance makes socialism a logical conflict solution and also provides greater scope for greed.

If basic motivation precedes any system how can an exploitative system be the cause of selfish greed? The proposition that socialism is the expression of working class interests, while true, does not in my opinion, negate the fact that any system of production involving people necessarily contains an ethical element. And I suspect that it is in this area—not primarily in the lack of universal socialist knowledge—that makes progress so slow. So the pursuit of differentials. Wholesale gambling and other divisive objectives go on.
W. Walker

It is of course a common theory that prices can be increased at will in order to maintain profits—whether the threat to the level of profits comes from, say adverse market conditions or shoplifting. In fact, if it were possible to raise prices in this way no firm would ever go bankrupt.

The article in question stated correctly how prices are determined. This is a separate process from the production of profit, which is realised at the point of sale (failing to make this distinction gives rise to the confusion in Mr. Walker’s letter) but created in the process of production, from the surplus value arising from the exploitation of working-class labour.

Capital and labour can be described as interdependent only in the sense that they are opposite sides of the class struggle of capitalism. This does not imply a unity of interest; the two classes have interests in opposition, over the division of wealth in capitalist society and finally over the transformation of society from capitalism to Socialism.

Capitalism came into existence after a bitter, and often bloody, struggle in which one side was protecting its privileges and property rights while the other was seeking to assume the position of social domination. Perhaps both sides can be described as “greedy” but this judgment does not fill the bill historically; it ignores the reality of social change and revolution, which is a process of social adaptation to developments in the mode of production. “Motivation”, in terms of human desires, is secondary to that.

Class society is then part and parcel of social evolution; capitalism, which is the final form of class society, has as one of its essential features the drive to accumulate capital, to amass and invest wealth with the object of producing more wealth for sale at a profit. The privileges which go with being a member of the dominant class in society, and the accumulation of capital, are not examples of “greed”—they are unavoidable features of a necessary phase in the development towards a classless society.

“Greed ' is in any case a factor relating to its conditions; it can exist only in times of shortage and restrictions and becomes more evident as scarcity develops. When wealth is freely available, as it will be in Socialism, greed will not exist—it will be an attitude so archaic that it will be almost beyond understanding.

This illustrates the fact that “ethics” are not eternal and unchanging; each social system has its own, in a sort of superstructure of ideas and responses which rest on its economic base. Capitalism’s ethics are those of division, of panic, of destruction and competition. Socialism’s will be those of co-operation, abundance and efficiency.

Evolution or Revolution?

Many years ago I read a statement in the works of Marx which is as follows:
  No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed, and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.
Does this mean that Socialism will be established more by evolution than by Revolution?
J. Ahern
London W.13

The passage you quote is taken from the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, where Marx summarizes the fundamentals of the materialist conception of history. Another sentence from this Preface may help in understanding the section you have asked about:
  In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production.
So the relations of production, the economic structure of society, are in keeping with the degree of development of the productive forces. As the productive forces develop, says Marx, they will come into conflict with the existing production relations, which then inhibit further growth of the productive forces. Only a social revolution that transforms the economic foundation of society can bring about new relations of production which again correspond to the developing forces of production.

Capitalism has brought about a tremendous increase in the “material powers of production”, to the point where society is now technically capable of producing an abundance of goods and services. But this abundance is not produced under capitalism, because its highest priority, profit, acts as a fetter on the productive forces. The Socialist revolution will usher in new relations of production —common ownership and production for use—which will enable this potential for abundance to be realized and will no longer hold back the development of the forces of production. Common ownership will be linked with democratic control of the means of production to resolve another of the contradictions of capitalism, that between social production and class monopoly of the means of production.

The passage you refer to is to be read in the context of what we have said above. One implication of the passage is that a Socialist revolution cannot be carried out simply if men desire it, but is dependent on a certain degree of development of the productive forces, to a point where an abundance is possible but capitalist relations hold back their further growth. So a Socialist revolution in countries as backward as Russia in 1917 and China in 1949 is inconceivable.

Lastly, regarding your question as to whether this means that Socialism will be established more by evolution than by revolution, the answer is, No. A conflict between capitalist production relations and the forces of production is not of itself sufficient to bring about a Socialist society. The establishment of Socialism requires a revolution carried out by a working class who have come to understand the nature of capitalism and the desirability of Socialism, and who are willing to run a Socialist system and make it work. The material conditions for Socialism already exist. The SPGB exists to spread the idea of Socialism and to act as the political tool of the Socialist working class who will carry out this revolution. And that’s a task where you can help us!

A Capitalist Clause

I agree very much with your philosophy and the aims of your party but what upsets me is how much longer before we get a Socialist State.

As Labour Secretary of the Penzance Branch, I am endeavouring to spread Clause 4 of the Labour constitution. I would be grateful if you would tell me why you are not members of the Labour Party. The Labour Party now is going to the Left and the members down here like myself are doing all the things you are proclaiming.

Surely it would be better for your members to join a big political party which is changing back to its original form and with your members’ obvious talents rid this country once and for all of Capitalism.
Alan Graham 

Many disgruntled Labour Party members like Mr. Graham think that their party once had a basic affinity with the idea of Socialism but that it has since been perverted. This is not true; the Labour Party has always been an organisation aiming, at best, at reforming some aspects of capitalism.

This is well expressed in Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution which advocates, among other things, common ownership of the means of exchange. Common ownership of the means of production—Socialism—will bring an end to the exchange of wealth and therefore to the existence of a means of exchange. The Labour Party aims at a society in which the means of exchange—money, banks, finance houses and so on—are still in existence. This is capitalist society.

From its inception the Labour Party has been concerned with winning power on programmes of reform without caring about the political understanding of its members or of its supporters. One result of this is that many of Labour's policies need to be tailored to win votes; for example the move in the sixties to ditch Clause 4 was based on the argument that it put people off voting Labour.

Another result is that when Labour gets into power, backed by the votes of people who are in favour of reformed capitalism, it can do no other than run that system—even supposing that politicians like Wilson, Callaghan, Foot, Benn and so on wanted to do otherwise.

Capitalism cannot be run to satisfy the needs of its people so that Labour in power has to ditch even many of the reforms it cherishes—a"free” National Health Service is one—and to implement many policies which upset its members: support for the Americans in Vietnam, a British nuclear weapon store, dragging down working-class living standards, cutting back medical and social services, using troops to break the firemen’s strike are a few examples.

The important point is that these are not accidents or the betrayal of ideals by subversives in the seats of Labour power. They are the predictable—and the SPGB has always predicted them—results of electing a capitalist party to power.

The Labour Party does not have to be changed back to its original form—it is acting and working exactly in character. Mr. Graham should give up his struggle, which may be sincere but is obviously futile. He is interested in developing a new society operating on a different basis from capitalism; he should examine the case for Socialism.

News in Review: Arms Race (1962)

The News in Review column from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Arms Race

In the arms race, it's still flat out.

Colonel Glenn got the full ticker tape treatment for bravely proving that the United States is well up in space.

Nobody thought of giving a similar celebration for President Kennedy's announcement that the Americans were to resume nuclear tests to keep themselves well up in bombs.

The Russians claimed that they had solved the problem of the anti-missile missile. It did not take one newspaper long to latch onto the fact that the next step was the ant-anti-missile-missile.

Perhaps the Russians were exaggerating a little. But it is certain that they are working on those lines, and so are the Americans. One day the problems will be solved, the anti-missile missile will appear and will start the race to find a weapon to overcome it.

All of this knocks a big hole in the argument for the deterrent. No great power is ever deterred by the threat of its opponent having superior weapons. It simply sets to work to find an answer to them, or to make a better weapon for itself.

The old, forgotten, puny A-bomb was supposed to be a deterrent. Yet it has led directly to the massive weapons of today. Last month The Guardian was speculating on the chances of Russia making a 500 Megaton Bomb, only one of which could devastate the whole of this country.

Rockets, too, are supposed to be part of the great deterrent. But the Russians and the Americans do not seem to put each other off in their grim struggle to produce a more powerful, more accurate missile.

It would be a grand world if courageous adventure and scientific knowledge were wholly applied to man’s benefit. At the moment, they seem to be more concerned with knocking him about.

Labour and the Common Market

There's nothing like knowing your own mind, is there?

The Labour Party are one of the two great political parties of British capitalism.

And one of the great problems which the British capitalist class have to face is the European Common Market— whether to join and, if they do go in, whether they can do so on terms which are favourable to them.

So it is reasonable to expect that Labour would have some sort of policy on the Common Market. After all, by this time next year they might be in power and it would be a pretty kettle of fish for British capitalism to have a government which had no policy on so important an issue.

But a policy, in fact, is what the Labour Party have not. Some of their individual members are in favour of E.E.C.; others are just as strongly opposed. These two groups threatened an open clash last month, when thirty-one pro-Common Marketeers put down a motion on the House of Commons order paper.

This put the Labour leadership in a sticky spot. When they are unable to hide their differences—as in the case of nuclear weapons—they put the best face they can on it by posing as a virile party which encourages the expression of strong opinions.

But they prefer to hide their splits, even if this means them all agreeing on a watery and pointless compromise.

This is what happened over the Common Market. Mr. Brown and Mr Gaitskell persuaded both sides to settle for a motion which would somehow bridge the gap between them.

Thus the Labour Party avoided an open battle. Thus they also avoided giving the impression that they officially know their own minds on an important bone of capitalist contention.

And these are the practical planners of capitalism! No wonder they find the path to Westminster a hard and stony way.

British Guiana

Drearily familiar now is the news that another leader of an ex-colony, who himself suffered in gaol for his nationalist activities, is getting rough with his opponents.

The latest example of this is in Dr. Cheddi Jagan, prime minister of British Guiana. Dr. Jagan was imprisoned, and saw his young government overthrown, nearly ten years ago when the Colonial Office did not approve of the preference expressed by the Guianese electors.

This should have made Dr. Jagan an enemy of the British ruling class. Only last December he complained to the United Nations that his country was groaning under British oppression and added “. . . only the armed might of Britain acts as a deterrent to my country proclaiming its freedom."

So what did the doctor do when a couple of months later his subjects exercised their freedom to protest against, among other things, the austerity measures in his latest Budget?

There are no prizes for the correct answer. He called in the armed might of Britain, to deter the demonstrators and to help keep his government in power.

Did this shock the colonial freedom supporters, who in their muddled way like to think of the Jagans of the world as downtrodden democrats? They have no right to be surprised; it has happened often enough to condition them to any shocks.

It is one thing for a politician to express high principles when he is out of power. But principles must be forgotten when he is the man trying to control capitalism’s waywardness.

Even if it means a Jagan, who came to power on the poverty-stricken backs of the Guianese workers, imposing more austere conditions upon those workers. Even it if means a Jagan appealing for troops from the hated colonial oppressor to put his workers down.

At any rate, Dr. Jagan has obviously learnt a lesson in capitalist politics. Can we say the same for the colonial freedom supporters?

Northern Rhodesia

The British Government appears to have inclined ever so slightly before the wind of change over Northern Rhodesia.

The latest proposals on the electoral constitution for the territory stirred up u lot of fuss. Welensky was not the only one to get hot under the collar about them; there was plenty of newspaper talk of big splits in the Cabinet and possible resignations at the Top.

All this because one set of complicated electoral arithmetic which meant that the Africans could almost certainly not have won an election were replaced by another, equally complicated, set which meant that they might win.

So far nobody who matters in such things has suggested that the best way, for people who profess to be democrats, is to allow one vote to each elector and to run free elections.

Welensky has probably tried his hardest to browbeat the British government over Northern Rhodesia. He does not seem to have the coolest head amongst capitalism’s politicians, so perhaps he meant his threat to use force to keep the Rhodesian Federation in being.

This could mean another Algeria. Welensky must know that the war against the F.L.N. has so far a death roll which is larger than all the white people in Rhodesia.

If the Rhodesian whites do start a war. there will be a grim coincidence in it. For the blood will begin to flow in Rhodesia just as the Algerian war is coming to an end.

So it is that property rights and interests continually provoke war and misery.

There is a point there for the whites who are trying to hang onto their power and their copper in Rhodesia, for the Africans who want power to develop their own capitalist set-up there and for those who support capitalism all over the world.

Powers’ Return

The release of Captain Powers, the U-2 pilot, threw up some absorbing stories about the panic which hit Washington when they realised that something had gone wrong with their spy-plane.

But panic cannot itself explain the many contradictory statements which the American government put out before they were finally forced to admit the truth of the matter.

They lied as far as they were able and only gave out the facts when the Russians blew the lid off by producing Powers alive and very much in one piece.

In the case of Colonel Abel, who was exchanged for Powers, the Russians showed a much tougher front. They officially ignored his case and have never been trapped into admitting that he— or anybody else, for that matter—was one of their spies.

This is at least consistent with the whole dirty set up of international espionage. Capitalism must have its spies, of one sort or another, because it is divided into opposing blocs who must have and try to hold their economic and military secrets. It is, therefore, worse than humbug to wax indignant about the other side’s spies while making heroes of your own.

Capitalism cannot be a free, democratic social system. Neither (for those who are interested in such concepts) can it be a truthful system.

We should remember this, if ever the cold war hots up and both sides claim to be fighting for any number of high ideals. Ideals like Democracy and Truth. Spelt with capitals, please.

Nonsense about Race

The latest piece of nonsense to come from race-obsessed South Africa is the news that there has been an official ruling that the Japanese are to be classified as white.

Looking for the base economic motive that is usually to be found lurking behind the high-sounding racial twaddle, we find that the South African government is very anxious just now to encourage trade with Japan. Naturally, it would not do to make the Japanese suffer all the indignities which are the common lot of the black part of the population. A Japanese businessman thrown out of a hotel reserved for whites or pushed into the dingy part of a post-office to wait his turn with the downtrodden blacks might cancel his order for South African wool!

As so often happens with this racial nonsense, the perpetrators find themselves getting more and more involved in their own idiocies. On this occasion it appears that the locals find it hard in practice to distinguish between the Japanese and the Chinese. Since the Chinese are officially labelled as non-white, the Japanese are still being insulted since they are continually being mistaken for Chinese.

The whole affair has become all the more absurd because South Africa is now very keen on developing trade with China and is having to consider classifying the Chinese also as white.

All this absurdity brings back to mind the similar racial foolishness perpetrated by the Nazis before the war, in which again the Japanese were concerned. Readers may remember it.

On that occasion the Nazis were in close alliance with the Japanese and were hard put to fit this awkward fact into their half-baked theories on race. Finally. some bright theoretician came round with the suggestion that the Japanese were actually possessed of "Teutonic souls in non-Teutonic bodies" and the circle was squared.

The South Africans have evidently not forgotten this infamous piece of Nazi trickery. It speaks volumes on the depths to which they have descended in their efforts to maintain the myth of white supremacy.

Finance and Industry: Back to the land (1962)

The Finance and Industry Column from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back to the land

Last month new information was published about small farms and holdings that is of interest because it recalls the puny results of laws that took years of hard campaigning by social reformers to put on the Statute Book.

Whenever the normal developments of capitalism produce new evils, the cry will go up for a law to be passed to stop, whatever it is that is happening. But the optimists who put their trust in this procedure should remember that if there are strong economic forces, and prospects of profit, behind the new development it will persist. The restraining laws will be evaded, defied, amended or allowed to be forgotten.

Back in the 1880's politicians and reformers were alarmed at the mass exodus of farm workers and farmers looking for a new life in America, Canada, South Africa and Australia, because they could not survive the competition of cheap food from some of these countries that was undermining British and Continental agriculture. So the reformers campaigned for legislation to promote a back-to-the-land movement, and the Conservative “radicals," Chamberlain and Jesse Collings, got Acts passed to create a new peasantry, under Codings' slogan, “Three acres and a cow.” It fitted in with their general philosophy of helping the “little man" against the big landowners and big combines, in agriculture and in industry. But capitalism just marched over them.

At that time there were in this country a million agricultural workers; by 1948 it was down to 890,000. In spite of laws and lavish government aid to farming it has fallen to 750,000 in 1951 and now to 600,000; so, too, with the small holders. The first enthusiasm for a new peasantry was trimmed to a more modest plan, after the first world war, to put ex-servicemen on the land as chicken farmers and fruit and vegetable growers. Later on in 1934 came the Land Settlement Association to put some of the unemployed into small holdings. Now the Association reports that its smallholders are doing quite well, but there are only 699 of them, and to get on the vacancy list you need five years agricultural experience and £500.

Two experts of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Ashton and Mr. Cracknell, have been examining the statistics of land holdings. The official figures for England and Wales show about 370,000 holdings above 1 acre with an average holding of 70 acres. But their inquiries bring additional information. They find that 30,000 of the holdings are occupied by individuals who have two, three or more holdings, and that about half of the total (180,000) “are not strictly speaking farms at all,” but are occupied by people doing other jobs or who have retired from other occupations and have other sources of income. (Financial Times, 2/3/62.)

The fact is that agriculture, like industry, is more and more falling into the hands of individuals and companies who can afford to put up the increasing amounts of capital required to run them efficiently and with up-to-date machinery and methods. Government aid to farmers, costing £200 million to £300 million a year, may slow the trend of capitalism but can neither reverse it nor halt it.

And as a postscript, Mr. R. H. Turton, M.P., maintains that if Britain enters the Common Market, the Common Market policy of combining small farms into more efficient big ones will have the result that “more than 115,000 small farmers will be squeezed off the land in this country.” (Daily Mail, 6/3/62.)

Shadow over Steel

To the gloom over motor car prospects come worries over the future for steel.

1962 seems pretty certain to be a poor year and 1963 is hardly more promising with European competition likely to be making itself really felt. The Chairman of United Steel says that there is likely to be a surplus of capacity for some time to come, and the Chairman of Dorman Long talks about the present low order books in structural engineering being “ominous.”

British manufacturers have been pouring vast quantities of capital into the industry, but some European countries have been modernising their plant even faster. They also seem to have been sharper at accepting the fact that in modern steelmaking conditions the plant must be sited on the coast so as to get the cheapest processing of imported ore.

The American industry has, of course, been working well below capacity for several years and business still shows no real sign of picking up. The Europeans, are also feeling the pinch and German production actually dropped last year. Even in France, where modernisation has been going on at a hectic rate, production in 1961 was only a few thousand tons above 1960.

There are anxious days ahead for all of them as competition inevitably begins to get fiercer. We may be hearing of some of the weaker ones going to the wall before long.


A Liberal Party leaflet, Where Does the Money Go? dealing with the Cost of Living, promises that if the electors put in a Liberal Government, they could watch prices fall—unlike the years of Labour and Conservative governments with prices going up.

There were Liberal governments continuously from 1905 to 1915, with prices steadily rising. They rose about 11 per cent. up to 1914 when the War broke out and another 25 per cent. before Asquith handed over to another Liberal, Lloyd George, who headed a coalition. Before Lloyd George went out of office the price level was three limes what it had been in 1905.

Where there's Smoke

In a recent editorial discussing the recent spate of mergers and take-over bids, we mentioned that these were going on everywhere and that there were probably more big surprises in store.

The Common Market has in fact just been considerably shaken about rumour of a big motor deal between Michelin Citroen and Fiat. Under this deal it is reported that Michelin, the French tyre manufacturers, would sell their present controlling interest in Citroen to the Italian Fiat company so as to develop what is alleged to be a breakthrough they have made in synthetic rubber. Such a merger would make the new company the third largest motor car manufacturer in the world behind General Motors and Ford.

As is usually the case, the rumours have been promptly denied by all the parties concerned and there are in fact quite a few practical difficulties in the way of such a huge merger. But in spite of all the denials there is obviously something going on behind the scenes which might end up in trouble for other makers both cars and tyres.

We can remember some big Continental manufacturer (we think it was the Chairman of Renault) saying that it would not be very long before there were only three car manufacturers in Europe. He was taking a pretty long shot, but who knows that he might not turn out to be right?

One thing is certain in capitalism. The big get bigger — and the small get swallowed up.

Food and Farming

The best joke of the month must surely be, not what Kennedy and Kruschev said when they met, but what they were saying about food and farming in their own separate capitalist countries. While Kruschev was storming about low productivity and the urgent need to step up the production of foodstuffs, Kennedy’s administration was planning to reduce American farm surpluses. According to Kruschev everything would be well in Russia if the peasants would produce more, but in America Kennedy was trying to grapple with the disaster that too much production brings. As the Financial Times had it: “The basic problem about the American farmer is that he is too productive.” (Financial Times, 1/2/62.)

If Kruschev has troubles now, what bigger ones he will have when Russian peasants catch up with American productivity.

Printing of Bank Notes

When Lord Dalton died the Daily Mail said he had been a disaster because, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he went in for “the printing of paper, and other inflationary measures’” (Daily Mail, 14/2/62).

As far as increasing the Note issue is concerned, Dalton as Chancellor of the Exchequer was responsible while in office. But his score was only £169 million, so what prevented the Mail from recalling other much higher scores? Butler's £400 million and Heathcote Amory's £250 million, and a total of £1,000 million since the Tories came to office in 1951?
Edgar Hardcastle

The Fabian "Socialists" (1962)

Book Review from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Story of Fabian Socialism by Margaret Cole (Heinemann, 30s.)

This book sets out to show the value of permeation, and what it has accomplished, through the efforts of the Fabian Society. What in fact it does is to illustrate how the permeators were permeated until they became innocuous. Even more than that, the work they did threw up barriers to the growth of Socialist ideas, gave entirely wrong interpretations of them, and hindered their development.

The Fabian Society was formed in January, 1884. It arose out of meetings of a group in the rooms of Edward Pease in 1883 to discuss the “New Life” ideas of Thomas Davidson, an American who was visiting London. Hubert Bland and Frank Podmore, along with Pease, who was its Secretary for most of its existence, took part in the formation. They were later joined by Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Sydney Oliver, Graham Wallas and Annie Besant. Apart from Pease and Podmore, these six along with William Clarke, were the original Fabian Essayists. The Essays were published in December, 1889, with a cover design by Walter Crane.

Although the Society had already printed a number of “Tracts” the publication of the Fabian Essays really put them on the map as they had a wide circulation. These essays were a conglomeration of confused and mistaken ideas, without influence on the Socialist movement except that in places they showed up the shortcomings and hypocrisy of existing social arrangements. To the authors Socialism signified nationalisation or state ownership, beginning with land, and they aimed at the gradual transformation of society in this direction. It may be added that subsequent rewriting of the Fabian Essays up to 1957 not only go no farther but are even worse. Margaret Cole herself points out how poor the original Essays were (page 26), but then goes on to say:
  All this is true enough. But it is also true that, even in the slighter essays, and eminently in the contributions of Shaw himself, Webb (catalogues notwithstanding), and William Clarke, the Fabians of 1889 laid down an exposition of Socialist thought that was sufficiently definite without being dogmatic, (page 27)
Well, well, well! So definite that their efforts produced three capitalist Labour Governments, a multitude of futile Fabian reforms, housing, slum, and poverty problems, in some respects greater than ever, and a society on the brink of a catastrophic H. Bomb War!

That the Fabian Essays and general attitude were confusing is not surprising. The Society did not debar members from joining other political parties. Hubert Bland and W. G. Bland were “Tory Democratics,” Shaw was on the Liberal Party executive, Tom Mann belonged to the S.D.F., others belonged to different parties and groups. As Margaret Cole says:  Many Fabians were Liberals and some Tories.”

On an earlier page (86) she says this:
  ‘Permeation'. with the existing party system, ought logically to be carried to the extent of actually converting party leaders to Socialist policy. The obvious candidate for permeation, in the nineties, was the Liberal Party. Already, in London, the Progressive Party was as near as no matter Fabian in its approach.
In 1893 the Fabian Society, along with various other groups, took part in the formation of the Independent Labour Party, but did not lose its own identity, although some of its members joined. Margaret Cole, however, makes this observation :
  The Fabian executive, on the return of the delegates, formally welcomed the new Society without great enthusiasm or, it seems, anticipation that it would before long quickly absorb the bulk of its own provincial membership. (page 44)
Later in 1893 a move was made to form a united party. A joint conference of the Fabian Society, the Social Democratic Party and the Independent Labour Party was held, and a manifesto issued called Manifesto of English Socialists.” Delegates from each of the Societies signed on behalf of their group. This manifesto, as might have been expected from those who took part in it, is a complete muddle. Here are some quotations from it which will illustrate the point:
  Meantime small improvements made in deference to the ill-formulated demands of the workers, though for a time they seem almost a social revolution to men ignorant of their own resources and of their capacity for enjoyment, will not really raise the condition of the whole people . . . 
  On this point all socialists agree. Our aim, one and all, is to obtain for the whole community complete ownership and control of the means of transport,, the means of manufacture, the mines, and the land. Thus we look to put an end for ever to the wage-system, to sweep away all distinctions of class, and eventually to establish national and international communism on a sound basis.
They then go on to state that the first step in the transformation must be the carrying out of certain measures. They proceed to list some of these measures, every one of which has since come into operation, and follow on with this statement:
  The inevitable economic development points to the direct absorption by the State, as an organised democracy, of monopolies which have been granted to, or constituted by, companies, and their immediate conversion into public services. But the railway system is of all the monopolies that which could be most easily and conveniently so converted.
How little the Fabian Society appreciated even the best that was in this Manifesto was soon made clear after they had withdrawn from the unity movement. In 1896 there was an international conference in London. To this the Fabian Society sent a manifesto which contained the following extracts quoted by Margaret Cole:
  ‘It [the Fabian Society] has no distinctive opinion on Peace or War, the Marriage question, Religion, Art, Abstract Economics. Historic Evolution, Currency, or any other subject than its own special business of practical Democracy and Socialism.’! (page 92). 
  Socialism it defines as ‘ the organisation and conduct of the necessary industries of the country, and the appropriation of all forms of economic rent of land and capital, by the nation as a whole, through the co-ordinated agency of the most suitable public authorities, parochial, municipal, local, national (Irish, Scottish. Welsh), and central. 
  ‘The freedom of individuals ’, it says specifically, ‘to engage in industry independently of the State, and even in competition with it, is . . . as highly valued by the Fabian Society as Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech, or any other article in the charter of popular liberties ’ . . . it condemns such phrases as ‘the abolition of wages ’, as nonsense, wishing rather to establish standard allowances ‘for the maintenance of all workers', and it ‘resolutely opposes all pretensions to hamper the socialisation of industry with equal wages, equal hours of labour, equal official status, or equal authority for everyone.’ (page 93)
From the Boer war to the last war the Fabian society declined to state an attitude on war beyond saying that it was no business of theirs. In 1900 a vote was taken of the membership on whether a pronouncement on the Boer war should be made. By majority vote it was decided to make no pronouncement but leave members a free hand, and that has held good since then.

The Myth of Planning
All kinds of movements are described by Margaret Cole as “ Socialist” and so are people of the most divergent views. The Fabians were attracted by any form of government planning and state or municipal ownership, looking favourably on the authors of them. Shaw was favourably impressed by Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin; and Webb finally lost his heart to Russian State Capitalism, as the author points out. But to Margaret Cole herself Russia is still Socialist.

Again, writing in the Tribune (30/6/40) she referred to Kemal Ataturk of Turkey as seeing the need—
  to establish the amount of ‘totalitarianism’ or ‘Socialism’ — call it what you will—which is imperative to the twentieth century. This necessity has been demonstrated in Italy, Germany and Russia; under stress of war it has been demonstrated in this country and in France.
In “A Guide to Modern Politics,” by G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole, published in 1934, the authors give ample illustration of Fabian confusion. In the preface they say;
  The authors are. as they have often stated in other works, international Socialists. That is to say, they believe that present-day economic conditions are demanding an internationally-planned Society, in which competition as we now understand it and the exploitation of communities or sections of communities for the benefit of others will eventually cease. In this belief they are at one with the bulk of the members of Socialist and Communist societies throughout the world, (page 11)
Towards the end of his life Cole himself wrote a very pessimistic article for an American periodical The Nation  (23/4/55) in which he said that the Socialist movement had lost its way and was not what it was when he joined it in his early days. He overlooked the fact that this was largely the work of Fabians. He put forward ideas for a new movement and, believe it or not, it was the same futile old Fabianism. He had learnt nothing, in spite of the fact that he had been instrumental in the formation of about forty abortive societies ini the past. He still believed in the “intelligentsia” that had ruined so many hopes: “Besides, mass parties cannot think; they can only be influenced by the thinking of individuals or small groups of people who are prepared to think for them.”

He wrote an enormous amount in his life, so perhaps he didn’t have time to think clearly about the relatively simple solution to social problems. He was too immersed in Fabian “ planning.”

In the Story of Fabian Socialism, Margaret Cole relates how joyful the Fabian Society was at the result of the 1945 General Election, that she—
  in an ecstatic statistical study (pre-psephologist) of the election results joyfully listed the number of Fabians newly come to the seat of power—229 out of 394 M.Ps. elected as Labour, ten Cabinet Ministers, including the Premier, thirty five Under-Secretaries and other office of State, and eleven parliamentary private secretaries. ‘Why’ said John Parker’s wife on being introduced to the next Parliamentary Party, ‘it looks just like an enormous Fabian School! ’ The comment was not wide of the mark.” (page 301)
This was the moment the Fabians had awaited in order to put their planning into operation. What did they do with the power thrust into their hands? Administered capitalism like every other capitalist government. And like every other government they were turned out of office when they could not fulfil their promises. It was the Fabian Cripps who was instrumental in reducing the workers’ wages by devaluing the currency; and a Fabian government that urged the workers to abstain from wage claims which would upset their "planning.”

The Fabian Society welcomed people of all shades of opinion who would carry out research work in various directions, and gloried in the fact that they were free from what they called “dogmatism.” The result was that, having no sheet anchor, they got lost in detail work, and, in reality, contributed little to the growth of Socialist ideas. It is true that some of their members produced good books and studies of history and on various aspects of capitalism—some of which helped governments to smooth out difficulties—but so did other writers who made no claim to be Socialists. It is significant that leading Fabians arose to high positions in capitalist governments and in government service; many achieving peerages and other honours. Margaret Cole herself recognises that the work they did opened up careers for ambitious young people, many of whom obtained well paid positions in the service of capitalist governments. It may be added that the two Labour Prime Ministers. MacDonald and Attlee, were Fabians and so is the present leader of the Labour Party, Gaitskell.

Thus, although the author is satisfied that the Fabian Society and the work of its members had a great impact on society in various ways this impact was not in the direction of Socialism hut rather in the direction of confusion. Even the state ownership they pressed so much has proved to be a broken reed. After all the "uplifting” work they put in, and the adoption of most of their projects. we are still faced with the main problems that afflicted society at the time they started out—poverty, slums, insecurity and war. The latter two problems are greater than ever they were.

The author writes excitingly of the early and enthusiastic work, at all hours of the day and night, by herself and other voluntary workers; some of whom were hard put to it to get a living. It is sad to think that this energy was put into work that, so far as revolutionising the basis of society is concerned, was largely wasted. And yet this was the dimly seen aim that the society set out to accomplish. "Planning ” was their bugbear, and they had a sneaking sympathy for every government that laid down plans, however futile, for production, distribution and government.

However, as a history of the Fabian Society. Margaret Cole has done an excellent job. There is a good deal of the history of the last half-century in the book that is useful and worth reading about.

The curious thing is that, although nearly every radical movement and party is mentioned—sometimes in great detail—the author never once mentions the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which was formed in 1904, before the Labour Party, and is the only one of the parties claiming to be Socialist that has remained basically unchanged since its formation. One after another the others have died or changed whilst we have remained true to our object and have grown, if indeed slowly, in numbers and social impact. This in spite of the fact that we are just working men and women with no so-called great men to attract the support of the uninformed.

Ours is the only message worth listening to, and the only one that holds a real promise of the final end of privilege, insecurity, poverty and oppression in all its forms. It is not permeation that is required but a revolution in the basis of society.

A cure for Covid-19: a profit-making strategy (2020)

From the WSPUS website

As the pandemic continues, there is an increasingly desperate need for a drug that will be effective against Covid-19 and not too unsafe in other respects. 

On March 19, at one of his daily self-display sessions for TV and the press, ‘Dr.’ Trump promoted hydroxychloroquine – a drug used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis – as a remedy for the coronavirus. He did not permit his medical adviser, Dr. Fauci, to say a word. New French and Chinese studies have confirmed that hydroxychloroquine is indeed quite ineffective against Covid-19. It also causes heart complications. Nevertheless, the demand for hydroxychloroquine shot up, jeopardizing supply to the lupus sufferers whose lives really do depend on the drug. See here.

Why did Trump do it? Some suggested that his motive was to push up the value of stock he owns in companies that manufacture hydroxychloroquine. However, Philip Bump in The Washington Post argues that although Trump and his family do own some shares in one such company, the French firm Sanofi, they are worth $1,500 at most – mere ‘loose change’ for a billionaire. [2] Moreover, Trump has been equally willing to promote other drugs. The hype is best viewed as part of Trump’s effort to reassure the public and prepare the ground for an early end to the lockdown. 

The most promising drug

It is generally agreed that the most promising drug is remdesivir, the patent for which is owned by Gilead Sciences, an American company specializing in antiviral drugs. Originally developed to treat Ebola during the West African epidemic of 2014–16, it was no longer being manufactured when the current pandemic broke out, though the company still had a small inventory. Production has now resumed and is undergoing rapid expansion. [1]

A preliminary study was based on data for 53 patients with severe Covid-19 who received at least one dose of remdesivir over the period from January 25 to March 7. At follow-up 2—3 weeks later, two-thirds of the patients (36) showed improvement; almost half (25) had improved enough to be discharged; and only 7 had died – an impressively low death rate given the severity of these cases. Admittedly, this was not a properly organized clinical trial: it was very small and had no control group. [2] 

An interim report of an ongoing clinical trial at a Chicago hospital, published on April 16, revealed even more encouraging results. At this hospital 125 people with Covid-19, including 113 with a severe form of the disease, received daily infusions of remdesivir. Nearly all made rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms and were discharged within a week. Equally encouraging results have been obtained in the UK. Results like these suggest that it may not be premature to speak of a ‘cure’ for Covid-19.

Six large clinical trials are now underway. In March Gilead Sciences started two transnational trials – one for severe and one for moderate cases. In addition, it is supplying remdesivir without charge for the other four trials: one in the US, one in Europe, and two in China’s Hubei Province. 

‘Compassionate use’

Prior to completion of clinical trials and approval by the US Food & Drug Administration (or by the corresponding regulatory agency in another country), an ‘investigational drug’ – which may be a new drug or, as in this instance, an old drug being put to new use – is not usually made available to treat patients, apart from those enrolled in the clinical trials. An exception is made for so-called ‘compassionate use’ – also known as ‘early access,’ ‘expanded access,’ ‘managed access,’ or ‘emergency access.’ The approval of the FDA must be sought in each individual case. The application is submitted either by the patient’s physician after obtaining the consent of the manufacturer or by the manufacturer at the physician’s request. Approval is subject to the following conditions:

  • There is an immediate threat to the patient’s life.
  • No comparable or satisfactory alternative treatment is available.
  • The patient cannot be enrolled in a clinical trial of the drug.
  • The potential benefit to the patient justifies the risks of treatment with the drug.
  • Providing the drug will not interfere with clinical trials that could support development of the drug or marketing approval for it.
It is true that this system was not designed with pandemics in mind. Under normal circumstances applications for compassionate use are few and far between. Nevertheless, it provides a legal device that could be used to get timely help to a much larger number of people when an epidemic does occur.  

Gilead Sciences began accepting physicians’ requests for compassionate use of remdesivir on January 25. As the existence of the drug was not widely known, the number of requests was initially manageable. However, on March 20 Trump talked on his show about remdesivir and drew attention to the option of compassionate use. The result was a sudden flood of new requests. On March 23, the company complained that it had been ‘overwhelmed’ by this flood and suspended intake of new requests except in cases where the patient was a pregnant woman or a child under the age of 18. The number of patients who had received the drug for ‘compassionate use’ by the end of March was ‘over 1,000.’  

In an open letter published on March 28, Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day announced that the company was switching to a new program for receiving and processing requests for ‘compassionate use.’ It was going to build up a network of ‘active sites’ (or ‘study locations’) – hospitals, medical centers, and research centers participating in the program. [3] Requests could now be submitted in batches, but they had to come from one of these hospitals or centers. ‘While it will take some time to build a network of active sites,’ wrote O’Day, ‘this approach will ultimately accelerate emergency access for more people.’ 

Ultimately. One of those who did not get emergency access was Dr. Frank Gabrin, who on March 31 became America’s first Emergency Room physician to die of Covid-19. He worked at East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey. Although New Jersey is the state with the largest number of ‘active sites,’ this hospital is not one of them. 

Profit-making strategy

There is no need to accept the company’s public explanations at face value. Gilead Sciences is clearly very good at projecting a ‘caring’ image. However, had it really wanted to bring timely help to as many patients as possible, it could surely have hired and trained the additional staff needed to handle the increased flow of requests. The switch to the new program had the initial effect of halting the flow almost completely. The flow would then increase again, but only gradually, as the network of active sites expanded. This gives the company time. Ultimately – in fact, fairly soon – clinical trials will be completed, the company will obtain FDA approval to start marketing the drug, and there will be no further need for any ‘compassionate use’ programs. What we have here is actually a cleverly designed profit-making strategy.  

It is not because the drug is in short supply that Gilead Sciences is slowing down the flow of requests for ‘compassionate use.’ In January 2020 the company had an inventory of 5,000 courses of remdesivir – that is, enough to administer a ten-day course of treatment to 5,000 patients. But by late March over 30,000 courses were on hand. The company aims to produce over 140,000 courses by the end of May, over 500,000 by October, over a million by December, and (if required) several million in 2021 (see here).

The size of the inventory was 30,000 courses in late March and must have reached about 50,000 by mid-April. The number needed for the clinical trials does not exceed 10,000. [4] Even allowing a couple of thousand courses for the expanded-access program, most of the inventory is being held back for later on.

Results from the clinical trials being conducted by Gilead Sciences are expected in late April (for patients with severe Covid-19) and May (for patients with moderate Covid-19). In view of the urgency of the situation, perhaps the FDA will give approval for marketing before the end of May. By then the inventory will contain some 140,000 courses, with production continuing at a rate of 50–100,000 courses per month. 

Why is Gilead Sciences holding back most of its accumulating inventory when so many people are in desperate need of the drug? The drug courses assigned for clinical trials and for ‘compassionate use’ at the present stage have to be provided free of charge, as the FDA has not yet given its approval to market remdesivir. Once it does, however, Gilead Sciences can be counted upon to sell its accumulated stock as fast as it can, while continuing to expand its productive capacity. The company will set a high price and make a lot of money. 

In the past companies in India and China have manufactured generic forms of expensive Western drugs for sale at lower prices, leading to conflicts over intellectual property rights between these countries and the United States. The same thing is set to happen with this drug. In February it was reported that BrightGene Bio-Medical Technology Company, based in Suzhou in China’s Jiangsu Province, had succeeded in producing a copy of remdesivir (here). The Wuhan Institute of Virology has also applied for a Chinese patent on the drug (here). 
Stephen Shenfield

[1] Information is provided on the company’s website.

[2] Twenty-two patients were in the United States, 22 in Europe or Canada, and 9 in Japan. Jonathan Grein et al., ‘Compassionate Use of Remdesivir for Patients with Severe Covid-19,’ The New England Journal of Medicine, April 10. 

[3] At the time of writing (April 16), 46 sites are active in the following countries: the United States (31), France (4), Germany (2), Italy (3), Spain (2), Switzerland (2), and the UK (2). In the US the states with the largest numbers of sites are New Jersey (8), California (7), New York (5), Florida (3), and Louisiana (3). See here.  

[4] I am not in a position to calculate this figure exactly. The total number of participants in the six trials is 8,301. Some subgroups receive only a placebo; others receive courses of 5, 10, 15, or 20 days. Sizes are not given for all the subgroups. 

Algeria: Who has won? (1962)

From the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

The cease fire in Algeria is likely lo bring neither peace nor relief to that unhappy country. Those who oppose a treaty with the Algerian nationalists — the settlers and the soldiers — are numerous and powerful enough to keep Algeria under the dark cloud of fear which has hung over the country for so long. The O.A.S. seem to be everywhere that matters. If one of them is singled out for arrest by the French Authorities, as like as not the men who have to fetch him in are O.A.S. sympathisers and can easily be persuaded to let him go. If the O.A.S. don't like what foreign journalists write about them, they can force the newspapermen to go home. They can virtually take over the centre of an important town like Oran. And all this is done by fear; fear of the plastic bomb, of death by a multitude of stab wounds or by the bullet from a passing car.

It is as well to remember here that the O.A.S. came into existence only after some years of guerrilla activities by the Algerian nationalists, which the French government had seemed powerless to stamp out. During those years, French policy seemed settled upon staying in Algeria. There was little organised retaliation from the Europeans, who put a rather shaky trust in their government. The O.A.S. burst to the surface when it seemed that de Gaulle was about to abandon the policy of a French Algeria. What the F.L.N. had won by their terrorism, the colons would try to regain by theirs.

Now, the O.A.S. outstrip the Moslem guerrillas in ruthlessness and brutality. On a typical day in Algeria, between twenty and thirty people are killed by them. Sometimes they kill indiscriminately, as when they drove two cars into the packed Moslem shopping area of Oran and left them with time bombs ticking inside. Sometimes they are diabolically selective; they recently tried to provoke a postal strike by killing several harmless Moslem postmen. President de Gaulle is reported as saying that the O.A.S. is a minor problem. which he will deal with when the cease fire is out of the way. This seems to be rather optimistic—the problem is surely much more complex and delicate.

The French came to Algeria in 1830, after a fleet under General Clausel had bombarded Algeria into surrender. This was the last of the expeditions which the maritime powers — England, Holland, Spain, America and France — had sent out to deal with the Corsair pirates, who from their base in Algiers were causing such disruption to the trade routes of the Mediterranean. Before the French conquest the country had been under, among others, the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Turks. The French established their word as law in Algeria and their colonisers settled along the coast, planting vineyards and developing, the cities. There was none of the incentive to penetrate the interior which other parts of Africa offered their European conquerors. The Congo, for example, had its rubber but for the colons the Algerian hinterland had only the Atlas mountains and then the pitiless Sahara. For over a century the great desert withheld the secret of its wealth from the French. And if eventually the Sahara's oil and gas have caused more suffering than joy—well, that is typical of capitalism's discoveries.

The Nationalists
The first rumblings of Algerian nationalism were heard in the 'twenties, when the √Čtoile Nord-Africaine plotted to overthrow French rule. This organisation's membership was mainly of Algerians living in France. After the Axis powers had been pushed out of North Africa an active nationalist movement was revived in Algeria. But it was one of bits and pieces, of sects who hated each other as much as they did the French and who often took time off from their war against the French to cut each others' throats. By late 1954 there were only two Algerian movements of any consequence and of these the National Liberation Front (FLN) was the more powerful and the better equipped to wage the long war for national independence.

The war against the F.L.N. has been a serious drain on French resources. One government after another tackled the problem without success. None of them could beat the F.L.N. and none felt able to bow before the storm of Algerian nationalism. The political instability for which France before de Gaulle was noted saw eight such governments off. In Algeria the Europeans were under a fearful strain and they grew impatient with their government's inability to stop the terrorism without surrendering the country. Once, they showed their exasperation by pelting a French prime minister — Guy Mollet —with tomatoes. His government promptly fell. It was this exasperation, pushed to the brink by the withdrawal from Tunisia and the apparent intention of the short-lived Pflimlin government to do the same in Algeria, that led to the 1958 revolt which put de Gaulle into power and ended the sorry tale of the Fourth Republic.

If there was one thing which de Gaulle was expected to do, it was to stamp out the Algerian rebels. In the event his policy has never been so bull headed. True, he has made some statements which contradict themselves. In his television broadcast during the uprising in January, 1960, he said:
  Frenchmen of Algeria, how can you listen lo the liars and conspirators who tell you that, in granting their free choice to the Algerians, France and de Gaulle want to abandon you, to withdraw from Algeria, and to surrender it to the rebellion?
But in fact de Gaulle was contemplating doing just that. Earlier in the same broadcast he said:
  . . . I have taken in the name of France this decision: the Algerians shall have the free choice of their fate . . . it will be the Algerians who will say what they wish to be.
Yet beneath this apparent confusion, de Gaulle has been firmly if slowly pushing a policy of independence for Algeria. Up to now he has dealt skilfully with the opposition to his policy. All this has earned him the hatred of the very men who put him in power.

The opposition to de Gaulle is indeed formidable. There are the European settlers, who grow the grapes and who run the banking and commercial life of the country. Many of these are poor — a settler working class, in fact. But some of them are rich and there are about a dozen landowners who we can call very rich. The Moslem farmers outnumber their European counterparts by nearly thirty to one, but they own less than three times as much land. The big farms and the best land belong to the colons. Settler interests are always in the thick of the trouble when a colonial power plans to hand out independence. The Europeans in Algeria—some of them French, some Spaniards, Maltese, Italians and Jews—are a pressure group which any capitalist government would find it hard to deal with.

French Army
Then there is the French army, which has built the roads, the railways, and the hospitals in Algeria, has supplied the doctors, teachers and engineers, and has looked upon the country as a tiresome but helpless baby. Take away the French army and running Algeria as capitalism says it must be run —profitably—is going to be a difficult matter. It is typical of French governments that they should have given the army its head in Algeria. For they have never really come to grips with their military and taught them that their job is to protect the general interests of the French ruling class. Other capitalist powers have solved this problem. Lloyd George took on—and beat—not only the generals, but the king as well, in the First World War; we all know what happened to MacArthur when he tried to dictate policy to his bosses in Washington.

But this is a difficult time to start tugging the rein on the French army. They have had no real victory since 1918; they were crushed in 1940 and have since been humiliated in Indo-China. It is easy to imagine the generals' mood when they learned that Algeria was to be added to their list of defeats. Here, it seems, is one war which the French army feel they cannot afford to lose.

To complicate matters still more, there is the mineral wealth in the Sahara. Perhaps the French would once have been willing to abandon Algeria, as they did Tunisia, if oil and natural gas had not been struck there. De Gaulle once said that when coal was the vital fuel, France had little of it and that when oil was vital she had no oil. The Sahara strike was looked on as something of a miracle find and it has bedevilled the situation ever since. It has also added to de Gaulle’s headaches by landing him with problems of distribution and international competition. The French have tried to attract capital to Algeria by offering tax concessions and other incentives, but there was not much hope of success for that policy while the situation remained so unstable.

So it all came back to the basic fact that somehow Algeria had to be settled. De Gaulle is only facing a fact of capitalist life when he recognises that a nationalist movement cannot be held down for ever. When he tries to hang on to the naval base at Mers El Kebir, the nuclear test area at Reggan and the interests in the mineral fields he is only trying, on behalf of the French ruling class, to make the best of a bad job. This sort of thing has happened many times since 1945, in Africa and in the Near and Far East.

De Gaulle has been warned, by the settlers and the army, of the possible consequences of his policy. There is a striking likeness between the French President’s difficulties and those of President Kennedy when he is trying to deal with segregationist towns in the American South. In both cases, the very people who are employed to carry out their government’s orders have simply ignored them. There is a clue here for those who are looking for the source of the power of the capitalist class. Ironically, the O.A.S. are showing us that capitalism’s coercion depends upon the acquiescence of its underdogs.

The Future
If history is worth anything, the O.A.S. cannot win in Algeria. However much fuss they manage to kick up when the country gets its independence, it seems certain that the army and the settlers will be put in their place. Algerian nationalists will rule the country and perhaps one by one the colons will be forced to leave. The oilfields and the gas may be nationalised so that the profits go to the Algerian ruling class instead of to the French. The Algerian peasant will blossom into a worker just like the Frenchman and the Briton. He will take on a mortgage, worry for his job, console himself with an H.P. telly. He will read of—and click his tongue over—colonial wars in other parts of the world. One day he may, like the South African, forget his past and himself support the brutal suppression of some racial group. The F.L.N. and the O.A.S. will fade into history. Capitalism’s grisly wheel will turn another full circle, lubricated by the blood and tears of countless ordinary, useful human beings.

50 Years Ago: The Cost of Living (1962)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

In this pamphlet (The Rise in Prices and The Cost of Living) Professor Ashley has tabulated some of the statistics bearing on the question of the cost of living. He estimated the rise in prices between 1896 and 1911 to be no less than 24 per cent. of which over 16 per cent or two-thirds is due to the depreciation of gold.

Owing to greater facilities and more economical processes and machinery, the world's production of gold has increased steadily from 24.6 million pounds in 1890 to 93.6 million in 1910.

With regard to the future, Professor Ashley anticipates a slackening of this rate of increase. He says:
  "The annual output may go on increasing though it is observable that the pace was distinctly slackened in 1910. According to some figures in The Times of January 2, 1912, from an apparently well informed correspondent in the Transvaal, the yield of gold per ton milled in the Rand fell steadily from 35.8 shillings in 1905 to 27.9 shillings in the first nine months of 1911. Working costs were also reduced, and for a few years in even greater proportion, so that working profit rose; but since 1908 it has been found impossible to reduce costs any further, and working profits have fallen from 13.9 shillings to 9.66 shillings per ton’. . .”
The question of the depreciation of the measure of value has a very important bearing on working-class psychology. When the value of gold rises and prices are consequently falling, it requires much less struggling on the part of the worker to maintain his standard of comfort. But when gold falls in value and prices steadily rise, the reverse condition obtains. To simply hold on is then to be gradually crushed. It becomes absolutely necessary to struggle for a rise in money wages. The workers are awakened from their torpor, and the habit of struggle is engendered; at the same time the imperative necessity of it is felt.

(From the 
Socialist Standard, April 1912)

Branch News (1962)

Party News from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month is going to be an exceptionally busy one for the Party. The Annual Conference, Rally and Social (April 20th, 21st and 22nd); planning for May Day Meetings; and in Glasgow, our comrades are preparing for the hustings in May, when they are contesting Kelvin Ward in the Municipal Elections. Their Election Address is re-printed on page 64.

The Party in London is departing from its recent practice of holding an evening meeting following the Sunday afternoon May Day Rally, instead an indoor meeting is being held at Caxton Hall, on Tuesday May 1st. Details are given elsewhere in this issue. Sunday, May 6th in Hyde Park from 3 pm will be the Outdoor Rally. Our speakers will be putting the Socialist case from a decorated stand. There should be a good audience in the Park, but we will need every available member there to assist and especially to help sell Party Literature.

Camberwell Branch continues to maintain a high level of activity. In addition to the regular work of running two outdoor meetings and canvassing the Socialist Standard, the Branch has been well represented on the propaganda trips to Coventry as well as other London indoor meetings and literature drives. The Branch is now holding a series of discussion meetings. One on ‘Trade Unions' proved very interesting as did the following discussions on the 'Hidden Persuaders' and ‘Workers and Politics ’. Branch members also had the pleasure of hearing Comrade Gilmac talk on his tour of America and Canada.

In spite of the severe weather at the beginning of the year, Wembley Branch persisted with its canvassing efforts. The small band of comrades turned out in biting winds and flurries of snow, to play their part in expanding sales of the “S.S. At the end of April, it is hoped to go further afield and try a canvass in the Maidstone area. The branch lectures were continued throughout the winter months. At the time of writing, a talk on Trade Unions was scheduled for March 19th. Wembley has been particularly active with two indoor public meetings and a film show on the programme. With the approach of Spring and Summer, we look forward to a successful outdoor propaganda season.

It seems to be more than a coincidence that political and religious bigotry are so often found in the same place. However, it is encouraging to hear how some of our friends manage to overcome these difficulties. In Grenada, in spite of the very strong influence of the Church, we have one isolated Socialist (whose nearest fellow Socialist is in Trinidad). In spite of the fact that he has been visited by the local Priests and threatened (not only with hell fire!), he holds regular discussions at his home and distributes our literature.

Much nearer home, in Dublin in fact, another lone Socialist has found a novel way of making our case known. As well as distributing literature in more usual ways, she has been cutting out selected articles from the Socialist Standard, pasted them on large sheets of paper, and then bill-posted them on hoardings and other advertising sites. She tells us that some of these homemade posters have been up for several weeks and. as they carry the Party address, she hopes we may make some new contacts. Her only complaint is that, for her purposes, she would prefer the size of the print to be larger!
Phyllis Howard

Socialism or Capitalism (1962)

Party News from the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard
Our Glasgow Branch is contesting North Kelvin in the Municipal Elections in May, and we reprint here the Election address of the Party.
To the working men and women of North Kelvin ward

Fellow Workers,

This is the first time that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has contested an election in Glasgow. We shall run in the same manner as our comrades in London. Belfast and Vancouver have done in the past. We believe it is worthwhile for all workers to consider our case very carefully. You will find it unique. The Socialist Party is fundamentally different from all other political parties.

We intend to fight this election on the same platform as we have done in the past, that is, on the straight issue of Socialism or Capitalism. During this campaign you will see no posters or leaflets urging you to vote for our candidate. We shall not indulge in ballyhoo or electioneering stunts. We appeal to your understanding and intelligence, and not to your emotions and prejudices.

Who are the Working Class?

This manifesto is addressed to members of the working class. The Socialist Party is very particular about the accurate use of such words, therefore let us define what we mean when we use this term. By a worker we mean all those men and women who because they own little but their ability to work, must sell this ability for wages or salaries. Whether you be a doctor or a docker, a university professor or a street sweeper. If you have to work in order to live, you are a member of the working class.

Who are tho Capitalist Class?

90 per cent. of Britain's wealth is owned by less than 10 per cent, of the country's population. This group owns the means of producing and distributing wealth (i.e., the factories, the workshops, transport, etc.). Because they own these things they do not have to work for wages and salaries. Their income comes from rent, interest and profit which all comes from the difference between what the working class produces and what they receive in wages and salaries. In other words, the capitalist class live on the unpaid labour of the working class.

Cause of all our problems

In this short address I intend to show the Socialist attitude to such questions as Poverty. Housing, War and Rates. To really get to know the Socialist position I strongly advise you to attend our meetings and read our literature. Basically the position is that all the social problems confronting the worker today are the product of the type of world we live in. We call this society Capitalism, i.e., a society that has a working class producing all the wealth but only receiving back a small proportion of this wealth in wages, and a capitalist class living in ease and plenty on the exploitation of the worker.

Poverty—Its Cause

At every election the reformist politicians promise to abolish the poverty of the worker, but despite these promises we are still poor. We who produce the ocean going luxury yachts, must be content with a day's outing down the Clyde. We who build the mansions and the palaces, must be content with a room and kitchen in North Kelvin. We who toil all week in the factory, office, shipyard and warehouse, must content ourselves with the cheap and the shoddy yet produce all the beautiful articles for our parasitic masters to enjoy. While we have a subject class working for wages and a ruling class living on the workers labour, there will always be poverty despite the sugar coated promises of the politicians.

Housing and you

There is no doubt that in the election addresses you receive from our opponents, you will find a part dealing with housing. Rosy promises will be offered in this matter. We ask you to consider this question a little more carefully than in the past. Observe that all our opponents speak of a housing problem. This is rubbish. There is no housing problem. Any worker can have a house tomorrow just by lifting the 'phone. Building firms advertise in every newspaper begging people to buy houses. The only thing that stops a worker from getting a house is his poverty. If you have the money you can have any house you desire. The thousands of workers clamouring for houses are not suffering from a housing problem but a poverty problem. While Capitalism lasts, the worker will always suffer poverty. Don’t be taken in by the politicians' promise of a new house. You can’t live in a promise.

War and the Worker

Inside Capitalism everything is produced for a profit. But to realise a profit, the commodity has to be sold. To sell goods abroad is essential for any Capitalist country. In attempting to beat down competition from other sellers, the various governments threaten and bluster. But when the threats fail they go to war. Wars are fought for economic reasons, for markets, for sources of raw material, for trade routes and military bases. The working class of the world own little but their ability to work. Wars are won by one Capitalist group over another. Remember our opponents supported war in the past and will do so again. Only the Socialist Party has taken the correct working class standpoint on this issue—that is, wars are fought for economic reasons and workers have nothing to gain in fighting their masters’ battles.

The Fraud of Rates

At every municipal election the reformers make a great fuss about rates and local government spending. We state categorically that this has nothing to do with the working class. A rise or fall in the rates would benefit certain sections of the Capitalist class and injure other sections, but basically it would not alter the position of the worker. We would still be as poor no matter the level of the rates. Don’t be taken in by the job hunting would-be-councillors. Rates have nothing to do with you.

Our Opponents

All the political parties claim to be different. The Progressives talk about a new broom sweeping clean. The Labour Party talk about their democratic Socialism, the Social Credit party about their reforms of the monetary system. The Scottish nationalists claim what is needed is home rule. The Liberal, the Communist, the I.L.P., all of them claim to have a solution to your problems. We ask you to examine all their programmes—one thing will strike you forcibly. Despite all their various claims, when you examine them, you will find they have all something in common. All of them think that Capitalism can be reformed in the workers interests. All they ask is your vote and they claim everything will be all right. None of them want to change Capitalism to Socialism. All of them support the continuance of Capitalism.

It may be objected that such parties as the Labour and Communist parties have the interests of the working class at heart. After all, they claim to be Socialist. How true is this claim? The Labour Party have been in power in Glasgow for many years. They were in power for six years since the war. Has this fundamentally altered your position as workers? The Labour Party has broken strikes, supported a wage freeze, conscription and war. Are these working class actions? They say that nationalisation is Socialism, but this is a lie. State control has been introduced and supported by the Conservatives when it suits them; and likewise by the Labour Party. It is just another form or method for running Capitalism. Whether the industry is nationalised or not, you still have workers and Capitalists; exploited and exploiter. The Communist Party's claim to be Socialist is easily refuted by a look at Russia where they form the government. There you have State Capitalism, with a working class and a privileged class. The Russian workers, like workers all over the world, are living in poverty and insecurity.

The Non-Socialist Socialists

Unlike the Labour, Progressive and other reformist organisations we make no promises. The Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed in 1904 with one object: That is, the establishment of Socialism. This can only be brought about by the majority of the working class understanding and desiring Socialism. We make no claim to be leaders, for only when the working class understand what Socialism is, will Capitalism be abolished.

What is Capitalism ?

  • A world where the workers produce all the wealth yet live in poverty and insecurity.
  • A world that burns wealth to keep up prices while a third of the world starves.
  • A world that lives in perpetual fear of war.
  • A world where a handful live in ease and affluence on the misery of the majority.
  • A world that causes worker to oppose worker in the quest of a living.
  • A world where men are dehumanised and degraded for the insatiable greed of capital.

What is Socialism ?

  • A world where the means of living will be owned in common.
  • A world where everything will be produced for use and not for profit.
  • A world where war, crime, unemployment and poverty will be impossible.
  • A world where everyone will produce according to their ability and take according to their needs.
  • Socialism is a new social system. There will be no owners or non-owners. As everything will be owned in common there will be no money, banks, stock exchanges or insurance companies. Today, perhaps as many as four-fifths are doing work that would be completely useless under Socialism (e.g., ticket collectors, members of the armed forces, bank clerks, etc.). This means they will be able to do productive work for the first time and this should greatly decrease the working day.

We make no promises

Socialism is not a dream. It is a historic development and can become a reality as soon as you, the worker, understand and desire it. The real dreamers today are those who think you can have Capitalism without wars, poverty and unemployment.

As a candidate for the Socialist Party of Great Britain, I do not beg for your vote on any reform. If, in fact, you want some reform of the present social system, then your vote is not for the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

What I stress again and again, is that in order to bring about Socialism the majority must understand it. If you understand and desire Socialism, if you are aware that Capitalism can never operate for the benefit of the working class, then you will be aware that a vote for any of our opponents is a vote for the retention of Capitalism and a vote for the Socialist Party of Great Britain candidate is a vote registering your protest against Capitalism, a vote for Socialism—the new world.